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Why Modern Churches are Carnal:

God's Plan for a Scriptural New Testament Church

By J.B.Sparks

Chapter 7: Overview


I hope you now have a better idea of what God's plan is for a New Testament Scriptural church. I also hope that you understand why so many of the churches today are carnal. Now, I want to make one thing very clear. As I have said earlier, not everyone that uses the word "Church" in their name is a church. Oh, yes, as far as the definition of the word "church" goes, any assembly can rightly be called a church. But, most of them are not Christian churches, because most of the people in them are not saved. (if they believe in the unscriptural doctrines they teach concerning salvation, that of works and not of grace) Yes, they are a church, but not a Christian church. They are just religious people that meet together, having only an outward appearance of Christianity, but denying the power thereof.

But, what about the churches that do teach true Biblical doctrines of salvation? Are they churches? Yes. Christian churches? Yes. If they are mostly saved people that assemble together and teach true doctrines of the Bible, especially salvation, then, they are true Christian churches. This no doubt includes many, many Baptist and some other denominational churches, because they do for the most part teach true doctrines of salvation, and other major doctrines of the Bible. Yes, they are Christian churches.

But are they Scriptural Christian churches? No. Most Christian churches today are not meeting Scripturally. If they don't assemble Scripturally, then the Bible says they are carnal churches. Even though many in the church are saved, if they do not obey the Scriptures, then they are carnal. As I have mentioned before, when even saved people begin to follow men, along with his traditions and commandments, rather than God, his Word and His commandments, then they are carnal. Christians? Yes, but carnal Christians. (Laodicean age, with Jesus standing outside the church) And that is why most true churches today are carnal, because they follow tradition and commandments of men rather than God and His Word. They also want honor from men rather than that which comes from God. Or, they want both. But, we can't have it both ways. Jesus said that we should want that honor that comes from God only. God in turn honors us when we obey His word and trust in Him. This is walking in the Spirit. But, we are living in the last days, and the Bible said that there would be a great falling away from the truth, so it will be very difficult to find a group of saved people who are meeting Scripturally. "for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first". 2 The 2:3. However, it doesn't have to be this way. We can have a Scriptural church if we follow God's plan. A Scriptural church is made up of people who obey Scripture. It's that simple. The Bible says that we should walk spiritually. Walking spiritually is obeying God and believing and trusting in what He says. The early churches were Scriptural in the beginning, but even they had to fight against becoming carnal. (Paul preached and rebuked the carnality in the churches of Corinth, Galatia, Colossians, etc.) We also have the same rebukes and instructions for us today that they had, and they are in the Bible.

As time went on, and especially after Christianity was legalized, churches became increasingly more carnal, being run by tradition and methods of men. This became the norm, even unto modern times. Because of this, the Scriptural way seems to be odd, peculiar, and even weird to those who were exposed and brought up in a society that offered churches affected and permeated with traditions and commandments of men.

When one observes the modern day manmade church, it appears to be more like a club than it does a church. Like a club, both have a membership role of which members pay dues. They both have officers, and use a constitution and a set of by-laws. They both have a prescribed detailed course of customary proceedings, and they put a lot of emphasis on activities and programs. They likewise have names they promote and they both are organized as nonprofit organizations. Furthermore, most churches are also similar to businesses in that they are incorporated by the state. Corporation means to form a body of persons acting under a legal charter as a separate entity with privileges and liabilities. As far as the state is concerned, it looks upon a church as being like any business. In order to be exempted from lawsuits and taxes, it must be done this way, set up like a business. However, it is not God's design for churches to be like businesses or clubs.

His Word clearly describes how a church should assemble and conduct themselves. He doesn't just leave it up to us to meet however we want. For the most part, the early church meetings were very simple. They were not like the business churches or club-like churches we have today. Christians came together in the name of the Lord Jesus, to fellowship, worship, and to exhort one another. God has always worked in simple ways and He has not changed. He works in simple ways so that man cannot glory in himself. "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;" " And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, [yea], and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: (WHY?) "That no flesh should glory in his presence." 1 Cor 1:27. God has always worked in simple ways throughout the Scriptures. Jesus was born in a stable and raised by a common carpenter. He had no home as an adult. And, this was God's only son, whom He loved. He told Gideon to trim down the number of men he had, in order for God to defeat the enemy. God said He chose Israel not because they were the greatest on the earth, but because they were the least. He always chose the weak and base things to confound the mighty. So, don't you think that God would want his churches to operate just as simply even in our advanced and complex society today? He set them up to be simple 2000 years ago and He worked mightily through them, and He will today if we follow His plan. When men seek for a better plan, program, or method, then God will seek for better men.

Is it important how a church functions when it assembles? Yes. Paul laid down the rules for how the early church was to meet. With the beginning of each church, he stayed for awhile and helped them to know how to conduct themselves in their meetings. Later, he periodically sent helpers such as Timothy or Titus to check up on them and to give help in further establishing them as a Scriptural church. Paul's words were more than just advice. They were the Words of God. They were God's commandments of how a Scriptural church ought to be. You can find most of these in 1 and 2 Corinthians, especially chapter 14. Their meetings were getting somewhat out of hand and so Paul had to correct them over many things. He ended the chapter by saying they were God's commandments, and if any man thought himself spiritual, to acknowledge such. Based on these Scriptures, the following is how I believe a typical church meeting was conducted. Everything was again very simple. On Sunday, the first day of the week, people assembled together only in the name of the Lord Jesus. Like most churches of that day, they probably started out in someone's home, and as the number grew, they either built a building or rented one. But, it was just a building that the church met in. They did not give it a name or title, (or themselves one), nor did they decorate and fashion it into a sanctuary with stained glass windows, padded pews, an altar, etc, and then conduct formal services. We no doubt got into this mess influenced by the Catholics. It also may be an attempt to make it like the Old Testament Temple or the "house of God" as you hear many church buildings called today. I'm not against making a place where the church meets comfortable. I'm not saying that. I'm saying that Scriptures indicate and stress that Christians are the church and that they are to be sanctified and holy, and they are not to put the emphasis on holy days, places, buildings, etc.

When it was time for the meeting, everyone sat and quietly prayed for the Holy Spirit to lead in the service. (There was no one up front running everything) The Holy Spirit would then begin to move upon the men. Someone might feel led to testify of some good thing that God had done for him during the week. Someone else might feel led to lead the group in a song, hymn, or the reading of a psalm. One of the elders, being led by the Spirit, would then get up and preach a message that the Spirit laid on his heart. When finished, other songs or testimonies could be given or another elder could get up and give what the Spirit wanted him to say, whether another message, lesson, word or exhortation, etc. (Bible seems to limit these to no more than 3, maybe for the sake of time or not to wear everybody out.) There would be no specific order of events, but the Lord would have liberty to lead in any order: songs, testimonies, lessons, exhortations, messages, etc, and who would be doing such. Now, there were guidelines given by God, and liberty was given within these guidelines. (For example, He said that women were to be silent in the church.) Liberty does not mean doing whatever you want, but being allowed or having the freedom to do whatever God has commanded us to do according to His Word. He said there was not to be confusion, and everything was to be done decently and in order. Who was to make sure these commands were carried out in the church? The elders. The older Christian men in that assembly.

So, you see, the service seemed to be very simple, but organized to allow the Holy Spirit liberty to operate during the meeting. "... and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty ." 2 Cor 3:17. The Spirit must have liberty in the church in order for Him to work. I have heard some say, "Well, our pastor allows liberty. He doesn't hinder the Spirit from working, or others from getting involved." But, who is the pastor to "allow liberty". It is not his to give. Or, it shouldn't be, unless he is a lord. For a pastor to allow liberty means that he has control over the church, that he is the head. He decides whether to give permission to do something. "Liberty" means the condition of being free from control, confinement, and servitude. The opposite of liberty is bondage. Bondage is when the Scriptures do not have freedom to be obeyed and practiced. Now, surely a pastor doesn't want to be compared to those in Galatians 2:4, that tried to put others in bondage. "And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:" So, the pastor can allow liberty in the church? Does he want to be compared to those men in 2 Peter 2:19? "While they promise them liberty , they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage." For, you see, liberty is not given by the pastor. It is given by the Lord! God has already given us liberty to do what He said according to the Word of God. God says to do it, and He gives us liberty to do according to His Word. My point here is, that liberty is from God, not man. But, man is the one who will try to hinder you from following God's Word. And if he is in charge of the liberty or freedom to obey God's commands, then he can also take it away. But, we are to never allow any man to keep us from serving God according to the Scriptures. "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." Gal. 5:1 "and where the Spirit of the Lord [is], there [is] liberty ." 2Cor 3:17. Where there is liberty, you will find the Spirit of the Lord. If you want the Lord in the church, then there must be liberty for people to serve Him. If there is no liberty in the church, then it is because someone has taken it away. Everyone should be free to participate in the church according to the guidelines of Scripture. "Oh, but we can't do that. Things will get out of hand. You've got to have one man in charge in order to keep things under control. If you had that kind of liberty in the church with Christ as the Head, and elders leading and having equal authority, then there would be chaos." But, hey, you are not trusting in the Lord. I would not want to cause problems in a right kind of church. I would be afraid to. Just ask Ananias and Sapphira what happened to them when they caused trouble in the early church. If Christ is the Head of the church, He will take care of troublemakers, if the others are trying their best to follow Him and have a Scriptural church.

In conclusion, I would like to say that it may appear to you that this booklet is a little radical. You may even think it is very radical. You may say that you have never heard or seen anything like it before, and that no one else believes it this way, so it must be wrong. But, friend, we are in the last days, and the Word of God plainly teaches that there will be a great falling away from the truth. Not only is the world falling from the truth, but so are the churches. Speaking to the last church age (the one we are in) Jesus said to the Laodicean church, "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". This is a picture of the anemic, powerless, churches of our day. Yes, they have all kinds of buildings, money, programs, and methods, but they do not have God. He says they make him sick, to the point He could vomit. He commands them to repent and to follow Him.

What about you personally? If you know that the things that you have read in this book are true, then you will do one of two things. You will either repent of the mess that you are in and then get out of it. Or you will suppress these truths or explain them away and stay like you are. But, you will never be able to escape these truths if you are saved. You will never be able to be honest before God and therefore will not have peace in your soul. Why? "Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God:" Rom 8:7. My suggestion to you would be to get out of a carnal church. It will only make you carnal. You say, "Well, I would not know where to go. This is the best I can find." It would be better for you not to go at all, than to go to a carnal church. Read your Bible, pray, and worship at home. Then, pray and ask God to start a church in your home. That's the way the early churches got started. "But, I can't just not go to church. That would be wrong." Look in God's Word and you will find several churches that started in and continued in homes, until the group became too large. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church , entering into every house, and hauling men and women, committed [them] to prison. Acts 8:3. "Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus…" " Likewise [greet] the church that is in their house" . Rom 16:3

The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house . 1Cor 16:19

Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house. Col 4:15

And to [our] beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house: Phl 1:2.

But, what about the verse "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]"? Heb 10: 25. This is a famous verse that many use to hold over people's heads that you can't miss any church services at all. But, this was a verse written to Jewish Christians who, because of fear of persecution, did not assemble at all. "I will be persecuted if I don't go to some church." (Ironic, these early Christians were persecuted because they did assemble together, and we will be persecuted if we don't.) Again, you are thinking of church in the traditional since. I'm opposed to the idea of never assembling at all, as the verse says. But, did you know there were many examples in the Bible where men temporarily did not go to group worship. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, John the Baptist came out of the wilderness, Paul spent at least 3 years alone in the desert, etc. So, if you have to assemble just with your family for awhile, you are not violating this Scripture. This should be temporary, and not a habit (manner of some is) or an excuse just to miss assembling together. It should be your desire that God join others with your group, or to help you find another group to meet with, but by all means, don't just go out and join a church just because you think that is what you have to do. Yes, it is God's will for you to be part of a church, but the right kind of church. If there aren't any, then don't compromise and become a part of a bad one. If the whole system today is wrong, and I sincerely believe it is, then we should come out of it, and take a stand. "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 Cor 6:17-18. Yes, it is all part of man's religious system. Most all churches have become a part of this false religious system of our last days, in which the Bible says there will be a great falling away. However, the Devil started this system soon after the first early churches were founded. They soon became known as the Catholic Church, and later all other denominational churches have been influenced by her false, adulterous ways. (Clergy, religious titles for men, denominational and church names, religious schools and hospitals, tithing, membership roles, teaching of tradition and commandments of men as doctrine, having a church constitution, bi-laws, a creed to follow, building church sanctuaries, owning properties, etc., etc.) Now, there are a few denominations that have some truth and some correct doctrines on salvation or other major doctrines, but they still have been prey to this false religious system that has effected the church and made it powerless. When Jesus spoke the truth in the synagogues, it infuriated the religious crowd and they wanted to kill him. However, some believed on him, but they were afraid to speak out for fear of being put out of the synagogue. Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess [him], lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. John 12:42,43. What about you? What will you do? (1) Suppress these truths and be silent so as not to offend the religious crowd, and continue to gain honor from men rather than God? (2) Speak out as Jesus and others did and be run off? Or (3) separate yourself now and take a stand for Christ and the Truth. I can't tell you which to do, although I know God will not bless you if you choose the first one. I tried that one for a long time, and I was miserable. With number 2 you will be greatly persecuted before you are run off. For me, I chose number 3, to get entirely out of the system, and to speak out against it from without rather than within. Since then, God has richly blessed me and my family, and He has become a Father to us and we have indeed become his sons and daughters. Our fellowship with Him has been great. I can honestly say that I love the praise of God more than the praise of man. We are now praying, studying our Bible, and worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth in our home. We are witnessing and trying to get others saved, by giving the plan of salvation to every family in our town. We are now waiting upon God to bring together a group of people who want to live and to please Him in the way He has told us.

I strongly believe that everything I have written in this booklet is true to the Word of God. I further believe that many Christians down through the centuries have believed and practiced these things, and were persecuted by the religious system. Furthermore, I believe that there are Christians today in this country that meet as God has commanded, even though I am not aware of them.

I want to say, as others have said in the past, that "unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures, (for I do not trust in either tradition or the commandments of men, and the system that prevails today) I am bound by the Scriptures that I have quoted. My conscience is captive to the Word of God, and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against them." Amen!

[Share your comments with the author J.B Sparks]


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Having difficulty viewing any pages?  This site is best viewed with 800 x 600 min resolution. ] Up ] Introduction ] Chapter 1: What is the Church? ] Chapter 2: Traditions in the Church ] Chapter 3: Names & Titles ] Chapter 4: Position of the Modern Day Pastor ] Chapter 5: Church Membership in Today's Churches ] Chapter 6: Is Tithing for Today? ] [ Chapter 7: Overview ] Addendum ]