Every believer participating and functioning was the original biblical way of meeting as the Church. This is very different from today's traditional institutional business model of 'doing church'. In this overview of the book of 1 Corinthians concerning the function of the New Testament Church we will look at how the Church or the body of Christ participated and functioned together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We will examine what the apostle Paul taught everywhere he went and in every church he ministered (1 Cor. 4:17; 12:1-27; 14:23-33). The participation and function of the believers is often referred to as the "Priesthood of All Believers" having been made a kingdom of priests and a royal priesthood unto God (1 Pet.2:5, 9; Rev.1:6). We will look at the priesthood of all believers participating and functioning in the body of Christ according to the Word of God. We will attempt to gain much needed insight and a much better understanding of how the New Testament Church functioned and participated together as the priesthood according to the Word of God.
We will give attention to and focus our attention on what the apostle Paul wrote regarding meeting as the church in the book of 1 Corinthians. During our study we will also look at his other epistles and the rest of the New Testament authors and see that they agree and support one another in context. What the apostle Paul taught the believers in Corinth he taught everywhere and in every church where he ministered (1 Cor.4:17), not just in Corinth. The apostles were Spirit-filled believers who wrote to Spirit-filled believers which is the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints that we as believers are to contend for (Jude 1:3). The Greek word "epagonizomai" signifies being in a combat situation having to earnestly contend for or struggle over something using intensive force as you would in a wrestling match. We must wrestle, struggle, and fight with intense force to hold on to the faith that was once and for all delivered to believers. We are not to preach or teach any other gospel than what the apostles believed and taught believers (Gal.1:8-10).
We must know and understand what the apostles taught in order to contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints and preach and teach the same message. We must consider the fact that we have not been doing church the way the apostles called believers to do church. We must consider returning in obedience what the apostles taught believers concerning how to meet as the church with every believer participating and functioning. As authentic disciples we must take responsibility for our personal walk with the Lord and to study out the Word of God in search of truth for ourselves. We must learn to seek and to search for truth as for hidden treasure, until the Lord gives us the understanding and wisdom we need to live it out in our daily lives (Prov.2:1-8). As true disciples of Jesus Christ we need to be diligent and study in order to present ourselves approved to God rightly discerning the word of truth, so that we have no reason to be ashamed before Him at His coming (2 Tim. 2:15). Jesus said in the book of John 16:13, that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth. The apostle John declared in 1 John 2:27, that we have the anointing or the Holy Spirit abiding in us that He would teach us concerning all things and that we did not need for anyone to teach us.
Meeting in houses with every believer participating and functioning was the apostles’ original way of meeting as the Church. The Church, or the body of Christ continued to meet in houses for about the first 300 years until the time of Constantine (Acts 5:42; Rom.16:5; 1 Cor.16:19; Col.4:15; Phm.1:2). As authentic disciples we need to study and understand the apostles’ beliefs, doctrine, and their practices in early church. We need to study to see how they put the Word of God into practice in their lives and do the same in our own lives. We need to study early church history through the Reformation to see the departures from the apostles’ doctrine. If we study diligently we should be able to see the original teachings of the apostles found in the Word of God and see the departures from the apostles’ faith, teachings, and practices found in the Word of God. Our study of the original apostolic faith, doctrine, and practices should enable us to return to their original intention in practice according to the Word of God. As we study the Word of God from the apostles view point throughout history we will see how things began to shift, change, and depart from the original apostolic faith, teachings, and practices. We must learn from our past, or we may be doomed to repeat it.
This is a call for you as an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ to study out early Church history since most believers do not know about early Church history. The majority of Christians have never studied early Church history to know what the apostles actually believed, taught, and practiced concerning the Christian faith. They have never really studied the history of the Church to find out about departures from the apostles' faith and doctrine that have taken place over the centuries. The apostle Paul spoke to the elders in Ephesus in Acts 20: 29-31 "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” The Apostle Paul’s words came to pass and there were departures from the original apostolic doctrines and practices they handed down to believers. We need to return to the doctrines and practices the apostles taught that were not recovered during the Reformation by the reformers.
Now let's begin our study by examining the book of 1 Corinthians to see what the apostle Paul taught in everywhere and in every church (1 Cor.4:17): Every Believer Participating and Functioning as the Church.
As we look into and study our early Church history we find believers meeting in houses for about the first 300 years of the existence of the Church. The Word of God reveals how believers were to meet together and function as the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ revealed to His apostles and disciples how they were to go out by two’s and find a man of peace in whose house they could begin to meet (Matt. 10:5-15; Luke 10:1-12). Jesus set the supreme example as He sent His out disciples in two’s to start churches in houses with a third person and possibly their family. The church could have been as small as two or three believers meeting together or as large as could fit in a living room somewhere around twenty or so (Matt.18:20).
Jesus knew the importance of two disciples coming together in agreement in prayer and that their Father in heaven would hear and answer their prayers. Jesus also knew that a gathering of at least two or three disciples could usher in His presence into their midst (Matt. 18:19-20). Jesus would have told His apostles and disciples to go build buildings like those who built the Jewish synagogues if meeting in houses would have not been the best way for meeting together. Jesus our Lord knew “house church” would be the best way to meet due to the natural, normal, comfortable environment it provided for both intimacy and accountability. He knew His body or the Church meeting in houses would be more likely to provide intimate relationships among those who chose to meet together.
The intimacy that a “house church” meeting provides among those gathering together makes way for natural relational accountability in the discipleship process. This allows for growth and maturity in both character and in ministry instead of a manufactured accountability that is prevalent in the church. Meeting in houses as the early church allowed all believers to participate and function in ministry. The Lord never intended for His disciples to be passive pew warmers standing on the sidelines watching a one man show and the clock. His disciples were to be active in ministry ministering to one another. Disciples had a reason to stay in prayer, studying the Word of God, seeking to be and stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit in order to come prepared to a meeting to minister. The Lord use those who walk with Him listen for His voice and are sensitive to the Holy Spirit voice and promptings (1 Cor. 15:58; Eph.4:7; 5:15-21; Col.3:16-17; 1 Pet.2:5, 9-10; 4:10; Heb. 6:10; 10:24).
As we study out Hebrews 10:19-25, we will discover in vs.19 it is to the brethren and then the passage tells us in verses 22, 23, and 24, “let us”. It was the brethren who were to minister to one another and we can see this as we take a closer look at verses 24-25, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Notice in verse 24 the word says “let us consider one another to stir up love and good works”. And verse 25 says, “but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The believers were to consider one another in order to stir up love and good works by exhorting one another. Meeting in houses puts the responsibility for the meeting upon every believer being prepared to minister to each other instead of depending upon a Clergy man to do it for us. The smaller number of those attending a house church meeting allows every believer equal opportunity to participate and function in their gifts and to be used by the Lord. Believers grow much faster due to their taking responsibility to hear from the Lord for themselves, study it out, apply it to their own lives, and be able to teach others.
There are also many benefits of meeting in the homes of believers. It is a cost effective way to meet with little overhead, saving believers’ money usually spent on land, development, buildings, electric bills, pastoral salaries, and maintenance. Giving would go to those in action planting churches and reaching the lost, for materials and training to help the Church reach the lost, and to meet the needs within the Church. Those who meet in today’s church buildings generally lack this intimacy and accountability. This is common in many seeker sensitive churches we have today. Although there are many benefits to meeting in houses they are not the key for what ails the body of Christ.
The key is for authentic disciples to develop an intimate relationship with the Lord and to maintain a right heart with Him. It is by learning to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth by maintaining a right heart before the Lord that His grace (the divine influence upon our hearts) is released upon our hearts. The key to receiving His grace is to walk in obedience to Him by maintaining right heart. There is nothing we can do to earn His grace, no going to church, reading our Bibles, praying, or ministry. There is no special place we can go, no building, no service we can attend to receive His grace. We must learn seek Him with integrity of heart and with all of our hearts and maintain a right heart with Him to receive His grace.
Jesus knew there was no need for His disciples to go to a special place or use a special building to meet to worship Him. Jesus said in John 4:23-24, "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." According to Jesus we are able to come together in small numbers to worship Him without the aid of a special place or building or a special service in a special building. According to the apostle Paul as Spirit filled disciples we can participate and function as the Church in small numbers in houses without the need of a special service and use of a special building.
Many have fallen into the trap of “going to church” to a service in a building, praying, reading their Bibles, and doing good works or ministry out of religious duty without maintaining a right heart. They have mistakenly or evenly knowing made the decision to attempt to earn the Lord’s favour while wilfully walking in disobedience (James 1:22). We cannot and will not ever deceive Him, yet many make useless attempts to try and pull the wool over the Lord’s eyes. The Lord always looks upon the condition of our hearts and knows what is in our hearts even when we do not (1 Sam.16:7; Jer.17:9). We as authentic disciples must learn to keep our hearts right with Him by worshiping Him in spirit and truth. Then and only then we will receive His grace and experience His abundant life in our lives.
Meeting as the church was endorsed by Jesus, the apostles, and the early church for 300 years. We have been doing church wrong for too long, and it’s time to return to the biblical way of meeting in houses allowing every believer to participate and function in ministry.
What every believer needs to know concerning churches that are automatically tax exempt under 508(c)(1)(A) [Free Churches] verses the government controlled churches 501(c)(3) [State Churches]
The Church was once a great influence on our nation and its government. However, that all changed in 1954 when churches were added to the 501(c)(3) section of the IRS tax code (IRC). The 501(c)(3) church has been stripped of its freedom of speech as a result of its partnership with the government. They have voluntarily silenced themselves concerning anything touching politics and the government, even in spiritual matters important to believers. If the Church had not lost its freedom of speech to influence the government, maybe prayer would have not been removed from schools on June 25, 1962. It was at this point the nation began a huge spiritual spiral downward, the statistics are staggering.
The Church’s influence on politics and government concerning spiritual matters such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, abortion, and homosexuality is the evolutionist greatest fear. By silencing themselves regarding “political” issues, the 501(c)(3) church has given government run public schools permission to teach our children lies without resistance and compromise the truth on these and many other issues touching our faith. When we compromise we agree to go below what we believe or know to be true, at that point we allow falsehood to become the “truth”. Something cannot be both true and false; it has to be one or the other. Once falsehood is added to or replaces any part of the truth, the statement, belief or “fact” is no longer true.
The Butler Act was passed in 1925, prohibiting the teaching of evolution in public schools; it was overturned in Tennessee on May 19, 1967. Its overturn allowed evolutionism, which is one of the greatest “Fairy Tales” in the history of the world, to be taught in public schools. It is currently not taught as an idea, theory, hypothesis or guess, but as an actual fact. The public schools are teaching our children an inaccurate account of our country’s history by removing references to the providences of God and the Christian faith, which is what our country was founded upon. The public school system is also teaching our children about inappropriate sexual relations, promoting the homosexual lifestyle in their sex education classes. All this is aimed at removing God from our hearts and minds in order to erode the faith of our children.
The Church, the Body of Christ, can once again become a spiritual influence on the government if we take back our voice, our freedom of speech, by breaking the bond it has with the government. When the Church turns away from the world and submits itself to and is ruled by Jesus Christ the Lord alone, then it can truly be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Only then will the Body of Christ truly be “the Church”.
The Lord reveals that as His disciples we should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).This not only covers marriage and personal relationships, but also all business partnerships. As the Church, this also includes our partnerships with the State and Federal government in pursuit of 501(c)(3) status. How can we take back our freedom from the government’s control? We can do this by not incorporating our churches and pursuing 501(c)(3) status. The Church, or individual groups of the Church, should not incorporate on a state level, due to becoming creatures of the State which are subject to the State. Those who incorporate and choose to pursue 501(c)(3) status, become creatures which are subject to the Federal government and are prevented (gagged) from speaking out on political and spiritual matters that do not agree with the current “political atmosphere”.
Section 508(c)(1)(A) states that “churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches” are a mandatory exception to section 501(c)(3), they are already tax exempt without notifying or applying to the government under section 501(c)(3). Churches receive the same tax exempt status and benefits as a 501(c)(3) organization, without the partnership with the government. We do not have to lose our voice!
Sec. 508. — Special rules with respect to section 501c3 organizations
(a) New organizations must notify Secretary that they are applying for recognition of section 501(c)(3) status
Except as provided in subsection (c), an organization organized after October 9, 1969, shall not be treated as an organization described in section 501(c)(3)
(1) Mandatory exceptions
(A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, or
In IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, the IRS once again states that churches are qualified organizations and do not need to apply to the IRS:
“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.”
“Examples. The following list gives some examples of qualified organizations.
· Churches, a convention or association of churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and other religious organizations.”
And according to IRS Publication 557,Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization:
“Churches. Although a church, its integrated auxiliaries, or a convention or association of churches is not required to file Form 1023 to be exempt from federal income tax or to receive tax deductible contributions, the organization may find it advantageous to obtain recognition of exemption.”
As shown in the examples above and the IRS code itself, a church does not have to apply to or notify the government (state or federal) of its tax exempt status, we are already established as a separate creature from the state. We need to remain separated from the state and not join in any type of partnership that would create a yoke between the church and government, no matter what “benefits” they may mislead us to believe are available.
Note: The church as described under IRC 508(c)(1)(A) in this article is also known as a “Free Church”.