Ron Graham was called home on March 14, 2013. He began writing this commentary before his death and had asked me, Nathele Graham, to continue his service to our Lord by finishing what he began.
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21).
As believers, born from above, we should be unified in Christ. Where is the unity that Jesus prayed for so long ago? God the Son and God the Father are one. We know this because the Scriptures tell us it is so. They have unity in that the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father. We too, the children of God, are to be united as one in Christ. Christ prayed that we be one.
Sadly, that prayer for unity, which was spoken directly by the Creator of the universe, has for all intents and purposes been ignored by much of the Ekklesia. Why? The unbridled festering of disagreements and anger has led to a splintering of the body of Christ.
Instead of being the Ekklesia─the called out assembly of Christ─and looking to His inerrant word to lead and guide us, most Christians look to the “church” to tell them what to believe and how to act. What is the problem with that? The Ekklesia is a unified body where Christ is sovereign and His word final, but a church is filled with the doctrines of men and causes division.
I’d like to preface this study with what God tells us never to do:
“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6).
God tells us not to add to His words. The Hebrew word “yakach,” translated into English as reprove, actually means to judge. Certainly no one wants to be judged by God for adding to His inerrant word. Verse 6 above seems to place a high risk for anyone desiring to tamper with the Scriptures.
Therefore the translators of the original text should have been very careful as they went about translating the original languages into English. That holds true for all of the various translations into English or any other language. The above warning must be taken seriously. There are other warnings within the word of God concerning adding to or even taking away words from the Scriptures.
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it…” (Deuteronomy 4:2a).
God, speaking to the Israelites, makes it clear that adding to or taking away from His word would be a huge mistake.
“What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32).
Here God confirms His command that they were not to add to or take away from His Word. No one should have been keener to keep God’s Word pure than the Bible translators.
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).
These verses attest to the fact that there is a high price to pay for tampering with the book of Revelation specifically, but from the above Scriptures we can see that God says what He means and means what He says. He does not want His Word watered down or altered.
For some time now I’ve referred to the saints as the assembly of those called out. In doing so I’ve primarily used the Greek word for assembly, which is Ekklesia. Why do I use the word “Ekklesia” instead of “church”? Well, the Greek word “Ekklesia” does not mean “church”. As a matter of fact there is no Greek word that is translatable as the English word, “church.”
The definition of “church” is (put “define church” into a Google search and this is what you will see):
1.) A building used for public Christian worship.
2.) A particular Christian organization, typically one with its own clergy, building, and distinctive doctrines: “Church of England.”
That definition certainly doesn’t describe a unified assembly of believers. The first definition doesn’t even describe it as human! The second indicates human agenda in interpreting the Scriptures.
Now let’s look at the definition of “Ekklesia” as defined in Strong’s concordance. There is a long list of meanings, but as related to Christians it says:
1.) An assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting.
2.) A, company of Christians, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake.
3.) Those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body.
4.) The whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth.
5.) The assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven.
“And they, continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).
The apostles heard the doctrine directly from the lips of Jesus, so what they taught is what we need to follow today. Have you ever asked someone if he or she is a Christian and received the response, “Yes, I’m a Methodist?” Or a Lutheran, or a Baptist, or insert the division of your choice. What does that mean? It means that the person you are talking to is holding to the doctrines of men rather than the God-breathed Scriptures.
Because of being a “church” divisions have occurred at a phenomenal rate. Christ’s Ekklesia divided? Where in His teachings does He ever refer to His followers as a divided body? No, we’ve been horribly deceived over the years, thus the body of Christ has become fragmented and for the most part ineffective.
Doctrines of men have tiptoed in and caused division. Some say you have to be baptized by water in order to be saved. Some say you are only really baptized if you are baptized in “our church.” Others say you must speak in tongues for evidence that you are saved; others say tongues are eerie and shouldn’t be used. Still others rely on a pope or a priest to tell them what to do and think. Only when we drop our “church” ordained prejudices can we understand Acts 2:42 and continue steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
We aren’t to pick and choose which Scriptures we like or don’t like. God inspired all Scripture and it is perfect in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. Diligence must be taken to study the Hebrew and Greek to understand what a word really means, rather than what it was translated to say. The entirety of the Bible must be considered when discerning Scripture. It only takes a simple lack of wisdom to add to or diminish from Scripture and corrupt God’s meaning and cause division.
When Jesus spoke His prayer of unity it was not about a fragmented unity or a separated unity, but a complete and united body, each person with his/her own purpose.
“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12.5).
But overall, unity in Christ is now horribly fragmented. Oh sure there are splinters of believers who have united together, but never were they to form denominations or place names of dead men on the buildings. The Ekklesia was never about men but always about Messiah Jesus.
As believers we are commanded: “Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3, NASB).
Today we have built Christian ministries around men (pastors, popes, bishops, doctors, you name it) who usurped the authority of Christ as Head and have built around denominational titles and names separating His body into corporations. These corporations, known as churches, are registered with the government in order to establish their tax-exempt position.
What does that mean? It means that the government limits what they can teach from the pulpit. Instead of teaching the whole of God’s truth they must be politically correct or lose their tax exemption. There are no words too strong to describe this monstrous deception. Words that do come to mind are: abomination, heresy, anathema, reprobate and blasphemy.
We are to gather around the name of Jesus, not the name of a building, a rented store- front or a pastor. We have literally robbed Christ of his rightful place and therefore His glory in His body has departed. We have replaced the ministry of the Holy Spirit with the works of men. We have replaced our first love (a true love and obedience toward Jesus Christ) with works oriented philosophies of men and million dollar buildings. Unity? Not hardly.
Rather than having two or three gathered together in His name, we have multitudes gathering in a name totally foreign to the Word of God: Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, and numerous other associations which indicate no reverence to Jesus, our Christ. This forming of congregations under other names has been one of major disrespect to our God and Savior, Jesus the Christ and His prayer for unity.
Once the reference to believers switched from the people (the Ekklesia) to a building of stone and wood (a church), all Christ centeredness within the body was lost. We lost body ministry, unity, supportive relationships, fellowship and community. The funds that normally went to the poor and widows and orphans now go to the institutional structures and organization.
This was a major shift (from people to building) and delivered a key blow to the function of the body of Christ. The intention of Christ uniting His believers in one body was thwarted by the traditions of men who translated our Scriptures for their own benefit…not Christ’s. Because of this switch, ministries became skewed.
So, what can be done to reverse this horrible separation of the body of Christ? The doctrines and interpretations of men need to be dropped. Instead of a being a church, we need to be the Ekklesia, the called-out assembly who are united by the blood of Christ. Fellowship with the Ekklesia, but study God’s Word prayerfully to learn the doctrine of the apostles as they heard it from Christ. Don’t “go to church” and be divided, but be united in the Ekklesia.
God bless you all,