Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
I have been a member of the Body of Christ for over 20 years watching the strife between various factions of the church over everything from the use of musical instruments with the "worship service" to eating in the building. There are over 15 different splinter groups of the churches of Christ that won't fellowship one another because of such non-essential issues. Most of these problems stem from what I call modern day Pharisees imposing their will on the people. The more things change the more they stay the same.
The Lord's greatest problems were not with the Civil government of His time, but with the leaders of two corrupt Jewish Sects - The Pharisees and Sadducees. They corrupted their religion by creating and binding on people a myriad of laws that were unnecessary and "unkeepable". Today in the churches of Christ we have many modern-day legalistic pharisees who have set themselves up as lawmakers binding on the members of the body laws that are unnecessary. Ironically, many of these laws are only church traditions less than 100 years old. If these modern-day pharisees would do a little study of church history they would see how far they are off base. They declare that those who violate these man-made laws are erring brothers who need to be withdrawn from in order to force them to repent and conform. I could give many examples of this, but I am sure each reader can think of many of them on their own without my help.
Paul tells us we are not under Law but under Grace. (Romans 6:15). James said we are under a more perfect law of Liberty (James 1:25), and that pure and faultless religion is to look after orphans and widows and keep oneself unstained by the world. (James 1:27).
I want to tell you of something that happened to me a few months ago and offer it to you for your consideration. It happened in the middle of the night about 3:00 AM while I was sleeping. A slight disturbance awakened me. It was nothing serious. It was just a sound that woke me up momentarily. But, before I fell back to sleep a thought came into my mind out of nowhere. It was not something that I had been studying in the Bible or recently heard on a tape. It was a thought that came into my mind during that brief few seconds I was awake and was still fresh in my mind when I awoke in the morning. The thought that came into my mind is this: In the Old Testament God spelled out in great detail how, when, and where the Jews under the Mosaic Law were to worship God. A reading of the books of law in the Old Testament clearly revealed how detailed God spelled all this out. We have the same God, yet there is not a single detailed account of a so-called "worship service" in the New Testament. In fact, there is not even a clear statement or commandment to gather and worship God in a so-called "worship service". If this is important enough to split congregations over would it not seem reasonable for God to describe these "worship services" in detail in at least one of the New Testament books?
Based on the above thought I started looking up some scriptures and thinking about its ramifications and implications. Let me add something here. I am not saying that I heard God speak to me or that I am some type of modern day prophet. But I had been praying for wisdom previous to this and the nature by which this thought came to me does impress me.
After reviewing the New Testament scriptures on worship and comparing them with the Old Mosaic Law I have come to the conclusion that becoming a Christian carries with it the ultimate in individual responsibility. Each individual Christian is a Holy Priest, part of a royal priesthood offering up spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ (I Peter 2:5,9). Our prayers go up to God just as the Priest under the Old Law burned incense in the Holy place. We are teachers just as the Priest under the Old Law. We are a light to the world. We are told to trim our lamps, just as the priests of Old trimmed the seven branches of the lampstand. These are just a few of the parallelisms between our priesthood and that of Old.
Keep the above in mind and letís see what we are to do in the form of worship. We know that the first great commandment is to "Love the Lord, your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And a second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:38, 39). Link these verses with those of Romans 12:1: "Therefore, I urge you, brethren, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy, and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship." The Lord's Supper seems to be the only clear thing that Christians did when they assembled on the first day of the week. While it is true that Paul commanded Christians to lay aside money on the first day of the week, there is no clear indication that such was to be done in an assembly.
The restoration movement while rejecting many of the teachings and practices of the Roman church have held on to others that should have been abandoned. The so-called worship service is probably one of the most dangerous. The reason I say this is because participation in the "worship service" provides people with a false sense of fulfilling their worship to God. They come on Sunday morning, perform the so-called five acts of worship and then leave the building to go about their daily lives until next Sunday and repeat the ritual. Many are doing nothing the rest of the week to glorify God. The "worship service" also promotes the problem of the Pastor-(preacher)-laity concept.
It is clear that Christians did assemble together but I seriously doubt it was in the large congregations like we have today. I think it is safe to assume that most assemblies consisted of single families and servants if any. It is highly unlikely that Christians met in big buildings and held a "worship service" where their persecutors could easily find them and drag them off to be tortured and killed. The Scriptures clearly show that the Christians assembled in their homes in the first century. It is likely that each home assembly probably consisted of less than 10 to 15 persons. This is just about the right size determined by experts in small group ministries to be best. Ironically, the wisdom of small group ministries has become known over the past few years and is being used by all kinds of religious movements because they do develop meaningful relationships among the members. I think it is important to know what the political and religious environment of the first century was; and what the body of Christ was headed for in the form of persecution shortly after it was founded. God knew full well the price Christians were going to pay in the coming persecutions. He also knew how a religious hierarchy corrupted the Old Laws He had laid down in the past. Again I remind you that we have the same God as the Jews. If he wanted us to hold worship services (with or without instrumental music), He could have established it in any one of the New Testament books. Yet, there is not such an example. All the so-called five acts of worship are inferences drawn from various scriptures scattered throughout the New Testament. Nowhere do we have a specific command to worship God in a "worship service" or what kind of "worship service" is to be performed in the process. I think that we would be wiser to look at the assembly on the first day of the week as a family reunion or get-together rather than a "worship service". If we do this then all the little nonessential things people fight over will not matter. We would be free to do whatever we all agreed on as long as it is done in decency and order. It is also important to remember that the Bible as we know it was not even available to the majority of the people for hundreds of years. The average person or Christian never saw God's word in printed form. Based on the thinking and rules of the modem day pharisees it would be utterly impossible for any of the early Christians after the first century to know how to worship God properly.
If I have not offended or disturbed enough of you readers by now, let me present one more item for your consideration. I firmly believe that God had a hand in the establishment of our Nation. Our Founding Fathers were all God-fearing Bible-believing men and the U.S. Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution clearly reflect their belief in God. This Nation is the first and only Nation in the history of the world with such a founding document. The U.S Constitution for the first time in the history of the world absolutely guaranteed the freedom of religion to everyone. It laid the responsibility of Civil Government in the hands of its citizens and as long as the citizens carry out their duty to God and to their country they would prosper. We have indeed prospered beyond any Nation in the history of the world.
Unfortunately man is never able to stay loyal to God. When he prospers he becomes materialistic and forgets God. The Israelites while following God and His laws would prosper. When they prospered they forgot God and His laws, turned to sin and their nation fell into corruption and ultimately into slavery. America is following the very same path to sin and destruction. There are many examples of this. But let's just look at one: When this Nation was founded, the Bible was the primary reading text of our schools. Today both God and the reading of the Bible are banned from public schools. Can slavery be far ahead for America?
My formal education is not in the field of Theology. My degree is in the field of Law Enforcement and my history includes some experiences as a Security Investigator for a large defense contractor. One of the things I have spent over 30 years studying is the International Communist Conspiracy and all the other International Conspiracies related to it. I am not going to go into all that in this article except to say that I believe that Satan is at its core. We must never forget that Satan is always working in this world to bring down God's people.
If you will read the Communist Manifesto you will see just how many of the major objectives for over throwing a free nation have been already accomplished in America. Free public education and a heavy progressive or graduated income tax are only two of those objectives. The Marxist progressive income tax is the only one I want to touch on here because it provides a tax-exempt status for churches and other religious institutions.
Satan and his forces have used this tax-exempt provision of the Marxist income tax in many ways to carry out his evil plans to bring down this once great Nation.
I want to talk about the tax-exempt status for churches. I feel that the tax-exempt status for churches has been a big factor in the wasting of much of God's money through the building of large church facilities. Billions of dollars have been wastefully spent to pay for these facilities and for the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings, grounds and staff that operates them. I am not saying that it is necessarily wrong to build buildings, but God did not command it and He may have had a reason for not doing so. I also am not saying that we can't construct buildings just because God did not forbid doing so. What I am saying is that the cost of building and maintaining large "worship facilities" in which to "worship God" may not be the best use of your money or in accordance with God's will.
If our body is the temple of the Lord then what we do each day in the form of good works and deeds to our fellow man is our spiritual worship. Then there is little need for big buildings in which to hold formal "Worship services". Just imagine the impact that each individual Christian could have on society if he or she used the money put into the church collection plates to help needy people directly.
The tax-exempt status of religion has worked against the best interest of God and His cause. The Marxist income tax has us all caught up in efforts to reduce the amount of taxes we pay. So, we pour it into church coffers to get the deduction, reduce our tax burden and hope we are doing good with the money we give to the church. But, what are we getting for our money? Big buildings (some with 3 or 4 million dollar mortgages), big overhead operating expenses and a movement to entertain and serve the church members. Yes, we reach out to the community and do a lot of good works and we even win a few souls for Christ - mostly our own family members.
Our major function as Christians is to worship God through our good works and win souls for Christ. If we counted the total cost to operate any single church facility and divided it by the numbers of souls baptized into Christ per year the cost per soul saved would reveal what an astounding waste of God's money the church building process of saving souls is all about. It cost nothing but time for one Christian to tell other human beings about God and His plan for saving man. If any commercial businesses spent the same amount of money per item achieved it would go out of business very quickly because of its inefficiency. But, because of the tax-exempt status the Institutional church goes right on wasting God's money and getting the same poor results.
I have some good news or bad news for you. It depends on how you look at it. These Satanic conspirators who are destroying this great Nation are going to take away the tax-exempt status sometime in the future. They may even outlaw religions and seize all the church buildings like they have done in communist countries in the past. The leftist (possibly Communist) controlled A.C.L.U. has already made efforts to do this and sooner or later a Marxist controlled U.S. Supreme Court will make it happen. Don't believe the big lie being promoted by the Liberal / Marxist/ Communists in our government and their mouth pieces in the major news media that Communism is dead. It is very much alive all over the world. The activities in the USSR are a con-job to get billions of American tax dollars to save Communism from failing for all to see and provide the Marxists in Washington justification to disarm America. All this is to further their conquest of the world and enslave all mankind into a one-world government - an anti-God slave State.
The persecution of God-fearing Bible-believing Christians has already started in the United States. Terms like right-wing, radical extremist that were once used by Communists and their controlled press to smear the Anti-Communist Constitutional Conservatives are now being routinely applied to Christians. The hand writing is on the wall for all who care enough to inform themselves about what is going on around them. There is a full blown war going on for the control of men's (and women's) minds here in America and Satan is winning. Unless good God-fearing Christians get involved in both Political parties at all levels of government from local school boards to the U.S. Senate we are going to loose our free Republic and the freedom to serve God as we wish. Unless this trend is reversed soon we will all be assembling in our homes again just like they did in the first century. Then we may really have a chance to restore first century Christianity.
I want to end this writing with several parting thoughts. The first is good advice being urged by every solid conservative financial newsletter in the Nation. They all tell us to get out of debt as soon as possible and get 6 months to one year income saved in some sort of safe savings system. The second is from me. Turn off Satan's favorite propaganda tool (the boob tube) and start reading your Bible and get informed politically by reading some good conservative books and publications. Get active in the political process as soon as possible. If we don't turn this Nationís downhill slide away from God into socialism / communism soon it will be too late to reverse the trend. As Edmund Burke once said: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing." Good Americans have been doing nothing for years. They have stood by and watched evil triumph over good and permitted the God-based foundations of America to crumble.
The third suggestion is based on God's word. Start winning souls and laying up treasures in Heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy and where thieves (Liberal/Marxist/Communist) cannot break in and steal with taxes or at bayonet point on the end of a gun. If we do not reverse the downward slide of our Nation and it's people away from God, treasures in Heaven will be all we will have left. Ironically, that is all we really need anyway.
It is only fitting to end this thesis with some words of God given to His people many years ago. Hosea's warning to Israel is so very fitting in these troubled days of our Nation. "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). Never in U.S. history are Americans so ignorant about the true history of this Nation and the Godly principles upon which it was based by our founding Fathers. There is also a terrible lack of Bible knowledge by many people calling themselves Christians.
God's words to Solomon in II Chronicles 7:14 hopefully could be applied to His people today. He said: "If my people, who are called by my name, will 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." May God have mercy on us all if we fail to heed these words.