Beware Of Closed Religious Circles

first pub. 4.4.14

Ezekiel14, 6-7: "So tell the Israelites that this is what the Lord God says: Repent, turn from your idols, turn your backs on all your abominations. 7 If anyone, Israelite or resident alien, renounces me, setting his heart on idols and fixing his eyes on sinful things that cause his downfall- if such a one comes to consult me through a prophet, I, the Lord shall give him his answer directly.  

Luke6,39: "Can one blind man lead another? Will they not both fall into the ditch?" 

Revelation18,4: "I heard another voice from heaven saying" 'Come out of her, my people, lest you have any part in her sins and you share in her plagues..."

Membership-Attendance Does Not Define Salvation

Have you ever been in a denomination, or church, where your membership or attendance, or not, is used to define your personal salvation?

But hey wait, the word and God's Spirit define my salvation.

Say a church "evangelizes" someone using their pet doctrines, customs, and cultural practices. And even, for good measure, sprinkles in some authentic gospel.

But  the target person decides "y'all aren't really for me. Thanks anyway."

As the core group breaks down what happened, the conclusion sometimes is "well so and so just wasn't predestined, not one of us, not going to be saved."


He didn't join up with us.

Well come on! 

For core groups like these, Jesus said "watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Saducees." (Matthew 16,6). These religious power brokers made/make it seem as if we have to be one of them, on the inside, have to join the power elite, no matter our heart and soul might shrink to the texture and size of walnut.

"Watch out" as you spread the word-based gospel, there are folks who have hidden side deals and want to make sure their own religious circle stays closed.

Nobody else can get a word in.

But we Christians teach and prophesy. "God does nothing without revelaling his secret to his servants the prophets." Amos 3,7. We all share in the same prophetic salvation witness to Jesus and the same basic biblical gospel wherever we are.

After that, we leave the matter of one's final salvation, and where folks want to worship, to personal choice, and the mercy and sovereignty of God.

We accept what Jesus said- let the brother or sister be in peace who is using his Name outside our group: "Whoever is not against us, is for us." (Mark9,40)

We might get glimpses of the faith fitness of folks inside or outside our ranks, by our fruits we know each other, but the word also says 'we know in part and prophesy in part.' So, only God fully knows if somebody has the gospel faith to get to heaven. Only God knows the full particulars of his predestination doctrine.

Yes, we have biblical milestone markers, and we teach them, such as water and Spirit baptism, but God is the one who decides our salvation in the end.

Denominations are religious corporations. It's the easiest way to organize and defend the group's legal and economic interests. But God talks to us as individuals, not to church corporations, to us as prophets, apostles, evangelists, pastor-teachers (Apostles4,11), deacons, and to all those who have his Spirit.

He talks to all those in His living Body.

(He even talked to Balaam's donkey, a donkey got the message, and spoke up!)

So we are all welcome to speak up, the word and Spirit belong to all of us and,  Praise Jesus, our tongues have been loosed by Pentecost.

The body of Christ, the church, is like a vast Spiritual ocean. Those of us in it can swim anywhere, and live and breath, and celebrate our faith, with others in the same living waters of his boundless body.

But sometimes, and more and more, churches are more like any other corporation. They have modern office buildings, and their doors are open to those who play by their own particular brand of group politics.

God Breaks Closed Religious Circles

Ezekiel 14,6-7 is on point regarding our subject of closed religious circles.

The elders of Israel come to the false house prophets of Judah, but now God refuses them any word because both the elders and the prophets have broken their allegiance from God. They have no intent on what God says to do. They are both wearing a masks and are idolators and playing their roles.

The exact context of this estrangement here in Ezekiel 14 is not clear. But it was clear that the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, for decades, if not centuries, before Judah's Babylonian exile in 586 BC, were trusting in foreign military alliances for their safety, not in God's true prophetic word, which was for Israel and Judah was basically to sit tight and trust him (cf Deuteronomy17,16).

For example, Ahaz, king of Judah from 732-716 BC was told by Isaiah to stand aloof from King Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Damascus who sought Judah's alliance against Assyria, which had captured the north of Israel in 722 BC (Isaiah 7).

Ahaz immediatly caved and ran to the King of Assyria (2Kings16,7).

Even the historically judged 'good' king Hezekiah (son of Ahaz, 715-686 BC) ran  from foreign pillar (to Assyria 2Kings18,13ff) to foreign post (to Babylon 2Kings20,12ff) making alliances when it was God that would always be her safety (2Kings19,35-37).

Judah's trust in its closed religious circle continued with the Judahite King, Zedekiah (597-586 BC). Even though he was the puppet king of Babylon, and even though God approved the deal that left Jerusalem some semblence of self rule and respect (after the initial wave of exile in 597 BC), Zedekiah immediatly made a side deal with Egypt (Ezekiel 17,7) when it was clear that God had long provided Babylonian rule as Judah's soft landing (Ezekiel 17,4-6). 

So Nebuchadnezzar sieged Jerusalem in 589 BC and finished off carrying Judah into exile within three years (1Kings25,1ff). 

Not trusting God for safety had broken Judah's allegiance to God.

So here at Ezekiel 14 God says 'we're not going to play this game of idolator elders (the king's elders) going to idolator house prophets for words "from God" that supposedly help Judah.

v. 10-11:"And they shall bear their punishment- the punishment of the inquirer and the punishment of the prophet shall be the same- 11 so that the house of Israel may no longer go astray from them, nor defile themselves any more with all their transgressions. The they shall be my people, and I will be their God, says the Lord God."

In other words, God himself will answer both the elder and house prophet personally and thereby break the closed religious circle that didn't heed the biblical prophets.

So by his personal answers, and by seventy years of exile, God broke the closed religious circle of Judah that would not heed God's message to depend on Him for safety.

Closed Religious System- The Blind Leading The Blind

So beware of closed religious circles.

Because we can end up like King Zedekiah.

He was blinded by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar for his double-dealing (2Kings25,1).

The last thing Zedekiah saw was his two sons killed. Then he was blinded, put in chains, leading his disgraced cadre to Babylon. (2Kings25,7) 

"The blind leading the blind." Luke 6,39

Revelation 18,4 says that in the last church age the world's religious system(s) will be a closed circle, and so he says "come out of her my people..."



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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.