Monday, April 4, 2016

Paul's Church“‘Upon this rock foundation,’ Jesus answered him, ‘I will gather my family – those called out by God’s Word.  Death will not overpower them.’” (Matthew 16:17-18 IEB).

When Jesus made that statement, he was not specifying a local assembly, but  the entire body of people making up the saved.  The Greek word ekklesia (εκκλησια) means “called out” or “assembly.”  The word may refer to a local assembly like the one in Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6), to the universal body of Jesus (Matthew 16:18), or to the saved coming together in one place (1 Corinthians 11:20).  The word “church” comes from a pagan source causing the original definition to be misunderstood.

On Pentecost, those who gladly received Peter’s instruction and did what he commanded, were added by God to the saved (Acts 2:41).  When added, they became the “called out” body of believers.  They had been called out of the world by God’s Word and into the body of Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-27)!  Since they were added to the saved by God Himself, no additional organization was required to assist God in His work of salvation.  This “called out” number were capable of evangelism, benevolence, and edification without added religious organizations (Acts 2:42-47).  Such additions would neither add to nor benefit the saved in a spiritual or redemptive way.  This first century picture is almost impossible to visualize or even desired by today’s spiritual standard.

When the apostles died, some believed their positions were perpetuated into an apostolic office with oversight of the entire “called out.”  As traditions became a governing force, some desired reform to break the grip that centuries of man made laws had created.  During that time “the called out” lost its biblical image, being replaced with pomp, ceremony, and laws never envisioned by first century apostles or prophets.  Men like Martin Luther attempted to reform, but failed.  This failure introduced to man the history of the Protestant Reformation.  Rather than recognize and understand God’s work of wisdom through the one body of Christ, Protestantism establishing a plurality of bodies, not essential to one’s salvation, to do the work and worship of what Jesus built.

Luther attempted to stop those who wished to call themselves by his name.  He failed.  Yet, these late date creations were not the first.  About 30 years after Pentecost, Paul wrote to the “called out” in Corinth dealing with this error (1 Corinthians 1:2, 10-13).  Paul discussed their additions to God’s ekklesia or “called out.”  Although one group honored Paul, he corrected their actions rather than commending it.  The “called out of Paul” was different from the ekklesia or “called out” of God which they had already been added to by God Himself!  God did not add an individual to the “the called out of Paul.”  One was from God, the other’s were from men.  The “Pauline Christians” may have appreciated Paul’s teaching, but his instruction did not produce their hyphenated names nor this additional man made body of believers (1 Corinthians 11:17-19)!  They were the “body of Christ” before they decided to add themselves to “the body of Paul”!

When Jesus promised to build his “called out,” he did not include Paul’s, or any other.  When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he said, “there is one body” (Ephesians 4:4).  If “the called out of Paul” is identical to the “called out” of God, whether in Corinth, Antioch, or Jerusalem, then Jesus would have been one head over several different bodies rather than one.  Those who were believers, though living in different locales, were all in the one body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 20, 27).  One head, one body (Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:23).  Not one head over four or five different bodies in name and doctrine.

Did those who denominated themselves into “the called out of Paul” need to be “Pauline” to be saved?  No, they already had been redeemed!  Did God “call out” the Corinthians and add them to “the called out of Paul”?  No.  Were they baptized into “the called out of Paul” (1 Corinthians 1:13; Galatians 3:26-27).  No.  Was Paul their head?  No.  When saved, were they married to Paul (Romans 7:4)?  No.  Did being in “the called out of Paul” provide them with all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3)?  No.  Were they cleansed by the blood of Paul by being in “the called out of Paul”?  No!  What was gained spiritually or in the realm of salvation by becoming a member of “the called out of Paul”?  Paul saw no spiritual benefit, reason, or excuse to have it or the other divisions (Acts 4:12).

Did the first century body of Christ need a man made organization with an earthly headquarters to make first century believers spiritual?  Did they need a discipline, manual, or any uninspired book in addition to the Bible to produce saving faith (Romans 10:17)?  If the Bible did not produce their differences, who or what did?  Who is the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33)?

From Pentecost to about the second century, those who were saved were capable of meeting, partaking of the Lord’s supper, teaching and admonishing one another, helping the poor, supporting Paul and others, and bringing the lost to Jesus without the “called out of Paul” or any other addition.  So, why did man see a need to add to what God had already accomplished in saving man (Acts 2:41, 47)?

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians corrected that way of thinking, at least for a few years.  However, the view is so ingrained today that it is supported as if it is straight from the pen of inspired writers.  It is a tradition that has become so godly in the mind of modern man, that any other way of viewing it is thought to be heresy.  In fact, most today believe being in God’s “called out” is insufficient to fill our spiritual needs without joining a secondary “called out” body which is not essential to our salvation.

Culture, tradition, deception, blindness, arrogance, pride, race, misplaced loyalties, and other things blind us all.  The solution to this confusion is simple, but often difficult to apply.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV)

That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”   (John 17:21 (NKJV)