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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Over at Vox's today, various and sundry have brought up Churchy things including:

Aren't Christians commanded to go to church? (I can't remember the verse--I realize this seems "convenient," but I really can't remember where the verse is located.)--Anonymous

It might be just be, but I doubt that a 503(c) LICENSED "non-profit" Chrianist Club is the "church" the Bible is referring to.--Josh

Let's look at some things God's Word says about Things Churchy.

In Acts 2, we find that when people believed and responded to Peter's proclamation of Jesus as Lord and Messiah, and Son of God, the Brash Apostle said

Act 2:36-47 (MKJV)
(36) Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God made this same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
(37) And hearing this, they were stabbed in the heart, and said to Peter and to the other apostles, Men, brothers, what shall we do?
(38) Then Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ to remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
(39) For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all those afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call.
(40) And with many other words he earnestly testified and exhorted, saying, Be saved from this perverse generation.
(41) Then those who gladly received his word were baptized. And the same day there were added about three thousand souls.
(42) And they were continuing steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, and in fellowship and in the breaking of the loaves, and in prayers.
(43) And fear came on every soul. And many wonders and miracles took place through the apostles.
(44) And all who believed were together and had all things common.
(45) And they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need.
(46) And continuing with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they shared food with gladness and simplicity of heart,
(47) praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The Jews asked what to do. Peter told them what to do. They did it. God added them to the church.

God added them to the church.

They did not "join". Their letter was not moved. The Membership Committee did not vote.
God added them to the church.

Then, AS the church, they met together. Now here is the sticky part. In the beginning, it is clear that they WANTED to meet together, as they got together daily at the Temple, and from house to house. This drive to fellowship was so strong, that out-of-towners didn't want to go home! It wasn't until later in Acts that the first day of the week (Sunday) meeting became apostolically normative, and even then, it was the irreducible minimum. Daily fellowship continued, at home, in the marketplace....

There is much mumphing about things like "501 (c) 3" churches that have "sold out" to Caesar for tax exempt status (and don't misunderstand, this kind of thing chaps me no end. Jesus did not say "Let not your right hand know what the other is doing...but don't forget to report it as a deduction!" The Gospel According to H&R Block includes its own - and perhaps only - reward.) Nonetheless, this kind of thing is NO reason to "forsake the assembling of yourselves together". Why? Because Jesus Himself told me! In a LETTER!

(Mrs P., put down that straitjacket! I have not joined Pat Robertson on the ramparts brandishing a broken grape juice bottle.)

Rev 2:18-29
(18) And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, He who has His eyes like a flame of fire and His feet like burnished metal, says these things:
(19) I know your works and love and service and faith and your patience, and your works; and the last to be more than the first.
(20) But I have a few things against you because you allow that woman Jezebel to teach, she saying herself to be a prophetess, and to cause My servants to go astray, and to commit fornication, and to eat idol-sacrifices.
(21) And I gave her time that she might repent of her fornication, and she did not repent.
(22) Behold, I am throwing her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great affliction, unless they repent of their deeds.
(23) And I will kill her children with death. And all the churches will know that I am He who searches the reins and hearts, and I will give to every one of you according to your works.
(24) But to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, and who have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak, I will put on you no other burden.
(25) But that which you have, hold fast until I come.
(26) And he who overcomes and keeps My works to the end, to him I will give power over the nations.
(27) And he will rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of a potter they will be broken to pieces, even as I received from My Father.
(28) And I will give him the Morning Star.
(29) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Please to note, that here was a congregation who had a woman in a teaching role, a "prophetess" (preface what you say with "Thus saith the Lord", and the rubes will believe anything) who was actually teaching to eat sacrificial meat from idol-worship, and teaching that fornication was acceptable worship.

She was the founder of the first lay ministry

Jesus makes it clear that the unrepentant would be Summarily Dealt With. Repentance is the key. Those who followed her folly were to repent. Those who had not sullied themselves, were to hold fast the faith.

Even though there were Heretics Most Vile in the congregation, Jesus did not say to the faithful: "Come out! There's a nice piece of property on the hill...go Start a New Work there." Discipline was also key. Since things had gone so far, He apparently stepped in to judge Jezzie and her hardcore followers. Jesus' promise to the faithful makes it clear: faithfulness to Christ and His teaching yields Authority.

Now, those who were faithful at Thyatira remained, even with the mess that was going on. In the church, the righteous are not called upon to leave if there are misdoings afoot. Rather, they are called upon to exercise Biblical Authority and sanction the false and misbehaving:

Titus 3:9-11
(9) But avoid foolish questions and genealogies and contentions, and strivings about the Law, for they are unprofitable and vain.
(10) After the first and second warning, reject a man of heresy,
(11) knowing that he who is such has been perverted, and sins, being self-condemned.

The "man of heresy", or "factious man", is one whose attitude is : "My way or the highway". He creates schisms, divisions in the Body of Christ. "Heresy" does not necessarily connote "false teaching" It can even mean having a divisive attitude over a point of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15-17
(15) Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
(16) But shun profane, vain babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.
(17) And their word will eat like a gangrene....

"Shun" is not a lightweight word. "Avoid like a plague carrier" is more like its meaning.

And everyone's favorite, the playa in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 5:1-13
(1) On the whole it is reported that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not even named among the nations, so as one to have his father's wife.
(2) And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, so that he who has done this deed may be taken from your midst.
(3) For as being absent in body but present in spirit, I indeed have judged already as though I were present concerning him who worked out this thing;
(4) in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, with my spirit; also, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ;
(5) to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
(6) Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
(7) Therefore purge out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For also Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.
(8) Therefore let us keep the feast; not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
(9) I wrote to you in the letter not to associate intimately with fornicators;
(10) yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then you must go out of the world.
(11) But now I have written to you not to associate intimately, if any man called a brother and is either a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one not to eat.
(12) For what is it to me to also judge those who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
(13) But God judges those who are outside. Therefore put out from you the evil one.

To judge (or appraise) the actions of our brethren (contextually- in our own congregation)
is Biblical and necessary, and part of "submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of God. (Eph 5:21) " If Bro. Mike sees me heading toward trouble, it is his responsibility to warn me in love. If I persist in folly, then more drastic action is called for. Jesus called for proactivity in interpersonal relationships amongst brothers (and sisters).

Matthew 18:14-17
(14) Even so it is not the will of your Father in Heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
(15) But if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
(16) But if he will not hear you, take one or two more with you, so that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
(17) And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he neglects to hear the church, let him be to you as a heathen and a tax-collector.

In order for the church (ekklesia: assembly) to be effective, it has to be assembled!
We are commanded the following:

Heb 10:25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

this written at a time when persecution was rampant. The church unassembled isn't the church. A car unassembled isn't a car, it is a pile of pieces. A person unassembled isn't a person, it is a pile of meat. The Body of Christ isn't the Body when it is unassembled, it is a bunch of Lone Rangers. We lose an important point in American Christendom: Jesus died for...the church.

Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it,
Eph 5:26 that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word,
Eph 5:27 that He might present it to Himself as the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Eph 5:28 So men ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Eph 5:29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord loves the church.
Eph 5:30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.
Eph 5:31 "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh."
Eph 5:32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Don't get hung up on the husband/wife thing in this discussion, here, beyond seeing that the passage is explicitly speaking of the church, and the church's relationship to Christ. Jesus is passionate in His love for the church, His people assembled. The Body imagery in 1st Corinthians makes it plain that I am not the church, and that you are not the church. WE are the church, assembled saints to do His will in the earth, and to serve one another to facilitate our accomplishing His commission. The faithful are to stay put, and handle the heretic, the factious, the Jezebel. God has provided the tools and instruction necessary to the task. "Quit you like men" does not mean "Quit".


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