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Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Doug Comments on the Church: Part Two
My friend, Doug, continued, “I would be very curious if you have put together (from SCRATCH) your own theory as to how a biblical body should be put together under the headship of Christ and what passages of Scripture do you use to get there.... How do you handle the passages that others try to use to prove otherwise? I would be fascinated to see your model. As soon as I complete Acts and ask my co-teacher to take the next session, I am going to "flesh out" my thoughts on paper and create what I see as the biblical model and try to show how it is Biblically the closest I can come and practically how logical and wise it would be to "organize" in this way.... I will share it with you for critique when I get it done.”
Brother, theories or opinions are like noses, everybody has one! So my theory would be no better than anyone else’s. But what the Lord Jesus and the apostles taught us is of utmost importance.
First of all, I don’t believe it is our job to “put a Biblical body together under the headship of Christ”, for God has already done that! We are never instructed in scripture to “plant”, “institute”, “organize” or “put together” such a body. We are simply instructed to “keep” (guard) the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph.4:3) When a baby is born, it’s physical body is complete. It’s unity is already established. It is not yet mature but it is complete.
The church is God’s creation, He has established its unity and our responsibility is to guard the unity of that body (not create it!)
Secondly, as far as scripture is concerned there is only one body (The church which is Christ`s Body, Eph.1:22,23, which He said He would build is the only body in which we need to have membership.) A church in your town or mine is not a “body”, but such churches are part of the Body of Christ. Otherwise we would have many bodies with one head! Scripture only speaks of “membership” in the context of a body which has a head. Only two such are mentioned in the Bible: (1)our physical bodies have members (eyes, ears etc) I Cor.12, and (2) the Body of Christ has members, believers in the Lord Jesus who are in vital union with the head, Christ. So “church membership” as the term is most commonly used today, i.e. membership in a local congregation, is not a scriptural idea at all, but simply an invention used to exercise control by dispensing “membership privileges” to those who wish to “sign up”. I am not a member in any church or gathering of saints except the one I was made a member of the day I got saved! Nor do we seek to have any control over other saints by inviting them to “become members” of “our church”! The church is NOT ours at all!
Thirdly, in order to “keep/guard” the unity of a living body (a little baby’s body or the body of Christ) we need to recognize what that body is ( a living man). Then we need to recognize that the proper functioning of that living body needs care (in keeping with its design) and that the health of that body can be threatened, endangered or crippled by abuse or lack of proper care.
I believe that the commands and instructions of the Lord Jesus which he gave to the apostles are the divine guide for the care of Christ’s Body. The church which is Christ’s body, the church in your town or mine, and the church in your house or mine will thrive as those instructions are followed and obeyed. But when a baby is “cared for” by instructions created and suited for a corporation, the baby will suffer from severe neglect and abuse. (Precisely what happens when “church” is organized, operates, and functions according to traditions of men rather than according to apostolic traditions received from the Lord Himself!
Traditions of men, which are designed to guide the functioning of corporations, bring horrible abuse upon members of Christ’s body. After long exposure to corporate traditions, many believers are atrophied from lack of use or paralyzed from abuse, joints with other members of the body are dislocated, disease is common and communication with the Head is almost non-existent! So the only way for believers to begin to function in a healthy manner as members of Christ is to purpose to listen to Jesus, obey whatever He has said and then teach others to do the same. (That’s basically the idea of the “great Commission”!)
“Church services”, “worship services”, clergy/laity distinctions, denominational distinctives are a few of the traditions of men that are foreign to scripture. In their places believers are to assemble together to minister one to another (Hebrews 10:24,25) as good stewards of the grace of God which is given to each one (I Peter 4:10,11), the people of God (LAOS) I Peter 2:10 are the same group of people as God’s inheritance (KLEROS or clergy) over which elders are forbidden to be lords! (I Peter 5:3) The use of any names which distinguish Christians one from another or which exclude others from their fellowship are forbidden. (I Cor.1:10-13) Pastors/elders/overseers are males who are “homegrown” and thus well known by the believers they serve (not unknown and imported from elsewhere). They are recognized by God-given qualifications (I Timothy 3 and Titus 1) NOT hired according to preferences of the sheep and they work diligently with their own hands to meet their own needs and also to be able to support weak ones among the sheep(Acts 20:33-35). Finally, elders do not function alone. No NT church had only one elder. Rather the churches which resulted from the ministries of the apostles were guided by a plurality of elders who laboured together to care for the flock.
So, Doug, (and other readers of this blog)… as you look for and seek to be involved in a church which is thoroughly biblical in its practices, which of those mentioned above would you embrace? What other practices taught by the Lord Jesus and the apostles would you include? How can you begin to make such apostolic traditions part of your own lifestyle today? As you, personally, obey what the Lord has shown you, how might He bring you into contact with others with similar desires?