Archive for November 2009

God’s Outsiders: The Called-Out Ones (A Biblical Look at God’s Ecclesia), Part 29

November 30, 2009

Institutionalization of God

Our culture has developed a system of dealing with our aged parents and grandparents. We “put them away” in institutions for the elderly. It is all neat and clean. They are out of our daily lives and we can go about our daily business and lives, going to visit them on weekends, schedules permitting.

The sad thing is that we have done this in our minds with God for a long time. God is neatly tucked away from our daily lives. His worship and service are even tucked away, because we do that on Sunday at the “worship service”!

  • Where does God dwell?
  • Where do you worship God?
  • Where do you serve God?
  • Where does ministry take place in your life?

Have you limited these activities to some man-made institution? Most of the Body of Christ has. This is sad beyond description! Shame on us! Will we continue to be party to such a conspiracy against God? A conspiracy it is: It is a conspiracy against the truth of His Word, the truth of our identity, the truth of His very Own character and attributes. Resist this “institutionalization of God”! Refuse to allow our God to be “put away”!

Protest by refusing to participate in such a practice any longer! Let us be free to be who we are! We are the church, we are the house of God, we are the habitation of God, we are His building. The worship, service and ministry of God are daily features of His life in us and are not regulated by time or place. Let’s stand there!

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Bible Student’s Notebook
© 2000, 2009

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God’s Outsiders: The Called-Out Ones (A Biblical Look at God’s Ecclesia), Part 28

November 29, 2009

Would Paul Have Qualified for “501c3” Status?

The following is taken directly from the IRS code:

IRC 501(c)(3) – Religious Purposes

Churches are a subset of IRC 501(c)(3) organizations organized and operated for religious purposes. See, e.g., De La Salle Institute v. United States, 195 F. Supp. 891 (N.D. Cal. 1961); Chapman v. Commissioner, 43 T.C. 358, 363 (1967).

501(c)(3) Requirements

An organization must be described in IRC 501(c)(3) to qualify as a church under IRC 170(b)(1)(A)(i), although it need not be recognized as such by the Service (given that churches are exempt from the filing requirements of IRC 508(a) and (b)).

In determining if a religious organization is a church within the meaning of IRC 170(b)(1)(a)(i), 508(c)(1)(A), or 6033(a)(2)(A), consider if the organization has the following characteristics:

    A distinct legal existence;
    A recognized creed and form of worship;
    A definite and distinct ecclesiastical government;
    A formal code of doctrine and discipline;
    A distinct religious history;
    A membership not associated with any other church or denomination;
    A complete organization of ordained ministers ministering to their congregations;
    Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study;
    A literature of its own;
    Established place of worship;
    Regular congregations;
    Regular religious services;
    Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young;
    Schools for the preparation of its ministers; and
    Any other facts and circumstances that may bear upon the organization’s claim for church status.

Now we have one simple question: Would Paul have qualified?

If not, then how is it that we can follow him, and yet we can qualify for this religious, governmentally sanctioned distinction?

Pressing the Issue

In Paul’s day, Israel’s religion had long been a part of the Roman religious system. It was a legitimately recognized religion by the government. It was religio licita (had official religious license) from Rome.

Did it ever occur to you why Paul, a Roman born citizen, had legal battles and ended up executed by Rome?

When Paul started his ministry he was undoubtedly recognized under the religio licita of Judaism; but he received progressive “revelations” (II Corinthians 12:1) from the Lord concerning “the mystery” (Ephesians 3:3). The more truth he received and taught, the more he distanced himself and the ecclesia from Israel. The more clearly and strongly he taught, “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (II Timothy 3:15), the more he was saying in essence, “This is not that,” “the church the Body of Christ is not Israel.” From town to town, and speech by speech, he was pounding nails in his own coffin. He was identifying the church, the Body of Christ as being outside of the religious system. He operated religio illicita (as an illegal, unlicensed religion); but this was his intent, for which he would lay down his life!

He builds too low who builds beneath the skies. (Anon.)

Paul gives us a solemn warning:

… Let every man take heed how he builds … (I Corinthians 3:10).

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Bible Student’s Notebook
© 2000, 2009

God’s Outsiders: The Called-Out Ones (A Biblical Look at God’s Ecclesia), Part 27

November 28, 2009

“Church, Inc.” Religion

Now, let’s get down to brass tacks. The Body of Christ, as a whole, is deeply submerged in the snare of the Babylonian religious system! Oh, that God would open our eyes to see such a sad state of affairs!

This is not a situation that has just developed. This spoilage of the church began in Paul’s day.[1] He warned of it often. It was later brought to great and evil heights by Constantine. Sorrowfully, there was little or no real change produced as a result of the “Reformation.” In fact, the Body of Christ may be more religious, more entangled in the Babylonian religious system now than at any point in its history. The worst part is that many members of Christ are, by and large, ignorant of this captive corruption.

501c3 Religion

The government and our precious misled brethren who have come before us have led us down the primrose path that has ended in this bondage. We have our own Americanized version of the Babylonian system. We have “Inc.” religion, of the “501c3” variety.

501c3 is the federal bureaucratic code given to churches and other religious non-profit organizations that meet governmental approval. Many dear brothers who are held by the religious system would deny that they are a part of it; but here is an honest and objective test: Are you a part of a religious “Inc.?” Are you a part of a “501c3?” Are you using the exact same system that every other religious group in the United States uses? Are you actually a part of the same system against which you profess to stand? Are you members with them in this Gentile religious system?

Listen to our apostle, Paul:

Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what concord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has he who believes with an infidel? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, ‘I will dwell in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate,’ says the Lord, ‘and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (II Corinthians 6:14-7:1).

Are you a part of a “Church, Inc.” – a governmentally formed and controlled religious entity? Are you a part of a 501c3 organization, officially approved, recognized and sanctioned by the federal government?

If so, then you are fellow religious members with every “unclean thing” (II Corinthians 6:17), and I encourage you, as we are entreated by Paul, to “come out from among them,” that we “touch not the unclean thing,” and that we “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit …” (II Corinthians 7:1).

According to the context, all of this “unclean” stuff is the Gentile religious system.

Do you think that “your church” or “your ministry” is not a part of this system, that you are not a member together with them? If you don’t think that you are, then call the bank where your “church” or “ministry” does business. They will tell you what you are! They can also tell you under what Federal “class” you are categorized. They could also tell you who else is in that “class” with you.

Or ask the Federal Government – the IRS in particular. They know what you are. They know what group and class you belong to. You may try to deny what you are, but you are in with all the rest of the religions – Muslim, Buddhist, Wiccan, Satanist, Christian; as far as this nation is concerned, you’re all the same!

It is all really simple. The world knows what we are, even if we try to pretend that we are really different. We are self-deceived. I say we, because I have been where you are. I was a part of something that has a religious legal identity, one that I pretended didn’t really exist, and one that, on occasion, I will even speak against – but I was a part of it just the same! I encourage you to be honest with yourself and with the world around you. Come clean.

Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the Word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God (II Corinthians 4:1-2).

Stop trying to pawn off your “church” as the “church of God.” Stop joining forces with the religious systems of this world! I encourage you to leave the system. Come on outside the camp!

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Bible Student’s Notebook
© 2000, 2009

 


 

[1]For a detailed study of this early departure from the truth and pattern of Paul, read the author’s book – The Church in Ruins: Brief Thoughts on II Timothy; available from http://www.ClydePilkington.com, PO Box 265 Windber, PA 15963, 1-800-784-6010.

God’s Outsiders: The Called-Out Ones (A Biblical Look at God’s Ecclesia), Part 26

November 27, 2009

Division Enters

Let’s continue our thoughts about Paul’s church work, using the believers at Corinth as an example.

Paul preached the gospel to the lost; they trusted and were made members of the church, the Body of Christ. Every believer was a member of this church, no exceptions, for one Spirit had baptized them all into one Body. Now this is the ground of truth that Paul taught the believers to live and practice – their oneness.

Yet suppose for a moment that someone came up with the idea to start another church in Corinth – a church other than the one that God already had in place. Suppose he thought that it would be very beneficial to organize people for various reasons. So, he selected a nice name for his “church” (denominationalism). He devised certain “articles of faith” that he thought ought to be stressed and emphasized in his “church” (credalism). He developed a nifty governmental system from which his “church” could operate (clericalism). He laid out a program for his “church” meetings (formalism).

Also since all the other religions had one, he carefully made arrangements to secure a “sanctuary” for his “church” in which to meet (heathenism). He registered his “church” with the office of incorporation, and with the office of governmental recognition. He set up a bank account in the name of his “church.” He printed stationery, business cards, offering envelopes, visitor’s cards and, of course, a nice sign – all proudly bearing the wonderful name of his new “church” (and it all bore his own name as well – “Rev. Sam S. Smith,” or maybe it was just “Pastor Sam S. Smith”). Then he purchased ads in the Corinthian Chronicle Daily inviting all to “attend” and join his “church,” especially his “unchurched” brethren.

When one stops and considers all of this in the light of divine revelation, it seems really strange and odd, does it not? Yet it is much more than that. A serious problem has just been introduced onto the scene of the life of “the church of God at Corinth”division!

Pastor Smith, wittingly or not, has just planted division in the church which is Christ’s Body. Pastor Smith and his “church” now stand in contradiction and competition with God’s church. Are all the members of God’s church in Corinth, members of his? Does he have members in his “church” that are not members of God’s? Now, not only do we have the problem of division, we also have the same problem that Israel had in its past – the “mixed multitude.”

One thing should be obvious, there are now two churches in Corinth. One is God’s church – a divine, organic organism. The other is man’s church – a human, fabricated organization. One is true, the other is false. The root of such a divisive religious system was already at work in Corinth when Paul wrote to them.

Now this I say, that every one of you says, “I am of Paul;” and “I of Apollos;” and “I of Cephas [Peter];” and “I of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? … (I Corinthians 1:12-13).

Do a couple of names in that passage stand out to you?

How about the first name – Paul. Is he not our apostle – “the apostle of the Gentiles”? Yes, he is; but it is wrong to use his name as a rallying point to create another division within the body of Christ! Isn’t Paul the apostle of every member of Christ’s Body? Do you say “I am of Paul” with implication of separation and division from the rest of the members of Christ’s Body?

Or, how about that last name – Christ. Is He not our Savior? Of course He is; but it also is wrong to use His name as a rallying point to create another division within the His Own body! Saying, “I am of Christ” sounds very noble, doesn’t it? Yet isn’t every member of God’s ecclesia “of Christ” – aren’t we all of Him? When we make this proclamation, we implicate a separation and false division from the rest of the members of His Body!

We must never forget that we are “members one of another”! Anything short of “the church, which is His body” is not God’s church – regardless of how large, fancy, modern or decorated it is!

Why not simply be content with who and what God has made us in Christ?

And you are complete in Him … (Colossians 2:10).

What more could we want or need? Let us heed Paul’s warning which he gave to us in light of this completeness in Christ. This serious plea can be found only two verses before:

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Colossians 2:8).

Why not stand on the ground of who God has made us? Nothing more, nothing less.

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Bible Student’s Notebook
© 2000, 2009

God’s Outsiders: The Called-Out Ones (A Biblical Look at God’s Ecclesia), Part 25

November 25, 2009

A Snapshot of the Church

Think back for a minute, if you will. When Paul went to a new city – say, Corinth, for example – as a rule, prior to his arrival, there were no members of Christ’s Body there. He would preach “the gospel to that city” (Acts 14:21). Upon trusting Christ his hearers were made members of the church, which is His Body. In other words, all of the saved in a geographic area made up the church of that area.

Let’s say, for example, that after some time at Corinth there were 25 believers – “the Lord knows them who are His” (II Timothy 2:19). All of these believers were baptized by “one Spirit” into “one Body” (I Corinthians 12:13). They were all made members of “the church of God” (I Corinthians 1:2) when they were “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (I Corinthians 1:2).

No one needed to form, start or plant “a church.” All that needed to be done was to preach “the good news to that city.” God did the rest. He formed, started and planted the only divine church that was at there – the only ecclesia that was His “the church of God.”

We hear a lot from the religious system about “starting” and “planting” churches. From where did such talk come? Does this sort of idea support, or contradict the truth of the ecclesia, the Body of Christ? If there is only one true church today, and God “started” this church with Paul, then what is it that we would be starting? It would be a man-made organization that would stand in contradiction and competition with God!

Paul preached the good news to the lost. Some of them – a few of them – believed and were saved. At the very moment they believed Paul’s gospel (evangel), they were made members of the church, which is His Body. No man-made organizations were needed, no forms to fill out, no governmental recognition to seek and maintain, and nothing for anyone to join! Not a “church,” not a “fellowship,” not a “society,” not a “club” – nothing! Every saved person in Corinth was already a member of the only church that God would ever have in Corinth!

There were no business meetings, board meetings or “church” property. There was only the “church of God.” Is that not enough? Why do we find it so hard to be satisfied with who and what God has made us in Christ? Can we not see the hand of the Adversary here?

Peter Lord, in his great work Turkeys & Eagles,[1] reminds us of an important truth:

We are all in danger of falling into the same trap that Adam and Eve fell into. They were tempted to become something they already were. The devil said, “If you eat … you will be like God.” They were already like God. Made in His image and in His likeness …

If the evil one can keep us from knowing who and what we are in Christ Jesus – new creations, saints, the people and children of God – then he can tempt us to act, by making us want what we think we do not have.

The Christian does not do in order to become. He does because he is what God has made him in Christ Jesus.

Be the church!

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Bible Student’s Notebook
© 2000, 2009


[1]Available through http://www.StudyShelf.com, PO Box 265, Windber, PA, 15963; 1-800-784-6010.

God’s Outsiders: The Called-Out Ones (A Biblical Look at God’s Ecclesia), Part 24

November 25, 2009

A Forgotten Tradition

Often, when we speak of tradition, there is one that we have forgotten. It must be remembered that there is another tradition, a godly one that we are to follow: the Pauline tradition.

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (II Thessalonians 2:15).

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (II Thessalonians 3:6).

We are to receive the traditions of Paul because:

●     He is Our divinely Appointed Pattern.

“And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that you might learn in us …” (I Corinthians 4:6).

“Wherefore I beseech you, be followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus … who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which are in Christ …” (I Corinthians 4:16, 17).

“Be followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).

“Those things, which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do …” (Philippians 4:9).

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which you have heard of me …” (II Timothy 1:13).

“But you have fully known my doctrine, manner of life …” (II Timothy 3:10).

●     He is Our divinely Appointed Apostle.

“For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify my office” (Romans 11:13).

“That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16).

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).

“Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity” (I Timothy 2:7).

“Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles …” (II Timothy 1:11).

●     To Him has been Committed this Current dispensation.

“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you” (Ephesians 3:1-2).

“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the Word of God” (Colossians 1:25).

“… A dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me” (I Corinthians 9:17).

“According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (I Timothy 1:11).

“… The gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me …” (Galatians 2:7).

“But has in due times manifested His Word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Savior” (Titus 1:3).

This current dispensation and its message were committed to Paul as a trust. The word “commit” means “to give in trust; to put into the hands or power of another; to entrust; to put into any place for preservation; to deposit;”[1] “to deposit (as a trust or for protection), to entrust.”[2]

The word “trust” means a “charge received in confidence; that which is committed to one’s care; something committed to a person’s care for use or management, and for which an account must be rendered.”[3]

As we receive the truth of this dispensation, we also receive the very dispensation itself, like Paul, becoming dispensers of God’s grace.

“… Which is given me to you” (Ephesians 3:2).

“… Which is given to me for you” (Colossians 1:25).

“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to your trust … And the things that you have heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (I Timothy 6:20; II Timothy 2:2).

Why was Timothy to commit his trust to men who were faithful? Because,

“… It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (I Corinthians 4:2).

We now have a trusteeship that has been committed to our own trust. We need to be faithful to Paul’s pattern – Paul’s tradition – and be ever so careful of the religious traditions of men!

Are we following Paul’s traditions, or man’s?

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Bible Student’s Notebook
© 2000, 2009


[1]Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828.
[2]James Strong, Strongs Exhaustive Concordance, Lexicon #3908, #4100.
[3]Webster.

God’s Outsiders: The Called-Out Ones (A Biblical Look at God’s Ecclesia), Part 23

November 24, 2009

A Light View of Religious Tradition

Religious tradition can be a very dangerous thing. It can nullify the effect of the Word of God. It blinds us from seeing the actual truth of His Word. Believers have too long taken a light view of religious tradition.

Noah Webster defines tradition as “that which is handed down from age to age; the act of delivering into the hands of another.”[1] Likewise, James Strong defines it as “transmission.”[2] Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, warns the believer against these traditions of men.

And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words … Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Colossians 2:4, 8).

Man’s religious traditions are dangerous opponents to the truth.

Making the Word of God of none effect through your tradition, which you have delivered: and many such like things you do (Mark 7:13).

Paul, himself, had been caught up in tradition.

… being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers (Galatians 1:14).

Could not this statement made by Paul have been made by many of us? Have we not been exceedingly zealous of the traditions of “our fathers?”

Have you ever questioned the traditions that we so willingly have followed? Why do we do the religious things that we do? Have we ever traced their origins?[3] Should we not, then, follow our apostle, abandoning such man-made bondage?

Try this: the next time that you do something “spiritual,” something “for the Lord,” ask yourself why you do it. From where is its origin?

Now, be forewarned, this pathway will not be an easy one. The religious crowd will surely object to a lifestyle free from religious tradition. Most of the opposition will likely come from your closest friends and family members who are blinded by these very traditions of men, traditions from which you seek and have found freedom.

Be encouraged! Jesus Himself faced the same opposition and challenge from the traditionalists of His day.

Then came to Jesus Scribes and Pharisees … saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the Elders?” … But He answered and said unto them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? … Thus have you made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition … In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:1-3, 9).

Be careful taking religions traditions lightly.

If we choose to abandon our own religious traditions, I’d say we’d be in good company with Paul, and with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
Bible Student’s Notebook
© 2000, 2009


[1]Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828.
[2]James Strong, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
[3]For assistance in tracing common “Christian” practices see Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola (available through http://www.StudyShelf.com – 1-800-784-6010).


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