Tag Archives: religion

OH, THAT WRETCHED WORD ‘CHURCH’

English translators of the scriptures saw the New Testament with religious (catholic) lenses. So these obeyed the politico-religious powers and consistently translated the Greek word ekklesia into a current religious word, ‘church’ which everyone already knew, being taught and accepted as truth, instead of the real meaning of the Greek word, which is assembly or gathering—a word in the Ancient World which had no religious or institutional connotations at all. None.

This is clearly shown by the translators’ inconsistency in translating the same Greek word by assembly or gathering three times in Acts 19—the story of Paul’s gospel stirring up the silversmiths in Ephesus—instead of the c… word! Check me out. I kid you not.

Ekklesia always meant assembly or gathering in the Ancient World of the New Testament period. When Paul wrote to those gatherings of Jesus’ people in the New Testament period, he qualified the word ekklesia by e.g., the ekklesia in God the Father and His son at . . . . (wherever—Corinth, etc) or similar language. It had to be distinguished from all the other local gatherings—religious, political or commercial which abounded in great numbers.  Get it?

And if Paul was talking about more than one gathering of believers, he used the plural, ekklesiai, gatherings. So we read about the “assemblies or gatherings of Judea” and not “the gathering of Judea”. John does not address any “assembly of or in Asia” in the Book of Revelation but as “the seven gatherings in Asia”. Seven! And that’s because they are assemblies not denominations or institutional religious organisations.

In fact, a strong case can be made that ekklesia originally meant “a gathering actually gathered” so that when the assembly broke up there was no longer a gathering. For example the riotous assembly, Acts 19:41. Naturally for a group of believers meeting regularly it would continue in their minds as a spiritual gathering, a virtual one, which had a (hopeful) continuity while not meeting—though could never be guaranteed that it would gather again exactly the same as it did the previous time.

So it’s like our parliaments which sit for a period but then when not sitting, there is no parliament. And a city council is really only a council when it is meeting. The employees are not the actual council, are they?

William Tyndale in his groundbreaking 16th Century English New Testament translation, rendered ekklesia as ‘congregation’ which then had no traditional religious connotation. This led to his being persecuted and strangulated by the religious establishment—that’s 1534 English history.

So why did the English Bible translators three times translate ekklesia as ‘assembly’ in the story in Acts (Acts 19:32, 39, 41)? The word church clearly wouldn’t fit these three meeting contexts. But wearing their religious glasses, they consistently translated the Greek word in other contexts as ‘church’ as if this Roman Catholic term was its equivalent and not as the word was understood in the Ancient World.

A century later, the translators of the King James Version (KJV)  were commanded by James the King of England to abide by about 14 conditions one of which the Greek word ekklesia had to be translated as church. They had no option but to do what James wanted so he could maintain his political agenda. They did translate the word as assembly in the Acts 19 story.

You may be interested to know that now we can use a recent scholarly translation called World English Bible (WEB) which translates the Greek word ekklesia with the English word assembly in the New Testament. In this version, the word ‘church’ cannot be found.

What has kept English translators so long to correct this?

Tradition! which obscures the word of God.

We may ask: why did the apostles use the Greek word ekklesia (gathering) and not other words which had a similar meaning? They did not use the word synagogue for the obvious reason that their gatherings were distinguished from those of the Jews.

Now, the Hebrew word qahal (=gathering, assembly) had been used in the Old Testament over 100 times and in the Greek translation of the OT (called the Septuagint or “LXX”) this Hebrew word was translated ekklesia (gathering). The early New Testament writers widely used the LXX and so probably chose this word which was also used by Jesus (see Matthew 16:18 and 18:17—the only places in the 4 gospels).

Simplicity: Hold fast what you received

How simple it all is!

But so much has been added to the simplicity of Christ and as a result, that simplicity has disappeared.

In robbing us of that simplicity and embracing instead the religious ideas of human thinking, what has not been given to us, we have lost just about all.

I invite you to consider with me the utter simplicity of what was revealed to the first communities of Jesus.

For starters, consider these words from the mouth of Jesus to believers recorded for us in the book, Revelation.

 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus . . . . . ‘You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.’” Rev 2:4-5.

“I say to the rest of you in Thyatira ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’”  Rev 2:24-25

 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write  . . . . . . ‘I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.’”  Rev 3:1-3.

And “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia . . . .  ‘I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.’” Rev 3:1, 11

Consider also these words from the pen of apostle John . . .

Let what you have heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you have heard from the beginning abides in you, you will abide in the Son and the Father. 1 John 2:24

Need I comment?

Dare I comment?

If you have ears to hear, then please join me in hearing, that is, obeying.

One Together in God and His Christ

Having prayed to the Father first for his disciples that they may be one “as We are”, Jesus then prayed for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me (John 17:20-23). He therefore prays for you and me —we believers are included in His prayer and ongoing intercessions!

So what is He praying for us, we who have believed in Him through their word? The answer follows with some staggering ‘purpose clauses’. In this post, we look at the first of these.

That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You;

This is the same request he made for the original disciples: that they may be one “as we are”, the Father in Jesus and Jesus in the Father. This is undoubtedly the will of God for you and me, for all followers. Nothing has changed, though we have changed and not for the better.

We are thus connected to the original disciples in the Spirit by the same will of God in Christ! We are meant to be together with them, immersed in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. No change!  There is no change in covenantal privileges and responsibilities from them to us despite the passage of 2000 years. We live in the fellowship of the saints!

This awesome connection, oneness, S. Paul calls the Body of Christ. Jesus calls it My ekklesia.

This is of critical importance in how we understand our relationship with other believers, and how we look at ekklesia. That’s the original word used and badly translated into English as church, where it comes across as a religious concept. The word ekklesia in the original simply meant a gathering of people for a purpose. It had no religious connotation whatsoever. None.

The only ekklesia that is actually of God is the one Jesus is constructing—Matthew 16:18. Humans cannot build this. And we must not try. We are not commanded to do so.  And yet we fail to do what we are instructed—to bring in the harvest, to teach others to be disciples, to love one another and to be ONE together as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You.

But we can be so busy trying to help Him build churches, we fail to experience the glory He wants to display in us. He, not us, is the Architect and the Builder of His ekklesia. We are together members of His glorious Body, the living stones in this spiritual building. Together in Him.  ONE.

And in this glorious fellowship, this temple of God, we are to be one together. One not many.

Jesus’ prayer for you and me, all believers, constantly before the Father, is for our oneness. Do you see that excludes so much activity taken for granted in today’s religious organisations? Thus denominational exclusiveness is a grave error. Control of others is anathema. Selfishness, vainglory, hatred, self-righteousness, arguments, self-justifications, dogmatism causing splits, must all be thrown out.

When we are united together in actually doing what he has commanded—rather than what our precious theology or doctrines or opinions or religious organisations want—when we are abounding in the actual work of the Lord, filled with the Holy Spirit, bearing witness to Him, participating in the making of disciples, reminding, teaching, urging, persuading, encouraging others—in our joy and gladness in serving Him and one another, we leave behind those obstacles to oneness.  We forget our own agendas in favour of His agenda—our ONENESS.

 

It’s not about you. It’s not about us. It’s all about the Father and His Christ. Right?

A New Covenant—Ignored?

God’s first agreement (covenant) with His people, Israel, was defective, wrote the author of the New Testament book The Letter to the Hebrews (8:7-8) so a better was needed. This author shows how much more serious is our attitude and response to the New Covenant (how shall we escape if we ignore its implications, Hebrews 2:1-4).

The new must not be ignored. God’s design practices for corporate worship revealed in the New Covenant/New Testament must be followed. We must not lose His words or replace them by worldly or pagan ideas and practices like clergy—laity, pastor—people.

In this better covenant Jesus is not prevented by death and we are ALL called into the experience of the Lord Jesus in the power of his endless, indestructible life in which he works in us who draw near. He promises to energise within us, in our own life, breathing his life in us, so that it becomes our new nature to love him, delight to do his will—his own life in us.

Have believers gone backwards since Judaism with corporate matters?  In many ways our practices in churches as Christ’s people today are often more bound and institutional and domineering to that of many devout Jews in Jesus’ own day. Jews did not have a pastor or priest ruling over them. Nor did they meet in ‘house-of-the-Lord’ type buildings. Nor was the sharing of the word of God jealously guarded by one (or two) leaders.  The synagogue was a place of discussion and sharing of scriptures by the several.  Common meals were frequently shared together. Plus each synagogue was independently managed. They did not have to toe the line of any outside superintendent, C.E.O., denomination, statement of faith, or any head office!

These churchy practices plainly ignore the New Covenant.

How far we have drifted from the apostles’ teaching and practice! They were liberated from the practices of Judaism, yes, of religion and the Holy Spirit was living in each one! Yet today Christendom is weak, divided up into competing denominations, living “in the flesh” and generally not experiencing the New Covenant. It seems we have a similar situation today to that which our Hebrews author was addressing  (Heb 8:7-8) . . . .

 If the first covenant with God had been all right, there would not have been any need for another one. But the Lord found fault with them and said . . . . . .  (quoting Jer 31:31-34)

I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach or say to one another, “Know the Lord,”
because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’

Can we just go on and on ignoring the New Covenant made at the most tremendous cost to the Father by Jesus?

“If you love me you will keep my commands”  John 14:15

To be continued

BLIND GUIDES

Jesus’ disciples usually had to hold their breath as their master kept pulling down the teachings of the religious leaders, as we read in the gospel narratives.

“Here he goes again … what will he say this time?” they might have been thinking, as they braced themselves to his scathing denunciations.

Matthew 15 records Jesus’ devastating criticism of the leaders and teachers of the Jewish Law in one of these confrontations. These men were the backbone of First Century Judaism and were the ones to whom the ordinary people in the villages of Israel looked for guidance. Jesus had torn strips off them for their adherence to human traditions which obscured or even nullified the true meaning of the word of God. The disciples, anxious to maintain religious diplomacy and not rock the boat, came to him and anxiously asked,

“Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

Then there is this truly unexpected reply from Jesus, ignoring their concerns (as he does so often) . . . .

“Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”   Mat 15:12-14 (NIV)

Just imagine the ramifications of that!

These men taught and practised many things which were like “plants that my heavenly Father has not planted”.  Remember, these were the teachers whose teachings and practices most closely resembled those who would follow Jesus. But the bottom line in the Kingdom of God, Jesus was bringing in is :

Only what the Father has planted will survive

If the Pharisees were blind guides, who was there left to guide the people? And who is there today to show us what the Father has planted?

And who in our current world of 2016 then is not blind? We have countless teachers who will lead untold thousands to fall into a pit of destruction and lostness. Are you following a blind guide?

Our guide must be Jesus. Jesus alone, and his Holy Spirit who speaks to us the things of Christ.

Is your guide your favourite preacher or writer? Or the dogmas of your precious religious party? Or your accumulated assumptions about what God wants from you but which God has never planted?

Many have decided themselves what to plant, what courses of action they will take, but have not heard from the Holy Spirit, from the Lord Jesus, who alone will show what the Father desires.

If the King, is not your guide won’t you “fall into a pit”? If you are not hearing and obeying Him, then are you not obeying a different “father”, like the Pharisees were?

What will be left of all our efforts and strivings if with all our good intentions, our futile plantings will be ripped out by the Father? Take care lest you assume what you are doing is from God.

“We must examine ourselves to see whether we still are in the faith” warns the apostle Paul. What faith? He is referring to the deposit of truth and practice left to us by Jesus and his apostles. Nothing more, nothing less.

We listen to what Jesus teaches, the living word of God, the voice of the Holy Spirit, and obey that, and not the vain traditions of men or what “life teaches us”. If your theology is not Jesus’ theology, cut it off. We must lead people into Jesus not into religious ghettos. Knowing Jesus. Loving him. Right?

A SOUND AND FULL GOSPEL

Sound doctrine must be encouraged right from the start for the newly baptised. That means the teaching of Jesus and the apostles recorded for us in the New Testament documents. An intensive approach is necessary until a foundation and unity in Christ is experienced to bring maturity and stops the person being tossed around by every wind of doctrine. Ephesians 4:1-16 says it all.

The Gospel is enough if it is the full message and based on sound apostolic teaching.

Paul’s letters are packed with warnings to people about losing what has been given at the start. It’s a constant theme. also Peter’s and James and John. The lot.

Sound doctrine in Jesus must replace everything else. Must replace all the additions and sacred cows that have gathered momentum and weight and accumulation by teachers in Christendom and away from the simplicity of Jesus and life, oneness and love centred only in him.

But what tends to happen amounts to adding to what people have already learned.

No. We must start from scratch—from Jesus only. That’s what the first disciples had to do. That’s what we must teach— the New Covenant and what that means, and stress its importance—the simple teaching of who we are in Christ—new men and women—who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. Cant serve two masters.

You cannot live the New Covenant life in Jesus’ blood while remaining in some other covenant, like a covenant of Churchianity or of a man-made organisation, or of a denomination—or one of your own choice.

The whole understanding of doctrine in current historic Churchianity is sick, stuck in a kind of poor renovation of Old Covenant shadows, yet fraught with splits, competitiveness, unbelief, envy, lust for power, desire to make a name for ourselves  . . . . . .

For example, what did Jesus teach about “the church”? Nothing. Just 2 passages in Mathew alone which today do not have the meaning anywhere near what he meant.

Instead Christendom is all about this imported c….. word.

Most people have no idea what the original Greek word (ekklesia) means because its translation to c….. in all English bibles is religious, Romish, worldly, even pagan.  Jesus gave NO command about forming churches. Instead he told us to love one another and sure, that means togetherness, yes. It means caring, service, sacrifice for others, being servants and above all, loving one another. Gathering like they did originally.

He told us to make disciples, heal the sick, set the oppressed free, love one another, lead a holy life, receive the Holy Spirit, walk in the Spirit . . . . . . . . . .

Christendom and its micro offshoots continue to do what he did not command and ignore what He DID command.

Christendom is in most places, a mere shadow of the Old Covenant—and without even the wonderful glory of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant is a shadow of the New Covenant. But we have made the Old Covenant look by comparison far more glorious than what we see today—at least it had a supernatural glory.

The apostles declared that the glory of the New Covenant makes the old look a mere shadow. New Covenant life makes the old seem to have no glory at all says Paul (see 2 Corinthians 3).

You and I must start obeying the sound doctrine of the new covenant! Today.

No time to lose.

THE ANTI-GOSPEL

Whatever happened to the simplicity of Jesus and his Gospel? Now we have full-blown Christendom instead.

Sadly, my wife and I know many who have departed from the original faith of the apostles by going on sideshows, men’s ideas. Some turning back to Judaism, to Rome, to mysticism, to mediaeval teachings and practices–people who once walked in close fellowship with us. There are 1000s of sidetracks.

As if the Jesus of the gospels is insufficient! As if the Holy Spirit is not there to show us, to supply us with the power and authority from the Throne. As if we need more than what we have received from the mouth of the living God as given by the writers of the New Testament!

As if it is up to us to decide what commands of Jesus to obey—or ignore.

As if it is up to us to decide how to build the Kingdom of God!

Jesus, referring to the church leaders of his day said “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind . . .” (Matthew 15).

All your efforts, all those works of yours, will be rooted up if they are not planted by the Father. Examine your life—is what you are doing “in Jesus’ name”, planted by the Father? Are you helping God?  As if we could!

Are we, are you, bored with the true gospel, with the simplicity of faith given to us by those who learned from Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Is there something secret in these deviations and systems which you practice that is hidden to everyone else and especially those who are determined to stick with the New Testament?

When you fail to stay, persist with, persevere in and fight for the “faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” you are in grave danger of drifting into side issues, sideshows, blind alleys, instead of going straight ahead. The Holy Spirit goes straight ahead, takes no detour, constantly points to Jesus and the cross. Where else?

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Jude 3-4

Jude was compelled to write about this knowing the addition and substitution of error for truth, even in those early days. Paul consistently warned about numerous false teachers and prophets to come. Jude goes on . . .

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.  These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

The people who divide you! These are those who follow natural instincts and the result is the 30,000 to 40,000 denominations we have today in the world. And they all claim to be the truth!

But in Jesus there can be no division, none. We must be one with one another and our oneness comes from being in Him and He in us, one in the Father and the Son as Jesus prayed (John 17). There can be no other way.

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.(1st Timothy 6)

Christendom began to ignore Jesus and his words and has lived according to natural instincts to this day. But it is time to stop and to turn to the real Jesus, the one who has proved himself as the one to obey, to follow.