Without The Camp
us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
More than an intro (from without)
Without the camp', or 'outside the camp' (outside the city gate in other words) in a nutshell means being outside spiritual Babylon.
Now before you close off, or click off this page arguing the case that the principle in scripture of being "without the camp" (mentioned 22 times in both testaments) is merely referring to, or making reference to being outside the Judiastic camp only (where the ceremonial laws and rituals were performed and were only a mere shadow of what was to come), just remember there are many versions of ritual and law bondage throughout Christendom today. Therefore, if you are prepared to look past this true but limited understanding of being without the camp, please hear me out. Trusting we will be rightly dividing and biblically expounding, and nothing more:
In the Old Testament we had 'geographical' (natural) Babylon. This of course signified physical bondage for the rebellious children of Israel that were expelled to a magnificent and spectacular, but pagan city, in a foreign land. A city that has since fallen to the judgement of God and became a wasteland in Iraq. Right!?
Now in the New Testament we have a 'spiritual' Babylon. Meaning, the emphasis now goes beyond just the physical, to where it signifies spiritual bondage for any rebellious child of God. Simply because these rebellious or apostate believers prefer to remain in the wrong city or wrong church. Bearing in mind ... the true church in this sense is also a spiritual building or the household of God. Right!? What's more ... even though the city of Babylon no longer exists, the spirit lives on, to seduce and deceive, and hijack everything it can pertaining to, spirituality.
Therefore, we now see this city in both the spiritual sense as well as in prophetic light ... from the Book of Revelations (14:8) right out of the NT:
"Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations (meaning it has global influence this time) drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication (like jumping into bed with every ideology and faith to retain power and affluence)."
Here' s the question then: Is this place still a physical place? Or is it now a spiritual place? Or both?
One thing's for sure ... God's children are commanded to leave this polluted city (2 Cor. 6:17 & Rev. 18:4) and come out of it, whatever your personal interpretation maybe. However, how can you leave something if you believe you weren't there in the first place? Or if it can't be geographically located? Especially with the Body of Christ being a universal reality (without institutional, political or social boundaries) right around the world!
No doubt then this present Babylon, in conjunction with NT times, represents something beyond just the old ancient city on a piece of dirt in the Mid East. At the same time sharing the same spiritual polluted and fallen state. Furthermore, if this be the case, how can anyone represent a city that is no longer in existence? Meaning, with the NT exposing this new phenomena (as a metaphorical fallen city that God's people are commanded to have no part in) leaves no doubt that it goes beyond just being a modern day piece of realestate.
Wherefore, concluding in a nutshell, Babylon ... representing all that is false and man-pleasing! The wide gate! The broad way! The world system of social and economic course and control! The place where politics and religion marry as one. Emulating the notion that common existence and function cannot be sustained without cohesion to it, while eliminating any alternative. Moreover, appearing very becoming and full of outward glory. Inviting and enticing. Whereas, on the inside (according to NT scripture):
"is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird (read REV 18: 2 this time)".
Furthermore, in the end, where anything and everything goes. Anything can be justified. Because it makes reference to God. Or "spirituality". Or what is acclaimed as "good" and beneficial to mankind. At the same time, accommodating everything ungodly and pagan. While ... stifling or liquidating anything it can that is born of, or ordained by the true living God.
This present Jerusalem is not our Mother
Therefore, in great contrast spiritually speaking, we have spiritual Israel presented in the NT. With its spiritual capital being the new Jerusalem that is not bound to physical boundaries and geographic location.
You may correct me here and say, "But Brother, the reference you are referring to in Hebrews 12:11-13 about Babylon being the city where Jesus was crucified outside of, is clearly the city of Jerusalem, not Babylon! Nor the United Sates of America! Nor the new United States of Europe! Nor Vatican City for that matter! Thus being the city that is evidently still termed "the Holy City", located in "the Holy Land, where God's holy chosen people, the Jews, are located! Therefore, you are grossly mistaken Brother about your analyst or cross-reference, and depiction of God's city of peace!"
Yeah! Really! Because if this city was truly holy, peaceful and God fearing, then it would not be out for political, social, financial or religious reasons only. Its interests would be in the true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Him only! Whats more, it would be in present harmony with scripture and instead of murdering their true Messiah as a devil or impostor, welcomed and embraced Him. Again, lets look at the line of your comment ... '"the Holy City", located in "the Holy Land"'!
To be frank (and scriptural), how can God see this city at present like this? Although, no doubt, this was very much God's intention both originally and prophetically for the future. In other words, how can a fallen, rebellious city be holy? There is plenty of biblical references (as you will see) proving otherwise. With the NT always inferring it as a God forsaken city. With Jesus either weeping over it. Or taking to it with cords or rebukes. After all, it stoned the prophets, then strung up Jesus as a false messenger. Didn't it? Where? Without the camp! Outside the city! And that's exactly where we go to be with Jesus.
Also, we must take into account dozens of Old Testament scriptures to see the true picture unfold, rightly dividing the word of truth, as to what this city now signifies metaphorically. Because, at present, its spiritual significance is what is more important for the Bible believer today. Moreover, if the principle of being without the camp, brought over into the NT in regards to where Jesus is found, is scriptural, then it is important to biblically discern, understand and heed.
Before moving on, please read GAL 4:23-26 and let us break it down for relevance for us (the true church) today:
"For it is written (it is scriptural - it is the word of God, period), that Abraham had two sons (representing two cities - two covenants), the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants (the Old and New); the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is (the present geographical city - where tourists, trucemakers or armies go), and is in bondage with her children (by embracing her you embrace what she represents). But Jerusalem which is above is free (by embracing her you embrace what she represents), which is the mother of us all (the future spiritual city - where true pilgrims go)."
It is so clear and irrefutable:
We have two cities. One is present, physical and temporal, and represents bondage and delusion. In conjunction with the old covenant. Whereas the other city is spiritual and eternal, and represents freedom and truth. In conjunction with the new covenant. Furthermore, one city is found on earth (sought after realestate many more ways than one). While the other is heavenly, being the city we look to according to HEB 11:10 & 16: Like our father Abraham, we "look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."
One city is manmade while the other city's "builder and maker is God"!
Let's look at Exodus 33:7 (one of the 22 references I made mention to earlier):
"And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp."
This is where the Lord's true tabernacle (God's place of dwelling) is found. Always has been, and always will ... outside or without the camp!
A quick summary then in the three-tier dispensational stages of "without the camp":
Finding His place
Here's a scripture I will be using on more than just one occasion:
Jer. 7:4. "Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these."
Meaning, God's place of dwelling is not found in a geographical, physical place, but is only spiritually discerned.
We must also take into account the city within the camp is a type of 'what is fallen' and 'Christ rejecting'. This would mean we go outside spiritual Jerusalem if this reasoning just mentioned is valid. However, according to scripture, we (the remnant) now seek spiritual Jerusalem (the new city) also known as the New Jerusalem in scripture. This city is from above and is spiritual. It is only spiritually discerned or seen with spiritual eyes in other words.
This also means there are two cities allegorized in the Bible, especially in the NT. Again meaning, two different places where we can make camp. One is the Lord's camp. The other is the city of ease and comfort, along with entertainment and the playing of games. It is also the city of delusion and mixture.
Let's see in the New Testament what this city we go outside of (leave, go beyond - metaphorically speaking) to find/meet/commune with Jesus, is called ... Revelation 3:12:
"Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God (the spiritual one), and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God (the name of Jesus), and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name (the name of Jesus)."
It is quite obvious now the position and focus of the true NT believer has now moved from what is seen and temporal to what is unseen and eternal. Who's discerning!?
"Which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt"
Now let's see which city we have forsaken for His name sake and for the new ... Revelation 11:8 (please read and re read thoroughly):
"And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city (Jerusalem), which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified (Jerusalem)."
Why the absence of this teaching within the mainline churches? Especailly when it is so clear and precise: Here Sodom and Egypt signifying to the world's system in the NT is alien and opposed to everything pertaining to God. It is also in aligning with, or being one with spiritual Babylon. Also (according to scripture) geographical Jerusalem being the city where Jesus was crucified outside of, is categorized and aligned with these other two foreign, heathen cities. They are clearly one and the same, spiritually speaking. Therefore, in essence, scripture is again clearly making category of only two spiritual cities at the end of the day, where one is God's and the other is the world's. One is spiritual and the other religious.
Therefore, this means the present Jerusalem on earth is part of the world's system. This is clearly confirmed by GAL 4:24-26, as we read before:
"Which things are an allegory (spiritually discerned): for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children (the physical place). But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all (the spiritual place)."
Who is our mother? It is clearly the heavenly city! A spiritual one? Being no longer at this stage, in time, the geographical or central earthly one. Ruling out Mother Earth! Mother Mary! The RCC! The denomination we happen to be locked into! Or the bricks and mortar down the road!
Remembering, as Bible believers we are called as strangers and sojourners. We are journeying to the celestial city, the new city, whose maker and builder is God. Which is only found outside the world's religious camp. Yes, outside the bricks and mortar. Outside what is institutional and invented by man. The city we seek is not founded, or built, or established by man in anyway, in other words. It is unseen, eternal, spiritual, and not of this world. Nor hierarchical in nature.
Also, being 'without the camp' means more than going into a realm of spiritual limbo or onto a mystical plain. It is nothing to do with being a "spiritual" butterfly or a Lone Ranger ... fluttering from one fellowship to another fellowship. Or one church to another church. To find that ideal (perfect) place. Or the greener pastures on the otherside of the hill. We, the remnant, are called as pilgrims to a wilderness. Not to a human structure to settle down, reside and function as a cozy "bible" or "bless me" club. Yes, we are called to a spiritual kingdom. Something thatz not abstract or hairy-fairy. Nor anything to do with the proverbial pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow.
This wilderness we are called to is where the Lord has prepared a way for us, on our journey to the heavenly city, our true home. Just as the Lord made provision in the wilderness for the children of Israel (as a type - a mere shadow), He makes provision for His sojourning church called-out. Coz where there is dryness, there is oasis' and springs of refreshment. Where there happens to be scarcity, there is abundance. Moreover, where there is hunger, there is manna from heaven to satisfy His children.
There is the cloud by day and the fire by night to lead us. With the captain of the hosts to guide us. The giants will flee and the fortifications will fall, as we keep our eyes on Him, the author and finisher of our faith. Yes, He will bring down the mountains and fill the valleys, to make a way across the levelled plains, as He promised! The new city is our goal and new home we are destined for. It is ours to possess. Jesus has prepared it for us. Moreover, He will bring it to pass. Despite opposition, affliction, discomfort, and tribulation. For His promises are both yea and Amen!
Reaffirming, this spiritual place we are in and sojounery along, is the place the 'called-out accompaniment' meet at. Reserved for the spiritually reborn, the remnant and church called-out. Found outside and away from ecclesiastical trappings, clerical demands, and religious redtape. And the traditions, dogmas, and politics of man. This is where the scriptures are not compromised or compartmentalized. Where the Spirit of the Lord dwells. It is also why this city is called free in GAL 4:24-26. Coz, where the Spirit of the Lord happens to be, there is liberty. This can only be experienced, as well as be spiritually discerned, by those who are serving the Lord in spirit and in truth, and are spiritually born into this reality.
Furthermore, looking past the warm fuzzies and charistmatic buzz that come with 'new trend' 'church attendance', we must consider that 'outside the camp' is a place of execution and death. It is also a place of refuge. Where waste, the dung and rejects are disposed of. That's why Paul said "we are the savour of death" to those of this present world (2 Cor. 2:16). The very reason religionists, nominalists, denominationalists and 'kingdom now' advocates don't dig us, nor our doctirne. Here is Luke 17:25 speaking about Jesus being the rejected stone:
"But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation."
Yes, Jesus was rejected by His kinfolk! But where was He rejected and cast out to? The answer is ... outside the city walls and gates! Beyond bricks and mortar and the comfort and security it provides.
Oh, and therefore, we must take into account, coz we are His followers, we must expect and accept (not pray or warefare against like our friends in the system) the same treatment could be dished up against us too:
JOH 15:18-19. "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
Outside the gate is not a place favoured by the world. It is a place where "rebels" and prophets are stoned to death when the rebellious Hebrews are in charge. It is a place where misfits are executed and hung as a spectacle and warning, when the heathen Romans (the Gentiles) are in charge. It is a place where the city dump lies and stone quarries are worked. Have you ever given this OT truth a thought? Or rejected it as a non relevant metaphor for today?
In great contrast ... it is also a place favoured by God and being for those who have been granted repentance towards God, and a love for the truth, to walk in. Where in death there is life in Him. In suffering, triumph. And in rejection, we are found beloved of the Father ... "to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away". Reserved in heaven for those who are on the LORD's side. Remembering, Jesus was executed among murderers, thieves, common crims, and those that bucked the system, outside the city. Oh ... how fitting to quote Acts 4:11 here:
"This is the stone (Jesus) which was set at nought ("irrelevant for us") of you builders (religionists), which is become the head of the corner (the new people/building)."
Or 1 Pet. 2 7-11, in reference to those who choose to follow this rock:
"Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God".
His sheep hear His voice. They go beyond. Beyond religious comfort zones and the status quo, and the dung heaps. Into the wilderness of uncharted territory and unfamiliarity. Of giants and fortified cities to conquer. Even to watering holes, oasis, and greener pasture, while sojourning to the better place. A better hope ... HEB 7:19. A better testament ... HEB 7:22. A better covenant ... HEB 8:6. A better and an enduring substance ... HEB 10:34. A better resurrection ... HEB 11:35. Moreover, a better country and a better city (this is the word of God folks!) ... HEB 11:16:
"But now they (the remnant church) desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city."
Okay ... pressing on (as always) ...
A new place (the new place)
At this point in time let's ignore the word "church" (for a wee while anyway) as this hijacked word happens to have many religious connotations attached to it, due to the confusion Christendom portrays. The New Testament also speaks of Jesus' little flock. A remnant people. A peculiar people. A special possession for the Lord's own inhabitant. That's us! His people called out. Unto a God who is both our Maker and Father. Away from the convention and status quo of the world's system (political and ecclesiastical) to a new found place in the wilderness of refuge and refreshment in Christ. Which is nothing to do with a pilgrimage to a piece of (apparently now negotiable) real estate in the Mid East. Nor is it anything to do with "going" to the organization down the road. Nor being entertained by the latest and greatest (slick or hip) televangelist from the big screen in your lounge! Nor eating out of the hat of the latest self-styled teacher/prophet ... "Lo here! or, lo there!"
There is simply no point looking, Lo here! or, lo there, for Him. Nor to what is tangible or visible. He is risen and only here in Spirit, to those who call unto Him and gather in His name only. In other words, the converts position changes the moment he or she receives Christ as Saviour, to a place of divine privilege above the rest of creation. More special than the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air. Higher than the angelic. Incredible but true!
Picture this scene:
A King in all His splendour, grandeur and majesty, sitting on His throne in the inner most sanctuary of His palace. While all His servants and soldiers about Him (like ministering and guardian angels) are in reverence about their duty. Suddenly, the serenity of the moment is broken as a little child makes a boisterous untimely entry. One or two of the servants try gently to restrain the child, but hurriedly compose themselves as the child bursts through. Can you see ... the child might be running frantically down the isle with grazed knees. It might be skipping excitedly just to say, "hi!"
"Daddy!! Daddy!!" it cries. Without hesitation and oblivious to the host present, runs jubilantly straight into the arms of it's beaming, check to check, Father.
Then after jumping onto the lap of the King, the whole company about feel at ease, as the forum is extemporaneously put on-hold. Moreover, with the atmosphere about relaxing, all attention now shifts to the most beloved child ... blessed, assured, and secure in the arms of it's Father ...
"This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell."
Yes, the most privileged place! The highest call! The highest honour! On the lap of our Father ... our Maker! With our head resting on His bosom! Being the apple of His eye.
Or, from another biblical perspective, as in the Song of Solomon, in regards to the chosen and espoused Bride for the King: "I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me." Or, "This is my beloved, and this is my friend"! Oh, the intimacy of all intimacies! Plus ... it is all scriptural by the way!
Only through the Blood
Expounding more on the Father/Son relationship thing ... the title "Heavenly Father" can sound sooo rather "nice". Or even pious. As our Maker and Saviour is indeed our heavenly Father after all. However, we must also take into account that relationship goes beyond title and formality. Such as during the Victorian era, children of the upper class, could only approach their Father strictly by appointment only, while addressing him only, by a "proper" manner and tone. Sometimes with the title of Sir. Cold, informal, impersonal, and still filtering through parts of our culture today. Rampant in religious circles. But we are talking about a relationship, aren't we? In fact, we are talking about the most privileged, the most unique, and the most ultimate thing in this whole universe (the framed worlds) ... like coming intimately to our Maker as ... Dad!!
Sure we make mistakes, and sometimes get our knees grazed by sin. Should condemnation or false reverence hold us back from the presence of God though? They say 90% of all of us suffer from a sin problem (the other 10% are liars) battling such habits from the poisoned tongue to run-away lust, to more subtle things like hidden pride or "spiritual" self-importance (the worse type by the way!). However, when God says Jesus' spilt blood paid the complete price for our sins, He means complete ... past, present, and future! His blood avails for "Me"! And the entry into His presence (although not cheap, it cost God's Son everything) is free!!
From the cross on it should not be a matter of trying to overcome the flesh by striving in the flesh. Or by hiding our inadequacies behind "spiritual" fig leaves. Or old covenant masks (like Moses). But by continually setting our hearts and affection upwards ... towards Him. Otherwise known as walking in the Spirit or abiding in His word. The book of 1st John says, as little children.
Abba Father/Daddy Dad
Was I joking about this "Dad" business ... ???
In the Gospels Jesus chose seventy people to go out among the establishment representing Himself. Of these seventy He sought out the closeness of another twelve (His apostles), while He shared with them on a more personal level. But of the chosen twelve, one by the name of John found that intimate place with his Lord. John saw Jesus as a friend which stuck closer than a brother. Here John was free and relaxed enough to rest his head on the chest of Jesus. A relationship that went beyond just being a friend, or a brother, but to a Dad/Son relationship. This happening is reminiscent of Isaiah 40:11 and a fulfillment of it:
"... he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom".
Do you consider yourself a little lamb? Really that is!! Not just in the textual, correct sense, of being able to say you are indeed a Bible believer. But in reality, as a child of the living God! Or would you rather prefer the title of watchman? Or prophet? Or howabout, teacher? Or something? Without ever being able to say you are a gentle and meek lamb first!
Okay, now let's get back to being called a child of God. Oh, we all know this intellectually or textually, don't we? Or on paper. Jesus said we had to become as little children. Same as John, as we read earlier on. That's to see things as babes. Babes! Not as credentialed or titled professionals. Merely because everything religious in us wants to reject this ... the privilege of approaching our Creator as 'Dad'. Nor can everything religious in us handle the blessing of being able to call our Lord 'Dad'. In public we may call Him Lord or Father. However, in our personal private life we happen to be free (or should be) to call Him 'Dad'. Don't worry! You have got scripture on your side. Prayer after all is not an institution. Nor is it a formality. Nor is it a mere formulae. But a communion! An intimate involvement! 'Getting' a relationship! Two way communication!
Past the haze of tradition and Western culture, what is your spirit really saying about all this, and not just your head? What is scripture saying?
- MAR 14:36 ... In His hour of need Jesus called out Abba (dadda), Father, to His Lord. That's paraphrased as Jesus acknowledging His Father as Dad you know?
- ROM 8:5 ... As our heavenly Father has lovingly adopted us into His family, we cry out to Him, Abba (poppa), Father, also. That's us, His beloved children, the apple of His eye, calling our Maker Dad. From the heart.
2 Cor. 13:1 ... This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. Therefore, the above three get a big amen!
- GAL 4:6 ... The Spirit, in our hearts, calls out Abba (daddy), Father, too. Meaning; the Spirit in us and through us, is suppose to give us the inspiration, motivation, and unction to call Him Dad.
So it's all there ... Jesus, as our big Brother and as our example, who called His Lord 'Dad', sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts to give us both the desire and the expression in approaching the Lord as our 'Dad' too. Without carnal misconceptions. Without cultural or social barriers. Without religious hang-ups. And without reservation or intimidation. After all, a relationship with our Maker couldn't be anything less, could it?
Moving on ...
Not a human static structure
They (the religionists) wanted to stone him. Just like they did with Jesus, his Saviour. Why? From ACT 6:13-14 we can see one of the main reasons for Stephen's arrest (and very similar to Jesus' arrest, MAT 26:61) was for being accused of speaking out against the Temple. The manmade place of worship, to be precise! In contemporary speech this would be the same as speaking out against the "sanctuary". Or the "tabernacle". Or the "church"! The "sanctified" bricks and mortar a block or two away from home!
Then in the next chapter, following his defense in court, we can see how the whole essence of Stephen's speech was giving an account of Israel, from its ordained beginning to its rebellious present, where Israel were at first a sojourning people, who only settled down at their own request, believing their 'stationary' temple to be the answer. Stephen concludes in regards to the issue of the Temple (ACT 7:48- 50):
"Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?"
Basically, Stephen was exposing their infatuation with their (tangible and materialistic) place of worship and the place they had made for themselves, so they could pay lip service to God. Then leave, feeling satisfied and adulated they had done their religious chore. Then he went onto tell his Jewish accusers they had a problem ... hearing GOD; along with rejecting God's prophets and His word!
Isn't it uncanny how all these things (the voice in the wilderness, the unconventional prophet, an divine encounter outside the camp, and just the raw word) appear to go together, eh? But of course ... aren't prophets always found, or stoned, or crucified, outside (without) the camp? The truth certainly gets uncomfortable, as people will do anything in defence of their "Church" as it symbolizes so much. Like status and security. Like an image of convenience they have built for themselves.
"But God dwelt in the Temple," you might say!
Yes, but it was always on His terms, with the necessity of a blood sacrifice, along with a priesthood service. This was a temporary and imperfect measure taken, in expressing the type (the picture, the shadow) before the necessity of the perfect and eternal being fulfilled and ushered in (more on this soon).
Also, we must take into account the Lord is very gracious and long-suffering and will accommodate His people in many more ways than one when dealing with them. Whether they had one wife, or many; were on the run like David, or attending convention; or whether they had judges, or chose kings, the Lord was still with them as His chosen.
Then there is the question of slavery in the NT. It may not have been the Lord's will for one man to dominate over another. However, He accommodated this Roman system on the grounds of avoiding His followers creating insurrection and rebellion. Tough on right wing, Western fundamentalists! Or left wing liberals! Or Christendom's continuing justification for fighting so-called holy wars, and new, manufactured, just wars today.
"Jesus Himself went to the Temple regularly," is another excuse used.
Yes, but Jesus was Jewish Himself, living under the requirements of the Old Covenant while fulfilling the Old, until His execution, when He ushered in the New superseding the Old.
Another excuse is, "The early Christians met in the Temple besides going from house to house!"
True, but these were Jewish brethren, who found it hard chucking in the old Judaic habit, along with the necessity of circumcision and keeping days. More so, they weren't exactly hearing, or being obedient and going into the whole world with the gospel, but still bound to earthly (mother) Jerusalem. This is why in Galatians 2:18, Paul is saying:
"For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor."
Paul had his heart set on the new Jerusalem above, which is free, as he went out evangelizing and establishing local assembles based on 'the home' situation, as opposed to the synagogue situation. He only went to the local synagogue in order to share the gospel with his Jewish kinfolk. Every time he appeared at a synagogue, what happened? There was either a riot or a revival. Moreover, Paul usually found himself, once again, expelled or hunted down (Acts 13:50) until he got arrested.
Also, Paul was very itchy in going to the capital of course! Why? So he could confront those in the faith (the apostles in this case) who thought themselves to be special above others, viewing themselves as the pillars of the church. In other words, Paul did this in order to correct them and pull them down a peg or two. Yes, Paul's main motive in going to Jerusalem was to weed out the clerical hierarchy, as well as conforming to the demands of the concision party, which was starting to take root amidst the followers of the way. He merely wanted to reinforce the simplicity of salvation, the priesthood of all believers, without coming back under the law and without a new form of priesthood getting in the way. Read it all there at Gal. 2: 2, 9, 11-13, 18. Also, Gal. 3:1-3 and Acts 13:50.
Actually Paul had his eyes set more on Rome than Jerusalem. He was usually very determined in going there, irrespective of the Spirit giving him warning to the consequences. This was so Paul, while using his Roman credentials (being a Roman citizen), could find himself in a position of appealing unto Caesar, as his Jewish kinsmen had rejected his gospel and had plotted to kill him at all costs. The result being, while Peter was going to work on his Jewish brethren in regards to the revelation of Jesus Christ, Paul was taking the message of the cross to the Gentiles, where many of Caesar's household ended up being converted (Phil. 4:22). Fulfilling Jesus' promise that not even the gates of hell would prevail against this (new) church, as the flood gates poured open for the whole Gentile world to hear about Christ. Metaphorically, the old wine skins had simply burst and now the new wine was being served, as God Spirit was poured out on all flesh (Jewish and Gentile alike).
The wilderness people
Last of all; once the heavenly revelation given to Paul direct from the Lord, was received by the elders (that religious works had gone out the door forever, and the elders in Jerusalem were not a Jewish bureaucrat. Plus the inclusion of Gentile believers being welcomed into the fold without strings attached) ... from then on it was a mobile church.
Therefore, let us understand the children of Israel in the wilderness following the cloud by day and the fire by night (going where the presence of God would lead), were a type of the church under the New Covenant ... flexible, unencumbered, no ties to (Mother) earth, improvising in the Spirit, going to Jesus without the City, and looking forward to the one to come.
Did you know the word of God (the Authorized Bible that is) in Acts 7:38 (talking about the children of Israel after the exodus) refers to them as "the church (the called out ones) in the wilderness". Solomon's stationary Temple (located at geographical Jerusalem) was however, a type of the heavenly Jerusalem, found in the book of Revelation as a fixed eternal abode. Let's not make the same mistake and pre-maturely build one here. Multitudes have.
Which brings us to another point ... are church buildings New Testament?... Nope (as clearly brought out)! Please read on:
Whose builder and maker is God
"Except the LORD builds the house they labour in vain who build it."
Jesus said He will build His Church. With no provision for man or flesh whatsoever! Therefore, under the New Covenant He is building a spiritual house made of living stones so God can tabernacle (live) among His people, the called out ones (true meaning of the word church). Moreover, there is simply nowhere in the New Testament where buildings can be justified being called the church outside the religious sense. Also, nowhere in the New Testament are Christians commanded to, or have been recorded building meeting edifices. In fact, for the first couple of centuries there is no historic record of Christians building sanctuaries. It was only over a period of time, when the distinction between the clergy and laity developed, when the clerics gained more monopoly, that edifices started to be erected to house their fraternities. The more hold they gained over society through religious politicking, the more power, the more money they wielded, to build bigger and better monuments. With the view of spires and steeples, along with the sound of bells, commandeering their dominance over cities and the populace, advertising the fact (I mean lie) they were "in tune" and "the way" to God.
Who 'on earth' were going to ignore them and get on with God's business? The called out ones of course; the living stones the builders rejected! The elect of God! The remnant church! The bunch of Bible believers without the camp!
The house church
It is obvious now to many that 'house churches' have existed right from the time of the book of Acts, to the present. More in isolated pockets though, thriving where there was intense persecution. If a group happened to be scattered or wiped out by the authorities, another group would pop up somewhere else upholding the Lord's name. There is still some literature about that has escaped clerical eradication down through time, confirming the historic existence of house churches, along with the preserved New Testament (the most accurate recordings to get a hold of, of course) presented in the AB.
However, things really started happening in the West during the 70's initially boosted by the Jesus Movement, then gathering momentum during the 80's. People were either too bloom'n tired of pew warming. Or bored with the whole rigmarole of tradition and set practice. Or dissatisfied with being entertained by religious gimmickry. Or being 'kept in their place' by "spiritual heavies" and church ordinance, that it was time to make a few noises and vote with their feet. Or be told they were no longer welcome. A large portion of the pre-warned masses who preferred to stay comfortable and cosy at the cost of truth, were being prepared to receive the "New Wave" delusion of the 90's, namely the false "Signs and Wonders Movement", also known as the "Laughing" or "Shaking Revival" (are you still laughing?). Many others stayed on, straight jacketed by formalism or tradition; or scarred their wives, family or friends might forsake them (and they possibly could); or still waiting for the whiptey-doo promised "move of God" to sweep them off their feet and anyone they come in contact with, which is never going to happen by the way.
Yes it's true ... the early church did also appear to meet in public places for mass teaching and exhortation. However, there is no scriptural evidence to prove this was a formal regular event, but rather a spontaneous course taken, and always occurring in natural settings ... e.g. beside a river (Acts 16:13), in an upper room (Acts 1:13; 20:8,9), in a school (Acts 19:8,9) and out in the streets (Acts 20:20), and so on. If there was any identity of the church publicly, this was the 'local' church just letting-it-happen. No religious clubs, along with billeting boards or advertising campaigns! Nor committees or hierarchies for that matter! For the basis of the early church existence was irrefutably 'the home' environment, without outside interference or micromanagement.
Remain where you are
You've probably heard the term (especially if you have come out of the Charismatic Movement) ... "grow where you are planted!!" An old time favourite cliché in the organized church, borrowed to obstruct folk from leaving 'the system'. Borrowed because this 'one liner' is as New Testament as it can get, understanding it is always easier to hide behind or use scripture as a battering ram.
Here it is ... another verse slanted 'the system's' way:
1 Cor . 7:20. "Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called."
However, this scripture has got nothing to do with staying in your "official" church after you have met Jesus. This is because if your church, or elders, or minister, were dead or blatantly apostate, it would be the dead ministering to the quickened (sorry about that Billy!). It is merely Paul encouraging believers to stay in the natural situations where they were spiritually reborn at that particular time. Like a place of employment. Or education. Or family surroundings etc. In other words ... grow where you are already planted! Remember, God never plants you into apostasy or soiled ground. These things you are seduced or coerced into it, if you allow them to happen, believe it or not! As opposed to ... Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty! Or in the words of Paul ... But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
How many people have got saved in natural surroundings then sent to a "first principles" class at a denomination to get indoctrinated and ended up in a "spiritual" hothouse being groomed as a clone in unnatural surroundings or for some 'apostolic ascension' platform. You don't have to be groomed for the priesthood. You are the priesthood and there is not High Priest but Jesus. The privilege is real (without strings attached or religious redtape) as soon as you receive the gift ... Christ!
In order to be the realist people on earth, Christians by scripture, are urged to remain in the real world minus artificial settings. This may mean rolling the sleeves up and getting the hands grubby. It may mean rubbing shoulders with unpolished lower class yobs and yahoos. It may mean what has been termed the traditional "Communion Service", was just simple fellowship around a meal after all. Just the same, this is where the family principle in scripture kicks in and begins to function. This is to do with families coming into the truth together and going on from there:
Acts 11:14. "Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved."
Acts 16:31. "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Mmmmm!!! ... ?? Interesting?? No, biblical to a tee!! Moreover, there is more in regards to these family organic functions being institutionalized by man in the name of God and quoting biblical references, in order to pigeon hole or structure the happenstance, to take the reigns of control in the end and out of the hands of the Spirit of God. Let's read on:
A family or a club
There's much propagated in the secular establishment about the "family" spin thing in regards to having a 'user friendly' image. F'instance, when an organization has to reconstruct (some say "des-truct") to adjust with the times (others say to streamline in order for greater productivity - meaning, $$$s) one of the first shock absorbers put in place is the marketing catchphrase ... "we are a family!" How sweet to the ears!
Everywhere you turn clubs and organizations are using terms like "family" or "community". Remember back in 1990 when George Bush Snr. used the engineered Gulf War to usher in (the term) New World Order? For the first time ... officially out in the open! With such catchy labels stamped on it by his Global cronies, in the form of handles such as "the Community of Nations", "the World Community", "the International Community", the Family of Nations", "the Global Village", etc. Giving it the human touch, a ring of warmth, such as "Glasnost" and "Perestroika" before the USSR finally collapsed and yielded to the NWO.
"Community Policing" and "Neighbourhood Watch" (spying on your neighbour) are other such examples on a smaller scale. Now we have the term "cultural awareness" or "cultural sensitivity" on top of of terms such as "political correctness", which has been bandied around for sometime. What's next? Oh ..."earth consciousness"! Within the sphere of Christendom ... "unit of the Spirit", "love and tolerance", "reconciliation", "spiritual renewal", and with a little new age twist ... "universal family"!!
Even schools and boards are declaring they want to operate like a family. What is actually happening is good old valued terms are being redefined to make the 'new age' more presentable and attractive. By calling a school institution a family is a bit of a cheek really (actually a marketing ploy), as it is blindly setting up in opposition to the traditional family structure that is both biblical and ordained of God. Slowly and stealthily, unbeknown to many, the God ordained family unit is being eroded and undermined with the prospect of "Nanny" State replacing it. Now we have 'care giver' instead of parent, and 'partner' instead of spouse. This de genders a husband and wife relationship of course, paving the way for gay marriages and making 'natural' anything that was once unnatural according to biblical values and nature itself (ROM 1:26, CO111:14).The established church has lead the way in this mitigating effect for decades, even centuries, by replacing the true church based on the family structure along with its unique values. This is because the nucleus of the local church was a continuation of God's ordained family unit, whether it happened to be made up off natural blood-stock finding God together, or adopted 'odds and ends' who had met the Lord individually and found a new home. Look how the book of Acts supports the church as a 'home functioning organism':
Meals and making merry ... "breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart" (2:46).
Teaching and preaching ... "and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ" (5:42).
As a sanctuary and lifestyle (the enemy trying to wreck) ... "he made havock of the church, entering into every house" (8:3).
General gathering ... "send for thee into his house" ... "he went in, and found many that were come together" (10:22,27).
Praying together .... "he came to the house of Mary" ... "where many were gathered together praying" (12:12).
Comfort and encouragement ... "and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them and departed" (16:40).
Visiting ... "And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house" (20:20).The kingdom as opposed to promoting the system, movement or denomination ... "and Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God" (28:30,31).
Also, scripture in general supports home group fellowship:
"greet the church that is in their house. (Rom. 16:5)"
"with the church that is in their house. (1st Cor. 16:19)"
"and the church which is in his house. (Col. 4:15)"
"and to the church is in thy house. (Phn. 2)
Note: The Jewish Christians did, however, meet regularly in the Temple (Acts 24:11) as there was a strong sense that Jerusalem was still their central spiritual H.Q. (an old diehard habit - with tradition being seen on a par with scripture). However, with the increased persecution and finally the fulfilment of the Temple being destroyed a few years later, as already mentioned, all ties with the Old and its formalities fell away.
Covering, Mothering, and Smothering"Whattabout the concept of 'the Pastor'?" many would cry!
The word pastor (actually meaning shepherd) is only mentioned once in the whole New Testament. Here it is found as a function and not a title. Only within the plurality of an eldership, to be scripturally sound. The word "covering" is not found in scripture either. That's because there is no hierarchal systems, nor "pastor" culture (Nicolaitan concept), nor 'one man bands' anywhere in the NT. Elders are not laity but maturity. They are not imports either. They don't simply 'come in' (beware of this - Jude 1:19) but are raised from within. Here they have lived to prove themselves accountable and faithful (2 Tim. 2:2) without shortcuts or long academic training programmes. The opposite to Jeremiah 10:21:
"For the pastors are become brutish".
Following is what once pastor said to his congregation one evening when I was present (without protest or questioning):
"In the Old Testament the children of Israel had the High Priest. Now under the New Testament I, as your Pastor, act the same way as your High Priest."
Like many "church" leaders this pastor did not know his Bible. Who was going to remind him that in this New Testament era, Christ in Heaven is now our eternal High Priest? Therefore, any earthly priestly medium is totally superfluous as well as redundant, right in the here and now (Heb. 9: 24-28; 10: 10-21). Jesus is now our perpetual 'go between' ( 1 John 1:9) perpetually. All Believers are now on equal footing as priests ministering unto God. Just as we are all brothers with one everlasting Father.
That's why there are no 'one man bands' under the new covenant. The apostles always choose elders in the plural sense (Acts 14:23; 15: 22,23; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18. 1 Tim. 5:17. Titus 1:5. James 5:14. 1 Pet. 5:1) not a single or solo pastor (singular), to overseer the local church. The local church was every born again believer in one vicinity (town/village). In great contrast to individual organizations down the road, spruced-up using biblical rhetoric and gimmicky names, while doing their own thing (in the name of Jesus), pretending it to be God's.
To get-it-right NT wise ... the elders (bishops, overseers) took care of the spiritual affairs in the Body (Acts 20:28. 1 Thes. 5:12. Heb. 13:7. Phil. 1:1), while the deacons took care of the domestic (Acts 6:2. 1 Tim. 3:8). The Mary/Martha principle always running in parallel, bringing a spiritual balance to the Body. Also, these raised-up men always matured onsite and were chosen through the local church (the body of every born again believer in the same vicinity) and were never imported in by a church bureaucracy or mother church from outside.
Let me repeat again in order for the truth to sink in ... a) the word pastor is only mentioned once (Eph. 4:11 ) in the whole New Testament! Furthermore, while being in 'the past tense'! b) Being a shepherd is not a title but a calling (John 21: 15-17. Acts 20:28)!
This does not mean that the odd pastor is not genuine (in this day and age) and may need encouragement (like us all) as they have been called to shepherd the flock as one of the elders, but got waylaid in the interim by man and his religious insistence and devices. Of course, they need to be corrected in love, that they may see the equal importance of other brothers and sisters, no matter how more insignificant they may appear. Others pastors are straight out hirelings (or opportunists) and need to be avoided like the black plague (Jer. 2:8; 3:15; 10:21; 12:10; 22:22; 23: 1-2. John 10:13)! Even noted (2 Thes. 3:14)! Even marked (Rom. 16:17)!
There are no religious titles in the New Testament. Calling someone reverend is a big no no!! Same as Father! Many evangelicals are now acknowledging the Pope through the title of Holy Father. These are titles reserved for God ONLY ... "holy and reverend is his name (Ps. 111:9)". Now read Matt: 23: 8-11 in this same light:
"But be not ye called Rabbi (Teacher/Pastor - tough on Hebrew Roots advocates): for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren (equal in other words). And call no man your father upon the earth (tough on Catholics, the High Church and Byzantines): for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters (clerics or church officials): for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant (there's no short cuts in the kingdom)."
Paul never called himself The Apostle Paul, did he? No, but an apostle ... even the least (1 Cor. 15:9)! On a par with a prisoner, a servant of the Lord, and so on! The NT word 'apostle' was NEVER a title but only a calling and only a function! No one can argue with this, because scripturally they have not got a leg to stand on.
In the NT titles and positions are out! Callings and functions are in (Acts 14:26; 15:40. 2 Cor 3:1)! Good enough for Paul (Phil. 3:17) then good enough for everyone! Agree?
Make your heart where your home is
Getting back to the homechurch happening ... the principal of the household is scriptural:
Gal. 6:10. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."
Eph. 2:19. "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God".
The reason people are confused about the church and its function, is because they do not realize the church has a Divine order. This is nothing to do with religious rank, hierarchical positions or Apostolic Ascension, by the way (the lineage of popes in unbroken succession). Due to the clerical system being so entrenched over the centuries within Christendom, only this view point has been pushed or accepted ... "clergy over laity" or "the Pastor ocer the flock". It is also the reason for Christendom's existence, because without it, it could never function. This unscriptural concept has also camouflaged the true scriptural three tier order. This pertains to and parallels Father, Son and Spirit ... the heavenly order! Or God, Christ and man ... reconciliatory order! Or Christ, man and woman ... the spiritual order! Here's another ... Man, woman and child ... the family order! And so forth! Do you not see a divine principle here?
Within the organized 'systematic church' you have God, the Minister (pastor, priest or rabbi acting as go-between, replacing Christ), then the people. This way the woman can by- pass her husband's authority and conveniently mediate with God through the Minister/Priest/Pastor/Rabbi channel. Whereas in reality, this throws God's order out of sequence and justifies the clerical set-up. It can also create disorder within the home or produce, or feed, a dysfunctional family, merely coz the husband is push sideways and can no longer function as head. This way we have seen "families" beautifully coming to church on Sunday looking lovely, to receive more justification and reinforcement for their religious lifestyle, However, in actuality ... they are a contradiction, being out of order, even a laughing stock to outsiders.
On the other hand, within God's order, the woman must go through her husband and remain loyal to him spiritually, emotionally, and socially. The husband must be the one meeting her needs through Christ. No wonder there is so much hanky-panky going on between the minister and his "rightful" female parishioner. Even to the point of full-on sin. That's because in the religious order, the mans true function and call is bypassed. Therefore cancelling out his authority and responsibility, which directly now cancels out the family nucleus making up the body of Christ. Simply meaning ... no head, then no true family! It's as simple as that! As well as the fact that if there is no organic system of functioning families, then there is no functioning NT church. Only a empty shell of traditional observance and rites or a seemingly vibrant collection of people pumping up hot air.
No doubt, the scriptural order starts with the household church first (the home base family unit). Then it is worked out locally with all the other autonomous families in a district, like a town or village. This is the local church or the church in 'such and such a town'. Then lastly discerned by the true biblically discerning, is the church universally (on a worldwide basis). Here we find the whole family of God (Eph. 3:15) around the world (past, present and future). It begins when a man is saved and his household automatically follow, as in all the records of individual conversions found in the book of Acts. Please read "Repent or perish - the gospel remains the same."
Following off this section: The biblical husband/man in charge is responsible for his actions and choices he makes in the Lord. In Christ he will be submitted to those over him locally, as far as the true church goes outside his home. Just as the male elders are within the church locally and are responsible and submitted to the writings of the apostles teaching in NT scripture, on a universal basis. For the record ... there is no central place on earth above this. Meaning, there is no Mother Church or governing body geographically based, for that matter. Nor is there any extension to the written epistles of the apostles, nor the record of the New Testament itself. Christ is head absolutely and period! Destroy this then you destroy the family structural base, which has to be replaced with something else.
In other words, if the husband headship is bypassed with an ecclesiastical figurehead, then you destroy God's order. Therefore, an unscriptural system has to be re set-up in order to replace it, which is outside of God's word. Without the scripture there is no truth. More so, where there is no truth, there is no Spirit of truth either. Or Holy Ghost! And where there is no Holy Ghost there is certainly no life from above. Meaning, there would also be no power and anointing from on high. God would not be the midst, in other words! Only empty rhetoric, religious vibes and manufactured atmosphere!
In a word ... where the truth of God is absent, then so is the power of God! In this type of spiritual environment the counterfeit thrives and is ripe for the picking. Hence, the counterfeit Holy Ghost is poured out, pointing to another Jesus and his false church. Or a movement or a false cult to be embraced or aligned with! There is simply nothing else. Nor neutral ground. It is either God's only way in faith and life, or a substitute must be invented, summed up in the word we call religion.
The word, the cross, and the Holy Ghost
Ever since the Radical Pilgrim came online in 1998 I often receive letters from individuals, couples, and families, who are quitting or have quit "going to church". Many (like we experienced first hand) are going through withdrawal symptoms (old wine - the drug version - hard to kick!) and are looking for some sort of assurance they are not "being unfaithful" or "going into deception", along with the apparent need of being pointed to something palpable and even palatable, that they can identify with and see as a visible identity.
My advice ... forget it, and grow where you are at! Not always that blunt or in these very words, of course! I also usually go onto say something like ... forget looking for any "spiritual" adulation and elation too! Reason? We have been called to a kingdom without outward observation and a spiritual church whose founder and maker is God. We get the truth by revelation and we live and walk (totally) by faith (not by sight). Nor by chasing after signs or emotional experiences. Immensely simple and practically practical. Without substitutes. Without tangible trappings. Hard it will be, but very rewarding.
I would also say ... quit looking to others for nourishment or meeting your needs, through unconsciously by-passing God. The Lord as God, is our chief nourisher and need supplier, as well as provider and source. It comes back to Him always. Or at least to us in the opposite direction: How we are responding to Him. Making it with Him. Relationship. When our communion is spiritually natural and naturally spiritual. Absent from the mystical and abstract. Worked out in real life. In the end, it is up to Him whether He brings a friend, or foe, or a complete stranger along to meet a particular need. Or just to be a small link in the chain, to a specified call.
Sure we need fellowship, as fellowship is vital! And scriptural! However, fellowship should not have dogma or cultural conditions placed on it. Therefore, there is no need to try and seek out (somewhere) the Western, middle class, 'white' church, down the road. Nor the 'black' 'lively' church around the block! Or the town's latest and trendy church, furnished with its young charming and charismatic pastor, in a retro-look building, proving it is up-with-the-play and relevant for the time, ministering a substitute "Jesus"!
Of course this would not be the case for those who have had their fair share of Disneyland church or shallow or dodgey brethren, and are genuinely seeking for like minded believers without plush surroundings and mumbo jumbo. Who maybe just chasing something they will never find anyway. The object of the exercise is to start in the home with your family, staying squeaky clean and real, while being totally word based. If increase comes, it will be by the Lord and not by a programme. That's a guarantee, as we know who gets the credit in the end. If you do not have a family then keep hounding someone who is getting on your level. This will provoke and employ them into the scriptures. If they bail out, then and only then, move on. They may not have been your brother or the missing jigsaw piece in the first place.
Remember, the word (the Book) is our bread. Moreover, the Bible as our spiritual staple diet should always be coupled with the cross at the centre when we meet, or whatever we do, or endeavour to do. And by the cross I don't mean a relic, or a symbol, or an icon, or an ornament for that matter. Nor as an object of nostalgia. But the precious work our Saviour accomplished on the dead tree. For you and for me. Nothing more or nothing short. Personally.
"Singing", "praise times" or "prayer" should not be our centrality in our comings together. Let alone drummed up music. Let these things come naturally and be done in simplicity. Avoid pump ups. Keep everything low key. Avoid "worship". Now you must be really wondering where I am coming from?
Worship is the way we live and do things! If it's unto the Lord, for His honour and namesake ONLY ... then it's worship! Unadulterated! Because there is no other type. Meaning, adulterated (unbiblical) worship (an impure mixture) in any sense, is not true worship anyway. When you complicate it, or try to make it happen, it's little more than a performance. And a performance is a lie. A drummed up impression.
However, above all these things, avoid cliques and exclusiveness (verse - "These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit"). Okay, go to places on the odd occasion where someone uses the word authoritatively. That will be the odd occasion, may I say. If the condition is ... you must join them to get the "heavenly" benefits, then that's their problem. Don't be obligated to any man but the Lord. Paul said, "Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy"! Do they dominate or monopolize your faith? Do they add joy to your joy? Or do they extinguish it by clerical red-tape or technical dogma? Or try and out perform or replace the Holy Ghost!
Also, don't treat your group as the "one and only". Your true friend may have a doctrine off- key and may not be as clean-cut as you. You may miss a genuine friend if you cut him off because he does not fit your mould. Luke 9: 49-50:
"Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us."
Last of all ... don't be offended because someone might not agree or see things your way. Psalms 119:165:
"Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them."
Remember, the emphasis is on the word as our base, and the cross as our centrality! The third and only other bare essential (1 John 5:8) is the Holy Ghost who makes all this a reality! Granting us the assurance we are in God's will. Or convicting us (not condemning us) if we are outside of it.
An environment for homechurches
In regards to the hour in which we live, the advantages believers have above those who stay in the denominations are as follows:
- They are more accessible to the voice of God ... Dad direct through our older brother Jesus. Meaning, there are no unnecessary go-betweens, like religious obstacles, hierarchies and church bureaucracies getting in the way; as the voice of God is no longer muzzled, muffled or filtered.
Acts 10:2 ... "with all his house"
Acts 16:15. "And when she was baptized, and her household" ... "come into my house, and abide there."
Acts 16:32 ... "to all that were in his house."
Acts 16:34 ... "into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house."
Acts 16:40 ... "entered into the house of Lydia"
Acts 17:5 ... "and assaulted the house of Jason"
Acts 18:7 ... "and entered into a certain man's house, named Justus"
Acts 18:8 ... "believed on the Lord with all his house"
Acts 21:8 ... "we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist"
1 Cor. 1:11 ... "by them which are of the house of Chloe"
1 Cor. 16:15 ... "ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia"
Rom. 16:10. "Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household."
Rom. 16:11. "Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus"
1 Cor. 1:16. "I baptized also the household of Stephanas"
Phil. 4:22. "All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household."
2 Tim. 1:16. "The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus"
2 Tim. 4:19. "Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus."
Here's some more verses to muse over in regards to practical fellowship:
Rom. 12:13. "Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality."
1 Tim. 3:2 ... "given to hospitality"
Titus 1:8. "But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men"
1 Pet. 4:9. "Use hospitality one to another without grudging."
The western conventional church may have had its day as it is now capitulating with everyone else to the spirit of 'new age' compliance, while it is now part and parcel to the great religious conglomerate known as the Super Church, the Great Whore of Revelation. Certain members who are adhering to the simplicity in Christ are gradually leaving her as they hear the Spirit beckoning ... "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins."
There is a call to the wilderness, the refreshing place of God. Where believers are forsaking the camp and finding the reality of the scriptures, and learning to put their complete trust in their Provider, who said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
In spirit and in truth
Have you ever heard the term or been asked the question, "Where do you worship?"
Did you know that when we gather we are not suppose to come together for the sole purpose of worship (leave that to the religionists)? Nowhere in the New Testament does this notion lend support. You see New Covenant worship is in spirit and in truth. Therefore, everything we do; working, recreational activities, eating and drinking, making love (strictly within the confines of marriage) and of course fellowship, is to be in spirit and in truth. Our lives should be a continual worship unto the Lord. It's our reasonable service.
Just imagine sending your children away to special seminars where they learn the art of honouring and respecting you with lip and devotional service. Certain parts of the day or week are laid aside where your children can prove their devotion to you by mechanically saying the right things and following the correct procedure:
"Father, this day we are bestowing upon you all the praise due to your name, all the honour you are worthy of, because you have chosen to devote yourself to our well being and upkeep. We hereby praise thee from the bottom of our hearts Father! We hereby praise thee with the fruit of our lips. This time and day do we use to pay special tribute, gratitude and respect for thine affections you bestow upon us each day. Praise you Father!!"
"Now's if it's okay with you Dad, we'll go outside and make mud pies?"
Praise is not simply a word but an attitude with expression. F'instance, if you are introduced to someone's baby while casually passing by, do you exclaim? ... "Oh, I praise your child! How I praise your child! Praise it! Oh ... hallelujah, hallelujah, praise it I do!!"
No, you say, "Oh what a beautiful looking child! Look at it's lovely complexion! He's got your lovely eyes, and your husbands smile, and ... ... !" etc. etc. (thanks Juan!)
You see praise is not scheduled. Nor is it mechanical, or empty rhetoric, or even showy. It is not expressed blindly, glibly, superficially, but for a reason. Like spontaneously expressing gratitude for something already purposed. Or praising someone for their attributes. David and others did:
Ps. 52:9. "I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it"
Ps. 118:21. "I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation."
Ps. 139:14. "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well."
Is. 12:1 ... "I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me."
Is. 25:1. "O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth."
The following wasn't actually orchestrated either:
Acts 16:23-25. "And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them" ... Then all heaven broke loose!
The teaching of "praise and worship" based on music, which was introduced through the Charismatic Movement, then infiltrating most mainline churches, sounds "nice" and "scriptural", but is in fact a big con, allowing people to be manipulated through their emotions. This leads to spiritual deception, and in the end, if we continually refuse repentance, God will hand us over to such things as Toronto/Pensacola and New Wave type delusion. Remember, a continued love for the truth leads to revelation, whereas a continued denial or rejection of the truth leads to delusion. This is something God dishes out and is unavoidable if we get the truth then poohaa it! Hopefully, this puts the woollys up us and makes us sober to hear and fearful to resist His prompting and guidance, while eager and ready to resist religion in every form.
Be careful of music too! In meeting together that is! Forget about "musos" for Jesus! One instrument is enough if you need it to keep key. It is scriptural to sing to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. However, this is only a minor part of the New Testament (today it is major and full-on!) with very little scriptural reference. The reason ... it was only part of meeting for uplifting each other unto the Lord. It was never intended to be dominant let alone the central, replacing true fellowship (don't let me put you off listening for enjoyment sake though). Music has only taken over in recent decades as it is based on vibes and warm fuzzies, and quite often someone's ego. Like many things religious, it does come across as plausible, but is only another satanic means of distraction away from true New Testament communion and fellowship.
"How can you say all this Tom? It is all completely contrary to everything I have been taught, or accustomed to, and goes against my very grain!? How can you say things so different to what most of the Christian world practice and are associated with?"
Because most of what Christendom is merely based on, in regards to what it passes off as "worship", is in fact, Old Testament. Or should I say, Old Covenant. Pause and think for awhile (go on - thinking for yourself is the first stage to freedom, not deception) and consider what you read in Acts and the rest of the New Testament! It will not take long for you to see that all the main thrust on music and ministry today, is nearly all ministering under the Old Covenant. I use to try and reconcile what I was taught by the Pentys when I was caught up in the Charismatic Movement. Until I compared the church I saw in scripture with the institution I was tied to. Here I saw how the Old Testament and plane fables were mixed together to promote what was termed "new and exiting forms of worship". Which turned out to be 'new age' to the core, hiding behind a "bible" veneer.
Would you believe I was taught (and I guess many readers would've been too) that coming to church, like parking the car outside in the 'church car park' (lot in the US), was like entering into the outer court. Meaning, coz I was on my way in coming before the King, I must therefore be dressed and primed to the fullest, while coming in my best behaviour and dress code. Then by entering the 'church sanctuary' (man's building of bricks and mortar) I was now entering into God's House, the "holy" place, justified because His people were apparently gathering there too. Finally, by going through all the correct "spiritual" motions and "biblical" procedures (practicing the worship techniques I was taught and "being sensitive to the Spirit" - allowing the soft music to dictate and set the format) I was actually entering into the holy of holies (where the King was seated and waiting for His Sunday devotion), would you believe?
No it was just a matter of letting go (that's of questioning, discerning, and making righteous judgement) and going with the flow (getting into the spirit of things). Oh yeah, I had heard of that before. In this world things can be so pleasant and nice, if you are in compliance without checking things out and testing the spirits. How things can turn nasty against you, if you resist and refuse to conform. The crowd are always happy if you don't rock the boat but be seen as complying beautifully.
Jesus said if you continue in His word you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. The fact is, when we are born again we do enter into the holy of holys within the veil, simply because Jesus has torn it down through His death on the cross. This is the very reason we can come to Him with confidence, knowing His atonement was complete, perfect, and forever. Now you can say praise the Lord! Therefore, every minute of each day we are in His presence by faith, and if we have to rely on our religious actions and procedure to qualify to be there or enter, then surely this is mere religiosity manifesting itself again, which is light years from NC truth.
As far as a Christian having a career in music ... I don't believe the Lord would have a problem, as long as the music was wholesome, provoking or uplifting, and wasn't used as a substitute for true New Testament church or as a tool to incite rebellion or corrupt the mind. If it's a hobby or a form of income, then don't try and justify it by it calling it "your ministry", or "your calling". Nor associating it as something with high spiritual honours or value! Nor Christianize it for appearance sake! Who are we trying to fool anyway? The crowd or God? The only people who are fooled are those who are deceived and bound by religion. The others are only just trying to be polite.
Things like "Worship Leaders", Senior Pastors, "Co-pastors" and "Youth Pastors" are also unscriptural. It's hard being polite here without compromising the truth. So get real and get back to the scriptures!! There's' no spiritual rank, religious tiles or professional men of God in the NT, whatsoever!
We come together for fellowship. That's why it is an unstructured 'happening' in the home where there is no pressure to perform. "Going to church" may look impressive but is in fact impersonal, cold, institutionalized gobbledygook. As well as being unscriptural. That's why things have to be up-dated all the time ... like cosmetic face-lifts (the new-look auditorium), with the latest and the greatest trends (a clean-look rock band f'instance), marketed in such a way to make things look exciting and relevant. And to keep folk involved, so they don't have time or heart to question and break-out. When it is just you and your friends making it with God, you don't need substitutes! The Holy Spirit is sufficient thanks!
A scripture that's quoted many times to lure folk back into the Comfortable Church is Hebrews 10:25:
"Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is"
Now straight away, because of our Westernized mentality, we associate the word assembling with the formal word 'assembly'. Like gathering in a hall with hundreds of others after the school bell has rung. Or mustering on a field military style, after an alarm has gone. "Assembling yourselves together" simply means coming together at one given, or casual time, like:
"where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Why do we come together? Well, we will have to quote some more of Hebrews 10:25:
... "exhorting one another."
In other words, we meet together to encourage one another. Taking advantage we are still living in the day of grace. Prodding, provoking, stirring, sharpening (iron against iron) and stimulating one another, are all part of it (verse 24). This is spiritually healthy and helps keep us honest and on our toes. We do have an adversary you know. That's the Devil! Plus ... we do have the Devil's human emissaries (some sincere and some sinister), who are out to trap us, spiritual enslave us, and makes us bondservants of their higher call and "vital" ministry.
Titus 1:8 ... "a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men"
This means fellowship is to do with being hospitable and can have an impromptu savour ... hosting and entertaining friends (Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 3:2; 1 Pet. 4:9). Even strangers! Who knows ... even the occasional angel! This is nothing to do with formality or regimentation, or crowd control.
It also means you can choose your own friends. Why gather with those who are unruly, or have a competitive spirit (this one is usually a biggie)? Why be bullied or blackmailed into fellowship? Or be forced to come together with someone who doesn't like you? You know ... who bring a sour attitude with them. For one thing ... they have no right scripturally to be gathering with you in the first place, or anyone for that matter, if they have ongoing issues with vendetta or grudges against you.
In our meetings we shouldn't have time to get bogged down with trivial irrelevant issues and mumbo jumbo. Nor caught up in slinging matches. Nor going for the jugular. Nor proving a point. The object of the exercise is to gather with those who are hungry, whose affections are set on above, who bring no malice with them, so we can uplift one another.
Get this verse ... "follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord with a pure heart." After all ... a little leaven leavens the whole lump!In order to pursue these things, we need to go to Him there without the mountain, without the city, without the camp. Without a mask. In spirit and in truth. For the hour has arrived. The Father seeketh such to worship him.
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