The Religious System Exposed

One key enemy to our salvation is the religious system. It will destroy us if we are ensnared in it.  It could also play a role in destroying us if we react to it in such a way that we become bitter towards everything related to church gatherings and church authority, even the gathering of God’s true people under true authority from true men of God. 

The religious system can be traced to the building of the city and the tower of Babel that is recorded in Genesis chapter 11. 

Genesis 11:4: “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” 

Like all schemes that men try to accomplish without God, the religious system is planned by man, built by man, for man’s honor/name.  Sometimes though, as is especially the case with the religious system, God’s name may still be invoked and given lip-service in these schemes.  God would come down to see the city and tower, and confound the language of the people so that they could not unite to accomplish their evil imagination.  From there, He would scatter the people abroad upon the face of the earth (Genesis 11:5-9). 

Spiritual unity that is not based upon God’s truth, but rather upon man’s convenience and glory, is an abomination to God.  The push for worldwide unity of this nature is very strong in the last days, and the religious system is/will be a key part of that.  But the Lord will confound this unity (which will be the kingdom of the beast/antichrist in its maturity), and He will destroy rebellious man’s glory at Christ’s second coming (see Isaiah 2:17-22). 

Since the religious system is by man’s appointment (instead of by God’s commandment), by man’s own power (instead of man’s dependence on God in poverty of spirit), and for man’s glory it is therefore influenced heavily by the changing trends of culture.  It is about giving the people what they want, so long as it preserves the power of the leaders and doesn’t affect their salaries, job benefits, and/or titles or at the very least their estimates of themselves too much.  It is typically about catering to the desire of people to feel good and religious, people’s desire to feel like they’ve done their duty and couldn’t be “that bad” because they “go to church.”  There are complicated exceptions to this, but such is generally the case.  

In revolving around man, the religious system is also typically about providing support, comforts, and/or honor for those who provide the “religious services” to the people.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that the religious system will often use the Bible.  It couldn’t be a counterfeit of God’s pure worship if it didn’t. Even the more obvious cults and religions that admit the Bible is not their authority will still, at the very least, quote a half-verse of the Bible here or there that (they claim) supports their beliefs and standards.  

However, even the groups in the religious system which say that the Bible is their ultimate authority will not preach the whole counsel of God from the Bible.  Otherwise, they’d not be part of the religious system anymore.  The thing is, most of those in the groups in the religious system would be gone in that case, as the multitude of Jesus’ disciples dwindled upon His hard sayings (John 6:60-69).  This would also necessarily mean that the leaders’ financial support and honor would dwindle too.  But remember that the religious system, though it uses God’s name, is about serving man.  Therefore, the preaching of the whole counsel of God (preaching God as He has really revealed Himself in Scripture and preaching what He actually requires of us), and the religious system, by their very natures cannot co-exist in the same entity. The whole counsel of God puts God and man in their proper place.  The religious system makes (seeks to make anyway) God a slave to man’s preferences somehow in at least some way.  The whole counsel of God being proclaimed in the religious system is truly as crazy as the world being turned upside down. 

Therefore, though the religious system uses the Bible, it disregards the Bible in reality.  The essence of the religious system is: We don’t REALLY care what the Bible says, though we use it as it suits usWherever that attitude is in a religious group, or should the Bible perhaps be virtually totally neglected and there is yet a religious entity/group, there you have the religious system.  That is how it can be recognized, whether this attitude should be in a church with a billion members that spans the whole world, a mega-church that fills a basketball arena, a small-town chapel, or a small house church gathering. 

The same can really even be said of the family or single person who “has church on their own” and is unwilling for things to be otherwise.  They may think they’re out of the religious system, but the religious system is certainly not out of them.  These do the very same thing that those in the religious system do in a different way.

Of course, the leaders and defenders of the religious system don’t typically admit directly that they don’t care what the Bible says.  They may have other “prophets” or church tradition that will be given priority over what the Bible says, though they claim to accept that the Bible or part of the Bible is from God too.  However, to truly receive the Bible as God’s Word does indeed mean taking it as the sole source of authority on acceptable doctrine and practice whereby the words of all other people, councils, etc. must be filtered to discern whether what they say is valid or not.  The Apostolic declaration on the perfect sufficiency of the Scriptures to make us wise unto salvation and to equip us for every good work makes this conclusion logical and necessary to arrive at. 

2 Timothy 3:15-17: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  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.”

However, a group may still say that the Bible is their sole inspiration for their worship- and yet still be part of the religious system.  Often when confronted with what the Bible says on areas of doctrine and topics where they are in the wrong, the one showing the error will just be ignored or personally attacked.  

I’ve heard of one church service where the pastor’s point in his message was questioned by one of the people during the time after the sermon that was open for the people in the congregation to share (this is something most churches don’t have, but this one had such a time).  The pastor in this case didn’t even address the man’s concern at all.  He just said “The pastor knows the Bible better than the people” and left it at that.  Typical Bible college/seminary graduate arrogance indeed (though such arrogance is not limited to Bible college/seminary graduates either), however many go about it in a more cordial way yet still refuse to be corrected by Scripture even when Scripture obviously is in conflict with them and their church.  A true church leader can be approached and questioned about what he has taught/he is teaching and he can handle that scrutiny by proving the things he has taught/is teaching thoroughly from the Bible. And if he can’t, he’ll look deeper and honestly consider that he may be wrong and need to change.  

I’ve even known someone who has professed to agree with and appreciate these very words up to this point.  His doctrine, practice, and personal deeds were all even excellent in comparison to most church leaders.  Yet when things were brought before him which (I believe) proved that he had not fully disassociated from his bad Bible college education and other bad influences in his past (which he claims he had seen through and received correction on already- I think he had to some extent, but I believe not to the extent he should have).  When I brought what I believe to be the evidence of this before him, he did not receive it-, even refusing the totally obvious truth that many first century Christians lived in cities.  Receiving the obvious on this made it evident that his approach to church and parenthood, which were virtually predicated upon living way out in the country, were not Apostolic- and therefore deficient.  He resorted to the same type of ad hominem attacks, foolish strawman arguments, and condescending behavior that one would expect from a hireling church leader, even though (as far as anyone knows) he wasn’t even receiving income from his church.  Yet when man’s preferences and self-estimation evidently oppose Biblical counsel in a church, that church has to be labeled as part of the religious system in order to be properly labeled.  That is so even if the church is right in a multitude of ways and even if it is better than most other churches by just about any measure.  

We are told in James about one with godly wisdom, whether they’re a church leader or not.  “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17) 

With this understanding, it can be seen how a church/group can go from being part of the religious system to being a true church when it humbles itself (particularly the leaders thereof) to be ruled by the authority of God’s Word and to therefore change to align itself with the Word’s instruction to the best of its ability. 

We can see as well how a group that was a true church at one time can go from being such to becoming part of the religious system should it harden itself (particularly the leaders thereof) against the instruction of Scripture. 

The Bible is a book with clear truth that we are obligated to receive and obey, as we saw from 2 Timothy 3:15-17.  The Holy Spirit who gave the Scriptures is also in charge of showing us what they mean.  It is not within the rights of an (allegedly) elite person or council to mock our God-given intelligence and explain away what the Bible clearly says; and it is not right for anyone to sit under the instruction of those who do so nor to submit to such in spiritual matters in other ways.  Nor is it our right to determine what the Bible means for ourselves based on what we like or want or prefer to hold onto.  Doing such would be making the Bible a matter of private interpretation.  That is something which we are warned against from the Bible. 

2 Peter 1:16-21: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.  We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”  

The Holy Spirit gave us objective truth as He inspired the Scriptures.  We are each accountable to receive that inspired truth and be subject to it (as the Word of God is a testimony of Christ the King).  That is why Peter called the Scriptures “a more sure word of prophecy” than his own personal encounter with God/Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration (the account of which is in Matthew chapter 17).  Often when confronted with truth from Scripture someone will say “That’s just your interpretation.”  But we don’t take the clear statements from any person as “just someone’s interpretation”, and the Bible is God communicating His truth to us on a level we can relate to (and that is why He can and does rightfully hold us accountable for our response to His Word- John 12:44-50).  

If somebody is truly wrong in their understanding of Scripture, then what they are saying should be able to be proven as wrong from the rest of Scripture and very basic common sense (like how a Pacifist can be proven to be in error by the question of who will stop the violent criminal if Pacifism is true).  Those who are honestly not sure a statement is true, but also can’t prove it wrong, should go back to the Scriptures and look more into it, rather than attacking the messenger and/or attacking the possibility of us being able to understand the truth of the matter objectively from the Bible.  Any who won’t do that are resistant to God’s Word (and thus to God).

We should not let our affiliations, our past good experiences, the sentiments of our families, and/or any other reason than the response of a church to the Word of God determine whether we join it or not.  

We also see from the following passage that it is not enough to only leave churches where Christ’s Word does not reign.  Hebrews 10:23-25: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”  

To honor God’s Word ourselves, we can’t disregard this commandment (along these lines, I’ve done another study that you should be able to find on the outlet which you found this called: “I Don’t Know of a Faithful Church in my Area: What Should I Do?”).  

It’s wise to pray to the Lord and ask Him for direction to show us where a church that is acceptable to Him can be found.  Yet we need to be subject to God’s Word in all the ways we’re able to be in the present so that prayer is not a vain one and so that we would be fitting to join such a church if we knew of one.  At that point, there would likely still be inconveniences and losses involved in following through and joining that church in order to be a faithful member there.   

This all just means that those who would not be ensnared by the religious system somehow have to put their own reputations on the line and risk other earthly losses to forsake it in order to be free to be part of the authentic thing which the religious system is a counterfeit of.  

Remember the following here though:

Psalm 68:5-6: “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.  God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” 

Hebrews 13:12-14: “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.  Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.  For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come (that’s how it ought to be anyways).”

As always, the issue of honoring God’s authority and being unconditionally obedient to His voice is the real issue here.  Will we be alone if need be for Christ’s sake, and yet not be closed and rather willing to be part of (to the best of our knowledge after diligent investigation) a genuine New Testament church that is inconvenient and uncomfortable to join?  We should deal with the Lord honestly over this, as how we handle this matter cannot be separated from our response to the real Jesus of the Bible. 

Aaron’s email is: [email protected]