The Greco, Roman, Westernized Church: Good and Bad
By Angus and Batya Wootten – April 1994
It is time for we who love all Israel to awaken the melo goyim, to stir up the “fullness of Gentiles.” We must awaken the “other” house of Israel, Ephraim. We must arouse him to the truth of his roots.
Our Father speaks of a day when He “hears Ephraim grieving,” it is a time when the children of those destined to become a “melo goyim” cry out: “O Lord, You have chastened me, but I needed it. I behaved as an untrained calf, refusing to accept Your yoke. I ask You now to bring me back to allow me to return in repentance, for my exile has led me to remorse. Surely now that I have been instructed, now that I have come to know the truth about myself, I have repented. In great humility, I smote myself on the thigh, I beat myself on the breast, because I am thoroughly ashamed of the pagan sin and disgrace of my youth.” (Jeremiah 31: 18, 19, Authors Amplified Translation).
This prophesied grieving brings about a great change in this “fullness of Gentiles.” Ephraim finally turns from his centuries-long penchant for paganism. He no longer wants to be like the Gentiles; rather, he longs to walk as an Israelite (Hosea 1-2). This means, once awakened to the newfound truth of his long-hidden roots, once he tums from pagan practices, he is immediately faced with the question: “How do I now celebrate the God of Israel?”
One thing is certain, if God is calling Ephraim away from every dead tradition found in institutional Christianity, we can rest assured that He is not calling him into any Jewish practices that might likewise be lifeless and ritualistic. Neither is he to return to a First Century Faith, wherein non-Jews were publicly shunned at the dinner table (Galatians 2:12). No. The God of Israel is One whose “mercies are new every morning.” He is always “doing a new thing in the earth.” And, if we will allow Him, then in this latter-day, He will do a new thing in and through us. He will use us to bring forth that which is worthy from both houses of Israel.
But, for now. . . .
“To Leave Or Not To Leave,” That Is The Question
Only the Father in Heaven knows exactly where He wants each of us at any given time, and each one must follow His leading for their lives (John 16:13). He alone tells us when to stay and when to go, thus, House of David does not encourage a “Church Exodus.”
On the other hand, we cannot ignore the self-evident problems of the institutionalized Church, nor the possibility that some segments of the Institutional Church might be given over to the Anti-Christ. “In the last days, difficult times will come. For men will be . . . holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power. . . And indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:1-15; also see Revelation 1 3:3). Many believe the Seven Churches listed in the Book of Revelation also represent Seven Church Ages, the last being the Laodicean, that being the one that gets spewed out of Messiah’s mouth (Revelation 3:16). Thus, all true Believers will ultimately be forced to leave that Church.
In these latter days, when as individuals we face the all-important question about leaving a Church, in each case we must consider the faith and actions of the particular Church body, as well as its leadership. We must evaluate it against the truth of Scripture, and then we must act accordingly.
The Hallmarks Of A True Shepherd
Regarding leadership, we know that true shepherds “guard,” “tend,” “feed,” and “gently lead” the sheep entrusted to their care. However, Ezekiel spoke of a time when Yahveh’s sheep would have shepherds who would not feed the flock, nor seek for the scattered, nor strengthen the sickly, nor bind up the broken. Rather, they would dominate the flock with force and severity; they would feed and cloth themselves rather than their sheep; and they would tread down pastures and foul the waters with their feet. Yahveh says He will be “against” those shepherds, and that He will “demand His sheep from them.” (Acts 20:28; John 21:15-17; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:1-31)
Many shepherds turn the Scriptural instructions to “guard,” into a mandate to “control.” Ruling with “severity,” they do so in the name of “protection.”
Locked in Denominational pens, many feel they are starving. And rightly so, for they are fed no more than the milk diet of Hebrews 6:1-2, which instructs us to “press on, beyond the elementary points, which are repentance, faith, baptism, laying on of hands, resurrection/rapture, and eternal judgement.” Sadly, because that is all that is taught, many are bored beyond belief – starved for the “meat” of the Word.
These sheep are made to drink from muddied Doctrinal Waters, and all who seek to clarify them are pounced upon. Their Shepherds appear to be unaware of the verse: “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, an interpretation. . . .” (I Corinthians 14:26)
Sheep caught in such pens are not encouraged to exercise their spiritual muscles, which exercise is the duty of a good shepherd. Rather, they are made to sit quietly in their pew-pens. That their muscles atrophy from lack of use is of no concern. The important thing is whether or not they give their funds, and whether they bring more sheep to Church, that they might also be counted. For great numbers of sheep is the goal of the shepherd. And, those who help accomplish his goal are rewarded with an empty title.
Yet, even so, there are those who, for various legitimate reasons, are being called by the Father to serve Him in these Churches. . . .
Free To Encourage Or Exhort
Those called to such Church ministry should pattern their actions after Messiah. While Yeshua participated in synagogue activities, He nonetheless held Himself apart from what He called “their” system. And so He remained free to encourage or admonish: “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! . . . These are the things you should have done. . . .” (Matthew 23:23) Like our Master, Titus 1:9 instructs each of us to, “exhort and refute with sound doctrine.” Like Yeshua, we must be dedicated to our Father’s truth, and we must be faithful, fearless, and fair, when presenting that truth. If we are not faithful, we disappoint Messiah. If we are fearful, the Institution is influencing us and not we the Institution. If we are not fair we add to an ancient problem.
Just Weights And Measures
In addition to the vast array of wrongs perpetrated by the Church against her own – very often, when non-Jewish Believers first become aware of their brother, Judah, in defense of the countless wrongs perpetrated against Jewish people in the name of the Church, they wrongfully become negative about every aspect of the Church.
However, the Word declares that, “differing weights and measures arc abominable to the Lord.” Yahveh demands that His children use “’Just weights and measures.” This holds true for Christianity and Judaism alike (Proverbs 20:10; 16:11; Leviticus 19:36).
Thus, in defense of the good the Church has done, ask any Believer: “What is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to you?” Invariably, the reply is, “Meeting Messiah.”
A personal encounter with Messiah Yeshua is glorious, life-changing. There is nothing to which it can be compared. And yet, our Father has allowed that for hundreds and hundreds of years, this most wonderful of encounters has been made possible through – perhaps more accurately, in spite of – the efforts of the Greco Roman, Westernized, Cultural Church.
Good and Bad. The Church system that every true Believer owes some credit to, for bringing them into the most glorious event known to man, also is full of error.
How then should we regard this Church?
We must give her credit for the good she has done: Proclaiming, preserving and publishing the New Covenant, telling the world about Jesus and His salvation. For, she has been the primary source for aiding many in the world to know Messiah. Also, we must judge her with “righteous judgement” (John 7:24), which is to judge with perfect equity. For, that is the way Yeshua will judge us: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) To rightly judge a matter requires that we give full credit for both good and bad.
Regarding some of her “bad,” it is as Howard A. Snyder says in his Intervarsity Press book, The Problem Of Wineskins: “It is hard to escape the conclusion that today one of the greatest roadblocks to the gospel of Jesus Christ is the institutional church . . . [it] too often represents something radically different from the Jesus Christ of the Bible.”
It also is as Robert C. Girard says in his Zondervan Press book, Brethren, Hang Together: “The church itself, because of its institutional focus, has become a major hindrance to the fulfillment of Christ’s scheme for effective revelation of Himself in the word. This is extremely difficult (perhaps impossible) for those committed to the perpetuation of the church as an institution to see. Much of the American evangelical movement, for instance, is presently engaged in a narcissistic love affair with success, power, and cultural acceptance. On its current crest of prestige . . . it will find it extremely difficult to face the suggestion that it is doing anything wrong.”
Let’s Stop The War!
We who have seen the truth about the two houses of Israel, Ephraim and Judah, Christians and Jews, we, above all people, should be aware of the enmity that has so long existed between them. We also should realize that both perpetuate some error, and both put forth some truth in their doctrines, both seek the title of Israel for themselves, and each discounts the other as a legitimate heir of Israel.
The truth is that Ephraim and Judah are the “Two Witnesses.” Each gives forth a certain testimony about the God of Israel. As such, each has been given a different “job” to do. Judah has kept alive the Law and the Feasts of Israel, and the Church has kept alive the truth that Jesus is the Messiah. But, the fact is, we need both the Feasts and the Messiah. If we have only Messiah, we do not know how to fully celebrate Him. If we have only the Feasts, we do not have the primary reason for celebrating them.
As Believers, when we unrighteously judge, favoring or disparaging either house, we only succeed in perpetuating their ancient war.
If we want to see the “Two Sticks” of Ephraim and Judah made “one” in the Father’s Hand, it is incumbent upon us to begin to fairly and rightly judge the two. For, there are those in both houses to whom the Lord would have us minister, and any undeserved partiality perceived in us may be used to turn them away.
When we give credit where credit is due, when we seek to correct with perfect equity, then, we cease to be part of the problem and begin to be part of the solution. Then, we can be used to awaken Ephraim, and so to reunite the two houses of Israel.
And so we pray that all our exhortations, whether directed toward Judah or Ephraim, be given in this spirit: that our intent be not so much to speak against their past errors, as it is to speak for the glorious future to which both Judah and Ephraim are called.