The word that is translated as "church" in the English bible is:
|Original Word||ἐκκλησία, ας, ἡ|
|Part of Speech||Noun, Feminine|
|Definition||an assembly, a (religious) congregation|
Originally, Christ indented the "church" to be an assembly of his disciples, representing his body.
Today "church" could also refer to the church building, church system or organization or a church denomination.
Unfortunately, the original teachings of Moses, the prophets, Jesus and his apostles were adapted to suite the church creeds and doctrines. This did not happen overnight but the result a gradual evolution by many church council meetings, crusades, reformations and revivals.
The original body of Christ
From the bible we can tell that the earliest believers in Jesus Christ were persecuted by both Jew and Roman. They were the minority and considered as sect (Acts 24:2-5). These congregations:
- Shared possessions: In the face of persecution, believers often had to rely on one another for support. This led to a strong sense of community and a willingness to share resources (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-35).
- Focus on missionary work: The early church was committed to spreading the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Romans 10:14-15), and this was a primary focus of their activity. They were not as concerned with building up physical structures as they were with reaching out to others with the message of Christ.
- No church buildings: The early church did not meet in public church buildings. Instead, they gathered in homes or other private spaces (Acts 12:12; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15).
- Informal structure: The early church did not have a formal hierarchy or a centralized institutional structure.
- Informal sacraments: The early church did not have a formal sacramental system, like Holy Communion. Instead, they participated in informal gatherings (Acts 2:46) that were focused on fellowship and praise.
- No written Bible: The New Testament was not yet written, so believers relied on oral tradition and the teachings of the apostles like Paul's letters which eventually became part of the New Testament.
- Guidance of the Holy Spirit: The early church believed that the Holy Spirit was actively guiding them in their decisions. This led to a reliance on spiritual discernment and a willingness to follow the leading of the Spirit (Acts 1:24-26, 13:2-3, 15:28).
These congregations represented the body of Christ on Earth after Christ himself ascended to heaven. Christ Himself often referred to his body as the bread of life which meant members of his body is supposed to "feed" upon or "feed" each other (support) with their "gifts", resources, teachings and testimonies which is only possible with a great deal of trust which is build on fellowship in the gospel of Christ to the glory of the Father (see Paul's letter openings and endings).
Myth: God's name is "Lord".
Truth: Although God identified Himself clearly as יְהוָ֖ה, which directly translates to the Tetragrammaton YHVH, we noticed that some time before the birth of Jesus, the Jews replaced the God's name "YHVH" with "Adonai" which means "Lord" in English. This is also evident in the Greek manuscripts when the Jews refer to God as simply "Lord".
The Jews replaced God's name out of respect for the Jewish tradition, of not uttering the sacred name of God, which was based around the concern of misusing the name of God.
Today, most modern Christians continue this ancient Jewish tradition because of the way the Bibles had been translated.
Myth: You need to be called a Christian to be saved.
Truth: It does not matter what people call you.
Around 62 AD the Greek-speaking citizens of Antioch started to call the believers "Christians" which means those who believed in "Christ" (Acts 11:26). This was intended to be an insult (Acts 26:24-28; 1 Peter 4:12-16), but later became the norm.
Myth: You can save an infant with baptism.
In Tertullian (155-220), a sect leader in North Africa believed Baptism was not dependent on the faith of the receiver, although he was against infant baptism. However, a century later the church adopted his views and infant baptism became accepted by the church anyway.
Myth: Christians have no responsibility to avoid anything that could place a curse on them.
Truth: Anyone, including Jesus was cursed. Everyone should avoid sin which could activate curses in their lives.
The doctrine the "Christians cannot be cursed" originates from Tertullian (155-220). Unfortunately many modern churches still hold onto this doctrine which causes Christians to be ignorant of the effect of generational curses, the occult, witchcraft, addictions or any consequences of sin.
Myth: God is honored by expensive church buildings.
Truth: God do not want us to build "temples".
In 293 the first known Christian church was build at Jordan (Aqaba). The walls were about 4.5m high and would have contained about a 100 people. This was approved by the likes of Galerius of the Eastern Empire who reigned from 305 AD in order to recruit Christians into his legions. A few years later Constantine funded many new church building projects and shrines with expensive architecture in honour of local holy men and women.
- Roman emperors were used to build big spectacular temples for their gods.
- Church buildings were considered "sacred architecture" which honors the Bishop (or supposedly God).
- Church buildings often comes with a high tower:
- It is seen by some as a symbol of the church's connection with heaven.
- It the church's status. The higher the tower, the greater and wealthier the church appears.
- In some towns it was law that no building may be build higher than the church. Therefore, the church was extended so that other buildings could be build higher.
- It was only since the 5th century, that builders started to install bells in the towers:
- to call people to church services
- to synchronize the town's time (before portable watches was invented)
- to serve as an alarm systems for fires, invasions, floods and storms
According to Michael Fackerell, another possible reason why large churches are build at central public locations, are to prevent Christians to scatter like in the days of the tower of Babel.
Despite Martin Luther's 95 theses and his call that the church should stop waisting the poor's money on expensive churches, modern Christians still continue to build expensive buildings:
- For marketing purposes to attract more members.
- It is a church's identity (brand).
- To generate more money: Bigger churches can serve more members to receive more donations.
- Investment purposes for generations to come, because often real estate grows in value.
- For the convenience of the members: for example air-conditioners, comfortable seats, sound equipment, etc.
- For the safety to secure the continual existence of the church.
- Some believe that good pastors or preacher deserve a big public platform so that more people could have access to their sermons.
- Church buildings are monuments to the leadership who raised the funds to complete the project.
The consequence of this is that:
- Christians preach a gospel of coming to the church instead of saving the lost soul.
- Expensive buildings require maintenance, tax-money, salaries, etc. This drain the Christians money and skills so that those in need are often neglected.
- Many Christians feel uncomfortable to deal with Christianity outside their "safe" church.
Myth: Because Christ was crucified, the cross symbol honours him.
Truth: The cross symbol was only publicly displayed since Constantine allowed Christianity in the Roman empire. Some suggest that it was some sort of secret sign that Christians used to avoid persecution. Whatever the reason was, the bible does not mention any Christians displaying any crosses to anyone.
It is also unlikely that someone would like to be identified or constantly being reminded but a cruel persecution event. For example, if you were supposed to be executed in an electric chair and somehow survived the event, would you like to be associated with an "electric chair" for all eternity?
Myth: Jesus was crucified on a cross shaped wooden structure
Truth: We do not know the exact shape of the structure, however from practical evidence and the old Greek translation it was more likely a wooden pole or beam.
Truth: Constantine needed to merge Jesus with Sol Invictus (the sun god) to legitimize himself as the Roman emperor.
In 312 Constantine claimed to have a vision in 312 of the cross appearing in the light of the sun.
In 324 at the Battle of Chrysopolis, Emperor Constantine became the sole ruler of the entire Roman Empire. This establish Christianity as the dominant force of the Roman Empire.
In 325 the council of Nicaea, of which Emperor Constantine actively participated in the proceedings, established the Nicene Creed (statement of faith) which define Jesus as God Himself and condemn anyone as a "heretic" who believed otherwise. This gave the church the right to prosecute anyone who disagreed with this statement.
This creed also heavily influenced future bible translators and modern day Christianity, for example, today Christians:
- Crucify God and claim that the immortal God died (a contradiction and blasphemy).
- Pray to Jesus instead.
- Serve and worship Jesus instead of God.
- Often expect Jesus to fulfill God's Spirit role and is then surprised when no miracles happen.
In addition, this puts Christians in an unfair position:
- They need to live according to a standard set by a God-man.
- They need to suffer as humans, while the "Jesus" they worship as an immortal God had an unfair advantage because he only partially (his human portion) suffered and died, while his God portion must have been still in control. Why would Jesus be afraid?
Myth: The concept of the Trinity had always existed, it was only clarified by the church fathers.
This was also one of the creeds proclaimed by the council of Nicaea in 325 to counter Arianism. The idea was invented by Tertullian, a North African sect leader, who lived in the previous century, who was also previously rejected by the church.
To solve many contradictions that the Trinity doctrine brings, Christian had to come up with the following cover-ups:
Myth: Jesus created the world.
Truth: God created the world.
However, since some belief Jesus is God, they apply that he created the world.
Myth: God so loved the world, that He sacrificed Himself...
Truth: "God so loved the world, that He gave His only son..." -- John 3:16 ESV
Myth: Jesus overcome death, by raising himself.
Myth: The Godhead is the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. There are only 3 members and no-one else can be part of God's family.
Truth: God the Father adopts humans as children and co-heirs to Jesus his Son. God desire to live among His children.
Myth: Sundays are the Lord's resting day.
Truth: Emperor Constantine attempted to unite his mixed Pagan/Christian empire, by declaring a "day of rest" (to please the Christians) on "the Sun's day" (to please the pagans). The council of Laodicea declared this decision official to distinct themselves from the revival Judaism religion who kept the Sabbath (rest) on a Saturday.
In 321, emperor Constantine decree Sundays the official Roman day of rest:
On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is not suitable for grain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost. -- Emperor Constantine
In 363, the council of Laodicea outlawed Sabbath keeping (resting on Saturdays) and regulated resting on Sundays.
Only in 1863, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, reinstituted the seventh' day of rest again, but the majority of the other church denomination did not follow suite.
Myth: Jesus fulfilled all "Jewish" feasts.
Truth: The council of Nicaea found it necessary to differentiate themselves from the Jews by defining their own feasts. The original "Old" Testament's Jewish feasts were considered "fulfilled" (deprecated). They were gradually replaced by existing and known pagan feasts of that time.
In 325, the Council of Nicaea decreed that Easter should be celebrated. Easter originated from the pagan festival of Eostre, a feast associated with egg hunts in honour of the Germanic goddess of fertility and new beginnings. Since the Council believed that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the ultimate symbol of renewal and rebirth, they decided to Christianize the pagan feast.
Note that some denominations still keep Passover, but they changed:
- the date: from 14th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan to the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon
- the meaning: originally the story of the Exodus from Egypt to the story of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection
- the symbols: the cross was introduced which was not part of the original passover and some denomination deliberately leave out the "Jewish" symbols and reduced the festival to a Communion with a small piece of bread and a sip of wine.
On 25 December 336 AD the first recorded instance of Christmas was celebrated by Christians, the day of the Saturnalia feast which is also the day of the celebration of the birth of the sun deity Sol Invictus. This happens to be also the day of the turning of the Winter season in the northern hemisphere, when the length of the days (time of sunlight) starts to increase daily. Around 350 AD, Pope Julius I declared 25 December as the official date of the birth of Jesus.
In 381, Candlemas was instituted in Jerusalem, to Christianize the pagan festival Imbolc, the festival that celebrated the return of spring on the 1st of February by making sacrifices to the gods. Candlemas was later moved to the 2nd of February. Like Imbolc, the Candlemas festival was to commemorate the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the Lenten season (a 40-day period of preparation for Easter) which involves certain sacrifices like fasting, prayer, bible reading and almsgiving.
In the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I instituted Valentine's Day on the 14th of February, to Christianize the pagan festival Lupercalia, named after the Lupercal, a cave where they said the Roman founders Romulus and Remus have been suckled and raised by a she-wolf. Lupercalia was a time for matchmaking. Young men would draw the names of young women from a jar, and the couples would then be paired up for the duration of the festival. However, Valentine's Day was named after, Saint Valentine, a Christian martyr who was executed on 14 February 269. Claudius II had banned marriages and engagements because he believed that married men were not as willing to join the army. Valentine defied Claudius's decree and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. Therefore, Valentine's Day has also been associated with romance. There are many different legends about Saint Valentine, but the most famous one is that he wrote a letter to a blind girl named Julia, who was the daughter of his jailer. In the letter, Valentine expressed his love for Julia and restored her sight. Before he was executed, Valentine signed the letter "From your Valentine." Lupercalia a fertility festival that featured bonfires, sacrifices, and matchmaking.
In 731, Pope Gregory III instituted "All Saints' Day" on the 1st of November a universal day to honor all saints of which the previous evening (31 October) was called "All Hallows' Eve" which is known today as "Halloween". This date was chosen because the pagan Celtic festival of Samhain was also celebrated on the same evening. The Celtics believed that on Samhain, the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead became thin, and that ghosts and spirits could freely roam the earth. To celebrate Samhain, the Celts would build bonfires, wear costumes, and make offerings to the dead. They also believed that it was important to protect themselves from evil spirits, so they would often wear masks and carry torches. Since Pope Gregory III wanted to honor the dead saints, this date seemed like an appropriate choice.
Although birthdays were never officially instituted by any church and the only mentions of birthdays in the bible are in negative contexts (Genesis 40:20-22; Job 1:13-14; Matthew 14:6-11; Mark 6:21-29), yet Christians did adopt the birthday celebration tradition. Whether Birthdays have any pagan roots are debatable, however certain pagan practices did creep into the celebration of birthdays for example:
- Birthday wishes: In ancient Rome, people would make wishes for the birthday person, hoping that they would have a happy and prosperous year.
- Candles on the cake: In ancient Greece, candles were placed on cakes as an offering to the moon goddess Artemis. The number of candles represented the number of years the person had lived.
- Gifts: Some (like the Jehovah Witnesses) belief that birthdays promote materialism.
Myth: Unless you belief in the Trinity and that Jesus is God Almighty, you cannot be saved.
Truth: The "Trinity" doctrine was invented by Tertullian almost 200 years after the Gospels were written. Athanasius I of Alexandria declared around 350 AD that Christians must believe in his creed (Athanasian Creed) or they will lose their salvation and "perish everlastingly".
Many modern Christian churches (especially the Protestant and Anglican denominations) still fanatically hold onto this creed.
Myth: The church must be run like an institution to prevent chaos.
Truth: Jesus himself did not recruit more than 12 disciples. The apostles' model was to plant small communities that did not require large institutional hierarchical structures. Jesus should be the head of the church (body), not the system.
In 363 the council of Laodicea regulated by various decrees determined the roles of bishops, clerics and laypeople.
Myth: You need a theological degree, to be able to preach, serve communion, baptism, etc.
Truth: This was not a requirement in Jesus' lifetime. Anyone can serve as long as it is according to God's instructions.
In 363 the council of Laodicea regulated by various decrees who is allowed to do what. This secured the layman's dependence on church leaders and disqualified them from spreading the true Gospel of salvation which involve preaching and serving communion and baptism.
Myth: The Old Testament is only included for historical purpose and is not relevant today.
Truth: The whole Bible still applies. Jesus' sacrifice only replaced the temporary temple sacrificial system.
In 382, St. Jerome translated the first Latin bible as per recommendations of Pope Damascus the First. He divided the Bible into an "Old Testament", "New Testament" and "Apocrypha". Most modern translations after St. Jerome followed his suit, except that the "Apocrypha" was later removed by the Protestant Reformation.
Today most Christians mainly focus and only preach from the "New Testament" about Jesus, neglecting the Almighty God, His teachings, prophecies, ordinances and testimonies of the "Old Testament".
Myth: The new names chosen by translators are easier to read, memorize and pronounce.
Truth: Each Hebrew name has a meaning. Sadly, those meanings are lost in translations.
Rather than to transliterate Hebrew names, the Bible translators choose to replace the names of Bible books, places and people to familiar names.
Myth: God rejected or divorced Israel. Christians are His new Holy Assembly.
Truth: God punish nations and reject sin. God's mercy is enough for any nation to repent.
Naturally the Israeli apostles (who was later considered Saints and Papal by Christians) started to spread the Gospel among Israel, but eventually they spread the Gospel to other nations too as they learned that gentiles could also be saved.
However, as seen above, the council of Laodicea, decided to root out every Jewish tradition in 363.
The Crusades that followed from 1095 is evident that the Christians considered to have the right to conquer "the Holy Land" (Israel) as the Israelites did in the lifetime of Josua.
Myth: Clergy need to separate themselves from the laity.
Truth: This was Pope Gregory VII's opinion, which was challenged by various reformations in the 16th century.
Although this belief already existed in some sects of the second century, it was only in 1074 that ope Gregory VII issued a degree against clerical marriages to separate the clergy from the laity.
Myth: If you attend the church meetings you will be saved or If you don't attend church you will be condemned
Truth: No scripture correlate church attendance with salvation. In fact the church itself cannot even save anyone.
However, it is not advisable to live in isolation with the body of Christ.
Myth: God speak through preachers.
Truth: The Latin church forbid any translation of the Bible. This forced Christians for many centuries to rely on preacher's interpretations.
In 1229, the Council of Toulouse even decree: "We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament... we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books."
It was only until 1382 when John Wycliffe translated the Bible into English that it became possible to read the Bible yourself.
Although the Council of Toulouse's decision was later reversed, the tradition is still very strong in modern churches. Many church members still belief that the bible is hard to understand and that we need a "preacher" with a theological degree to interpret the bible for us.
Myth: Jesus sacrifice is not enough to forgive sin.
Truth: Only Jesus is the Christ (saviour).
The Catholic Church scam Christians into thinking that they need to pay the Church money for forgiveness. They often went as far to "reverse forgiveness", according to Martin Luther.
The Protestant Reformation undid this scam and according to them only God may forgive sin. However, this causes contradictions because Jesus also forgave sin. Therefore, the Protestants still fanatically believe the Trinity doctrine which explains how Jesus is God.
Myth: The Eucharist is the real presence of Christ's body and blood (Transubstantiation) or The Eucharist contains Christ' spiritual presence (Consubstantiation) or The Eucharist figuratively Christ which enable spiritual unity (Spiritual Presence)
Truth: This unbiblical idea originated in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches and was inherited by the Lutheran, Anglican and Methodist churches.
Today, it is still a hotly debated topic among different Christian denominations on what exactly the bread of Christ means.
Myth: God has already predetermined who will be saved.
Truth: God has given us a free will to choose if we want to be saved.
In 1536, John Calvin invented the following doctrines:
- Once saved, always saved: This means you will always be saved and cannot lose your salvation regardless of what you do.
- Total depravity: This means that we are unable to choose God on our own, and we need his grace in order to be saved.
- Unconditional election: God has predestined some people to be saved and others to be condemned.
- Limited atonement: This means that Jesus Christ's crucifixion is only effective for those who are predestined to be saved.
- Irresistible grace: This means that once God has chosen someone to be saved, he will eventually bring that person to faith through the Holy Spirit. This means that no one can resist God's grace or prevent themselves from being saved if they are among the elect.
Myth: The wealthier you are, the move God favoured you.
Truth: Materialistic wealth is no measure of God's favour.
Some claim that earlier church fathers like John Wesley who lived in the 18th century, made the idea that prosperity was a sign of God's favor popular under Christians.
Today, some "prosperity preachers" takes this idea further and claim that financial prosperity is the reward of church's member's faith who are willing to "sow" into the church's finances enriching their preachers who live very luxurious lifestyles. Others calls these teachings a "scam".
Myth: Jesus will rapture the Christian so that they won't suffer tribulation. (often implied that Jesus won't allow any Christian to suffer anything)
Trust: This is a very dangerous teaching that has already caused many Christians to lose their faith.
In 1827, John Nelson Darby, argued that the Bible taught a pretribulational rapture, and he convinced many other Christians of this view. Darby's leadership and teachings attracted a growing number of followers, and the movement spread to England and other parts of the world. Many years later, in 1970, Hal Lindsey, an American Christian author and theologian published his book "The Late Great Planet Earth" which became a bestseller, selling over 30 million copies worldwide and introducing millions to the concept of a pretribulational rapture. His popularity helped to mainstream the pretribulational rapture view, making it a widely accepted belief among many Christians.
Myth: Miracles stopped with the first apostles
Truth: Jesus said that his disciples will also be able to do miracles
It is unclear when apostles stopped, or even if they did stop performing miracles. The Bible only records a few miracles for example those of Paul and Peter's, but that does not mean that there were no other miracles performed by any other believers during or after their lifetimes. For example:
In the 4th century, Ulfilas, an Arian bishop and missionary to the Goths, performed several documented miracles like healing a blind man, casting out a demon, healed the sick and even raised a dead person. This was documented in his bibliography.
Another example is that in 1906, William J. Seymour, an African American minister, founded the first Pentecostal church, the Apostolic Faith Church of Azusa Street where many miracles were performed during the church services like physical, emotional and spiritual healing, speaking in tongues, prophesies, visions and dreams. These had a significant impact on the Pentecostal movement.
|The "name of Jesus" is a phrase (like a magic word) that catches God's attention.||The word "name" means authority. It could be considered as a delegate of Jesus or under submission to Jesus' commands or teachings, you are authorized to request or do certain things.|
|Paying obeisance to a superior and worshipping God or an idol is often confused.||Paying obeisance to a human superior is allowed. Worshipping an idol is forbidden.|
|Praise is confused with worship, e.g. singing hymns, dancing and art is considered "worship".||Praise is a public declaration. Worship is a sacrifice.|
|"Brother and sisters" is a way to address church members.||When you support or are supported by your family in faith, then they are truly your "brother" or "sister"|
|"The armor of God" is scripture spoken out loud that somehow activates God's protection.||"The armor of God" is a metaphor to remind us what we needs to do to protect ourselves.|
Please note that this article is incomplete and still a work in progress and may contain errors.