The grace and sovereignty of God, free will, heaven, hell, church, etc.,

Dear Man Made
Which is riskier: Leaving church or staying?

Dear Martin,

Abandoning the accountability of an earthly spiritual leader is not biblical. Paul was admonishing the early churches to get back to their "first love" and strengthen the church. Paul never wanted a church to disband, but to grow. Church is not just for you, you know. Those who don’t know the Lord or are new to the faith need strong believers to help them grow.

When I was new to the faith, I was on my own and had no one around to help me grow. Lone Rangers who pick up (or pick off) these people are potentially very dangerous. Maybe. Maybe it works for you right now, but there is just not a New Testament model of what you are doing, and Lone Rangers have a history of miserable failure.

You told me that your wife and kids are your "accountability partners," but that’s a cop-out. You are their biblical leader; they are not your peers. Who will confront you when you get off track biblically? A "spiritual friend" probably is not someone who is confrontational. Leaders and teachers are going to be judged more strictly. Without a non-partisan earthly boss, you will get yourself in trouble. You are a sinful man (just as I am) who will get off track without this authority.

I myself have seen those who abandon the church and seem to thrive temporarily, but always go off on some weird non-biblical rabbit trail and become ineffective for Christ, or even dangerous. Satan wants us to abandon the church setting and has "picked off" many of those who see the failings of the church. Of course the church is imperfect, because you and I are a part of it. But we are called biblically to make it strong and to glorify God, not trash it.

I have been burned by the church badly in the past. But that does not cause me to abandon it. In fact, I have learned much and God has been graceful. He gives me insight and ability to be the person I need to be within His church to make it and others around me stronger in Him.

Remember, this is not all about you.

Dear Man-Made Church Defender,

First of all, it was not Paul who admonished the early churches to get back to their first love, which you claim to be synonymous with, "strengthening the church." The verse you refer to is Revelation 2:4, and it was written by John to an ecclesia yet future. Even if you were correct about who the letter was from and who it is was penned to, you miss the purpose of it. In fact, the purpose is the opposite of what you suppose.

The ecclesia of Ephesus in Revelation is commended because: "You cannot bear evil men, and you try those saying that they themselves are apostles, and they are not, and you found them false; and you have endurance, and you bear because of My name, and are not wearied."

You seem oblivious of the fact that false apostles are found in the Christian church today, and that Satan is being transfigured today into a messenger of light, and his servants as dispensers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13-14). I wrote of two demonic teachings put forth by the Christian church today: eternal torment and salvation by human will power (free will). You did not comment. Are you not impressed by the fact that demonic teachings are today being forwarded by the Christian church? I cannot imagine such a non-reaction as yours. No shock? No dismay? No discomfort in the least? Your apathy is alarming. I assume by this that you are either swallowing these doctrines of demons whole or that you just don’t care. Here’s your case: You’re either deceived or spiritually ambivalent—neither is a commendable thing.

The ecclesia of Revelation 2:4 is, at first, neither deceived nor careless. Rather, it tests and tries those who claim to be apostles, finding many of them false. You do not do this. Rather, you consider human organization and hierarchy more important than truth. But the ecclesia of Revelation slips back into non-critical acceptance of apostolic wannabees. For this, the spirit of God rebukes them. The "first love" they are exhorted to return to is not "strengthening the church," but testing those who claim apostolic authority.

I exhort you to begin this testing yourself. I exhort you to take a harder look at your church’s doctrines; sniff them and seek their source. Well, let me save you some trouble: the doctrines of eternal torment and free will stink, and their relative source is Satan.

I had to chuckle when you wrote: "Satan wants us to abandon the church setting." It’s precisely the opposite. Satan is delighted when people join churches. Church is where all the institutionally trained, seminary-produced preachers come from. Seminary is where the standard, denominational, uncriticized, unanalyzed and darkest doctrines of Satan get taught. It is where Satan continues to distribute his greatest feats of deception, namely, eternal torment and salvation by human will power. It is in church where people learn that salvation does not depend, ultimately, upon the sacrifice of Christ, but upon the will of human beings. It is in church where people learn that the love of God miraculously includes the burning of fathers and mothers and sons and daughters in eternal fire. It is in church where people learn to feel proud and smugly possessive of their accomplishments for Christ. And you say Satan wants us to abandon the church setting? Why would he? He invented it.

Today’s church setting is far from that which Paul spoke of in 1 Timothy chapters 3 and 5, where you get your church accountability/spiritual hierarchy texts. I exhort you to take a close look at the beginning of chapter 4 of this chapter. There, you will hear Paul predicting a time when people would be "withdrawing from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and the teachings of demons, in the hypocrisy of false expressions." This occurred in Paul’s lifetime and continues today. In fact, it occurred by the time Paul penned his second letter to Timothy many years later.

What Paul calls "the pillar and base of the truth" in 1 Tim. 3:15 has become the "great house" of 2 Tim. 2:20, which contains not only gold and silver, but "wooden and earthenware also." I believe that, by the time Paul writes 2 Timothy, the apostasy has set in, and the organized ecclesia is no longer the pillar and base of the truth. The scriptures, at that time, became the pillar and base of the truth, and it is the scriptures that are able to make Timothy "wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15); the scriptures, not the church.

It is the scriptures that are able to keep me on track, and they do. I am not blown about by every wind of teaching, and the reason is careful study of and firm grasp upon scripture. Lone Rangers who study the Word of God are far, far better off than brainwashed churchgoers blindly following the blind.

You’re right. I did cop out when naming my wife and children as accountability partners. I was speaking of life-accountability, not necessarily accountability to God. In accountability to God, I can do no better than naming Jesus Christ and the sacred scriptures as my "accountability partners." If you require anything higher of me than this—in this day of ecclesiastical apostasy—then that’s your problem. As for me, I’m at peace.

Have you studied the scriptures carefully enough to show yourself approved unto God? It is the scriptures that are able to make you wise for salvation, not institutionally-trained human beings. You suffer the same malady that the spirit rebukes the Ephesian ecclesia for in Revelation 2:4: you uncritically accept demonic doctrines and those who teach them. I exhort you to leave the man-made institutional assembly and come under the tutelage and headship of the true ecclesia of Christ. It has no outward organization, but it is bound together by something far greater and more powerful: the spirit of God. You will be then accountable, as I am, not to misled and unspiritual human beings, but to Christ Jesus and the sacred scriptures, correctly translated. Get yourself a Concordant Literal New Testament and study, study, study. Nothing less than your spiritual well-being is at stake.

I wish the best for you.


Martin Zender