Copyright 1994 - 2023 Bill's Bible Basics
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Published On :
April 2, 2000
Last Updated :
September 28, 2023
Christian Fellowship And Church In The Home, Megachurches And Congregations Of Strangers, Wrong Reasons For Going To Church, Shallow After-Church Chat, Menpleasers/Lip Service, Cold Handshakes And Pats On The Back, Brotherly Love, Love Of Many Shall Wax Cold, Home Fellowship And Kindred Spirits, Lack Of Fellowship And Condemnation, Control Freak Pastors, Filthy Lucre And Fleecing God's Sheep, A Life Blessed Of The Lord, Surviving Outside Of The Church System, God's Loners, Persecution Of God's Servants, The Apostle Paul's Confession
Continuing our discussion from part one, as I mentioned to you previously, if you were to share this message with your church's pastor, or with a church elder, or with one of his loyal underlings, I don't doubt that he would immediately accuse me of being some kind of misguided heretic. He might even tell you that I am instructing you to go against God's Word by breaking off fellowship. In the process of doing it, he would probably share the following Bible verse with you, because this is one of the favorite ones which they like to use in such cases, in order to keep you under their control:
"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 10:25, KJV
Now let us clarify some of my previous statements. Have I told the aforementioned woman to stop fellowshipping? No I have not. What I have in fact plainly stated is that if she is not happy with the fellowship at the current church she attends because of the pastor there, then given their age, experience and long background in the church system, maybe it is time for this couple to exercise their own personal faith, spread their spiritual wings, and start their own home fellowship. So in essence, they are not breaking off fellowship with other Christians, they are simply starting a NEW fellowship; and quite frankly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing that.
As I point out in my series entitled "Where Are the First Century Churches?", this is the true organizational pattern of the First Century Church. The New Testament quite plainly informs us that the Church was actually found in the homes of the Believers, and that they fellowshipped from house to house. Allow me to again share with you some of the verses from that series. The truth is quite evident in them:
"As for Saul, he made havock of the church, ENTERING INTO EVERY HOUSE, and haling men and women committed them to prison."
Acts 8:3, KJV
"Likewise greet the church THAT IS IN THEIR HOUSE. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ."
Romans 16:5, KJV
"The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church THAT IS IN THEIR HOUSE."
1 Corinthians 16:19, KJV
"Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and THE CHURCH WHICH IS IN HIS HOUSE."
Colossians 4:15, KJV
"And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to THE CHURCH IN THY HOUSE:"
Philemon 1:2, KJV
"And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, AND FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE,"
Acts 20:20, KJV
When God's Word speaks plainly regarding a certain issue, as these verses do, I prefer to believe it. What about you? We are told that before his miraculous conversion, Saul, later to be known as Paul, went into the homes of the Believers, and dragged them off to prison, because that is where their fellowships were being held, and not in some huge building down the block. Unless you believe that all of these folks had extremely large homes, capable of holding hundreds, or even thousands of new converts, then these verses seem to indicate that First Century Christians engaged in small, home-based fellowships where everyone knew each other on a very personal level. There was a real, genuine, spiritual unity, intimacy and fellowship at work there.
Contrary to what is described in the previous verses, some modern churches have such huge congregations -- so-called "megachurches" with literally thousands of members -- that it is virtually impossible for everyone to know each other on a personal level; not that they would want to anyway. They've become cold, formal, spiritually-dead institutions; and in some instances, sins and problems cannot be properly addressed due to the sheer size of the congregation. That is, when the church leader is even willing to delve into such sensitive matters.
Sadly, nowadays, it seems that following the inspiration leader, and making a lot of noise, and having all kinds of strange manifestations, is more important than sharing and following God's Word, and keeping personal lives in order, and honorable before the Lord. But again, this is something I discuss in more detail in other articles for those of you who are interested.
Furthermore, in such large congregations, quite a few of the members are there, not because they really want to be there in their hearts, but simply because they have bowed to peer pressure, community pressure, political correctness, because mom and dad said they have to go, or because they got tired of the spouse nagging them all of the time. Some of them simply are not there for the right reasons, and would much prefer being at home sleeping in, or watching the football game, or going out with the buddies on that fishing trip. If you doubt my words, then listen to some of the conversations which are held immediately following the church service.
In many cases, after-church chat immediately turns to worldly themes, as if those involved want to try to quickly forget any words of conviction which may have been spoken by the well-meaning church leader. They feel embarrassed by the pastor's words, so they try to simply ignore them by talking about other things which they do have in common. It is all so shallow and fake. They don't know how to communicate with each other on a deeper spiritual level, because they have no spiritual depth. Now tell me; is that really true fellowship of the Spirit? I think not. I am reminded once again of the Lord's sad description concerning his Jewish enemies. There are in fact a number of verses found in the Bible which aptly describe menpleasers and lip service. Consider the following:
"Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:"
Isaiah 29:13, KJV
"Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me."
Matthew 15:7-8, KJV
"Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not."
Matthew 23:1-3, KJV
"He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me."
Mark 7:6, KJV
"For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."
John 12:43, KJV
"Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:"
Ephesians 6:6-7, KJV
As you will probably know, in some churches, they have the customary greeting and handshake, where upon being cued by the elder, everyone is supposed to turn to their neighbor in the pew, and greet them and give them a handshake. It is possible that this modern-day custom may have evolved from the original, heartfelt expressions of love which were made by the First Century Apostles and Disciples, as they were instructed to do by the Lord Himself. Consider this group of verses:
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
John 13:34-35, KJV
"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you . . . These things I command you, that ye love one another."
John 15:12, 17, KJV
"Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law."
Romans 13:8, KJV
"Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you."
Romans 16:16, KJV
"All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss."
1 Corinthians 16:20, KJV
"Greet one another with an holy kiss."
2 Corinthians 13:12, KJV
"But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another."
1 Thessalonians 4:9, KJV
"Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss."
1 Thessalonians 5:26, KJV
"Let brotherly love continue."
Hebrews 13:1, KJV
"If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:"
James 2:8, KJV
"Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:"
1 Peter 1:22, KJV
"And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins."
1 Peter 4:8, KJV
"For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another . . . And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment."
1 John 3:11, 23, KJV
"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God . . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us."
1 John 4:7, 11-12, KJV
"And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another."
2 John 1:5, KJV
Sadly, the heartfelt demonstration of brotherly affection which was shared by the Christian Disciples of the First Century has now devolved into a cold handshake, a pat on the back, and mumbling a few words to our neighbor in the pew, if even that. In the past -- decades ago -- I was involved in such behavior, and it was so mechanical and emotionless. Like a bunch of mindless robots, everyone would do as they were told, and then turn again to face the priest or pastor. As I point out in other articles, Jesus himself foresaw this happening, because not only do our sins separate us from God, but they separate us from each other as well; and one of the primary sins is the sin of pride. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew:
"And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold."
Matthew 24:12, KJV
Returning to the couple which inspired this series, as I stated earlier, if they are not happy in their church, then perhaps they should consider establishing their own home fellowship with people with whom they feel a kindred spirit. Who knows; they might be pleasantly surprised to discover that some of the others who also left their church, might be interested in coming to their home -- or wherever it might be convenient -- in order to have some real fellowship in the Spirit. They can share the Word together, have prayer and counsel, perhaps share a potluck dinner, or do whatever the Lord leads them to do.
Now, suppose that rather than deciding to start their own fellowship, this couple chooses to look for another church where they feel comfortable, but it takes a while for them to find a good quality church where Bible-based doctrine is preached. What if, as a result of their prayerful search for a new church home, they are left out of fellowship for some time? Or suppose that they do choose to start their own home fellowship, but it takes some time for them to find other Christians who may be interested in attending, and who share their same vision? Should this couple feel condemned due to their lack of fellowship?
Well, if we accept the church system's mantra -- that is to say, the misguided mantra of organized religion, as well as the sermons of church preachers and pastors who are merely interested in packing people into their megachurches by the droves so that they can maintain their church coffers full -- then yes, this couple could indeed feel quite condemned. In fact, they might possibly be led to believe that God is going to strike them dead if they don't return to church as soon as possible! By the way, as I mention in "Exposing the Tactics of the Enemy", cults utilize the very same tactics!
Now, obviously, I realize that I'm being overly dramatic. But it is to emphasize a certain point; and that is that certain church leaders are experts when it comes to exerting control over their flocks, and making them feel like they are totally backslidden from the Lord if they fail to attend services for even a week or two. Some of these false shepherds simply do not like their members gaining any kind of spiritual freedom, or escaping from their grasp. They are total control freaks. Not only does it make a pastor look bad when members of the congregation start leaving the church in droves -- as seems to be the case in this couple's church where three quarters of the original congregation has already left -- but as I said, it hurts them financially as well. And that is probably what raises their ire the most. The smaller their flock, the less sheep they have to fleece.
As I point out in articles such as "Money-Making Bible Hucksters and Mammon", as well as "Abundant Life Doctrine: Scripturally Exposed!", this practice of fleecing the sheep for personal gain -- or "filthy lucre" -- is nothing new. In fact, it has been going on for literally thousands of years. It was a very big problem in both the Old Testament, and the New Testament. Thus the Lord said the following through the Prophet Ezekiel:
"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock . . . Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them."
Ezekiel 34:2-3, 7-10, KJV
In the New Testament, we also find the Apostles admonishing their followers to not teach and share God's Word for the sake of personal monetary gain -- or "filthy lucre" -- as we can determine by the following group of verses:
"Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous . . . Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, NOT GREEDY OF FILTHY LUCRE;"
1 Timothy 3:3, 8, KJV
"For 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 . . . Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, FOR FILTHY LUCRE'S SAKE."
Titus 1:7, 11, KJV
"Feed 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;"
1 Peter 5:2, KJV
"And through COVETOUSNESS shall they WITH FEIGNED WORDS MAKE MERCHANDISE OF YOU: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not."
2 Peter 2:3, KJV
Of course, the reason why the Apostles taught this to their followers is because this is the very same example they had received, and the very same lesson they had learned, while watching and listening to Jesus himself, as is evident from the following set of verses
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for YE DEVOUR WIDOWS' HOUSES, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation."
Matthew 23:14, KJV
"And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: WHICH DEVOUR WIDOWS' HOUSES, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation."
Mark 12:38-40, KJV
"Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; WHICH DEVOUR WIDOWS' HOUSES, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation."
Luke 20:46-47, KJV
"And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves."
Matthew 21:12-13, KJV
"And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise."
John 2:13-16, KJV
"And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves."
Mark 11:15-17, KJV
Lord help us! What a powerful rebuke to modern-day preachers of the so-called "Prosperity Gospel" and the "Abundant Life" doctrine. They seem to be a scourge which has infected every continent on the planet. They make me sick! How about you?
As some of my longtime readers already know, I have not been a regular church member in more than fifty years. Based upon what is taught by some of the leaders of organized religion, I must be totally backslidden from the faith, and an absolute sinner of the worst kind. Oddly enough, I don't feel that way at all. In fact, while I live a rather simple life, with only my basic necessities being met, plus the tools that I need to carry on this ministry, in a spiritual sense, I feel that I have been greatly blessed by the Lord.
The honest truth of the matter is that not only has the Lord been faithful to provide my daily needs, but He has also provided me with a knowledge and understanding of His Word which I honestly don't believe I could have acquired, had I remained a part of organized religion. Why not? Well, because their entire objective seems to be to teach the Word of God from a perspective that will justify everything that they do; while at the same time condemning those people who do not go along with their program of control and indoctrination.
Another deception of churchianity and organized religion is the claim that a Christian simply cannot survive outside of the church system. The claim is that any attempt to do this will result in a Christian person growing weak spiritually, backsliding, and in a worse-case scenario, even leading to that person denying the Lord. Well, while that may be true with some people, it certainly has not been true in my life. I don't claim to be a spiritual giant of any kind. However, I do know what I believe, and why I believe it. Furthermore, my faith in the Lord and His Word is quite strong. I am not saying that I haven't made mistakes along the way; but when I do err, and if I do begin to stray from the Lord due to worldly enticements and other temptations, the conviction of God's Spirit is strong in my life, and I eventually get back on track again.
If we study the Bible closely, we discover that many of the Prophets and servants of the Lord were in fact loners who were rejected by the religious order of their day. They were social outcasts who were ridiculed, verbally warned, accused of committing treason, said to be liars, described as being crazy or demon-possessed, thrown into prison, tortured in a variety of ways, thrown out of town, and quite often killed, by the very ones who claimed to be the religion established by God. For example, Jesus and the Apostle Paul made it very clear that persecution would be the fate of Believers, as we see by the following group of verses:
"Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another."
Matthew 24:9-10, KJV
"But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls."
Luke 21:12-19, KJV
"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me."
John 15:18-21, KJV
"They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service."
John 16:2, KJV
"If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:"
2 Timothy 2:12, KJV
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
2 Timothy 3:12, KJV
"And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect."
Hebrews 11:32-40, KJV
In the previous verses, Jesus clearly states that the very ones who claim to be members of the religion of God, would persecute and kill the true followers of the Lord; thinking all the while that they were obeying the Lord by committing such heinous acts. The Apostle Paul -- who in former times was known as Saul of Tarsus -- was a classic example of this. Thus, in two of his Epistles, upon reflecting back on his former life as a devout, Law-bound Pharisee, he openly confesses his error. Consider the following set of verses:
"And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem."
Acts 9:1-2, KJV
"And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished."
Acts 22:4-5, KJV
"I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities."
Acts 26:9-11, KJV
"For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God."
1 Corinthians 15:9, KJV
"For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers."
Galatians 1:13-14, KJV
Please go to part three for the continuation of this series.
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