Creating Counterfeit Christianity
EARLY Christians were not timid about telling others what they believed. Prominent church organizations today teem with those who profess Christianity but who shy away from speaking of their belief. Not long ago at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York the “Reverend” E. B. Broderick chided church members who refused “to poke their heads out of their homemade spiritual bombshelters.” He likened them to “timid disciples who keep us guessing by refusing to declare themselves.” (New York Times, May 25, 1953) Protestants have their “timid disciples,” too! Dr. D. Steward of the Central Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas, declared: “It is a serious condition when members of Christian Churches do not know what they stand for.” (Houston, Texas, Post, October 27, 1952) What has brought about a “Christianity” so devoid of the genuine qualities displayed by early Christians?
The stark truth is that a “Sunday religion” has evolved over the years. It masquerades as Christianity. Indeed, a form of worship that is divorced from the everyday affairs of life could not be genuine Christianity, for Christianity is a worship to be practiced every day. Confirming this Christ himself declared: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake day after day and follow me continually.” (Luke 9:23, NW) The apostles taught the good news in the temple and from house to house “every day.” (Acts 5:42, NW) Since genuine Christianity is everyday worship, a “Sunday religion” must be a “form of godly devotion” that is counterfeit, because the worshipers ‘prove false to its power.’ (2 Tim. 3:5, NW) Thus in spawning a “Sunday religion” there has been created a counterfeit Christianity. This is the dividing of the people into two classes: the clergy and the laity.
By the term “clergy” is meant the select group of men who are ordained by organized religion to preach its message and who usually wear distinctive garb and assume impressive titles. The laity are thus the common people as distinguished from the clergy. Under this system the laity sit in pews and pay the clergy to preach to them. Under this system the laity “accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled.” (2 Tim. 4:3, NW) Is this division of “Christians” into people-pleasing preachers and passive auditors Scriptural? The Catholic Encyclopedia, under the heading “Cleric,” asserts: “Christ did not commit the preaching of the Gospel . . . to the faithful in general, but to certain carefully defined persons, as the Apostles.” In view of this it was not at all strange that, when there was a request for “emancipation of the laity” at the World Congress of the Apostolate of the Laity, the pope bluntly rejected the idea, saying: “The expression ‘emancipation of the laity’ is hardly pleasing to us; it has rather an unpleasant sound.”—New York Times, October 15, 1951.
Two facts become clear: First, the clergy contend that the clergy and laity division is of divine origin. Second, any other arrangement would, to put it mildly, be “unpleasant” for the clergy. Let us now “make sure of all things” by turning to the Scriptures. If the clergy and laity division proves to be unscriptural, then it has been a big factor in creating counterfeit Christianity.
NO CLASS DISTINCTION
Early Christians were all brothers. No class distinction could rightfully exist. (Jas. 2:1-9) Christians were not to bow down worshipfully before another, as Peter told Cornelius. (Acts 10:25, 26) No Christians kissed Christ’s hand or toe; instead, he washed their feet! “If I, although Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another.” (John 13:14, NW) If bowing down and kissing toes and hands were Scriptural, then, according to Jesus’ example, Christians would have to do this, not to a select few, but to all their brothers. Clearly, such procedure is not Scriptural, and Christ set no pattern for class distinction.
Early Christians were all laymen. They had no paid clergy. In fact, the Founder of Christianity was not a clergyman but a layman. When Christ taught in the synagogues, the people were so amazed they asked: “Where did this man get these things?” And then when their astonishment heightened, they asked: “‘This is the carpenter the son of Mary . . . is it not? . . . ’ So they began to stumble at him.” (Mark 6:2, 3, NW) It was due to the very fact that Christ was not one of the clergy of his day that people stumbled over him, losing the opportunity for life!
That the apostles were not professional theologians, Luke tells us: “Now when they beheld the outspokenness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were men unlettered and ordinary, they got to wondering.” (Acts 4:13, NW) The apostles were just ordinary people. For instance, Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen; Matthew was a tax collector. (Mark 1:16, 19; Matt. 9:9) Though the apostle Paul had received religious instruction according to the Pharisees’ way of worship, yet he had to abandon such religious instruction in order that he might practice the genuine worship of God! Jesus denounced the Pharisees’ worship as counterfeit! (Acts 22:1-21; Matthew chapter 23) Paul the Christian was no paid clergyman, but a tentmaker and a teacher of the good news.—Acts 18:3; 1 Cor. 9:16.
ALL AUTHORIZED TO PREACH
Early Christians were all ministers. One historian states: “In the apostolic church preaching and teaching were not confined to a particular class, but every convert could proclaim the gospel to unbelievers, and every Christian who had the gift could pray and teach and exhort in the congregation.” Further, the commission to preach comes from Almighty God, and, since God is not partial, all are authorized to preach. (Acts 10:34, 35, NW) Christ Jesus recognized this: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives.” (Luke 4:18, NW) The truth would free the laity from the clergy. This truth all early Christians preached: “Just as you sent me forth into the world, I also sent them forth into the world.” Thus true Christians were to speak, not sit.—John 17:18; Acts 1:8, NW.
Contrary to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the “faithful in general” were to preach. The seventy sent out by Jesus were not clergymen. In their presence Jesus declared: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have carefully hidden these things from wise and intellectual ones, and have revealed them to babes. Yes, O Father, because to do thus came to be the way approved by you.” (Luke 10:21, NW) The way approved by God could not be a clergy-laity system.
With the outpouring of the holy spirit, Christianity prospered. It grew from 3,000 ministers to 5,000. (Acts 2:41; 4:4) To be sure, these “faithful in general” were not merely attenders at a religious service, but they were all ministers! “All [the 5,000] except the apostles were scattered [by a persecution] throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. However, those who had been scattered went through the land declaring the good news of the word.” (Acts 8:1, 4, NW) Furthermore, what was the purpose of Christ’s giving “gifts in men”? Was it not to train others to be preachers? “He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as missionaries, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the training of the holy ones for ministerial work.”—Eph. 4:8, 11, 12, NW.
When Paul wrote, “Preach the word, be at it urgently in favorable season, in troublesome season,” was this admonition limited to Timothy? No! Explained the apostle: “The things you heard from me with the support of many witnesses, these things commit to faithful men who in turn will be adequately qualified to teach others.” (2 Tim. 4:2; 2:2, NW) Indeed, the “faithful in general” were to “preach the word”!
FLATTERING TITLES UNSCRIPTURAL
If there is no clergy among true Christians, why do we read of deacons and bishops in the Bible? The answer: This is simply a case of mistranslation. The Greek word epískopos, translated “bishop,” (1 Tim. 3:1) has the real meaning of “overseer.” The title “deacon” (1 Tim. 3:12) is the result of another mistranslated Greek word, diákonos, the basic meaning of which is just “ministerial servant.” To call one a “ministerial servant” is not tickling one’s fancy, nor is it the giving of a flattering title, which is condemned by God. (Job 32:22) The word “reverend” in the Bible nowhere applies to man; only to Jehovah. (Psalm 111:9) And Jesus specifically condemned the titles “Rabbi” and “Father.” (Matt. 23:7, 9) Thus the giving of flattering titles, further dividing the clergy from the laity, is unscriptural and has fostered counterfeit Christianity.
Counterfeit Christians are spectators. Genuine Christians are a “theatrical spectacle to the world” because they preach, not watch. Paul invited all to imitate him as such. (1 Cor. 4:9, 16, NW) Therefore the genuine worship of Jehovah cannot be a “balcony religion,” where worshipers watch and observe while someone else does the work. But every genuine Christian must boldly play his part as a preacher of the good news while the scene of this old world still remains, “for the scene of this world is changing” and will pass away at Armageddon.—1 Cor. 7:31; 1 John 2:17, NW.
This “change of scenes” means a new world is near. (2 Pet. 3:13) Who will live to see it? Only true Christians. Imitation Christians may flourish, yes, but only until Armageddon. Of the wheat (true Christians) and weeds (imitations) Jesus said: “Let both grow together until the harvest.” “The harvest is a consummation of a system of things, and the reapers are angels.” (Matt. 13:30, 39, NW) The crop of “weeds” that Christendom has raised under its unscriptural clergy and laity system will be cast into the fiery furnace of destruction at Armageddon. And hurled into the abyss of death will be that chief counterfeiter, that sham sovereign, Satan the Devil. (Rev. 20:1-3) A new scene comes before our eyes: a new world wherein death, pain and sorrow have vanished. (Rev. 21:1-5) Only the genuine Christians will live to enjoy this complete “change of scenes”!