Has the Church Failed?
What authority and security does the church possess?
In today's times, many people wonder if the church has failed. That is, the universal church, the church that Christ Himself set up, not denominations. Although, we may discuss that as well. One could say, if the Church has failed, then Christ has failed, and if Christ has failed, then He was not God, or God is not all powerful. In such a case, then it would be possible for satan to win. This, of coarse, is absurd. Many of these similar discussions can be found elsewhere on my site, but here we will discuss the subject of the Church failing.
So has the church failed? This is a difficult question. The question often brings the thought that if it is from Christ, then it would have certain powers and abilities that would not diminish. I would like to examine this train of thought that many people hold. Of coarse this connects to the stance the Catholic church has, in that it's Oral Traditions are uncorrupted and are of equal power to scripture.
Let's look at the possible root scripture for these arguments.
18: And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19: And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Many people claim that these verses hold the authority of the church from failure. Let's examine some questions and/or claims of possible church failure.
One main argument is that the church has failed because it has become divided. And so, some claim their particular denomination, branch, or local assembly, is the only True Church, sometimes using these scriptures to prove that the church has failed because of division:
And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand
But we must remember this:
51: Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
52: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
53: The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
There are 3 kinds of houses worth mentioning here: 1- your body; 2-the domestic home; 3-the local house of worship, the assembly of saints, or called the local church.
"No way!", some would say, "no way, would the Lord allow or mean that there would be division in the church". Let's look at scripture and see if this is the case.
37: And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
38: But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
39: And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
40: And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
Here we can see the disciples having a strong contention, so much so, they physically divided. This was after the birth of the church. So did Jesus error in any of this? Of course not, because it is in scripture. We must remember scripture will not contradict scripture, if our understanding makes it so, it is our understanding that needs correction. I am not saying that God wants division, I am saying God allows division, and knows that it's going to happen.
So we can see that even denominational splits are tolerated within the confines of the church not failing. Well, what about doctrinal differences? Can a church fail because it disagrees with other believers in doctrine? Lets turn again to scripture:
1: And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
2: When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
5: But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
6: And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
7: And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe..
12: Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul...
13: And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
14: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
19: Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
20: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
Yes, again from Acts 15, this chapter is loaded with examples of what many would call church failure. In the verses I just listed, we see a doctrinal argument within the church. One may claim, well, they came up with a solution and agreed to it. Yes, but for how long? How many churches do you know, still claim this small list as being the only forbidden things? If such, then I dare say, every church has failed, or almost all, for I know of no such churches following that list. Therefore church doctrine is also possible in differences and is not grounds for failure. Again I am not saying God condones such differences and doctrinal error, I am saying He knows it will happen. But let us go on with more scriptures concerning doctrinal purity.
1 Cor 13:
9: For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10: But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
12: For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
That scripture shows us that we will not know or understand things in clarity here on earth. Some claim these verses refer to the Bible, and that until the Bible was available to mankind, that perfection was not available, but that is not so. That would mean the church today would be of higher quality then that of the church in the time of Acts and the rest of the Bible times. That of coarse is ridiculous. If we have the perfect, the Bible, then the modern church would be of superior quality to that of the church in Acts, this is not a good stance to take. Let's read on:
11: And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12: For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15: But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ
This scripture says we need the 5 types of ministers until we are perfect. The church today must not have perfection, cause we still have ministers and most people do not have access to all 5 of them, and they are by no means of greater quality than the christians in the Bible. Read closely there and you will gain a greater definition of maturity and perfection. I think Paul summed up the doctrinal question well with this:
1 Cor 2:2
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
We know nothing in certain. Only Jesus Christ and his crucifixion. All others things are dimly seen and understood, so doctrine is not a point of failure for the church. What about handed down traditions, teachings, ordinances, rituals and so on? Can we trust that the church will keep these pure?
In science class in the 7th or 8th grade, we did the test where one person is told something secretly and it is passed from one person secretly to another. At the end it was no where near the same. Many of those reading this probably have done the same. If it is not written down, we have no surety that any man, in church or without, can keep true any oral account. Again, we have NO SURETY of such a claim of authority. Lets look at some early churches that have many similar "failing" qualities that some churches have today, which are mentioned by Christ.
12: And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write...
14: But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
16: Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone...
Here is a church which failed to follow the list in Acts 15, and they were so much nearer to the giving of it than us. But the Lord also spoke well of those in obedience too, and He called them the church in Pergamos, so they are a church. I am in no means condoning nor saying that God condones ill behavior. I am stating that these traits are not to be held as absolute failure within the church, nor dooming said churches to be not of Christ. Christ does not deny them, that they are His, but He does threaten them. He goes on to say:
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Jesus loves these people and churches. You can read more of these churches in Revelations chapters 2 & 3 and see that the church structure and authority failed to represent Christ in important matters. Yet the Bible says:
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.
The church appears to have failed in man's eyes, yet we are not to abandon her. In fact many Old Testament prophecies speak of the shepherds or pastors failing in the last times.
As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock
Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.
And there are plenty more. Lets look at 1 more church in Revelation:
1: And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
2: Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
3: Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
Here is a church that needs to be reminded what it has received and heard, and whom is not perfect.
So has the church failed? Yes, but not in matters which void its belonging to God nor reason enough to abandon it. Nor has it failed according to Christ's words in Math 16:18-19. What then, is the promise by Christ in that passage of verses? The church's first and primary function is to birth children. The church has always birthed believers, but it has not always raised them. That is a second matter in which the church HAS failed!
18: And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
The nations have NOT been taught to obey, but the nations have been evangelized. In fact the world was evangelized before scripture was finished:
1: And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, ...
3: And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
4: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5: And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
7: And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
8: And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
9: Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia...
11: Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
14: But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalems...
Here in Acts 2, there were Jews in Jerusalem from EVERY NATION. Yes that's right, every nation. Where is that? Verse 5: And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
Toss out your history lessons. Mankind, at least the Jews, were traveling the globe at this time period. And so, a representative of every nation heard the gospel preached by Peter starting in verse 14. You can't believe it? Want more scriptures? Ok...
13: For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14: How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15: And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
17: So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
18: But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
This verse here in 18 says it went into the all the earth. You may have heard of ministries who say they are fulfilling this scripture:
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
Well, what does that verse mean if not evangelizing the whole world? I talk about that here:
Here's another verse on the subject:
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
Still don't believe me? Want historical evidence? Ok.
I have recently discovered (as of Oct 21, 04), that there is archeological evidence that indeed the Jews/Israelites/Hebrews were in North America before the founding of the United States. This evidence is in the form of a large rock with Hebrew writing listing the 10 Commandments. This is NOT Moses' list he put in the Ark, but simply a monument testifying to the fact the Jews indeed have proclaimed the gospel to every nation generations ago. Here are some links to this astounding archeological find:
So the church has succeeded in evangelizing, whether or not you agree the whole earth was evangelized before scripture was done. The church is the mother of the Faith. She has succeeded in doing such, and that is what Christ promised that hell cannot stop, but the church has failed in raising her children. Jesus never promised us the church would do so, but He commanded the disciples to do it. And someone or some believers along the line, failed to obey.
So has the church failed? Yes and no. She has done what Jesus knew she would do. If one were to read Revelations 2 & 3, one can see, Jesus calls the Overcomer to overcome despite the church. So Jesus has put discipleship and Kingdom teaching into the hands of the overcomers because the church has failed in that area. But this provision came at the last book of the Bible. The church goes on, birthing, birthing and birthing, sometimes uncontrollably and irresponsibly at its own cost and at the cost of the babes in Christ.
The church has not lost it's position in Christ, Christ Himself will judge the church before He will judge the world:
1 Pet 4:17: For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
Christ has not abandoned the church, though some churches may have abandoned Him.
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.
We must continue to assemble as believers and not forsake the church.
I discuss 2 1/2 church movements who have continued in traditions rather than cross over Jordan here:
The church in many places and congregations has failed in the Biblical construction of church government.
Click here to learn about Church Leadership
Some churches have abusive leaders or ministers. I discuss this here:
Click here for Eldership Rule
So, are you ready to be a disciple of Christ? Here is a page I wrote, defining by scripture, what a disciple is and does:
Click here for discipleship