The Role of the Church

If we understand only what is provided to us from doctrine, we put our faith in man, instead of God. God imprinted his law and knowledge of him on our hearts and minds. He did this so all men and women would know him and be drawn to him.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to[d] them,[e]
declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.

Please keep in mind that this is written from the perspective of a Christian. I believe Jesus is our Lord and Savior, and I am referring to the Christian body as a whole when I refer to the church.

We are the church, as Jesus said wherever two or more meet in his name, there he is with them (Matthew 18:20). All of us are the body of Christ, not a building, not a doctrine, not an affiliation or denomination, us. The church cannot exist without the people who attend it. Without the people, you have an empty building or a set of traditions no one will read. What could the church do without its people? Could it spread the knowledge of what Christ has done in its life, giving testimony of God’s love, grace, and mercy?

There is a saying on the internet “don’t feed the trolls”, but I’m concerned that we’ve fed the trolls for two thousand years. For thousands of years religion has been used as a way of gaining or maintaining power and wealth. The bible however does not teach this. Peter and Paul did not create the institution of the church we have today. I believe that both would be ashamed of every difference of opinion in history that lead to a new denomination of Christianity. Shame is something I’ve felt because of others my entire life. I was ashamed that my mother was a compulsive gambler, and that I had family that couldn’t control their own impulses and urges.

Now I feel shame because I watch others teach and instruct what they want people to learn about the word of God instead of what it says. Now I am ashamed because people have taken it upon themselves to dictate who is saved and who is not. People have shamed me when they speak about the anger and judgement of God instead of the love and mercy he shows throughout the bible. The grace of God should be more important than the wrath of God.

I am deeply ashamed when I hear and see the way parts of the body of Christ treat others. They do this of the mind they are right, and that their doctrine is the only sound doctrine there is. They became their own denomination because the rest taught something wrong, so that is why it is so important for them to control how you think and understand the word of God.

They don’t want you to interpret things incorrectly, as if God’s word is flawed and only they can make it perfect. They don’t want you to come to your own understanding because you might understand it differently than them, as if God’s word is encrypted and only they have the key to understanding. It is true that understanding God’s word comes more naturally to some than others, but understanding comes from within. God works inside us to bring understanding; this does not require a church doctrine or strict controls on what is learned.

The idea of doctrine was to promote teaching the truth, but God’s word teaches many truths. Only God knows them all, and only he knows everything it is meant to teach. If a man knew everything about the word of God he would be considered Good, but Jesus said only God is good (Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19).

It is by no accident the King James Version of the bible mentions doctrine 6 times in the Old Testament and 49 times in the New Testament, while the NIV translation mentions doctrine only six times in the entire bible, all in the New Testament. The King James Version was translated specifically to push you toward the divine choices of church leadership and government. If you believe God chose your church leaders, you will not question their teachings. If God chose your king, you will not question what they ask you to do.

Here is what the two translations agree on mentioning doctrine:

  1. 1 Timothy 1:3
  2. 1 Timothy 1:10
  3. 1 Timothy 4:16
  4. 2 Timothy 4:3
  5. Titus 1:9
  6. Titus 2:1

I am going to fully analyze doctrine in both bible translations in a new series called “Origin of Doctrine”. I will address key differences between the NIV and KJV bible translations and also important word translations from the original texts.

Here is a small sample of the differences:

1 Timothy 1:3-7

NIV: As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

KJV: As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,

Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:

From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;

Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

The biggest difference here being in verse 5. The instruction from Paul in NIV is very clear, but the KJV version adds confusion from the perspective of modern English.

NIV: The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

KJV: Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned

According to Merriam-Webster, Charity means:

  1. benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity

  2. a :  generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also :  aid given to those in need received charity from the neighbors b :  an institution engaged in relief of the poor raised funds for several charities c :  public provision for the relief of the needy too proud to accept charity

  3. a :  a gift for public benevolent purposes b :  an institution (such as a hospital) founded by such a gift

  4. lenient judgment of others

The first option is obviously the same as the NIV. But what if those who read the King James Version believe charity means lenient judgement of others? What if they believe it means a gift or relief for the needy? In that case they can simply donate instead of exemplifying love for humanity. They might give charity because they feel they have to, instead of because of a pure heart and desire to love and have goodwill toward them.

Next is faith unfeigned. I’m willing to bet most people would have to guess what this word means. According to Merriam-Webster it means Genuine. When I first read the word though, I incorrectly believed it meant unwavering. How many others have made similar mistakes? How many people just skip trying to understand this section all together when they read the KJV, simply because they cannot understand this old version of English? Clearly unwavering faith is a lot different than sincere or genuine faith. What if a church taught that unfeigned meant unwavering? Would you know enough to question it if not encouraged to do so, or would you relent to their superior understanding of the bible?

The body of Christ is meant to correct itself, according to Christ himself.

Matthew 18:15-20

15 “If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[d] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[e] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[f] loosed in heaven.

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Peter writes how to teach about Christ.

 

1 Peter 3: 13-16

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[b]; do not be frightened.”[c] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

A church that does not lead with a clear conscience does not lead you to truth. Having gentleness and respect for others is required and without that, those who speak maliciously about us are justified rather than ashamed.

The apostle Paul was once the worst of all sinners. He killed Christians because they were Christian. He was violent and acted against Christ until changed by Christ to show us that no one is beyond being saved.

1 Timothy 1: 12-17

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

If the piece of the body of Christ you fellowship with does not invite input on understanding, does not allow you to understand for yourself, discourages free study of the word of God, teaches about only some being saved, or doesn’t teach about gentleness, respect, kindness, love, patience, sincerity, good will, and mercy… I hope you don’t relent to their superior understanding, because they don’t have it.

The role of the church is to allow us to grow as Christians, to encourage it, to nurture it. The body of Christ is supposed to represent him and be the representation of Christ that everyone sees today.

Study for yourself so you know if your leaders are leading you well. Certain pieces of the body of Christ are acting as a filter between you and the truth. Don’t let them prevent the truth from reaching you under the guise of sound doctrine. God does not need their services as interpreter, and he hasn’t needed that for two thousand years. You have it written on your mind and heart. God has provided you everything you need to understand his word.

Use other members of the body to help you come to an understanding, but do not allow anyone to filter the word of God. Praise God by coming together in fellowship with other Christians and giving testimony to all that Jesus has done in your life. Pool your resources to help and reach the most people you can. But don’t allow someone to interpret you away from the truth. Jesus said the most important commandment is love of God and your neighbor. Any piece of the body of Christ that does not teach this in every sermon is falling short of the truth and they are overstepping their role as the church.

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