The Rise and Fall of the Man-Made Church

Part Four: The Unknown God

Two-thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul stopped by and visited the interfaith center in Athens, Greece. As he traversed through ‘Mars Hill’ in amongst all the statues and altars erected to pagan gods, he happened upon an altar that was inscribed, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.

One day last week, as I read the book of Acts, this capped sentence jumped right out at me. I’ve probably read this verse a hundred times and it never stuck out at me before. Why now? In light of this series, I’ve got two words: God’s timing.

Then Paul stood in the midst of ‘Mars Hill,’ and said, ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.

For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you [Acts 17:22, 23 KJV].

Paul handled the Greeks with kid gloves and he wasn’t condemning them by using the word superstitious. A better translation of this word is religious. He was trying to build a rapport with them by commending them on their zeal for worship. We could learn allot from Paul, – even today.

This inscription presents the question, why was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob unknown? Do you think maybe it was because nobody talked to the Greeks about God, or preached the Gospel? Well, as it turns out, one man, namely Paul, saw to it that all of Asia knew about Jesus in about two years. All the rest of mankind has had 2000 years and there are still over three and a half billion people who have not heard the name of Jesus. (That’s a billion with a “B.”)

Since that day in the upper room when the Holy Spirit fell and Christ’s church began, man has continued to erect his altar(s) of THE UNKNOWN GOD through denominationalism and straying away from the doctrine of the original church, Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Man has been busy building his own ministry by adding, following, and teaching unessential doctrine contrary to the one true doctrine and tenets of the original church through the 43,000 plus schisms (divisions) in the body. Denominations have done nothing but divided the body.

The New Testament records the beginning of the “first” and “one true church” in Acts 2:1-6 [1]. This is the church that all churches are to follow, emulate, and model themselves after, Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and the five tenets of Christian doctrine. Nothing more, nothing less.

However, not all is lost. In this day, there is still hope, and that’s Christ in us, the hope of glory [2]. While the world fights for control and domination of the masses, the body needs to rise up [3], stay focused on Christ [4], and we definitely need to return to our first love [5], and not just a Sunday love.

It is this author’s opinion that many misinterpret Revelation 2:4. Although Christ is our first love, I feel that if we are to return to our first love, it is the love, enthusiasm, and devotion we had for Christ when we first believed. I personally remember how on fire I was for Christ and my devotion toward Him.

However, the interpretation is unimportant. It makes no difference. Either just return to Christ or return to the on fire love and devotion you had for Him in the beginning. It is the same result, so the interpretation is moot. Just return to Christ. Revelation 2:4 does not say that we lost our first love but that the Ephesians had left their first love. By representative interpretation, this is talking about us as well.

If you take away anything from this series, remember that:

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed [Galatians 1:8, 9].

Galatians 1:6-12 describes this series. Denominationalism had started even back then. So, instead of seeking the man of God, seek the God of man, and love the Lord with ALL your heart, mind, soul, and strength [6]

I pray that this series has blessed you. Let me know what you think. See you next week. Have a great Thanksgiving and week. Drive safely.

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[1] The upper room held about 120 people and this may be the multitude that verse six talks about. In addition, 3000 were added to their number that day.
[2] Colossians 1:27; Hebrews 12:1, 2
[3] Ephesians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:6; James 4:7;
[4] Matthew 6:33; Luke 9:23; Romans 6:13; Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:2
[5] Revelation 2:4
[6] Mark 12:30, 31

The Rise and Fall of the Man-Made Church

So God created man in his own image. . .and behold, it was very good. This was the height of the rise of man, for God made him perfect in every way [1]. He had the power, presence, and glory of God and was close enough to Him to even recognize His voice and talk with Him [2]. Man was sinless and perfect.

Then. . .Hath God said? [3] and the rest is history. Throughout the Bible, with every act of grace in the rise of man, man has rejected God through a fall (disobedience). Let me illustrate.

• Creation of perfect man in Eden / The apple
• Noah’s Ark / Fallen man in the flood
• Abraham saves Lot / Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
• The exodus from Egypt / The wilderness
• The 10 Commandments / The golden calf
• The Gospel of Jesus Christ / They crucify Jesus
• Salvation through the Cross / Denominationalism
• The rapture / The Antichrist, tribulation, and the Mark of the Beast

With every blessing, warning, and act of grace, man has rejected and rebelled against God, and fallen. Now, obviously there are many more stories, but you get the idea. All stories have the same beginning and outcome: grace, blessing, and warning / rebellion and rejection, which results in judgment—but. . .more grace.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man [Ecclesiastes 12:13 KJV].

Part Three: Defining the term “Rise and Fall

In part one; we learned that the word “church” in the Bible basically meant a body of believers and the “called out ones” of Christ. In part two; we learned that the words “man-made” were the different denominations created because of the conflicts concerning doctrinal issues, stemming from different interpretations of God’s Word. God is fairly explicit in telling us what He means. That by itself gave us a hint as to the reason for the fall.

This week; we’ll discuss the subject of our title statement “Rise and Fall.” For the purpose of this article, the word “Rise” will be in regards to the original, and one true church, the grace, blessing, and warnings of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a group of regenerate people. The word “Fall” means man’s disobedience and rejection of God’s one true church and doctrine by perpetuating their own creeds and doctrines.

Churches have split over many differences like baptism, whether sprinkled or dunked; eternal security or not; Salvation by faith alone, or by works, and tongues as well, and etc. As we have also learned, denominations are un-biblical and divisive. Paul says:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them [Romans 16:17 ESV].

Many believers vigorously protect the theology and doctrines and some without regards as to what the Bible actually says. The body argues the truth amongst themselves because of the many different creeds and doctrines [4]. The Bible tells us to give the truth [5], not to argue the truth [6]. With that said, there are only five essential tenets/doctrines to which there are no compromises:

• The deity of Christ (John 1:1; John 8:58; 1 John 4:2, 3)
• Salvation by grace (Ephesians 2:8, 9; Galatians 5:4)
• Resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17 )
• Gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
• Monotheism (1 Timothy 2:5)

Everything else is up for discussion and is not a deal breaker in terms of schism and/or splits, the Kingdom, or in the scheme of things. Everything else is denominational and non-essential doctrine, and yet there are 43,000 plus different Christian denominations and non-essential divisions. Are we baptized in the name of Paul, Apollos, or Cephus (Peter) [7]. Is Christ divided?

The one true church is the church of the called out ones, and our doctrine? Jesus Christ and Him crucified [8]. Period.

From the Garden of Eden, to Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross, to the prophesied revelation of man and the one true church, the Bible tells us of the rise and fall of not only man, but of the man-made church. However, before we start beating up on all the saints of yester-year, man STILL rejects God. Man-made non-essential doctrine and Denominations still divides us.

Today is the day for the body of Christ to rise up and begin to pray:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land [2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV].

Next week, we’ll wrap this up with what to do, some encouragement, and some odds and ends.
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[1] Genesis 1:26, 27, 31
[2] Genesis 3:8
[3] Genesis 3:1 KJV
[4] 43,000 of them, but only since 2012
[5] 2 Corinthians 6:7 and many others too numerous to list.
[6] I could not find a Scripture that told us to argue the truth. And therein lies my point. However, the Scriptures are quite clear that we are to defend the faith, as in 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Corinthians 10-5; Philippians 1:7; Titus 1:9
[7] 1 Corinthians 1:12, 13
[8] 1 Corinthians 2:2

The Rise and Fall of the Man-Made Church

Part Two: Defining the term “Man-Made”

The negative effects of the man-made church have been so gradual that it is not even perceptible. In fact, today, it seems like the norm as it masquerades as the prevailing theology. There is a saying, “If you tell a lie long enough, it will be thought of as the truth [1] and it appears to be apropos.” However, the Bible tells us that. . .strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it [2].

The grammatical object of our title is “man-made church.” Last week we defined the word “church” as meaning the “body of Christ, an assembly, a congregation, or the called out ones of Christ.” This week we’ll look at the phrase, “man-made.” Many will be perplexed at the title and might say, “A fallen church? C’mon. God is in control. We’re the head and not the tail [3]. God wants us to prosper and be in good health even as our soul prospers [4].

There were many paths that I could have followed and still have been in context, but after much prayer, this is what the Holy Spirit shared with me, “If the body knows why they are falling, all the other information will be added unto them.” Matthew 6:33 immediately came to mind. It challenged me to dig deeper.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you [Matthew 6:33 KJV].

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me [John 14:6 KJV].

Many in the body have not sought the ‘whole truth’ concerning the church, but I am equally sure that most believers are seeking God for His approval and with good intentions [5]. However, having said that, it is my opinion that the reason for the falling church is due to “denominationalism.”

Doctrinal conflict is behind the splitting of the church. Some do not like the churches doctrine or how they preach the Bible and so they leave and start their own church, and on and on ad infinitum. Satan has worked diligently to cause conflict among the brethren leading to many schisms (divisions). However, there is basically only one doctrine and that is Jesus Christ crucified. All the rest is up for study, discussion, and is man-made. There are just five tenets to true Christian doctrine, but we’ll look at that next week when we define the “Rise and Fall.”

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary claims that there are approximately 43,000 Christian denominations worldwide in 2012 [6]. They further claim that a new denomination forms about every 10.5 hours. You can do the math, because it boggles my mind too much to think that there is that much division in the body.

Let’s read that again. There are approximately 43,000 Christian denominations worldwide in 2012. That is 43,000 plus opinions, conflicts, and differences to Scripture. Wow! Why do we need 43K denominations when we have the Bible? There is only one undenominational guide and that is God’s Word. Christ makes things pretty clear what is acceptable to Him, very clear indeed.

No wonder the world looks and points at us and says, “Look how divided they are.” Worse yet, it is definitely NOT a good witness to those seeking salvation especially when there are many mainline churches who profess to be the first and one true church [7]. We learned last week that that assumption is false. There is only one true church, and that is the church (body) of Jesus Christ [8].

There are two basic problems with denominationalism. Problem number one and most important, they’re unscriptural. Check it out for yourself. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God wants to build man’s church. In fact, Christ himself says in Matthew 16:18, “. . .upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The rock that Jesus talks about is what Peter just said in verse 16 of Matthew 16, when he said, “. . .Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Many claim that (Peter) is the rock of which Christ speaks. Although both scenarios are grammatically correct and could be true, we read in Ephesians 2:20 on whom the church is built.

And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. . .[Ephesians 2:20 KJV]

Problem number two, denominations only serve to create schisms in the body. They separate us from one another and more importantly, separate us from Christ. Read how Paul was disgusted with the denominations in 1 Corinthians 1:12, 13, and yet again while he was in Ephesus, he told the leaders that not only would false teachers come among them but they would come FROM them [9]. In verse 32 of Acts 20, Paul tells the leaders that they shouldn’t so much as follow the first church but the Word of God that he and the Apostles preached and to the Word of His grace.

God has never accepted Human authority (denominationalism) [10]. Christ loved His church (body) enough to pray for their (our) unity in John 17:11, 20, 21.

So, what to do? How do we know if a church is teaching correct doctrine or not? The only infallible standard is the Bible [11]. Doctrinal teaching is a part of every church and we must compare that teaching to God’s Word, lest it go against what is true [12].

There you have it, at least my opinion on what caused the man-made church to fall. Next week, we’ll define the term “rise and fall.” We’ll also look at the five tenets of the Christian doctrine and some man-made doctrines as well that have split the church. God bless you all and I hope that this series is blessing you so far.

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[1] Adolf Hitler
[2] Matthew 7:14
[3] Deuteronomy 28:13
[4] 3 John 1:2
[5] However, all roads are paved with good intentions
[6] http://churchrelevance.com/qa-list-of-all-christian-denominations-and-their-beliefs/
[7] Through Apostolic Succession
[8] Ephesians 1:22, 23; Colossians 1:18
[9] Acts 20:29, 30
[10] Isaiah 55:8, 9; Jeremiah 10:23; Matthew 15:9, 13, 14; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13
[11] Isaiah 8:20; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Matthew 5:18; John 10:35; 1 Peter 2:25; Galatians 1:6-9
[12] Mark 7:1-13

The Rise and Fall of the Man-Made Church

Two weeks ago, a pastor friend of mine requested that I write a blog on “The rise and fall of the man-made church.” Any one of you out there could probably write a book on this subject. However, you can be rest assured that if there were nine other similar requests made, there would be 10 different responses as to the content of the article.

That’s not a bad thing and in fact, would be a very good thing. Diversity is what the body should be about. With that said, here is my tenth of what the Holy Spirit shared with me these last two plus weeks during my prayer times and in preparation for this endeavor. This will be a four part series. (I may or may not interject a timely blog on the Mark of the Beast.)

Part I: Defining the term “Church”
What you are reading is my third attempt at starting this blog. Like I said, we could all write a book on this subject. This topic is book worthy because there is so much that we could write about. However, to keep within the space constraints of this blog and still keep it in context, I have to stay out of any rabbit holes, but enough of that and let’s get down to it.

At first glance, we notice right away that the word “rise” would connote an original–or first–starting point from which a man-made church could arise. Conversely, the word “fall” would connote an end point to which the man-made church would eventually fall. You might ask, “OK, what’s your point?” My point is this, “Like a few churches today, they declare to be the true church. Biblically, there is only one true church [1]. However, we do not want to get ahead of ourselves. I’ll cover this next week in Part II: Defining the term “Man-Made.”

And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it [Matthew 16:18 KJV].

To keep this all in the proper context, I choose to define the second half of our object first. Therefore, let’s first ascertain the definition of the word “church.”

The English word “church” is translated from the original Greek word “Ekklesia [2], meaning an “assembly,” a “congregation,” or the “called out ones [3].” Therefore, the word “church” is not a building, but is one of people. In other words, the word “church” is the body of Christ, or an assembling or congregation of believers in Christ. I further submit that the body of believers is the Bride of Christ [4].

Isn’t it funny how most believers today understand the word “church” as being a building? Test it out for yourselves. Ask someone, “To what church do you belong?” Not 100% of the time but invariably they will identify a denomination or building. This is not a biblical understanding of the word “church,” but that’s OK. It’s been part of man’s indoctrination of the man-made church, a usurpation of the one true church of Jesus Christ.

NEXT WEEK: Part II Defining the Term “Man-Made”
In my opinion, I’ll show how man builds his own kingdom through denominational doctrines and creeds. I’ll also show the two main problems with denominationalism. Until then, God bless.

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[1] It would be divisive to name names so I will refrain from mentioning any of them.
[2] Alternate spelling is “Ecclesia.”
[3] 1 Peter 2:9
[4] The Bride of Christ is one of those rabbit holes that I talked about that I could easily go down. However, here are a few Scriptures for your edification and study. Ephesians 1:22, 23; 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Colossians 1:18, 24; Revelation 19:6-9; Revelation 21:2, 9; just to name a few.