NEW - WHY GOD SET ASIDE THE ORGANISED CHURCH - Part One
WHY GOD SET THE ORGANISED CHURCH ASIDE - Part One
By John Aldworth
Published 4 March 2013
1 Tim. 3:15: But 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.
2 Tim. 2:2: And the things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.
Do you see a difference between the two verses above? One describes an organised church; the other a loose, voluntary and, as it turns out, humanly ungoverned relationship.One is structured, has rules and leaders who must be obeyed; the other is organic, meaning that it springs out of a natural relationship both between faithful saints and their Lord and with one another.
This study poses the question: Did God leave the organised church behind towards the close of the Apostle Paul’s life and, has He been back to it since?
Clearly free, natural and harmonious fellowship is not mentioned as a feature of the church described in 1 Tim. 3:15. Rather this assembly was organised and ruled as a “Church of God”, part of God’s ecclesia (lit. the “called out”) during the Acts period. It is called the “church of God” because it comprised those called out under the preaching of the “gospel of God …to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:1 and 16).
This church, as 1st Timothy and the epistle to Titus clearly show, was ruled by bishops and deacons who were to be honoured and obeyed (see Rom. 13:1-2).Saints resisting them were warned that they risked “damnation”. Titus was told to sharply rebuke the slow and lazy Cretans (Tit. 1:12-13)
1st Timothy also sets out strict rules for the relief of widows and for the selection of bishops and deacons and their wives. Elders were to be counted “worthy of double honour”, that is they were to be well paid (1 Tim. 5:17). Such ministers held delegated authority from God and absolute obedience to them was enjoined on church members.
But in 2nd Timothy we see a very different church in which such offices along with any form of structure or system of rules have disappeared. Here there are no delegated authorities, nor penalties for disobeying them. There are no set services; evidently they did not meet on the first day of the week to break bread as the Church of God did (see Acts 20:7). There are no ordinances (or rules) that must kept and no tradition to be adhered to (contrast this with 1 Cor. 11:2 and 2 Thess. 2:15).
Why such a change, you ask? The short answer is that the church “system” of the Acts period had broken down in the wake of Israel’s setting aside and salvation being sent to the Gentiles in Acts 28:28. And God had brought in something far better in the “church which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23).
The ruin of the “church of God” resulted from the Pentecostal period saints’ refusal to receive this new revelation of the Mystery and dispensation of the grace of God brought to them by Paul. And, in rejecting it, they broke the clear apostolic commandment to obey the authority God had placed over them. And what higher authority among men could there be than Paul, “…called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1
Their disobedience is recorded by Paul in 2 Timothy 1:15:
“This thou knowest that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogones”.
Thus the breakdown of the churches of God was penalty for their refusal to “obey the higher powers” (Rom. 13:1). Specifically they rebelled against the highest authority delegated by the Lord at that time, that of the Apostle Paul, and God judged them for their apostasy,
Why apostasy, you ask? Because apostasy is a refusal to believe the truth with the consequence that a lie is believed instead. The believer’s battle is always against the devil, the father of lies and here he was winning hands down. Importantly the Acts believers were rejecting what God had gone on to say, beyond what they already knew. You see, many will believe what God said long ago but few will put trust in what He is saying now.
That was the issue when the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness. And it is the biggest issue today. Our Lord’s answer in Matt. 4:4 stands against apostasy for all time:
“Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
You see the very life of the saved depends upon received and trusting the word that is proceeding out of God’s mouth now, that is today. Not on what God “spake in times past”.
The fact is that after Israel’s setting aside at the end of Acts God spoke new words. He revealed fresh truth through the Apostle Paul that had been “hid from ages and from generations” (Col. 1:26). This was truth never uttered in Old Testament times, the gospels period or during the Acts. So, in rejecting the now revealed Mystery and dispensation of the grace of God the “church of God” believers were rejecting the very words that could give them new life from God at a time they needed it most.
In 1st Timothy the Apostle Paul had urged Timothy to charge “some that they teach no other doctrine”. Clearly, he wanted no teaching except that of the Mystery revelation taught to members of the existing Acts church.
But it seems Timothy’s pleading fell on deaf ears Proof of that is that “all they that be in Asia”, where Paul had planted so many churches, turned from him and his new teaching. It is also clear from 2nd Timothy that rejection of the Dispensation of the Grace of God and the Mystery had brought about this separation.
Yet Paul had written from his prison cell in Rome to the Ephesians, Colossians and Philippians, churches “that be in Asia”. It also appears the Apostle had hoped Timothy might establish new churches which would proclaim this truth. Hence his detailed instructions on appointing leaders and conducting services in 1st Timothy.
For example, Paul urges Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” and to appoint bishops and deacons. Timothy was to evangelise and plant additional churches, still modelled on the old Acts structure, but which would be based on the new body of truth imparted to the Apostle while in prison at Rome. Paul may even have set about planting such churches himself during the two-year break between his two imprisonments at Rome.
But this venture also failed. No such churches are mentioned as coming into being and scripture is clear that rejection of the Apostle and his new message deepened. Certainly, by the time Paul writes his second letter to Timothy any organised evangelism and church planting has ceased.
Nor is there now any further attempt to bring saints in the Acts period “church of God” into the new revelation. Rather Paul deplores the great turning away from him. He urges Timothy to preach as best he can but warns “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine”. Timothy’s hearers, he says, will turn their ears from the truth and give heed to fables. Like so many since, actually.
Clearly Timothy’s charge of “some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3) had fallen on deaf ears. False teachers and apostates now knew no bounds and Paul names them in 1 Tim. 1:20 and in 2 Tim. 2:15 and 17 and in 4:10 and 14.
Knowing the organised church’s rebellion, apostasy and collapse the apostle now urges that Timothy, rather than seeking to penetrate existing organised churches or plant new ones, pursue an unstructured, individual ministry.
He is told to “preach the word, be instant in season and out of season”. He is to “make full proof” of his ministry, but to do so by speaking to individuals, perhaps at most to small groups. Certainly, he would not be able to preach to the large, organised religious structures that Acts period churches had now become. Thus the success of Timothy’s ministry would be seen not in building churches or drawing crowds, but in imparting truth to the few true believers.
I venture to say that today neither Timothy nor Paul would find a ready speaking platform in either American or New Zealand “mega churches”. Fact is that in these times the message of the Mystery is shunned even by gatherings of 20 or less.
So the marching orders for those who do believe the Paul’s prison epistle message today are the same as they were for Timothy more than 1900 years ago: “The things that thou hast heard of me before many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2).
Perhaps we can now see that, as for Timothy’ so for us, the “church that is now” is composed only of those truly saved and called on high. And, importantly, this fellowship operates not under appointed rulers but by “that which joint supplieth” (Eph. 4:16). This means each body member hears direct from the Lord Himself and is to share this with others.
I find that those of the “high calling” have a God-given hunger for the deep truth of the prison epistle revelation. Always they are climbing higher in God’s truth. They are saints chosen to join Christ Jesus the Lord when He appears in glory.
These believers are aflame with love for the Lord and his word. Their faith and salvation rests on the revelation of truth given to “Paul the prisoner of Jesus Christ” They are “the circumcision which worship God in the spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).
Consequently, they could not then, nor can they now, fit in with any remnants of the Acts period “church of God”. A pork chop might feel more at home in a Jewish synagogue.
This is evident in Phil. 3:14-21 where the Apostle Paul sets out his own “high calling” and encourages “as many as be perfect (to) be thus minded”, i.e. to follow him. He adds that “if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this to you.”
This makes plain that for the Philippians there was no way back to the church structure, rules and tenets of the now set aside Pentecostal dispensation. If they tried to cling on to them or go back to them God would show them their error.
Further, in verses 18-19 Paul severely condemns those who had rejected the new Pauline revelation. They were the stubborn remnants of the church of God administration now ended by God, refusing the Lord’s new revelation.
They should have known that with Israel set aside in Acts 28, it followed that the “church of God” had been set aside also. This was because the “church of God” essentially was Israel. Those Gentiles added to it had merely been “graffed into” Israel’s olive tree. Their hope was that of an earthly resurrection into the Lord’s kingdom upon earth. They knew nothing of the Mystery and the blessed hope or being changed to join the Lord of glory high above the heavens. What’s more they didn’t want to know about it.
This is why Paul weeping calls them “the enemies of the cross of Christ” (vs. 18). God had intended them to move on, almost seamlessly, into the dispensation of the grace of God. But, evidently they did not believe their old nature was “crucified with Christ” and so they walked in the flesh.
As a consequence their carnal mind rejected the truths of grace of the new Mystery dispensation because they are seen only by those given the “spirit of revelation and wisdom in the knowledge of Him” (Eph. 1:17). They chose to stay with what they already knew (the structured church and its spiritual gifts and signs and wonders) rather than receive new light. As Paul puts it, their “belly” became their god and their glory was in their sha
Thus rather than “worship God in the Spirit” these believers put “confidence in the flesh”. Instead of seeking "those things which are above” (Col. 3:1) they minded "earthly things” (Phil. 3:19).
Many feel Paul is too harsh when he says, “their end is destruction” (vs. 19). But that is the truth. Refusal to heed new truth when shown it always leads to apostasy. And apostasy always leads to spiritual death. Thus there was ruin in these believers’ individual spiritual lives and ruin of their now God-abandoned church.
Perhaps you remember what happened to Israel after the nation rejected their Messiah and the Lord left the temple, saying:
“Behold your house is left unto you desolate” and “…ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
Similarly the Acts period believers found their church was left unto them desolate. The Lord had moved on to speak Mystery truths through Paul “the prisoner of Jesus Christ”, and they didn’t want to listen. No longer was He doing miracles, commanding water baptism, or prophetically speaking new truth into the church of the Acts period. He would not run back. In fact He had set itheir church and calling aside, just as He set aside Israel in Acts 28:27-28.
And in rejecting the Apostle Paul, God’s appointed messenger, the “church of God”, the Pentecostal believers showed that they too - like the Jews in Jesus’ time on earth - would not humble themselves to say: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Accordingly they missed out.
To be continued