Organized Religion, Opponent to Christianity
Organized Religion, Opponent to Christianity
Think of the greatest obstacle religion faces today. What is it?
Is the religion of Christ facing enemies such as atheism or agnosticism?
Is Christianity's greatest foe the world of Islam, Buddha, Shinto, or
some other Eastern religion? Let me suggest to you that the worst enemy
Christianity faces is it's own organization. I want to discuss with you
today the most formidable enemy Christianity faces, organized religion.
Please stay with us.
The West End church of Christ presents this program each Lord's
Day. Our purpose is to help you come to know your Bible better and also
to become acquainted with us, who we are and what we stand for. We urge
you to examine what we say by the infallible standard of God's word. If
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Jesus was killed at the most religious season of the year, in the
most religious city in the world, by the most religious people ever
known. He was not crucified because He was guilty of murder,
insurrection, thievery, or adultery. He was put to death by religious
people because the things they believed had degenerated into the
organizing of religious institutions. Jesus knew full well the fate
both He and all who follow Him face at the hands of organized religion.
He said, "They shall put you out of their synagogues, yea, the time
comes, that whosoever kills you will think that he does God service"
(John 16:2). Paul spoke of those who "have a form of godliness, but
deny the power thereof," warning, "from such turn away" (2 Tim. 3:5).
The great apostle to the Gentiles knew from first hand experience the
misery organized religion can inflict on those who stand in its way. He
told young Timothy, "You have fully known my teaching, manner of life,
purpose, faith, long suffering, charity, patience, persecutions,
afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what
persecutions I endured, but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea,
and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being
deceived" (2 Tim. 3:10-13). Every great religious awakening since John
the Baptist cried out against the internal corruption of Judaism, since
Elijah was forced to eat what the ravens fed him, has been led by
dedicated men and women who were ostracized and persecuted by religious
people because religion was disintegrating into religious institutions.
One of the saddest chapters in the book of religious history
relates the torture and persecution inflicted on those who were declared
heretical by the Spanish Inquisition, fostered by the Roman Catholic
Church. Men like John Huss were burned on a stake because of their
opposition to organized religion. The late F.D. Srygley said,
"Religious people have committed nearly every crime in the catalogue of
iniquity to build up, strengthen, and maintain organizations Christ
never authorized." How sad, yet how true! Is the power of organization
that is a self-defense mechanism created by organized religion. Again,
F.D. Srygley said, "Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and no
organization can maintain itself without opposing men and doctrine that
antagonize it." This explains why there is now, has always been, and
always will be conflict between Christianity and every form of organized
By "organized religion," is meant the organizing of religion into
an institution, such as the institution of government with all its
varied forms of cabinets, organizations, and officers. The religion of
Jesus Christ never was, nor can be, organized in that sense. From the
viewpoint of doing things systematically, orderly, and in due process,
the Lord did provide His church with organization, but never did Jesus
intend for His church to be crystallized into a formal institutional
body of religion.
Jesus said, "Every plant which My Heavenly Father has not planted
shall be rooted up" (Matt. 15:13). This sounds clearly as if the Lord
knew there would be humanly planted religions. He also knew their doom.
Consider the numerous religious conventions, councils, synods, and
societies which represent organized religion. What is their fate? Will
they help us enter the pearly white gates? Jesus said the Father will
dig them up and cast them out.
The figure of planting in our Lord's statement is one we are
familiar with. A plant is dependent on someone taking the time to embed
it in soil. In nature, God does lots of planting. Seeds fall into the
earth from the vegetation God originally created. The same is true in
religion. God plants only that which He chooses to plant. He has not
given men liberty to plant as they see fit. He has provided the seed
and the opportunities to plant. Listen to the following analogies. "He
who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and
multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your
righteousness" (2 Cor. 8:10). Paul said, "I planted, Apollos watered,
but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor
the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth" (1 Cor.
3:6-7). Jesus likened spreading of the gospel to a sower and his seed
(Luke 8:1-15). Now we must ask, what plant did God set out?
There was no organization in Christianity during the New Testament
period. Only assemblies of worshippers called congregations in a
specific locality made up the organized efforts of Christ's church.
Nothing was known about some "uninspired official dignitary." Only men
who met certain criteria were selected and appointed as "elders, pastors
(shepherds), and bishops." All these terms apply to the same person.
These men were superintendents, not church officers. They had charge
over a local church in much the same way a shepherd watched over his
sheep. Peter wrote, "I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow-
elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of
the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd (tend) the flock of God among
you, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of
God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness" (1 Pet. 5:1-2). Paul
said to elders to "Be on guard for yourselves and all the flock, among
which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of
God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28) That each local
congregation was to have such men as shepherds is evident. An apostolic
pattern was established, "And when they had appointed elders in every
church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in
whom they had believed" (Acts 14:23). This is the extent of religious
organization in the church of Christ.
Organized religion changed all that. Today you hear of "Presiding
Elders," "Pastors (in the denominational sense), Cardinals, Popes,
Stewards (in an official capacity), and a myriad of other unscriptural
designations of those who serve organized religion. These officials
have places of responsibility in organized religion. It is natural for
them to set up their own rules and guidelines. They have done this in
denominations by formulating creeds, confessions of faith, disciplines,
catechisms, and way-books. These become the official statements of
religious belief for a specific organized religion.
Such was not the case in the church Jesus established through His
apostles. They had only one rule of faith and practice, His word. John
wrote, "Any one who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of
Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has
both the Father and the Son. If any one comes to you and does not bring
this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a
greeting" (2 John 9-10). When men form their own creeds they
automatically go beyond the teaching of Christ. If what they form as a
creed has more than, less than, or other than the teaching of Christ, it
amounts to a failure to abide in His teaching. It is just that simple.
The early Christians knew nothing of an "Apostle's Creed," "Nicean
Creed," or any of the so-called "Creeds of Christendom." They accepted
only what Christ through the apostles taught. Paul said, "If any man
thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that
the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (1
Cor. 14:37). Any one who claims to be a prophet in our generation is
automatically suspect. No man has the right to claim prophetic powers.
There are no inspired men today. No man has the Holy Spirit in the way
the apostles and prophets received Him. Those who make claims to being
led by the Spirit like Peter, Paul, James, and John are bogus, fakes,
and liars. When the New Testament was complete, flaming swords were
placed at both ends of it to keep men's unholy hands off of it. Jude
wrote, "Beloved, when I was giving all diligence to write unto you of
the common salvation, it was necessary for me to write you and exhort
you to earnestly contend for the faith, once (and for all) delivered
unto the saints" (Jude 3). The writer of Hebrews penned these words,
"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many
portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His
Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the
world" (Heb. 1:1-2). Later the same inspired source tells us, "How
shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the
first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who hear,
God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by
various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own
will" (Heb. 2:3-4). None of us fall into that category. We have not
hear the voice of God outside of the revelation called the Bible. No
man has the power of the Holy Spirit to work miracles, signs, and
wonders. Men can barely (never 100% accurately) predict the weather for
two days from now. Nor can men know anything of the future that is not
revealed in God's word. Therefore, we turn only to the revealed will of
God, the Bible, as the one and only creed, confession of faith,
catechism or discipline.
These are sufficient reasons to abandon all forms of organized
religion and accept what the New Testament teaches. Those who reject
organized religion today do so because of deep conviction based on New
Testament truth. They understand the church is the body of Christ which
ought never to be divided. "Now, I beseech you, brethren, by the name
of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that
there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined
together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor. 1:10). The
recognize only one body (1 Cor. 12:14,20; Eph. 4:4).
Those who believe on Christ through the word of God alone will not
divide into various religious institutions that are unknown plants which
God intends to dig up and cast away. They recognize that there is only
one rule to which they must submit and one element of faith on which
they must act. They must recognize Christ as their Lord, believe in Him
completely and obey Him fully. Jesus last words on this earth included
the following. "Whoever believe (the gospel) and is baptized shall be
saved, whoever disbelieves will be condemned" (Mark. 16:16). It is not
an acceptable option to disbelieve; it is not wise to ignore the
commands of Christ. I urge all who listen to study your New Testament
and accept it as your one and only Guide. It will lead you to become a
Christian, a Christian only, and a member of the Lord's church.
If you have a question to ask, or a comment to make, about anything
you hear on this program, please let us know. You can write us at West
End church of Christ, 1609 Parkside Drive, Bowling Green, Kentucky
42101-2757. Remember, we do not ask for nor accept donations for this.
Thank you for listening to us today. We'll be back here next Sunday
at 8 a.m. and hope you will join us then. May God bless you and yours,
good bye Radio Sermon No.150, Organized Religion