The New Testament church was a glorious movement of people devoted to a resurrected Lord. This movement arose from the public declarations of eyewitnesses to that resurrection. These witnesses were called “apostles” – a word meaning “sent ones.” They were so named because they were sent by Jesus of Nazareth, the One who had risen from the dead. His instructions to them were that they were to tell the world what they had seen and heard of Him.
The apostles were persecuted for telling this truth. So also were those who believed them – that is, the New Testament church. This is the essence of their glory (both of the apostles and of the church they led), that they steadfastly confessed and served Jesus Christ in the face of constant and often murderous persecution.
As the movement grew, there was also, however, a creeping corruption. Not a corruption of the apostles, for we see them being faithful to the end. Peter, Paul, John continued to bear faithful witness to the Lord right up until their deaths, and we have their writings to prove it. Nor did all their followers become corrupt. However, as the movement gained more and more adherents, it naturally attracted those whose motives were not as pure (We see incipient examples in Acts 5 and Acts 8). This is true of any movement of history, whether of God or man.
God was not surprised by this increasing corruption. Jesus and the apostles all warned repeatedly of it. To mention just a few examples of these warnings, see Matthew 24-25, 2 Timothy 3, 2 Peter 2, and Jude. In Acts 20:29-30 Paul writes that false teachers would arise both from within and from without the church. The entire book of Galatians is Paul’s defense of his own ministry in the face of competing false teachers. You can’t read the New Testament and miss these warnings.
God would deal with the corruption. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the self-aggrandizing nature of some leaders was the corruption that made the church unsuitable as the permanent instrument of God, just as the nation of Israel was unworthy as a permanent instrument. The only suitable and worthy instrument was a kingdom managed entirely by God without any help from us. Therefore, when you go to God today you go directly to Him. Organized religion – because it is organized by humans – is an environment that will always be subject to corruption. God dealt with the corruption by the coming of His kingdom (called “The kingdom of God” or “The kingdom of heaven”). Those with sincere faith experienced it, and the rest missed it like people miss a thief in the night (2 Thessalonians 1 and 2; see also 5:1-6). This was the separation of sheep and goats that Jesus had described in Matthew 25.
Therefore, while you may admire what you see of the church in the New Testament, do not ever think you can replicate it – or even that you should replicate it. It was a temporary structure which, while glorious for a time, would eventually give way to corruption…as all human institutions do. God Himself rules us through His kingdom. Serve Him now with a whole heart. He will search your heart and will not be content until all evil is removed from it. Human religious leaders, by contrast, cannot even see into your heart. How could they – no matter how sincere their intentions – possibly offer a kingdom as good as God’s?
Here are some related posts:
There Will Never Be Another New Testament Church Just as There Will Never Be Another Ancient Israel
The New Testament Church Was Unique
The New Testament Church Gave Its Life To Birth the Kingdom of God
The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.