The Church is a complicated subject for me. I’m glad for this opportunity to look at what the church is from all angles. What follows is a very long comment I posted in answer to a very short question.
A brother asked, “What would the church be like if we adhered to the apostolic Gospel?”
Action and resulting change. That’s what teaching is all about. It’s supposed to result in love from a pure heart, a sincere faith, and a clear conscience (1 Tim. 1:5). The very purpose of the Scripture is that we would be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
The Scriptures make wise for salvation (2 Tim. 3:14-15) and then build on that foundation. If a person has not renounced himself/herself as king and submitted to Jesus as King, there is nothing to build on. That’s the rock to build on, “Jesus is the King, the Son of the living God.”
There are people that it’s hard to determine where they are. I think Jesus’ warning about accidentally destroying wheat as you root out tares applies to them. The church is patient, merciful, and kind.
There are others that don’t even want to submit to King Jesus.
Let me give you a famous example, though this is very old. I saw an interview with “Mr. T,” co-star in Rocky III and the original A-team series. I think the interview was in 1983 or so. They were interviewing Mr. T because he had gotten some acting award and, at the podium, “preached the Gospel” to the crowd.
In the interview, Mr. T said, “I’m a Christian, but I’m not Jesus. If you hit me on one cheek, I’m gonna hit you back.”
No, Mr. T, you are not a Christian. Christians walk as Jesus walked. At least, they devote themselves to doing so. When they are unable, they confess their sins to God and their faults to their brothers and sisters because their lives are devoted to becoming like their Master (e.g., Gal. 5:25; Php. 3:8-10; 2 Pet. 1:5-11).
There’s way too many in our “churches” who are just like that. WE have deceived them because we have not told them the truth.
Sons of Disobedience and Children of the Devil
We have to remember that not only are such people in danger of condemnation, but they are still walking according to the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:1-3). We all once did. We were, and they ARE, puppets. They may not be consistently puppets, but until one is delivered by grace, the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one (1 Jn. 5:19).
Let such people be church members, and the devil will use them to make sure you never get anything done that is truly of eternal benefit.
I think the loss of the experience of the fellowship that was experienced throughout the 2nd and 3rd centuries is not just because of Constantine. The real issue was that the church opened its doors and let the world come be part of them. Only in rare cases in history have churches purged the leaven from the loaf (1 Cor. 5) so they could experience real fellowship among holy brothers and sisters.
For the most part, our organizations let the world in freely. Without the requirement that they confess Jesus as LORD, we have let in all sort of people who want the benefits of the Spirit without subjecting themselves to the Spirit. That’s why we do so much evangelizing from the pulpit. Those aren’t churches. Those are outreach centers, and most people don’t know who needs to be reached and who already has been!
How do you have fellowship when you don’t know who is of God and who is of the devil? (1 Jn. 3:7-10). We apply 2 Cor. 6:14-17 to marriages, but we don’t see that destroying the unity of the church by being unequally yoked is a MUCH worse problem.
The church is an incredibly powerful entity, the pillar and support of the truth, the family of God, but we have abandoned our family to spread out and live and meet with the sons of disobedience.
Inside and Outside
In the days of Jesus and the apostles, there was an inside and an outside. They talked about it regularly.
No longer. Not only are we not throwing down the gates of Hades (thank God for the exceptions, of which there are many), but we are not even trying to defend our own gates. The fold, the sheep pen, has been thrown open, and new walls have been built that encompass everyone: thieves, robbers, wolves, and dogs alike. Thieves and robbers no longer need to climb over the wall; there is no door and no doorkeeper to keep them out!
It is time to rebuild the walls that have fallen. It is time to tell Tobias and Sanballat that they cannot participate in the building of the city of God, no matter how much they plead good motives.