There will always be people who claim to love Messiah but whose heart is far from Him. Many, Yeshua says, will say on that day, did we not do this and that in your name? Yeshua will then say, “I never knew you”. These are descriptions of some people now sitting in your local church and Yeshua says of them that he “never knew them!!!” Some are only in church for show, to be seen by men as pious, others perhaps for a social club or to show of their ability to wax eloquent when discussing theology. These people’s hearts are completely invisible to us, but of course, they are not invisible to Elohim and only He can know who is truly regenerated, so we must be fair in our judgements, not judging according to the appearance.
Most professing followers of The Way do not realize that the central concepts and practices associated with what is commonly called “the church” are not rooted in the New Testament early Ekklesia, nor do they mirror the early Ekklesia. There are four undeniable shifts that will be examined in this article. Church historians of all theological and ecclesiastical backgrounds observe in their writings these following four shifts:
1. The early Ekklesia was a dynamic organism, a living body with many parts. The body from around 180 A.D. onward became an increasingly hardened institution with a fixed and complex chain of command.
2. The early Ekklesia was marked by; the manifestation of a united ministry by which edification and the meeting of needs were accomplished through the gifts of ALL the brethren. After the apostolic era the body moved more and more toward a fixed representation of church offices which separates ministry from the “congregation” and limited significant ministry to the “clergy.”
3. The New Testament Ekklesia up to much of the second century was characterized by periods of extreme difficulty and persecution – it was a suffering body. With the arrival of Constantine the body became sheltered, favored and in due time empowered as the state religion by the Roman state, and thus became a church establishment at ease.
4. The early Ekklesia, with no small measure of vulnerability, depended on the Holy Spirit to unite the brethren and to lead them in ministry. Later on, the church trusted in itself as a very powerful organization, along with its many regulations, procedures and offices to secure “visible” cohesiveness among those devoted to its thinking.
The Visible Church vs The Invisible Ekklesia
The visible church is in many ways carnal, only putting on the image of righteousness. The visible church is more obvious than the invisible body because of it’s buildings and real estate it owns. Many people are under the delusion that they are legitimate because they are registered with the government and are organized and established in this world. However, the invisible body is not under the influence of man but rather the Holy Spirit just as the early Ekklesia was and even in our day is under persecution. The invisible Ekklesia does not conform to the ways of this world and therefore endures hardship because they choose to lay down their life completely and follow Messiah.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 10:37-39
The invisible body are those who have actually been regenerated or quickened by the Holy Sprit, Elohim’s elect or true believers.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of Elohim, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto Elohim, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of Elohim. Romans 12:1,2
Take a good, long look at the early Ekklesia and you will find they were not conformed to this world. They were persecuted constantly and even when admonished not to preach Messiah they continued to do so contrary to the laws of the land.
But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long suffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Yeshua shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Yeshua. All scripture is given by inspiration of Elohim, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of Elohim may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:10-17
The visible church conforms to the ways of this world, lead by the government and men who have many times erred in the faith. Seeking rather to rule under their own establishment rather than submitting to the leading of the Holy Spirit and headship of Yeshua HaMashiach. They elevate themselves above the laity, separating themselves and limit significant ministry to the clergy. This is in stark defiance to the word of Elohim and leading of the Holy Spirit. Elohim places gifts within the body where he sees fit and these are not only present in the clergy. The trouble with many of the churches in this day is when someone in the laity is actually lead by the Holy Spirit and doing the will of Elohim they are buffeted for their righteousness by the clergy! One example is baptism, any saint who is a man can baptise a person who chooses to come to Messiah. Yet in our day so much of the clergy thinks this rite is limited to them as though they are the only ones who are born again. In many cases only a pastor can give the Sabbath message or other important messages at special occasions. However, any man in Messiah can do this.
There is a move in many organized churches that almost brain washes its members and theology students because before they can preach from behind any of their pulpits they must go through their schooling and be approved by their administration. Moshe would have been considered rebellious in our day, and a trouble maker because he did not conform to the present day church establishment. Messiah would be considered a heretic because he defied the church leaders, rebuked them and opened the truth about them. Walking into the temple and physically over throwing the money changers he would have been considered violent and in need of help for his uncontrollable anger. They don’t understand he was not defending himself, but he was rather defending the Father. When he was attacked personally, he never defended himself.
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Ephesians 4:26
True believers in our day are part of the invisible body. They are lead by the Holy Spirit and not conformed to this worlds establishment or organized churches. They seek Elohim and lay down their lives and understand what it means to pick up your stake and follow Messiah.
Then said Yeshua unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Matthew 16:24-27
Beginning around the 4th century – the expression “Visible Church” was refered to by theologians, not to a building, but to the members on the rolls of a local church. In other words, all persons who are members of a local church are considered to be a part of the visible church. With the growth of the United States and its wide spread influence in the world, the churches established within its borders are becoming more influential also and working under their own power to increase the church. This was never the job of any man or church leader but is the work of Elohim through the Holy Spirit.
I have planted, Apollos watered; but Elohim gave the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:6
The invisible Ekklesia or body refers to those persons who have actually been regenerated or quickened by the Holy Sprit, Elohim’s elect or true believers. They are not ruled by this worlds government but rather are under the direct leading of the Holy Spirit. They will endure persecution not only from this world but from their own “clergy” as well.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:17,18
The visible church holds people in high esteem who speak smooth things about them, yet look unfavorably on the true followers of Messiah who actually stand for the truth and show them the error of their ways. They are scorned as heretics and trouble makers because they have not conformed to the ways of this world and religious establishment within it. Many are labeled as “insane” and rejected as extreme. Messiah was labeled much the same way. What many consider insane is nothing less than the love of Elohim working in the heart of his children.
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not Elohim, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Yeshua Christ: 2 Thessalonians 1:8
Let’s not be so blind that we walk in the path of the blind. I will leave you with this closing passage of scripture:
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Revelation 3:15-22