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I have often written about the spirit of denominationalism in the church, by which men belong to the church, rather than to Christ. Or, more specifically, their first loyalty is to the church, not to Christ.
The Bible describes it as man’s natural (soulish) desire to be ruled by men, rather than by God Himself (directly). It was the problem seen at the coronation of King Saul, where the people insisted upon being ruled by a man. The people saw nothing wrong with this, for they did not understand the underlying issue. But God saw it and explained it to Samuel in 1 Samuel 8:7,
7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.”
This was similar to what Israel did at the base of Mount Horeb, when they sent Moses up the Mount to hear the rest of the law, not wanting to go up themselves. They wanted an indirect relationship with God.
Psalm 95:7, 8 refers to this event and others similar to it, saying,
7 … Today, if you would hear His voice, 8 do not harden your hearts…
The Christians of the first few centuries knew that they were part of the universal church if they enjoyed a direct relationship with Christ. Their relationship did not depend upon men or organizations or religious hierarchies. To be a church member was to have one’s name enrolled in heaven, not in earthly organizations (Hebrews 12:23). But gradually, the thinking evolved, and the church was redefined as the earthly organization, and finally to the Roman organization, which was called “the church.”
This was a slow evolution from the direct rule of Christ to the indirect rule of Christ through men. It was the same problem as seen in the story of Saul’s coronation. Most of the people, not knowing the Scriptures, did not realize what was happening. Like the Israelites in earlier times, they did not understand that they were rejecting God Himself. But God knew, and He took it personally.
The church organization eventually removed from the people the right to hear God for themselves—unless, of course, it agreed with church creeds and the traditions of men. It was assumed that the church could do no wrong and could not be corrupted. This prideful attitude was seen also in ancient Israel, and it got the prophets into trouble. But in the end, the glory departed from Israel in Samuel’s time, and later from Jerusalem in the days of Ezekiel.
The bottom line is that Scripture shows that the prophets had a direct relationship with God that was independent of the tabernacle at Shiloh or (later) the temple of Solomon.
So listen to this short video of Pope Francis, who reasserts the religious spirit that runs the Vatican. He makes my point very clear when he says that it is dangerous for any Christian to have a direct relationship with Jesus and that one can only get to God through the “church,” by which he means the Roman organization.