By BUFF SCOTT, JR.
In searching for the missing parts, we find that the assemblies of the early believers were bereft of pulpits, salaried ecclesiastics and clerics, ritualistic nonsense, pew-peasants, and collections to buy and maintain flashy edifices and cathedrals—graven images. The Lord told Moses, “You have seen their detestable things, their idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold, which were among them” (Deut. 29:17).
When the apostle Paul was at Athens, his spirit was provoked when he saw that the city was full of idols. He said to the men of Athens, “The God who made the world and everything in it, does not live in temples [wood and stone structures] made by man” (Acts 17:24). If Paul were to suddenly appear among us today, I’m confident his spirit would be provoked all over again when he saw our landscape pregnant with edifices and cathedrals—graven images made of wood and stone, of silver and gold.
The environment of the early assemblies was family-like. Our gatherings resemble formal business meetings, where business or worship doesn’t begin until the hands on the clock are at a certain crossroads. Our overall anatomy mirrors a corporation, an institution, not a compassionate community of concerned ones.
What dissimilarity! We have retrogressed, not progressed. We have traded the holy for the common, the celestial for the terrestrial, the spiritual for the materialistic, the sacred for the plain. Most of the parts we perform today and have dug our heels into were missing among the first believers.
Yet there are many receptive and seeking hearts within the corridors of the apostate church. God will deliver them, if they are willing to remove their soiled garments and replace them with garments of reconciliation. His children no longer need wallow in the partisan litter of the religious establishment, for God will summon up reformers to rescue His elect. He always has. He always will.
But it isn’t likely He will penetrate the divisive armor of those whose hearts are solidly enslaved by the institutional church, and whose deep-seated infirmity is “mad church disease.” The divisive spirit is a work of our carnal nature. It is reflected thusly, “We are right and others are wrong; we are the only church Jesus founded; our teachings are from the Bible and are error free.”
As long as this separatist spirit lingers within the contemporary church, she will never be able to apply a healing balm to “mad church disease.” Freedom in Jesus will always escape those who parrot this mindset and exhibit a cliquish spirit.
Freedom was free in the early ekklesia! It is indeed a rarity to find freedom in the apostate church. The reason is that the party line must be parroted, her precepts supported, her traditions preserved, and the “church system” idolized. If we veer a little to the right or lean a little to the left, authoritarian eyes gaze upon us in a suspicious manner. This is not freedom. It is bondage.
To find believers who are truly free to speak their mind and heart while tethered to a church, or to one of her organizations, is like looking for shelter in a hailstorm. Pew-peasants who speak their convictions are usually viewed as “thorns in the flesh” by those who have arrived. Rarely do they escape ecclesiastical reprisal.
The only way to be free in Jesus is to cast off our shackles and disavow the sectarian systems—religious parties—that have subjugated us. No religious party on earth should have one bit of authority over our lives, our minds, or our beliefs. We need no longer be bondservants. Our only Master is Jesus—and He alone. Let us be His slave forever and refuse to bow to any other. “Give me freedom or show me the door” ought to be our cry. For without freedom to think, to dissent, to investigate, and to question, our walk with the Lord becomes difficult to negotiate.