The concept of “church” (ekklēsia) was a gathering of people, not as members of any organization or under any “leader”, but a people who came together to help each other live as Jesus commanded them: perfect, sinless and commandment keeping. They admonished each other, encouraged each other, strengthened each other and loved each other as Jesus had loved them - unto death. Today, church members don’t even know one another. I mean “know”! How can you help church members stop sinning when you don’t know their sins? Listening to your pastor teach “goody-goody” sermons, reading your church or denomination’s “goody-goody” propaganda is not the same as you, individually, standing up and admonishing, encouraging and helping the one next to you stop sinning. All churches today are of the Catholic system.
The early Christians realized that their salvation was not in any organization or a belief in any specific set of doctrines. They looked back upon their “church membership” experience and saw how destructive it was. It was their “church of love” that put Jesus on the cross. Therefore, they separated from their church realizing their salvation was in obedience to Jesus and His teachings. Their salvation was in knowing Jesus personally. They were not “under” any human or church “chain of command” and therefore they could do as the Spirit of God directed each individual. Without “permission” from any worldly “chain of command” they could step out and individually present a message that was not in any way connected with any religion, organization or church. Remember, the Jews had come to John the Baptist and Jesus asking, “Who gave you this authority?” That is what “church” is all about. All churches are about “authority”. All churches are trying to brainwash you into believing they have the “authority” from God to teach and control you. For a Christian the “Authority” is Jesus, not a church or any organization. In the name of Jesus, we are all to step out of our churches - being full of grace and power from the Holy Spirit.
However, the church could not accept that concept. Revenge was in the church system. It could not allow a change to the church system. The leaders received their power, money, prestige and honor from the church system. Their pride, ego and arrogance would not allow them to accept the simple plan of salvation which Jesus offered.
Acts 6:8 to Acts 7:60
Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.
Stephen was not sitting in church. Stephen was not listening to his church pastor. Stephen was “full of grace and power” and “performing great wonders and signs among the people”. Why? Because he had a personal relationship with Jesus. He was listening to, learning from and living in obedience to Jesus and what Jesus had commanded of him. He was full of the Spirit of God. What wonders and signs are you performing among those around you? Are you full of grace and power from Jesus? Or are you full of church, spouting church doctrine and church regulations?
But some men who belonged to the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), as well as some Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and men from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and began to debate with Stephen.
Oh yes, men from the church “stood up and began to debate with Stephen”. Church does not want you living for Jesus. Church does not want you teaching the teachings of Jesus. You disturb their “church” peace. You make them look like “sinners” and they can’t stand that. They are very happy and contented in their self-righteous church and they don’t want you telling them they are sinners and lost. They do not want to hear that their church system has no value for eternal life.
But they could neither refute the wisdom nor withstand the Spirit by which he kept speaking.
I have experienced this in my life. Church people have come against me, but they are not able to refute the wisdom nor withstand the Spirit by which this ministry speaks. Here is a letter from a former donor:
It troubled us that you wrote that we should only use Jesus words for counsel in the Bible. Wasn’t the whole Bible inspired by the Holy Spirit? (II Timothy 3:16) Our understanding has been that Holy men wrote as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit and that we should worship with like believers on God’s Holy Sabbath, the seventh day of the week. Church can be where two or three are gathered together to worship God.
It is the words of Jesus that help us understand the words from the whole Bible. After all, the whole Bible is from Jesus. Like the Pharisees, Howard is nit-picking in order to defend his self-righteous life of going to church. Interesting, not once in the Bible will you read where we are to go to church on the Sabbath. We are to keep the Sabbath holy, but going to church is not keeping the Sabbath holy. Obviously, he has been going to church and listening to the Catholic system instead of Jesus. Obviously, like the Pharisees, he does not believe he needs anything outside of his church. The churches of today are not “worshiping God”. The church system of today is the “antichrist” system set up by the Catholic Church to take you away from living in obedience to Jesus. You go to church instead of going to Jesus. After all, the Catholics, Mormons, Baptist and all the other churches read from the Bible also. Reading from the Bible won’t get you into heaven. Lucifer reads from it and knows it by heart. Only those who are living the perfect, sinless and commandment keeping life “believe” in Jesus. However, the following is from one who left her church in obedience to Jesus and is truly worshiping God. God is blessing her so much. After I showed her the e-mail from Howard and a letter from a former inmate, she replied:
"Take heart, dear friend. The former inmate has gotten a glimpse through the pearly gates . . . something that Howard has failed to see. It’s going to be worth it, Ron. Just you wait and see. I took the place of someone who dropped out. Others, too, will fill in the gaps."
And yes, she and others have. God has blessed her so much. She is supporting this ministry mightily. She is also actively working for Jesus, not sitting in a church. She has already requested five cases of books and has been distributing them around her community. She is a real missionary for Jesus. But church members are gathering against God’s people while they sit in church.
So they secretly got some men to say, “We have heard him speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God.”
You see, that is always the problem. They couldn’t refute the truth Stephen was speaking, so they riled up the “good” church people because he was speaking against “their” church. And of course, they threw in “Moses” just to make their church look legitimate. It has always been church people who persecute the people of God. They can’t stand anyone speaking against “their” church. After all, their church is an extension of their pride and ego. How dare anyone point out the uselessness of their church.
They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes. Then they rushed at Stephen, grabbed him, and brought him before the Council.
If you speak the truth about the churches today, you also will be “rushed at” and mistreated and brought before the church council. Churches don’t love God. They love their organizations! How dare God not accept their man-made, self-righteous organizations. That is why in Revelation all churches are called the “whores” of the “Prostitute”. The “Prostitute” being the Catholic Church.
I was giving Bible studies to a member who went to church on the Sabbath. It was a Sabbath morning and we were quietly studying in a side room. The elders of the church came in and bodily picked me up and threw me out. How dare anyone hold Bible studies in their church on Sabbath! Blasphemy!
They had false witnesses stand up and say, “This man never stops saying things against this Holy Place and against the Law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus from Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.”
Actually, the “false witnesses” were not “false” in the true sense of the word. Jesus and the disciples were “saying things against this Holy Place and against the Law”. That “Law” was the law of the “customs that Moses handed down to us”. This was not the Ten Commandment Law, but the temple laws. The death of Jesus did away with the temple and its laws of ceremonies, services, rituals, feast days and customs. None of that was important for salvation. They were the “arrows” that pointed the way to Jesus and the plan of salvation. But the church had turned aside from following the narrow path where the arrows pointed. The church made the ceremonies, services, rituals, feast days and customs more important than the keeping of the Ten Commandments.
Stephen was telling the truth, Jesus would destroy their temple and their place. In 70 and again 130, Jesus used the Romans to destroy the temple and Jerusalem, the “holy” place of the Jews. But the Jews refused to listen. They clung to the “customs that Moses handed down” instead of looking to Jesus who came from God. They refused to live by the Ten Commandments to change their wicked lives. Church and church interpretation of the Bible was more important than the teachings of God. And so it is today. The church is all important while the teachings of Jesus to stop sinning, be perfect and to keep the Ten Commandments to get our eternal life are trampled upon. Church members carry their Bibles like some carry a crucifix. It is all for show. But not one church member is obedient to Jesus. Not even those who go to church on Sabbath. Jesus never said, “go to church” on Sabbath. Jesus commands us to keep it “holy” by stop sinning, being perfect and keeping the Ten Commandments to get our eternal life.
Then everyone who was seated in the Council glared at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Absolutely. If you teach the teachings of Jesus and how He will destroy their church if they do not change their lives, they will glare at you. Don’t speak against their idol: the church. If you do, be prepared to die.
Then the high priest asked, “Is this true?” Stephen replied: “Listen, brothers and fathers! “The glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham while he was in Mesopotamia before he settled in Haran.
Stephen is attempting to reason with them. After all, Stephen knew his Old Testament in which God invites, “Please come, and let’s reason together,” Isaiah 1:18. But church people don’t want to “reason” together. They hate truth. They want church. They want their church to tell them they can go on living in sin and still be saved. Don’t even try to reason with them about truth. They will hurl stones out of their mouths at you.
Stephen is going to take the council back down through their history to remind them that God is not a God of any temple, people or church. He is the God of the whole world. He will tell them God does not live in their ridiculous temple (church). So, he started by showing them that God took a Gentile (uncircumcised, non-church member) and:
God told him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land I will show you.’ So he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. Then after the death of his father, God had him move to this country where you now live.
We also are to leave our churches-countries and families and prepare to go to the Land of Canaan. Like Abraham, if we stay with our church or family, we will not be able to prepare our characters for Heaven. God had to separate me from the church, family and everyone in order to change my life and prepare me for this work. What he did for Joseph, He did for me. The influences of family and church are just too strong and will keep us from developing our characters for Heaven.
God gave him no property here, not even a foot of land, yet he promised to give it to him and to his descendants after him as a permanent possession, even though he had no child.
We claim to be “Christians” and yet, how we fight and work hard to get property here in this world. We live like there is no Heaven, while we fight over our churches. Like Abraham, only by getting out of your church will you be able to look back and see the absurdity of it all.
And just think, Abraham was loved by God, talked with God, walked with God and none of it had anything to do with a temple, church building or denominational organization. The council is beginning to see his reasoning and they are not liking it.
“This is what God promised: His descendants would be strangers in a foreign country, and its people would enslave them and oppress them for 400 years.
If you live without church, church people will persecute you. Religions must have members to bow down to them, to sacrifice to them and to pay them lots of money and attention. God invites you to come out and be free. Like Abraham, leave and experience the freedom of serving God as an individual, responsible only to God.
‘But I will punish the nation they serve,’ said God, ‘and afterwards they will leave and worship me in this place.’
Yes, God is now beginning to punish the churches people are serving, and this world. He is starting with those churches who go to church on Sabbath, claiming to be His people and the remnant. But they will not be going to Heaven. If you have not left your church to serve Jesus now, you will not be taken to Heaven. The churches do not want you to know that fact. They are hiding the information. Talk about “fake news”, the churches are constantly spewing out “fake news”.
Later, God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. Later, he fathered Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day. Then Isaac fathered Jacob, and Jacob fathered the twelve patriarchs.
This is where the Jews got it all wrong. Circumcision had nothing to do with being a descendant of Abraham. It had to do with belonging to God. The Bible is full of explaining that it wasn’t the physical act of circumcision, but the spiritual act of accepting God as your “God”. Circumcision was like a police officer earning his badge. It wasn’t the badge that made him a police officer, but his commitment to live and serve as a police officer. If he broke the law, the badge would not keep him from the consequences. The same with the Jews. If they broke the Law of God, the Ten Commandments, circumcision would not save them. The whole concept of circumcision was to say, “We have made a commitment to be ‘slaves’ of the living God and to serve Him only”. That is why in both Old and New Testaments God kept reminding them that they needed to, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD and remove the foreskin of your heart”. Jeremiah 4:4. Church members today prefer the Ten Commandments written on a plaque while they go to church and continue in sin.
This is what Stephen was attempting to explain, but the church did not want to hear it. To them, circumcision was a sign, a seal of their belonging to God no matter what the condition of the heart. They were sealed for eternal life by being circumcised, going to church on Sabbath and following all the church rituals, traditions, feast days and festivals. The same with the churches today. They believe that all you have to do is be baptized and belong to “our” church and you are saved. They look at you funny if you tell them you belong to Jesus but don’t go to church.
“Joseph’s brothers became jealous of him and sold Joseph as a slave in Egypt.
Stephen is attempting to compare the treatment the Jews gave Jesus to the examples he is now about to give. He wanted them to stop, think and reason about what they were doing. To look at their “system” of religion and see how senseless and destructive it was. Their church was persecuting God through the servants He was sending them. Yes, they had the forms God gave them, but the meaning and understanding of those forms had long since been forgotten. the church system was all that mattered.
The Jews thought they were “saved” by belonging to the church system. The brothers of Joseph thought they were “saved” from any consequence simply because they were the “sons” of Jacob. They hated the favored son of the father. And so, the Jews hated the favored Son of the Father. The churches are still hating Him.
However, God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles. He granted him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler of Egypt and of his whole household.
God did the same with Jesus. The church killed Him, but God rescued Him from the tomb and granted Him favor and wisdom and sat Him down on a throne in Heaven.
“But a famine spread throughout Egypt and Canaan, and with it great suffering, and our ancestors couldn’t find any food.
There was a great famine of the “Word of God” taking place. Stephen is attempting to show that Jesus, like Joseph, was sent to provide the spiritual food for their famine. But they were not interested in the spiritual food Jesus had to offer. They wanted the old, tainted, dried and rotten crusts of the church they had been gnawing on for centuries.
But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors on their first trip. On their second trip, Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph introduced his family to Pharaoh. Then Joseph invited his father Jacob and all his relatives to come to him in Egypt—75 persons in all. So Jacob went down to Egypt. Then he and our ancestors died. They were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought at a high price from Hamor’s descendants in Shechem.
Stephen is trying to get across to them that going to Egypt was only a temporary solution. Same in their circumstances. The temple was only a temporary solution until the One to whom it pointed came to deliver them. But again, they did not want to hear that. The temple-church system is what gave them their wealth, prestige and identity as belonging to God.
“Now as the time approached for the fulfillment of the promise that God had made to Abraham, the people’s population increased a great deal in Egypt. Eventually, a different king who had not known Joseph became ruler of Egypt. By shrewdly scheming against our people, he oppressed our ancestors and forced them to abandon their infants to the elements, so that they wouldn’t live.
How often we refuse to recognize those sent to save us. Egypt could have been a wonderful power for the glory of God in the world. But it didn’t want anything to do with these “foreigners”. They rejected the influence and love that Joseph had given them. To the Jewish leaders, Jesus was a “foreigner”. Jesus fed them and healed them, but they pretended not to know Him. Church members look at this ministry in the very same way.
“At this time Moses was born. He was beautiful in the sight of God, and for three months he was cared for in his father’s house. When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. So Moses learned all the wisdom of the Egyptians and became a great man, both in words and in deeds. “When he was 40 years old, he decided to visit his brothers, the descendants of Israel. When he saw one of them being mistreated, he defended him and avenged the man who was being mistreated by killing the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was using him to rescue them, but they didn’t understand. The next day he presented himself to some of them while they were fighting and tried to reconcile them. He said, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why should you be hurting another?’ “But the man who was harming his neighbor pushed Moses away and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? You don’t want to kill me like you killed the Egyptian yesterday, do you?’ Because of this, Moses fled and lived as a foreigner in the land of Midian. There he had two sons.
Jesus was also born and laid in a “basket” in a manger. He too had been brought up in a palace, the palace of the King of the Universe. He supposed “that His brothers would understand that God was using Him to rescue them” from sin. But they did not want to understand. They loved their sins in the same way as the Israelites kept wanting to go back to Egypt.
Over and over again the Spirit is speaking through Stephen, attempting to open their minds by using the examples of the Old Testament. But the rulers would not be taught. They refused to understand. Like Pharaoh, they did not want God interfering with their church system. While they claimed to love God, they fought for their church.
“After 40 years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and when he approached the bush to look at it, the voice of the Lord said, I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses became terrified and didn’t dare to look. Then the Lord told him, ‘Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.
“Holy ground” had nothing to do with a temple or church; it had to do with the presence of God. The temple the Jews were claiming to be “holy” was actually built by Herod. Jesus brought holiness to it when He walked in it, but they threw Him out. They turned it into a den of thieves. A whorehouse.
“The old temple built by Zerubbabel was replaced by a magnificent edifice. An agreement was made between Herod and the Jewish religious authorities: the sacrificial rituals, called offerings, were to be continued unabated for the entire time of construction, and the Temple itself would be constructed by the priests.” Wikipedia
How “holy” was that? There was nothing “holy” about anything the church claimed was “holy”. And yet they clung to their forms and dead rituals unable to see they were being dragged down to eternal death by them. The same is happening today with our churches, denominations and religious systems. They have become dead forms, doing nothing to prepare people for Heaven. People in them are being oppressed. Jesus has come to rescue them.
I have surely seen the oppression of my people in Egypt and have heard their groans, and I have come down to rescue them. Now come, I will send you to Egypt.’ “This same Moses—whom they rejected by saying ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’—was the man whom God sent to be both their ruler and deliverer with the help of the angel who had appeared to him in the bush. It was he who led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for 40 years.
As the children of God rejected Moses, who had been appointed by God to be their ruler and judge, so they had rejected Jesus who was appointed by God to be their eternal ruler and judge. God raised up this ministry and appointed it to teach you how to prepare for Heaven. In a sense, this ministry is your “eternal ruler and judge” since your eternal destiny depends on what you do with it. What will you do?
It was this Moses who told the Israelis, ‘God will raise up a prophet for you from among your own brothers, just as he did me.’ This Moses is the one who was in the assembly in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai and to our ancestors. He received living truths to give to us, but our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and wished to return to Egypt.
Jesus came and offered them a new life, a Promised Land far beyond their wildest dreams. But they rejected Him and wished to remain in their “Egypt” of slavery to sin and church.
They told Aaron, ‘Make gods for us who will lead us. This Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt—we don’t know what happened to him!’ “At that time they even made a calf to be their idol, offered a sacrifice to it, and delighted in what they had made with their hands. So God turned away from them and gave them over to worship the heavenly bodies. As it is written in the book of the Prophets: ‘O house of Israel, you didn’t offer me slaughtered animals and sacrifices those 40 years in the wilderness, did you? You even took along the tent of Moloch, the star of your god Rephan, and the images you made in order to worship them. So I will take you into exile as far as Babylon.’
Stephen joins together the two experiences, the rejection of God by the people of Moses in the wilderness and the rejection of God by the Israelites in the Promised Land. Both wanted what the pagan world had to offer. Oh, they kept up with the temple services and rituals, ceremonies and ordinances, but they refused to “serve” God. No, they wanted His blessings while they gave themselves to the world. Therefore, God rejected them both. Instead of serving God through a life of righteousness, they served a church of ceremonies, systems, feast days, traditions and rituals through a life of sin.
“Our ancestors had the Tent of Testimony in the wilderness constructed, just as the one who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern he had seen. Our ancestors brought it here with Joshua when they replaced the nations that God drove out in front of our ancestors, and it was here until the time of David. He found favor with God and asked to design a dwelling for the house of Jacob, but it was Solomon who built a house for him.
Stephen is showing that the Tent of Testimony and the temple Solomon built did nothing for the salvation of the people when they turned their backs on God. God rejected them when they refused to live the righteous, sinless, perfect and commandment keeping life. They showed great reverence for the temple but gave none to God. And so it is today in our churches. We revere our churches and denominations while we turn our backs on God by refusing to live as He commands: perfect, sinless and commandment keeping.
However, the Most High does not live in buildings made by human hands. As the prophet says, “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house can you build for me,’ declares the Lord, “or what place is there in which I can rest? It was my hand that made all these things, wasn’t it?’”
God hates our churches. He doesn’t need a church building, He needs a heart to dwell in. He doesn’t need a denomination, He needs a people who will live in obedience to Him. All the hypocritical worship in church will do us no good, as it did the Jews no good. “‘Oh, that one of you would shut the Temple (church) doors. . . I’m not pleased with you,’ says the LORD of the Heavenly Armies, ‘and I’ll accept no offerings from you.’” Malachi 1:10. If you do not get out of your church and return to God with all your heart, the message Stephen gave the Jews is the one for you.
“You stubborn people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors fail to persecute? They killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You received the Law as ordained by angels, and yet you haven’t obeyed it!”
How true that is. Especially those who go to church on Sabbath, just like the Jews, they have “received the Law as ordained by angels, and yet you haven’t obeyed it?” God even sent them a modern-day prophet and they have refused to live in obedience to God’s messages through that prophet. Going to church on the Sabbath is not the same as living the perfect, sinless and commandment keeping life. Going to church does not make the Sabbath “holy”. Holiness comes by being holy. To be holy is to live as Jesus lived: perfect, sinless and commandment keeping.
While they were listening to these things, they became more and more furious and began to grind their teeth at him.
And so it is, church members who claim to be “of God” and the “remnant” are the ones who hate those of us who have been sent by God to bring them Life. The message we bring from God is to bless them, but they want their church filled with religion, not Jesus. Therefore, they are becoming more furious at this ministry.
But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. He said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
Jesus isn’t in your church or denomination. Jesus is standing at the right hand of God. He wants to fill you with the Holy Spirit. But to do that, you must look straight into heaven and see the glory of God. If you are looking into your church, you will not see the glory of God, but man. How Catholic.
The Jews were looking into their temple-church, built by Herod, a pagan man, and refused to see Jesus, their God, standing in front of them. It was called, “Herod’s temple”. My, my, how deluded the people were. It wasn’t even “God’s temple”. But that is what “church” does to our minds. People going to church are doing the very same thing today. They keep looking into a man-made building thinking God is there. He isn’t. They are totally missing Jesus.
But they shouted out loud, stopped listening, and together they all rushed at him, ran him outside of the city, and began to stone him to death. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they continued to stone Stephen, he kept praying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them!” After he had said this, he died.
And so it is! Church people shout, stop listening and rush me and this ministry. They don’t want to hear the truth that God is not in their church. They love their church, but they have no love for God. It is “self-delusion” on the part of church-going people. They live in a fantasy world that has no basis in reality. But they don’t want to hear it.