This is a continuation of my answers to some questions given to me by a lady in Texas, asking for the answers in THE EXAMINER.
Question No. 3: Do you believe the "organization power" given to elders and preachers has gone far beyond that given by example in the Bible?
Answer: There is no reference in the NT Scriptures to any "organization power" ever given to elders or preachers; or to the Pope, Pastor, Reverend, Bishop, Worshipful Master, Synod, Conference, or anyone or anything else! Men give "organization power" to other men, or else men seize such power in one way or another. In the kingdom of God there is only one Ruler or Lord, Jesus Christ Himself.
First, there is no organization, no corporate institution, set forth in the Scripture; hence, there certainly can not be any "example" of "organization power" found therein. In the world today there are hundreds of religious institutions, churches, para-churches, super-structures and control arrangements ranging from local to state-wide, to nation-wide, and even world-wide as seen in the greatest man-devised religious power-structure in the world, the Roman Catholic Church.
The first references to religious "organizational power" are found in later history, long after the completion of New Covenant writings, and this culminated in the Roman Catholic Church, which was built or structured in the likeness of the Roman Empire.
Jesus did not start, establish, or set up any kind of organization or corporate institution. Hence, there was no "organization power" to be given to elders or preachers. That is not to say, however, that clergy and church officials, like the elders and preachers today, do not have and exercise such power, for they do just that. They rule, run, and operate the local church institution. But such a practice or teaching is not found in the Scriptures. It has gradually developed into an "organization power" within the Church of Christ (C of C) churches during the last forty to fifty years. It is firmly in place now and strong efforts are made to justify, this teaching and practice.
In Matt. 20:17-28 there is an account of "the mother of the sons of Zebedee" who thought that there would be such a thing as "organizational power" to be exercised by men in the kingdom of Christ. She requested of Jesus the highest places of power for her sons. (Did James and John put her up to this?) Jesus told her, as well as James and John, "You do not know what you are asking for." And they did not, but in their vain desire for positions of "organizational power" and their erroneous concept of the kingdom, they claimed that they "were able" to "drink the cup" Jesus was about "to drink". They thought then, as millions of deceived people believe today, that the kingdom of Jesus Christ was (is) to be an earthly kingdom; and that it would operate like the kingdoms or governments of men. Hence, there would be positions of "organization power" given to men. This erroneous concept of the earthly kingdom and the rule or reign of Christ over such a kingdom is, in my view, one of the greatest deceptions ever perpetuated upon those who claim to be disciples of Jesus. He plainly said: "My kingdom is not of this world," but thousands upon thousands through the ages have labored in vain to prove Him wrong.
Jesus told the disciples: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:25-28).
Does that sound like there would be any "organization power" for anybody? On the contrary, those who will be "great" among you will be in the servant role. Those who would be "first" shall be your slave. This is totally upside down to the belief and practice of men today in all these Church Organizations. There are few passages which are as universally ignored, misunderstood, and perverted as the one above. How much clearer could Jesus have made it? Clearly Scripture declares that there is only "ONE Lord,' Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:5). We have no earthly "lords" or "rulers" over us in the service of God.
There are no corporate church managers or rulers found in the Scriptures because there is no corporate church found therein. Each disciple of Jesus is individually and totally responsible for making his/her own decision and for following the teaching of the one Lord. This is the bottom line in truly serving Jesus Christ. There is no Eldership, preacher, priest, conference, synod, bishop, Reverend, Doctor, church, Pope, or religious organization that has any divinely-given authority to order and control your service and devotion to God. The only one who has the authority to direct your life and service to God is that ONE who has the print of the nails in His hands!! No priest, pope, preacher, or elder has that mark. None of these did or can "die for your sins" and offer you salvation in his name.
Jesus Christ has "all authority in heaven and on earth" and He never shared any of that authority with any man or any group of men! Each Christian is individually under the authority of Christ and is answerable only to Him in doing His will. If you allow anyone or anything to stand between you and Jesus Christ, you have removed yourself from being His servant. Jesus Christ is the one and only Lord (Ruler) of His people.
Dear reader, if you grant to any eldership or any man or group of men, whether pastor, preacher, or pope, the right to "rule over you with organizational power", or any other kind, in your efforts in serving God, you have placed these men and the organization in the position of Jesus Christ! You have removed Christ as the one and only Head of His people, His ekklesia (erroneously called "church"), and have exalted a man or men to His place of authority and rule over you. You are not a servant of Jesus Christ, but a servant of men who "rule over you." God forbid! "We must obey God rather than men' (Acts 5:29).
Question 4: Do you believe the "three-times-a-week-service-attendance is "mandatory" to be a good and faithful Christian?
Answer: There is not a word in the NT Scriptures requiring disciples to attend a "service" of any kind, much less what is called the "three-times-a-week-service-attendance" at a designated place called a "church" (building). Hence, such is certainly not "mandatory" by the Lord nor the Scriptures. There isn't any requirement in NT Scripture for a "two-times-a-week-service-attendance" or even for a "one-time" deal! Today such requirements are the laws of men.
Question: How does one attend a "service"? Service is not some function or meeting one attends; it is something that one does or performs, usually for others (cf. Matt. 25:31-46). Christians are the Lord's servants and the responsibility of a servant is to serve, even as the Lord did. We serve God when we serve our fellow man and "live for Jesus" as the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
"The God who made the world and all things in it ... does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things ..." (Acts 17:24-25). God does not need any "service" or "worship" from you for His good or pleasure! Can you imagine God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, needing anything that men can give Him? What He does want or ask from us is solely for our good, not His.
The local church institution, that people join and in which they hold membership, sets up its own "worship services'' which require the attendance of the members. Reporting in at these appointed times, at the appointed place to do the appointed rituals of "worship", as ordained by the church rulers or clergy, constitutes the vital duty of the lowly members. As long as you (1) obey and (2) pay, you are considered to be a faithful church member, with the implied assurance of being pleasing to God. The Lord has nowhere required such of His people! This is solely "the law of the corporate church" and its rulers. It is the main way by which the Rulers of all denominational organizations keep their members under control; and thus they perpetuate the positions of power in the organization where they rule and control.
In the final analysis, as far as the corporate church organization is concerned, the one vital, absolutely essential need for your presence at the Sunday "services" is so you can put in your "contribution" or "lay by in store" in the corporate treasury! That is why church attendance is stressed so strongly by the Elders and the Pulpit Minister. You are the vital source of the Church income! Without paying members, the corporation will fail. Look at the power you hold in your hands! Money talks loud and clear and you have the "clout" to be heard; at least, you deserve a voice and a vote in the operation of this human organization that you support! You are absolutely essential to the operation of the local church. Without your money to fund the operation, this human corporation will die! I repeat: Your Church membership responsibility is to OBEY and PAY! Thereby you become a "faithful church member"! In all this you are obeying church requirements, not following the Lord Jesus.
When will the "voiceless" laity/members realize the fact that they are slaves of men in their respective church organization? Required attendance at the church-designed and church-instituted "worship services" has absolutely nothing to do with being a faithful Christian and pleasing the Lord. The Lord never ordered or authorized such! No where in Scripture can such be found.
Dear brother and sister, we must learn that obeying "the church" and its rulers is not the same as obeying or following Jesus Christ. Don't you know the difference? The Roman Catholics do not, but you certainly should. Catholics actually believe that even the local parish priest speaks and acts as God's divine representative; therefore when they obey him they believe that they are thereby obeying God. This same kind of teaching is being firmly established in C of C churches. It goes like this: To obey the Elders is to obey God; and to disobey the Elders is to disobey God. There is no difference between the two beliefs; they are identical! Remember Peter's statement: "We must obey God rather than men." There is only one Ruler, Head, and Savior!
Let me make it clear that the saints should meet together on occasion "to stimulate one another to love and good deeds" and to encourage one another (cf. Heb. 10:25-26). Christians need each other for their mutual benefit and to join their hands to help others. Paul wrote the Romans (15:14): "And concerning you ... I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, and able to admonish one another." Admonishing one another is needed. Older women are to "encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored" (Titus 2:3-5). Surely the older women could do that in a gathering or meeting.
Disciples need each other for many reasons. They should love and enjoy getting together or being with one another for their common good. Certainly they can teach and build up one another in the faith; help the weak, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted. However, they do not have to do that in an assembly or even have others with them to do such things. They can sing and pray together, observe the Lord's Supper, and they can in special cases of need pool financial resources to help those in need. "And in proportion that any disciple had means, EACH ONE OF THEM DETERMINED TO SEND A CONTRIBUTION for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this THEY did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders" (Acts 11:29-30).
Yes, disciples can do all the above and more. However, there is no command for them to meet together on any specific day "for worship". No place are they told how to worship, much less being told anything about there being a specified "five acts of worship" that they must engage in upon every first day of the week. There are no laws from God regulating when, how often, what to do, where, who, or with whom, concerning the gatherings or assemblies of the saints. Probably most of this was done in the family setting, in the home. Remember that they did not have a "church" (building) to go to for such "services". In our modern age, we have largely forgotten and rarely practice the "family devotion" or the fact that the father (and mother) should "bring them (children) up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). This responsibility has been forsaken in most cases and the children turned over to the institution (church) for what little "discipline and instruction of the Lord" they receive; and this has proven to be a dismal failure. We have reared "another generation after them who did not know the Lord ... (Judges 2:10) It is sad and a time for repentance and renewal of our dedication to God and Jesus Christ rather to the institutional church!
There certainly isn't any evidence that they formed themselves into local corporate structures ("the local church"), with corporate rulers to make all the decisions, with a specific membership, with a church ("sacred"?) building where all the members were required to report in at the specified times to engage in the corporate-controlled "five acts of worship," as is believed and practiced by C of C churches today.
Remember that responsibility is individual; accountability is individual; and final judgment before God is individual! Get it fixed in your heart YOU are the Lord's servant and it is through YOU that He works today. You may join hands with other individuals and do it together, but each one shall bear his own load and shall answer to he Lord for himself/herself alone. "For each one shall bear his own load" (Gal. 6:5).
Question 5: Do you believe there are "saved Christians" who are worshipping and identifying with denominational assemblies?
Answer: First, let me say that if there are "saved" people (Christians) in the various denominations they are not "saved" and did not become Christians by joining or becoming a member of a denomination! Being saved does not put one into a denomination of any kind! The New Testament (NT) scriptures do not even mention a denomination of any brand or structure.
Jesus did not build or establish a denomination of any kind. Denominations started years later. In fact, there wasn't even a corporate church organization of any kind in the days of the apostles. Those who were saved, the redeemed, were simply Christians, only Christians, disciples of Jesus. All denominations, church institutions, are the works of men, not the Lord Jesus Christ. One cannot follow the teaching of Jesus Christ and join or become a member of any denomination. Denominations are divisions and are therefore sinful (John 17: 20-23; 1 Cor. 1 1: 10-17; Gal. 5: 19-21).
We must, as the Lord's disciples, proclaim and emphasize the Good News ("gospel") to everyone possible. Why? Because the "good news" is "the power of God for salvation to every one who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16). Jesus said that "the whole world" every responsible person is in need of the "good news", because "all have sinned" and are, therefore, under condemnation - they are lost.
In essence the "good news" is (1) that Jesus Christ, God's beloved Son, has died for our sins according to the Scriptures (He paid the cost or penalty for all of us), (2) that He was buried, and that (3) He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-5). He is our Savior; and therefore has made salvation possible for all mankind. In this sacrifice of Himself for sinners, Jesus "became to all those who obey Him the source of salvation" (Heb. 5:9). Without Him no one can be saved. Unbelievers and disbelievers alike are lost in their sins; and cannot be saved from such without obedience to Him who is "the source" of salvation to all who obey Him.
After his death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, Jesus gave orders to His chosen apostles to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel ("good news") to all creation. He who has believed and is baptized (immersed) shall be saved: but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16). While salvation is provided for all, only those who believe and obey Him will be saved or forgiven of their sins. Only these are the children of God, only these are Christians. Look at the examples of this preaching and the obedience thereto as recorded in the book of Acts.
As God's people we should be proclaiming the "good news" to the lost of the world. In connection with telling the "good news," we should be emphasizing that the saved, those who are children of God, are Christians and should be Christians only. They must be non-denominational; that is, they are not to be members of any denomination of any kind or any name. Jesus Christ has had nothing to do with establishing any denomination. They are all from men. Following Jesus never led anyone to become a member of any denomination.
In the NT Scriptures you cannot read about any denomination, whether Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of God, Assembly of God, United Pentecostal, Lutheran, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, or any of the so-called cults, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Science, the Latter Day Saints (Mormonism), the Armstrong Worldwide Church or God (Anglo-Israelism), Zen Buddhism, The Unification Church ("Moonies"), and The New Age Movements, just to identify a few of the religions and churches born out of the will and wisdom of men, NOT GOD!! Obeying or following the teaching of Jesus Christ never led anyone to join or affiliate with any of these churches or organizations, and it will not do so today.
Where in God's holy word can you find any instruction to become a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic? Lutheran, or Episcopalian? Where is there an example of anyone who did such a thing? In joining a denomination and serving therein, one is not serving the Lord even if such is done with an honest and good heart. Those who do so are deceived. Jesus plainly spoke of this danger in Matt. 7: 21-27. There He warns us that many honest, sincere, conscientious, very religious people will be told at that final day, "depart from Me, I never knew you!" There people are pictured as being honestly mistaken, sincerely in error, and religiously wrong. They have followed the doctrines and commandments of men, believing that they were doing God's will. Jesus plainly says that at the judgment they will be rejected. He will say: "I never knew you," meaning that they never were His servants because they have obeyed for doctrine the commandments of men.
In view of the above, we must diligently seek for the truth that can make us free (John 8:32). It should cause us to "make our calling and election sure" by examining the Scriptures daily to make certain what God's will is for us. We must render the required response to it; which is obeying the Lord Jesus.
Can we know for certain exactly what we must do to be saved? The divine record is clear and explicit about this vital matter. It should be noted first that the sinner must do something to be saved. That should be apparent to any honest and good heart. Jesus said: "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe [obey] will be condemned" (Mark 16: 15-16). That seems like relatively simple language. Surely it can be understood. One would have to have help to misunderstand what is there stated by our Lord; but there is plenty of "help" around to deceive the unwary into the acceptance of "another gospel" (Gal. 1: 8-9).
The "good news" was preached in its fullness for the first time on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Peter was the principle spokesman. He proclaimed that Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Messiah, was put to death, buried, raised from the dead, and was then seated at God's right hand to rule over His kingdom. He is the Savior of men. When the people heard that message, they believed it and "were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' "Do for what? To be saved or forgiven of their sins, obviously. Peter so understood their question. They thought that there should be some response or obedience on their part. They wanted to be forgiven for their sins and, especially, their greatest sin of being betrayers and murderers of God's Messiah or Christ.
Peter answered their question: "Repent and be baptized [immersed], every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." We are told that Peter "with any other words ... warned them; and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation'" This shows that there was something that they must do to be saved. What was it? Verse 41: "Those who accepted his message were baptized [immersed], and about three thousand were added to their number that day." They did exactly what Jesus required as we learned above from Mark 16:15-16. Could it be any clearer? Those who thus obey Him today will be saved. Those who have been taught and believe that they can be saved in some other way have been deceived and are still lost in their sins, regardless of how honest, sincere and religious they may be. Remember that Jesus is "the source" of eternal salvation to (only) those who obey Him!
Three times in Acts (2:37; 16:30; 22:10) we have a record of people who asked the great question: "What must I do to be saved?" The answer was the same every time as the record shows. There are eight cases of conversion (salvation) given in some detail in the book of Acts. In each of these cases the fact that they were baptized [immersed] is clearly stated. It is not always stated that they believed, but from the context we know that they did. It is not always stated that they repented (changed their heart), but we know that they did. Why is baptism (immersion) always mentioned? Well, I do not know for certain because we are not told. However, it seems that the Holy Spirit, in guiding the writer of this inspired record, saw to it that Luke put the emphasis where the truth would be most strongly opposed -- on Immersion m water of the penitent believer for the forgiveness of sins. There should be no doubt that baptism (immersion) in water stands squarely between the sinner and salvation; and the Lord Jesus put it there!
Denominational preachers, whatever kind, do not give the apostolic answer to that great question - What must I do to be saved? - that was given by Christ and His inspired teachers. Their answers are many and varied. Examples of such false teaching are:
1) come to the altar and pray through till salvation comes (Pentecostal);
2) right there where you are just put your hand on your radio or TV and pray with me the sinner's prayer, "God be merciful to me a sinner" and you will have salvation (Oral Roberts, Ben Haden, etc.);
3) just "accept Jesus as your personal Savior" (Baptist, Methodist, etc.);
4) just come forward and stand before the preacher and repeat after him a prayer (Jimmy Swaggart, etc.);
5) go to the "tent of decision" and someone there will help you (Billy Graham method); and
6) there must be a direct, miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit to "cut through" the "totally depraved" state of the sinner and his inability to do anything toward his being saved. In this Calvinistic teaching salvation for the sinner is all God's doing and nothing on the part of man.
These are brief descriptions of some of the ways to be saved as proclaimed by men today; none of which are found in the NT scriptures. Most denominations freely acknowledge that joining their denomination has absolutely to do with being saved.
Based upon what I have offered above, how could there be any "saved Christians who are worshipping and identifying with denominational assemblies." If any of them were "saved Christians" before they joined a denomination and became a part of such, how can they serve the Lord in joining that which the Lord has nothing to do with and even condemns? They have put their trust and faith in men and the creations of men. I believe that those who truly love the Lord and want to please Him must come out of these organizations and doctrines and commandments of men.
Those in all denominations should heed this teaching: "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with and unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore come out from their midst and be separate,' says the Lord. 'And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,' says the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 5: 15-18).
Note that the apostle Paul says that "we are the temple of the living God ..." He speaks here of individual Christians, not about some church institution or denomination. God said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them; and they shall be My people." God does not dwell in any denomination or church institution. He dwells in you and me as His children. How honored we should be to know that Almighty God Himself dwells in us! It defies our comprehension. God says to us: "Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate ... and do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you ... and you shall be sons and daughters to Me."
No one can serve or obey God in the organizations of men, nor when we believe, obey, and/or teach the doctrines and commandments of men. Jesus is the only Savior; we must believe and obey Him. - CAH