Christianity Is Not a Surrogate For Christ
More and more people of a Christian background are disenchanted with irrelevant corporate Christianity, aka Churchianity, especially in these uncertain times. A Gallup Poll released in June 2015 shows, "American's confidence in the church and organized religion has fallen dramatically over the past four decades, hitting an all-time low this year of 42% ... The church and organized religion is losing its footing as a pillar of moral leadership in the nation's culture. Once reliably at the top of Gallup's confidence in institutions list, it now ranks fourth behind the military, small business and the police, and just ahead of the medical system ... the nation is becoming less Christian and less religious ...." By the looks of things, this is more the case today. [Religion Poll].
As a result of this ongoing decline in trust and moral leadership, many are turning to alternative religions, or are becoming atheists. [See the Sneakers article, The Church Of No God]. However, this is a bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water. The mistake many of these turned-off folks make is the assumption that corporate Christian religion truly represents the word of God as contained in the Biblical record. It doesn't. Therefore, our first choice should be to turn directly to the word of God, and our Savior Jesus Christ, which is our own heritage as found in the Biblical record. [1 Tim. 2:5].
After all, the true church is a collection of ones [Greek, heis], as in you and me. It is available to those who seek it. "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." [Heb. 4:16]. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you: for every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, who if his son asks for bread, will he give him a stone?" [Mat. 7:7-9].
A well-known author said she was quitting Christianity, but not Jesus Christ. Many of those in the Christian churches, the true believers, be they Protestant or Catholic, have a difficult time distinguishing the difference between the two it seems. As one leader of a well-known "Christian corporation" wrote in the Christian Post regarding this, "... she still loves Jesus, but she doesn't love Christianity. Yet, I know that it is impossible to love Jesus without loving his church."
The critical point of understanding here is that incorporated, denominational Christianity is not the church, or ekklesia in Greek, as it is in the Biblical record. Conflating the two is a false pathway. As Christ said, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." [Luke 20:25]. We need to ask ourselves, then, is a church charter of incorporation for tax purposes, etc., "Caesar's" or God's? And we know from the Biblical record, "No man can serve two masters ... You cannot serve God and mammon [that which is trusted in, i.e., money, riches]." [Mat. 6:24]. Therefore, our author made her choice to follow Christ and his teachings from the first century rather than a 21st century religious corporation.
When the author said she was quitting Christianity, she was referring to Churchianity, the tens of thousands or so man-made religious organizations, not the church of the Biblical record established by Christ and the apostles in the first century. What she was returning to was the one-on-one relationship with God the Father through Christ as our sole mediator as set forth in the Biblical record. It is as she said. She left organized, monetized religion for Christ. The two are not one in the same, never have been.
How can you be a Christian if you don't know the basic tenets of Christianity as put forth by Paul in the New Testament? [See the Feature article, You Know You're A Christian When ...]. How can you be a Christian if you believe you are a gentile? [Mat. 15:24; see the Feature article, Moving Forward]. How can you be a Christian when you celebrate pagan holidays, ignorant of the plan of God? [See the Feature article, The Relevance Of The Holy Days In The Plan Of God In The Last Days]. Do we have the love of the truth of the word of God or not?
There is only one body of Christ. "... so we, brethren, being many, are one body in Christ, and each one [Greek heis, cardinal number one, indivisable] members of one another." [Rom. 12:5]. The key here is individual, or only one. As the apostle Paul made clear, "Now you are the body of Christ, and each a member as one," not denominationally, or as a group. [1 Cor. 12:27]. Individual as in indivisble, and not the tens of thousands of denominations as in divisible, comprise the ekklesia. The collection of individuals, each one called and chosen who have the Spirit of God, make up the body of Christ, not a collection of denominations. [1 Cor. 12:18-20; see the Sneakers article, Peace On Earth?].
It's plain and simple. Individuals have the Spirit of God, religious organizations do not. The ekklesia are those individuals united in the body of Christ by the Spirit of God. Therefore, the true church is an entity of the Spirit led by our high priest Jesus Christ. [Heb. 3:1]. "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to every individual purposefully." [Greek, boulomai, having a purpose, 1 Cor. 12:11]. Man-made church organizations are not the ekklesia. The body of Christ is, therefore, made up of individuals with the Spirit of God, not incorporated denominations with charters, constitutions and by-laws. The ekklesia are individuals who are passionate about learning and living by the truth. They are truth believers rather than true believers. They have the conviction of the love of the truth rather than the love of religion and pagan holidays.
So what is the primary difference between a truth believer and a true believer? According to Eric Hoffer, in his classic work, The True Believer, a true believer is involved in a mass movement, that is, the group as opposed to the individual. It's group-think acceptance of ideas and doctrines as opposed to proving the truth to one's self. [1 Ths. 5:21]. This is why people can be a Lutheran in one city, and effortlessly become a Methodist when they move to a different city even though each denomination requires adherence to its particular set of beliefs. It's the group, or safety in numbers approach to Christianity. One group is as good as another. But, there are no piggy-back rides into the kingdom of God.
In terms of our faith and salvation, there is only one mediator between any Christian and God, and that is Christ. No man or organization can step between us. [See the Sneakers article, 23 Skidoo]. Our individual relationship with God is governed by the Spirit of God, which abides in us. "For there is one God and one Mediator [not 40,000] between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." [1 Tim. 2:5; see the Sneakers article, One, Two, Three More Or Less].
The reason it says the man [Greek, anthropos] Christ is to make clear now that while Christ is not on Earth, some man can't claim to stand in for him here on Earth and represent Christ. No one can do that. No one. That's why the true ekklesia follow Christ in the Spirit and truth, not an institution led by men. It is our body that is the temple of God for those having the Spirit of God, not a physical temple or church building. [1 Cor. 6:19]. This is why we can't "go to church." We are the church, the ekklesia.
As individuals, we are led by the Spirit on our path to God. "But the anointing [God's Spirit] which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him." [1 John 2:27]. The point made is that when we have the Spirit of God giving us life, we are taught the truth of the word of God, rather than organizational doctrine, by the Spirit because we abide in the body of Christ. No man, or religious organization can substitute themselves into this relationship on our behalf.
A mediator is one who is the means of communication between two parties as would be the case of a person negotiating an agreement on behalf of another person, or in the case of Christians, a covenant, which would be the Abrahamic covenant made with Abraham and his Seed, Christ. [See the Feature article, We're Abraham's Seed And Heirs]. "But now he has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as he is also mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises." [Heb. 8:6].
Of course, many will point out that Paul outlined the qualifications for a bishop or overseer. "This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of an overseer [bishop, Greek, episkope] he desires a good work." [1 Tim. 3:1]. Corporate churches may claim this implies a heirarchical organization, but this is not what Paul was intending. First of all, the emphasis here is on the work involved, rather than the office and title. It is more akin to a shepherd in the field, one on one, tending to and protecting the flock. Today, twenty centuries removed, the office of overseer has evolved into a formal governing position with the organizational title of Bishop complete with appropriate regalia including large pointy hats, luxurious robes and kissable gold rings. The dress code for shepherds out in the fields with their flocks is just a tad different than these gilded corporate employees.
In the Roman Church, for example, "a bishop is an ordained minister who holds the fullness of the sacrament of holy orders and is responsible for teaching doctrine, governing Catholics in his jurisdiction, and sanctifying the world." Wow, that's ambitious. This is no where near the ballpark for what Paul intended as an overseer of the ekklesia. A true bishop is to teach the truth of the word of God, not organizational doctrine. There is no jurisdictional authority over any Christian except by Christ and our Father. "For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in body and in spirit, which are God's," not the Bishop's. [1 Cor. 6:20]. The office of a bishop or elder as Paul intended it, therefore, is like being a shepherd, a steward, of someone else's flock [Christ's], versus being a hierarchical official in an institutionalized church charged with "sanctifying the world," despite how "I sanctified the world" might look on a CV. As Christ bought us with his blood, Christ alone is our mediator. "You are bought with a price; be not the servants of men." [1 Cor. 7:23; Audio: Be Not The Servants Of Men].
Rather, the example of Paul's ministry is what was intended. [See 1 Cor. 12:31]. Someone laboring in Godly humility to spread the one gospel to the nations of the House of Israel, comforting and guiding them and working, as a tentmaker like Paul, if need be. "For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you ("we did not eat anyone’s bread free of charge," 2 Ths. 3:8), we preached to you the gospel of God." [2 Ths. 2:9; see the Feature article, What Exactly Is The Gospel?].
This position or work locally would be like that of an elder. As Paul wrote to Titus, "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders [presbyteros] in every city as I commanded you-- if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife [it's okay to be married Vatican, with the added benefit of avoiding gay orgies and pedophile priests], having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For an overseer [episkops] must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not eager for money ...." [Titus 1:5-7; see Vatican Billions; also Vatican Bank].
As our author noted, she was leaving religious organizations and returning to Christ. This is in line with the point made by Peter. "For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your lives." [1 Pet. 2:25]. Peter is making it clear that our Shepherd and Overseer is Christ, our sole mediator, and not one of the 40,000 or so denominations and their officials that constitute "Christianity." Christianity is not a surrogate for Christ. We cannot abdicate our individual Christian responsibility to a church organization with its varying doctrines, Bishops, corporate charters and requests for money. And neither can any church organization abrogate Christ's authority as our Mediator and Shepherd. [See the Sneakers article, Nope To Pope].
The purpose of the first century apostles, pastors, overseers, etc., was to spread the gospel, the good news, and nurture the flock with the truth, for the Spirit of God is not the domain of anyone's organization. The same holds true today. "And He Himself gave some as apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors [shepherds] and teachers, for the equipping of the saints [Eph. 6:11], for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the [one] body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith [rather than the disunity of 40,000 denominations] and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-- Christ." [Eph. 4:11-15; see the Feature article, The Risk Of Loving The Truth].
Paul was writing to the ekklesia in Ephesus about 60 CE, during his first imprisonment in Rome, explaining how that various gifts were given to individuals who were there to help spread the good news, the gospel to the House of Israel [Mat. 15:24, Mat. 10:5, 6], delivering the truth in Christian love that we grow in all things in Christ by the Spirit of God. The phrase, " ... for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" does not mean forming organizations led by men. For the work, [Greek, ergon] means laboring. The ministry, [Greek, diakonia] refers to that which is in service to God. Edifying the body of Christ, [Greek, oikodome] literally means to build up or metaphorically to promote growth. This was done without forming any corporate-like entity. The body of Christ is of the Spirit of God. We do not need to go through any church organization to reach God.
Wedging church organizations and hierarchies between individuals and Christ is not a function of the true church. The true church is an entity of the Spirit, the body of Christ, with one mediator for all Christians, Jesus Christ. The church is the family of God, an unincorporated family. And as individual Christians, therefore, we grow in the Spirit at different rates, much like trees in a forest. With incorporated denominations, their "take it or leave it" doctrinal differences have led to more than 40,000 church organizations. As individuals, we grow into the truth at our own pace within the body of Christ through the Spirit of God. [See Mark 4:8].
Paul delivered these teachings in the first century. With Paul, as well as the other apostles, their labor was in service to God, to spread the good news to all the nations of the House of Israel until all individuals come into the unity of faith. In other words, until all the nations of the House of Israel heard the same message of the truth, not 40,000 versions of it. Christ is not divided. Churchianity is.
With a myriad of church organizations today claiming to be the true church, it may be difficult for us to realize we are the ekklesia, each one of us as individuals. We don’t need to belong to a denomination to be a Christian. Many of these “true churches” tell us that if we leave their organization, we are leaving our chance for salvation and attaining the kingdom of God. This is pure hogwash, bunkum and codswallop, not to mention a huge load of cow manure.
When any organization uses fear as a motivator to prevent us from going directly to God through Christ as made plain in the Biblical record, they are lying. They're probably more anxious about losing our financial contributions. [See Mat. 10:8, 1 Cor. 2:12]. The only true church organization is each one of us led by the Spirit of God, with Christ as our mediator to our Father. [See the Preface to The Blind Man's Elephant, a complimentary PDF at the bottom of the Home page].
So when the author said she was leaving Christianity for Christ, she was leaving the divided, religious corporate structure for going to our Father in heaven with Christ as the mediator as it tells us in the Biblical record. The ekklesia are those individuals who do likewise, seeking the truth with a pure heart, being taught of the Spirit, walking the narrow path that leads to life. "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." [1 Tim. 2:5]. Not even "Christianity" can take His place in our lives.
Italics and [ ] are the author's.
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"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."