A Test For The Spirit Behind Your Church

In today’s diverse societies, we have a great range of Churches to choose from. If we like the “rock concert” style of worship, we go to perhaps the Pentecostals, if we prefer something a little more sedate, then perhaps the Baptists. If we want something more structured, we might select the Anglicans or the Roman Catholics.

This applies also to the understanding of the scriptures, if we do not agree, what do most do. They leave their gathering and seek another that holds the some interpretations we do.

Sometimes it may not even be the interpretations, it may just be we may not socially fit in or we have some personal disagreement with another person or them with us.

This extends beyond individuals but to Christian gatherings as well. All that state or believe they are churches make the claim that they seek God but is it the ‘Truth’ that they seek, again we must consider their teachings as opposed to that of the early Church and the teachings of the Apostles.

We all claim that our ‘way’ is the correct way and our ‘interpretation’ is the correct ‘interpretation’. However, can all be correct when so many churches differ so greatly?

So how should a true Church operate, what should they preach, what practices did God ordain in worship such as the order of things, use of music and countless other questions.

The bible confirms that the Apostles built the true Church under the authority of Christ. As well as this, we know from the bible that they received the Holy Spirit when the Lord breathed on them and said they had the authority to forgive or retain the sins of others.

“Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” John 20:21-23

The disciples present at the day of Pentecost also received the Holy Spirit, as did Cornelius and his household. We also know others received the Holy Spirit by the ‘laying on of hands’ of the Church when those with the authority given from Christ to the apostles “breathed” on them, following the same example as the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is by the way that the Church functioned under these people we can test today’s teachings, as it was this authority structure the Lord established and guided with his Holy Spirit. It was also the traditions and ordinances within this new Christian Church structure that the Apostles instituted to guide the Church through the ages to protect it from corruption or falling back into the traditions and ordinances of mere men as did the Jews before them. This is confirmed by the scriptures.

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” 2 Thessalonians 2: 15

“ Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” 1 Corinthians 11:2

One method we can use to compare today’s interpretation of scripture and how a Church should be structured is to examine the historical evidence recorded in the past.

One historical writer was Eusebius of Caesaria (c.260 AD to c. 340 A.D). Eusebius was a theologian, scholar and Church historian and around 314 AD became Bishop of Caesarea. Eusebius wrote many works including an extensive history of the Church to around 324 AD. As an example, in his writings, we have a testimony describing the Church of Alexandria up until and including his lifetime. I will add at this point that Mark, the author of the second Gospel of the Bible, founded the Church of Alexandria. He was one of the seventy disciples of Jesus Christ and was acknowledged in the bible by the apostles as a fellow worker in Christ. Therefore, it is indisputable that this Church had Jesus Christ as its “Cornerstone”.

In his second book of the history of the Church, Eusebius quotes from the works of Philo, a historian and philosopher who lived during the Church’s earliest years. In this book, Eusebius makes many references to demonstrate the continuance of the traditions, customs and teachings of the Apostles from Philo’s time to his.

Some examples Eusebius states are,

“since the writing to which I refer clearly contains the rules of the Church still observed in our time.”

In this comment, Eusebius clearly states that what are mentioned in the writing of Philo are the rules of the Church and that they were still being practiced until his day.

“or of the discipline still practiced among us, especially when we commemorate our Savior’s passion by abstaining from food”

Here Eusebius refers to the tradition of fasting prior to Communion, a tradition introduced by the Apostles, witnessed by Philo, still practiced in Eusebius’ time and for the most part ignored by modern ‘churches’. At this point, I will add that the tradition of fasting before Communion is still practiced by the Church of Alexandria and other true Churches.

“He then writes ‘They not only meditate but also compose songs and hymns to God in various meters and melodies, setting them into more solemn modes’”.

Here Eusebius quotes from Philo in how the Church of Alexandria would write songs in various melodies but then setting them to solemn modes, far different to the boisterous manner common in some of today’s gatherings, which sometimes appear more like a ‘Rock and Roll’ concert than a place of piety and humility dedicated to the worship of the Lord. A reasonable question when we consider the different nature of worship of the Church of Alexandria and other Churches that can lay a genuine claim to Christ’s authority and the modern ‘churches’ of today would be. “Are some of the churches today worshipping in a manner pleasing to God, or in a manner pleasing to their own carnal tastes and senses, conditioned by their culture and the times in which we live?”

This next quote refers to the original authority structure introduced by the Apostles. It describes a system beginning with Deacons, and finally a ‘Bishop’ or ‘Patriarch’ holding the highest earthly position within each Church. Eusebius states that this structure was an apostolic custom and teaching delivered by the ‘first heralds of the Gospel’, these “heralds” were the apostles and the seventy disciples, all operating under Christ’s authority, in one mind and one accord with the Lord’s teachings and instructions.

“In addition, he describes the order of precedence of those in the ministries of the Church, from the deaconate to the supremacy of the episcopate. Clearly Philo had in mind the first heralds of the Gospel teaching and apostolic customs handed down from the beginning.”

It should also be understood that the collection of Holy Writings that are considered the ‘Canon’ or as we call it today, the “Holy Bible” were determined at the First Council of Nicea (sometimes spelt Nicaea) of which Eusebius was part.

If we accept the collective decision of those Holy men of the Church, concerning what is to be considered the Holy and inspired writings, then we must accept the other decisions made by them. As it follows that if the Holy Spirit of God was inspiring them, then all of what they determined was or if they were not then we can rely on none of it.

Who are we to question which is Truth and which is not when every member of the world Church having Christ as their “Cornerstone” and the prophets and apostles as their “foundation” was in total unity over these issues? Only the most proud full of men would make such a claim.

Some examples of early Church practices more often than not either rejected or altered by today’s gatherings are,

Music and musical instruments
Intercession of the departed saints
Head covering for women
Females holding positions of authority
Offering of Incense
Hierarchy, e.g. Bishops Deacons etc.
Anointing with Oil, e.g. Unction of the Sick
Consecrated Priesthood
Confession, repentance and absolution

I will add that many believe these to be man-made traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. The truth is however far different, these were part of all the early Church, not just Rome and in fact predated the founding of the Church of Rome.

So why do so many reject these things, why won’t so-called Churches even consider or investigate the Truth regarding them and what spirit would want such disunity or not wish for us to serve the Lord in the same manner He originally ordained or even keep these things unknown to us?

Finally, if the Holy Spirit truly inspires the modern gatherings claiming to be Churches then why would the Lord not inspire the same things as He originally did?

Why would the Lord deliberately create disunity of faith between His chosen?

Why would the Lord “update” His way of having us worship and serve Him, do these suggest God got His first instructions wrong or changed His mind?

To these questions, those that genuinely seek the Lord will want answers.

To those that serve only themselves, these questions will be of no importance for they care not for what pleases the Lord.

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