Church and the Gospel

When the Gospel is not accurately taught or explained, people end up not understanding the message of sin, they do not repent and have a false belief of their conversion and salvation. In its place will always be a substitute message, at most times a message that concentrates only on God’s love for us without mentioning the ramifications of rejecting him. While it is true Gods Son Jesus was sent because of God’s love for us, it is only a part of the Gospel. It does not include the consequences of one’s sin and the punishment intended for sin that Jesus took upon himself in our place. Without the Gospel’s presentation that Jesus Christ took upon Himself  the “punishment we justly deserve for our sins” and satisfied the wrath of God , and not just the message of forgiveness of sin, the Gospel message ends up to be superficial  and only addresses a part of the Gospel  and not  the complete knowledge of what it is all about.

This can produce many Church members (attendees) , but not true converts. A Gospel without repentance, (a true change of mind) which produces a change of life, leaves people trapped and deceived in thinking they are now in Christ Jesus whilst there has been no change in their lives. The mental acknowledgement of the forgiveness of sin by Jesus at the cross will have no effect until the the sinner understands what they are being saved from and causes there life to act in a different way by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Of course there are circumstances that may not favour the full proclamation of the Gospel each time it is presented for that reason it is necessary that what is proclaimed consists of the foundations of which it can then build upon and not concentrated on the finished building that has no foundations that will collapse when a storm comes along.

Too many come away from a (church building) saying: “I now feel good about myself or I have a positive outlook.” This is not the intention of God’s word. God’s word often searches the heart to expose the unknown sin hidden inside us so we can deal with it. God deals with our heart, which only the Spirit can reach and He uses the word.

Heb. 4:12: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

God’s intent is to change us to be like Jesus, not give us a boost in self – confidence. God’s word gives us hope through His promises in Him who can do far beyond what we think or ask for. This is obtained by faith and nothing else. This is completely different than living based on a positive attitude that expects good things to happen.

Jn.10:1, 8: My sheep hear MY voice; Jesus is the instructor, we are to look to His Word. Men’s words, philosophies, or the teachers of the world will not nourish you. Only those who present Christ’s words give you understanding to grow in your spiritual walk to maturity. Self must decrease for Jesus to increase and produce fruit. Many are in churches that teach human potential, positive thinking wrapped up in biblical language and principles for living. This has nothing to do with the gospel and is filled with concepts that are not profitable for our spiritual growth. If we are increasing in our ways then we are choking out His Word that is to form the image of Christ in us. In other words, you learn to believe in Jesus but it has not affected you to change.

Before one can understand why there is even a gospel, we need to comprehend what sin is, otherwise there is no need to have a gospel. This involves understanding the nature of man that we all share, from Adam onward. The Gospel is God’s way to deal with the fallen nature of man, the only way. The alienation of man from God through human sin necessitates reconciliation. Knowing the dire position we are all in, God through our short history began to deal with mankind in various ways to bring us back into what He first intended for us. This is accomplished through what is now known as the gospel.

Sin is something society does not want to hear about or consider to believe in. It has become a dirty religious word to them, used to elicit guilt and shame, which is necessary to convict a person of his separated state before a Holy and righteous God. In like manner, the teaching of hell (the lake of fire) is as repulsive even though it is the natural outcome of those who sin without being rescued by the gospel.

Jesus answered those who question him why he associated with sinners, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Lk. 5:31-32). The gospel is ignored and rejected by those who think they are well, complete, self-reliant.

This is why many people hear the gospel, but so few respond. Because they want to enter into a relationship with God their own way, they are bound for heaven because of their own good deeds. They have not understood God’s way as the only way.

It is popular to present Jesus as only one choice among many. This inclusiveness damages the churches message that should be unified and brings a reproach to Christ who was sent from heaven to die, for his way to be offered.

The gospel can be either sweet or bitter to those who hear it. Just as the sun can either melt or harden a material. The sweetness of the Gospel is to those who see their sinfulness and are willing to accept it as the ONLY solution; the bitterness of the gospel is to those who reject God’s way. They would rather stay spiritually dead in their sin but think of themselves as alive, they love the things of the world, the works of their flesh more than God. They refuse to allow the Word of God to do any work in their soul. Jesus scolded and gave men warning “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt 16:26)

We should never forget that the gospel is prompted by love from God’s mercy, He does not want to judge us : For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.   (John 3:17-19).

However, if the gospel is rejected He has no choice but to do so, because the light has made known our condition and we have personally rejected the solution, His Son and the work done for us to be reconciled to the Father.

The Bible states it is the “preaching of the cross” that contains “the power of God” unto salvation, because only by believing the finished work of Jesus on the cross can save us from our sins. There is only one way offered by God. 1 Cor. 1:18: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” Paul speaks of the cross as an “offense” (Gal.5:11) in Greek “scandalon,” meaning (scandal) a stumbling block. The cross which was used for crucifixion was symbol of shame to the Romans but became something wonderful to the Christians, for it spoke of the victorious one and his triumph over sin for mankind. It was THE CROSS (crucifixion) that was ALWAYS preached for salvation!

1 Cor. 1:23-24 “but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

We are given the promise in  Psalm 145:18-19 “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; he also will hear their cry and save them” 

We are to call upon the Lord to be saved: For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? (Rom. 10:13-14)“Call on” Gr. epikaleomai- means to cry out, to invoke, as in a decision in relation to salvation (1 Cor.1:2).

If the word is not preached then what will produce faith? If the Gospel is not clearly understood by a mind that is darkened from sin, no prayer is going to work. The work of the Holy Spirit must be present to bring light, and He works in concert with the word. It is faith God is looking for and faith comes from hearing the word (Rom.10:17).

This faith is placed in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). But what does it mean to “believe”? It means an unconditional continual following in Jesus Christ and all of His teachings, knowing your condition as a sinner, and that Christ died for you personally. You believe on him ALONE to be saved, because of who He is. Believing in the facts is not enough, Faith is alive and active or it cannot receive what is freely given.

Eph 1:13 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” 

Without faith being present; nothing one does, whether it be a prayer calling out His name will result in salvation. The Bible simply says “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10).

Without the power and presence of the Holy Spirit working there will be no faith, one may raise their hand and come forward believing the message is true but not having faith in the message, the finished work at Calvary and the resurrection of Jesus, will not bring the new birth.

In Acts 2:22-24 the  Apostle Peter speaks of the resurrection:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know– “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;”whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”.

Today, the resurrection is rarely mentioned – why Jesus died is barely mentioned. How then is one to understand the gospel for their salvation? This lack of clarity explains why universalism is growing in the church. Instead of equipping the saints with the gospel, which is the only hope for all people, we have newer ways.

Rom 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”

The gospel is the commission of the church, if we are to be the pillar and ground of the truth it must continually be proclaimed to unbelievers, explained and reminded to the believers that this alone is what we stand in for eternal life. When it is neglected, misunderstood or avoided the results will always be the same. The choice is life or death to the recipients.

(from unknown source)

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith;

The True Church

 

“Men fancy if they join this Church or that Church, and become communicants, and go through certain forms, that all must be right with their souls. It is an utter delusion. It is a gross mistake. All were not Israel who were called Israel, and all are not members of Christ’s body who profess themselves Christians. Take notice, you may be a staunch member of what you deem the Church, Episcopal or otherwise, and yet not belong to the true Church. And if you do not, it will be better at last if you had never been born.”

– J. C. Ryle (1816 – 1900)

 

 

‘The Devil’s Mission of Amusement’

 “An evil is in the professed camp of the Lord, so gross, so brazen in its impudence, that the most short-sighted of spiritual men can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years it has developed at an abnormal rate, ever for evil. It has worked like leaven until now the whole lump ferments. Look which way you may, its presence makes itself manifest.

It is only during the past few years that “amusement” has become a recognized weapon of our warfare and developed into a mission. There has been a steady “down grade” in this respect. From “speaking out,” as the Puritans did, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she has tolerated them in her borders, and now she has adopted them and provided a home for them under the plea of “reaching the masses and getting the ear of the people.” The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church of Christ that part of her mission is to provide entertainment for the people with a view to winning them into her ranks. The human nature that lies in every heart has risen to the bait. Here, now, is an opportunity of gratifying the flesh and yet retaining a comfortable conscience. We can now please ourselves in order to do good to others. The rough old cross can be exchanged for a “costume,” and the exchange can be made with the benevolent purpose of elevating the people.

All this is terribly sad, and the more so because truly gracious souls are being led away by the specious pretext that it is a form of Christian work. They forget that a seemingly beautiful angel may be the devil himself, “for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14).

Now, surely, if our Lord had intended His Church to be the caterer of entertainment, and so counteract the god of this world, He would hardly have left so important a branch of service unmentioned. If it is Christian work, why did not Christ at least hint it? “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every Nation,” is clear enough. So would it have been if He had added, “and provide amusement for those who do not relish the Gospel.” No such addendum, however, is to be found, nor even an equivalent for such, in any one of our Lord’s utterances. This style of work did not seem to occur to His mind. Then again, Christ, as an ascended Lord, gives to His Church specially qualified men for the carrying on of His work, but no mention of any gift for this branch of service occurs in the list. “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers – for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Where do the “public entertainers” come in? The Holy Ghost is silent concerning them, and His silence is eloquence.

If “providing recreation” be a part of the Church’s work, surely we may look for some promise to encourage her in the toilsome task. Where is it? There is a promise for “my Word”; it “shall not return unto me void.” There is the heart-rejoicing declaration concerning the Gospel: “it is the power of God.” There is the sweet assurance for the preacher of Christ that, whether he be successful or not as the world judges success – he is “sweet savour unto God.” There is the glorious benediction for those whose testimony, so far from amusing the world, rouses its wrath: “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people, or because they refused to? The Gospel of amusement has no martyrology. In vain does one look for a promise from God for providing recreation for a godless world. That which has no authority from Christ, no provision made for it by the Spirit, no promise attached to it by God, can only be a lying hypocrite when it lays claim to be “a branch of the work of the Lord.”

But again, providing amusement for the people is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all His apostles. What is to be the attitude of the Church towards the world according to our Lord’s teaching? Strict separation and uncompromising hostility. While no hint ever passed His lips of winning the world by pleasing it, or accommodating methods to its taste, His demand for unworldliness was constant and emphatic. He sets forth in one short sentence what He would have His disciples to be: “Ye are the salt of the earth.” Yes, the salt: not the sugar-candy nor a “lump of delight.” Something the world will be more inclined to spit out than swallow with a smile. Something more calculated to bring water to the eye than laughter to the lip.

He was in awful earnestness, and His ministry was like Himself. Had He been less uncompromising, and introduced more of the “bright and pleasant” element into His mission, He would have been more popular.  Yet, when many of His disciples went back. because of the searching nature of His preaching, I do not find there was any attempt to increase a diminished congregation by resorting to something more pleasant to the flesh. I do not hear Him saying, “We must keep up the gatherings anyway: so run after those friends, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow. Something very short and attractive, with little, if any, preaching. Today was a service for God, but tomorrow we will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it, and have a happy hour. Be quick, Peter; we must get the public somehow, – if not by Gospel, then by nonsense.” No, this was not how He argued. Gazing in sorrow on those who would not hear the Word, He simply turns to the twelve, and asks, “Will ye also go away?”

Jesus pitied sinners, pleaded with them, sighed over them, warned them, and wept over them; but never sought to amuse them. When the evening shadows of His consecrated life were deepening into the night of death, He reviewed His holy ministry, and found comfort and sweet solace in the thought, “I have given them thy Word.” As with the Master, so with His apostles – their teaching is the echo of His. In vain will the epistles be searched to discover any trace of a gospel of amusement.

What a contrast to all the rot and nonsense now being perpetrated in the holy name of Christ! The Lord clear the Church of all the rubbish that the devil has imposed upon her, and bring us back again to apostolic methods!

“Come out!” is the call for today. Sanctify yourselves. Put away the evil from among you. Cast down the world’s altars and cut down her groves. Spurn her offered assistance. Decline her help, as your Master did the testimony of devils, for “He suffered them not to speak, because they knew Him.” Renounce all the policy of the age. Trample upon Saul’s armour. Grasp the Book of God. Trust the Spirit who wrote its pages. Fight with this weapon only and always. Cease to amuse and seek to arouse. Shun the clap of a delighted audience, and listen for the sobs of a convicted one. Give up trying to “please” men who have only the thickness of the ribs between their souls and hell; and warn, and plead, and entreat, as those who feel the waters of eternity creeping upon them.

Let the Church again confront the world; testify against it; meet it only behind the cross; and, like her Lord, she shall overcome, and with Him share the victory.”

– Archibald G. Brown, ‘The Devil’s Mission of Amusement’ (1889)

 

 

Compromise

 “For the Christian it [compromise] means that he concedes something that God has given, or sets aside something that God has revealed, for the sake of coming to terms with the situation that he faces. It may mean bowing to some convention, clinging to some prejudice or defending some tradition. It may be an attempt to accommodate someone else’s wishes or to curry someone’s favour. Or it may be to preserve reputation or earn ‘respectability’. When we are dealing with truth, if there is concession there is compromise.”

“Compromise is that inner whisper of the self-life that would turn us from the path of total, unswerving obedience to the will of God.”

– Arthur Wallis, ‘The Radical Christian’ (1981)

 

 

A true radical of the Kingdom

“A true radical of the Kingdom is a man who stands on clear ground in relation to truth. He cannot compromise his conscience, tamper with his convictions, or bend biblical principles for the sake of status or security. Though he does not court unpopularity for its own sake, he is not afraid of it if it comes. His concern is to obey God, and leave the consequences with him. All forms of unreality or pretence are an anathema to him. In words and actions he is captive to principle rather than expedience. This means that he will not hesitate to speak the truth in love for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Nor is he happy to ignore matters which need to be raised, in order to avoid an unpleasant confrontation. In the Kingdom of God radicalism means unswerving righteousness.

 

The clarity and courage of the radical Christian enables him to cut through the hypocrisy, unreality and trivia that often conceal root issues, as Jesus did with the scribes and Pharisees, and expose the truth for all to see: He has learned to discern between human enthusiasm and the zeal of the Spirit, between soft-heartedness (which is basically selfish) and spiritual compassion (which is sacrificial), between easy-going tolerance and true forbearance. On the other side of the coin, he is not stampeded into compromise for fear of people viewing him as narrow-minded, exclusive, uncooperative, or superior.

In his convictions the radical is a black-and-white man. Greys don’t figure in his colour scheme. Or to put it differently, when it comes to important issues he refuses to sit on the fence or adopt a ‘wait-and-see policy’. It’s right or it’s wrong. It’s true or it’s false. It’s light or it’s darkness. He cannot go along with those who, for personal considerations, are content to live in the twilight.”

– Arthur Wallis, ‘The Radical Christian’ (1981)Test yourselves

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?

(2 Corinthians 13:5)

Revival, Reformation or Repudiation

There have always been some who not only recognize the glaring deficiencies of what the church is, but are grieved and troubled by what they see, to the point that they cannot remain content to let things continue on, but are compelled to do something about it.

Of these blessed few who choose to stand up and speak out against the religious system, the response seems to fall along one of three approaches. As we will see, only one approach is harmonious with the prophetic example set forth in the history of the people of God, and it is the one approach that seems to be the last resort instead of the first recourse. But let us consider them in the proper order.

First, there are those who call for what amounts to Reformation. These are the Martin Luthers who standup to the religious leadership and rightly confront their unscriptural practices. The well-meaning intention is to fix what is wrong with the church by identifying all of its problems and coming up with Scriptural solutions. But this represents a zealous naivety on the part of all would-be reformers. First, it assumes that once the leaders recognize their unscriptural practices, they will repent and change their ways. History has proven that this never happens. Second, it assumes that the church system is something God wants to reform, when the truth is that the church system was made by man and was never authorized by God in the first place. Reforming it has the same effect as patching an old garment with new cloth, or pouring new wine into old wineskins, which results in ruining both the old and the new.

These attempts at reformation, if they are not quashed altogether, typically result in the establishment of something very similar to compete with what was already there. When the Catholic church rejected Luther, he founded another religious system based upon his understanding of Scriptural truth. To be sure it was an improvement over the Catholic system; but it was still a religious system nevertheless. From the Protestant Reformation many thousands of denominations have sprung, each more or less based upon their own interpretation of Scripture and upon the founding principles of the Roman Catholic church embedded in their history. The end result is that we are even further away from the simplicity of Christ with each attempt to repair what God never called us to build in the first place.

Second, there are those who espouse Revival as the cure to everything that ails Churchianity. The church is sleeping, and needs to be roused from sleep (so the thinking goes). The revivals of generations past, and the preachers who seemed to be instrumental in stirring up these revivals, are idealized and venerated as great heroes of the faith; the kind of people we need to be (or find) in order to experience the same kind of revival and awakening that they experienced. The Revivalist is similar to the Reformer in that both types of people hope to repair what is wrong with the church, hoping to spark a movement or a move of God that will shake the church out of complacency and restore something of the power that the early Christians had. But the Revivalist lays emphasis more on the spiritual experience than Scriptural integrity. This naturally creates a certain hankering after signs, wonders, miracles, and visible manifestations of the “power” of God as evidences and proofs that God is moving or doing something to revive and restore to what used to be.

Again, the clear witness of Scripture and the prophetic record of God’s dealings with His people rises up to contradict the Revivalist in his enthusiastic naivety. Yes, it is true that revivals and spiritual awakenings have occurred and will continue to occur. One of the greatest revivals of the 20th Century was the charismatic movement, which formed the background of my own spiritual awakening. Even so, however much individual people may have benefitted from these revivals and spiritual movements, none of these things have resulted in any fundamental change to Churchianity itself. The religious system continues on, and the deception and abuse it dispenses in the name of God gets worse with every generation.

God will not continue to pour out His Spirit or send any kind of revival to people who still remain in a religious system that God has judged and called us to come out of. Any real pouring out of God’s Spirit must result in a people being called out; God is not the author of something that requires people to go back to Babylon in order to benefit from it themselves, or to bring Life to it. On the contrary, the very idea of “revival” is frequently used by Churchianity in a desperate attempt to breathe new life into something that is clearly dead. It is dead because it is under the judgment of God. He has not called us to bring it back to life again; on the contrary, His judgment says, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their dead” (Mt.8:22).

While God has certainly been patient with His people and has even blessed efforts to reform or revive, it has always been with an understanding that He was calling those who had been reformed and revived to come out and be obedient to Him. The prophetic declaration is to “come out of [Babylon], My people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Rev. 18:4).

God’s ultimate intention is neither Reformation nor Revival, but Repudiation! Repudiation is a strong word. It means, “to reject the authority or validity of; to disown or cast off.” But this is precisely what followers of Jesus have had to do from the very beginning. To the elders and high priests of Judaism, the apostles stated simply, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Later, when the Christian Church took on the same religious spirit as the Jewish Sanhedrin, other men and women followed in the same tradition of the apostles and repudiated the authority of the religious establishment in order to maintain the Testimony of Jesus. They were neither Reformers nor Revivalists; they simply repudiated the religious system altogether.

There is a wonderful reformation happening right now – not within the religious system, but within the hearts and minds of people who are repudiating that system. There is a tremendous revival taking place right now, and it is a revival along spiritual lines, among those who have heeded the call to “come out of Babylon” and have been raised to new Life. God is revealing Christ to people, and people are learning how to enter into Him and how to live in Him, and how to walk in Him. They are leaving the complexities of Religion for the simplicity of Relationship. This is a quiet reformation, a quiet revival, a grass-roots movement that is governed by the Holy Spirit.

This article is an excerpt from “ The Church in The Wilderness” By Chip Brogden

A Brief History of Called Out Peoples

Throughout history, God has continually called out a people, a remnant that will represent His heart and mind in the midst of universal deception and decay. To answer this calling, God’s people have always been asked to leave where they are and travel through an unfamiliar, lonely place – a wilderness – in order to reach the place He has prepared for them.

This happened twice in the history of Israel, and it has happened twice in the history of Christianity. By looking back on how God has called His people out in times past, we can better see and appreciate the significance of the final exodus that is taking place at this time.

Israel’s First Exodus: God Called the Hebrews Out of Egypt

We have already seen that Moses established a “church in the wilderness” by leading the Hebrews out of Egypt and into the Promised Land by way of the desert of Sinai. This exodus is recorded in our Bibles, not just for its historical significance, but for us to learn by: “With most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us…” (1 Cor. 10:5,6). We see how they were tested in the wilderness, and how they failed many of the tests, and failed to enter into the Promised Land because of doubt and fear. We also see how many of them were tempted to go back to Egypt.

All these things are recorded so that we will recognize this tendency in ourselves today and not make the same mistakes they made. So this first exodus establishes the spiritual principle of God calling His people out and is the key that unlocks our understanding of how God goes about the difficult work of calling and setting apart a chosen people for Himself.

Israel’s Second Exodus: God Called the Jews Out of Babylon

Once the nation of Israel was established in the Promised Land, they began a slow and steady moral and spiritual decline, occasionally punctuated with godly kings and periods of repentance and revival. But eventually the wickedness of the nation called for judgment, and this judgment came in the form of Nebuchadnezzar, who conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple, killed most of the people, and took the remainder as captives with him to Babylon, where they lived in exile for 70 years.

After that, the Lord once again called them to come out – to leave Babylon, journey back through the wilderness to Jerusalem, and rebuild their Temple and their city.

The significant thing about this is that most of the Jews stayed in Babylon. Out of an estimated Jewish population of greater than one million people living in exile, only 42,000 returned. The vast majority preferred the comfortable bondage of Babylon to the uncomfortable, uncertain future of rebuilding their nation. The significance of this is extraordinary. Just as the young nation wanted to return to Egypt, the nation in exile wanted to remain in Babylon.

So we have two exoduses in the history of Israel that provide us with spiritual discernment into what follows after.  Let us now turn to the two exoduses in the history of the Ekklesia.

Our First Exodus: God Called the Christians Out of Judaism

A remnant of Jews did return from Babylon. They rebuilt the Temple and inhabited Jerusalem once again. Having paid the terrible price of their idolatry, they resolved to never disobey God again. But in their zeal they went to the opposite extreme of fanaticism. What eventually developed was a religious system and a hypocritical priesthood obsessed with outward appearances and obedience to the letter of the Law while overlooking mercy, grace, righteousness, faith, and love.

Into this atmosphere our Savior was sent, just as Moses was sent to Pharaoh with a mandate to bring God’s people out of bondage and into the Promised Land. And, just as Pharaoh resisted Moses, so the religious leaders resisted Jesus. Undaunted, Jesus promised another “church in the wilderness” that would stand forever, and charged His disciples to take this message to “all nations” and “to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Even with this clear direction, it would take many years for the truth to sink in: faith in Christ was not compatible with Judaism. Peter struggled with preaching Christ to the Gentiles and was rebuked publicly by Paul. James, based in Jerusalem, tried in vain to make Christianity fit in better with Jewish ideology. But once the Gospel was preached to the Gentiles, it marked the beginning of something new. The Way, as it was then called, was no longer a mere sect within Judaism. The Gentiles heard the message, and thanks to Paul, understood that faith in Christ has nothing to do with obeying the Law of Moses.

Now followers of Jesus were forced to make a decision. Were they going to “come out of Judaism” and be “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a set-apart people” distinct from Judaism, or, would they cling to their Jewish traditions and the teachings of their elders, all of whom rejected Jesus as the Messiah?

The letter to the Hebrews was written to Jews struggling with that very dilemma. After demonstrating conclusively that you cannot enjoy the benefits of the New Covenant while clinging to elements of the Old Covenant, the author concludes:

“We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin, are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through His own blood. Therefore let us go to Him outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured” (Heb. 13:10-13).

Once again, when offered a choice between comfortable bondage and uncomfortable freedom, we find many chose to stay “within the camp.” They were known as the Ebionites – Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah but insisted on obedience to the Jewish laws and customs in order to be saved. Of course, they also rejected Paul as a genuine apostle. This group flourished within Jerusalem until it was destroyed by Titus in A.D. 70., after which they established themselves in Pella. They persisted for some time, but by the fourth or fifth century they were no longer in existence.

Our Second Exodus: God Calls the Remnant Out of “Churchianity” By that time, the followers of Jesus were recognized as something springing out of, but totally different from, Judaism. For about 300 years the followers of Jesus practiced their faith in simplicity and in obedience to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, even when enduring fierce persecution from the Romans and the Jews. Eventually, Rome accepted Christianity and made it their state religion. Masses of “converts” poured in. Pagan temples were converted into “Christian” churches, and more church buildings were constructed. An elaborate hierarchy of bishops was established and a religious system was organized that soon exceeded the Jewish religion, both in numbers of adherents and in material wealth. Christianity became institutionalized into three main sects: Catholicism, Orthodox, and Protestantism. Out of Protestantism, Christianity was further splintered into thousands of denominations.

So we see that Israel’s history has repeated itself in the history of Christianity. Just as God called the Hebrews out of Egypt to form a new nation, so God called the early Christians out of Judaism to form a “new nation” of kings and priests. When Israel rebelled against God and committed idolatry, they were led away to Babylon for judgment. In like manner, when Christendom rebelled against God and created an idolatrous system of worship “in Jesus’ name,” they were also brought to judgment; the chief difference being that God did not send them away – He simply gave them over to their own devices, and they were quite content to proceed under the assumption that God was endorsing and blessing the works of their hands.

This brings us to the present time. Just as God called out a remnant of Jews to leave Babylon and journey to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, God has in these last days called out a remnant of Christians to leave “Churchianity” and take a journey through the wilderness. What is He bringing them to? Not to a temple made with hands, but to a house of living stones. Not to the Jerusalem that is below, but to the Jerusalem that is above: the New Jerusalem, the Heavenly City, whose builder and maker is God. It is a “Church in the Wilderness” – not a building, but a body of people in transition between the religious system and the spiritual fulfillment of God’s original intention for the Ekklesia.

This article is an excerpt from “ The Church in The Wilderness” By Chip Brogden