Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dividing, or Not, Over Divisive Issues

It's inevitable that issues will arise over which two parties disagree. When this happens, I can think of only five possibilities to resolve the difference. For example, if half of your home church congregation believes hands should not be raised in the assembly, and the other half thinks it's a good thing, here are the five options:

1. One party persuades the other party of their position. For example, the hand-raising half convinces the non-hand-raising half that hand-raising in the assembly is Biblical (or vice-versa). Unity is retained.

2. One party submits to the other party, without being persuaded. For example, the hand-raising half continues believing it's a good thing, but refrains from raising hands in the assembly in order to remain in harmony with the non-hand-raising half. Unity is retained.

3. Both parties tolerate the disagreement without splitting up. Some raise their hands in the assembly, and some don't, recognizing that each servant is accountable to God, not to "me". Unity is retained.

4. The two parties split up for "irreconcilable differences", but amicably, retaining a "one-ness" in heart while not necessarily in mindset. A separate congregation is formed so that hands can be raised in one assembly but not the other, yet the two sister congregations otherwise retain full fellowship with one another. Unity is retained.

5. The two parties split up, and "divorce" one another, making the issue a "test of fellowship". Likely, at least one of the two halves declares the other "liberal" or "legalistic', and "apostate". Unity is lost.

"Unity" does not mean "uniformitarianism". A wife and a husband may disagree strongly with one issue or another, but that shouldn't break their basic unity. It's the same with Christian unity.

Originally published at:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Notes on the "Church of Christ"

1. "church" is probably not a particularly good word for translating what Jesus promised to build, "ekklesia", which is better translated as "community" or "assembly", or even better, "those called-out into an assembly" (which is admittedly somewhat unwieldy). The earliest translators of the Bible into English knew better than to translate the word as "church", but when King James gave his approval for an English translation, one of his 14 rules upon which he insisted was to keep the old Catholic words like "baptize" and "church", thereby keeping the baggage that goes along with those words.

The point is that Jesus didn't build an organization so much as he built an organism. It might seem like a minor thing, but the concept reaches far into how we perceive our mission.

2. The church of christ in Corinth had splintered into denominations. Paul said this shouldn't be, but even so, he considered these denominational members as saints, members of the church of God (1 Cor 1:2, 10ff).

3. The "church of God" is, as are many other terms, just as Biblical as "church of Christ".

4. In Acts 15:28, it "seemed good to the Holy Spirit" and to the church leaders and apostles, that the church be composed of two distinct groups, having different practices (one observed the law of Moses; one didn't). We see this same division elsewhere in the New Testament. Yet these two "denominations" were united as one body, united in spirit but not practice, nor even in name (e.g., "Circumcision" vs "Non-Circumcision). Even when one group sees a particular issue as sinful and the other group does not, the apostle instructs the "freer" group to sacrifice their freedom for the sake of the weaker group, without necessarily "believing the same things" (Rom 14). "Being of like mind" does not mean "believing exactly alike"; it means staying united despite having different ways of seeing things.

5. Any person properly converted is added by the Lord to his ekklesia. Even if that person mistakenly believes himself to be an Apollosite or a Baptist, he's still a member of the church of Jesus Christ, just one who is in error, like those Corinthian Christians. (But then, who of us is not in error in some unknown way, at some point in our walk with Christ?) Such a person should heed the call to come out of those man-made organizations, to be in nothing more than the called-out assembly of Christ.

Originally published at:

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The "Worship Assembly" is Foreign to the New Testament

The concept of a "worship assembly" is foreign to the New Testament.

The assembly in Heb 10:25 is an "irritate one another to love and good works" assembly (v. 24).

The assembly in 1 Cor 11:17ff is one in which we're supposed to focus not on ourselves, but on the body, on each other, making sure the poor get a portion of the community meal.

The assembly in Acts 20 starts as a long-winded lecture, but concludes as an all-night discussion (see the Greek for this distinction if your English translation doesn't make it clear).

Concerning the assembly in 1 Cor 14, we're specifically told that "all things in the assembly must be for edification" (v. 26); we're not told that things in the assembly are to be for worship. The entire description in this chapter is that "all of you ..., one by one" can use his God-given gifts to build up the others, so that "all may learn, and all may be exhorted" (v. 31). When the unbeliever comes in, he's not convicted by the preacher's sermon; rather he's "reproved by all", "judged by all", revealing the secrets of his heart, bringing him to a new-found conviction to worship God (vv 24-25).

Our modern day assemblies are not geared so that each person contributes something that "irritates" the others to love and to good works and to being built up.

In the New Testament, we see sermons preached to non-Christians in the streets and in the pagan temples and in the Jewish synagogues, but in the assemblies of Christ, the sermon gives way to an "everyone participation". Until we do this, our assemblies may be "our way", but they're not what we see in the New Testament.

Originally published at: