The disciples of Jesus Christ in the first century had some social problems. Society did not embrace them. They were a relatively small number of people who practiced and preached the way of life taught by their Lord and Savior. These "social outcasts" and their "way of life" had posed a danger to the religious leaders of the day threatening to usurp their positions of religious power. These religious leaders thusly opposed this new "cult" vehemently; not caring as much about God as they did their own lifestyle. Let the reader join us in Acts chapter 24 where we listen in on the orator Tertullus, who in cooperation with the High Priest Ananias, stood before Proconsul Felix to accuse the apostle called Paul.
Let us read Acts 24:5- "For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." The word rendered "pestilent" is the Greek word "loimos" meaning plague, disease, pest. They called Paul a disease...this man of God was looked upon as a cancer invading their temple and their society. They said that Paul "stirred controversy among the Jews" that he was a "mover of sedition" (The Greek words "kineo", meaning to stir up or move ,and "stasis" meaning sedition, uprising, controversy, insurrection, uproar). They said that Paul was displaying what would, today, be called "anti-semitic" behavior.
They pointed out Paul as the "ringleader" of this certain "sect". Let us go back to the Greek for a clearer meaning of these words. "Protostates" can be rendered champion, one standing first in the ranks, a captain or a ringleader. "Hairesis" is the word rendered as "sect" and means a disunion, or heresy. The religious leaders regarded the way of life that Jesus and Paul both led and taught as heresy! Paul states this himself in his reply to the charges in Acts 24:14 "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: 15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. 16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men."
The disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ were considered heretics. The term "Christian" was a label given the followers of the way of life that Christ taught (They were first called this in Antioch by Gentiles - Acts 11:26). They were not originally called Christians but only followers of "The Way" (see Acts 9:2, 19:9, 18:25, 19:23, 22:4, 24:14 and 24:22 ). In all of these examples the word "way" is preceded by the definite article making this better translated "The Way". This group was singled out as a heretical sect or, in today's terminology, a cult.
How are Christian people labeled by our modern religious leaders today if they choose to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and follow "The Way"? Are they called heretics? Are they called cultists? Is the publicly accepted mainstream Christianity "The Way" spoken of by Paul? Do the true "Followers of the Way" endure persecution or are they accepted into mainstream religion? Can people profess Christ with their mouths and still not be true Christians? What does it mean "to follow Christ"? Please think about these questions as we delve deeper in our study.
Followers of God (and therefore Jesus) would obey God and, like Abraham's proven willingness to sacrifice Isaac has shown, faith is made perfect by obedience. God's word - the Bible, instructs us to : "Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Let us look briefly at these two distinct commands-
1.) Fear God : The Hebrew word for fear used here is 'yare" meaning to revere, to hold in reverence, to be in awe of. Do you hold God in awe and reverence? It means to consider God as so great (which He is) that His will must always be placed in front of and above your own. We must abandon our ways and desires and walk in His ways. This is Love! We begin our knowledge of God through complete awe of His holiness and deep admiration. Developing from this initial point our relationship with Him matures into Love which is how we truly worship Him. Now, understand that this mature love becomes manifest through our willing obedience to Him. This is the key to understanding. Jesus said in John 14:15 "If you love me, keep my commandments."
2.) keep His commandments : In today's society the laws of our Almighty God are held in total disregard. God clearly tells us to keep His commandments.... but do not today's teachers of modern Christianity say that the law was "done away"?... That we do not need to keep the "old testament" commandments? This is not true and can be proven through your very own Bible. This is summarized neatly by Jesus in Matthew 5:18 "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Have heaven and earth passed away? Neither has any part of God's law! (See our article outlining the New Testament examples of the 10 Commandments by clicking the blue text). Yes, modern churches today consider God's Law to be obsolete, an unnecessary burden for the New Testament Christian but is this accurate? John 14:24 quotes Jesus saying " He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me." And let us read how He knows who really loves Him? John 14:21- "He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."
God loves when we obey Him, just as any father would his son; for He is our Father and we His sons if we obey Him. We read in 1Samuel 15:22 "And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." Deuteronomy 13:4 "Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him [revere Him], and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him." It is said that action speaks louder than words - obedience is the action that accompanies love. James 1:22 "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." So we see that if we are to "walk in His ways" that we are to keep the commandments (including the fourth commandment which involves the keeping of the seventh day sabbath).
Now, anyone who keeps the commandments of God today is surely to be given the label of a cult member. Afterall, keeping the commands of God would mean the celebrating of those strange biblical Holydays (some might mistakenly call them Jewish holidays) and would mean keeping the sabbath from Friday evening at sunset to Saturday evening at sunset. It would mean not "fitting in" well with society and its lack of morality....It would mean forsaking the pagan originated holidays that so many hold more dear to them than the commands of God....It would mean refuting the non-biblical teaching of the Trinity and the denouncing of religious systems that do not obey God's commands. Ultimately, it would mean sticking out like a sore thumb. And we do! Today, the followers of The Way that Jesus taught are still called a cult. Marvel not! John 15:20 "Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also." Jesus warned us in Matthew 10:25 "It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?" Yes, they even called Jesus' disciples who followed His Way ....devils!
Heresy! That is what today's religious leaders say about those who decide to obey God and keep His Sabbath and holydays....they call the words of God ...heresy! They tell you that you do not have to obey God ....that the Bible doesn't say that obedience is necessary, and we should listen to them because they have the holy spirit. The apostle Peter makes it clear who is given God's holy spirit in Acts 5:29 "Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him."
What could be more plain and understandable? We should obey God.....He only gives His holy spirit to those who obey Him. If we do not obey Him, are we any better than Satan himself? The bible warns us explicitly about false teachers and we need to research just where these shepherds, who teach that we do not have to obey God to be saved, are coming from.
Not all people that use the title of "Christian" to describe themselves are truly following Jesus Christ. Luke 6:46 "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" There are some who call Jesus their Lord and Messiah that Jesus does not claim as His own. Matthew 7:21 "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
Please take notice that these "workers of iniquity", as Jesus calls them, were preaching and performing great works using Jesus' name as the name of their master....but they were not of God! They may have talked the talk but did not walk as He walked. Faith is made perfect by obedience. Your true master is not the one you say you are following with your mouth, but the one that you obey. Obedience is the action that makes our love toward our Master perfect. Romans 6:16 "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" The carnal mind is enmity against God...our own ways cannot please Him.
The pastors and sermon-givers that teach that the laws of God are not applicable to the modern Christian are brazenly disobeying God. Isa 53:6 "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isa 56:11 "Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter." We are warned of these false shepherds and their false ways.
Let us visit some of these warnings in our Bibles. Jude 1:4 "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." These men were not denying Jesus' name, after all, they were in the body of the church. They were denying the giving of obedience to God's ways. They desired to go their own carnal ways. (We suggest reading the entire chapter.) Matthew 7:15 "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." . Titus 1:16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. Matthew 24:11 "And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12 And because iniquity (lawlessness) shall abound, the love (for God) of many shall wax cold. 13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."
Iniquity is lawlessness and the bible defines sin as transgression of the law. So an intelligent question would be "If the law is done away with, then how can their still be sin?" Good question, and the question answers itself. The laws of God are not done away, but these lawless men who infiltrate Christendom would have you believe different. I tell you - marvel not! Matthew 24:24 "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."
Some of the end time false prophets will even be able to "work miracles" and deceive even those closest to God....yet these men are not of God! Acts 20:29 "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears."
Paul warned us constantly of these false teachers and their false brand of Christianity. God deemed the topic so important that He reiterates it through His servants multiple times in His word as we have shown. God's word does not leave us "in the dark" on who is behind all this. Turn to 2 Corinthians 11:4 "For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him." Paul continues the subject in verse 13 "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." These false "Christian" ministers are false apostles. They claim to be of Christ and even confess His name....but they refuse to obey Him. They preach Jesus...but not the Jesus that Paul and Christ's true disciples taught! Who is this false Jesus?
Notice that they receive another spirit and another gospel....if their spirit and gospel message is not from God, then who is it from? Galatians 1:6 "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
They are Satan's ministers and Satan is their god who he himself masquerades as Jesus Christ! And he deceives many...not a few. In fact, the bible says that he deceives the whole world. Does God's word lie to us? No, of course not! It is impossible for God to lie. Will you believe Him and pay heed to His warning? These men do not follow "The Way" that Jesus taught us to worship God - read the second Chapter of 2 Peter, as it tells of these impostors and "the way" that they follow. Do you recall the Shepherd telling us that the thief does not use the door but enters "another way" which is not Jesus (John 10:1). This is a warning of a false Christ and his false ministers who already had a foothold on the neck of the people way back in Paul's time! Did these wolves just disappear? Or have they been running organized religion since Paul's time? While contemplating an answer please remember that the Devil deceiveth the whole world (Revelation 12:9).
What will happen to these who oppose God? 2 Thessalonians 1:6 "Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; 7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:" So we see that those who do not obey God do not have eternal life. Jesus Christ, our true Lord and Master, tells us exactly what is expected of us to show that we love Him and explains the way of salvation in Matthew 19:17, "And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."
Matt 7:13 "Enter ye in at the strait [narrow] gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Are you on a narrow path? Do many people follow the same way as your church? Do the leaders of your church say that we do not have to obey God's commandments? It is time to ask yourself "Am I going the right way?
John14:6 "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. " Jesus IS the narrow gate...the ONLY WAY to salvation and He tells us to OBEY GOD AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS. Do not be confused in this matter...we show God we love Him by keeping His commandments, but keeping commandments does not "earn" you eternal life...that is a gift from God....it cannot be bought (Simony- see Acts 8).
Make no mistake of this also: God will only give this gift to those who love Him. John 14:15 "If ye love me, keep my commandments." We are warned of a false way that looks real and appears righteous and while this false form of Christianity gathers many followers...it is not of God! Yes, the true way that Jesus set before us involved obeying God and therefore this way was, and still is, rejected by the masses. The true churches of God are accused of being a cult. I for one will stand as Paul did and say "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: .
To conclude this study please read Psalm 119 in its entirety and pray to God the Father that we can embrace Him in obedience as did David in this song. It is the author's earnest hope that all those who read this and look into the matter will begin to understand the love of our great God. 1 John 5:3 "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."
Yours in Christ, Kenneth M. Hoeck
"He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
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