Etikettarkiv | early church

Quotes from the old church fathers where they deny original sin / sinful nature

handpåläggningThe pre-Nicene church fathers did not believe in the sinful nature

It’s not enough to go back to Luther and Calvin to check the views of the early church, but we must go further back than that. If we do, we will soon notice that Luther and Calvin took impression of Augustine, and Augustine believed the contrary to the early church fathers before him when it comes to the issue of the sinful nature and a number of other subjects. Augustine must be blamed for the new unbiblical teachings which were brought into church due to him, and which today are considered truths in particularly the reformed church. We must therefore go back to the early church fathers before Augustine, and then we can see how their stance lines up perfectly with the Bible.

It’s true that Adam’s sin affected us a great deal, because the ground is cursed due to him and we can’t reach the tree of life due to him, which means that his sin brought physical death on all his posterior (including Jesus before he rose again). We’re bound by weakness, shame, fear, suffering and many natural shortcomings due to being related to Adam, but we certainly didn’t inherit his SIN. Romans 5:12 tells us that DEATH (not SIN) passed upon us BECAUSE all sinned. Not because Adam sinned. The physical death that we get due to Adam is not a punishment, but rather something that we get out of the mercy by the providence of God. The only other alternative would be to continue living on for ever without dying – in this present cursed world. That would be a cruel fate.

Augustine’s views about infants who die without water baptism

Unfortunately, Augustine only knew little Greek (unlike Pelagius who knew both Greek and Hebrew) and seems to have misunderstood the teaching of the Greek Fathers who lived before him, because he reached different conclusions than they did. The Manicheans were a gnostic cult Augustine originally belonged to and which advocated that the nature of man can be corrupt to the point that his will is powerless to obey God’s commands”. Chadwick p. 228(2)

Some quotes from and about Augustine:

But even the infants, not personally in their own life, but according to the common origin of the human race, have all broken God’s covenant in that on in whom all have sinned…Even the infants are, according to the true belief, born in sin, not actual but original, so that we confess they have need of grace for the remission of sins. (Augustine, City of God bk. 16 ch. 27)

As nothing else is done for children in baptism but their being incorporated into the church, that is, connected with the body and members of Christ, it follows, that when this is not done for them, they belong to perdition. / III. 4

such infants as quit the body without being baptized will be involved in the mildest condemnation of all. That person, therefore, greatly deceives both himself and others, who teaches that they will not be involved in condemnation; whereas the apostle says: ‘Judgment from one offence to condemnation’ (Romans 5:16), and again a little after: ‘By the offence of one upon all persons to condemnation’ (Romans 5:18). / On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, ; cf. Study by the International Theological Commission

What is plainer than that the ancient divines, for three hundred years after Christ, those at least who flourished before St. Augustine, maintained the liberty of our will, or an indifference to two contrary things, free from all internal and external necessity! / Simon Episcopius (An Equal Check to Pharisaism and Antinomianism by John Fletcher, Volume Two, p. 209, Published by Carlton & Porter)

Augustine himself. (A wonderful saint! As full of pride, passion, bitterness, censoriousness, and as foul-mouthed to all that contradicted him… When Augustine’s passions were heated, his word is not worth a rush. And here is the secret: St. Augustine was angry at Pelagius: Hence he slandered and abused him, (as his manner was,) without either fear or shame. And St. Augustine was then in the Christian world, what Aristotle was afterwards: There needed no other proof of any assertion, than Ipse dixit: “St. Augustine said it.”/ John Wesley

The pre-Nicene church fathers all taught against the gnostic idea that we are born with a sinful nature

You will sometimes see quotes by old church fathers from Calvinists who suggest that they teach original sin, but if you scrutinize those quotes and also read them in context, you will see that they teach no such thing. We also get a clearer picture if we compare with other texts from the same church father, and obviously the church fathers don’t contradict themselves. It’s very common to misunderstand the consequences of Adam’s sin (physical death) thinking it’s about a forced nature. If an original sin is forced upon us, then naturally we would have the best excuse for sin there is, and Jesus (clearly without original sin) would have a great advantage over us.

Ignatius of Antioch, 35-107 AD Bishop of Antioch in Syria. A disciple of the Apostle John and appointed as Bishop of Antioch by the Apostle Peter.

I do not mean to say that there are two different human natures, but all humanity is made the same, sometimes belonging to God and sometimes to the devil. If anyone is truly spiritual they are a person of God; but if they are irreligious and not spiritual then they are a person of the devil, made such NOT by nature, but by their own choice. (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians chap 5, + Pg.61 vol. 1)

There is set before us life upon our observance [of God’s precepts], but death as the result of disobedience, and every one, according to the choice he makes, shall go to his own place, let us flee from death, and make choice of life. (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians chap 5)

Irenaeus of Lyon 120-202 AD. The Apostle John had a disciple named Polycarp, who had a disciple named Irenaeus.

Men are possessed with free will, and endowed with the faculty of making a choice. It is not true, therefore, that some are by nature good, and others bad. (Against Heresies, Book IV, Chapter XXXVII)

Man is endowed with the faculty of distinguishing good and evil; so that, without compulsion, he has the power, by his own will and choice, to perform God’s commandments. (Against Heresies, Book IV, Chapter XXXIX)

Those who do not do it [good] will receive the just judgment of God, because they had not worked good when they had it in their power to do so. But if some had been made by nature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good, for they were created that way, nor would the former be reprehensible, for that is how they were made. However, all men are of the same nature. They are all able to hold fast and to go what is good. On the other hand, they have the power to cast good from them and not to do it. (Against Heresies (Book IV, Chapter 37)

This expression, ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldst not,’ set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free (agent) from the beginning, possessing his own soul to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will (toward us) is present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. And in man as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves…  (c. 180, Against Heresies 37; God’s Strategy In Human History, p. 246)

And to as many as continue in their love towards God, does He grant communion with Him. But communion with God is life and light, and the enjoyment of all the benefits which He has in store. But on as many as, according to their own choice, depart from God. He inflicts that separation from Himself which they have chosen of their own accord. But separation from God is death, and separation from light is darkness; and separation from God consists in the loss of all the benefits which He has in store. Those, therefore, who cast away by apostasy these forementioned things, being in fact destitute of all good, do experience every kind of punishment. God, however, does not punish them immediately of Himself, but that punishment falls upon them because they are destitute of all that is good. (Against Heresies, Book V, XXVII, 2)

Justin Martyr, 110-165 AD

For He fore-knows that some are to be saved by repentance, some even that are perhaps not yet born. In the beginning He made the human race with the power of thought and of choosing the truth and doing right, so that all men are without excuse before God; for they have been born rational and contemplative.And if any one disbelieves that God cares for these things, he will thereby either insinuate that God does not exist, or he will assert that though He exists He delights in vice, or exists like a stone, and that neither virtue nor vice are anything, but only in the opinion of men these things are reckoned good or evil. And this is the greatest profanity and wickedness. (Apology 1, Chapter 28)

But lest some suppose, from what has been said by us, that we say that whatever happens, happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, and chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions. Since if it be not so, but all things happen by fate, neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it be fated that this man, e.g., be good, and this other evil, neither is the former meritorious nor the latter to be blamed. And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be. But that it is by free choice they both walk uprightly and stumble, we thus demonstrate. We see the same man making a transition to opposite things. Now, if it had been fated that he were to be either good or bad, he could never have been capable of both the opposites, nor of so many transitions. But not even would some be good and others bad, since we thus make fate the cause of evil, and exhibit her as acting in opposition to herself; or that which has been already stated would seem to be true, that neither virtue nor vice is anything, but that things are only reckoned good or evil by opinion; which, as the true word shows, is the greatest impiety and wickedness. But this we assert is inevitable fate, that they who choose the good have worthy rewards, and they who choose the opposite have their merited awards. For not like other things, as trees and quadrupeds, which cannot act by choice, did God make man: for neither would he be worthy of reward or praise did he not of himself choose the good, but were created for this end; nor, if he were evil, would he be worthy of punishment, not being evil of himself, but being able to be nothing else than what he was made.” (Apology 1, ch. 43)

But neither do we affirm that it is by fate that men do what they do, or suffer what they suffer, but that each man by free choice acts rightly or sins; and that it is by the influence of the wicked demons that earnest men, such as Socrates and the like, suffer persecution and are in bonds, while Sardanapalus, Epicurus, and the like, seem to be blessed in abundance and glory. The Stoics, not observing this, maintained that all things take place according to the necessity of fate. But since God in the beginning made the race of angels and men with free-will, they will justly suffer in eternal fire the punishment of whatever sins they have committed. And this is the nature of all that is made, to be capable of vice and virtue. For neither would any of them be praiseworthy unless there were power to turn to both [virtue and vice]. And this also is shown by those men everywhere who have made laws and philosophized according to right reason, by their prescribing to do some things and refrain from others. Even the Stoic philosophers, in their doctrine of morals, steadily honour the same things, so that it is evident that they are not very felicitous in what they say about principles and incorporeal things. For if they say that human actions come to pass by fate, they will maintain either that God is nothing else than the things which are ever turning, and altering, and dissolving into the same things, and will appear to have had a comprehension only of things that are destructible, and to have looked on God Himself as emerging both in part and in whole in every wickedness; or that neither vice nor virtue is anything; which is contrary to every sound idea, reason, and sense.” /Apology 2 Ch.7 2 (+ The Anti-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, p.354)

But as my discourse is not intended to touch on this point, but to prove to you that the Holy Ghost reproaches men because they were made like God, free from suffering and death, provided that they kept His commandments, and were deemed deserving of the name of His sons, and yet they, becoming like Adam and Eve, work out death for themselves; let the interpretation of the Psalm be held just as you wish, yet thereby it is demonstrated that all men are deemed worthy of becoming ”gods,” and of having power to become sons of the Highest; and shall be each by himself judged and condemned like Adam and Eve. Now I have proved at length that Christ is called God. / Dialogue:124

Now, we know that he did not go to the river because He stood in need of baptism, or of the descent of the Spirit like a dove; even as He submitted to be born and to be crucified, not because He needed such things, but because of the human race, which from Adam had fallen under the power of death and the guile of the serpent, and each one of which had committed personal transgression. For God, wishing both angels and men, who were endowed with freewill, and at their own disposal, to do whatever He had strengthened each to do, made them so, that if they chose the things acceptable to Himself, He would keep them free from death and from punishment; but that if they did evil, He would punish each as He sees fit./ Dialogue: 88

But neither shall the father perish for the son, nor the son for the father; but every one for his own sin, and each shall be saved for his own righteousness.—Furthermore, I have proved in what has preceded,” that those who were foreknown to be unrighteous, whether men or angels, are not made wicked by God’s fault, but each man by his own fault is what he will appear to be./ Dialogue: 140Neither do we maintain that it is by fate that men do what they do, or suffer what they suffer. Rather, we maintain that each man acts rightly or sins BY HIS FREE CHOICE….Since God in the beginning MADE THE RACE OF ANGELS AND MEN WITH FREE WILL, they will justly suffer in eternal fire the punishment of whatever sins they have committed. (c. 160, E), 1:190

God, wishing men and angels to follow His will, resolved to create them free to do righteousness. But if the word of God foretells that some angels and men shall certainly be punished, it did so because it foreknew that they would be unchangeably (wicked), but not because God created them so. So if they repent all who wish for it can obtain mercy from God. / Dialogue cxli

Clement 2nd, 80-140 ADThe first Apostolic Father of the Church. (According to Tertullian, Clement was consecrated by Saint Peter. Early church lists place him as the second or third bishop of Rome after Saint Peter. In Philippians 4:3 Clement is mentioned whose name was written “in the book of life”. Although known as 2 Clement, this document is in actuality an anonymous homily of the mid-second century. The author quotes from some document for the sayings of Jesus.)

Thus although we are born neither good nor bad, we become on or the other and having formed habits, we are with difficulty drawn from them. Pg 273 vol.8

He who is good by his own choice is really good; but he who is made good by another under necessity is not really good, because he is not what he is by his own choice… 

So, brothers and sisters, if we have done the will of the Father and have kept the flesh pure and have observed the commandments of the Lord, we will receive eternal life (2 Clement 8:4)

Clement of Alexandria (Titus Flavius Clemens) 150–215 AD. A theologian who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria. Among his pupils were Origen and Alexander of Jerusalem.

Neither promises nor apprehensions, rewards, no punishments are just if the soul has not the power of choosing and abstaining; if evil is involuntary. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p.319)

Their estrangement is the result of free choice. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 426)

Tatian the Assyrian 120–180 AD Theologianjesus

Our free will has destroyed us. We who were free have become slaves. We have been sold through sin. Nothing evil has been created by God. We ourselves have manifested wickedness. But we, who have manifested it, are able to reject it again.” (c. 160, Vol. 2, pp. 69-70)

Each of these two orders of creatures [men and angels] was made free to act as it pleased. They did not have the nature of good, which again is with God alone. However, it is brought to perfection in men through their freedom of choice. In this manner, the bad man can be justly punished, having become depraved through his own fault. Likewise, the just man can be deservedly praised for his virtuous deeds, since in the exercise of his free choice, he refrained from transgressing the will of God. (c. 160, Vol. 2, p. 67)

Tertullian 160-225 AD

I find, then, that man was constituted free by God. He was master of his own will and powerFor a law would not be imposed upon one who did not have it in his power to render that obedience which is due to law. Nor again, would the penalty of death be threatened against sin, if a contempt of the law were impossible to man in the liberty of his will…Man is free, with a will either for obedience of resistance. (c. 207, Vol. 3, pp. 300-301)

No reward can be justly bestowed, no punishment can be justly inflicted, upon him who is good or bad by necessity, and not by his own choice.  (c. 207) (Doctrine of the Will by Asa Mahan, p. 61, published by Truth in Heart)

Athenagorus of Athens, 133-190 AD Apologist

Just as with men who have freedom of choice as to bother virtue and vice (for you would not either honor the good or punish the bad; unless vice and virtue were in their own power, and some are diligent in the matters entrusted to them and others faithless), so is it among the angels. (c. 177, Embassy for Christians; God’s Strategy in Human History, p. 247)

Aristides of Athens, 134 AD (Marcianus Aristides)

 

Theophilus of Antioch, –185 (Succeeded Eros c. 169)

Neither, then, immortal nor yet mortal did He make him, but, as we have said above, capable of both; so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God; but If, on the other hand, he would turn to the things of death, disobeying God, he would himself be the cause of death to himself. For God made man free, and with power of himself. (Apology to Autolycus, ch. XXVII.—The nature of man. c.180, Vol. 2, p. 105)

Hyppolytus of Rome, 170 – 235 AD theologian

God, who created [the world], did not nor does not, make evil….Now, man (who was brought into existence) was a creature endowed with a capacity of self-determination, yet he did not possess a sovereign intellect….Man, from the fact of his possessing a capacity for self-determination, brings forth evil….Since man has free will, a law has been given him by God, for a good purpose. For a law will not be laid down for an animal devoid of reason.Only a bridle and whip will be given it. In contrast, man has been given a commandment to perform, coupled with a penalty.” (c. 225, Vol. 5, p.151)

Hoodwinking multitudes, [Marcus, the Gnostic heretic] deceived many persons of this description who had become his disciples. He taught them that they were prone, no doubt, to sin. However, he said that they were beyond the reach of danger because they belonged to the perfect power.—Subsequent to baptism, these [heretics] promise another, which they call Redemption. And by this, they wickedly subvert those who remain with them in expectation of redemption. (Ante Nicene Fathers, Volume 5, pg.92)

Origen (Adamantius) 185 – 253 AD Scholar, theologian

The Scriptures emphasize the freedom of the will. They condemn those who sin, and approve those who do right. We are responsible for being bad and worthy of being cast outside. FOR IT IS NOT THE NATURE IN US THAT IS THE CAUSE OF THE EVIL; rather, it is the VOLUNTARY CHOICE that works evil” (A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs by David Bercot, p. 289, Published by Hendrickson Publishers)

the heretics introduce the doctrine of different natures (A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs by David Bercot, p. 291, Published by Hendrickson Publishers)

The soul does not incline to either part out of necessity, for then neither vice nor virtue could be ascribed to it; nor would its choice of virtue deserve reward; nor its declination to vice punishment.” Again, “How could God require that of man which he [man] had not power to offer Him?” (Doctrine of the Will by Asa Mahan, p. 62, published by Truth in Heart)

Certain ones of those [Gnostic’s] who hold different opinions misuse these passages.They essentially destroy free will by introducing RUINED NATURES incapable of salvation and by introducing others as being saved in such a way that they cannot be lost. (Ante Nicene Fathers, Volume 3, p. 308)

Cyprian, 200-258 AD Bishop of Carthage

The liberty of believing or not believing is placed in free choice. In Deuteronomy, it says, ‘Look! I have set before your face life and death, good and evil. Choose for yourself life, that you may live. (c. 250, Vol. 5, p. 547)

Novatian, (Novatus) 200–258 AD Scholar, priest, theologian and antipope

When he had given man all things for his service, he willed that man alone should be free. And lest an unbounded freedom would lead man into peril, He had laid down a command, in which man was taught that there was no evil in the fruit of the tree. Rather, he was forewarned that evil would arise if man were to exercise his free will in contempt of the law that had been given him….As a result, he could receive either worthy rewards or a just punishment. For he had in his own power that which he might choose to do. (c. 235, Vol. 5, p. 612)

Lactantius 240-320 AD

We should be free from vices and sin. For no one is born sinful, but if our affections are given to that direction they can become vices and sinful, but if we use our affections well they become virtues. (Ch. 16 bk 4 Divine Inst.)

Eusebius, 263 – 233 AD Bishop of Caesarea

The Creator of all things has impressed a natural law upon the soul of every man, as an assistant and ally in his conduct, pointing out to him the right way by this law; but, by the free liberty with which he is endowed, making the choice of what is best worthy of praise and acceptance, because he has acted rightly, not by force, but from his own free-will, when he had it in his power to act otherwise, As, again,making him who chooses what is worst, deserving of blame and punishment, as having by his own motion neglected the natural law, and becoming the origin and fountain of wickedness, and misusing himself, not from any extraneous necessity, but from free will and judgment. The fault is in him who chooses, not in God. For God is has not made nature or the substance of the soul bad; for he who is good can make nothing but what is good. Everything is good which is according to nature. Every rational soul has naturally a good free-will, formed for the choice of what is good. But when a man acts wrongly, nature is not to be blamed; for what is wrong, takes place not according to nature, but contrary to nature, it being the work of choice, and not of nature! / The Christian Examiner, Volume One, Published by James Miller, 1824 Edition, p. 66)

Methodius, 260-312 AD Bishop of Olympus

Now those [pagans] who decide that man is not possessed of free will, and affirm that he is governed by the unavoidable necessities of fate…are guilty of impiety toward God Himself, making Him out to be the cause or author of human evils. (c. 190, The Banquet of the Ten Virgins 16; God’s Strategy In Human History, p. 252)

There is nothing evil by nature, but it is by use that evil things become such. So I say, says he, that man was made with free-will, not as if there were already evil in existence, which he had the power of choosing if he wished, but on account of his capacity of obeying or disobeying God. For this was the meaning of the gift of free will? and this alone is evil, namely, disobedience./ The Sacred Writings of Saint Methodius

For man received power, and enslaved himselfnot because he was overpowered by irresistible tendencies of his nature, nor because the capacity with which he was gifted deprived him of what was better for him…I say therefore, that God purposing thus to honor man…has given him the power of being able to do what he wishes,and commends the employment of his power for better things; not that he deprives him again of free will, but wishes to point out the better way. For the power is present with him and he receives the commandment; but God exhorts him to turn his power of choice to better things./ The Sacred Writings of Saint Methodius + The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume Six, Published by BRCCD, p. 746

I say that God – purposing to honor man in this manner and to grant him an understanding of better things has given man the power of being able to do what he wishes. He commends the use of his power for better things. However, it is not that God deprives man again of free will. Rather, He wishes to point out the better way. For the power is present with man, and he receives the commandment. But God exhorts him to turn his power of choice to better things. (c. 290, Vol. 6, p. 362)

I do not think that God urges man to obey His commandments, but then deprives him of the power to obey or disobey…. He does not give a command in order to take way the power that he has given. Rather, He gives it in order to bestow a better gift…in return for his rendered obedience to God. For man had power to withhold it. I say that man was made with free will. (c. 290, Vol. 6, p. 362)

If then, any are evil, they are evil in accordance with the wants and desires of their minds, and not by necessity. They perish self-destroyed, by their own fault.’For a man is not spoken of as ‘murderer’ but by committing it he receives the derived name of murderer. Evil is not a substance, but by practicing any evil it can be called evil…for a man is evil only in consequences of his actions. For he is said to be evil because he is a doer of evil. It is a persons actions that gives them the title of evil. Men produce the evil and are the authors of them. It is through actions that evil exists. Each man is evil in consequences of what they practice. It all has a beginning.The Sacred Writings of Saint Methodius

The Divine Being is not by nature implicated in evils. Therefore our birth is not the cause of these things. (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume Six, Published by BRCCD, p. 696)

Arnobius of Sicca, –330 AD

Does He not free all alike who invites all alike? Or does He thrust back or repel any one from the kindness of the supreme, who gives to all alike the power of coming to Him. To all, He says, the fountain of like is open, and no one is kept back or hindered from drinking. If you are so fastidious as to spurn the kindly offered gift… why should he keep on inviting you, while His only duty is to make the enjoyment of His bounty depend on your own free choice. Book 2 ,64

Cyril of Jerusalem, 312-386

Lecture IV 18″Know also that thou hast a soul self governed, the noblest work of God, made after the image of its Creator, immortal because of God that gives it immortality, a living being rational, imperishable, because of Him that bestowed these gifts: having free power to do what it willeth.”20″There is not a class of souls sinning by nature and a class of souls practising righteousness by nature; but both act from choice, the substance of their souls being of one kind only and alike in all.”21″The soul is self-governed: and though the Devil can suggest, he has not the power to compel against the will. He pictures to thee the thought of fornication: if thou wilt, thou rejectest. For if thou wert a fornicator of necessity then for what cause did God prepare hell? If thou wert a doer of righteousness by nature and not by will, wherefore did God prepare crowns of ineffable glory? The sheep is gentle, but never was it crowned for its gentleness; since its gentle quality belongs to it not from choice but by nature.” / Lecture IV 18, God’s Strategy in Human History by Roger T Forster & V Paul Marston

Learn this also, that before it came into this world, your soul had committed no sin, but we come into the world unblemished, and, being here, sin of our own choice. Do not listen, I say, to anyone who expounds ‘If then I do that which I would not’ in the wrong sense, but remember who says, ‘If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat of the good land; but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword,’ and what follows.” (Catechetical Lectures IV . 19)

And you must know your soul to be endowed with free-will, and to be God’s fairest work in the image of himself. It is immortal in as far as God grants it immortality. It is a rational living creature not subject to decay, because these qualities have been bestowed by God upon it. And it has the power to do what it chooses. For you do not sin because you were born that way, nor if you fornicate is it by chance. And do not take any notice of what some people say, that the conjunctions of the stars compel you to fall into unclean living. Why should you avoid acknowledging that you have done wrong by blaming it onto the stars that had nothing to do with it? (Catechetical Lectures IV . 18 (109)

John Crysostom, 347-407 AD Archbishop of Constantinoplesamvete

All is in God’s power, but so that our free-will is not lost . . . It depends therefore on us and on Him. We must first choose the good, and then He adds what belongs to Him. He does not precede our willing, that our free-will may not suffer. But when we have chosen, then He affords us much help . . . It is ours to choose beforehand and to will, but God’s to perfect and bring to the end./On Hebrews, Homily 12, God’s Strategy in Human History by Roger T Forster & V Paul Marston

Jerome, 347 – 420 AD, Priest, historian, theologian

God has bestowed us with free will. We are not necessarily drawn either to virtue or vice. For when necessity rules, there is no room left either for damnation or the crown (Doctrine of the Will by Asa Mahan, p. 62, published by Truth in Heart)

Pelagius, 360 – 420, British monk and theologian (with knowledge in Greek, unlike Augustine). Notice below how he is in agreement with all the early church fathers about man’s free will and that we have not inherited Adam’s sin. Pelagius wrote ”On Nature” and ”Defense Of The Freedom Of The Will”, and in these he suggests that Augustine has been affected by Manicheanism (Augustine was a former gnostic) by mixing christianity with pagan fatalism. Manicheanism teaches that the spirit is God-created, while the flesh is corrupt since it had not been created directly by God. Augustine is the great heretic and has brought in many heresies into church, and Pelagius continues to be wrongly attacked by christians, despite that he was both Biblical and taught the same things as all the church fathers before him.

Whenever I have to speak on the subject of moral instruction and conduct of a holy life, it is my practice first to demonstrate the power and quality of human nature and to show what it is capable of achieving, and then to go on to encourage the mind of my listener to consider the idea of different kinds of virtues, in case it may be of little or no profit to him to be summoned to pursue ends which he has perhaps assumed hitherto to be beyond his reach; for we can never end upon the path of virtue unless we have hope as our guide and compassion…any good of which human nature is capable has to be revealed, since what is shown to be practicable must be put into practice. (The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers by B. R. Rees, pg 36-37, published by The Boydell Press)

It was because God wished to bestow on the rational creature the gift of doing good of his own free will and the capacity to exercise free choice, by implanting in man the possibility of choosing either alternative...he could do either quite naturally and then bend his will in the other direction too. He could not claim to possess the good of his own volition, unless he was the kind of creature that could also have possessed evil. Our most excellent creature wished us to be able to do either but actually to do only one, that is, good, which he also commanded, giving us the capacity to do evil only so that we might do His will by exercising our own. That being so, this very capacity to do evil is also good – good, I say, because it makes the good part better by making it voluntary and independent, not bound by necessity but free to decide for itself. (The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers by B. R. Rees, pg 38, published by The Boydell Press)

Those who are unwilling to correct their own way of life appear to want to correct nature itself instead. (The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers by B. R. Rees, pg 39, published by The Boydell Press)

And lest, on the other hand, it should be thought to be nature’s fault that some have been unrighteous, I shall use the evidence of the scripture, which everywhere lay upon sinners the heavy weight of the charge of having used their own will and do not excuse them for having acted only under constraint of nature. (The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers by B. R. Rees, pg 43, published by The Boydell Press)

Yet we do not defend the good of nature to such an extent that we claim that it cannot do evil, since we undoubtedly declare also that it is capable of good and evil; we merely try to protect it from an unjust charge, so that we may not seem to be forced to do evil through a fault of our nature, when, in fact, we do neither good nor evil without the exercise of our will and always have the freedom to do one of the two, being always able to do either. (The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers by B. R. Rees, pg 43, published by The Boydell Press)

Nothing impossible has been commanded by the God of justice and majesty…Why do we indulge in pointless evasions, advancing the frailty of our own nature as an objection to the one who commands us? No one knows better the true measure of our strength than he who has given it to us nor does anyone understand better how much we are able to do than he who has given us this very capacity of ours to be able; nor has he who is just wished to command anything impossible or he who is good intended to condemn a man for doing what he could not avoid doing. (The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers by B. R. Rees, pg 53-54, published by The Boydell Press)

Grace indeed freely discharges sins, but with the consent and choice of the believer. (The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers by B. R. Rees, pg 92, published by The Boydell Press)

Obedience results from a decision of the mind, not the substance of the body. (The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers by B. R. Rees, pg 90, published by The Boydell Press)

I verily believe, the real heresy of Pelagius was neither more nor less than this: The holding that Christians may, by the grace of God, (not without it; that I take to be a mere slander,) ‘go on to perfection;’ or, in other words, ‘fulfill the law of Christ.’ John Wesley

Here is a good video when it comes to the topic of Augustine’s corruption of the church:

Annonser

Did AUGUSTINE corrupt the church with gnostic doctrine? (Yes)

This is a well researched must-see film for all who are curious about the views prior to Augustine of Hippo who lived between 350-430 AD. We often hear about the views of Martin Luther and Jean Calvin, but many of their views actually derive from Augustine. What views did the early church fathers have who lived beyond him? We can see that they unanimously and without exception believed in man’s free will and none of them believed that man is born with a sinful nature or inherited Adam’s sin. You can read more quotes from the website eternaltruth.us or my blog article here.

The Bible says:

Jude 1:3 Beloved, 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

This means that we should pay close attention to what these early saints had to say about salvation since the ”faith” was once delivered to them and since Jude here exhorts us to earnestly contend for this faith. (Naturally this doesn’t exempt us from our responsibility to compare everything we read and hear with scripture. ) Since ALL of the early church fathers (before the time of Augustine) believed in free will, and NONE believed in ”once saved always saved NOR that man is born with a sinful nature AND (most importantly) since the BIBLE teaches the same things, then we should be completely confident about what the true doctrines really are which Jude is referring to. The only ones who taught the opposite were the GNOSTICS, and Augustine (a former gnostic) sadly brought in many gnostic ideas into church which we have been deceived by ever since. It’s time to go back the teachings of the early church, which are based on the Bible. God is not a God of confusion and is able to reveal the real truth to us in the Bible. The false idea that babies are born in sin is nothing but gnostic heresy and yet this falsehood is rather common worldwide in our churches today.

SABBATH DAY on Saturday or Sunday doesn’t matter

The Sabbath Day was part of the Israeli Covenant, but we are now living under the New Testament, and it’s faith and baptism that are the major signs for a follower of Jesus.

I think the best explanation for the need of a day of rest is found in Exodus 22. God created the heavens and the earth in six days for a reason, and that’s because he wanted to make it as a foundation for us – as a life pattern when it comes to work and rest. We should take the original creation week as an example to follow in our every day lives. If we didn’t have this work-6-days-and-rest-1-day-pattern, there is a risk we would work and struggle all days alike, especially if we would notice that ”everyone else does it so why should I be any different? I don’t want to come across as lazy”.

Exodus 22:Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

The Sabbath was to be a sign between God and the children of Israel in the old testament, and it was very serious to break the law of the Sabbath. The death penalty applied! This might sound harsh for us today, but we must remember that the Israelites were supposed to mirror God’s light also unto the gentiles so if God would look between his fingers when it came to breaking his law all other people would get the message that it’s not a big deal whether to obey the God of Israel or not.

Exodus 12:Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.16 And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.

Exodus 31:13 Speak thou also UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. 14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.17 IT IS A SIGN BETWEEN ME AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL FOR EVER: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.

The Jewish custom was, and still is today, to observe the Sabbath day on Saturday. There are also many references in the book of Acts about the early Christian church meeting together on a Saturday to pray and study the Scriptures, like in Acts 13:13-14, 16:13 and 17:2. Every mention of the Sabbath in the book of Acts are always in connection with Jewish worship on that day. Paul constantly went to the temple to preach (sometimes he was accepted and sometimes he was thrown out) and it was his strategy to try to reach the Jews in their own community where they were to be found. Peter said:

Acts 15:21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

It’s possible that the first christians continued meeting on Saturdays (the Sabbath) the first few years since this is what they did as jews, but some believe the early church began meeting on Sundays soon after Christ rose from the dead in honor of the Lord’s resurrection – which took place on a Sunday (or the first day of the week). Many other divine events also happened on a Sunday. After Jesus’ resurrection whenever he met with his disciples and where the day is identified, it is never on the Sabbath but always the first day of the week!Others see the change to meet up on Sundays as a gradual progression over the course of history. Christian groups that adhere to a Sunday worship feel that the Lord’s command was not specifically for the seventh day but rather one day out of the seven week days (which would also make it the 7th day after six days of work). By focusing on worship on Sunday (what many refer to as ”the Lord’s Day”) instead of Saturday, could symbolically represent the acceptance of Christ as Messiah and his broadening blessing and redemption from the Jews to the entire world. That’s not really a sinful reason to highlight Sunday instead of Saturday.

In Russian the word for Sunday is Воскресенье (Voskreseniye) which means”Resurrection”. In other Slavic languages the word means ”no work”, for example Polish: Niedziela, Belorussian: Нядзеля, Croatian: Nedjelja, Serbian and Slovenian: Nedelja, Czech: Neděle,Bulgarian: Неделя. The Modern Greek word for Sunday, Κυριακή, derives from Κύριος (Lord) also, due to its liturgical significance as the day commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, i.e.The Lord’s Day. (Wikipedia)

Acts 2:46 tells us that from the start, the church in Jerusalem met every day in the temple (that’s also where the jews were) and gathered to break bread together in private homes:

Acts. 2:46 And 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,47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Paul instructs the churches to meet together on the first day of the week (Sunday) to give offerings. Traditionally Sunday has always been considered as the first day of the week. If they met up to make such collections, why not take the chance to worship during the same occasion since they were all gathered together? If Saturday was considered THE day of worship, wouldn’t it make more sense for Paul to make a collection during this day since the christians were already gathered?:

1 Cor. 16: 1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.Upon 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.

When Paul met with believers in Troas to worship, preach to them and break bread with them, they gathered on the first day of the week:

Acts 20:And 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.And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together

Jesus explains that the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the sabbath. This could mean that the disciples shouldn’t view the Sabbath day as an obstacle for them but rather arrange their lives in such a way so that they could honor it without having to feel it makes things difficult for them and is a burden in their lives. Today we should approach the day of rest wisely and avoid falling into any ditch. The Apostle John refers to the Lord’s Day (”kuriake hemera”) in Rev. 1:10. ”Kuriake”, meaning ”Lord’s,” later became the Greek word for Sunday.  Jesus claimed to be the Lord of the Sabbath, and that day fell on the seventh day. The majority of Christians observe Sunday as the Lord’s day:

Mark 2:23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

We are not bound by a certain day

Jesus is the fulfilling of the Old Sabbath and our rest is in Him. We now commit to that rest as we continue in the faith.

Romans 14 shows that there is personal freedom regarding the observance of holy days. Some might suggest that this passage is only about FOOD, but I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Paul starts off warning about ”doubtful disputations” and that seems to be the core of his argument. He provides the subject of food as his first example of where disputations might occur, and his point is that we should not judge each concerning minor issues such as meat or fasting but let God be the judge. Paul says in Rom. 14:3 that those who eat meat are not better or worse than those who do not eat meat (so judging is out-of-place), but in 1 Cor 8 he has a slightly different point because there he explains that our conduct can affect other people’s spiritual safety. So we should still think about our behavior so we won’t cause others to fall:

1 Cor. 8:8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

In Rom. 5 Paul proceeds with his second example when it comes to ”doubtful disputations” and brings up the way we regard ”days”:

Rom. 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

His point is still that we should not judge each other concerning minor issues:

Rom. 14:For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Also in Col. 2 Christians are instructed not to judge each other regarding the Sabbath days. This might suggest the early christians had already been judged for their different observances of Sabbath and festivals.

Col. 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

This covers:

• days (weekly Sabbaths, corresponding to ”Sabbath days”)
• months (new moons, corresponding to ”a new moon”)
• seasons (the 7 feasts, corresponding to ”festivals”)
• and years (the sabbatical year and the 50th year of Jubilee)

In Galatians 4, Paul is concerned about Christians who are turning back like slaves to legalistic observances of special days:

Gal. 4:But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

We should be ”fully convinced” that whichever day we choose is the right day for us to set aside as a day of worship, and we should not judge or allow anyone to judge us regarding our choice.

How important is Sabbath TODAY?

A person who is born today (2012) will notice when he grows up that SUNDAY is the day when christians normally meet for worship. That’s the case in Scandinavia, the rest of Europe and throughout the whole world – with a few exceptions. So the vast majority of christians. Can we really require that this person must study church history (to find out that we are supposed to celebrate Sabbath on a Saturday) in order to get essential knowledge about Jesus Christ?! This person might not even like to read books, and particularly not about church history and about how jews and christians celebrated the Sabbath 2,000 years ago. One would think that Jesus would have offered us some light in the matter if it was so important to get the days straight, but the main memory we have about Jesus in relation to the Sabbath day is that he broke it. We DO know that it’s important to assemble together with other christians and to live holy! Is it EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that we try to make the christian world start worshiping on Saturdays instead of Sundays, and why? Who is the one getting annoyed when we listen to the exact same sermon on a Sunday instead of Saturday? Paul helped us in his letters by providing us instructions for how to behave in church, but he didn’t mention that there is a particular day that we must meet on.

There are many countries and cities where christians are scarce and that means that there are not that many churches to choose between for worship and fellowship. We can only select among the best churches available. If you insist on that Saturday is THE day to celebrate a Sabbath, then you can of course try to contact the pastor in a church and ask him if he would consider persuading the elders to have church services on Saturdays instead of Sundays. I doubt you will succeed though! And if you have not succeeded, and if there are no other churches available, will you stay home alone? And how Biblical is THAT (to stay away from meetings with other christians)?

When we try to find the best church available in our area, is the question of the Sabbath really that important? Isn’t it more important to investigate what the pastors teach in the church (whenever they do teach), and if the pastors highlight repentance, salvation in Jesus Christ, the blood on the cross, the importance to make other disciples, the spiritual gifts, righteousness, etc? It’s also important to avoid churches which don’t have the Bible as their solid foundation but base their teachings on a person. Of course pastors are bound to color Bible texts with their own understanding (this is what preaching entails), but if they use other scriptures or texts apart from the Bible then we must be on our guard. I’m of course not saying it’s wrong to bring up wise words (or entire sermons) from other christians who have gone before them as long as they are Biblical, but I’m only warning about false prophets who bring in heresy into church and possibly also division.

Society looks completely different today than it did 2,000 years ago. Today it’s common for a family to have both parents working full-time and at a good stretch from home, and that means they might very well be away from home about 11 hours/day (including lunch hour and time for commuting). On top of this they might have to pick up their kids from the daycare center before hurrying home to fix dinner (using groceries that perhaps someone else in the family had time to buy after his/her work or school). For most people they have no option to get an alternative life style since the job that are offered are full-time or no time, and they do need to get a salary to get food on the table and to pay taxes. Needless to say, that when Saturday finally arrives they are very tired and prefer to sleep in late, clean the house, wash clothes, visit parents/relatives and spend some time with the kids. Some also take the chance to go shopping on Saturday, believing Sunday is the day of rest and a day which should not be used for shopping. This mean that they are better prepared in all sorts of way for a worship together with other christians on Sunday, and they might even feel like bringing friends home after the church service because the house is in order after a week’s mess. Had the day of special worship been on a Saturday it could tempt weak christians to stay home from church altogether. Again, Sabbath is made for man and not the other way around. If a village that is blessed to have a church (meaning they have a group of christians in this village), and the church has an arrangement that works very well among them and which isn’t against the Bible in any way, then why not keep it that way?

Can we blame Constantine for that we worship on Sundays?

Constantine is oft blamed for various things, such as the idea that we believe in the trinity due to him, but the change of day was not instituted by him or the pope centuries after the apostles nor was it made to replace the Sabbath day. Some Sabbatarians particularly have the council of Laodicea in mind, held in 364 A.D.  There is much historical evidence to show Sunday worship was a universal practice of all the churches outside the land of Israel by the beginning of the 2nd century. What did take place at that Council was an anti-semitic move to make it illegal for christians to worship on Saturday. There were thousands of christians already worshiping on Sundays. 

”Anti-Judaism played its part in second-century Christian polemic against Jewish Sabbath observance, but it does not follow that it motivated the introduction of Christian Sunday worship. For we have already argued that Sunday worship dates back to the first century, while few second-century writers compare and contrast the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sunday. Derogatory discussions of the Jewish Sabbath do not usually refer to the Christian Sunday. If Sunday were a recent substitute for the Jewish Sabbath, we should expect far more discussion of the superiority of Sunday to the Sabbath.” R. J. Bauckham, From Sabbath to Lord’s Day, p. 271, edited by D.A. Carson.

The old church fathers also promoted worship on a Sunday

Philip Schaff (a noted historian) writes in the Schaff- Herzog Encyclopedia of religious knowledge 1891 Ed., vol.4 Article on Sunday.

”Sunday… was adopted by the early Christians as a day of worship.. . Sunday was emphatically the weekly feast of the resurrection of Christ, as the Jewish Sabbath was the feast of creation. It was called the Lords day, and upon it the primitive church assembled to break bread. No regulations for its observance are laid down in the new testament nor, indeed, is its observance even enjoined. Yet Christian feeling led to the universal adoption of the day, in imitation of the apostolic precedence. In the second century its observance was universal.

In other words these meetings were not to replace the Sabbath but held as a whole new day. There is a view that the Sabbath commemorated a finished creation with rest and the first day commemorates a finished redemption and a new work. The Sabbath is then a day of rest and quiet and the first day is a day of worship and praise. Sabbath means rest, not Saturday.The New Testament Church saw Sunday not as the substitute and replacement for the Jewish Sabbath.  Sunday was not seen as a modification or as a new Sabbath, but as a day that stood on its own merits having its own meaning.

The epistle of Ignatius, AD 107

”Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish Law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace….If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and By His death.”

Barnabas, 120 AD

”Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day, also, on which Jesus rose again from the dead”

The writings of Justin Martyr, AD 145-150 Justin’s ‘Apology’ was written at Rome about the year 140, only 44 years after the apostle John received the vision of The Revelation at Patmos. The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge says this about Justin’s works:

”In these works Justin professes to present the system of doctrine held by all Christians and seeks to be orthodox on all points. The only difference he knows of as existing between Christians concerned the millennium. Thus Justin is an incontrovertible witness for the unity of the faith in the Church of his day, and the fact that the Gentile type of Christianity prevailed.” Quoted by Canright in The Compete Testimony of the Early Fathers, Fleming H. Revell, 1916, pp. 24-25.

NOTE: At this early date, AD 140, the only major difference among Christians was concerning the millennium. At that time they had no disagreement in keeping Sunday, and as you will see, Justin says that was the day on which all Christians worshipped.

In chapter 67 of his first Apology, entitled, ”Weekly Worship of the Christians” writing to the pagan emperor, Justin states:

”…we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought…But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought the change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead.”The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, pp. 185-186 (emphasis added).

Didache, AD 80-90

”And on the day of our lords resurrection, which is the Lord’s day meet more diligently.”

Irenaeus, AD 155-202

”The Mystery of the Lord’s Resurrection may not be celebrated on any other day than the Lord’s Day, and on this alone should we observe the breaking off of the Paschal Feast.”

APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: Church life in the 2nd Century:

”On the day of the resurrection of the Lord–that is, the Lord’s Day–assemble yourself together without fail, giving thanks to God and praising Him for those mercies God has bestowed upon you through Christ.”

Dionysius, AD 170 Dionysius was Bishop of Corinth, the Church which Paul raised up and to which he gave the command about Sunday collections, in I Corinthians 16:1-2:

We passed this holy Lord’s Day, in which we read your letter, from the constant reading of which we shall be able to draw admonition.Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 4, Chapt. 23 

Clement of Alexandria, AD 194

”He, in fulfillment of the precept, keeps the Lord’s day when he abandons an evil disposition, and assumes that of the Gnostic, glorifying the Lord’s resurrection in himself” Book 7, Chapter 12

Ignatius, the third bishop of Antioch, AD 108:

”If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him…Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for ”he that does not work, let him not eat.”…let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week]” ”Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, pp. 62-63

Tertullian of Africa, AD 200: In his Apology, Chapter 16:

”We solemnize the day after Saturday in contradistinction to those who call this day their Sabbath, and devote it to ease and eating, deviating from the old Jewish customs, which they are now very ignorant of.”

Others, with greater regard to good manners, it must be confessed, suppose that the sun is the god of the Christian, because it is a well- known fact that we pray towards the east, or because we make Sunday a day of festivity” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, p. 123).

NOTE: The early church explained why they prayed toward the east. It was because, ”as the lightning which lighteneth from the east and is seen even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be:” that by this we might know and understand that He will appear from the east suddenly” Ancient Syriac Documents, The Ante- Nicene Fathers, vol. 8, p. 668.

Pliny’s letter, AD 107 Pliny was governor of Bithynia, in Asia Minor, from AD 106-108. He wrote in AD 107 to Trajan, the emperor, concerning the Christians:

”They were wont to meet together, on a stated day before it was light, and sing among themselves alternately a hymn to Christ as God….When these things were performed, it was their custom to separate and then to come together again to a meal which they ate in common without any disorder.”

All these quotes prove the Church held Sunday as a significant day long before any edict in the 300’s.

Does the Bible really teach that we should worship on Saturdays?

The day of the week to assemble should be the church’s choice, and many churches today have Saturday services as well as Sunday. The NT has no legislation for which day we are to assemble and history shows the early church chose Sunday because of its significance and not because they hated the Sabbath.

We can find 9 of the commandments from Ex.20:3-4 repeated in the New Testament but the 4thone is not. Maybe there is a reason for this. The Bible offers no command that we must assemble on the Sabbath (Saturday) for worship and there was absolutely no warning against Sunday worship.

At the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, dealing with how the Gentiles are to practice their Christianity, it does not mention the Sabbath. Paul states ”for I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he isa debtor to the whole law. (Gal.5:3) This can be substituted with any part of the Mosaic law; diet, clothing or the Sabbath.  James and Hebrews were written to the dispersed Israel, but they never refer to continue keeping the Sabbath day because even Jewish believers were not obligated. Peter exhorts the leadership of the Church not to place the Gentiles under the Law:

Acts 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they

What some have done is use fear and devious manipulation to prove one is under the wrath of God by simply worshipping on a day apart from the Covenant given to Moses!

Acts 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Note that the Holy Spirit told them NOT to lay upon the Gentiles any greater burden than those essentials. It seems like the Holy Spirit didn’t think Sabbath keeping was essential thing any more. If we are to believe that we need to keep the Sabbath  on Saturdays – just like they did in the OT – then the question is why we should pick and choose among the rules related to this special day, and why we should not also keep these instructions in mind:

-It was to be kept from sunset to sunset (Lev. 23:32)
-No burden was to be carried (Jer. 17:21)
-No fire kindled (Ex. 35:3)
-No Cooking done (Ex. 16:23)
-The penalty for doing any of these things during the Sabbath was DEATH (Numbers 15).

In the New Testament we are provided with lists of SINS that separate us from God and prevent us from entering his kingdom. These lists are often repeated. Nowhere is breaking the Sabbath listed as a sin that causes spiritual death.

If the Sabbath keeping is so important for a disciple of Christ, why didn’t Jesus or his apostles command Sabbath keeping?

We are often asked to find one verse in the Bible that shows the day of worship has been changed from Saturday to Sunday, but this is a moot point because it doesn’t matter what day you worship on.

Quotes from old church fathers, supporting Free will and objecting to the Sinful nature

The first 300-350 years AD we had a complete agreement among the early church fathers that man has a free will, that we are not ”once saved always saved” and that we were not born with some kind of sinful nature which is holding us back to depravity and inability to seek and find God. Are we to believe those years were full of darkness before Augustine entered the scene (354 -430 AD) to finally give us light? The only ones who taught against free will were the gnostics.  All of the early church up to the time of Augustine was unanimous in their belief and understanding of the nature of sin being that of choice.

”Gnostics also believed that mankind was wholly evil and some sects even renounced marriage and procreation. They also believed in two gods, one evil god and one good god. Their teachings are believed to have influenced Saint Augustine in the development of his theology of ”total depravity” of mankind and concept of God. For nine years St. Augustine adhered to Manichaeism, a Persian philosophy proclaimed in southern Babylonia (Iraq) that taught a doctrine of ”total depravity” and the claim that they were the ”elect.” He then turned to skepticism. Next, Augustine was attracted to the philosophy of Neoplatonism. He blended these beliefs with his later Gnostic Christian teachings. His teachings were in turn passed on to John Calvin in his extensive study of Augustine’s writings. It is very easy to follow the trail of John Calvin’s theology from the pagan religion of Mani in Babylonia to his writings in France and Geneva”  Read more here

Unfortunately this new teaching (well, not really knew since the gnostics taught it before Augustine, and he was a former gnostic) lead to many consequences:

A. If we sin, it’s not our fault because our sin nature made us  do it. We are victims – not guilty.
B. A life change is not essential for salvation.  We are not perfect, just forgiven.
C. Jesus was born without sin and therefore different from us and had an unfair advantage. He couldn’t sin and we can’t help but sin. This minimizes what Jesus did for us.

It’s of course possible to take quotes out of a context and make them sound like a person has views he in fact doesn’t have, but that would be nothing but deceptive. A more honest approach would be to quote someone’s clear and general views instead of trying to find some odd quotes out of context to ascribe views to a person he doesn’t have. With or without a broader context, the old church fathers DID hold to the views the quotes clearly reveal. I have seen some attempts where reformed thinkers have listed quotes from early church fathers with the aim to show that they spoke against free will, but after having read them 1) most often the quotes don’t actually say what they claim they say, and are at best ”vague”, and 2) the context and other writings from the same person show that they have the opposing views.

”I read through most of the early Church writings and gathered the quotes personally – to be sure to understand the context and to no miss things. But it is amazing to me that I seem to find more quotes I did not have all the time. It is amazing how much the Early Church was against TULIP! —they [the reformed] refuse to acknowledge it, or must assume that the Early Church fell from the truth taught to them by the Apostles immediately after the Apostles died.” (Lyndon Conn)

Tertullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus) 160-225 AD

Apologist and a polemicist against heresy. He is perhaps most famous for being the oldest extant Latin writer to use the term TrinityCyprian’s teacher.

I find, then, that man was constituted free by God. He was master of his own will and powerFor a law would not be imposed upon one who did not have it in his power to render that obedience which is due to law. Nor again, would the penalty of death be threatened against sin, if a contempt of the law were impossible to man in the liberty of his will…Man is free, with a will either for obedience of resistance. (c. 207, Vol. 3, pp. 300-301)

No reward can be justly bestowed, no punishment can be justly inflicted, upon him who is good or bad by necessity, and not by his own choice.  (c. 207) (Doctrine of the Will by Asa Mahan, p. 61, published by Truth in Heart)

Some people act as though God were under an obligation to bestow even on the unworthy His intended gift. They turn His liberality into slavery…. For do not many afterwards fall out of grace? Is not this gift taken away from many? (Tertullian On Repentance chap. 6.)

The world returned to sin…and so it is destined to fire. So is the man who after baptism renews his sins.  c.197

However, in the case of little children…Let them “come,” then, while they are growing up; let them “come” while they are learning, whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ. Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the “remission of sins? ”…If any understand the weighty import of baptism, they will fear its reception more than its delay.

Irenaeus of Lyons 120-202 AD

The Apostle John  had a disciple named Polycarp, and Polycarp had a disciple named Irenaeus.

”But although we shall be understood, from our argument, to be only so affirming man’s unshackled power over his will, that what happens to him should be laid to his own charge, and not to God’s, yet that you may not object, even now, that he ought not to have been so constituted, since his liberty and power of will might turn out to be injurious…Therefore it was proper that (he who is) the image and likeness of God should be formed with a free will and a mastery of him self;… At present, let God’s goodness alone occupy our attention, that which gave so large a gift to man, even the liberty of his will.” /Chapter 6

And again, who are they that have been saved, and received the inheritance? Those doubtless who do believe in God and who have continued in His love… and innocent children, who have had no sense of evil.

But man, being endowed with reason, and in this respect similar to God HAVING BEEN MADE FREE IN HIS WILL, and with power over himself, is himself his own cause that sometimes he becomes wheat, and sometimes chaff. (c. 180, E/W), 1:466

This expression, ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldst not,’ set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free (agent) from the beginning, possessing his own soul to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will (toward us) is present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. And in man as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves…  (c. 180, Against Heresies 37; God’s Strategy In Human History, p. 246)

”Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds”…And ”Why call me, Lord, Lord, and do not do the things that I say?’…All such passages demonstrate the independent will of manFor it is in man’s power to disobey God and to forfeit what is good.” (c.180, Vol. 1, p. 519)

Nor, again, does God exercise compulsion upon anyone unwilling to accept the exercise of His skill…. They have been created free agents and possessed of power over themselves. (c. 180, Vol. 1, p. 523)

But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shineth everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it. Chapter 10

Christ will not die again on behalf of those who now commit sin because death shall no more have dominion over Him…. Therefore we should not be puffed up…. But we should beware lest somehow, after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins but rather be shut out from His kingdom (Heb. 6:4-6) [p. 65].

And to as many as continue in their love towards God, does He grant communion with Him. But communion with God is life and light, and the enjoyment of all the benefits which He has in store. But on as many as, according to their own choice, depart from God. He inflicts that separation from Himself which they have chosen of their own accord. But separation from God is death, and separation from light is darkness; and separation from God consists in the loss of all the benefits which He has in store. Those, therefore, who cast away by apostasy these forementioned things, being in fact destitute of all good, do experience every kind of punishment. God, however, does not punish them immediately of Himself, but that punishment falls upon them because they are destitute of all that is good. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V, XXVII, 2)

Those who do not obey Him, being disinherited by Him, have ceased to be His sons. c.180

[Irenaeus quotes 1 Cor. 6:9-10 about inheriting the kingdom of God.] It was not to those who are outside that he said these things, but to us, lest we should be cast out of the kingdom of God by doing any such thing. He proceeds to say, ”And truly such were you, but you are washed, but you are sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” [1 Cor. 6:11]. And just as [under the old covenant], those who led vicious lives and led other people astray were condemned and cast out, so also even now the offending eye is plucked out, and the foot and the hand, lest the rest of the body perish in the same way. (Against Heresies, IV:27:4)

Ignatius 35-107 AD Bishop of Antioch in Syria. Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John and appointed as Bishop of Antioch by the Apostle Peter.

And pray ye also without ceasing for the rest of mankind (for there is in them a hope of repentance), that they may find God. Therefore permit them to take lessons at least from your works. (Letter to the Ephesians 10:1)

Do not err, my brothers. Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If, then, those who do this in regard to the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with anyone who corrupts the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified, by wicked doctrine? Such a person, becoming defiled, shall go away into everlasting fire and so shall everyone that listens to him. (Letter to the Ephesians 16)

I do not mean to say that there are two different human natures, but all humanity is made the same, sometimes belonging to God and sometimes to the devil. If anyone is truly spiritual they are a person of God; but if they are irreligious and not spiritual then they are a person of the devil, made such not by nature, but by their own choice. Pg.61 vol. 1.

There is set before us life upon our observance [of God’s precepts], but death as the result of disobedience, and every one, according to the choice he makes, shall go to his own place, let us flee from death, and make choice of life.

Clement of Alexandria (Titus Flavius Clemens) 150–215 AD

A theologian who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria. Among his pupils were Origen and Alexander of Jerusalem.

We…have believed and are saved by voluntary choice (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 217)

To obey or not is in our own power, provided we do not have the excuse of ignorance (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 353)

Each one of us who sins with his own free will, chooses punishment. So the blame lies with him who chooses. God is without blame. (c.195, Vol. 2, p. 226)

Neither promises nor apprehensions, rewards, no punishments are just if the soul has not the power of choosing and abstaining; if evil is involuntary. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p.319)

We have heard from the Scriptures that self-determining choice and refusal have been given by the Lord to men. Therefore, we rest in the infallible criterion of faith, manifesting a willing spirit, since we have chosen life. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 349)

The Lord clearly shows sins and transgressions to be in our own power, by prescribing modes of cure corresponding to the maladies. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 363)

Their estrangement is the result of free choice. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 426)

Believing and obeying are in our own power. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 527)

Nor will he who is saved be saved against his will, for he is not inanimate. But above all, he will speed to salvation voluntarily and of free choice. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 534)

Choice depends on the man as being free. But the gift depended on God as the Lord. And He gives to those who are willing, are exceedingly earnest, and who ask. In this manner, their salvation can become their own. For God does not compel. (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 593)

Clement, 80-140 AD 

The first Apostolic Father of the Church.  According to Tertullian, Clement was consecrated by Saint Peter. Early church lists place him as the second or third bishop of Rome after Saint Peter. In Philippians 4:3 Clement is mentioned whose name was written “in the book of life”. Although known as 2 Clement, this document is in actuality an anonymous homily of the mid-second century.

Thus although we are born neither good nor bad, we become on or the other and having formed habits, we are with difficulty drawn from them. Pg 273 vol.8

But inasmuch as inborn affection towards God the creator is sufficient for salvation to those who love Him, the enemy tries to pervert this affection in men, and to render them hostile and ungrateful to their Creator…But if mankind would turn their affection towards God, all would doubtless be saved, even if when they have some faults they would be open to correction for righteousness, but now most of mankind have been made enemies of God, their hearts the wicked one has entered, and has turned aside towards himself the affection which God the Creator had implanted in them, which He, God, desires that they might have towards Him. Pg.101 Vol.8

1 Clement 7:4 Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ and understand how precious it is unto His Father, because being shed for our salvation it won for the whole world the grace of repentance.

1 Clement 7:5 Let us review all the generations in turn, and learn how from generation to generation the Master hath given a place for repentance unto them that desire to turn to Him.

For, if we do the will of Christ, we shall find rest; but if otherwise, then nothing shall deliver us from eternal punishment, if we should disobey His commandments. 2 Clement 6:7

…with what confidence shall we, if we keep not our baptism pure and undefiled, enter into the kingdom of God? Or who shall be our advocate, unless we be found having holy and righteous works? 2 Clement 6:9

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’. 2 Clement 7:6

So, brothers and sisters, if we have done the will of the Father and have kept the flesh pure and have observed the commandments of the Lord, we will receive eternal life (2 Clement 8:4)

So then He meaneth this, Keep the flesh pure and the seal unstained, to the end that we may receive life. 2 Clement 8:6  

Let us, then, not only call him Lord, for that will not save us. For he says, ”Not every one that says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall be saved, but he that does righteousness.” Therefore, brothers, let us confess him by our works, by loving one another, by not committing adultery, speaking evil of one another, or cherishing envy; but being continent, compassionate, and good. … By such works let us confess him, and not by those that are of an opposite kind. It is not fitting that we should fear men, but rather God. For this reason, if we should do such wicked things, the Lord has said, “Even if you were gathered together to me, into my very bosom, yet if you were not to keep my commandments, I would cast you off and say to you, ‘Depart from me … you workers of iniquity.‘” (2 Clement 4) Hermas, c. A.D. 160

It is therefore in the power of every one, since man has been made possessed of free-will, whether he shall hear us to life, or the demons to destruction. 

He who is good by his own choice is really good; but he who is made good by another under necessity is not really good, because he is not what he is by his own choice… 

For no other reason does God punish the sinner either in the present or in the future world, except because He knows that the sinner was able to conquer but neglected to gain the victory.

Justin Martyr 110-165 AD

For He fore-knows that some are to be saved by repentance, some even that are perhaps not yet born. In the beginning He made the human race with the power of thought and of choosing the truth and doing right, so that all men are without excuse before God; for they have been born rational and contemplative Chapter 28

Let some suppose, from what has been said by us, that we say that whatever occurs happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to THE MERIT OF EACH MAN’S ACTIONS. Now, if this is not so, but all things happen by fate, then neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it is predetermined that this man will be good, and this other man will be evil, neither is the first one meritorious nor the latter man to be blamed. And again, unless the human race has the power of avoiding evil and CHOOSING GOOD BY FREE CHOICE, they are not accountable for their actions.  (c. 160, E), 1:177

But neither do we affirm that it is by fate that men do what they do, or suffer what they suffer, but that each man by free choice acts rightly or wronglyThe stoics, not observing this, maintained that all things take place according to the necessity of fate. But since God, in the beginning made the race of men and angels with free will they will justly suffer in eternal fire the punishment of whatever sins they have committed, and this is the nature of all that is made, to be capable of vice and virtue. For neither would any of them be praiseworthy unless there were power to turn to both. (vice and virtue) 2 Apology ch.7  (+ The Anti-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I, p.354)

In the beginning, He made the human race with the power of thought AND OF CHOOSING the truth and doing right, so that all men are without excuse before God.  (c. 160, E), 1:172

I have proved in what has been said that those who were foreknown to be unrighteous, whether men or angels, are not made wicked by God’s fault. Rather, each man is what he will appear to be through his own fault. (c.160, Vol. 1, p. 269)

Neither do we maintain that it is by fate that men do what they do, or suffer what they suffer. Rather, we maintain that each man acts rightly or sins BY HIS FREE CHOICE….Since God in the beginning MADE THE RACE OF ANGELS AND MEN WITH FREE WILL, they will justly suffer in eternal fire the punishment of whatever sins they have committed.  (c. 160, E), 1:190

He created both angels and men free to do that which is righteous. And He appointed periods of time during which He knew it would be good for them to have the exercise of free will. (c. 160, Vol. 1, p. 250)

I hold further, that those of you who have confessed and known this man to be Christ, yet who have gone back for some reason to the legal dispensation, an have denied that this man is Christ, and have not repented before death – you will by no means be saved . c.160

Methodius 260-312 AD Bishop of Olympus.

I say that God – purposing to honor man in this manner and to grant him an understanding of better things – has given man the power of being able to do what he wishes. He commends the use of his power for better things. However, it is not that God deprives man again of free will. Rather, He wishes to point out the better way. For the power is present with man, and he receives the commandment. But God exhorts him to turn his power of choice to better things. (c. 290, Vol. 6, p. 362)

I do not think that God urges man to obey His commandments, but then deprives him of the power to obey or disobey…. He does not give a command in order to take way the power that he has given. Rather, He gives it in order to bestow a better gift…in return for his rendered obedience to God. For man had power to withhold it. I say that man was made with free will. (c. 290, Vol. 6, p. 362)

God is good and wise. He does what is best. Therefore, there is no fixed destiny.” (c. 190, Vol. 6, p.343)

Now those [pagans] who decide that man is not possessed of free will, and affirm that he is governed by the unavoidable necessities of fate…are guilty of impiety toward God Himself, making Him out to be the cause or author of human evils. (c. 190, The Banquet of the Ten Virgins 16; God’s Strategy In Human History, p. 252)

Because there is nothing evil by nature, but it is by use that evil things become suchman was made with free-will, not as if there were already evil in existence, which he had the power of choosing if he so wished, but on account of his capacity of obeying or disobeying God. For this was the meaning of the gift of free will.

If then, any are evil, they are evil in accordance with the wants and desires of their minds, and not by necessity. They perish self-destroyed, by their own fault.’For a man is not spoken of as ‘murderer’ but by committing it he receives the derived name of murderer. Evil is not a substance, but by practicing any evil it can be called evil…for a man is evil only in consequences of his actions. For he is said to be evil because he is a doer of evil. It is a persons actions that gives them the title of evil. Men produce the evil and are the authors of them. It is through actions that evil exists. Each man is evil in consequences of what they practice. It all has a beginning.

For man received power, and enslaved himself, not because he was overpowered by irresistible tendencies of his nature, nor because the capacity with which he was gifted deprived him of what was better for him…I say therefore, that God purposing thus to honor man…has given him the power of being able to do what he wishes, and commends the employment of his power for better things; not that he deprives him again of free will, but wishes to point out the better way. For the power is present with him and he receives the commandment; but God exhorts him to turn his power of choice to better things.

Arnobius 297-303 AD

Does He not free all alike who invites all alike? Or does He thrust back or repel any one from the kindness of the supreme, who gives to all alike the power of coming to Him. To all, He says, the fountain of like is open, and no one is kept back or hindered from drinking. If you are so fastidious as to spurn the kindly offered gift… why should he keep on inviting you, while His only duty is to make the enjoyment of His bounty depend on your own free choice. Book 2 ,64

Aristides of Athens – 134 AD (Marcianus Aristides)

And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God, and if furthermore, it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. Apology to Hadrian

Tatian the Syrian 110-172 AD

Our free will has destroyed us. We who were free have become slaves. We have been sold through sin. Nothing evil has been created by God. We ourselves have manifested wickedness. But we, who have manifested it, are able to reject it again.” (c. 160, Vol. 2, pp. 69-70)

Each of these two orders of creatures [men and angels] was made free to act as it pleased. They did not have the nature of good, which again is with God alone. However, it is brought to perfection in men through their freedom of choice. In this manner, the bad man can be justly punished, having become depraved through his own fault. Likewise, the just man can be deservedly praised for his virtuous deeds, since in the exercise of his free choice, he refrained from transgressing the will of God. (c. 160, Vol. 2, p. 67)

Lactantius 260-330 AD

We should be free from vices and sin. For no one is born sinful, but if our affections are given to that direction they can become vices and sinful, but if we use our affections well they become virtues.’ Ch16 bk 4 Divine Inst.

Melito -180 AD Bishop of Sardis near Smyrna

There is, therefore, nothing to hinder you from changing your evil manner to life, because you are a free man. (c.170, Vol. 8, p. 754)

Athenagorus 133-190 AD

Just as with men who have freedom of choice as to bother virtue and vice (for you would not either honor the good or punish the bad; unless vice and virtue were in their own power, and some are diligent in the matters entrusted to them and others faithless), so is it among the angels. (c. 177, Embassy for Christians; God’s Strategy in Human History, p. 247)

Theophilus

If, on the other hand, he would turn to the things of death, disobeying God, he would himself be the cause of death to himself. For God made man free, and with power of himself. (c.180, Vol. 2, p. 105)

Hyppolytus 170 – 235 AD

God, who created [the world], did not nor does not, make evil….Now, man (who was brought into existence) was a creature endowed with a capacity of self-determination, yet he did not possess a sovereign intellect….Man, from the fact of his possessing a capacity for self-determination, brings forth evil….Since man has free will, a law has been given him by God, for a good purpose. For a law will not be laid down for an animal devoid of reason. Only a bridle and whip will be given it. In contrast, man has been given a commandment to perform, coupled with a penalty.” (c. 225, Vol. 5, p.151)

The Word promulgated the divine commandments by declaring them. He thereby turned man from disobedience. He summoned man to liberty through a choice involving spontaneity – not by bringing him into servitude by force of necessity. (c. 225, Vol. 5, p. 152)

Man is able to both will and not to will. He is endowed with power to do both. (c. 225, Vol. 5, p. 152)

Origen (Adamantius) 184/185 – 253/254 AD

The soul does not incline to either part out of necessity, for then neither vice nor virtue could be ascribed to it; nor would its choice of virtue deserve reward; nor its declination to vice punishment.” Again, “How could God require that of man which he [man] had not power to offer Him?” (Doctrine of the Will by Asa Mahan, p. 62, published by Truth in Heart)

This is also clearly defined in the teaching of the church, that every rational soul has free will and volition….we are not forced by any necessity to act either rightly or wrongly. (c. 225, Vol. 4, p. 240)

It seems a plausible thing that rational natures, from whom the faculty of free will is never taken away, may be again subjected to movements of some kind. (c. 225, Vol. 4, p. 272)

Since those rational creatures themselves… were endowed with the power of free will, this freedom of the will incited each one to either progress (by imitation of God), or else it reduced a person to failure through negligence. (c. 225, Vol. 4, p. 292)

In the preaching of the church, there is included the doctrine concerning a just judgment of God. When this teaching is believed to be true, it incites those who hear it to live virtuously and to shun sin by all means. For they clearly acknowledge that things worthy of praise and blame are within our own power. (c. 225, Vol. 4, p. 302)

Certain ones of those [Gnostic’s] who hold different opinions misuse these passages. They essentially destroy free will by introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation and by introducing others as being saved in such a way that they cannot be lost.

Novatian 200–258 AD

When he had given man all things for his service, he willed that man alone should be free. And lest an unbounded freedom would lead man into peril, He had laid down a command, in which man was taught that there was no evil in the fruit of the tree. Rather, he was forewarned that evil would arise if man were to exercise his free will in contempt of the law that had been given him….As a result, he could receive either worthy rewards or a just punishment. For he had in his own power that which he might choose to do. (c. 235, Vol. 5, p. 612)

Eusebius 263 – 233 AD Bishop of Caesarea

A Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon. Considered the father of “Church History” for his extensive writings in ecclesiastical history.

The Creator of all things has impressed a natural law upon the soul of every man, as an assistant and ally in his conduct, pointing out to him the right way by this law; but, by the free liberty with which he is endowed, making the choice of what is best worthy of praise and acceptance, because he has acted rightly, not by force, but from his own free-will, when he had it in his power to act otherwise, As, again, making him who chooses what is worst, deserving of blame and punishment, as having by his own motion neglected the natural law, and becoming the origin and fountain of wickedness, and misusing himself, not from any extraneous necessity, but from free will and judgment. The fault is in him who chooses, not in God. For God is has not made nature or the substance of the soul bad; for he who is good can make nothing but what is good. Everything is good which is according to nature. Every rational soul has naturally a good free-will, formed for the choice of what is good. But when a man acts wrongly, nature is not to be blamed; for what is wrong, takes place not according to nature, but contrary to nature, it being the work of choice, and not of nature!

The devil in his oracles hangs all things upon fate, and taking away that which is in our power, and arises from self-motion of free will… brings this also into bondage to necessity.

Commodianus 250 AD

Being a believing man, if you seek to live as the gentiles do, the joys of the world remove you from the grace of Christ c.240

Cyprian 200-258 AD Bishop of Carthage

It is written, ‘He who endures to the end, the same shall be saved’ [Matt. 10:22]. So whatever precedes the end is only a step by which we ascend to the summit of salvation. It is not the final point wherein we have already gained the full result of the ascent. (Cyprian Unity of the Church sec. 21)

The liberty of believing or not believing is placed in free choice. In Deuteronomy, it says, ‘Look! I have set before your face life and death, good and evil. Choose for yourself life, that you may live. (c. 250, Vol. 5, p. 547)

Shepherd of Hermas

The Muratorian canon, a list of canonical books from about the 3d century, says Hermas was written by the brother of Pius, Bishop of Rome, about 140-154. Author still remains unknown.  The document was composed over a longer period of time. Visions I-IV were composeed during a threatened persecution, probably under Trajan (the Clement of 8:3 could be Clement of Rome). Vision V – Similitude VIII and Similitude X were written perhaps by the same author to describe reprentance to Christians who were wavering. Similitude IX was written to unify the entire work and to threaten those who had been disloyal. This last phase must have occurred before Irenaeus (ca. 175). A preferred date would be 140. On the basis of this internal analysis multiple authorship seems necessary (Giet 1963), though the work could have been composed by one person over a long period of time (Joly 1958).

He that does not know God,” [the angel of repentance] answered, ”and practices evil, receives a certain chastisement for his wickedness, but he that has known God ought not to do evil anymore but to do good. If, accordingly, when he ought to do good, he does evil, does he not appear to do greater evil than the one who does not know God? For this reason, those who have not known God and do evil are condemned to death, but those who have known God and have seen his mighty works and still continue in evil shall be chastised doubly and shall die forever. This is the way the Church of God will be purified.” (Shepherd of Hermas III:9:8)

If you do not guard yourself against anger you and your house will lose all hope of salvation. Hermas c.150

The Epistle of the Apostles 2nd century

A work from the New Testament apocrypha. The work was lost to the West until a complete version in Ethiopic translation was discovered and published in the early twentieth century. The text was used regularly by the relatively isolated Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and was evidently not considered heretical by that church. A fragmentary Coptic manuscript of the fifth or fourth century, believed to be translated directly from the original Greek, and one leaf of a Latin palimpsest, dating to the fifth century, were then identified as deriving from the same text. The text is commonly dated to the 2nd century, perhaps towards the middle of it.

 27 ”For to that end went I down unto the place of Lazarus, and preached unto the righteous and the prophets, that they might come out of the rest which is below and come up into that which is above; and I poured out upon them with my right hand the water (?) (baptism, Eth.) of life and forgiveness and salvation from all evil, as I have done unto you and unto them that believe on me. But if any man believe on me and do not my commandments, although he have confessed my name, he hath no profit therefrom but runneth a vain race: for such will find themselves in perdition and destruction, because they have despised my commandments.”28 …Then said he unto us: Verily I say unto you, all that have believed on me and that believe in him that sent me will I take up into the heaven, unto the place which my Father hath prepared for the elect, and I will give you the kingdom, the chosen kingdom, in rest, and everlasting life. 29 But all they that have offended against my commandments and have taught other doctrine, (perverting) the Scripture and adding thereto, striving after their own glory, and that teach with other words them that believe on me in uprightness, if they make them fall thereby, shall receive everlasting punishment. We said unto him: Lord, shall there then be teaching by others, diverse from that which thou hast spoken unto us ? He said unto us: It must needs be, that the evil and the good may be made manifest; and the judgment shall be manifest upon them that do these things, and according to their works shall they be judged and shall be delivered unto death. And we said unto him: Lord, will they that believe be treated like the unbelievers, and wilt thou punish them that have escaped from the pestilence? And he said unto us: If they that believe in my name deal like the sinners, then have they done as though they had not believed. And we said again to him: Lord, have they on whom this lot hath fallen no life? He answered and said unto us: Whoso hath accomplished the praise of my Father, he shall abide in the resting-place of my Father.

Epistle of Barnabas 70-100AD

A Greek text preserved complete in the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus where it appears at the end of the New Testament. It is traditionally ascribed to Barnabas who is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. A form of the Epistle 850 lines long is noted in the Latin list of canonical works in the 6th century Codex Claromontanus. It is not to be confused with the Gospel of Barnabas.

The Lord will judge the world without respect… of persons. Each will receive as he has done: if he is righteous, his righteousness will precede him; if he is wicked, the reward of wickedness is before him. Take heed, lest resting at our ease, as those who are the called [of God], we should fall asleep in our sins, and the wicked prince, acquiring power over us, should thrust us away from the kingdom of the Lord. And all the more attend to this, my brethren, when ye reflect and behold, that after so great signs and wonders were wrought in Israel, they were thus [at length] abandoned. Let us beware lest we be found [fulfilling that saying], as it is written, “Many are called, but few are chosen.”

We take earnest heed in these last days, for the whole time of your faith will profit you nothing unless now, in this wicked time, we also withstand coming sources of danger, as befits the sons of God. (Letter of Barnabas 4)

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.