The Modern Church & Grace
The early church, according to Acts, was under a new covenant. This new covenant was one God made with man when Christ died on the cross. If we look at the ‘operating system’ accorded to the contemporary western church and compare it to the way the early Christians operated, we’ll find a grand spiritual canyon separating the two. In this chapter I’ll attempt to explore where that canyon came from and how it can be crossed.
Under the old covenant, the Levite priests served God’s people and provided them with the spiritual input they needed. For their efforts, the priests were rewarded with all their physical needs, such as food and shelter, being met by the work efforts of others. In several different ways, the priests were the ‘lifeline’, as it were, to God. This was the old covenant, a point that needs to be made time and time again, or so it seems. Under the new covenant we are all priests of the King, and we submit to one another in love, sharing all things in common.
Unfortunately, every ‘church system’ this writer has ever studied appears to still operate under the old covenant. Even as I write this text, I feel like I should have called this chapter ‘Stating The Obvious’, but obvious or not, it needs to be said. So if you’ve got an entire religious system operating under the old covenant 'Levite Priest’ modus operandi, is it any wonder that God withholds His Spirit? We’ve set up a system that mirrors the old covenant, then we go around claiming we’re ‘not under law’ we’re under grace’. I beg to differ, actually, we are under law ; but by our own choosing. God has made all the provisions necessary for us to operate under the freedom of grace, but we choose, as a body, to remain under law and then question ‘what’s gone wrong here?’
The amount of times I’ve been into church services where the people are obviously miserable and if they smiled their face would crack. We sing songs like “when the Spirit of the Lord is in my heart, I will dance like David danced”, but the stupid thing is we don’t actually dance while we’re singing it, just stand there like stunned mullets. C’mon folks, am I making this up or is this what actually happens? These are the effects and bondage’s of operating under an old covenant legal system when God desires us to come under His new covenant of grace through the Messiah, Jesus Christ. If we look once again to the book of Acts, we’ll see [as previously stated], that they submitted to one another in love. The pertinent and much forgotten part of this statement is ‘in love’. Basically, their submission to each other was based on showing the love of Christ to one another. Therefore, regardless of a person’s so called ‘standing’ in the body of Christ, if that person does not show one the love of Christ, then you have no biblical obligation to submit to that person. This is one of the most basic new covenant teachings, and appears to have been grossly disregarded.
People often argue against the above statement by citing the actions of David in regard to his treatment by King Saul. As we know, during some of the time that Saul was king, he treated David very badly, yet David continued to respect Saul’s God given appointment, and refused to kill Saul. Once again, in this case, we must remember that both David and Saul lived under the old covenant. At this time, David was required by God to submit to the leadership of Saul until such time as God chose to raise David up to the position of king. We, on the other hand, do not live under the old covenant that they lived under, and this is proved by the very fact that killing an irritating member of the brethren is not even an option for us, though sometimes we may wish it were.
Under the new covenant, we are required to show love, grace and mercy to all, but we are not required to submit to someone who does not show us the love of Christ. By the same token, we should not expect anyone to submit to us unless we have done likewise. Under the new covenant, it is very much a two way street, with all parties involved expected to submit to one another. Because of the spirit of control that is naturally in human beings as a result of our sin nature, I expect this to be a very unpopular teaching. It was certainly very unpopular with the church leaders 2,000 years ago when Jesus taught the same thing. The Pharisees cleverly branded Jesus a rebel, because He refused to submit to them. Their apparent ‘cleverness’ was only born of worldly wisdom and they were proved wrong soon after when the tomb was found empty!
The whole concept of ‘you must submit to this person, because he or she is high up in the church system’, is not a biblical concept, it’s a satanic one. The biblical concept is much, much different. The biblical truth is that we ‘submit to one another, in love’. That love being the love of Christ. That means that the greatest in God’s kingdom is required to submit to the least, if the least shows love. Quite a challenging concept really, and one that will probably only reach full fruition in the new millenium. So where did the whole concept of ‘hierarchy’ creep back into the Christian church? In order to understand this, we need to take some time to look back in history. Let’s go way, way back and take a look at good old Gnosticism!
Actually, there’s nothing that good about it, the Gnostics were basically satanic and it’s possible that their doctrines were creeping into the church in germ form whilst the New Testament was still being written. Colossians 2:8 and 2:18  may even have been a reference to the influence of the early Gnostics. Colossians 2:8 reads ‘Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.’
So, what were the Gnostics all about? Basically, Gnosticism was a product of religious fusion that characterised the first century. The Gnostics borrowed elements from Christianity, Oriental mysticism, Judaism and Greek Philosophy to construct a system that sought to combine revelation with ‘the wisdom of this world’. The Greek word ‘gnosis’ actually means ‘knowledge’ or in some dictionaries ‘spiritual knowledge’, which in itself doesn’t seem so bad. But once we get an understanding of the spirit behind this particular type of ‘search for knowledge’, we can begin to recognise it’s demonic roots.
It is very likely that Gnosticism sprung up out of Ebionism, as one branch at least of the Ebionites taught a kind of Jewish-Christian Gnosticism. Ebionism was quite prominent in the second century, seems to have originated in Palestine and took a variety of forms. Some groups of the Ebionites appeared to have been quite clear on the essentials of salvation whilst at the same time being insistent on law keeping as a way of life. Paul clearly rejected such notions and in his letter to the Galatians he clearly rebuked them for teaching salvation through law keeping. Since the fall, human beings, through our sin nature, have been attracted to the idea of salvation through a series of good works, and it was in this deceitful teaching that the success of the Ebionites lay. In fact, Paul, Barnabas and Silas were already condemning this type of teaching long before Paul wrote to the Galatians. In the letter they wrote to the gentiles in Acts 15:24 we read ‘Greetings, since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying “You must be circumcised and keep the law” – to whom we gave no such commandment’ etc. The letter goes on to explain to them that they are not required to live under the yoke that some misguided believers were attempting to put them under. But what stands out here is that Paul, Barnabas and Silas were saying ‘we gave them no such commandment’ [to teach law].
The Ebionites had trouble accepting the deity of Christ because He was the human son of Mary. This did not fit with their warped monotheism, so they concocted the idea that Christ had been rewarded with a type of Messiahship because of His observance of the law. This, of course, opens the door to the idea that we can all become ‘mini deities’ through observance of the law, appealing to our pride the same way Satan’s lie appealed to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden – “You will be like God” [Gen. 3:5b].
Because the writings of Paul proved such a thorn in the flesh of the Ebionites, they basically rejected Paul as an apostle and rejected his writings. Instead, the Ebionites tended to uphold Peter as the ‘apostle of the circumcision’. They put much stress on upholding of the law, circumcision and Sabbath keeping in particular. As previously stated, one branch of the Ebionites then went on to teach a kind of Jewish/Christian Gnosticism. Although on the surface Ebionism seemed to have died out by the fifth century, the influence of their doctrines amongst the Gnostics affects us all to this day.
The Gnostics basically taught that matter was evil and spirit was good. This proved a big problem, as they had to explain how a good God could have created a world that was now evil. They determined that emanating from God was an infinite chain of beings that became increasingly evil. Finally, according to them, was a Demiurge, or evil God, whom they thought to be the creator of the world and of man, and whom they identified with the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Once again, the bible teaches the opposite. We understand from Ezekiel 28 and many other scriptures, that Satan was in fact the founder of evil through his own pride and selfish desires.
Basically, they ended up believing in two Gods, a good one and a bad one. Gnosticism taught that the good God took pity on us and sent Christ to dispel us from spiritual darkness, but that atonement through His death was not necessary. The emphasis in the Gnostic system was on attaining knowledge from the good God, which in turn would ensure salvation. This is actually the complete opposite to the true gospel preached by Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Now, if all this is not scary enough, it gets worse. The Gnostic system was one that relied heavily on aristocracy. They believed that some, only a few, were born true Gnostics. The ‘true Gnostic’ was born with a high degree of intuitive knowledge of the ‘good God’. Ordinary church members, on the other hand, were expected to obtain their salvation only through good works and faith in the Gnostic system. The rest of humanity was unlikely to be saved at all. Because of the mixture of their religion with eastern mysticism they also believed the average church member could attain an experience with God through marriage to Christ and baptism combined with mystical rites of the church.
Although Gnosticism appears in the history books to have had a short life, its effect on the Christian church has been very long lasting. Because of their aristocratic belief system, the Gnostics helped to foster the growth of ‘hierarchy’ within the Christian church. They were fundamental in dividing the Christian church into higher and lower orders [clergy and laity]. Despite fierce opposition from the great polemicists, in particular Tertullian, Irenaeus and Hippolytus, the ‘higher and lower orders’ stayed.
This, quite bluntly, was never God’s will for His beloved church. The bible clearly shows that all persons who are born again become priests with Christ. In God’s kingdom, no-one is higher and no-one is lower and we submit to one another one way only – in love. That love being ‘Christ like’ love, not humanly love.
Quite simply, the world wide Christian church systems that promote hierarchy, aristocracy, aloofness of clergy, upper and lower orders, etc, are simply not of God. Fortunately, I’m not trying to win any popularity contests this week, as I’m sure the above statement may adversely affect my chances. Based on the historical evidence, it must be clear that the early apostles never instituted higher and lower orders within the church. The Lord Jesus most certainly never suggested any such thing. In fact, He did the opposite. When the people tried to bestow the title of ‘good teacher’ on Him, He wouldn’t even accept it. If the divine Messiah, Savior of the human race, rejected a title whilst He walked the earth, then how vain and pitiful is it for men to bestow titles on themselves? Whether the title is Reverend, Pastor, Bishop, Teacher, Prophet or whatever, it seems the whole process is simply born out of man’s vanity. Especially when we consider that the whole idea of exalting one person above another came out of a Satanic combination of Ebionism and Gnosticism. People who continue to practice such tradition continue to fulfill Satan’s idea of ‘church’.
God’s idea of the church is completely different. It’s no use saying ‘Oh well, brother that’s just the way it is’. Godly men throughout history who’ve stood up and said ‘The way it is is wrong!’ are the one’s God has used to institute change. Some people will argue against what I’ve said with the old cliché of “Oh, but brother, we’ve got to respect God’s appointed”. No! The bible teaches we’ve got to respect EVERYONE! It’s one thing to recognise that God is using a particular individual at a particular point in the time continuum. It’s a completely different thing again to then exalt that individual to a place of status above the rest of us. The bible teaches that we’re all equal in the sight of God, that all have sinned and fallen short of His glory.
At the end of the day, the entire demonic hierarchical church system that so many of our brothers and sisters live under has undermined and retarded the ability of God’s soldiers to move forward. The whole system is based on “I’m the boss and you’re not, so you do what I say”. It’s a spirit of control, and only those who are deceived would submit to it. When the church system acknowledges that all are equal in the sight of God and that no particular individual has any greater ‘rights’ than the next, then we’ll be getting somewhere. All the nonsense I’ve seen in churches makes me sick. They take rich and influential people, so called ‘full time’ ministers etc and sit them at the front of meetings with great pomp and ceremony. ‘Look who we’ve got at our meeting, someone important’. To start with, we’re all full time ministers, if we’re born again, so how come some get the label and some don’t. You can thank the Gnostics for that!
Some of us long for the day when the poor man, the one who has no money, no title and no worth [in the eyes of men], is taken to sit at the front of the meeting and treated with love and dignity. But that will never happen, will it, it’s far too biblical?! Let’s just stick with our Gnostic Satanic system of church hierarchy instead, whilst we sit around and wonder about why God doesn’t seem to be turning up any more.
People often say to me ‘How comes God does so many miracles in China and not in the western countries?’ The obvious answer to me seems to be this; the Chinese people have established a church very similar to that of the early church we see in the Book of Acts. They submit to one another in love. Their house churches have leaders, but those leaders bear no title and have normally only reached any guidance role because of great persecution and suffering. They all serve each other in love, and, generally speaking, no one individual is exalted above another.
We in the west, on the other hand, operate a church system of higher and lowers orders that was introduced to us not by the bible, but by the Gnostics, who were unwitting servants of Satan. We refuse to consider the idea of change because we like hanging on to tradition and we’ve become accustomed to being under the bondage of the law. In simple terms, it should be obvious why God pours out miracles by His Spirit in China, but not so much in the western countries. God still loves the Christians of the west just as much, but it is up to us to come out of bondage. Like the Galatians, it seems we have more fear of man than fear of God.
You may be now thinking I’ve said enough on this point, but I’d like to point out another major downfall of the Clergy and Laity system. Because we are divided into two orders, one supposedly higher than the other, the laity at the bottom end of the scale are constantly degraded, and I’ve already stressed that point in a variety of ways. But what of the upper echelon of church society, those wonderful individuals that make it to the esteemed position of clergy. These poor souls, unfortunately, having once reached the dizzy heights of ‘minister’, are then required to perform.
What’s this you say? Perform? That’s right. With the entire second rate Christian laity spectating, it turns into a case of …….. “Roll up, roll up, roll up! Come one, come all. Come and see the clergy perform! It’s a new act every week. That’s right folks, just put ya’ money in the basket, sit back and enjoy the show! This week Reverend Wingnut will present his sermon on ‘How To Be A Good Christian’. Should be a good one, don’t miss it! He’ll also be juggling pineapples in the second act. Come one, come all, and see Reverend Wingnut and his band of performing chimpanzees!”
And so, once having been promoted to the illustrious position of ‘preacher’ or ‘pastor’ or ‘bishop’ or whatever, the poor old clergy type person, unaware that they too are serving under the Gnostic/Ebionistic hierarchical system of ‘religi-anity’, slave away for the rest of their lives trying to please the ‘lay people’. Of course, the laity will never be pleased, because they too are stuck in the same bondage but at a different [imaginary] level. Therefore, with both sides of the fence effectively unaware that we’re actually all priests in the kingdom of God, the system drags along enslaving the clergy as well. Because neither clergy nor laity are able to walk in the Spirit under the weight of a non-biblical system, the clergy also burn out. Under God’s system, the load would be spread amongst all of us, but under the devil’s system, the clergy put on the show and the rest spectate. No wonder so many so-called ‘leaders’ [of various name tags], burn out. Many try hard, but are operating in a system that was designed [by Satan], to fail. So despite their best efforts, they end up frustrated, depressed and lonely.
The only solution, and the obvious one, is to return to the biblical system of new covenant church, as outlined first by Jesus, and then demonstrated again in the book of Acts. I’m not surprised about the prophecies I’ve heard recently that God will send missionaries from China and other similar places to the western nations. I firmly believe this will happen, so we westerners can be trained in the biblical way to operate as members of the body.
During my time as a Christian, I’ve been appalled at the number of church leaders who won’t support anything that doesn’t promise to build their own little empire. To even suggest to most leaders that building God’s kingdom is actually more important than building their little empires seems to leave most, at best, distant and at worse, irate. I now realise that one of the reasons for this is the fact that their Gnostic/Christian bible college training has taught them that they must get as many as possible into ‘their building’ in order to get in the good books with God. Having now studied the reasons behind it all, I find myself filled with compassion for all concerned. I have compassion for the ‘higher order’, as they’ll never live up to the spiritual demands of the laity. I have compassion for the ‘lower order’, as they’ll always feel second rate and be trying to work their way to heaven.
The only hope we have as a group is for someone to stand up and truly preach equality for all. Oh actually, I think someone already has? That’s right, yeah, I remember him now, his name was Jesus.
After reflecting on the last chapter, I feel a sense of obligation to now re-name all the church denominations. From now on I will refer to them as the Gnosthlics, the Gnoslicans, the Gnostecostals, the Evangnosticals and the Seventh Day Ad-Gnostics.
There was once a Chinese Christian brother who was used by God to help establish the underground Christian church in China. He made an interesting observation regarding the difference between the Christian brothers and sisters in the ‘State Church’ and those in the underground church. He basically said that the members of the underground church realised that many within the State Church system were actually born again. Unfortunately, despite being born again, he described them as being like ‘caged birds’. I wonder whether this analogy only applies to China, or whether we are seeing something similar developing here in the western nations.
Many Christian organisations and churches in western nations seem to now be tightly controlled by government legislation, insurance law/s, tax laws, public opinion and in particular, what we’ll call ‘political and social correctness’. The latter seems to have the most control of all on church institutions. For instance, repentance is no longer preached in some churches because the concept [and it is only a concept for many Christians], is seen as socially incorrect.
The watering down of the gospel seems to be on the increase in many church institutions, and I would venture to suggest that another reason, aside from social correctness, is money. Many Christian institutions have climbed in bed with the Federal and State governments so they can access government funding. By doing so, they then have to play by the government rules rather than God’s rules. They justify this by quoting bible verses out of context about ‘being in subjection to government authorities’, etc. If we look at the example of Daniel, it is a good one to understand God’s concept of ‘subjection’. Daniel submitted to the Babylonian system to the degree he needed to, whilst still following God. The moment they asked him to do anything that required him to compromise God’s ways, he stubbornly refused. By so doing, Daniel found himself in the lion’s den and God’s glory was subsequently seen by all. Some modern church institutions have twisted God’s word in regard to government subjection to suit their own ends, ultimately evil ends. Compromising the gospel to obtain favours from government or business people is a “sell out”! This type of behaviour is not of God. ‘Nuff said.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, the bird in the guilded cage. So it seems a situation is developing where many institutionalised Christians in western nations have become like their Asian counterparts in the Chinese State Church. Although many are born again, it’s like they live their lives like a bird in a cage. Of course, there are some advantages of caged living. Firstly, it’s safe. The bars protect the bird from cats and other nasty predators. Secondly, the owner of the bird normally provides food and water every day. The food is pretty bland, but at least it’s regular. Thirdly, the kindly owner normally reaches their hand in once a week and cleans out all the poo. So the life of the caged bird is safe, blandly fed but well fed, reasonably poo-less and undoubtedly lonely and boring. In fact, so boring that many caged birds end up a little insane.
The uncaged bird, or wild bird, on the other hand, lives a completely different existence. Life for the wild bird is dangerous, unpredictable and exciting. They never quite know where their next feed is coming from. They don’t get lonely as they exist in a community of other free and happy wild birds. From time to time one of them gets eaten by a predator, but this is the reality of their lifestyle. They can fly wherever they desire, soaring on the wind high above the confines of the natural world. They see and experience things that the caged bird will never even dream of. There is no comparison between the two types of existence.
Now here is the sad part. Some caged birds become so accustomed to the cage, so dysfunctional, so dependent and so insane that if you left the cage door open they still wouldn’t leave. They would just sit in the cage, staring at the open door, too frightened and demoralised to even consider ‘flying the coop’. Instead, they’d prefer to sit on their imitation branch and wait for the next round of bland bird seed and poo removal. Friends, the reality is that there are some Christian brothers and sisters who have spent so long in their cage now, they’ll never leave. They’re too dependent, too frightened and partially insane. They’ll sit in that walled building for the rest of their lives, waiting for their pastor to hand out another round of bird seed and clean up this week’s poopsies. That’s the reality.
Occasionally, Christians from various denominations ask me to come and have a look in their cages. I’ll sometimes fly close to the bars and have a look at what’s going on, but I rarely hang around lest someone should slam the cage door and I get trapped in there. I like it out in the open, soaring on the spiritual wind. That's the place for me. It’s unpredictable, dangerous and exciting. You can see things that most don’t even dream of. You never quite know where the food is coming from, but it always turns up. Life for the ‘free Christian bird’ is adventurous and filled with variety. Sometimes it’s hard. Perhaps it will start raining and you get caught out in the open, you may even catch a cold. This doesn’t happen to the caged bird, because they’ve got a permanent little roof over their heads.
If you’ve ever watched wild birds near a birdcage, you’ll notice that they sometimes fly near to the cage to have a look in. They are aware that the creature in the cage is ‘sort of’ like them, and so they are often curious and want to establish some sort of contact. The wild bird may even attempt some sort of communication, such as a short whistle. But before long, the wild bird recognises that the caged bird is trapped, depressed and partially insane. Therefore, any long drawn out attempts at communication are probably pointless. His curiosity satisfied, the wild bird catches the next breath of wind and heads off again into the ‘great unknown’.
This Chapter is preview from the book: Myths, Miracles & The Messiah