Is Your Church A Slave To Government ?

   I should start this post by explaining to those who don’t already know , I define myself as a Christian but hold no allegiance to any organized religion or denomination.  I came to my faith through the reading of the Gospel and then through the reading of the Bible in context.

   I tell you this only to inform you of my personal belief system and to show that I have no axe to grind with any other religion or denomination, I do believe that I am less likely to see faith as a team sport due to this, but I understand the need some people have for an organized system of faith. That is the freedom we have here in the United States. The freedom to worship as we see fit.

   That actually brings me now to the point of my post. Is your church really free?

   First answer two questions. Is your church incorporated? And is your church filed as a 501c3? If you answered yes to either, then you may not have as much religious freedom as you think you do.

   The founding of this nation was based on two fundamental ideas of freedom, one was the freedom of speech, especially political speech, and secondly the freedom of religion.

   Now many of you know how I feel about keeping my faith and my government completely separate. I feel that one’s faith will suffer relative to the amount of government involvement in said faith. Personally I see no need for the organized public prayers that others seem to need to legitimize their own faith. I am also not sure that I would want  to be involved with a church that spent more time preaching about politics than it did about the Gospel.

  But again I recognize that some people desire that their churches were more outspoken on political issues. They seek to mobilize the parishioners to act as a voting block. Again in my view this comes down to religious freedom, if you are attending a church that is politically motivated and you are not, you can choose another church. And the same is true of the opposite, you are free to seek out a politically motivated church.

  This has become very important in recent months with Pres. Obama speaking out on two very social issues. First is the mandate that religious organizations must supply insurance that pays for contraceptives for their employees, even if that goes against their doctrine. The second is Pres. Obama’s recent statement of support for homosexual marriage.

  Many people have been disappointed that their churches and church leaders have not been outspoken enough on these two issues and to call for political reactions to the president’s position. Now in fairness there has been limited and subtle response from the black  community and a legal challenge from one organization.

  For this post however I am asking why has there not been a more fervent outcry from the pulpit.

  One has to believe that one reason, if not the reason, is that the churches fear losing their tax exempt status. They fear that if they were to call for a political reaction to these attacks on their faith, that the government would react by repealing their tax exempt status.

  But is that even possible? I don’t think that it is, since the churches are protected by the First Amendment under the freedom of religion clause. So why do so many churches and people alike believe that the government has the power to tax the churches?

  Well mostly because in 1954 then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson was a driving force to adding churches to the tax code under section 501c3, or better known as the tax exempt code.  Johnson sold this as a favor to the churches, but what it has done, is to silence the pulpit. As I said earlier, out of fear of losing this tax exemption.

  But does the federal government have the power to grant tax exemption? A better question is, does the federal government have the power to tax a church? I say no, again since the first Amendment puts the churches squarely outside the purview of government, then the government cannot place a tax upon a church with the threat of shutting down the church if the tax is not paid. So if the government cannot tax a church, then there is no need for tax exemption.

  Even the I R S recognizes this in their own code 508 (c) (1) (A), the code says,

 “The notification requirement set forth in IRC 508(a) is subject to exceptions and these are listed in IRC 508(c). Under IRC 508(c)(1) there are several exceptions to notice which are applicable to (A) churches, and their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, or (B) any organization, other than a private foundation, the gross receipts of which in each taxable year are normally not more than $5,000.”

  What this means is that churches and their auxiliaries have no need to apply for tax exemption. So if the I R S feels that there is no need to apply for tax exemption by churches, then one would have to believe that there is nothing to lose. Churches are also automatically tax deductible according to IRS Publication 526 which says, “Organizations That Qualify To Receive Deductible Contributions, You can deduct your contributions only if you make them to a qualified organization. To become a qualified organization, most organizations other than churches and governments, as described below, must apply to the IRS.”

  The second thing that modern churches have chosen to do that ties them to government is to incorporate. Why?

  Well there are three reasons that most likely seem attractive to some churches, these being,

   1. A corporation has limited liability protection

  2. A corporation may exist in perpetuity

  3. A corporations may hold title to real property

 However there is another legal attribute  to a corporation that may not be as desirable to churches and one that the churches may not have been made aware of, a corporation can sue and be sued. This is extremely important I feel since states like Delaware have passed  homosexual antidiscrimination laws along with homosexual civil union laws and there is still a push for homosexual marriage laws, so how long before a homosexual couple will be bringing a law suit against a church for refusing to perform a homosexual marriage? And since the church has already established a legal connection between the church and government, they have given government a perceived sovereignty over the church.

  It is the legal entanglements that the churches have chosen to take on in an attempt to safeguard themselves, that have actually put them at the greatest risk, not only from individuals, but from the very government that should have no say, what so ever, over the free exercise of their religion.

 Point of fact, in  the case of  Hale vs. Henkel the U.S. Supreme court said this about corporations,

 ” Upon the other hand, the corporation is a creature of the State. It is presumed to be incorporated for the benefit of the public. It receives certain special privileges and franchises, and holds them subject to the laws of the State and the limitations of its charter. Its powers are limited by law. It can make no contract not authorized by its charter. Its rights to act as a corporation are only preserved to it so long as it obeys the laws of its creation.”

Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43 at 74 (1906)

 

So you can see that any type of legal entanglement on the churches part with government is to the detriment of the church.

  In 1811 a bill was ratified by Congress to incorporate the Protestant Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Virginia, when the bill was presented to then President James Madison for his signature, he promptly vetoed the bill and in a veto message stated,

“Because the bill exceeds the rightful authority to which governments are limited by the essential distinction between civil and religious functions, and violates in particular the article of the Constitution of the United States which declares that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment.’ The bill enacts into and establishes by law sundry rules and proceedings relative purely to the organization and polity of the church incorporated… This particular church, therefore, would so far be a religious establishment by law, a legal force and sanction being given to certain articles in its constitution and administration.” 

 

 

  It would seem that President Madison understood that any legal recognition of the church by the government, even if such recognition was sought by the church, was beyond the original intent of the Constitution. It would seem as though he also understood that in seeking such recognition the churches were actually seeking a license, in essence the churches were seeking a legal statement that they had permission from the government to exist. But due to the First Amendment no such license is needed.

  I know that there are many people out there who are looking to their churches and church leaders to speak out on the pressing social issues of the day, and they are not receiving that which they seek. I would say to those people, talk among your fellow parishioners, tell them that you and your churches need not be slave to the government just to retain a tax exemption that the government doesn’t even have the authority to bestow upon the churches. Tell them to throw off all the chains that government has placed upon their freedom to worship and to speak out on the issues that effect them and their families.

  Even if they are forced somehow to pay taxes, would that not be better than the forced silence that they live under now?

   I will leave you with the words Of President John Adams,

  “The church is the moral compass of society.” But in order to remain a true and faithful compass, the church must remain separate and independent of the influences of that society, particularly its civil government. It must be a “free-church.” Should the church become subordinate, or in any way controlled or co-opted by the civil government (a “State-Church” system), it can no longer effectively serve as that society’s moral compass. Unless it is respected, no one will listen to what it has to say. ”

 

 

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8 Responses to “Is Your Church A Slave To Government ?”

  1. Duane Says:

    I would agree with much of your assessment of the problematic nature of the church-government entanglement. I would however strongly disagree with your views on “organized religion.” You said “I came to my faith through the reading of the Gospel and then through the reading of the Bible in context.” I would be interested to hear what you mean by this. The gospels and the epistles show that the early church was in fact very organized. In fact Jesus himself was part of Judaism, an organized religion established by God Himself. Some might object and claim that when Jesus denounced the scribes and Pharisees he was denouncing organized religion but this would be wrong. Jesus was a practicing Jew who observed every part of the Mosaic law of which he was the ultimate fulfillment. The church which Jesus himself established (Matt. 16:18) is never portrayed as optional in Scripture. God has always required, yes I said required his people to live in community with one another. In fact in the Old Testament to be outside the covenant community was to be outside of salvation and therefore cursed. The law of God was summarized by Jesus in this way “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” These two are inseparable. Christ not only died to reconcile us to the father but he died to reconcile us to one another. The countless “one another” statements in the epistles make it very clear that this command is lived out first and foremost within a local community of believers.

  2. frankknotts Says:

    Duane, I am sorry that it has taken me so long to respond to you.
    When I say I came to my faith through the reading of the Gospel, I mean that I was at my lowest point in my life and I picked up a dusty Bible that I had had lying around my home for some years. And through the reading of the Gospel and then the entire Bible in context from beginning to end I found the strength to pull myself out of my sin.
    I still struggle as we all do with my personal sin.
    As for organized churches and what Jesus was telling us, I believe that when he said to his disciples in Matt. 16:18 that Peter was the rock upon which he would build his church, he was speaking of any individual who believed that Jesus was the Christ.
    As for the the Jewish church that Jesus was a part of, I feel that when he said that ” there would not be left one stone upon another” and that in three days he would raise it again. clearly he was not speaking of the physical temple but the organiztion that the Jews had created and the three days was a reference to the resurection, upon which the new faith of Christianity is built upon.
    I also believe that modern churches have actually returned to the same types of practices that God sent Jesus to change. Look at the money changers in the temples! look at the Catholic church’s cover up of terrible things for the sake of the church at the expence of God’s children.
    I fel that we are God’s temples now, not buildings nor organizations, look to Luke 17:21, “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

  3. Duane Says:

    Hi Frank. Thank you for the thoughtful reply. I appreciate your willingness to take the time to further expound on your original post. I certainly identify with your struggle with personal sin. It is a daily battle but, as Paul the Apostle said, thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ who delivers us from this “body of death.”

    The concern I expressed in my reply to your original post is that of a “private” relationship with Jesus Christ. I certainly believe that one’s relationship with Christ must be personal but it was never meant to be private. In Matthew 16:18 Christ’s promise to build his church must be viewed in the context of God’s plan through the ages. In the Old Testament God called a man named Abraham and promised to create from him a people for himself. This people would be large in number and would be identified as a visible community. Certainly every individual Israelite was responsible for his own relationship with God he was also equally responsible to live in community with his fellow believers. As I said in my earlier post, any Jew who lived outside the community of believers was considered cursed as was symbolized by the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:20-22).

    As for Jesus’ relationship to Judaism I would agree that when Jesus answered the people by saying “destroy this temple , and in three days I will raise it up” he was not speaking of the literal physical temple, but rather was speaking of his own death and resurrection. However the second statement you cited where Jesus said to his disciples that “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Matt. 24:2) he was in fact speaking of the literal temple. This statement was a prophecy of what was to happen in Jerusalem in A.D. 70 when the Romans would destroy the temple.

    However, Jesus was not destroying Judaism because it was “organized” religion but rather because the Jewish people had rejected their Messiah. One cannot read Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy without recognizing that God was very concerned with organized religion.

    I understand your sentiment that modern churches have returned to the same types of practices that Judaism descended into but that does not mean that the church as a whole is to be discarded. Even with all of the corruption within Judaism during Jesus’ lifetime he still attended synagogue faithfully and observed all the religious festivals required in the Law. In fact he made it clear that he had not come to “abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them.” (Matt. 5:17)

    The point I am getting at is this; to not be a part of a local church is to be in disobedience to Scripture and I believe is to put one’s own soul in danger. When one reads the Epistles it becomes unmistakably clear that the Christian life is meant to be lived in community with other believers. Consider the following passages:

    – 1 Corinthians 12:1-30. There is a clear interdependency of individual members within the church body. To understand the concept of the church in strictly individualistic terms is like insisting that a person is healthy despite being completely dismembered.

    – Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, etc. These letters of Paul follow a clear progression. First he lays out the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ followed by the general implications of the gospel in one’s life then he explains how those implications are to be lived out first in the community of the church then in the home, then in the world at large. Clearly the church, speaking of the community of believers, is not viewed as an option.

    – Galatians 5:22-23. Here Paul lists the fruits of the spirit which must be lived out in community. Love for example is a word that is bound up in the concept of “the other.” Here is a statement by Dr. Mark Dever as pastor and scholar; “Consider the fruit of the spirit. How can one be peaceful and patient and gentle and joyful when when alone on a desert island? These things only occur through interaction with other people. It is in a local church, where you have people who are not just like you; different ages, different races, different socioeconomic classes, different jobs, different backgrounds, that these things are worked out. It is when you are with people whom you don’t have anything necessarily in common with except Christ, that you begin to really see whether it is really the fruit of the spirit in your life or whether you are just hanging out with your friends, people like you. It’s in a local church where John tells us that “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20).”

    – 1 John 4:7, etc. Who are the one anthers here? The term one another and brother in epistles is used almost exclusively of fellow believers in the context of a local church. As Dever states it is as we live in community with other believers in the local church that we find out how loving, patient, gentle, etc. we truly are. It’s like the man who is loved by all his coworkers and his friends down at the Lion’s club but is hated by his wife and kids because he treats them poorly. Which is the real person? Obviously who he is at home is who he truly is. He can put up a front away from home but the real man comes out when he is with those who know him best.

    – Hebrews 13:17, 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9. If the church is not an organization then what is the purpose of appointing elders to oversee the flock and and deacons to serve the flock? Also in Acts 6:1-6 it seems clear that the church was organized and was in fact in need of more organization to insure that the widows were being cared for.

    – Matthew 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 5:1-5. These passages clearly make distinctions between who the believing community recognizes as being in and out of community. If there is no organization then putting one out of the community carries no meaning.

- 1 Timothy 4:1-16, 2 Timothy 41-8, Hebrews 13:17. God has appointed leaders (shepherds) in the church to protect the flock from false doctrine which has dire eternal consequences. Most of the cults and heresies that have creeped into Christendom have been led by those who refused to recognize the leadership of the church (Harold Camping is a great example of this. Many years ago he called his followers to leave their churches due to his own “clever” reading of Scripture.)

    I know this post is lengthly and obviously you don’t know me from Adam so I pray that I am not coming on too strong but I do pray you will consider some of these passages. These passages are not my words but God’s word. It may sound strange seeing that I don’t know you but as a I do care about you and your beliefs because our beliefs do indeed have consequences. Blessings to you friend.

  4. frankknotts Says:

    Thank you Duane, and please understand that I believe that it is through a conversation of God that we come closer to God.
    Let me adress first you point on 1 Corinthians 12:1-30, it is my belief that what is being said here is that all who believe on Jesus as the Christ have become a part of the “church” of Christ or Christianity if you will. The point also is that we cannot all be phrophets or healers, but may only be believers. It still comes down to what is ment by the term church. I think you would agree the term church is certainly not limited to a physical structure, but is intended to mean the people who are believers. For why would God who created the heavens and the earth dwell within a temple built by the hands of man? I do agree with you that we are intended to share our faith, and if we come to know each other better you will find that I am more than willing to witness my own personal re-birth as a Christian.
    The trouble I have with the modern incarnation of the “church” is that it has become to centered on that physical structure. Think of what you yourself said, “to not be a part of a local church is to be in disobedience to Scripture “, Duane that is not the understanding that God has placed in my heart.
    Do you believe that the message of Christ was to build up building and to wait for sinner to come knocking on the door? And while you wait you should adorn the building with lush furnishings? Did Christ not tell us to sell all that we had and follow him? Now that is a hard thing to do, even for the man in the Gospel whom he told this to.
    My trouble is that the modern “church” has become a business about growing the business, more than it is about saving just one soul.
    Look again at my post and ask yourself, why are churches so willing to attatch themselves to the government of man and to ignore the work of God, they sacrifice their rights to speak out on isues that effect the moral fiber of our society for the sake of the dollar.
    Duane I truly believe that God has put this in my heart, I believe that God speaks to us all in whatever manner that will reach us once we seek him. I believe that ten people can read the Bible and receive ten totally different messages because we are not all “eyes” or “feet”, and everyone of those messages are correct, because I cannot judge your interpretation of the message, only God can judge you. But if I follow the message of another I may have silenced my own inner voice of God.
    My point is that we should as you say be a part of the “body” but I don’t feel that this means sitting in a designated building on a designated day, but that we should demonstrate our faith daily in all that we do.
    I’ll leave you today with Luke 9:1-6,

    1Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.

    2 And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.

    3 And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.

    4 And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart.

    5 And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.

    6 And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.

  5. Duane Says:

    Hi Frank. Thanks again for replying to my post. I agree that it would be good thing to define by what we mean by church. First, though I think it is important to establish who or what our authority is. I think we would both agree that the Scriptures are God’s word. However the manner in which you speak of God’s word reveals a subjective or possibly even a relativistic understanding of Scripture and how God speaks to us. The Scriptures are not subjective however and are not open to “personal” interpretation. Because we are sinful human beings we may come up with varied interpretations but the confusion rests with us and not God’s word. So, does this mean we should not try to understand what the true meaning of God’s word? Certainly not! When reading the the Bible we should read it using the same principles we would when reading any other book. When reading Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians it is important that I understand the purpose of the letter which is to address divisions and other problems within the church there. I must also understand the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians. He founded the church and was intimately acquainted with the people there. I must also read it in its grammatical context. Paul is writing a letter so I should understand that he has a specific purpose in mind when writing. We are not free to impose our own meaning onto his letter. Imagine if I wrote my wife a love letter that was discovered 1,000 years from now and historians began to dissect the meaning of that letter and came up with 25 different interpretations of that letter. Unless their interpretation is exactly what I meant when writing the letter their interpretations are wrong.

    For example you cited Luke 9 in your last post. When you read this passage closely you come to see that it is not a charge given to you and me. It was a charge given to his disciples, 12 specific men who were being sent out for a “short term” mission. The “Great Commission” is not given until Jesus ascends into Heaven.

    I noticed you mentioned that you believe God was speaking to you. You said “Duane that is not the understanding that God has placed in my heart.” I do not wish to anger or offend you but might I ask how you know it was God? What if I claim that God is speaking to me as well but what he is saying to me is in direct opposition to what he has said to you? Muslim terrorists claim that they hear from God when they kill innocent people up. Cult leaders who lead their followers in mass suicides claim that God has told them to do it. We could go on and on but I hope you see where I am going with this. We cannot appeal to subjectivity because in the end all we will be left with are opinions. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, the very fact that the word “ought” exists is a testament to the reality that there exists in the universe an objective truth, in this case God.
    
So how do we know what is truth? How are we to judge opinions? How are we to know whether what we are feeling or hearing is actually from God? We must have a standard and that standard is the Scripture. When we discuss issues like the one we are discussing now I have no desire to trust in my own feelings or opinions because sadly these are often misleading. I must rely on the truth and as Jesus said to the Father “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). This is why I listed the passages in my last post. I don’t want you to believe “me” but rather I want you to believe God’s word.

    With that said within the Bible there is a very clear picture of the church presented. It is in fact presented in two ways. There is the church universal and the church local. Many people fail to make this distinction and in doing so confuse much of the Bible’s teaching on the church.

    When a person comes to God through faith in Jesus Christ he/she becomes a Christian and becomes part of the church universal. The church universal is comprised of all believers past, preset and future. The universal church is scattered all over the world and the majority of the universal church is already in Heaven. The universal church has also been called the “invisible” church because it cannot be numbered and until the end of time (Rev. 7:9-10) it will not be gathered in one place at one time.

    But the universal church is also to exist in local identifiable groups or congregations. When you read the epistles you see that they are letters written to local identifiable gatherings of Christians (The church at Corinth, the church at Philippi, the church at Ephesus etc.). In fact as I said earlier the vast majority of the teaching given to the church is given to the church in the context of local gatherings.

    You are spot on when you say that the church is not a building or a place. It is not a place it is a people. I have had the opportunity to travel out of the US and see local churches meeting in homes, garages, in tents and even in an open field. In fact my local church meets in a rented warehouse and at times we pick up and move to another location on a Sunday.

    That the church is a people and not a place does not preclude the fact that the church is commanded by God to gather and to exist in community. The clearest of these commands is found in Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

    Here again we see that phrase “one another” mentioned. It always refers to Christians in the context of a local community. We are called to “stir one another to love and good works.” How does this occur? As we “meet together.” In fact it appears as though even in the early days of the church there were those who were claiming that it was not not necessary to be a part of a local gathering and here they are identified as being disobedient.

    When the Scriptures speak of meeting together this is not simply a Sunday morning service. Meeting together literally means living in community with one another. A Biblical local church will not only meet on Sunday for corporate worship but will also gather in part or in whole all throughout the week. They will care for one another and reach out to their neighbors daily.

    I understand your disillusionment with the “modern” church but you are making generalizations that simply do not stick. The Bible is clear that in the latter days things will get bad and even churches will turn away from the truth (2 Tim 4:1-5) but not all will turn away. God is preserving his church and it is through faithful local churches that God is revealing himself to the world. To abandon the local church altogether because of the existence of bad or corrupt churches is like having having a bad meal at Applebees and then declaring “All restaurants are terrible so I will never eat at a restaurant again.”

    I am not sure if you were able to consider the passages I listed in my earlier post but I would encourage you to read them and consider them. I have read through other posts on your blog and you are very careful to base your political beliefs on hard facts. I would encourage you to do the same with your spiritual beliefs. God is not a subjective God. He has made His will for us very clear in the Scriptures. The Bible is not a book of spiritually subjective writings to which we add our own interpretation, as if it were a piece of modern abstract art. Rather it is God’s clear revelation and instruction to His people. Certainly there is an aspect of mystery with God but he gave us his word so we could know him and his expectations for us.
    
Blessings to you friend.

  6. frankknotts Says:

    Duane, with all due respect, you state that the Bible is not subjective, or open to our own personal interpretation. I will agree up to a point, when I say that God speaks to me when I read the Gospel, what I mean is that God puts the meaning in my heart. I would be interested to know from where you obtain your understanding of the word. Am I to merely take the understanding of the word from another man who happens to be standing behind a pulpit? How am I to know that he has heard the truth from God?
    You ask how do I know that it is God speaking to me, well I don’t , that is why they call it faith my friend. I believe that we seek God and God welcomes us, ask and it will be given, knock and it will be opened. None of us know whether we are living up to the commandment of Christ, we won’t know until the last day.
    I will only say to you that I believe that God answers those who ask with an honest heart, I cannot judge the hearts of others, I can only witness the fact that I sought Jesus as my savior with an honest heart, and that I was saved, I don’t believe that God would allow satan to step in first and mislead me, for I had been tempted and had given in to that temptation for many years. Trust me when I tell you that I was a sinner of the highest order, I like all am still a sinner, but I know attempt to live up to the commandment of Christ.
    I would say to your point that we are intended to live communally with other Christians, that I am not sure what you mean by that. Are we to only commune with other Christians? Of course not. I would ask, how do we spread the word of God by communing with other Christians? If they are already believers, then how does that spread the word of God to unbelievers? If we spend our spiritual moments in rooms with others who profess their faith in Christ, then we are, as they say, preaching to the chrior.
    In my opinion we best spread the word of God by living to the best of our abillity, up to the commendment of Christ. We open our heart to the truth honestly and God will put the truth in our hearts, and then we must be willing to witness our re-birth to all, not just to others who have already shared that experience.
    Duane, my blog is very small and I have no illusions of grandeur, but I my actually reach more non-believer with my witnessing than do many ministers who wait within the walls of their churches for the non-believer to find them.
    Trust me when I say, I have read all of the passges you have listed, many times over. I do not read them lightly and I have read the Bible in context numerus times as well. I am not a person who simply pulls a passge out to spin to fit my needs or to justify my actions. I concede that you may be right and I could be totally wrong in the way I worship, but again I can only do that which I believe God has led me. There are many paths, but only one gate. It matters little how we come to Christ, it matters greatly that we understand that Christ is the gate.

  7. Duane Says:

    Hi Frank. Please don’t mistake my words as an attempt to judge your motives. We can only judge one’s motives to the extent they reveal them to us. As Christians however we are called to judge our own motives by the Scriptures.

    You asked from where you obtain my understanding of the word. I obtain it from careful study. I strive to know what the original writer of the passage I am reading meant when he wrote the words on the page. As I said, I believe the Scriptures are meant to be understood. Paul instructed Timothy to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15). The assumption here is that there is a right way to handle the word and a wrong way. This is why I say that Scriptures are not subjective.

    The Scriptures consistently tell us that we are to judge what we are taught by the standard of the Scriptures. I am more than willing to listen to another man standing behind a pulpit so long as what he is teaching is in line with the Scripture. In Acts 17:11 we are told; “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” They judged the truthfulness of the Apostle Paul’s message by checking it against the Scriptures. I would never encourage blind allegiance to a pastor. With that said however God has given the church leaders and we are called to submit to their leadership and care over us; “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

    The Scriptures assume that we will be able to rightly judge truth from error in an objective way. 1 John 4:1 says “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” We are able to “test the spirits” by comparing their message to the message revealed in Scripture.

    As for my comments about living in community I am not in any way suggesting that Christian live in seclusion from the world. The church in the New Testament seems to follow a pretty consistent pattern; “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42). The believers gathered to hear the teaching of the Scriptures, fellowship and the breaking of bread (likely a reference to the practice of the Lord’s supper) and prayer. The believers gathered for encouragement and teaching and then scattered for the purpose of spreading the gospel. This is the pattern of a solid healthy church.

    You said that you “…actually reach more non-believer with my witnessing than do many ministers who wait within the walls of their churches for the non-believer to find them.” This may be true but I would say that a minister who waits within the walls of the church building for non-believers to find them is derelict of duty. The job description of the minister is first and foremost to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12) but this not all he is to do. He should certainly be reaching his community just as those whom he teaches are to be doing.

    Finally, please do not “concede” that I may be right. That is not why I write here. This is by no means an attempt on my part to be right for the sake of winning an argument. In the end this is not about what I say or even what you say. It is about what God says. I pray that I have communicated nothing but this in the words I have written.

    
Have a blessed evening.

  8. frankknotts Says:

    Duane, I find your comments thoughtful and well thought out and have taken no offense from them my friend.
    You say, “I obtain it from careful study. I strive to know what the original writer of the passage I am reading meant when he wrote the words on the page.” I as well, so we agree on method.If not on interpretation.
    You a;so say, “This is why I say that Scriptures are not subjective.” Again I agree that the scriptures are not subjective, but man’s interpretaion of them will always be, since we are not yet made perfect and do not know the truth yet. So we seek and we pray and we do our best to, “to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Again I think we agree.
    Your paragraph on my view of ministers who wait for the sinners to come to church again finds us agreeing on more than we disagree on. I often tend to paint with a broad brush when writing, but I do know that there are many good and faithful ministers who have no church of walls.
    Finally, when I say I concede that you may be right, it is not me conceding my belief, for I could never do that since it is my faith, but merely my acknowledging the fact that I am not yet perfected and do not know that I have been correct in my worship and works. I will only, like everyone else, know this on the day of judgement. I pray daily that I am living in honor of Christ and that I will be written in the book of life.
    May God bless you and yours and may you enjoy your evening as well my friend.

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