Continuing with the See the Bishop Shepherd and Bishop of our Souls
The Church of Our Shepherd
What is the church? "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers..........46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:38-42, 46-47
We see the church is not a building, but a people, a called out assembly (ecclesia), People, who have received the Gospel, repented of their sin, accepted Christ, and who were baptized as an open testimony of Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
The Scriptures show us the church is a family, it is entered into by birth [adoption] "He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: "John 1:11-12
To see what happens when you are saved Press Here
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Romans 8:14-17 This being so why do some churches vote on membership? Are not all that receive Christ and are baptized, to be received into the church as one of the family of God?
We also see the Church is for fellowship and growth in the knowledge and service for the Lord. For the sheep cannot walk alone in this ungodly world. "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. "Hebrews 10:23-25 Christians need the knowledge of God [Apostles Doctrine] to grow in His likeness, and to understand His will for their lives individually and collectively. Christians need each other to walk with God in this ungodly world.
God ordained the Church as an extended family into which He places everyone who has received His Son, for their mutual benefit and service to Him and each other. "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14For the body is not one member, but many. That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 15If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20But now are they many members, yet but one body.......Vs.26And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." 1 Cor. 12:12-20, 25-27 Paul makes it amply clear that there is an inseparable union in the family of God, as the body of Christ in this world, as well as an inseparable, ordained work. Therefore, every one in the body of Christ is vitally important. "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." 1Cor. 3:9 God put everyone in His family for the express purpose of being workers together with Him.
The Church as the body of Christ is the instrument for Godís work in the world. Therefore, everyone in the Church is important and needed for the work of the Lord. For the work to be effectual, there must be doctrinal unity in the local church as well as the extended family. "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.." Eph. 4:11-16 Notice the responsibility of them all, whether they are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers, is for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body to bring unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, that they are like Him. Is that not why they were to teach and preach the Apostles Doctrine? Is this the purpose and goal of much preaching and teaching today? Notice it is a team effort to edify the family of God, not a do-it-yourself job. Where did these non-church ministries come from? Certainly not the Word of God.
God has a plan for building His Church. The Father is the planner, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day" John 6:44. "Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:47 The Son is the doer, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18 Consider Jesus words: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8 Who said we are to go and build churches when only God can do it.? Let us remember the Holy Spirit is the only one who empowers the will of God.
What then is Godís plan for building His church? Let us look again at the conception of the church. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.....Vs.46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:41-42 .46-47 Peter had preached the gospel, those who received it, were baptized identifying with Christ. Who is the planner? The Father. Who is the doer? Jesus. Who is the empowerer? The Holy Spirit. So then, the Lord is building His church with the people who receive Him. The sheep are His ambassadors, bringing others to Him. The Father draws them through the agency of the Holy Spirit to receive Christ, and He gives them to His under-shepherds to feed, and disciple them. They may plant and water, but it is the Holy Spirit who grows them and produces the fruit. Where did we get the ides we are to build His church? Man builds buildings and institutions only God can build the family of God, His church. "We also notice that they continued in the Apostles Doctrine daily in homes and in the temple. [They were accustomed to worshiping in the temple and teaching in the synagogues.] Notice not just on the first day of the week but every day to know more about the Lord and to be like Him. [The apostlesí doctrine]. Why do some make the first day of the week the only day they get together to grow in His Word? Are they following Godís plan? Notice it was house to house that they met and had the Lordís table.
The principle here is growth through cell groups multiplying and dividing. Guess what? This is the principle for growth of Godís people given from the beginning. Consider Godís command to Noah. "And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth...... And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein..... These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread..... These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood." Genesis 9:1, 7, 19, 10:32
To scatter and multiply is the plan of God for the growth of His Church. "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" Matthew 28:18-20. Here we see to scatter and multiply is required for the Lordís plan for discipleship. Discipleship is the means of building the body of Christ in this world. However, the church was reluctant to follow Godís plan, so the Lord had to allow persecution to get them to scatter and multiply.
Therefore, the will of God for the Church is to grow through evangelism. "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." 2 Cor. 5:18-20
We see then the will of God is that the church is to function as the body of Christ, performing the will of God, as His ambassador in this present world. Jesus said, speaking of the Fatherís sending Him into the world, to reveal Himself: "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world John 17:18.....Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." John 20:21
As the church is the body of Christ to perform Godís will in this world. It is to manifest His nature and character, just as a wife takes on the character of her husband, so does the church take on Christís character as His bride. To see these responsibilities Press Here
Consider the role of the Church as the bride of Christ spoken of by Paul in his letter to the Ephesian Church. "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." Ephes. 5:22-27
Here we see the Church is to manifest its union with Christ as a faithful bride in subjection to Him as a wife to her husband. Remember, there is only one body of Christ into which all who receive Christ are baptized, as the extended family of God for the work of Christ in this world. To see more responsibilities Press Here
Likewise, the bride of Christ is composed of all local Church bodies in the extended family of God. Christ loves His bride, the Church, and gave Himself for it. He set it apart from the world unto Himself, as a chaste virgin bride. Notice His bride is to be kept holy and righteous by abiding in His Word. Therefore, the church is to display the character of Christ as it takes on His nature and character in faithfulness to Him. While manifesting His holiness and righteousness, as well as His love, mercy, and grace, in its actions and relations in the family of God, as well as in the world. Consider Paulís exhortation: "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." 2 Cor. 11:2 It is the character of Christ in those who make up the body of Christ that demonstrates Christ lives in them and changes their lives to be like Him. This changing life is the only valid testimony that the church has of Christ living in them. How is it some have no change taking place in their lives to make them more like their betrothed, individually or collectively as a Church?
As God uses the imperfect people He brings into His family to do His work, problems arise in the family of God. The Apostle Paul was deeply concerned over the divisions and errors in doctrine in the churches of his day. Paul recognized their being in the body of Christ, demanded he should make an effort to correct the errors in doctrine, rather than treating them as one that did not exist in the family. Paul knew these churches were breaking the Lordís heart, and he wanted to restore their walk and fellowship with the Lord. His goal was to restore their testimony as the body and bride of Christ.
Now then let us consider Paulís letters to the following churches, to understand his heartbreak over their condition, as members of the extended family of God.
To see there conditions Press Here
The Apostle Paul made trips to the Church of Jerusalem, bringing financial help, as well as to help correct doctrinal matters. The first church council was held there, but they were egocentric. They were reluctant to scatter and multiply as planned by the Lord. Moreover, they were even more resistant to leave ordinances of Judaism or to accept Gentiles into the church.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter of instruction to the Church of Rome while he was at the Church of Corinth. This church was established without doctrinal instruction. They were living defeated lives. This letter shows them the importance of a total commitment to be single-minded toward Christ and His Word. This letter gave them instructions to live holy lives in victory over the sin nature.
The Apostle Paul wrote letters of instructions to the Church of Corinth: This was a result of their letter of request to him while he was at Ephesus, and perhaps when he was at the Church of Philippi. This church had many worldly practices, and many living in sin. They also had false conceptions of the ministry concerning spiritual gifts, as well as intellectual pride. In his letter to this church, Paul demonstrated the heart of Christ for its need of sanctification and rededication to Christ, discipline and holy living, and humility.
Paul wrote the Church of Colossi: In this case it was in response to their writing him, while he was in prison in Rome, concerning their problem. They were heavily influenced by the Gnostic heresy and philosophy. Paul wrote a letter of love, beseeching them to beware of errors creeping in through their teaching traditions, and philosophy as well as the ways of the world around them. Paul dealt with these errors with the heart of Christ for His Church.
Paul wrote the Churches of the Galatians, probably while he was at the Church of Ephesus. These churches had a problem with religious legalism. Paul beseeches them to remember the doctrine of justification by faith and Christian liberty, as well as warning them of turning back to Judaism. Paul does this in spite of their not considering him their equal, so he defends his apostleship, in love, as well. I cannot help but think this is who he had in mind when he wrote the Philippian Church "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 17But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. 18What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. 19For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, " Philip. 1:15-19
Paul also wrote the Church of Philippi: with a heart of joy. They were a faithful and benevolent church. They filled his heart with joy whenever he heard or thought of them. He knew they were a pleasure to the Lord and not a heartbreak, as so many were.
Paul also wrote the Church at Thessalonica in response to a report of their condition given to him by Timothy. Paul had written them to encourage and strengthen them. In this letter Paul writes them one of the most personal letters of commendation and encouragement, especially of the assurance of the future second coming of the Lord for all His saints, and their eternal life together with the Lord.
Notice the spiritual condition of each church was different. Some were in a state of immaturity. Another was in gross sin and had a miserable testimony. Some had great doctrinal errors. Paul entreated them as a part of the family of God to correct their errors, clean up their walk with the Lord, and each other. Paulís visits and letters, to these churches, vividly expresses the fact that he had the heart of Christ, for all these churches who were purchased by Christ and were breaking His heart.
Oh! That we would all have such a heart for all those in error that offend us, in the family of God. We can say Paul is a man after Godís own heart. Should not all the Lordís under shepherds demonstrate the same heart for those in the family of God, as did the Apostle Paul? Why is it so many fail to hold to this responsibility, in the family of God today; if so, how will they face the Lord without shame?
Both the local and extended family of God has been weakened by false doctrine and carnal [worldly] living members of Godís family. It has been infiltrated and polluted by the unsaved, and blasphemed by apostasy. Nevertheless, the love of Christ for His churches is seen as He points out their spiritual condition and pleads with them to correct themselves, or face His sovereign judgement.
So let us consider the letter Jesus wrote to the seven Churches in Asia, in Rev. Chapt. 2 & 3. You cannot miss the fact that the heart of Christ is set on restoration not on eviction from His family or judgment for His churches, and all those in them.
Only two were a joy to Him. The Church of Smyrna: [must be crushed to give off a fragrance like Myrrh] A Faithful Church that loved the Lord and gave their life for their testimony of Him, and the Church of Philadelphia [Brotherly love] a Church that loved the Lord and each other.
Sorrowfully, there were five that displeased the Lord and He rejected their condition. Nevertheless, Jesus calls them to repentance and restoration. The Church of Ephesus: [Desirable] as a bride is to her groom. It was a backslidden church that had left its first love of Christ. The Church of Pergamus [Marriage] Was unequally yoked, tolerated corrupt doctrines, and heretics. The Church of Thyatira: [Continuing sacrifice] had lax discipline, and tolerated a corrupt prophetess, bringing in heresy. The Church of Sardis: [A remnant] Unequal yoking of those who have spiritual life with the spiritual dead. The Church of Laodicea: [peoples rights] A democratic church seeking the will of the people rather than the will of God, having no spiritual substance, only a religion.
The churches of Revelation chapters 2 & 3 were historic churches founded by the apostle Paul. I firmly believe, as do many, they are representative of the character of all the churches throughout the church age. The conditions of our world, and the church, point to the fact we are living at the end of that age. I believe, as do many, we are presently living in the last days of the church age.
Therefore, the Laodicean church represents what the present day church is in the sight of the Lord.
So let us look at it more closely in Revelation. 3: "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:....." Rev. 3:14-17
The first thing we see is it is a democratic church, as Laodicea means "the will of the people." We also see the Lord sees it as a compromising, lukewarm, and self-satisfied church.
Is this a description of most of the churches today? Consider the following facts. Most have a democratic government, ruled by the will of the people. Most are ruled by boards and trustees, not by Christ, through an under-shepherd. Most have a preacher (pulpit thumpers) that is a hireling who will compromise Godís Word and methods, with human secular ones to accommodate people and to draw a following. Most are are neither hot nor cold concerning the will of the Lord, in order to please their employer. They substitute programs for the responsibility of living a changing life. Most substitute programs, for giving Christ the life He paid for, that they may be used as His ambassador, to make disciples of others. Being satisfied with themselves, they see no need for change. There is no awareness that their seeming success is the work of the flesh, through humanistic principles that bring a following and materialistic gains.
Woe be to them! Consider the Lordís response to the condition of the church before He comes to take His home. It is repulsive to Him, so much so, it makes Him sick, He will spew it out of His mouth. How awful, how heartbreaking, the reality of their condition must be to Him, and should be to us, in these last days. This is not the way we see ourselves, but the way He sees many of us.
Notice His counsel "...... 18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent......." Rev. 3:18-19
How long will He wait for some of us to wake up to our condition, before He must chasten us as disrespectful children?
What love and grace he bestows upon His unworthy church, standing outside the church He purchased with His own blood to be His bride. Jesus calls to them."........20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me...." Rev.3:20
Until this time, Jesus had been addressing the angels of His churches. As I understand it, they are to be His under- shepherds, pastors, if you will, but He gives up on getting their attention. Heartbroken, and lonely with tears running down His cheeks, He now calls to any man. Is anyone aware Christ is outside, wanting the fellowship of His church?
Once again we see the magnitude, of the love and grace Jesus Christ, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, as He calls. ".... 21To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." Rev. 3:21-22
Will anyone hear His heartbroken call for fellowship, His call to repentance? I did and it led to the writing of what I learned of Him, in this book. How sadly this is reminiscent of Israel when Christ came to them "He came unto his own, and his own received him not." John 1:11 What a sad commentary of the church, for which He gave His own blood.
What brought the church, of these last days, to this condition? Let us review the path it chose to take. As many do and are doing this day.
First of all, it left its first love, that of Christ and His Word. I have little opportunity for fellowship with other pastors. When I do, most often, I am disappointed by their coldness to discuss their knowledge of God and His Word. For the most part. they are more interested in sports, fishing, hunting, boating, or other forms of recreation or entertainment. The heart of Christ was not on such things. How discouraging it is, that under-shepherds of the Lord fail to be interested in the words of their Chief Shepherd concerning their work as His under-shepherd. The apostle Paul writes of Jesusí interest in the church." .... even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.......That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." Ephes. 5:23, 26-27.
Are not all His under-shepherds to be the same kind of a shepherd He is, having His heart for the sheep of His flock? Do they have the knowledge of God concerning their ministries, and can they follow it, that they may face Christ unashamed. Could the lack of interest not only be a lack of love for the flock of God and His Word, but also a cover the fear of what might result? Could they fear that to sit down and analyze the problems in the ministry with Godís Word, it may show up errors that they do not want to admit or deal with. The Scriptures say: "the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God" but many have feared the judgment of institutions and alumni more than the Lord? Do they fear the judgment of under- shepherds more than the Chief Shepherd to whom we must answer for the sheep of His fold? Have they no fear of God? No fear of straying from His plan for their lives and ministries!
Could it be that the path the church has taken, was to move from the Apostles Doctrine and the mind of Christ, to denominational dogmas of its own making? A move from Biblical Christianity to religious humanism, that fits any life style the church wishes to represent to have a following. That is the pathetic substitute for living the life of Christ, seen by many.
No wonder, it makes Jesus sick to His stomach and He wants to spit it out of His mouth. Is this not also the feeling of many thinking people you talk to about the Church of today? Is it not the contradiction that is seen in the church of today as opposed to the church described in the Scriptures? Is there not a contradiction between the work of many pastors and the role of an under shepherd as seen in Godís Word?
Let us look at some of the differences. First of all, the focus of the early church was on the teaching of the Apostles Doctrine. [Acts 2] The faith once delivered to the saints spoken of by Jude, the knowledge of God as revealed in the Old Testament and the life of Christ. It was that knowledge that caused the early Church to love the Lord and serve Him, even to their death if necessary.
The Apostle Paul and other early church fathers all focused on the knowledge of God that edified the body of Christ. Consider Paulís focus for the knowledge imparted to the family of God. "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; ......Vs. 23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; 24Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: 25Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.....2:2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Col. 1:9-10, 23-29, 2:2-3 collectively.
Preaching in the early church focused on the person of Christ, the attributes of God that Christians are to emulate, as a follower of Christ. They are to be conformed to His image in holiness, righteousness, love, mercy and grace. The person of Christ is the standard God has given for His family and taught in the early church. This promoted love for the Lord that desired a change of life from what they were to what Christ is. Consider Peterís words: "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." 2 Peter 1:3-4
Today, has not the standard of Christ been supplanted by preaching of the so-called standards of a local Church? Are they not in reality, in most cases, preferences of people that fit their chosen life style in place of the attributes of God as seen in the person of Christ? The early church would have been turned off by the superficial standards, rules and regulations of much of todayís churches. These do not motivate or affect the daily life of followers of Christ.
Are not the standards Jesus taught in the sermon on the Mount the principles that come from His nature and character? Are they not the standards He gave for the church?
Could it be today much of the preaching is so called issue oriented? Jesus never addressed the political issues of His day that did not conflict with the Word of God. Is there not much preaching that is flag raising and running crusades? These may arouse interest and emotional following, but do they bring a change of life, and promote growth in Christ?
The early church also stressed the importance of being responsible to their God-ordained roles in life. There were clearly defined roles for husbands, wives, and children. The husband was to be the spiritual leader in the home, governing it under Godís Word. The husband was to teach his wife and children the Word of God that they trust and follow the Lord. As the head of the home, the husband was accountable for the discipline in the home. The husband functioned as the priest of the home so that one day they would all stand before the Lord unashamed.
When men became slack in their duties, the church usurped their role and assumed the duties of educating the individual family members in the ways of God. Today families are split up in the church. In most Sunday schools, each family member is in a class for their own age or gender. Even the church service is divided into junior and adult services in many churches. Beyond that many churches have "programs" for each family member several nights a week, which effectually splits up the home even into more fragments. This has weakened the family, the father was no longer looked up to as the spiritual leader of the home. How can the husband carry on his God ordained responsibilities as the priest in home in such a church? Is there any wonder divorce is running rampant in the church? Not only did the homes weaken, but so did the church. Future generations grew to question both, as well as the authority of the Scriptures. Both the church and the home have, for the most part, left following Godís plan for them.
Could it be that while the church has been pointing to Satanís devices outside to destroy the family, Satan is using the church to destroy the family of God from within?
In the beginning, under-shepherds preached and taught to the entire family wherever they assembled. Parents had their children with them, and parents taught the children what they could not understand when they were at home. The children saw the importance of Godís Word in their parentís lives. The children also saw the importance of their families to the under shepherd as well. How is this being seen today?
Could it be many have followed the path of intellectualism? The authority of the Scriptures has been brought into jeopardy by so-called [self proclaimed] scholars. That have used questionable documents to justify changes in the modern versions of the Bible, to backup the liberal churches dogmas so that they fit any lifestyle, to increase their following. Today many churches do what is right in their own eyes, often using human secular reasoning blended with Scripture. I call this human secular theology.
What could cause some pastors to do this? They should consider Paulís words: "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 1 Cor. 1:18-31
Does God need to say more about human intellectualism?
Consider Paulís warning concerning intellectualism. " Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, 5For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; 6Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth: 7As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; 8Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit. 9For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;.......Chapt. 2 Vs. 4 And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. 5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. 6As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power" Col. 1:4-10, 2:4-10
Could it be some have followed this path of intellectualism because it has become a symbol of success, that brings a quick following? Perhaps, because it appeals to the flesh, the sense of pride of knowledge, achievement and status over the following. Such should consider Jesusí words: "Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;" Luke 20:46. How sad, they do not see that intellectual pride is a stumbling block to the family of God. For God does not concern Himself with the abilities or the disabilities of those He calls and uses in His family. All God is concerned with is their availability for His service. They should remember Jesusí Words ".....".I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." John 15:5
Often intellectualism brings contention and divisions in the Church body as it promotes pride and arrogance. Intellectualism is no guarantee of maturity through which Christís humility, love, mercy and grace are manifested.
The path of intellectualism is a poor substitute for the path of God-given wisdom and maturity which is effectual in reproducing a consistent Christ like life that builds and strengthens the church.
Is it possible that many churches have pastors that are educated to fit into their pulpits? They are professional, intellectual preachers, hired by boards or committees for having gifts of oratory and charisma that attract members to build their churches. Their primary duty is to build the church membership. Is this not the result of a democratic government ruled by boards and committees in the local churches? Opposed to the sovereign will and rule of the Lord through His called under-shepherd following His word and example.
Is it possible that many have substituted human secular principles for the word of God; to attain that following or to show success to their peers and colleagues? Could it be, that some fear they are not measuring up to their peers standards, in their ministries? Could it be some have followed this path to have a following and high standing as a professional with their peers? Furthermore, few of them practice the role of a shepherd of the Lordís flock. Whereas, the shepherd lived for the flock, many seek the flock to live for the shepherd. They should consider Godís view of success is being faithful to Godís Word and His will for your life and service. They should consider: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." 2 Cor. 5:10
Is it possible that many have forsaken the work of shepherding, because it requires discipline? Could it be, because it takes too much of their time, too much sacrifice of their personal life? Could it be, some are afraid that the Lord may call the one they disciple to replace themselves? Is not that the purpose and fruit of shepherding, to reproduce more shepherds? Is not that the greatest reward an under-shepherd can have in this life for his service for the Lord? Did not Jesus do that?
Consider the life and ministry of Christ and the apostles and count their cost of shepherding the flock of God. They had to leave all their personal life behind. Their life was committed to the care of the Lordís heritage and not their own. Their life was building the lives of others not their own. For which their reward was not a life of ease but of rejection and persecution. Are Jesus under-shepherds of today to expect anything different?
The responsibilities and the costs of shepherding are the same today as they were then. Is there any wonder there are so many preachers and so few under-shepherds of the Lord? Is that why there are so many sheep without a shepherd? Could it be that some fear boards that hired them; as preachers with oratory skills to attract a following enlarging the church. Not as shepherds that are to feed and care for the Lordsí sheep as He and the apostles did?
Consider: Paulís words to the under-shepherd he was training. "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 4:1I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 6For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." 2 Tim. 3:15 - 4:8
In summary: In the early church the pastor of the church was a man called of God to perform the duties of an under-shepherd, feeding the flock and caring for them in Christís place, watching over His flock. The under-shepherd was to see that none be lost, as He did. They were to live for the flock, to feed them, watch over them, protect them. He was called as a servant giving his life as a living sacrifice for the faith of others. He is to be making disciples of others to take his place, if the Lord moves him on or takes him home.
Consider again the path of Christ and its end. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;" Philip. 2:5-10
How joyous the Lord would be had His church followed His path, rather than the one many have chosen." Consider Jesusí prayer: "These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: 2As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. 4I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. 5And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. 6I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. 7Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. 8For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. 9I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 10And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 11And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. 12While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. 20Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. 24Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. 25O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. 26And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." John 17:1-26
Is Jesus not saying the churches of our day [Rev. 3:14-22] have forsaken the perfect will of our Lord for His church for one of their own making? Is that why the church of these last days is not aware Christ is outside wanting to come in? Could this be why the great Shepherd and Bishop of our Souls gives up talking to the Angels of the Churches? Sick and heartbroken, He stands outside the church He purchased with his own blood, and no one even missing His presence. Lonely and heartbroken, knocking and calling for any man to realize He is outside wanting to come in. Could this be why Jesus gave up talking to His under-shepherds but to any man? Consider the great love Jesus has for His Church.
Consider His great mercy and grace He offers them as He calls to His church to come back to His path. It is with that same compassion that He called Israel. "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" 2 Chron. 7:14
Will the under-shepherds and flocks in churches today hear Jesus call. Will they repent, seek His face, turn from their ways to His? If they do, there is hope to face Him unashamed. Consider the apostle Peterís call " And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." 1 Peter 5:4
Have the sheep demanded the human secular theology that homogenizes the Word of God with human secular thought to accommodate the life style they live? Thus allowing them to feel they have the best of both worlds in order to have their following. If so who is accountable? Are they both equally responsible for the condition of the church? Mr.under-shepherd did God accept Aaronís excuse for building the golden calf demanded by the people?
When did we turn from the Lordís plan for the church as the body and bride of Christ composed of the extended family of God, to an institution? You enter the family of God by birth. You enter institutions by a vote by boards. Institutions hire their executives. In the family of God He calls them to their place of service. Institutions hire and fire, God chastens to restoration.
When did we redefine the family of God to an institution? How did this happen when there is no Scriptural principle for institutionalizing the family of God? While there are many speaking of a family relationship in the family of God.
When did we make a holy grail out of Sunday? Did not the early church meet every day of the week and from house to house? Acts 2:46 Did we make the first day of the week [the day they took up collections for other churches in need [1 Cor. 16:1-2]for the convenience of the shepherd as well as the sheep? Perhaps, it was so the shepherd did not have to be with some of the sheep every day, as a shepherd must be to watch and care for the sheep as did Jesus and the disciples? Could it be the sheep just wanted to have the rest of the week to themselves? Could it be that is when the church traded the shepherd for a preacher (pulpit thumper)? Is that Godís plan for the church?
Did not the early shepherds follow Christís example of disciples of men to replace themselves? Did they not send them out to care for another flock of their own, following the principle of scattering to multiply, multiplying and dividing? Who told the church to change the God-given and proven method that grew the church and changed the world in the days it was practiced?
Now go do what is
right in the eyes of the Lord and may
decisions bring you the promise of Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to
them who are the called according to his purpose.Ē
Your friend in Christ Warren T. Smith
Click here for Chapter 8 Table of Contents Back to Home Page