PROPHETIC PARALLELS – Christ’s Church “Then”. . . and Christ’s Church Now Ch.2

by Terry S. Ross

prophetic parallels - greenChapter 2 – “Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . .”

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23: 37)

The priests and rulers heard Christ’s pointed rebukes. They could not refute His charges. But they were only the more determined to entrap Him, and with this object they sent out their spies. We have seen this kind of behavior in our present day. These priests and rulers were not interested in the truth. They were interested in entrapping Jesus. They could not refute His charges. For many years the evidence has continued to pile up against the corrupt priesthood of our day and yet they cannot and will not refute the charges with a “thus saith the Lord,” for in their attempt they would expose themselves all the more.

The evidence has become overwhelming that there is an agenda with those who have position and power (remember these are general statements) within the Christian community today to undermine and finally destroy historic Christianity. They realize that (at least to one who knows their Bible) they cannot refute the charges of heresy and apostasy against them, so they use a different tactic. One way that is effective is to do just what they did to Christ (as well as His prophets before Him and His disciples after Him)— say He was a trouble maker and was trying to split the church!

Depending on how deep your experience and to what extent you have voiced your valid concerns (based on biblical truths and principles), I can say with clear conscience that it will have a direct bearing onto what degree you understand this method of the enemy to kill the truth. It is not hard to witness the mounting tensions and now open struggles between leaders who support a historical position and those who are working to undermine it. If you haven’t experienced some sort of wrongful persecution for taking a stand for truth in your church, I guarantee you, a leader who is truly standing for truth could speak with you for hours about how he is being made the villain and the frustration (and breaking heart) he lives with because of a large number who swallow (without proper investigation) these claims of sedition.

Christ declared that since they were living under the protection of the Roman power, they should render to that power the support it claimed, so long as it did not conflict with a higher duty. But while peaceably subject to the laws of the land, they should at all times give their first allegiance to God. The reason for mentioning this is that there are some conservative Christians as well as others today who advocate and promote such lawbreaking as refraining from obtaining a marriage license or paying taxes. They say that if you get a marriage license, your children become a “product” of the state because it was the state which “allowed” you to become married. The marriage license, therefore, becomes a tool of the state, enabling it to seize from you your children when and if it chooses to do so.

The Lord declared that we should obey the laws of the land as long as they do not conflict with the higher duties of a Christian. This includes doing things that are morally correct and shunning the appearance of evil. Certainly a piece of paper does not give a person grounds for divorce. Neverthe- less, Jesus said that when it is appropriate to do so, we should obtain such papers, so as to do things in order. I guarantee that if the state decides to take your children away from you, it will do so whether you have a marriage license or not.

Some also say that, because the government is corrupt, we should not be paying taxes. I will admit I don’t know very many people who believe that the way taxes are collected is totally fair or anyone who enjoys paying them, but that is not the bigger point. The Lord told us to “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22: 21). Also, I have yet to run into these nonpaying advocates who refuse to use the highways or the many conveniences the tax dollars subsidize. Unfortunately, these folks are bringing on a time of trouble before they should, and their actions bring reproach to the cause of God in the process.

The Pharisees were rigid adherents to tradition but Christ declared that they made void the law, “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15: 9 and Mark 7: 7). You will notice, the Pharisees were rigid adherents to tradition. Tradition is not bad in and of itself. But in this case, tradition was the man- made rules that had been passed on from generation to generation. This man- made rule book became more important than God’s word and actually took the place of biblical doctrine. Tradition became the test of accepted fellowship among believers. If you did not uphold the man- made creed (church manual), even if it was AGAINST biblical doctrine, you were subject to discipline and eventually disfellowshipping. Christ brought charges against the conference of His day clearly telling them in effect that they had replaced the Bible with the church manual. Those who refused to reverse the process (the majority) were lost. Their church manual could not save them! Once again the traditions of men are making of none effect the commandments of God, and as in the end, the church manuals will be consigned to the flames by a Higher Authority — so will those be who support them above God’s word.

A nineteenth century missionary once said: “The first step in religious dictatorship is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe. The second is to make that creed a test of fellowship. The third is to try members by that creed. The fourth is to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed, and fifth, to begin persecution against them.”

Could anyone have expressed a truer summation of what is happening today? One of the greatest charges ever leveled at the church by Christ was that they made void the law of God by TEACHING FOR DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN. In other words, making of none effect the testimonies of the Spirit of God— the Bible.

Satan is constantly slipping in his counterfeits to lead away from the truth. THE VERY LAST DECEPTION OF SATAN will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29: 18). Satan will work ingeniously in different ways and through different agencies, to unsettle the confidence of God’s people in the true testimony found in inspired writings.

This is the major reason for the fall of the church in Jesus’ day two thousand years ago, and this will be one of Satan’s major deceptions in the last days. If you cannot see that we are squarely living within the borders of this prediction, I beg you to get on your knees and plead with the Lord for help.

Now instead of telling you where I think the churches today are headed, let me ask you an honest question. All I ask in return is for you to give an honest answer. If the Lord rejected the church back in Jesus’ day— the one He had raised up— because they made of none effect the testimony of God, and the conditions are the same today, would we expect the same results from a God who never changes but who is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13: 8)?

In the law is embodied the same principle that is revealed in the Gospel. The law points out man’s duty and shows him his guilt. To Christ he must look for pardon and power to do what is required (“. . . keep my commandments,” John 14: 15 and John 15: 10). As a matter of biblical fact this is what the two- faceted doctrine of grace is all about. One side of grace is unmerited favor. We cannot earn salvation. But the other face of grace is the POWER to overcome the world, also a gift of the Lord. One brings us into the good “graces” of the Lord; the other, the ability to show our appreciation by living a life in the strength of Christ, that overcomes the power of the enemy —Satan.

One cannot look to God’s law with success without looking to God’s Son. The reason for a large number of the problems in many structured churches today is because of the self- righteousness of the “scribes” and “Pharisees” within those churches. They refuse to operate the church structure in the power of Jesus Christ. They are trying to assert their own power and in so doing have set themselves higher than Christ. They will fail, as did the Jews.

Christ had set before these leaders their real condition, and the retribution sure to follow if they persisted in their evil deeds. The warning had been faithfully given. Yet another work remained for Christ to do. Another purpose was still to be accomplished.

The interest of the people in Christ and His work steadily increased. They were charmed with His teaching. They were also greatly perplexed. They had respected the priests and rabbis for their intelligence and apparent piety. In all religious matters they had yielded implicit obedience to their authority. Yet they now saw these men trying to cast discredit upon Jesus, a teacher whose virtue and knowledge shone forth the brighter after every assault. They looked upon the frowning faces of the priests and elders, and there saw discomfiture and confusion. THEY MARVELED THAT THE RULERS WOULD NOT BELIEVE ON JESUS, WHEN HIS TEACHINGS WERE SO PLAIN AND SIMPLE. They themselves did not know what course to take. With eager anxiety they watched the movements of those whose counsel they had always followed.

What a fitting description of the atmosphere in churches today! The people have respected their pastors and leaders for their intelligence and apparent piety. In all religious matters, they have given implicit obedience to their authority. This is where the problem lies. Things are so bad today in a large number of churches that you can get away with almost any sin inside the church with little or no repercussions— except for one. The cardinal “sin” of modern Christianity is to challenge your pastor. The quickest way to be permanently ushered to and through the nearest exit is to take your pastor to task over his theology.

This is what Christ did. He was not only “shown the door” of His local, hometown church (the incident in Nazareth found in Luke 4: 24- 30) but also at the national, corporate church level that took Him through the ultimate disfellowshipping —crucifixion!!

Much said today by church leaders about respecting “properly constituted church authority” and how those of us who have challenged them have not had, as we should, the proper respect for their authority. We certainly want to do everything in order and according to the principles that the Lord has laid before us. Jesus manifested proper respect where it was due; However, He was not intimidated by men who were trying to manipulate people into doing that which dishonored His Father.

Let’s take an example from the word of God to illustrate how Jesus handled the same problem in the same atmosphere that parallels our day. This example will also illustrate that even the disciples did not initially understand how to properly handle the issues or where certain principles lay.

“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias [Isaiah] 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. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, KNOWEST THOU THAT THE PHARISEES WERE OFFENDED, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. LET THEM ALONE: THEY BE BLIND LEADERS OF THE BLIND. AND IF THE BLIND LEAD THE BLIND, BOTH SHALL FALL INTO THE DITCH. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, ARE YE ALSO YET WITHOUT UNDER- STANDING?” (Matthew 15: 1- 16).

First of all, it might be well for us to remember that the One who set forth this system of religion certainly had respect for it. But it wasn’t a lack of respect He showed toward the church of His day when He denounced the corrupt leadership. It was a lack of respect for the apostasy they promoted. It was a disdain for the way they were leading and a hatred for what it was doing to the people. Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Father do not like, approve, nor respect deception. They certainly are not in the business of supporting those who claim to be leaders in a system which is involved in deceptive practices. Our Father represents just the express opposite— honesty and forthrightness. Please notice as well, although the laity (including the disciples) equated their church leaders as being men of God, Jesus plainly stated that this was not the case. “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matthew 15: 13). In other words, Jesus was informing His disciples that while they might have been taught that being a church leader automatically made them of God’s choosing, His Son said it was not so. This is something we desperately need to get straight in our own minds today. Just because a church leader or a church committee or a pastor insists on respect “because God chose them” and because they told you so, does not mean anything unless you believe it!

As a marriage license does not make a marriage, credentials does not make a pastor. Although marriage certainly has its origin from the God of Christianity, most marriages are not Christian. And although most pastors may hold papers “proving” they are pastors, it does not make them any truer to their vows than unchristian marriages prove to be. The “credentials” from God are the only ones that will prove to have spiritual and eternal value.

The proof is: HOW leaders lead and WHERE they lead. It is not: “I told you I was chosen and that’s the end of it, now keep quiet and follow me! And if you don’t, I’ll have you kicked out of the church!”

These conference men had come to Jesus and asked Him why His disciples did not follow the “Church Manual— the Church Creed.” Jesus asked them in return the same thing many are asking the present- day leaders of the structured churches, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? (Matthew 15: 3).”

As God brought forth the Commandments, they were just and good. But the church leaders commanded control of the people and they formulated a creed to gain an authority they would not otherwise have had— the authority which belongs to God alone. This authority, as it developed, actually kept the people from a true knowledge of God! This is the “authority” Jesus not only disapproved of and did not respect, but openly attacked and rebuked! Jesus rightly understood that the “leadership” was standing in the way of the people’s salvation. They were actively keeping the flock from an experiential knowledge which would have allowed them to enter the kingdom of God (we’ll prove this later). This is the meaning of verse nine, “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

The people and even the disciples were confused and questioned Jesus (God Himself) as if to ask, “Do you know what you are doing?” When His disciples pointed out to Him that He had just offended the church leaders, Jesus admitted His lack of respect for “properly constituted church authority” and He went to them immediately to apologize, right? Wrong! If He had, He would have been doing the work of the devil, not of His Father! He told His disciples that if they expected to find the heavenly path, they must AVOID THE ERRORS OF THE “LEADERSHIP.” It was not Jesus who misunderstood the work, but those who had put their trust in a corrupt priesthood. Jesus had an extremely difficult time convincing people (even His disciples) because they had so much unfounded faith (blind faith) in the professed leadership of their day. I certainly pray that you are seeing the parallels of this in our present- day situation. If you are, you are starting to come to the knowledge Jesus so wanted His disciples to have. As a matter of fact, we will learn later that until these men came to this knowledge, they could not be effective in bringing others to salvation. I hope you are beginning to realize that the confusion of their day and the reasons for it are the same as in our own day. This understanding is just as vital now as it was then. This is why Jesus has brought (and is bringing) this information to you just now.

Dear brother and sister, we are passing through the exact portal that the disciples passed through, and it is the way of Christ’s leading. This is the road that leads to the feet of Him who has traveled this road before us. I hope that you will trust Him, as did His disciples, and that you will follow. The way of the cross leads home. I am confident that as we move through this transition, the Lord will eventually have a people who will understand and follow Him wherever He leads, regardless of the traditions of men that are so often substituted for Bible truth.

In the parables Christ had spoken, it was His purpose both to warn the rulers and to instruct the people who were willing to be taught. But there was need to speak more plainly. Through their reverence for tradition and blind faith in a corrupt priesthood, the people were enslaved. THESE CHAINS CHRIST MUST BREAK. THE CHARACTER OF THE PRIESTS, RULERS, AND PHARISEES MUST BE MORE FULLY EXPOSED. At times it is easy for an author to over emphasize a point, but I must stress that this is one which cannot be. These few words are loaded with information which will take us down the path of understanding if we desire to know the truth of the matter.

Many have said that they want to be “just like Jesus” and “do the same work Jesus did.” Do we really realize what we are saying when we make such statements or is this just an assent to some dreamy ideal? Are we just trying to impress others with these statements, or could it be we do not understand what Jesus was really like? It seems that perhaps the latter is the most appropriate. We have been taught that Jesus is just “love and hugs.” This sounds wonderful but it can be a deadly deception if we are not on our toes. In this “Dr. Spock, if- it- feels- good- do- it generation,” we don’t want anything to do with discipline because it is so “negative.” Unfortunately these same sentiments rule in the “church.” Those of us who care to see the reality of where this has led us, understand all too well why our society is in so much trouble and why double- standard government does not work except for evil. Unfortunately, the same problem exists to a gross extent among those who claim to be “the church.”

Bible truth shows us that when Jesus was on earth His work was twofold. As we study the biblical history of Christ’s life and ministry, this fact is plain for everyone to see. It’s not hidden and you certainly do not have to have a “master’s” degree in theology to discover it!

It was His purpose both to WARN THE RULERS and to instruct the people WHO WERE WILLING TO BE TAUGHT. This is exactly what many “independent” ministers have been doing for many years. Jesus understood that He had come to a professed church whose people, through their REVERENCE FOR TRADITION and their BLIND FAITH IN A CORRUPT PRIESTHOOD, WERE ENSLAVED.

You see, Jesus was in the business of saving people, not playing politics. Because He came to the church did not mean that He had to “bow” to the leadership when they walked into the room. It did not mean that He had to get their corrupted opinions before He could press on with the job His Father had given Him to do. It did not mean He had to seek unity at all costs with “the church.” It did not mean He had to exchange heavenly principles for earthly power. It did not mean He had to obtain a majority vote. It did not mean that paying attention to “properly constituted church authority” was more important than paying attention to His Father’s authority. But He came to a people who had placed their faith in corrupt men instead of a Holy God.

Today, my friend, we find ourselves in this carbon copy dilemma. As a matter of fact, for the very reasons we are discussing, it was a primary goal of our Lord to tear away the veneer and expose the deadly deception for what it was (and still is!). “All that glitters is not gold” as the saying goes. This was a matter of life or death, and God came to take the reigns into His own hands.

By the time Christ showed up on the earthly scene (and it is a shame to have to say it) He had to save the people FROM their church, not IN their church! Was this His fault? Was He to blame for all the trouble His message of reform brought? Was He the rebellious One? You know the answers to those questions. Are you willing to answer the same questions that are their present- day parallels just as honestly? I believe our eternal salvation depends on it!

If Christ was going to save His people, if Jesus was going to bring the people to a balanced knowledge of His Father, if He was going to instruct those who were willing to be taught but who were enslaved to a corrupt priesthood by their blind loyalty, what was He to do?

In order for Jesus to give the people a real opportunity to come to a knowledge of salvation, He must break the chains of bondage the priesthood had over them. Jesus did not like being in this type of predicament— loving the people so much. He knew He must break this stranglehold the church leaders had on the laity. If the people were going to have an opportunity to hear what was truth, He would have to break the confidence the people had placed in these men who were leading them away from God, not toward Him as they claimed. And how was the strength of these chains to be overcome? THE CHARACTER OF THE PRIESTS, RULERS, AND PHARISEES MUST BE FULLY EXPOSED.

Now are you sure you want to be just like Jesus? Many have said and continue to say that it is the work of the devil to “speak against the leadership of the church,” but if this is true, Jesus did the work of the devil! The problem is not what Christ did. The problem concerns the prejudice He had to deal with. This is like trying to convince someone who is an alcoholic that he has a drinking problem. The problem lends itself to denial and in turn, to misunderstanding, making it almost impossible to overcome. We should be careful how we treat the leadership of the church. We had better make sure, however, we realize what they are teaching, who they are, and what the real church is.

Christ was not “anti- leadership” as history certainly proves. But He was most assuredly “anti- APOSTATE leadership!” And He still is at this very moment. His true followers, following His perfect example and will, are not ashamed to walk in His steps even if they are opposed (as He was) by nearly everyone.

Christ stood His ground and performed the disagreeable duty, even though at the time hardly anyone understood, supported, or agreed with what He was doing. I am so glad that Jesus did what He had to do, aren’t you? We must learn what is hard to learn, and unlearn some of that which we’ve been taught. We must understand what was so difficult for the disciples to understand.

The work of Christ is freeing people to live for His Father and His Father only. The work of Jesus is showing people that they are to follow and worship not man, but God. As long as the leaders whom Christ raised showed the people these truths, everything was as it should have been. But when a priesthood becomes corrupt and leads those for whom Christ died to the one who killed Him (the devil), He has no choice but to go to the next step, exposing apostasy and breaking the chains of bondage.

These leaders were willing to sacrifice Christ— God Himself— in order to save their precious church authority. They said that it was better to sacrifice one man (meaning Jesus) in order to save the nation (meaning their church) (see John 11: 50). They were saying that they were willing to sacrifice the truth in order to maintain their status. Jesus had no choice but to break the chains of enslavement. The character of these “pastors” and “denominational leaders” must be more fully exposed.

Should you have any remaining doubt regarding what you are reading, let’s take a quick look at Ezekiel, chapter 8:

Ezekiel 8: 6- 9: “He said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations. And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here.”

I could write a small book on this topic alone. It is full of information for our present- day understanding and I hope you will take the time to study it. The Bible tells us that judgment starts with the house of God (1 Peter 4: 17) meaning those who claim to be Christians, beginning with the leaders, down through the ranks. Folks, we are witnessing the living expression of Ezekiel, chapter 8! We are living in this chapter’s day of fulfillment. Read this chapter for yourself and see if it speaks to you as it does to me.

We need to understand that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10: 34). This does not mean He does not respect or love people. It simply means that His judgment is fair and does not make exceptions to the eternal principles He has set forth. If the rules or principles can be changed, they are flawed— and this is not possible because God is perfect.

God is not going to let Brother A into His kingdom because He loves him more, and shut Brother B out because church leaders view him as being “difficult.” The reverse is true as well. The Father is not going to keep a genuine gospel worker out of the kingdom just because popular opinion “votes” to censure or disfellowship him. And God will not let an apostate leader in just because he has the majority vote of a particular church.

When we are standing at the judgment bar, spiritually speaking, God is not going to ask our pastor or the members of our church committee if it’s all right to let us in. It will work the same for those who should be kept out. This may come as a shock, but nobody— nobody— is going to heaven except those who follow Jesus! It does not matter what position we may have held in our church or how long we have held it. The requirements for entrance are the same for every single individual. The only difference is that if you claim to be a leader and DO NOT LEAD OTHERS TO JESUS, you only condemn yourself more.

The work of Ezekiel 8 Jesus did while here, and that same work is being done for the last time, right now. I strongly encourage you to take a look at the next event to take place which is found in the next chapter of Ezekiel. This will be LITERALLY FULFILLED. Yet the time is passing, and the people are asleep. They refuse to humble their souls and to be converted. Not a great while longer will the Lord bear with the people who have such great and important truths revealed to them but who refuse to bring these truths into their individual experience.

The time is short. God is calling. Will we hear? Will we receive His message? Will we be converted before it is too late? Soon, very soon, every case will be decided for eternity.

The Lord reads the heart as an open book. The men who are not connected with God have done many things after the imagination of their hearts. The Lord declares concerning them, “They have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction” (Jeremiah 32: 33). We are amid the perils of the last days, the time will soon come when the prophecy of Ezekiel 9 will be fulfilled; that prophecy should be carefully studied because it WILL BE FULFILLED TO THE VERY LETTER. The only way for the people to be free to follow the Father was if their chains were broken. The only way the chains could be broken was for Jesus to expose the character of the leaders. And this same work is in process today even as you read these words. Please ask the One who led His disciples to the path of life to guide you just now to the same path. He certainly will if you let Him.

“The scribes and the Pharisees” Jesus said, “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: 3). The scribes and Pharisees claimed to be invested with divine authority similar to that of Moses. They assumed to take his place as expounders of the law and judges of the people. As such they claimed from the people the utmost deference and obedience. Jesus bade His hearers do that which the rabbis taught according to the law, but not to follow their example. They themselves did not practice their own teachings.

And they taught much that was contrary to the Scriptures. Jesus said “they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matthew 23: 4). The Pharisees instigated a MULTITUDE OF REGULATIONS, HAVING THEIR FOUNDATION IN TRADITION, AND UNREASONABLE RESTRICTION OF PERSONAL LIBERTY. And certain portions of the law they so explained as to impose upon the people observances which they themselves secretly ignored, and from which, when it served their purpose, they actually claimed exemption.

As Jesus plainly stated again and again, we are to follow only those things leaders teach which uphold God’s law and are His requirements. He told the people however, not to follow their example. Why? Because they were not following the truth or the law of God themselves. They were not even following their own teachings when it did not suit their purpose or when it was inconvenient.

When persons were invited to a feast, the guests were seated according to their rank, and those who were given the most honorable place received the first attention and special favors. The Pharisees were ever scheming to secure these honors. This practice Jesus rebuked.

He also reproved the vanity shown in coveting the title rabbi or master. Such a title, He declared, belonged not to men but to Christ. Priests, scribes, and rulers, expounders and admin- istrators of the law were all brethren, children of one Father. Jesus impressed upon the people that they were to give no man a title of honor INDICATING HIS CONTROL OF THEIR CONSCIENCE OR THEIR FAITH.

If Christ were on earth today, surrounded by those who bear the title of Reverend or Right Reverend, would He not repeat His saying, “Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ” (Matthew 23: 10)?

Something has bothered me for many years and this may be an appropriate place to share it with you. I don’t intend to give it much space but I do ask for your prayerful consideration and I also wish to demonstrate how, to the letter, we are living in the parallel of Christ’s day. I will place my concern in the form of yet another question. How can any Christian accept the title of Master or Doctor of Divinity? If bestowing such titles to any human on earth today is not dangerously close to open blasphemy and in direct violation of Jesus’ expressed command concerning this subject, I don’t know what is. I will be the first to confess I did not attend the “rabbinical” schools, but I can read simple English in the inspired word of God that says only the Godhead has any right to claim the title of Master of Divinity!

Now we come to something that is quite revealing. This ancient experience gives us an invaluable modern- day lesson. This is for all the “New Theology” believers and their pastors. Those who want to be set free, may indeed know and understand what the Lord, through His word, the Bible, is trying to tell us. By perverting the Scriptures, the priests and lawyers blinded the minds of those WHO WOULD OTHERWISE HAVE RECEIVED A KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST’S KINGDOM AND THAT INWARD, DIVINE LIFE WHICH IS ESSENTIAL TO TRUE HOLINESS.

Dear Christian friend, what is Jesus telling us today? It seems to me He is revealing that these apostate leaders are perverting the Scriptures in such a way so as to not only deceive people but to actually keep them from GAINING A KNOWLEDGE THAT WOULD OTHERWISE BRING THEM TO PRACTICAL CHRISTIAN LIVING WHICH IS ESSENTIAL TO HOLINESS. Are apostate leaders bringing people to an understanding that there is no excuse for sin, not even one? Are they showing that God leads His people on step by step? The Christian life is a constant battle and march. There is no rest from the warfare. It is by constant unceasing effort that we maintain the victory over the temptations of Satan. As a people we are triumphant in the clearness and strength of the truth. This is fully sustained by an overwhelming Scriptural testimony. If you doubt it, just read the following passages: 2 Timothy 2: 3; 4: 5; 1 Timothy 6: 12; Hebrews 12: 1; 2 Thessalonians 1: 4; James 5: 11; Mark 13: 13, etc.

We are very much in need of the kind of humility the Bible speaks of, in patience, faith, love, self- denial, watchfulness, and the spirit of sacrifice. We need to cultivate Bible holiness. Sin prevails among the people of God. The plain message of rebuke to the Laodiceans is not received. Many cling to their doubts and their darling sins while they are in so great a deception as to talk and feel that they are in need of nothing. They think the testimony of the Spirit of God in reproof is uncalled for or that it does not mean them. Such are in the greatest need of the grace of God and spiritual discernment that they may discover their deficiency in spiritual knowledge. They lack almost every qualification necessary to achieve Christian maturity. THEY LACK A PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE OF BIBLE TRUTH, WHICH LEADS TO LOWLINESS OF LIFE AND A CONFORMITY OF THEIR WILL TO THE WILL OF CHRIST. They are not living in obedience to all of God’s requirements.

This is just as serious as your next breath! As a matter of fact it is even more important! Jesus told His disciples to flee from the errors of the pastors of His day. He told them they were being led by these leaders in the way of death, not the way of life. It took them, admittedly, a while before they listened, but they did listen and were saved! Are we listening today? Are we determining to follow Jesus even if it leads in the same direction it led the disciples? I pray that we are, because, in fact and in reality, we must be as dedicated as the disciples or we will end up in a place that we would rather not be. Better to be alone in heaven than to be in unity with the crowd in the lake of fire!

The “New Theology” of today is not new at all. It is as ancient as the father of lies himself. New Theology pastors are preaching with alarming success the same lie that Lucifer told in the Garden of Eden. He told Eve that God really didn’t mean what He said and that the wages of sin were not death. Today a majority of pastors are repeating this lie and convincing the lay people that Satan is actually more powerful than God.

After making such a statement I can almost hear someone saying “Now you’ve gone and really stuck your foot in your mouth Terry! Making such statements will only convince people that you are some kind of wild fanatic.” Although I would be less than in the realm of reality to be convinced that the majority will ever see the truth, I am thoroughly persuaded that God will give discernment to all honest souls seeking for truth. The statement that most pastors are convincing their congregations that Satan is ultimately more powerful than God is neither a wild or fanatical one, though at first it may seem to be.

Jesus plainly says “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3: 21). Overcome what?

Today pastors are not preaching the word of God to those who are seeking it. They are telling their congregations that God understands that we are sinners and that we always will be. They are perverting the Scriptures as did the apostate leadership of ancient Israel and making void the law of God by teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.

When a person is convinced that he cannot overcome the sin in his life and that it won’t cost him anything if he doesn’t— HE WON’T!

It is true that all have sinned for the Bible plainly says so but there is not one verse in all the Bible that upholds the “New Theology” claim that God supports or is indifferent to wilful rebellion. God winks (does not judge against us) at our true ignorance and He is longsuffering with us even at those times when we are rebellious, but the wages of sin ARE death and through God’s strength we are admonished to overcome in this present world.

When a pastor says we cannot overcome the sin in our life, he is actually saying that Lucifer (a created being) who became Satan (because of rebellion in his own heart) is more powerful than God who created him! It is this theology which is wild and fanatic! It is this theology of sinful man, apostate leadership, those who cherish their darling sins, that is standing directly in the way of an experiential knowledge of God’s word that the overcomer must have in order to successfully defeat the enemy.

It is truly an incredible thing to witness the hypocrisy of sermons which state that we serve a God who continually holds countless worlds in space, is responsible for every breath of every living thing, knows the number of hairs on every head, has been, is, and ever will be eternal, but is NOT powerful enough to overcome the power of a being He, Himself, created!! This is not only lunacy but makes not one shred of sense to anyone who has the basic ability to simply think it through.

The only reason, let me repeat that, the only reason we continue to commit known, wilful sin is because we love the sin more than we love the Saviour— not because God lacks the power.

I would like you to seriously and prayerfully consider a couple of simple questions which demonstrate the point. Which sin in your life is too strong for God’s saving power to overcome? If Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden (which they were) and died (which they did) for eating forbidden fruit, then which sin is too small that God will overlook?

These my friend, are neither difficult questions nor are they hard to answer. However, the conclusive, simple, truthful answer to them must and will be met by every honest soul who is safe to be saved and taken into the kingdom of God.

In context, it is not the size of the sin that is the issue of exile but the rebellion demonstrated in sin which bars the soul from open communion with God. If I knowingly choose to continue in the open rebellion of cherished sin and God allows me to have eternal, free access to a home He has prepared for the redeemed, then how fair was He to Adam and Eve who, as far as the sin itself is concerned, was much less guilty than some of us may be? The Bible says that God is the same now as He was then. We must quit checking our brains at the door of the church and use them as God intended. God will help us to resolve some of these obvious conflicts that many of us have had with ourselves over the years. As we ask the Lord for a knowledge from His word that sanctifies the life, then the peace that passes all understanding will be ours. But this peace will be possessed while in the midst of much controversy, similar to that of the Saviour’s day for the same reasons.

The Pharisees had great influence with the people, and of this they took advantage to serve their own interests. They gained the confidence of pious widows, and then represented it as duty for them to devote their property to religious purposes. Having secured control of their money, the wily schemers used it for their own benefit. To cover their dishonesty, they offered long prayers in public, and made a great show of piety (see Matthew 23: 14). This hypocrisy Christ declared would bring them greater damnation. The same rebuke falls upon many in our day who make a high profession of piety. Their lives are stained by selfishness and avarice, yet they throw a garment of seeming purity over it all, and thus for a time, deceive their fellowmen.

The Saviour continued His denunciations of the scribes and Pharisees! “Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?” (Matthew 23: 16- 19).

The priests interpreted God’s requirements according to their own false and narrow standards. They presumed to make distinctions comparing various sins, passing over some lightly, and treating others of perhaps less consequence as unpardonable. For a monetary consideration they excused persons from their vows. And for large sums of money they sometimes passed over aggravated crimes. At the same time these priests and rulers would, in other cases pronounce severe judgment for trivial offenses.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matthew 23: 23; Luke 11: 42).

In these words Christ again condemns the abuse of sacred obligation. The obligation itself He does not set aside. The tithing system was ordained by God, and it had been observed from the earliest times. Abraham, the father of the faithful, paid tithes of all that he possessed. The Jewish rulers recognized the obligation of tithing, and this was right; but THEY DID NOT LEAVE THE PEOPLE TO CARRY OUT THEIR OWN CONVICTIONS OF DUTY. Arbitrary rules were laid down for every case. The requirements had become so complicated that it was impossible for them to be fulfilled. None knew when their obligations were met. As God gave it, the system was just and reasonable; but the priests and rabbis had made it a wearisome burden.

Money, especially tithe paying, should not be a test of fellowship. This money problem and the manipulation of the people through this medium is nothing new. Two thousand years ago the apostate leadership of Christ’s day also used God’s money to manipulate the people. They censored and disfellowshipped those who would not support them and they made money a test of fellowship.

Many pastors use Malachi, chapter 3, extensively to support their view using specifically verses 8 and 10: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. . . . Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

When it comes to money, leaders are to lift up before the people the biblical standard by preaching the truth. But they are to leave the people to carry out their own convictions of duty. They are not to set up arbitrary rules and then use money as a weapon against the members of their congregation.

We believe that people should leave others alone regarding this subject, except for trying to guide them in the right path. This principle of tithe- paying is right and it should be shared with the people. Here’s an interesting point: How often have you heard from the pulpit that the Lord was reproving the LEADERSHIP for mishandling money according to Malachi 3?! The reproofs and promises of Malachi are for the leadership as well as to the laity. Read chapter two and you will see whom the Lord is speaking to and about.

Also, look at verse 3 of chapter 3: “And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify THE SONS OF LEVI, AND PURGE THEM as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” The Levites were the tribe chosen to minister in the temple. You could say they are equivalent to the ministers today.

Why is the Lord saying in Malachi that He must purify these pastors? Because they were not pure. Of course, the laymen were not pure either. Purity was an individual responsibility, but impurity was largely the fault of the leadership because it is a fact that the CHURCH MEMBERS WILL RARELY TAKE A HIGHER STAND THAN IS TAKEN BY THE MINISTERS. We need a converted ministry and a converted people. Shepherds who watch for souls as they that must give account will lead the flock in paths of peace and holiness. Their success in this work will be in proportion to their own growth in grace and knowledge of the truth. When the teachers are sanctified, soul, body, and spirit, they can impress upon the people the importance of sanctification.

The Pharisees built the tombs of the prophets, and adorned these sepulchers. They said to one another, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have united with them in shedding the blood of God’s servants.” At the same time they were planning to take the life of His Son. This should be a lesson to us. IT SHOULD OPEN OUR EYES TO THE POWER OF SATAN TO DECEIVE THE MIND THAT TURNS FROM THE LIGHT OF TRUTH. Many follow in the track of the Pharisees. They revere the martyrs— those who have died for their faith. They wonder at the blindness of the Jews in rejecting Christ. “Had we lived in His day,” they declare, “we would gladly have received His teaching; we would never have been partakers in the guilt of those who rejected the Saviour.” BUT WHEN OBEDIENCE TO GOD REQUIRES SELF- DENIAL AND HUMI- LIATION, THESE VERY PERSONS STIFLE THEIR CONVICTIONS, AND REFUSE OBEDIENCE. THUS THEY MANIFEST THE SAME SPIRIT AS DID THE PHARISEES WHOM CHRIST CONDEMNED. We need to have a healthy respect for the power of the

enemy. Satan was as much a roaring lion then as he is today and he is very angry, especially toward those who are determined to maintain the truth as it is in Jesus. The Laodicean condition is the most dangerous position to be in. It is a position where persons really do not study for themselves, but rather place their trust in those who seem to. They are riding on the shirttails of someone else’s experience.

I should add that this condition exists in people no matter which group they may be in. One can be in the Laodicean condition (see Revelation 3) in conservative Christian circles just as easily as in liberal ones. Truth- filled books, magazines, audio tapes, and videos are good. They should be utilized as tools to further one’s knowledge, but these should not be the only experience. We must hunger and thirst after righteousness and show ourselves approved as 2 Timothy 2: 15 states: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” We must know for ourselves what and why we believe the way we do. We cannot get to heaven by hitching a ride on the shirttails of someone else’s experience. A personal, living relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way. We must allow Him to develop in us a love for the truth which is the only way we can be sanctified. (See John 17: 19.)

Many find it so easy to speak of the stupidity of the ancient Jews and how we would never do what they did. At the same time we are doing things far worse then what they did! How can this happen? How can we have the record of their failures written out for our admonition (1 Corinthians 10: 11) and STILL be making the same mistakes, having the same spiritual pride and persecuting the same people within our own ranks? It boggles the mind to try to comprehend. When obedience to God requires self- denial and humiliation, people stifle their convictions, and refuse obedience. Thus they manifest the same spirit as did the Pharisees whom Christ condemned.

Next time you hear someone insisting that Jesus never condemned people, ask him or her to reread Matthew 23. If honest people are around you, it should take care of the argument, or at least let everyone know who is interested in truth and who is not.

How often have you heard of someone reading a simple and plain, “thus saith the Lord” to someone, just to hear the response, “I haven’t been convicted on that.” These things should open our eyes to the power of Satan to deceive those who have turned away from the light. We should ask the True Witness for all the help He has promised to give us (see Revelation 3: 18) that we might discern what is truth. Remember these four little words: NOT BLIND, NOR BITTER. Although we are in a real struggle, although we must fight the enemy for every inch of ground, although the Christian walk is a battle and a march, although we must expose apostasy and call sin by its right name, and although we will end up being hated, persecuted, and possibly killed by those who once said they loved us, we need to maintain our Christian dignity and spirit of salvation toward others, even our enemies.

In the Spirit of Christ we want to be “NOT BLIND, NOR BITTER.” These four little words, rightly understood, will bring into our lives the true Christian balance we need. They will also define, purify and maintain a proper motive in our daily intercourse with God and our fellowman.

Christ’s indignation was directed against the hypocrisy and the gross sins by which men were destroying their own souls, deceiving the people, and dishonoring God. In the deceptive reasoning of the priests and rulers, He discerned the working of Satanic agencies. Keen and searching had been His denunciation of sin; but He spoke no words of retaliation. He had a holy wrath against the prince of darkness, but He manifested no irritated temper. This should also be true of the Christian who lives in harmony with God, possessing the sweet attributes of love and mercy. The true Christian will feel a righteous indignation against sin but will not be roused by human passion and desire revenge. Even in meeting those who are moved by a power from beneath to maintain falsehood, in Christ the true Christian will still preserve calmness and self- possession.

Our struggle must be fought on a higher level than that of our enemies. We must always have the best interests of others in mind even in times of rejection; even in times when others refuse to recognize our motives for what they are; even in times of persecution and slander, and in the face of death. Yes, we have real, live enemies. Yes, they can hurt us and break our hearts. They can cause us undue pain and grief. But our Lord and Saviour gave up all that He possessed to travel this road before us. He showed the way that leads home and He has demonstrated that to live His life is the best and only way. He revealed that even in meeting those who are controlled by Satan and lie about us, by His example and power we will still preserve calmness and self- possession.

Dear brother and sister, see Jesus in Gethsemane’s garden. See Him being taken by that brutal mob and betrayed by one of His own. View our lovely Jesus in the hall at His trial. How calm and self- possessed is His behavior. By His example, isn’t it this calmness and self- possession that draws you to Him? Isn’t it this that is partly the reason Jesus is so much your hero? Don’t you wish to be this way in the face of adversity? Then enter the battle you must. There is no other way but through the garden, to the trial, and on up Golgotha’s hill. We must be “crucified” to self and given totally to Jesus. (Please study Matthew 26: 36 – 27: 31.) This is not to say that our Lord never raised His voice or became angry in the proper sense, for He did. But it was not during times of self- defense, for this was not the work of our Lord. His work on earth was not to defend His reputation in human passion but to defend His Father’s reputation with holy anger or indignation. There is a big difference!!

But praise the Lord! He will “resurrect” us anew. He has provided for our every need and He so much wants to give us, each one, of His Spirit. Just take that which He offers, friend. It matters not what our heritage may be. We can continue to excuse our wrong habits, justify cherished sins, and our bad tempers and be lost, or we can give them to Jesus and be saved. The decision is as simple as that. But if we choose to trust ourselves to Jesus, if we are willing enough to place our life into His nail- scarred hands, He will finish in us that which He has started.

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1: 6).

Copyright © 1999 Servants of the Saviour
Terry & Cathy Ross

Chapter 3 – Who and What Is the Church? ⇒