FINDING THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
This little writing is by no means an effort to excuse sin in the church or to encourage a passive acceptance of apostasy. It does not ignore the fact that churches get so out of bounds as to wither up and die--or even go so far into heresy as to become what the Christian world recognizes as a "cult" from which we should surely depart.
Many of us who do depart from such false "one true" churches have a hard time accepting the local church, for we keep searching for that wholly dedicated group, that return to the New Testament pattern. This little writing is to demonstrate that the church today is no better or no worse than the day after Pentecost. It is to demonstrate the frailty of even us Christians and the constant need for revival that has always existed since the day after Pentecost.... And that in spite of it, the gates of hell have never prevailed yet.
Greetings! My name is Perfectophilos, and I am downcast of heart. Here it is only a few short years after our Lord built His church, and already I am seeing so much worldiness and apathy in the church. I so much long to find a congregation of totally committed believers. But I have even heard the apostle Paul say, "For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your stateFor all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s"
Poor man, so many simply deserted him in his hour of need. So much for dedication to the Lord's work! The church is in total apostasy today. But I went searching to see whether there was any good church left.
First I visited the church at Corinth, hoping for spirituality. Yes, they had many spiritual gifts all right, but they were the most bickering, contentious, backbiting bunch--even bickering over whose gift was better! Their congregation was divided with one party siding with Paul and one party siding with Cephas and another with Apollos--as if these great men were in disagreement! (Well, Paul did have to publicly rebuke Peter, and he and Barnabus did split their missionary venture over a disagreement.....). Then there was one group that piously said they were of Christ, but I suspect they were the most partisan, for all their avowals of non-divisiveness. They had heresies among them, even those teaching that there is no resurrection! And the carnality! They were even suing each other at law in front of the unbelievers! Can you believe they had a member there who openly was living with his step-mother? And that group was boasting about their liberty in Christ to the extent that they tolerated it with smugness! Plus, they were so disorderly, some were even getting drunk at Communion! They were in such sad shape that Paul wouldn't even take his proper wages from them, but accepted wages from other churches to minister to this troubled group!
So next I visited Galatia, for I had heard they were more orderly. Well, they were diligently trying to keep all the commandments, but they were saturated with legalism and bondage! I feared they had gone so far as to completely pollute the gospel of salvation by grace! They were foolishly bewitched by some who had crept in unawares and spied out their liberty to bring them into bondage.
At Rome I found they were judging one another over whether it's right to eat meat or not and other doubtful disputations. They also had some there that just served their own belly and by fair speeches were deceiving the hearts of the simple.
Then I tried Ephesus, but while they were very diligent in their Christian actions, and they kicked out a couple of false apostles when they discovered them, they seemed numb. Like they had lost their first love or something. At Pergamos I was horrified to see two false teachers, one promoting fornication, just like Baalam had! The other one was teaching that awful doctrine of the Nicolatians--that deeds of the body don't affect the soul!
Again at Thyatira I found another tolerated false teacher--this time a woman, no less! She, too was urging people to go against their consciences and also to even fornicate!! Can you believe such a thing?
I had heard that Sardis was a really alive and on fire church, but I found them to be quite dead. There were only a few who had not defiled their garments with the worldliness.
At Philippi I found a pretty good group, but there were these two women who were in a feud, Euodias and Syntyche.
Now the church at Laodicia really boasted of being a very active church--quite rich in blessings. But I found them poor, blind, wretched, miserable. I think the Lord must feel like just spitting such lukewarm charade-players out of His mouth.
The church at Colosse were really prone to being beguiled by those who would put them under the rudiments of the world, ordinances such as Taste not, Touch not, Handle not--a bunch of commandments of men.
The church at Macedonia likewise was riddled with endless geneaologies, profane old wives fables, and vain babblings. Plus they were listening to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils and forbidding marriage and eating meat!
I was introduced to a nice little church by Gaius, but after awhile I could see the minister, Diotrophes, was power hungry. He started forbidding Paul and the other brethren to visit, and he excommunicated those who would. What a mess!
Then I met Jude and went to his church, but there were those crept in unawares turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. They were filthy dreamers defiling the flesh, despising dominion, and speaking evil of dignities. They were raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame. They were spots in our potlucks,feasting with us, without fear.
In the congregation at Crete there were so many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: They were subverting whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake: Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth .Even their mind and conscience is defiled.They professed that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. What a bunch of liars, evil beasts, slow bellies!
So I figured the congregation where the brother of Jesus worshipped would be good. But there they were so class conscious that I actually saw them fawn all over a rich man and treat a poor man like dirt! And talk about class distinction!
Why at the congregation at Jerusalem, they were giving the Hebrew widows priority over the Grecian widows!! And that's where even Peter got carried away with hiding his Christian liberty when the legalists were around. What hypocrisy! I must admit I did find in every congregation despite all this apostasy, worldiness, and apathy, those who were truly committed to Jesus, those who truly fed on His Word and were growing in grace.
I did find some ministers who were truly teaching the pure Word of God, like at the congregation of the Philadelphians, and the house of Archippus.
And the Bereans were more noble than others, for they didn't just accept teaching but searched the scriptures daily to see whether it was so.
Also, the church at Thessalonica was really strong in the faith.
But it bothers me so much that in every congregation alongside the strong were the weak and feeble. Alongside the spiritual were the carnal and unruly. Alongside the warriors were the babes in Christ. What I really would like to find is a group where all the spiritual ones get together and reorganize a pure congregation according to the pattern of the New Testament chur....uh, well, I mean the Day of Pentecost Church. Do you know where I can find such a church?
Love letter to the Holdemans:
Whether it be of God and No Proselytes in Zion--a Re-examination: (this is the original pamphlet sent to 2,000 members of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite)
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