How sin is destroying God’s Church.
When it comes to the church, most American evangelicals do not view it as a place where you submit to the leadership for the purpose of growth and accountability, but rather as a store where you shop as a consumer. If you like the place and it services your needs, you come back. If another place down the road offers a more pleasant experience, you move your business there. Thus pastors who are trying to market their churches don’t dare say anything that might offend or upset the customers. The customer is king. You want to please your customers. With this consumer view about the church, the idea of spiritual authority, of proclaiming, “Thus says the Lord,” seems odd and out of place.
~ Steven J Cole, “Lesson 9: Understanding Biblical Authority (Titus 2:15)“, Bible.org
Doesn’t the above typify the Churches of God? Many take it upon themselves to go around buffet-style, picking and choosing, and if they are dissatisfied, they move on to another organization. Or not. Maybe they sit around in their living room instead. Maybe they move on to a mainstream church that tells them what they want to hear.
Indeed, this is the time already that Paul wrote of:
3 For 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;
4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
And, what do people with “itching ears” want to hear? Usually, it is gossip, slander, salacious tidbits of (mis)information about various leaders at various times in modern Church history. That is one of the reasons that last year I wrote about the despicable practice of lying for Jesus in “The Ignorant Know-It-Alls, Part 6: Judgmentalism or Judge Not That Ye Be Not Judged? (aka, “Does COGWA ‘Observe” Christmas?”)“.
Sadly, people would rather believe the lies rather than the truth, which is an attitude deserving of the Lake of Fire if left unrepented of.
HWA kept referring to the importance of the Book of Genesis during his life. Why? Because in there contains nuggets of information as to why everything is the way it is. It explains how Adam and Eve disobeyed, and thus they lost their right to rule the earth under God’s direct hand and instead placed themselves and their descendants under the influence of the evil one.
So, what was the first sin in the Garden of Eden? After all, if Genesis is supposed to tell us how all things came about, then it is important to understand just what really happened.
“Ye Shall not Surely Die…”
Without a doubt, the first lie we encounter in the Bible is in the first book of the Bible, just after two chapters. Obviously, this is a sin, not only because it isn’t true but because it directly contradicts God and thus is a form of blasphemy.
In context, we see God’s command to Adam, and we see Eve repeating that command in her own words, and we read Satan’s blatant contradiction of God’s command. Open and shut case, this is the first place sin is recorded in the Bible, right?
Well, maybe not. Let’s not forget a few things, including the fact that “the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field…”.
Now, I don’t believe that a little snake one day showed up, struck up a conversation about the trees and tempted Eve to take some of its fruit, all within an hour or so. No, the Bible only sparsely covers most stories contained in it, including only the most important details. Elsewise, can you imagine how large the entire book would be?
No, he probably first made sure Eve was entranced with his grandeur, showing up as a being that can reflect light (the source word for “serpent” in Hebrew). He probably then made friendly chatter with her, making her feel at ease and let her guard down. This could have taken days, months or even years. I suspect for several reasons that it probably wasn’t decades, but not only is that not provable, it isn’t all that relevant to the story.
Then, one day, “Yeah,” said the serpent to Eve. We might go, “Say, what about …?” Let’s change the subject from ordinary chitchat and talk about something else for a change. After all, we’ve enjoyed these talks, and we are comfortable with each other, right? Can I ask you something, friend?… It may have been something like that.
“Hath God said, …?” You know, did God really say this? Are you sure? How could that be so important? It’s only a tree, after all, and even at that we are only talking about the fruit on it. Look at all these other trees. You eat what they produce. What’s so special about this one?
The intent of this should be obvious: to introduce doubt in Eve’s mind. Doubt is the opposite of faith.
45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
~ Mt 24:45
17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
~ Ro 1:17
20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
~ Ro 11:20
38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
~ Heb 11:6
So, was the lie the first sin? No. Satan staged it so that doubt existed first, otherwise the lie would have no effect. So, a lack of faith preceded the lie. Even had already allowed her faith to be worn down, and that was a sin.
But, of course, who caused her to doubt in the first place?
Sin of Division and Rebellion
As far as we know, the very first division of all time was Lucifer’s falling out with God. His heart was already far separated from God and the job at hand when he decided to split even further, whisper and slander God behind His back and tempt the angels under him to go a different way altogether. Lucifer’s first problem obviously was pride, but he took it even further and caused division within the angelic realm.
Does he work any differently with human beings? He caused Adam and Eve to be separated from God, and he still goes to and fro throughout the earth, walking up and down within it, seeking to cause trouble and division wherever he goes.
Do we really think the Church is immune?
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.
~ Job 1:6
You ever consider why the spirit world was called into the presence of the Lord? What do you call this “assembly”? What do you call this “congregation”? Could it have been a holy day?
It isn’t clear whether or not Satan was actually called to this assembly in this particular case. Notice in the next chapter, Satan appears in order to present himself before God, which is subtle yet quite different! Undoubtedly, his presence would have been required in order to provide an update on the situation with Job.
But the first time? It merely says he was mixed in with the crowd! I can imagine him slithering in among the congregation, perhaps not even trying to be noticed unless given an opportunity to accuse or slander someone.
After all, he is called “The Accuser” (cf Rev 12:10). His name is similar to what you would call a “prosecutor” in a legal setting, one who accuses the defendant of a crime. We have seen corrupt prosecutors that will prosecute others on the flimsiest of or even outright false evidence for various reasons, and that is much like the one who accuses us. It means one who “opposes” as an adversary, even as the Angel of the Lord stood in the way to oppose Balaam while riding his donkey, making it clear that good and evil are always in opposition.
The New Testament word “Satan” is simply borrowed from the Aramaic, so it is a loaner word and means the same thing, only the emphasis is upon “the” Satan as a proper noun.
Author of Division
Satan is not only the embodiment of evil, but he is the author of rebellion and divion.
16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
Satan tried to combat God, stirred up the angels against Him and created the very first division. No wonder God hates it so!
Notice how all these seven things tie in together. It started with Lucifer’s pride, he whispered lies about how unfair it all is behind God’s back, he imagined himself taking over God’s throne, and Satan is quick to cause strife, division, spread gossip, and, of course, attempt murder of God Himself!
Lucifer rebelled against authority. In his case, he rebelled against God Himself, the ultimate authority.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
Some people believe that there is little about authority in the OT, to which I vehemently disagree. The entire point is who is the ultimate authority? Adam and Eve were tricked into believing they should be the ultimate authority for themselves, and that is the line that mankind has swallowed for nearly 6,000 years.
In the Bible all authority belongs to God and is then delegated to Jesus. The risen Jesus doesn’t say, “All authority in heaven and earth is given to . . . the books you chaps are going to go and write.” He says, “All authority has been given to me.” The phrase authority of scripture can only, at its best, be a shorthand for the authority of God in Jesus, mediated through scripture. Why would we even want to mention biblical authority? Why not say, “We live under Jesus’s authority,” and leave it at that? Wouldn’t that be the biblical thing to do? Well, yes, but as centuries of history demonstrate, the Bible is the God-given means through which we know who Jesus is. Take the Bible away, diminish it or water it down, and you are free to invent a Jesus just a little bit different from the Jesus who is hidden in the Old Testament and revealed in the New….
~ NT Wright, “The Problem with Biblical Authority“, OnFaith
Why did Jesus have authority? His Father gave Him that authority! Why did the Apostles have authority? Jesus gave them that authority. Why does the Bible have authority? It is the means that God, the Ultimate Authority, chose to speak to mankind in general.
Authority is inherent only in God the Father. All other authority is delegated, including that of Jesus’.
Why does the civil government have authority? God gave them that authority!
13 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
Remember, Paul was writing to Rome, which at various times had one of the most decadent and corrupt governments going! In fact, Paul probably died at the hands of the Romans. They were not exactly friendly to Christians when he wrote that!
Likewise, Daniel obeyed Nebuchadnezzar and even honored him by watching over his things and his rule while he went mad for seven years. Joseph was subservient to Pharaoh. Going back to Paul, he even advised slaves to obey their masters!
Authority? The Bible is filled with notions of authority, both the use and abuse of it as well as rightful and unrighteous disobedience to authority.
Authority not in the OT? Rebellion against legal authority was hazardous to your health!
12 And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.
~ Dt 17:12
When Korah rose up against lawful authority in the spirit of Satan, it was not well received. His rebellion has become rather cliche to some, but you read the story of the Exodus, and it is filled with tales of murmuring, complaining and rebellion. All of these were acts of division!
It amazes me how people, supposedly with God’s Holy Spirit, are still quite capable of murmuring, complaining, sowing discontent and even rebelling.
What Does Godly Authority Look Like?
Going back to Cole’s article I quoted at the beginning, he breaks down authority into some useful areas, which I’d like to summarize:
- All authority on the human plane is delegated authority.
- All authority is vested in a plurality of men on the local church level (and, I know some of you will disagree by continuing with hardened hearts by reading things like “one-man rule” into the Bible).
- All authority is designed for our blessing and protection.
- Authority does not imply superiority (and since power easily corrupts, only the truly humble can handle authority).
- Authority does imply responsibility and accountability (something some of these organizational leaders need to learn).
- Authority concerns character primarily and position secondarily (i.e., we must first learn to govern ourselves internally before we can qualify to govern others outwardly).
- Authority is exercised in the local church through teaching and correcting with God’s Word (“to the law and to the testimony”!, Isa 8:20).
Reacting to Authority
Passover is coming up soon, and we should really think about how we deal with authority. In particular, how do we deal with church authority? In particular, answering these questions might clarify it in your mind:
- What authority does the Bible say the Church has?
- Does the Church have the authority to interpret unclear passages and statutes? Clarify doctrines?
- Does the Church have the obligation to keep the peace among its members?
- If I disagree with a church’s interpretation, is it because there is a clear commandment stating otherwise? Is there a clear biblical example showing otherwise? Is there even the slightest chance I am reading it wrong?
- If the church organization pushes back at me, am I open minded enough to listen, or am I unwilling to admit to being wrong?
- Am I humble? Am I loyal? To whom do these belong?
Obviously, the above should show that rebellion should never be taken lightly nor without cause. It cannot be a case of making mountains out of molehills. One must choose their battles, and disagreeing with church doctrine is one area where that is a clear and true statement.
However, murmuring and complaining about areas of disagreement are not the solution either.
This does not mean, of course, that a minister or some organization stands between you and Jesus, any more than a civil authority would stand between you and God. It simply means they have been delegated a level of authority.
In the World Tomorrow, should you make it, you too will be granted a level of authority. If you cannot understand authority now, then you will not be ready to use it when the time comes.
Jesus said to treat others as you would want to be treated. When you are given that authority, do you want someone questioning every comma and period of your commands? Do you want people to slander you behind your back, twist words to mean something other than what the speaker/writer intended?
Do you? Then, perhaps it is time to give reflection upon how you react to mortal humans today who still have to make decisions, try to carry out a work and edify the body.