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It’s a choice to be CHILDREN OF WRATH – Ephesians 2

Children of wrath and God’s election in Ephesians 2

There are some who believe that God randomly selects people to be saved and ignore the rest, and they try to use Ephesians 1-2 as support for this theory. The truth is that God wants ALL people to be saved because he IS a merciful God and he wants us to take after HIM when it comes to showing mercy. (We shouldn’t strive to be merciful to SOME and ignore the majority.)

2 Peter 3:The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance

Ezekiel 33:11 Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Luke 6:36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

In Ephesians we can read about a corporate election, and the body of Christ IS indeed chosen to inherit his kingdom. I believe God decided before the world began that true believers shall inherit his kingdom, but the question is if we as individuals would like to join the body of Christ (the Church) or not. IF we so choose, the wonderful promises are also tied to us. ”Elect” is about value and can mean precious, and we are indeed precious if we choose to believe in our Savior and live holy and separate. The book of Ephesians concerns what BELIEVERS can look forward to in the future. Pay attention to how many times IN him, THROUGH him, etc, are mentioned in Ephesians 1-2. Being IN HIM is the condition for being one of the elect! Also pay attention to the warnings addressed to christians. Paulus starts out his letter by addressing FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS who therefore are HOLY and very special (elect):

Ephesians 1

When Paul talks about US he refers to both jews and gentiles who believe in Jesus ChristPaul puts a lot of emphasis on trying to get the jews to understand that they are not on the way to heaven just because they are born jews and are his chosen people. It’s through JESUS that we can be saved. It’s through his blood because only his precious blood can cleanse our sins. What God had decided from eternity past is NOT which individuals to provide faith and eventually save, but rather that whoever is IN HIM (”us” v. 4) are ELECT, and chosen to be holy and blameless before God thanks to the blood of Jesus! The condition is therefore that we must be IN HIM in order to reach the state where we have all the mentioned wonderful promises tied to us.  What is foreknown is that those who are IN HIM will through Jesus Christ be taken up as his holy children. Those who are not IN HIM are not forgiven for their sins and redeemed in his blood, resulting in that they are lost. We as believers have redemption through his blood, and that means we are on the safe side. We are therefore adopted as children and can expect an inheritance, but only as long as we’re not getting off the transportation going to heaven. (Let’s not forget that a son can be disinherited though.) Who is Paul addressing when he mentions all the wonderful promises? The saints. To the faithful in Jesus Christ. No one forced them to be saints and faithful, but they chose to be this by themselves. As such, the wonderful promises that Paul talks about, are theirs, provided of course that they continue on that path.

Eph. 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, TO THE SAINTS which are at Ephesus, and TO THE FAITFFUL in Christ Jesus

V. 5 below uses the word ”adoption” but this word didn’t mean exactly the same thing 2000 years ago as it does today in our modern world. The Greek word ”huiothesia” refers to the standing of someone who is ALREADY a son and Adoption is thus the inheritance or promise that the son can expect to receive as an heir. Huiothesia is not the same as salvation but it is the promise of God received by those who are believers in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:22-27).  The body of Christ is predestined to God’s kingdom and to receive the inheritance, and the question remains who would like to join and who will remain to the end. The body of Christ is heading there, but are YOU? Join the body-of-Christ-bus, but stay on the bus to the end station!

Eph. 1:Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places IN CHRIST:According as he hath chosen us IN HIM before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame BEFORE HIM in love:Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted IN THE BELOVED.7 IN WHOM we have redemption THROUGH HIS BLOOD, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace

The Holy Spirit is like a  deposit for us christians (and all the spiritual gifts will one day pass away when we enter God’s kingdom), but just like in all legal contracts our particular ”contract” with God can be broken (just like the old covenant was broken) if either of the party doesn’t follow the agreement. If you take a loan to buy a car and stop paying for this loan, the car will be seized despite that it was once in your possession. It’s also beneficial to keep your ”guarantee receipt” because it entitles you (if it hasn’t expired) to certain rights, but if you throw it away or if you lose it, then it won’t do you much good despite all the promises that are listed on it.

Having the Holy Spirit is often likened with being ”sealed”. This doesn’t mean anything unbreakable as shown here, but it means that we are ”marked” as very special and holy people who can expect a great inheritance. (As long as we remain in Christ of course.) We are separate from all others who do not have this seal, due to their refusal to repent and believe. The sealing occurs AFTER that we believe, and we can read in Acts 5:32 that the Holy Spirit is given to all those who OBEY him, so belief and obedience must come before we get the Holy Spirit.

Acts 5:32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that OBEY him.

We can also read that God works all things after the counsel of his own will. Does this will exclude the possibility that he might want to place conditions for salvation on us? No of course not, because God can do anything he wants and it’s clear that he require US to repent, believe and show good fruit. He is not going to do this for us. The mystery of his will is that he will one day gather all believers together and give them the inheritance – those who are IN CHRIST! And we can read that TRUST plays an important role in order to be one of the elect. God is not ”trusting” for us. WE are supposed to trust in him and we can read that Paul says that trust comes AFTER hearing about the gospel of our salvation.

Eph. 1:Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first TRUSTED in Christ.13 In whom ye also TRUSTED, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye BELIEVED, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Paul prayed a lot for the Ephesians, indicating that we can absolutely change the outcome of things with our prayers, and in this case Paul prayed for wisdom. Our prayers can influence others to be enlightened and to know what the HOPE is for God’s calling. We can read once again that it’s the SAINTS who get the benefit of the inheritance. We can also read that the CHURCH, which is the body of Christ will ultimately and once for all be under his feet. This is what the beginning of Ephesians is all about. HIS CHURCH – THE BODY OF CHRIST, consisting of BELIEVING SAINTS.

Eph. 1:16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the HOPE of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the SAINTS,19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward WHO BELIEVE, according to the working of his mighty power,20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the CHURCH,23 Which is his BODY, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2 starts with Paul telling us that God has quickened us who were dead in trespasses and sins. I can only say that it’s a very bad choice to  be dead in trespasses and sins! When are we spiritually DEAD according to the Bible? That is when we SIN because this separates us from our holy God.

Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Luke 15:(The prodigal son) 30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.—32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was DEAD, and is alive AGAIN; and was LOST, and is found.

Nowhere in the Bible does it suggest that spiritually ”dead” people cannot make any good moral decisions or that they are unable to seek God. And nowhere does it say that we are totally depraved (words not even in the Bible), BORN as children of wrath or born with a sinful nature. On the contrary, even evil unbelievers can do much good, as can be seen here. How then do we become quickened/alive from the predicament that our sin has brought us into? We must of course REPENT for our sins and let the blood of Jesus cleanse us so that we can be born again and become righteous! Then we are no longer dead since we are alive in Christ and new persons. He removed all traces of sins on our account and we have left the old man behind. Paul explains that the Ephesians in time PAST walked in sin, but he doesn’t expect them to continue like that. Also note that in order to commit the sins that Paul lists, you must at least be an ADULT first. Babies are not aware of the law and they are unable to:

  • have a need or reason to be ”quickened”
  • perform TRESPASSES and SINS and through them be dead
  • walk according to the world
  • walk according to Satan (the prince of the power of the air)
  • be disobedient through following Satan
  • walk in the lusts of their flesh
  • fulfill the desires of their flesh
  • fulfill the desires of their mind

So don’t get confused about the expression ”children of wrath” because the description fits only grown ups , and we can be labelled either children of God or children of Satan depending on our life styles. We can also read that the ”children of wrath” are also called  ”children of disobedience” so it’s clear that in order to fit the bill you must be able to DISOBEY – something that babies cannot do. Does God want people to disobey him? Clearly not! Evidently Eph. 2 doesn’t suggest we are BORN as children of wrath, but it provides details for how we can BECOME children of wrath by the way we live. Even the Ephesians WERE dead due to their choice to sin, but thanks to the blood of Jesus, and through their own repentance of their sins, they were restored. Paul says ”hath raised us up together”, but that is a picture of our future with Christ, because he continues the sentence with ”in the ages to COME”. We haven’t been elevated yet.

Eph. 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of DISOBEDIENCEAmong whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,Even when we WERE dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

And don’t get confused just because it says ”by nature”, because 1) it still doesn’t indicate we are BORN that way, 2) we can see below in Rom 2:14 that people can by nature do the things contained in the law, and 3) those who by nature are the children of wrath are those who have made a habit out of sinning and hardened their hearts. (Read more in Romans 1 about how certain men hardened their hearts to the extent that God eventually gave them over to a reprobate mind.) A diligent alcoholic might feel that it’s totally natural for him to get drunk once in a while, and in combination with a refusal to repent his habits might turn him over to become a child of wrath/disobedience. 

Rom. 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

Eph 2:8-9

Now we have arrived to the famous verses which are likely the most cited verses in the entire Bible. These couple of verses are often used as an attempt to show that we can be saved even if we don’t show any fruit, and even if we SIN. That’s not what the verses are saying though.The gift of God in these sentences is NOT ”faith” but that we can be saved. You can read more why the Greek original text makes this clear here. We are either saved by the law OR by grace, and most of us can agree on that we haven’t chosen to obey the law to 100% so the only other option is GRACE (God’s mercy). To suddenly start to make good deeds will never cover for our PAST sins. It’s thanks to the blood of Jesus that we can be cleansed and saved. So does Eph. 2:8-9 suggest that it’s no longer damaging for our souls if we would sin and/or not provide any work? NO! It does not say that! It only informs us that salvation is by grace through FAITH. Nothing we do or believe can ever MERIT salvation, but there are still conditions. We must repent for our sins and believe. Breaking the moral law (the ten commandments) are just as important today as it was during the time of Moses, and as it was during the time of Cain and Abel. Sins always separate us from God whether we live in the old or new testament. Faith without works is dead, and works without faith is also dead.

Eph. 2:For by grace are ye saved THROUGH FAITH; and that not of yourselves: IT is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Verse 10 is not nearly as popular and it’s rarely cited. This verse tells us that we are supposed to WALK unto good works.  Do you believe that God will accept us the way we are even if we would NOT walk with him and show good works? Hardly!  So this is a warning towards christians. Neither will God do the walking for us, because WE are created to do the walking. However, we can do nothing without Jesus so we have to be IN HIM. 

Eph. 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

Paul continues to talk about the good news and what we can accomplish THROUGH Jesus, whether we are jews or gentiles – as long as we are believers. We are united together in one body through the power of the cross. Once again, Ephesians is about the Church and the body of Christ as in God’s family. Are you in or are you out? You decide and you know the conditions.

Eph. 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in ONE BODY by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Keep the parable in Matthew 22 in mind where we can read ”many are called but few are chosen”. The ”chosen” ones are those who freely accepted to go to the party, and who also went.  As opposed to others who were on the guest list and expected to come by the King himself, but who still declined to go. We can place ourselves among the chosen elect if we choose GOD and show it by our actions.

2 Thessalonians 2:10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

Only in union with Christ do we become members of the elect, and God purposed from the creation of the world to form a people through Christ’s redemptive death on the cross. So election is grounded in Christ’s sacrificial death to save us from our sins (and we are only cleansed upon repentance), and election in Christ is primarily corporate (an election of a people). Therefore, election includes individual persons only as they associate themselves with the body of Christ, and there was a similar story for Israel, and those who identified themselves as the children of Abraham by having faith (leading to obedience) just like Abraham. The election to salvation and holiness of the body of Christ is always certain, but the certainty of election for individuals remains conditional on their personal living faith in Jesus Christ and perseverance in union with Him. God’s eternal purpose for the church is that we should be holy and without blame before him, and this refers both to forgiveness of sins and to the church’s purity as the bride of Christ. Fulfillment of this purpose for the corporate church is certain, but the fulfillment of this purpose for individuals is conditional. Christ will ”present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight: IF ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel”. 

At the point of faith, the believer is incorporated into Christ’s elect body by the Holy Spirit and thereby becoming one of the elect. Predestination concerns what will happen to God’s people (all genuine believers in Christ). So the church (of christians) is chosen by God to be his very own vessel, and all who desire to be a part of this elect vessel can do so through a living faith in Christ. As long as they are on the vessel they are among the elect, but if they choose to abandon the vessel, they cease to be part of the elect. because election is always only in union with the captain and his ship. Predestination tells us about the ship’s destination and what God has prepared for those remaining on it. God invites everyone to come aboard the elect ship through faith in Jesus Christ.

See also this article from Jarom.net about the uses for the word ”elect” (eklektos) in the NT (so not the Greek words eklegé, eklegó as per above), where it’s shown to have a meaning of quality, or being precious. If we have chosen to remain IN CHRIST, we are truly precious and of good quality. We are God’s holy and unique people

Annonser

Sealed UNTO the day of redemption, but a seal can be broken Eph. 4:30

 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed UNTO the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30)

Based on the Greek text, the latter part of the above sentence can be translated ”by whom you were sealed FOR the day of redemption”. The preposition ”for” is a translation from the Greek word εἰς (eis, Strong’s 1519) and apart from ”for” it can mean into, in, among and till. The text does not say ”sealed and saved unconditionally all the way UNTIL the day of redemption no matter the conduct”. Were sealed” in the verseis a translation from ἐσφραγίσθητε (esphragisthēte, Strong’s 4972).

There is nothing that suggests that a seal can absolutely not be tampered with. When someone places a seal on something – like the one in the picture above to the left – he doesn’t do this with the idea that no one can remove the seal, but rather to show a unique mark and/or ownership of something. The aim might very well be to see the seal untouched until there is a proper time to remove it, but there is no guarantee that it will remain as it is until that day.

The Greek word sphragizó can mean seal, or set a seal upon, or mark with a seal. We are indeed uniquely ”marked” when we as christians have the Holy Spirit in our lives, and we are separate and different from those without this mark. The word is from sphragís (a seal) – to seal (affix) with a signet ring or other instrument to stamp (a roller or seal). ”Sealing” in the ancient world served as a ”legal signature”, and it was sometimes done by the use of religious tattoos – again signifying ”belonging to”. The same word is used for the stone which was blocking the grave of Jesus – and which  was later REMOVED.

2 Cor. 122Who hath also SEALED us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

Matt. 27:66So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, SEALING the stone, and setting a watch.

Rev.  10:4And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.

The book of Ephesians talks about a corporate election and about the promised future for the body of Christ. The CHURCH or the BODY OF CHRIST was predestined, before the creation of the world, to enter the Kingdom of God and inherit the promises. The question is if we as individuals choose to belong or not.

Eph. 1:22And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the CHURCH23Which is his BODY, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Eph. 4:4There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;—  16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Eph. 1:13In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise14Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

or:

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13, 14; 4:30).

Read the many warnings in the same chapter of Ephesians 4. The warnings are addressed to believers. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is conditional since we can ”grieve” and eventually ”insult” the Spirit of Grace which means total apostasy.

Hebr. 10 29Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

Only believers can possess the Holy Spirit and no one can enter the Kingdom of God without the Spirit. He is therefore the guarantee of an inheritance for believers and not unbelievers. Through union with Christ we are ”predestined” to adoption and an inheritance as children of God, being ”joint heirs” with Christ (Eph. 1:5, 10-11, cf. Rom. 8:17; Gal. 3:29; 4:7). This is what is in view when Paul speaks of being sealed ”for the day of redemption”, but we must not assume that this sealing is unbreakable which the text does not claim.

What is a guarantee? Guarantee receipts normally have conditions which you can often read in the ”fine print”. If you get a guarantee receipt for a certain product and you would like to make a claim, the store might request that you bring both the product and the receipt before they are willing to look at your claim. They might also request that you do this within a certain time frame and that you state what’s wrong with the product. Another example might be if someone buys you a bus ticket which guarantees that you will get to a certain city PROVIDED that 1) you don’t throw away your ticket, 2) that you embark the right bus on the right time, and 3) that you STAY ON the bus until it arrives at the destination. The BUS will arrive at the destination as promised, but the question is if YOU will choose to be among the bus passengers.

1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him.

Psalm 5:11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me

A circumcision was also a ”seal” for those under the old covenant.

Rom. 4:11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a SEAL of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also

This seal WAS broken and guaranteed nothing when those who were circumcised broke the covenant and were cut off from the people of God.

Rom. 2:25For circumcision verily profiteth, IF thou keep the law:but IF thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

As you can see, this seal was conditioned on continued faith and obedience. The Holy Spirit marks us as God’s children of the new covenant, but if we would totally abandon the faith and/or live in disobedience with no plan to repent, then the Holy Spirit might no longer have a reason to remain and then we are no longer sealed. Also circumcised (sealed) Jews were broken off through unbelief as Rom. 11 tells us.

Acts. 5:32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

John 14:15If ye love me, keep my commandments.16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever

Rom. 8:9But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, IF so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10And IF Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Rom. 11:16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.

God speaks of the Israelites who ”grieved” His Holy Spirit in their rebellion. These Jews were cut off from the promise of entering God’s rest and they became God’s enemies.

Isaiah 6310But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: THEREFORE he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them. — 14As a beast goeth down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD caused him to rest: so didst thou lead thy people, to make thyself a glorious name.

In the NT the ”rest” is the eternal rest that all believers will attain. The book of Hebrews continually speak of the promise of eternal rest, in combination with WARNINGS to believers not to miss out on this promised rest through hardening their hearts in unbelief, just as the Israelites did who rebelled against God during the Exodus.

Hebr. 3:6But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end7Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) 12Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; 15While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. 16For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. 17But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? 19So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Hebr. 4:1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 2For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. 3For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. 5And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. 6Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: 7Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Hebr. 6: 11And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: 12That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Jude 1:5I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not

The word ”called” below in Gal. 1:6 is the same word as in Rom. 8:30 – καλέω (kaleó Strong’s 2564). Paul marvels at the fact that some Galatians despite being called are deserting Christ and turning to another gospel. Paul noticed that these Galatians were true believers who were apostatizing from the faith. Despite being chosen, called elect they risked falling away. If kaleo refers to the elect in Rom 8:30 then it must also refer to the elect in Gal 1:6.

Galatians 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that CALLED you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

If you’re trapped in Calvinism, do read about the contradictions within TULIP here.

Church Fathers

The Shepherd of Hermes 6(72):3 I say unto him, ”Sir, now then show me concerning those that have given up their rods, what manner of man each of them is, and their abode, that when they hear this, they that believed and have received the seal and have broken it and did not keep it sound may fully understand what they are doing, and repent, receiving from thee a seal, and may glorify the Lord, that He had compassion upon them and sent thee to renew their spirits.”

Clement 7:6 For as concerning them that have not kept the seal, He saith,`Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be for a spectacle unto all flesh’. 

Clement 8:6 So then He meaneth this, Keep the flesh pure and the seal unstained, to the end that we may receive life.

All are not teachers, and about submitting to elders and other authorities

We are to be present in the body of Christ – not just spiritually

As the body of Christ we are supposed to come together physically so that we can edify each other in various ways, like praying and prophesying for each other. (If we can of course, and if there is a decent assembly to join.) The Bible tells us that we are different members of the same body, and the body is likened with a human body. All are not an ear, an eye, a knee, etc. If all would be an ear, then something would be utterly wrong with the body of Christ. The Bible tells us for example that all are not teachers, so it’s wise to not let anyone rise up to teach in Church. The greatest risk to end up with false doctrines  would be if we let unqualified teachers do the teaching in a teaching situation within a christian assembly.

1 Cor.12:27Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all TEACHERS? are all workers of miracles? 

Rom. 12:6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith7Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that TEACHES, onTEACHING;

We should of course always be prepared to share the word of God and try to make disciples in various ways, but in an assembly we should let the teachers do the main teaching. This doesn’t exempt us from our responsibility to always act like the Bereans and compare all that we hear with scriptures (and test all things), and we must be prepared for that qualified teachers could still be wrong. Peter was an elder who exhorted other elders. Even if all of us are not teachers, we can still contribute in an assembly in many ways. We are encouraged to speak in tongues if there is a translation, make prophesies, share revelations, sing songs, pray for one another,  heal someone if we have this gift, etc. But all must be done in order!  Just because we are encouraged to share, it doesn’t mean we are allowed to jump off from our seats and burst out in a song or make a comment whenever we feel like it. That would be very annoying both for the teacher and for the listeners.

Some could be better used for teaching than serving tables. But also those who were appointed to serve tables in Acts. 6 must be qualified for it. They would have to be of honest report and full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom:

Acts 6:2Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. 5And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: 6Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. 

Jesus himself gave some to apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers:

Ephesians 4:10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 

And for what purpose?

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 

For how long?

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ

What would be the benefit of not allowing other people to be teachers?

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine 

2 Peter 2:1But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  

With other words there is a risk that we will be caught up with false doctrines if we let unqualified people teach. We should be on our guards! When listening to a teacher we should show him much respect. Most churches that I have attended have allowed people to say ”amen” or ”hallelujah”,  and making brief questions and comments even in the middle of the preaching. Thankfully the comments never got out of hand, but I’ve heard comments which should have been made after the sermon instead of in the middle of it.  We must always show respect both to the teacher and to other listeners so we won’t disturb anyone. Who would like to be constantly interrupted when having a little lecture? If there are 50 listeners and half of them have a question, then the teacher would be forced to deal with 25 questions and could easily lose his thread. That could very well lead to chaos and that is exactly what Paul warns us against. He even says:

1 Cor. 14:34Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. 35And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home:

James tells us to NOT be many masters (teachers, instructors), and when we are sick we are asked to call for the ELDERS so they can pray and put oil on the sick person:

James 3 1My brethren, be not many MASTERS, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.

James 5:14Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders (presbyterous) of the church (ekklesias) ; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 

There are special rules, compared to others, when it comes to accusing an elder for something, and if he is caught in a sin.

1 Tim. 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. 20Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

Peter seems to focus on exhorting the elders instead of exhorting the entire flock, since it’s the elders of a church who are supposed to be shepherding the flock in the right direction and feed it. The elders are compared with shepherds (so naming an elder ”pastor” makes perfect sense) and in a Church we are NOT supposed to take turns to be the shepherd. The elder/shepherd must be qualified and confirmed for this position, and no others should be elders. It would be great if there were more than one elder per church, but if that isn’t achievable then we would have to settle with one. The younger are asked to submit to the elder:

1 Peter 5 :1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 5Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder

We don’t need to be qualified teachers in order to share something from the Bible also within an assembly, but I’m referring to the actual ”teaching” here.  There are of course loads of examples of churches where the pastor is teaching falsehood, but this only means he should never have been confirmed as an elder in the first place. Thankfully ALL churches don’t work in the wrong way. It’s possible that people with an aim to be ”democratic” would like to open up for others to do the teaching, but if we don’t follow Paul’s instructions about elders and teachers, there is a risk for deception and that is why many churches don’t work as they should:

Titus 1:10For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. 

2 Tim. 4:2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves TEACHERS, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry

Hierarchies?

It’s possible that people are terrified for anything that might smell like hierarchies in Church, and while the NT does not support an assembly where people are of different levels of importance, we can’t get way from the fact that we are different parts of the same body, resulting in that not all are apostles, teachers, elders or shepherds. The shepherd is equal in value compared to the flock, but the shepherd is still supposed to guide the flock and not the other way around. This does not mean we should follow the shepherd blindly. All members of the flock have a free will and a responsibility to follow God (the Bible) more than man.

Below is an example of an issue which could not be settled in the local church but had to go ”up” to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem so they could settle the matter. The apostles and the elders had the authority to give instructions, decrees, exhortations and confirmation of churches:

Acts 15:2When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders (presbyterous) about this question. —6And the apostles and elders came togetherfor to consider of this matter.— 22Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren:—25It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,— 30So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:—31Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. 32And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.

Paul and Silas delivered decrees for the assemblies to keep, which were ordained by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. We are not able to read that the assemblies complained about this procedure, as though it would be unfair that some people can decide which rules others should keep. You might call this a ”hierarchical system” and therefore something that should be forbidden, but we are to submit to authorities (if they are godly). If we had all obeyed those instructions at all times from the beginning, then the apostles would be able to teach a group of people and confirm them, who could teach another group of people and confirm them, and so on. Clearly we have not always obeyed the instructions concerning elders because today there are some assemblies where the elders have many shortcomings – in traditional churches and particularly in Home churches. Each one should make sure to ”lay hands suddenly on no man” (confirming someone to be an elder) as Paul also instructed Timothy: 

Acts 16:4And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. 5And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.

1 Timothy 4:14Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the HANDS of the presbytery.

1 Timothy 5:22 Lay HANDS suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.

Paul gave Timothy instructions to make sure the assembly in Ephesus teach ”no other doctrine”. Timothy should also make sure they would not give heed to fables. Hopefully the assembly in question accepted Timothy’s authority and didn’t tell him” Who do you think you are, trying to teach us all those things and exhorting us? Mind your own business because we can take care of ourselves, thank you. We don’t need anyone over us and we don’t believe in a hierarchical system”: 

1 Tim 1:2 Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 3As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. 6From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

Timothy was to reprove, rebuke and exhort, and the reason was the risk for false doctrines which might sneak in:

1 Tim. One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)6Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

Read the above concerning some of the instructions for an elder. We are told that if his children don’t behave well, it’s doubtful he could keep the flock in the church of God. Being a pastor/elder in a church is likened with being the authoritative Father in a household. In a household a Father doesn’t take turns with his children to be the authority and the Head of the family. He should always be the authority! This of course does not give him the right to run his household in any way he wants, but he should always treat others the way he would like to be treated himself . Neither does it mean that he could not give his children a certain amount of liberty and responsibility. But it’s never the children who decides how much freedom and responsibility to give to their Father, but it’s always the other way around. 

The above verse is also yet another verse which confirms that a church gathering is often 1) away from home and 2) in a building and 3) RULED by someone. Here the church of God is CONTRASTED with a home, just like so many other verses.  We don’t always take the church with us, but we can GO to a church, and we can even be thrown out of a church by a person who is not even a true believer:

 3 John 1: 9I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. 10Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

The Holy Ghost has made some people overseers over a flock, to feed the church of God. Paul knows that after his departure grievous wolves will enter in among ”you” (the listeners here were the elders in the church of Ephesus, but this concerns all of us) and that’s why he wants them to take heed.

Acts 20:28Take heed therefore unto YOURSELVES, and to all the FLOCK, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made YOU OVERSEERS, to feed the CHURCH OF God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.29For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in AMONG YOU, not sparing the FLOCK.

Why christians should go to Church, and not forsake the assembly

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25)

When writing this I mainly have certain ghastly ”anti-modern-Church-articles” in mind, where authors on page after page throw dirt on the entire Church system, making it sound like ALL churches are rotten to the core, and that whosoever attends a church service in a church building is supporting the Harlot, and/or Babylon and does something that God hates. The authors might protest and say that this is NOT their point, BUT in that case they have totally failed to get their message across. If you write page after page with one bad example after the other, describing the entire Church system (or ”most” churches at best) as nothing but evil, not mentioning one single positive thing, then WHAT OTHER MESSAGE COULD THE READER POSSIBLY GET? The reader will NATURALLY get the impression he/she does something wrong simply by attending a church – any church.

The authors might very well scare readers into avoiding ALL churches, but sadly staying at home would be even MORE anti-Biblical and might very well cause weak christians to start living in the world. The problem with those anti-Church-authors (apart from being so one-sided and painting with a broad brush) is that they don’t provide a solution. Yes, some of them present a ”better way” and how a church is supposed to be, but where is this perfect Church? Oh, WE are the Church? Yes that is true in part, but the reader is still ALONE! Where does he find other christians who can encourage him with words and through prophesies, who he can sing with, socialize with, breaking bread with, pray with and spreading the Word with? I wish all those anti-Church authors would understand how much harm they do when they like bulldozers run across the entire Church system and scare people away from something that would benefit them greatly to take part in. I can refer to them below as AMCP (Anti-Modern-Church-People). I might very well use ”church” with the meaning of a certain building containing an assembly of christians.

If someone starts off a series of articles by writing ”I’m not against Russians and I know all of them aren’t bad BUT….” and then writes page after page about his own bad experiences when it comes to Russians, and how evil he feels they are, how mean,  nasty, corrupt, unreliable, dangerous, etc, – and not a single word about GOOD Russians – then is it a surprise that the reader will get the message that Russians are people to stay away from? If someone starts off with ”I’m not a cessationist, BUT…” and then writes page after page with examples of the misuse of tongues, then is it a surprise that the reader will get the idea that speaking in tongues is evil and something to avoid? Let’s not deceive ourselves.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20)

Few christians are unaware of this verse but AMCP act as if this verse comes as a surprise to many. This verse doesn’t change the fact that the Bible shows that getting together with other christians (loads more than 2-3) is the norm, and something that is taken for granted. (Look in the end of this article for verses.)

Some feel that sitting in front of the computer alone and watching a church service online equals ”not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together”, but could this be what Paul had in mind (even if internet was not invented during this time)? Some AMCP erect a strawman to battle, and they paint a picture of a REALLY poorly functioned church and either say that ”most” churches are like that or the entire ”church system”. Unfortunately people might believe them and run away from church and believe they can be home alone and still be spiritually fine. It’s a chance they will make it just fine, BUT it’s a huge risk they won’t. Especially if they are babes in Christ, if they have no others to be encouraged by on their walk, if they don’t have the discipline to pray and read the Bible and if they have ”friends” who are influencing them to live in the world.

How about a little more balanced presentation of the Church? How about spending some time describing what MARVELLOUS transformations that have happened to people thanks to their experiences in a church? There are christians out there who do their utmost to get people IN to Church, but AMCP try to get people OUT of the Church whether this is their aim or not. ”No, WE are the Church, you don’t have to go anywhere to get to church!” they might say, but we cannot be an assembly of christians all alone and I’m afraid the work of certain ambitious AMCP leads to very lonely christians. Make sure you’re not only spreading negative things about Church. Do add some positive things as well (and you don’t have to lie since there are loads of good churches out there) because all are not as strong as you are in the faith. Leaving Church might be the LAST thing babes in Christ need. And don’t say ”I’m not asking them to leave a good Church but I’m just warning readers about bad churches” if the case is that you haven’t written anything but negative things about Church. Shouldn’t Jesus be enough? Say this to those who have lost their faith and/or who have started to live in the world due to tempting influences and too little christian support.

Sure, you might have reasons to remove yourself from church, like due to a general lack of churches in your area, due to disability or due to work – but why encouraging others to take the same route? Do you really feel you are doing something that God wants by leading people away from church rather than TO church? That might not be your aim, but this is what you’re doing if you paint with a broad brush.

The first churches were far from perfect

Some might believe the first churches were perfect and contained no errors, but that is far from the truth. They suffered from all kinds of minor or major problems, and that is why Paul sent out all those letters to them – to warn, exhort and correct. We can also read about bad behavior in the christian assembly in other letters, as well as in Acts. In Revelations we can see how Jesus exhorts most churches, and this was during a time when the apostle John was still living. The closest we can come to harmony in the early church is in the below verses, but it’s hard to forget what happened to Ananias and his wife Sapphira. As soon as people are involved, there is always a risk that individuals act against the will of God. Sometimes because they don’t know any better, and sometimes because they do know the proper behavior but still decide to be disobedient for selfish reasons. Notice while reading the verses:

1) Christians stayed together and had fellowship with each other. 2) 3000 people were saved and added to them this particular day. Naturally they could not all fit into one house to worship together, so the solution must be to use several houses and/or a large building. 3) Baptism and breaking bread with others couldn’t be possible unless christians stayed together. 4) Wonders and signs wouldn’t get a large impact unless they were seen by others. 5) They did not abandon the temple, even though they could of course meet up also in homes.

Acts 2:41Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls42And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and FELLOWSHIP, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles44And all that believed WERE TOGETHER, and had all things COMMON; 45And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the TEMPLE, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

So ”ekklesia” means ”assembly of believers” or ”called out ones” and not a building of believers. WHAT’S THE BIG DIFFERENCE?

Talk about splitting hairs and causing a division for the sake of causing a division! This is pure semantics. It’s not always wrong to cause a division, but then it better be about something important and worth while – like concerning a doctrine. It’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying ”going to church”, and we can find similar expressions in the Bible.

1 Cor. 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

When we say ”let’s go to church” we normally mean: meeting up with an assembly of christians who are inside a certain building, and together with them listening to one or more preachers teaching something from the Bible. We might also associate ”church” with general worship, singing christian songs, receiving and giving edification in form of interpreted tongues and prophesies, as well as socializing with other christians. All this is very biblical, so don’t fear those who try to intimidate you when you say ”go to church”. When you say ”I will go to church now”, you wouldn’t normally mean to go to an empty church building, but rather to meet up with the assembly of christians. So the word ”church” for this particular building is an EXCELLENT choice of word. I suspect AMCP ALSO express themselves with ”he went to church this morning” and ”look what a beautiful church!” and ”what church do you go to?” even though they complain about others who do the same.

Biblical christians assembled together to almost 100% inside BUILDINGS for quite obvious reasons. They would have roof over their heads in case of bad weather, the preachers would be heard much better, they would be able to sit more comfortably and they would be closer to other important facilities.

James 2:2For if there come unto your assembly (synagogen) a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

People might say they are ”going to SCHOOL”, and by that they mean a certain building with both teachers and students. Without teachers and students it wouldn’t be much of a ”school” but we could still call it a ”school” also during those times they are empty. We could use the same reasoning when it comes to a gym, a library, a hairdresser  or a store. Remove some of the essential contents from those places and there wouldn’t be much of a gym, a library, a hairdresser or a store. The same applies to CHURCH. Many christians are well aware of what ”ekklesia” means and they find no reason whatsoever to express themselves any differently about ”going to church” than what they have always done. Has there really been much confusion about this so far? When a person says ”I’m going to church this morning”, do you stand there with a puzzled look and ask ”What on earth do you mean?”

The Bible doesn’t give much instructions about the proper way to meet up for worship, so I believe we have some freedom. Below are some verses which show that Paul and the other disciples in no way tried to boycott the temple/synagogues just because they were now Christians. If they wanted to show that the synagogues were ”bad” in any way, then they could have settled to meet people outside the buildings, and also take the chance to explain why they do this. But instead they went to the temple/synagogues to pray, to preach/teach, to worship, to dispute, etc. They often kept track of times for the Sabbath day and/or prayer meetings, and they went through some jewish purification rituals. Jesus was constantly in the synagogues, and never can we read any negative statements about the synagogues themselves. Naturally you could find wicked rulers of the synagogues (and wicked doctrines), but you could also find the opposite, and people who accepted the new teaching. Just like synagogues, churches are merely buildings. They aren’t good or bad in themselves and they are what people make them to be. The first thing Paul did in Damascus after his conversion was to preach in the synagogues, so why couldn’t we today seek out churches and try to influence people in the same way? Is it really a better idea to sit at home and complain about the entire church system without providing a better alternative?

Godly people in the Bible erected altars (like Noah, Joshua, etc) and they did not sin by doing so. Neither is it a sin to build a synagogue or a church. Also wicked people could naturally erect altars and buildings for ungodly purposes. There is a synagogue of God and a synagogue of Satan:

Psalm 74:8 They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues (meetings) of God in the land.

Rev. 2:9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

Nowhere in the Bible can we read that it’s wrong to build synagogues or churches in order to make more room for christians and their worship.

Luke 7:3And when he heard of Jesus, he sent the elders of the Jews unto Him, beseeching Him that He would come and heal his servant. 4And when they came to Jesus they besought Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was worthy,5for he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a SYNAGOGUE.” 6And Jesus went with them. And when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying unto Him, ”Lord, trouble not Thyself, for I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof.

Below are more verses that show that going to the temple/synagogue was natural for believers, and many people got their lives totally changed for the better thanks to their visits and exhortations. Why don’t we do the same instead of remaining at home alone? Jesus and his disciples were constantly in the synagogues, regardless if they were good or bad, and we could have the same approach about Church today. In some places Paul and his company might not have been allowed to preach that much due to hostile leaders, but it seems like they succeeded most of time, and they could also continue to discuss outside of the synagogues. In other cases the rulers of synagogues were God-fearing people:.

Acts 3:1 Now Peter and John went up together into the TEMPLE at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.

Acts 4:1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the TEMPLE, and the Sadducees, came upon them, 2Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

Here the angel of the Lord asked the men to stand up and speak in the temple, which they obeyed, in combination with also preaching in whatever synagogue they could find. The angel didn’t tell them to only preach in GOOD places:

Acts 4:19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, 20Go, stand and speak in the TEMPLE to the people all the words of this life.

Acts 4:42 And daily in the TEMPLE, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

Acts 9:19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. 20And straightway he preached Christ in the SYNAGOGES, that he is the Son of God.— 26And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.— 27But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.— 30Which when the brethren knew, the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.

Acts 13:4So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. 5And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the SYNAGOGES of the Jews:and they had also JOHN TO THEIR MINISTER.-–14But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the SYNAGOGUE on the sabbath day, and sat down. 15And after the reading of the law and the prophets the RULERS of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and BRETHREN, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.–

Acts 13:42 And when the Jews were gone out of the SYNAGOGUE, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. 43Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. 44And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God.

Acts 14:1And it came to pass in Iconium that together they both went into the SYNAGOGUE of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude of both the Jews and also of the GREEKS believed.

Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the SYNAGOGUE every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the GREEKS.— 7And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God,whose house joined hard to the synagogue. 8And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.

Acts 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a SYNAGOGUE of the Jews:2And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,—10And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.—-17Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.

Acts 18:17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat.And Gallio cared for none of those things.18And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow. 19And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the SYNAGOGUE, and reasoned with the Jews. 20When they desired him to tarry longer time with them, he consented not; 21But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus. 22And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch. 23And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.

Here is a man called Apollo which we should take after. Just like Paul, after his conversion, this man began to speak boldly in the synagogue. Aquila and Priscilla were God-fearing people who heard him (both good and bad people might attend a synagogue) and they  took him unto them and taught him even more. Apollo did the right thing, and Aquila and Priscilla as well, by hanging around in a synagogue. Thanks to Apollo’s actions he mightily convinced the jews. Would he have succeeded to do this if he would have chosen to sit at home, content with reading theology books and complain about the entire synagogue-system? I don’t think so:

Acts 18:24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus..25This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. 26And he began to speak boldly in the SYNAGOGUE: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.27And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: 28For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

Acts 19:1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,—8And he went into the SYNAGOGUE, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. 9But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. 10And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.—37For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.

Acts 21:26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the TEMPLE, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them. 27And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the TEMPLE, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,

Acts 22:17 And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the TEMPLE, I was in a trance;18And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. 19And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every SYNAGOGUE them that believed on thee:

Acts 24:11 Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship. 12And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city:—18Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the TEMPLE, neither with multitude, nor with tumult.

Church (ekklesia) is sometimes used in CONTRAST to a group of individual believers!

Paul gives instructions to the assembly of christians (Church) concerning the treatment of widows. He would prefer if widows could be taken care of by individuals rather than having the CHURCH providing for them. In this way the Church could focus on those widows who are really in need and who don’t have anyone else providing for them. The idea shouldn’t be ”I let the Church provide for my elderly mother and/or aunt, and in that way my household won’t have to provide for them”.

1 Tim. 5:3 Honour widows that are widows indeed. 4But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. — 9Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man. 10Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. 11But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry;—16If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church (ekklesia) be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. 17Let the ELDERS (presbyteroi) that rule well be counted worthy of DOUBLE HONOUR, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.—19Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. 20Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

The man Diotrephes refused to receive the brethren and even cast them out of the CHURCH. So the true brethren are mentioned in contrast to the Church also in this case. The wicked person cast them out of the Church. Clearly ”church” can sometimes be a place (place for the assembly of God) since the wicked person here casts true believers out of church:

3 John 1:6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: — 9I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. 10Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

If we can never say ”I’m going to Church” because WE as christians are always the Church, then neither does the below verse make any sense. Here we can read that Paul, Barnabas etc were ”received” by the Church. It’s a shame that Diotrephes (above) didn’t make the same choice. Of course it’s better to receive godly men into Church, instead of casting them out.

Acts 15:4And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church (ekklesian), and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.—

Paul contrasts ”we” with ”the Church” here below. He is also talking about ”when ye come together in the Church”. This is a very close ring to ”going to Church” which the AMCP so often complain about. Apparently Paul takes for granted that we are GOING AWAY when we ”come together in the Church” because he complains about people who take the chance to eat a lot of food while being in the Church. Paul asks ”have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?” and ”if any man hunger, let him eat AT HOME”.

1 Cor. 11:1Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.2Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. 4Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.—16But if any man seem to be contentious, WE have no such custom, NEITHER the churches of God. 17Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. 18For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 19For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 20When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. 21For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? what shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.—30For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.—33Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.

Paul says women should be silent in a teaching situation in Church and in this instance he is speaking of a place and not a metaphor for people because he then gives permission for them to speak at home.

1 Cor. 14:33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 34Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. 35And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

More examples of various churches:

1 Cor.16:1Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.— 10Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. 11Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren. 12As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time.—15I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) 16That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth. 17I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied. 18For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.19The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. 

2 Cor. 2:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:

2 Cor. 12:Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? 8I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. 9And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.—12Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.

2 Cor 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 4Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.—14But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: 15As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.17For indeed he accepted the exhortation; but being more forward, of his own accord he went unto you.18And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;19And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind:—23Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be enquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ. 24Wherefore shew ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.

The church is pictured as the BODY OF CHRIST and christians are supposed to be physically TOGETHER in order to edify each other

Paul explains that each part of the body exists to meet the needs of other body parts. In the same way, God intends each of us to meet the needs of other believers, using our strengths to help in their areas of weakness.  A Christian cannot claim to have all the body parts himself, being self-sufficient. In the OT we can read about a few godly believers who are rather alone in their faithful walk with God, but we can never read that this is according to their own desires. They didn’t have much choice! Neither are they evidence of that we can be just as fine without other christians, because there might be OTHER single believers out there who have drifted away due to no support from others. We are to comfort one another (1 Thess. 4:18), build up one another ( 1 Thess. 5:11), confess our sins to one another (James 5:16) and pray for one another (James 5:16). Probably because we need it to stay strong and to not lose our faith. How can we obey these directives if we stay away from the gathering of believers?

The body of Christ has many members and as believers we are all in the same body even though we might feel we are not as important as other members because we are not the ”arm”, or the ”head”, etc. All are not apostles. All are not teachers. If we were all having the same task, who would do the other important tasks which are needed for the body of Christ? God has placed apostles, teachers, prophets, etc, in the CHURCH (assembly). If you’re at home alone, it’s impossible for you to have any of these roles, and it’s equally hard to make use of spiritual gifts, such as healings and prophesies for the edification of others. You need to be physically involved in an assembly of christians:

1 Cor. 12:11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 12For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.14For the body is not one member, but many 15If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?— 25That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all TEACHERS? are all workers of miracles?

Romans 12:4For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith7Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that TEACHES, on TEACHING8Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. 9Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

Below we can read more about edification of the Church. Most of Paul’s instructions about behavior in the Church would be totally useless unless we are together with other christians. Paul says we should aim to edify the CHURCH by various spiritual gifts, and that is of course impossible for those who are home alone. Also Paul’s instructions about women being quiet in Church and instead asking questions to their husbands AT HOME, indicates he is talking about an environment with other christians, normally away from home.

 ”When ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation”. Not IF you come together but WHEN you come together:

1 Cor. 14:3But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. 4He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.-–12Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.—16Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? 17For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.19Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.—23If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? 24But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:— 26How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. 27If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. 28But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.—33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 34Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. 35And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

We are told that Jesus himself gave some to apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, and this was for perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry and for edifying of the BODY OF CHRIST. These different positions were to continue ”Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”. This has not happened yet:.

Ephesians 4:10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Conditions and tasks for an elder, and note that not ALL people qualify for this task. Elders MUST be professionally trained.

God designed the church as a place where spiritual leaders could watch out for our welfare, just like a shepherd who guards the sheep (1 Peter 5:1-4, Hebrews 13:17). A Christian who answers only to himself can easily rationalize sinful attitudes. Regular contact with other Christians can keep us sharp. In an assembly, it’s not right to let whosoever rise up to teach others. Christians are rather free to share witnesses, prophesies, songs and translating tongues (but we are still told to test all things), but the TEACHING should only be made by those who qualify. Read below about how elders are ordained and that not all people are to be trusted when it comes to teaching. The wrong person preaching could lead to doctrinal errors being spread, so be careful to NOT let people preach in your assembly just to be ”kind”. Naturally we should all spread the gospel to unbelievers (we are all told to make disciples), but when it comes to a situation where the assembly of God is supposed to be taught the truth in order to build up others, then it better be from a qualified teacher. Obviously we should always act like the Bereans regardless of who are doing the teaching and compare what we hear with scriptures, but not all have the ability to read and/or cover that much text, why it’s important that our teachers are qualified for their task.

Below we can read that Titus has been appointed to ordain elders in every city. There are loads of restrictions and rules tied to an elder. The elders are responsible to exhort and to convince the gainsayers, because some mouths must be stopped. That is because they subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not:

Titus 1:4 To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. 5For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders (presbyterous) in every city, as I had appointed thee6If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate9Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers10For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: 11Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.

In Acts 6 we can read about the twelve disciples not feeling it was right for them to ”serve tables” and they preferred that others took this responsibility so that they themselves could focus on spreading the word of God. They gathered the other disciples who chose seven faithful men to take care of the daily ministration. This doesn’t mean those who served tables were less important since we are ALL needed to advance God’s kingdom and we are all different parts of the same body. However, ALL are not supposed to do the preaching in an assembly. You can call this a ”hierarchy” if you want, but that would be a negative word about a biblical solution:

Acts 6:1And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. 2Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. 5And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: 6Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. 7And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Here Barnabbas is exhorting the church of Antioch to cleave unto the Lord. Seems he was the man to do this type of exhorting:

Acts 11:22Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the CHURCH which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. 23Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. 24For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. 25Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 26And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

Here the apostles had ordained certain men to be elders in every church, and they prayed, fasted and commended them to the Lord. This shows the great importance involved.

Acts 14:1And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the SYNAGOGUE of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed.—4But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.—23And when they had ordained them ELDERS (presbyterous) in every church (ekklesian), and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.— 27And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. 28And there they abode long time with the disciples.

Hierarchy or not, but the church in Antioch brought Paul, Barnabas and certain others to Jerusalem to solve a certain question by the apostles and the elders there. Apparently they felt these men were more suitable to act in the matter. The church in Jerusalem ”received” them AND the apostles and the elders did as well. They decided to send some chosen men – CHIEF MEN among the brethren – to Antioch. These chief men exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.

Acts 15:2When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders (presbyterous) about this question. 3And being brought on their way by the church (ekklesias), they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. 4And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church (ekklesian), and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.—6And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.—21For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. 22Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas,chief men among the brethren:—23And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.—25It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,— 30So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:—31Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. 32And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.— 36And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the LORD, and see how they do.—40And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

Here we can read about decrees being delivered for others to keep, and these decrees were ordained by apostles and elders in Jerusalem. We can’t read about anyone complaining about hierarchial systems. The churches increased in number:

Acts 16:1Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: 2Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.—4And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. 5And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.

Timothy was sent out to make the churches remember the way of Christ, and also to make sure they teach no other doctrine, or give heed to fables and endless genealogies. Timothy was ordained to ministry by the laying on of hands by  Paul and the presbytery, and he was told to not lay on hands on others to soon. Not all people qualify to be elders :

1 Cor 4:17For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. 18Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you.

1 Tim 1:2Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 3As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. 6From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

2 Tim. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

1 Tim 4:6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 7But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.—13Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the HANDS of the presbytery.

1 Timothy 5:22 Lay HANDS suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.

2 Timothy 1:6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my HANDS.

Unfortunately christians will heap to themselves false teachers, and that’s why it’s so important to have qualified teachers around us, who have been trained and accepted by the presbytery before them, and who can reprove, rebuke and exhort based on the true doctrine:

2 Tim. 4:2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves TEACHERS, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry

1 Tim. 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. 20Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

Here are more rules for those who would like to become a bishop – for instance; a novice is not a good candidate. Also; ”Let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.” There are even rules for how the wives of the bishops should act:

1 Tim 3:1This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop (episkopes), he desireth a good work. 2A bishop (episkopon) then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)6Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.—10And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.11Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.—15But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Authority…:

Titus 2:15These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

When a person is sick, he should call for the elders of a church and let THEM pray over him and anoint him with oil. We are told to confess our faults to one another and pray for another that we may be healed. This is impossible to obey if you’re not among other believers:

James 5:13Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 14Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders (presbyterous) of the church (ekklesias) ; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. —19Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; 20Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

Peter is an elder who exhorts other elders. Elders are supposed to feed the flock as shepherds and be good examples. When the chief shepherd shall appear (Jesus) they shall receive their crown. Peter says the younger should submit to the elders. Nothing is wrong with having shepherds and elders, or submitting to them. The problem arises when churches neglect the instructions for elders, and when they accept teachers who are not qualified and thereby welcome false doctrines in their midst:

1 Peter 5 :1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 5Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.— 13The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son. 14Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.

2 Peter 2:1But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 

So apparently elders are referred to as shepherds, so what is so horrible about calling elders ”pastors” today? How about warning about dangerous false doctrines instead of splitting hairs?

”didaskaloi” –  means a master, a teacher or an instructor acknowledged for their mastery in their field of learning. Not all meet the requirements.

The word is used below, and a similar word is used for the actual ”teaching” of these ”teachers”. Note how particular the task of being a teacher is:

James 3 1My brethren, be not many MASTERS, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.

Acts 13 1Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and TEACHERS; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Eph. 4:11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists (euangelistas); and some, pastors (poimenas) and TEACHERS (didaskalous); 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

Hebrews. 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be TEACHERS, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

Romans 12: 6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that TEACHES, on TEACHING8Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. 

1 Corinthians 12 28And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly TEACHERS, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all TEACHERS? are all workers of miracles? 30Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 31But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

1 Timothy 5 1Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; 2The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. 3Honour widows that are widows indeed. 4But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. — 17Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and DOCTRINE18For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. 19Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. 20Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. 

Plurality of elders

Nowhere in the Bible will you see a verse which claims there must always be more than one ”elder” in an assembly. Those who claim this have the burden of proof to show it. Paul says that not all are apostles, teachers, etc, and he is very clear about that not all are qualified to be an elder. Let’s go through some of the verses which are often used as ”proof” for the idea that there must always be multiple elders in a church.

Acts 14:2 21And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, 22Confirming the souls of the DISCIPLES, and exhorting THEM to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. 23And when they had ordained THEM ELDERS in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

Comment: Many places are spoken about and many disciples are mentioned. Those who were ordained elders were the disciples so the word should be in plural. It would be incorrect to say that they made them all ”elder in every church”. One person can not be several elders.

Acts 20: 16For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.17And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the ELDERS of the church.

Comment: There happened to be several elders in the church of Ephesus.

Acts 20:225And now, behold, I know that YE ALL, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.26Wherefore I take YOU to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27For I have not shunned to declare unto YOU ALL the counsel of God.8Take heed therefore unto YOURSELVES, and to all the FLOCK, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made YOU OVERSEERS, to feed the CHURCH OF God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.29For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

Comment. These verses speak against those who say there are always multiple elders in each church. The text says nothing of the sort. Paul is talking to a certain group of people (disciples) and they have all been made overseers by the Holy Ghost. THEY are therefore responsible, much like shepherds, to feed the flock which is the church of God (all christians). Not all people are called to be shepherds. Most of us are in the ”flock”. Paul also warns the disciples about grievous wolves which will enter in among them, not sparing the flock. This is exactly what might happen in churches that refuse to adhere to Paul’s rules about not letting whosoever become elders and teachers, and shepherds are responsible for not letting this happen. All are not apostles, teachers, prophets, and that means we should not allow people to be elders who are not qualified. Disobeying Paul’s instructions about this order will risk false teachers and teachings to enter in among us. In summary; don’t let anyone stand up and teach in your church!

Peter 5:1The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

Comment: Several elders are spoken about here too, so it should be plural.

Phil. 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons

Comment: Not sure how large Philippi was during this time (I’ve been there myself but about 2000 years later), and how many churches (assemblies) there were and how big each assembly was, but apparently the assemblies were big enough and blessed enough to have many bishops and deacons. It doesn’t say anywhere here either that there MUST be multiple bishops and deacons in each assembly.

Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain ELDERS in every city, as I had appointed thee

Comment: Paul didn’t restrict Titus to always settle with ONE elder per city. It would not make sense if Paul told Titus to make one single person an elder for multiple cities. Naturally then ”elder” should be in plural. Titus of course had instructions to follow, and he couldn’t make people elders who did not qualify for this. The qualifications for an elder follow right after Titus 1:5. If multiple people qualified they could be elders (likely the case) but if only one person qualified in a city, then Titus had to settle with him in order to be obedient to Paul’s instructions.

 James 5:14Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

Comment: What if Paul instead wrote that we should call for ”the elder” of the church. That would make it sound like Paul takes for granted there is never more than one elder per church. But there could absolutely be more than one elder per church, and this might very well be the most common case. More than one person could be qualified to be an elder in one and the same church. Clearly then Paul must use ”elder” in plural and not singular.

In summary; there are no verses in the Bible which say there can never be only one elder in a church. The best scenario would be if there were more than one, but if people did not meet the standards, apart from just one, then this one person would be the only elder. Paul in Acts 7  is the only one mentioned doing the talking for several hours, until daybreak, and that didn’t seem to be a problem.

Finally a few verses with ”elder” in singular (just because there are those who claim there are none):

1 Timothy 5 1Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; 

1 Timothy 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.

1 Peter 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed

1  Peter 5:5  Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

2 John 1:1 The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;

Not all churches are lead by one (despotic) pastor, so please do not paint with a broad brush

Not all churches are run by ONE pastor who is teaching a bunch of falsehood before a crazy crowd of people who only go to church for the wrong reasons. There ARE godly pastors out there who feel the calling and the responsibility to keep the assembly clean from falsehood, and there are pastors who do NOT want to be idolized in any way. In some small areas there might not be enough christians who qualify to be preachers/elders, and Paul puts a lot of emphasize on how important it is for a teacher to meet the requirements. Having an assembly in a church building or in a home with only one elder is FAR better than not having any assemblies at all. I’m glad there are no ”church inspectors” who come knocking on doors just to check that there are at least 2-3 elders present, or else the assembly must be dissolved. I’d rather have one good qualified pastor/elder/shepherd/bishop/presbytery (or whatever you would like to call him) than multiple elders who are not qualified when it comes to teaching. However, a church could of course have multiple administrators/helpers (some call them elders) who might not be qualified as teachers but qualified when it comes to other tasks. This is very common in our churches

Below we can read about Paul who alone did all the preaching when the disciples joined together. They apparently gathered in a large house because Eutychus fell down from the third loft. Paul also explains to the elders of the church how important it is that they keep the flock together. Unfortunately Paul also knows that there will be men of their own, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. This is always the risk when leaders of a church in an attempt to be ”democratic” allow various people to rise up and preach even though they are not qualified. Preaching to others in a christian assembly is a great responsibility. Single pastors don’t equal selfish monsters with the only aim to spread falsehood around them. Paul spoke for hours upon hours in the below verses, and no one suggested it was selfish or unfair.

Acts 20:1And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.— 7And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. 8And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. 9And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. 10And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. 11When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.— 17And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. 18And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,—20And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house,—28Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (episkopous), to feed (poimainein) the church (ekklesian) of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

Are there any Bible verses against paying pastors – if this is what a group of believers would prefer?

Temples couldn’t have been totally free to run, and we know that the Levites got help from the other tribes when it comes to food and other products in order to work full-time in the tabernacle/temple. If some preachers were paid in the NT – perhaps if they accepted some collected money during their visits – we don’t know. We DO know that the bible nowhere forbids it. We must keep in mind that things were much different in the beginning when it comes to persecution, ability to work and get money, and the general culture. Changes don’t have to be wrong (except if they are against the Bible). What’s wrong with paying those who serve full time and put their entire lives into the ministry? Where is the sin? What is the better alternative knowing the culture of today?

Today the normal situation for a family is that both the man and the woman have to work full-time to make ends meet, and that means you’re away from home most of the day since you also have to commute to and from work. An hour in each direction is not uncommon. When you get home around 6 pm you have to get the kids from the kindergarten, fix dinner, do some laundry and spend the little time you have left with your kids even though you’re TIRED and just want to go to bed. With other words, forget about doing any preaching or evangelization Monday-Friday. Now we have the weekend left. On Saturday you really need to do some major grocery shopping so you won’t have to do that during the rest of the week when you’re too busy. This might also be the only day of the week when you actually have time to do something together as a family, like going to the park and maybe the kids are doing some sport activities. You also have some cleaning to do, more laundry to handle, and a large pile of clothes to iron. You might also need to visit some relatives. So only SUNDAY is left. Of course you can try to fill it with preaching and evangelization, but you also need some time in prayers and private Bible studies, and you always have your family that requires your attention. Of course the situation will be easier once the kids grow up, but we’re still down to SOME hours during the weekend. Maybe it’s a better idea to PAY a person who is qualified for preaching? He could do this FULL TIME. If preachers, eager to spread the gospel, had to settle with Sundays, there is a risk that their fire might be quenched.

The world has changed also in other ways. 2000 years ago people took care of their own elderly parents and handicapped family members but today people are getting paid for it. This system is hard to change over night, and if someone still wants to change it, I’d like to hear how this could be achievable.

1 Corinthians 9:13Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?14Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.15But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.

Paul brings out how the Levitical method of provision for Priests carries over to the Ministers of the gospel. He says ”The LORD ordained it”. A priest could not effectively do what he was called to do if he worked a secular job as well. Why should we expect anything different for ministers of the gospel? Paul also brought out how that even though he had all right to receive money, he chose not to. He DID NOT say that it was wrong for others to do so. This would have been wrong of him, since his situation was different from theirs, as he was a traveling evangelist who was single, whereas others had families and homes. He clearly states that a man who preaches the gospel should also live of the gospel. As it says in other versions, ”the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel”. Unlike Paul, Peter had a family to take care of so some of his time and money must have been required to meet some of their needs.

The fact that we’re not able to read much in the Bible how preachers made a living could signify that we have some freedom to settle this matter ourselves. Or do you have a verse where it says we do not have this type of freedom? To label innocent pastors as a bunch of greedy, lazy parasites just because they live on salaries is beyond rude. Many pastors/preachers sacrifice secular jobs with good salaries just for the sake of making others disciples of God. I repeat from another section about Double Honor:

1 Tim. 5:16If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church (ekklesia) be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. 17Let the ELDERS (presbyteroi) that rule well be counted worthy of DOUBLE HONOUR, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.18 For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.19Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. 20Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

Above, we can see that Paul would prefer if widows could be taken care of by individuals rather than having the CHURCH providing for them. Continuing in the same subject of providing for others, Paul also says that ELDERS should be given DOUBLE HONOR and especially those who are doing it well (consistent with doctrine, etc). This goes together well with verses such as

And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need”.

”And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common”

”and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need”

An elder with a family to provide for, and who spends a lot of time keeping the flock together, handles the administration, shares the true doctrine to others, makes other people disciples and even new ELDERS, would be in great need of some financial help, even though he would naturally do whatever he could to NOT be a burden to the Church. It should be a common interest for all of us to not be a burden to the Church, but to take all opportunities to make money.

Things don’t have to be wrong just because they are not mentioned in the Bible

There are numerous ways to spread the word of God, and we don’t have to fear that we are doing the wrong things just because they are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible. We might make performances like skits or dramas in open air, sing christian songs in parks or outside shopping malls, take part in worship teams, participate in choirs and make concerts to the public, march around cities proclaiming Jesus and announce church meetings, make ads in newspapers/radio/TV, do street preaching and hand out leaflets and church invitations, place evangelist material in mail boxes, write christian books, start christian newspapers/magazines, show christian films on huge outdoor TV screens, make christian websites, write christian blogs, etc. Some things could not be mentioned in the Bible because they were not invented yet. We get GREAT help from copy machines, computers, cameras, video-players, DVD-players, CD-players, MP3, streaming, microphones, cell phones, amplifiers and credit cards, because we can reach many more people thanks to them and our work goes so much faster and easier. PRAISE GOD for new technology now when time is getting near for the return of Jesus Christ. Thanks to new technology also translating Bibles into foreign languages goes so much faster.

The bible doesn’t say it’s a sin to view people as ”church members”, and it doesn’t say it’s wrong to have conditions for being a member. After all, we are told to not even eat with people who call themselves christians but who live unrighteously, so we certainly wouldn’t want anyone to be a ”member” among us. Today a matrix with members makes a lot of sense since you could use it to send out newsletters and other information.

A meeting doesn’t have to be in a building (even though this was most common) and there are no specific rules how the interior of the building must look like. We can read about not giving the ”better seats” to someone just because he appears rich and has nice clothes. To have an ”altar”, or ”podium”, or a little high ”table” where the speaker could stand with his notes, a microphone and a glass of water makes perfect sense.

Neither are there rules for how much you should decorate the church building or a home for these meetings. The tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem were really costly and beautiful, but it doesn’t mean we have to have luxurious buildings for our meetings. One positive aspect of going away for a church meeting into a specific building for this purpose (just like the temples were used) would be to get away from your regular every-day-life in your home and feel particular in a special environment which is linked to GOD. Of course we can pray, sing and worship anywhere, but for certain regular church meetings it might not be a bad idea to do this in a certain building away from home. Moreover, today you might live in an area where people live in small apartments, and if ten people are gathered together the apartment might be full! Actually, there are usually limited space also in a house, because apart from multiple bed rooms there might only be one room left, and if you gather 10-15 people there, it’s packed! So if you feel there should be no meetings unless there are at least 2-3 elders present, then this might result in 3 elders, your family of 5, and 2 more friends before you run out of room. The case could be that none of them has the gift of prophesy or other gifts. Perhaps a church building would therefore be a better option, and part of this building could also be used as a resident for an elder with his family. This is in fact not uncommon. Then this elder might be able to pay for his part of the building, reducing the burden for the assembly.

Are Anti-Church-People poor victims?

No, they are the ones attacking the church system, which could indirectly mean they are criticizing also those who attend church services. I hope it won’t lead to persecutions. When church-goers defend themselves, the AMCP might feel attacked, and some might even be offended that all christians won’t boycott the church system and stay at home alone as THEY do.

Are Anti-Church-People hypocrites?

Why would God call people out of a system for the reason that it’s unbiblical, just so they can live in an even MORE unbiblical way? That doesn’t make any sense at all. Why being so alarmed over people who live in an unbiblical environment when they themselves live in more unbiblical way? If a person complains about people who say ”go to church” and/or ”What a pretty church” and use the same expressions themselves, then they are hypocrites. It must be tiresome to always use quotation marks when saying ”going to church” even though the rest of the world understands perfectly well what they mean even without quotation marks.

Jesus Christ should be enough, so we don’t need to go to Church?

Can we really afford this mentality when it comes to babes in Christ? What if you go knocking on doors and succeed to make a person a christian by telling him about Jesus. Is it really enough to give him a Bible and some evangelist material and then leave, hoping he will continue on the narrow road? Isn’t it more likely he will remain on the right path if he hangs around with other believers, like in a church?

Spreading legalism

By making church goers feel bad by condemning the entire church system and denying  believers any freedom to arrange assemblies in their own way – even though they are not against any Biblical instructions – the AMCP are spreading legalistic influences. There ARE indeed multiple churches which are not according to Biblical instructions, but AMCP let these poorly functioned churches represent the entire church system.

When should we leave Church? 

Jesus often spoke in the temple and in the synagogues, and a rule came up, that if any man confesses that Jesus is Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. This was clearly an ungodly rule, but this didn’t cause Jesus to start boycotting the synagogues due to ungodly rules and leaders.

John 9:22 These words spoke his parents, because they feared the Jews; for the Jews had agreed already that if any man confessed that He was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

John 18:20 Jesus answered him, ”I spoke openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue and in the temple whither the Jews always resort, and in secret have I said nothing.

When the man in 1 Cor. 5 acted in the wrong way, then HE was supposed to be eliminated from among them. Not the others. There are indeed churches out there which are not working very well, but what if there are no other churches to join? Maybe it would be a good idea to stick to one ”ok” church than no church at all, just so you can influence others and make friends? We are supposed to make disciples and encourage one another in the truth. Not turn our backs on people we know are misinformed and deceived. Paul always tracked down churches during his trips, and if they didn’t work that well he tried to exhort and correct them. It’s true that we are not apostles like him, but the point is that we might be better off being in a church (at least once in a while) than in no church at all. The latter option would be MORE unbiblical than the former. And of course God would know that you have issues with various elements in the church because you feel they are unbiblical. God knows it’s not YOUR fault so he isn’t going to hold you accountable for them, but maybe you would be in his will if you tried to influence elders or some church members in the right direction (without being too self-righteous about it).

Verses about coming together as an assembly (apart from verses above)

Paul made numerous trips, and if there were christian colonies in those places where he went, he always managed to track them down. He also knew that his letters would reach the christians, because they stayed together and could share the content. Acts 20:7 reveals the practice of the early church: ”And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them.” For Christians in every location, regular gathering was a part of life. Wherever Christians are within range of each other in the New Testament, they meet.

Acts 1:13 And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. 14These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

Acts 2:1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

Acts 4:31And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. 32And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.—33And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.—11And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.— 14And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)

Acts 12:12And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. 13And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda.

Acts 21:3Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden. 4And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. 5And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed. 6And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again. 7And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.—17And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.

Acts 28:30And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, 31Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

1 Cor.2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s:—10Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.11For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

1 Cor.3:3For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?—4For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 5Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. — 9For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

1 Cor, 5:1It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. 2And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.—6Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

1 Cor 6:1Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? 2Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?—7Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

1 Cor 7:17But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.

2 Cor 7:14For if I have boasted any thing to him of you, I am not ashamed; but as we spake all things to you in truth, even so our boasting, which I made before Titus, is found a truth. 15And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him.

2 Cor.11:4For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. 5For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.— 8I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service. 9And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.

2 Cor. 12:12Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong. 14Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.—19Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying. 20For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: 21And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.

Phil 1:5Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;— 7For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.

2 Corinthians 13:1This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

Heb  3:13But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

1 Peter 4:8And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 9Use hospitality one to another without grudging. 10As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

1 John 1:3That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

1 John 2:19They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Jude 1:3Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. 4For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.