The Worst Worldliness in the World

There are often discussions among holiness-minded Apostolics about avoiding worldliness. And this is a good thing. Lord knows, we need to avoid being worldly. The warning of John stills thunders, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” But in our carefulness to avoid worldliness, we sometimes miss the worst worldliness in the world–what Paul calls “self-made religion.” Look at what he said: 

“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:20-23) 
The key here is “the elemental spirits of the world.” This is the stoicheia (rendered “elements,” “rudiments” and “principles” in the KJV) that Paul speaks of now and then. The stoicheia are the “spirit-systems” that make up the religious, political and social structures of the world. If I may oversimplify it a bit, the stoicheia are the systems of the world that the principalities and powers indwell in order to control the affairs of men.

When scripture warns us about the evil of the world, this is “the world” being referenced. There are two “worlds,” as it were: the world of God’s good creation, which God loves; and the world of the fallen system that lies in darkness under the control of rebel powers who resist the irresistible rule of King Jesus. This is the world that stands in defiance as the enemy of God, and this is the world that God hates and that we must refuse to love. 
The stoicheia that Paul condemns here in Colossians 2 is the stoicheia of Judaism. Paul preaches against “human precepts and teachings” that flow out of tradition and not out of Christ. This alerts us to a sobering reality: self-made religion becomes a stoicheia. a spirit-system that evil powers indwell in order to control the souls of men. This means that any form of religion that is based on regulations that flow out of human tradition rather than out of the teaching of Jesus is actually a part of the world system that God so deeply hates. 
Think about this now. Self-made religion, and that would include any and all forms of Apostolic practice that do not flow out of Jesus, is a part of “the world.” And, since this form of worldliness masquerades as holiness, it is the most dangerous of all worldliness-es. (Pardon the ungrammatical plural there. Couldn’t think of better way to say it.) There is no worse way to be worldly than to be falsely religious. 
I think we need to think about this. Everything we teach and preach must flow out of Jesus, out of His teaching and the teaching of His apostles. Whatever we embrace and preserve that is nothing more than tradition must be discarded before it becomes a house that is “empty, swept and garnished.” This sort of religious chicanery is exactly what Jesus warned against when He used the empty house example–the empty house was Israel’s temple that had become the habitation of demons. It had become the stoicheia. 
The bottom line is that our holiness doctrine must conform to Christ. Otherwise, our “holiness” becomes the worst worldliness in the world. 


Published by Steve Pixler

Steve Pixler is lead pastor of Freedom Life Church in Mansfield, TX. Steve lives in Mansfield with his wife, Jeana, and their six children.

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  1. Great article! I feel that some people only know the rule and not the ruler. Holiness is necessary, but the type that is heart-felt and desired. Not the type that only appears to outwardly “fit in”, and is void of the living God. I fear this condition is more prevent than we like to admit.

    1. I hear statements like yours all the time.

      Since when do Apostolic’s let hypocrites dictate the legitimacy of Holiness or let their (hypocrites) hypocrisy negate true Holiness, both inward and outward?

      You can have a “holiness” appearance on the outside and be plum rotten on the inside. But, you can’t have salvation and true “inward holiness” and it NOT be present in “appearance” on the outward appearance of a child of God in both “dress and speech”.
      So I’ll revert back to my original question above ^

  2. I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately about Apostolic’s and their man-made religious ideas and traditions. Bro. Pixler, apparently you had something on your mind when you wrote this. My question is this, exactly what are you referring to, SPECIFICALLY?

    What are you seeing Apostolic’s adhere to, practice, embrace and/or preach and teach in your travels that are traditions, man-made or “falsely religious” standards, SPECIFICALLY?

    What must we discard “before it becomes a house that is “empty, swept and garnished”,
    SPECIFICALLY, what standards, teachings or fence lines must we discard?

    This is not meant to be confrontational. I’d just like to hear your opinion.

    God Bless You

    1. Concerned Apostolic:

      I am not Bro. Pixler, so I am only speaking on behalf of myself. In my opinion the Holiness of some (not all) Apostolics is qualified by a list if “standards”, or rules. When someone is only concerned with keeping the rule, they have put their confidence in that rule and not the indwelling Spirit to guide them. This was exactly what the indictment of the Pharisees was based on. The laws, or rules in of themselves are not bad. The issue is that some people make them their God. Galatians 3:24-25 paints a contrasting picture of being led by the the law, versus faith. The law, while good was our “schoolmaster” to point us toward faith. Laws or rules were never meant, nor able to save you.

      It is my observance that some Apostolics have yet to leave the comfort zone of their rules, and make the leap of faith. However, there have many who have. The ones I meet who are cold, and frankly miserable are the ones yet to discover this level of relationship with God. They are so focused on the very “appearance of Godliness”, and it is eating them alive.

      We need to preach more principles than rules. You can’t make enough rules to address every possible situation that may face a Saint. But if we teach and preach principled based living, the ones who are serious about God will be better off. Rules are no replacement for prayer and being sensitive to the HG.

      I do agree with you when you say that true holiness will be inside and out. In my opinion most Apostolics have perfected the outside, and neglected the heart. They want a way to “prove” their salvation, to qualify themselves inside the Church. How about this idea: You were saved and adopted when you were Baptized in Jesus name, filled with the HG, and spoke with other tongues as the SPIRIT gave the utterance.

      1. Brad T, holiness is a work of salvation, not a work to salvation. When you say MOST Apostolics ….. Friend thats a broad stroke your making.
        Let me ask you this, what “rules” are you referring to? So we are on the same page.

  3. Concerned Apostolic:

    The stroke is as broad as the people who live by rules to save them. The rules I talk about are really too numerous to list. But I can highlight a few: Long sleeves at all times, No TV, and you can’t fellowship a Church that’s not in my “circle”. While the rules on long sleeves and TV may not be bad, they are interpretive. As with most things, they can be manipulated against God. The Bible is clear, God created EVERYTHING, he is the prieminent source of all. That includes the TV. That being said, Satan has always sought to manipulate and destroy God’s creations.

    The one against fellowship is, in my opinion based in control and conflict. Pastors don’t want to lose their Saints, nor do they want anyone questioning their rules. Fellowship with other Churches opens this door. So what? If your rules are just then they can stand up to scrutiny.

    I once heard Steve say something to this effect “if my youth use their cell phone to sext amoung themselves, most people will say to ban cell phones. The cell phone isn’t the issue, it’s the HEARTS DESIRE to commit such sin in the first place”.

    That brings me to my point. You can ban TV, you can make any rule you want, but that will never change their heart. If its not the TV, it’s the Internet, or cell phone, or Facebook, etc. Ban one, they will find another way.

    From my point of view it almost seems like we don’t trust, have faith or believe that God works in people’s lives. Creating a list of rules and standards competes, if not replaces God.
    Let God perfect his work through the Holy Ghost.

  4. Good stuff! We certainly need a balance in this area. It is foolish of any us to assume that we need no correction from the Spirit in how we view the role of rules in the christian walk. This is one of the most common topics in the new testament and we do well to search it out.

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