"And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; . . . " Revelation 3:14

Whose Church ?

The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt - Revelation 3:16

Statue of Emperor Constantine - York Cathedral - - - - - - - -The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt - Rev 3:16

Elsewhere on wildolive, we have considered the dark side of church history as it concerns the Jews, the church against Israel, the concept of Christendom, whither the church is going, the Christian calendar (as opposed to the Bible's calendar) and other similar topics.
Today, "Church" seems to include so much that is worrying or downright wrong.

So what is happening?

What is "church"

Simply, as any good Bible teacher will tell you, the word "church" somehow comes from the Greek Ekklesia, meaning congregation. and it means the people called out from the world to be a gathering of people trusting in Jesus.

Ecclesia (Greek: ekklesia) may refer to:

Ecclesia (ancient Athens) or Ekklesia, the principal assembly of ancient Athens during its Golden Age
or
The Latin term for the Christian Church as a whole

http://biblehub.com/greek/1577.htm (Greek characters not reproduced)

Strong's Concordance
ekklesia: an assembly, a (religious) congregation
Original Word: ekklesia
Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine
Transliteration: ekklesia
Phonetic Spelling: (ek-klay-see'-ah)
Short Definition: an assembly, congregation, church
Definition: an assembly, congregation, church; the Church, the whole body of Christian believers.

1577 ekklesia(from 1537 /ek, "out from and to" and 2564 /kaleo, "to call") - properly, people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church (the mystical body of Christ) - i.e. the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.
[The English word "church" comes from the Greek word kyriakos, "belonging to the Lord" (kyrios). 1577 /ekklesia ("church") is the root of the terms "ecclesiology" and "ecclesiastical."]

Church is not the building, but the people who meet within all the church buildings.

But is it even that?

It does not include those who meet but are not in relationship with Jesus.
It does include those who are in relationship with Jesus but are unable to meet in "churches."

Go to "church" or be church?

It is not so much a ritual visit to a house of religion, as gathering together with others in the community of trusting faith.
God does not want us to try and live as solitary believers, but to be part of the body of Messiah; being together in the Kingdom of our Father in Heaven.

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you together constitute the body of the Messiah, and individually you are parts of it.
Hebrews 10:25 not neglecting our own congregational meetings, as some have made a practice of doing, but, rather, encouraging each other. And let us do this all the more as you see the Day approaching.

What is involved in becoming part of this body of Jesus?

Acts 2:41 So those who accepted what he said were immersed, and there were added to the group that day about three thousand people. They continued faithfully . . . .
in the teaching of the emissaries,
in fellowship,
in breaking bread and
in the prayers.

That covers the essentials - other stuff should all flow naturally from that.

WARNING - from here on, this page raises troubling questions and may upset some cherished beliefs and traditions. If you are able, please follow the arguments through in order to confront the issues discussed in a positive manner. wildolive is not advocating that readers should walk out of their churches into a spiritual wilderness.

Whose "church" is it?

In the book of Acts it is clear that the body of believers is the body of Messiah; therefore Church is his body of believers - God's called out people.

The collection of believers includes both faithful Jewish believers in Yeshua the Messiah who are branches on God's olive tree of faithful people stretching all the way back to Abraham, and Gentiles who have come to believe in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua from Nazareth, and have been grafted in alongside the Jewish branches.

This olive tree is Jewish, and Paul and the other Jewish participants did not cease being Jewish or observing Torah feasts.

So, here is a point of disconnection - Christ and his church are a Jewish body, but large sections of "the Church" hold to a replacement theology and even forms of Jew Hatred (anti-Semitism)

Are there two churches?

One belonging to Jesus the (Jewish) Messiah and one belonging to someone else.
If so, to whom does the other belong?

Church calendars and rituals

Please note that there is a Christian Calendar that bears no relationship to the Bible calendar and God's Appointed Times (Moedim) in the Bible.

As Paul and the Jerusalem church elders worked to establish a framework for faith for the emerging and growing body of Gentile followers of "the Way" they had to concentrate on the essentials of faith but fight off the "Judaisers" who wanted to incorporate the legalism that had plagued Judaism, causing Paul to write,

Colossians 2:16 So don't let anyone pass judgment on you in connection with eating and drinking, or in regard to a Jewish festival or Rosh-Hodesh or Shabbat. These are a shadow of things that are coming, but the body is of the Messiah. Don't let anyone deny you the prize by insisting that you engage in self-mortification or angel-worship. Such people are always going on about some vision they have had, and they vainly puff themselves up by their worldly outlook. They fail to hold to the Head, from whom the whole Body, receiving supply and being held together by its joints and ligaments, grows as God makes it grow. If, along with the Messiah, you died to the elemental spirits of the world, then why, as if you still belonged to the world, are you letting yourselves be bothered by its rules?
"Don't touch this!" "Don't eat that!" "Don't handle the other!" Such prohibitions are concerned with things meant to perish by being used [not by being avoided!], and they are based on man-made rules and teachings. They do indeed have the outward appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed religious observances, false humility and asceticism; but they have no value at all in restraining people from indulging their old nature.

Today, this passage tends to be used against Jewish holidays. But, in the context of the time Paul was writing, the problem was people trying to impose legalism on the Gentile believers.

But that is not the question today (except, maybe, to a Jew who comes to trust in Yeshua as Messiah)

People using this passage today to argue against celebrating Bible feasts appear unaware that they are enslaved to the Christian calendar that is not even scriptural, as are the Moedim / appointed times / feasts of the Torah.

Where and when did the disconnect between Jesus' church and man's church come about?

Church History lists venerated Church Fathers who held and preached very troubling views about the church's relationship with the Jews. But that was still a matter within the church - when did man take over control?

Plaque below Constantine's statue outside York Cathedral

Plaque below Constantine's statue outside York Cathedral

Constantine

In 312 CE The Roman Emperor Constantine accepted the Christian faith, or at least his version of the Christian faith. Whilst preparing for another military campaign he claimed to have had a vision of the cross against the sun, accompanied by the words, "In this sign, conquer."

As Constantine made Christianity the state religion it started to be corrupted by man centred thinking and Greek philosophy.

Constantine was present at the Council of Nicea and his influence sanctioned the moves away from the roots of Christianity.
Council of Elvira (Spain) in 306 - - Marriage of Jew and Christian forbidden.
Council of Nicea in 325 and Council of Antioch in 341 - Christians forbidden to celebrate Passover with Jews.
Council of Laodicea - 434 & 481 - - Christians forbidden to worship on the sabbath.

The Paganisation of Christianity and the Establishment Church

Constantine made Christianity the state religion, taking control away from God and enforcing "Christian" faith by earthly methods.
He called the Counsel of Nicea (325AD ) which fixed the dates of holy days by the secular / pagan calendar rather than the Jewish calendar.

Celebration of Jesus' death became Good Friday instead of Passover and his Resurrection became Easter ( The feast of the pagan deity Ishtar) instead of Firstfruits.

This detached the events in Jesus' ministry from their prophetic Jewish context, depriving us of so much deep insight into God and his designs.

The Romans had many gods, the highest of which was the sun who was worshipped on Sunday and whose birth was celebrated on December 25th. In 440AD the church adopted this date to celebrate Jesus' birth.
The most probable time at which Jesus was born can be deduced to be during the Feast of Tabernacles, but the scriptures neither give a date nor call for a date to be observed.

See The Jewish Calendar and the Gregorian Calendar - Dates in the Christian Calendar

The state church enforced Anti-Semitism and Jews accepting their messiah had to renounce all Jewishness and become gentile Christians.

It is significant that the Church grew faster before it became "Establishment" under Constantine than it ever has since! This is in spite of the fact that there are no records of evangelistic outreach initiatives such as we trust in nowadays. This may not be true in some parts of the world where the Holy Spirit is breaking out in power, away from the stifling influence of the Establishment church. Perhaps persecution is sometimes needed to clear the way for growing Jesus' church.

Wildolive is not qualified or inclined to review the whole of church history, but the bloodbaths over religion down through history and the divisions into warring denominations should make it clear that somebody other than Jesus has been in charge of what is generally called "the Church"

There appear to be two entities at work in the world today, one is the body of Jesus and the other is an uneasy alliance of religious people who are playing worldly power games.

The World Council of Churches is attempting to steer this body, but appears to be obsessed with hatred of Israel. Ecumenical initiatives are attempting to unite the church using worldly strategies and, as with the WCC, appear to be more successful in uniting churches against Israel than on any other issue.

If we may be really blunt, Jesus has his church and Satan has his. Satan never created anything good; he only perverted what God created.

The follower of "the Way", the person living and walking with Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit has to, somehow, live out his walk in the shadow of Satan's church.

In the west, we live in a post Christian era that still has a Christian framework of dates and a healthy legacy of laws and practices introduced when Christian faith was more widespread, effective and influential.

This should lead us to wonder why each downward step, away from Christian values, can be happening in our "Christian" nation or in Christendom. We need to recognise that that God does not deal in Christian nations but saves individuals to be part of his Kingdom that Jesus said, is not of this world.

It is convenient for us that Sunday is (or was) recognised as a holy day and that Christmas and Easter are holidays - meaning that it is easy to celebrate our church feasts. We never see ourselves as exiles living in an alien culture - as we should.

Consider "the man in the street" in our "Christian land", who celebrates Christmas, goes to church for Christenings, weddings and funerals and knows some Bible stories, so that he might tick "Christian" on a form. If we are seeking to introduce this man in the street to Jesus and he imagines he already knows all about religion, our message will lack the freshness and impact that would have been experienced by the pagans to whom Paul preached.

Remember; many of our Christian brothers and sisters who do not have this freedom because of the calendars they have to live under.

But if our calendar has come from Man's (Satan's) church rather than Jesus' church, what then?

If we decide to celebrate the Biblical feasts instead of Sunday, Christmas, Easter, Epiphany, Advent, and all the rest, it could be a little inconvenient; but nothing worse.
It has not always been as easy as it is today, and it may not continue to be as easy.

Michael Fryer's book, "The Mark of the Beast" (ISBN 9781541203914) starts from a conclusion with which wildolive is not comfortable, but it makes very pertinent observations on these matters, from the point of view of believers who have chosen to come out of the establishment calendar and live by the Biblical calendar of festivals.

Quoting from "The Mark of the Beast" (abbreviated slightly)

On 7 March 321 AD Constantine issued the following decree regarding Sunday, the day of the venerable sun.
"On the Venerable day the sun let the magistrates and the people residing in the cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.

In 325 A.D. Constantine went on to direct the bishops at Nicaea to enforce the celebration of Easter rather than God's Festival of Passover. This is what the bishops ordered at that Council of Nicaea
It seems to everyone a most unworthy thing that we should follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this most holy solemnity, who, polluted wretches!, having stained their hands with nefarious crime, are justifiably blinded in their minds. It is fit therefore, that, rejecting the practice of this people we should perpetuate to all future ages the celebration of this rite, in a more legitimate order. We desire to have nothing in common with this so hated people, for the Redeemer has marked another path for us

Rev A H Lewis, a member of the Association of the history of the Church, wrote of Constantine's decree in his book, "a Critical History of Sunday legislation from 321 to 1888, " the pagan religion of Rome had many holidays in which partial or complete cessation of business or labour were demanded and Constantine, by the Sunday law was merely adding one more festival to the Empire.

Church councils enforced Constantine's pro-pagan, anti-Semitic law.
Canon XXIX of the Council of Laidicea in 364 A.D. said "Christians must not Judaise by resting on the Sabbath but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord's day; and if they can, resting then as Christians but if any shall be found to be Judaisers let them be anathema from Christ.
( if you were charged with being anathema you were executed)
As a result millions of Christians throughout history have been slaughtered because they kept the seventh day in honour of God.

Many more church councils continued enforcing previous councils.

The Synod of Whitby 664 A.D. is one such example of a community of Christians in the north of England who kept Sabbath and Passover and who were visited by emissaries from Rome and coerced into conforming to the system of worship of Rome.

1200 Christians from Bangor-on-Dee in Wales were slaughtered in one day because they refused to conform to Roman laws concerning Sabbath and Passover.
But the Welsh kept the biblical practice of sabbath keeping until 1115 A.D. and Christians in Ireland and Scotland until 1175.

The Synod of Toulouse in 1163 instructed the bishops and priests are to take care to forbid under pain of excommunication every person involved with keeping the Sabbath
Another Church council in Bergen and and Oslo 1435 and 1436 stated, "It is strictly forbidden for anyone to keep holidays outside those which the Pope Archbishops or Bishops appoint . . . "

In England there were various acts of Parliament passed to coerce people to attend Church of England services and to prohibit unofficial meetings of lay-people. (lay-people meant anyone who was not a licensed minister of the Church of England and a conventicle was any religious assembly other than of the Church of England)

There are a number of acts of parliament in Britain concerning conformity to Sunday worship.

The conventicle act in 1593 allowed the imprisonment of those over the age of 16 who failed to attend church on Sunday and persuaded others to do the same.
The conventicle act of 1664 forbade conventicles
The conventicle act of 1670 imposed a fine on any person who attended conventicle.

In 1661 John James, a Baptist pastor at the Baptist Church in Bull Stake Alley, Whitechapel Road, London was executed for his biblical view of the Millennium as described in the book of Daniel and for keeping and teaching the fourth commandment about the sabbath.

Along with all these punishments, restrictions on buying and selling were enforced. (like the boycotting which is advocated against Israel today by the established church) This was a common sanction against Sabbath keepers throughout Europe.

From all these laws and decrees and punishments, it is clear that the people following their consciences by observing the Biblical feasts instead of the decrees of men, were easily marked out and made to suffer. Read Michael Fryer's book to follow through his contention about the nature of the Mark of The Beast (666)

How is the follower of Jesus to be part of Jesus' body without being part of Man's church?

Some suggestions to consider

Pay close attention to your walk with Jesus and keep your distance from the machinations of Big Church.

This goal is much a more attainable in an independent church than, say, the Roman Catholic Church.

For instance, one of the fundamental principles of Baptist churches is their independence, meaning that each fellowship of believers will meet together in order to try and discern the will of God. However, as Spurgeon discovered, this is not a perfect plan. Today, while Baptist fellowships are still independent, the umbrella organisation propagates anti-Israel teaching as denominational truth, in spite of having no mandate to speak for the denomination. Various denominations have various positions on these matters.

But if you are a member of a godly, Holy Spirit led, conventional church that worships on Sunday, must you leave it and try and find a few with whom you can keep the Sabbath?

Personally, and I emphasise this is personal, I believe God alerted me to the whole wild olive picture of our position as followers of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and commissioned me to plead with the church to see the errors of the centuries and repent. I reasoned, correctly I hope, that I would not be able to do this by withdrawing from the majority church and throwing stones from outside. It is hard going, and I am regarded as rather an Israel nerd by most people, but they do know that they can come and talk to me if they want to know about all this Jewish stuff.

I am not forbidden to celebrate Passover and I have often been able to celebrate it with folks who are willing to explore it.

There is nothing to stop me observing the Sabbath, apart from my own lack of discipline.

Obviously I can worship God any day of the week, including Sunday - even though for many of us, Sunday is a busy day full of church duties. The Biblical Sabbath is about drawing aside from the busy world, and that can be honoured by a Christian, subject to the problems of duty. I write as one who is now retired but has worked in 24/7 jobs that did not allow for observing any days.

I strongly advocate walking faithfully and discerning what is from God and what is from man. It will not be easy.

Jesus said, "Give the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor. And give to God what belongs to God!"

George Orwell said, "In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

 

See also - Church History, Christendom, Anti-Semitism, Replacement Theology, Assimilation, Arguing our case, Babylon, Be not Conformed, Bible against Israel?, boycott, Christian Myths, Blood Libel, Christian dates, Dear Church, Denominations against Israel, Evangelicals against Israel, Feasts of the Lord, Greek or Hebrew, Holocaust, Holocaust not just by NAZIs, Kingdom, my denomination, Olive tree, Olive tree parable, persecution, post modernism, Saul / Paul, Shabbat, the world, the tribulation, World Council of Churches, Whither the Church,

 

Updated 13/02/17

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