There is a difference between the one true "invisible" church (ekklesia in the Greek, meaning "called-out-ones"), and the many different visible churches we see all around us. For a comprehensive consideration of "The Church" click on the following link for a special paper on this subject.
The many churches of our day are misunderstanding, misusing and incorrectly applying Scripture. There are multitudes of different churches today, all claiming to believe the Bible ... but they disagree with one another and teach drastically different things. Common sense should tell us they cannot all be teaching truth.
The churches of our day are spreading confusion ... not truth!
There is only one Church ... one Body of Christ. All those who are chosen by God ... for His glory and for His purposes ... are AUTOMATICALLY a part of the ecclesia (Church), and are enabled to believe God.
There is nothing to join
There are no creeds to accept
There are no covenants to sign
There are no Articles of Religion to agree to
There are no denominations
There is no requirement to attend any organized church
These requirements are the traditions of men. They may contain some elements of truth, but they also contain error. They represent the opinions of men, which may or may not be truth.
We must remember that those within "religious circles" who
know the truth have always been a small minority.
This was the case with the true prophets of the Old Testament ... of John the Baptist ... of Jesus ... of the apostle Paul. The truth was never in the hands of the majority. Yet today we seem to think that the majority within the church are the sole possessors of the truth. (They call it "orthodoxy.")
Whatever church one goes to, and even if one chooses not to go to any church at all ... if one believes God, having been chosen by God and enabled to believe, he is AUTOMATICALLY a part of the ecclesia ... the Church. It is not because some men are more intelligent or wise than other men, and therefore choose to believe God. None are seeking God (Romans 3:10-11). The apprehensions of man are blinded by the "god of this eon" (2 Corinthians 4:3). Unable to believe God on our own, belief is graciously granted by God (Philippians 1:29). Why? Is it becomes He loves some more than others? Is it because some are better than others. No! God's purpose is to bless all mankind, and to do so He chooses a subset of humanity to serve His purposes ... to display His love and grace ... and to display to the world a foretaste of His intent for all mankind.
Those in the Body of Christ are Christ's Ambassadors (see 2 Corinthians 5:20), and are called to bear God's message of reconciliation to the world, and to make known the wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10).
But it is not only the Body of Christ that will be saved!
In Old Testament times God chose Abraham for the purpose of blessing all people. God later chose Isaac and then Jacob (re-named Israel) with the same promise ... to bless all people. God later chose the nation of Israel as His instrument to bless all people. But Israel lost sight of this purpose, and began to see themselves as righteous and better than the nations, because they were God's people.
Isn't it the same with the Church today? We are God's "called-out-ones." And just as God has always used an individual or a group that He has chosen to bless all people, the same is true of the Church. But instead, those within the many different churches revel in the fact that they were chosen, and not others. They believe, and others do not. They are destined for heaven, while non-believers are destined for hell. They want those outside their church to believe everything as they do, and to act as they do.
But we within the Body of Christ were chosen to serve as Christ's Ambassadors ... to proclaim His message ... the "evangel" (good news) entrusted to us. God's Word tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 that at the end of the ages:
All enemies will be defeated
The last enemy (death) will be abolished
All will be subjected to Christ
Christ will give up the kingdom to God the Father
God will become All in all
The penalty for sin is death (Genesis 2:17). The "lake of fire" is the second death (Revelation 21:8). And at the end of the ages, death (the last enemy) is abolished ... all will be saved ... and God will become All in all.
The teachings concerning an eternal torment in hell are not based on the Bible. They are errant teachings of men, based on an incorrect understanding of God's Word and God's character.For more information about the SALVATION OF ALL, click on "God Will Save All" on the left side bar.
Some Thoughts About "The Church"
The word "CHURCH" in the Bible
"Ekklesia" (or "ecclesia") is the Greek word that is translated "church" in our English translations. It literally means "called-out-ones" ... that is, a group of people that are called out or distinguished from a larger group. Ecclesia in the Scriptures does not always refer to the church. At times all Bible translations use a word other than church to translate eccelsia, because there are occasions when we see from the context it cannot possibly mean church. We must be very careful, then, every time we see the word ecclesia to determine who the called-out group is. Do not rely upon those teaching within the traditional church, or even Bible translators, to tell you when the word means church and when it does not. Much confusion has resulted from a failure to look closely at this word. We have been told that the Bible is teaching us about the church in some passages, when ecclesia is not referring to the church. Do not rely upon an easy-to-read Bible translation to study. You will be led astray. In making the Bible easy to read, the translators have taken great liberties ... and they take no care in preserving distinctions made in the original languages. Furthermore, the biases of the traditional church are built into these translations.
We recommend the Concordant Literal New Testament and the Concordant Version of the Old Testament as the most faithful English translation available. The methodology used in developing this version eliminates the bias of the human translator as much as is possible, and the version stays as close to the original languages as possible. The New Testament includes a keyword concordance that allows the reader to trace each word back to the original Greek ... and every instance where that same Greek word is used can be observed. This allows the reader to check the translation, instead of relying upon the translator.
This version is available thru www.concordant.org
TRADITIONAL CHURCHES ARE BREEDING CONFUSION
Unfortunately most of our concepts about the church come from history and tradition, or at times from a mis-application of the Bible.
Many churches today may be doing good works, but often for the wrong reason (i.e. to earn favor with God, as opposed to living in response to God's grace). Furthermore as "The Gospel" is preached, the churches of our day are breeding confusion. Many people turn away because they cannot accept the irrational and inconsistent teachings of the various "flavors" of churches competing for their attention.
The Bible, and not tradition, should be our guide as to how we live our lives as a part of "the ecclesia." Each individual must study and think for himself. We should never rely upon any person ... not a pastor, teacher, professor, famous author, or anyone else ... to tell us what the Bible says about God. STUDY AND THINK FOR YOURSELF!
"BEING" THE CHURCH
An often asked question is, "Where do you go to church?" Whether one GOES to a church or not is immaterial. The focus should be on BEING the church.
"For Christ, then, are we ambassadors, as of
God entreating through us." (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Just as an ambassador represents his country thru his words and actions, so also we represent God to the world around us in all that we say and do. We should be helping one another to become more effective ambassadors. Our emphasis should not be on GOING to church or taking part in the ACTIVITIES of a church. The important thing is BEING the church.
Furthermore, an ambassador is not free to develop his own message as he represents his nation. He carries the official message of the nation. Likewise we, as Christ's ambassadors, are not free to make up our own message. But that is what the traditional church is doing. Think about it ... there are thousands of different churches preaching different messages ... breeding confusion. None seem concerned about ensuring that their message is the correct one ... they simply try to speak louder than the others, and at times they may ridicule the message of the others.
Being an ambassador is a serious business. We should be taking great care to study God's Word, ensuring that we are proclaiming the correct message ... the correct gospel ... Christ's gospel!
"Endeavor to present yourself to God qualified, an
unashamed worker, correctly cutting the word of truth."
(2 Timothy 2:15)
There is great value in meeting together with others in the Body of Christ. But we need not meet in a specific building called "the church" or on a particular day. There is no mandate in Scripture for us to meet specifically on Sundays. Any attempt to impose a required Sabbath for believers is based upon an incorrect application of the Bible.
The Jewish nation, and even the Jewish ecclesia in the New Testament, met in the temple and in synagogues. But the ecclesia of Gentiles and Jews that is the Body of Christ appears to have met in homes. And meeting once a week on a particular day is not mentioned at all ... the Body of Christ simply lived their lives in community with one another, sharing meals and meeting together in homes. They sought to glorify God whenever and wherever ... seven days a week, and not just on a particular day.
WE ARE A FAMILY
God's Word tells us that members of the ecclesia are sons of God. God is our Heavenly Father, and we are His children. Within the ecclesia, then, we are brothers and sisters within a family ... the family of God. It is not important that we CALL each other "brother" or "sister" ... but that we live as if we really believe this is true.
Family members love one another, spend time together, pray for one another, and meet needs within the family. This is what we see modeled in the New Testament ecclesia.
If we could live our lives in this fashion ... as a "functional family" ... being an ambassador for Christ and sharing the evangel (gospel) would be a natural thing. No courses in evangelism would be necessary. The ecclesia would be such an exciting thing that it would be impossible to prevent personal evangelism (ambassadorship) from taking place.
There is nothing in Scripture that speaks of "membership" in a church.
God enables a person to believe ... he believes ... and he is AUTOMATICALLY a part of the ecclesia. There is nothing to do or sign. Membership is a tradition formulated by man in an attempt to control other men and to enforce a particular set of rules ... sometimes based in part on the Bible, but often times not.
CREEDS ARE SIMPLY INTERPRETATIONS OF MEN
The Bible is God's revelation to mankind. Creeds, Articles of Religion, and Statements of Faith are all interpretations of man as to what the Bible says. They differ from one church or denomination to the next, and cannot therefore all be right.
Let us seek to avoid being biased by the interpretations or opinions of any man ... and let us be led by that which God has revealed to us in His Word.
UNITY ... AND PATIENCE
God calls us to be in unity with other Believers.
"... be attuned to the same mind and to the same opinion."
(1 Corinthians 1:10)
But we must recognize that none of us has a full understanding of the meaning and interpretation of God's Word, as evidenced by the many different denominations and individual churches that differ from one another on many points.
We need one another. We are a Body with many parts, and all are needed as we work together to function as the complete Body of Christ with Christ as our head. We work together to discern what God has revealed to us in His Word, and how we are to function as Christ's ambassadors.
God is patient with us (2 Peter 3:9), and we are called to be patient with others (1 Thessalonians 5:15). Love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Believers are encouraged to be cheerful givers in response to the Word of God, but each should make his own decisions as to where God is calling him to give. The tithe is not commanded in this age. The tithe was required of the Jews to support the temple and the priesthood. The tithe was never imposed upon the Body of Christ.
The tithe was compulsory ... it was required. But as for us today:
"Each according as he has proposed in his heart,
not sorrowfully, nor of compulsion, for the gleeful giver
is loved by God." (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Those preachers that call for a tithe are mis-applying the Bible ... attempting to build their church into a temple-like system. But we no longer need a priest like those that were supported by the Old Testament tithe. Christ is the high priest ... He has fulfilled the shadow that was the priesthood. We do not need a priest to mediate between us and God. Christ is our mediator ... in this age He is the only legitimate mediator.
Giving need not be to an organized church, and it may often not be tax deductible. We should use the resources God has blessed us with WHEREVER Hs is calling us to use them ... serving as Christ's faithful ambassadors.
GOD IS THE SAVIOR OF ALL
As we proclaim the message entrusted to us as Christ's Ambassadors, this point cannot be stressed enough. Any message that includes a warning concerning eternal torment is NOT the correct evangel. It is NOT what the Bible says, and it is proclaiming falsehood concerning God ... blaspheming God and misrepresenting His character.
The Bible, when correctly translated from the original languages and when carefully studied, reveals very clearly that when the lake of fire has accomplished its work, ALL will be saved by the grace of God thru the work of Christ.
For more about this ... click on "God Will Save All" on the left side bar.