“For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.”~1 Corinthians 2:10
THE PROFOUND MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH, THOUGH HIDDEN IN THE PAST, IS NOW REVEALED AND BEING REVEALED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
Free EBook: Church What it is & is not
THE TURNING POINT – ACTS 8:1
STEPHEN; let’s take a look at what happened after this disciple of Christ, was stoned to death. This passage of scripture goes right to the point.
“…And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house…” ~ Acts 8:1-3
From this time on, we no longer see in scripture, the church meeting in temples. For some, history tells us, the “called out ones” were no longer accepted under the temple welfare system and were in fear of their lives so they scattered. In their scattering they proclaimed the “good news” of Jesus Christ and the freedom of being out from under the law. Most, probably had the revelation (at least in part) that Jesus opposed the hypocrisy and abuse of the leaders in the temple system, and understood the Kingdom of God was within them.
“Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” ~ Luke 17:21 (KJV)
This produced a whole new way of life, and the “line had been drawn” of the old temple worship which was centered on animal sacrifice and the new freedom of faith in our daily lives and in our homes.
WHAT WAS THE BIG DEAL WITH STEPHEN? BACK TO ACTS 7
Please read all of Acts chapter 7 it is the perfect condensed transitional history of the “church in the wilderness” from the tent to the temple and from the temple to the home.
God’s True Tabernacle
44“Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen, 45which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, 46who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. 47But Solomon built Him a house. 48“However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: 49‘Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the Lord, Or what is the place of My rest? 50Has My hand not made all these things?’
Israel Resists the Holy Spirit
51“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
Stephen the Martyr
54When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. 55But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Back to Acts chapter 8:1 “Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem…”
After Saul’s conversion and retraining by Jesus Himself, we only see him, (now known as Paul), and his ministry team entering the Synagogues for debate and persuasion, Acts 13: 14-42; 14:1, 17:2,10: 18:4,19. As Paul presented Jesus as the Messiah, some believed and came out of the temple-system. Thus, fulfilling Matthew 13:52; men able to bring out “old and new” from their house. Paul raised many of these to be leaders. They ministered from their homes.
“…also greet the church that is in their house.” ~ Romans 16:5
“The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.” ~ 1 Corinthians 16:19
“Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house.” ~ Colossians 4:15
“To Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker, and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house…” ~ Philemon 1:1-2
Trying to see what the church is to look like or what we are to do, our study group discovered a foundational pattern in this transition from temple to home: public ministry and house to house ministry. Paul writing:
“…how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house.” ~ Acts 20:20
There is a time and place for being public and house to house. For example:
“… give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” ~ 1 Timothy 4:13
“ … he went to the house of Mary… where many were gathered together and were praying.” ~ Acts 12:12
A NEW BEGINNING
It was at this point that everything I had personally practiced and taught concerning “the Church” was challenged. We in the study group went from just gathering knowledge, to the confrontation of the Living Word of God “in our face”. The Word of God was calling us to action and change. The Spirit of God was convicting us of the very truth we were discovering. Time to take inventory!
- WHAT DO WE KNOW?
We in our study group knew:
- We were born again John 3:3, Romans 10:9-10.
- We were not to be isolated individuals because the body needs each other, 1 Corinthians 12:12, Ephesians 4:4.
- Jesus was getting ready, (getting us ready), to build His Church, Matthew 16:18, or in our case, tear down our old traditional concepts and start over. This was a time to tear down and start over, Ecclesiastes 3:3.
- With God’s help we were to let go, throw out every preconceived idea and start over from the ground up.
Did you get that? We started over. I realized that I, along with thousands of others who were in the traditional religious temple building system, have spent many years trying to “clean-up” or change what had been called “the church”. God was not telling us to change the old but to start over from the foundation up. Jesus was telling us to become “New Wine Skins” and “New Garments”; so we could receive the “New Wine” and wear the “New Wedding Dress” as we prepare to become the “Bride of Christ.” Glory to God!
We desired not to be people who just wanted to gripe about the traditional church system we came out of. We did not want a bunch of head knowledge to defend our victimized lives. But instead, we desired to be people who are trying to understand and experience God’s will. We realized this was the “point of no return”. Jesus was asking for ALL of our old baggage to be dropped in order to fulfil our destiny in Him.
Every step of this transition was tremendously challenging. We had no idea how ingrained and attached we were to the traditional church system. As we still made some decisions according to the former way of doing things, God would lovingly ask: “Are you building the house or am I?” Then, through repentance and listening, God would give us direction that put us back on His main highway. God is the God of process!!! Let me say that again in case you are missing the point. GOD IS THE GOD OF PROCESS! That process always circles us back to Jesus time and time again.
JESUS IS THE FOUNDATION“
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:11
“…having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone…” ~ Ephesians 2:20
For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” ~ 1 Peter 2:6
Further referenced in Isaiah 28:16.
“…so then let no one boast in men.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:21
At this point in our study group, understanding was coming fast and hard. We realized that if we begin to highlight, praise, promote or advertise anything but Jesus, we have missed the whole point. Even the Holy Spirit brings no attention to Himself. As we try to exalt The Holy Spirit He, The Spirit, always brings the attention back to the work and the word of Jesus!
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”~ John 14:26
This is a key so let me repeat what you just read. If we begin to highlight, praise, promote or advertise anything but Jesus, we have missed the whole point. Truly Jesus is the foundation.
JESUS IS THE ENTRANCE“
I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved…” ~ John 10:9“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me…” ~ John 10:14
Jesus does not bring life, salvation, healing and resurrection. John 11:25 tells us that He IS life, He IS salvation, He IS healing, He IS resurrection,!!!
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” ~ John 14:6
“…because I live, you will live also.” ~ John 14:19
Even John the Baptist, Jesus’ forerunner said:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” ~ John 3:30
Truly Jesus is the foundation and the entrance.
JESUS IS THE BUILDING“…in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” ~ Ephesians 2:21-22
“…we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…” ~ Ephesians 4:15
“…Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.” ~ Ephesians 5:23
Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” ~ Matthew 16:18
Truly Jesus is the foundation, the entrance and the building. So what is this building, temple, body and church that is being built up, growing up and joined together? What does it look like? How does it operate? What is its purpose?
THE SUBTLE DECEPTION
Question: What do you call a place that has beautiful stain glass windows, a tall steeple on the roof with a bell in it and inside the main meeting room rows of benches to sit on?
Answer: It’s only a building.
Remember the rhyme we would do with our hands folded together, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the door and see all the people?” IT WAS A LIE!!!
It doesn’t matter if you gather in a beautiful stone building with stain glass windows or in a hotel meeting room: it is only a building. Even though it may have some great historical value or have great spiritual symbolism in the décor, it is still only a building constructed by the hands of men. It has no spiritual value. No building is HOLY!!!
We even went to a barn that some friends called their “church”. Even though we were asked to remove our shoes before entering, it was still just a barn. It is God’s people who bring His Holy Spirit into a place. You are The Church where ever YOU are.
“However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says: ‘HEAVEN IS MY THRONE, AND EARTH IS THE FOOTSTOOL OF MY FEET; WHAT KIND OF HOUSE WILL YOU BUILD FOR ME?’ says the Lord, ‘OR WHAT PLACE IS THERE FOR MY REPOSE? ‘WAS IT NOT MY HAND WHICH MADE ALL THESE THINGS?’ ~ Acts 7:48-50
Do you understand that Jesus is talking about a Spiritual House? The foundation, entrance and building is to a Spiritual House.SPIRITUAL HOUSE“For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” ~ Luke 17:21
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19
”… you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house…” ~ 1 Peter 2:5
After viewing the New Jerusalem, John said:” I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple…” ~ Revelation 21:22
What have we discovered in Chapter Two?
- Acts 8:1 we no longer see in scripture believers worshiping in temples.
- Stephen was killed because he quoted the prophets saying: the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands.
- House Churches and public ministry.
- Jesus is the foundation, entrance and the building.
- Overcoming the subtle deception that there are still “holy buildings” today. There are none.
- The temple of the Holy Spirit and the living stones are symbols of a spiritual house.
Personal Journal Insert: This month we discovered that our foundational process was renewing our minds (Romans 12:1-2) in the area of exchanging old religious thoughts of the church which included: doctrines of demons and traditions of men, for our Lord’s original design for His Church. “Lord Jesus, continue to reveal what your heart and mind are for your Church. We truly want to walk in your perfect will and way concerning this, Amen.”