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Friday, December 30, 2011
Apostolic Traditions (Continued): God’s assemblies characterized by active participation of the saints.
The apostles taught by their inspired instructions in scripture that gatherings of the saints were to be marked by the ministry of many not by the ministry of one or a select few.
-Hebrews 10:24,25 teaches us clearly what is on God’s agenda when His people gather together, i.e. - considering one another to provoke or stir up unto love and good works and – exhorting one another.
- In I Cor.5:4-13 and I Timothy 5:19-21, the apostle Paul clearly teaches that when it becomes necessary to put away a sinning brother or sister in the church or even to rebuke a sinning elder, it is not a matter that is dealt with “behind closed doors” by a select group of leaders, elders or “pastoral staff”. Rather it is to be dealt with when the assembly is gathered together.
- In I Cor.11:20-34 and 14:23-40 Paul gives clear teaching on what is to happen when the whole church (the church in the city) comes together into one place:
- This kind of gathering is not for eating the Lord’s supper (11:20),
-eating is to be done in believers’ houses (11:21,33,34)
–in such a gathering any brother may give a psalm, a doctrine, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation but all must be the edification of all (14:26),
-tongues speaking is limited to 2 or 3 speakers, one is to interpret and if there is no interpreter there is to be no tongues speaking (again, so that all may be edified 14:27,28),
- 2 or 3 prophets may speak, if something is revealed to another who sits by, the first is to hold his peace, and whatever is spoken by prophets is also to be judged or discerned by the other prophets(14:29-33), and, in such whole church gatherings, women are to be silent and, if they have questions, to ask their own husbands at home. (14:34,35)
What the apostles taught by their spoken and written instructions we also see put into practice, modeled by the apostles and the early churches of which they formed a part. Normal church gatherings in homes were marked by free participation of any of the believers, including sisters. See Acts 1:12-2:47; 4:23-37; 12:11-17; 13:1-3; 18:24-26; 21:8,9; 20:7-12.) All gatherings of the while church, such as Acts 6:1-6 and 15:4-32 were conducted in accordance with the regulations of I Cor.14:23-40.
“Preaching” among the saints was always by dialogue and discussion rather than lecturing. Paul’s preaching in Acts 20 was the Greek word “dialegomai” or dialogue. Current religious tradition has taught us that “homilies” are “sermons” and that “homiletics” is the art of sermon preparation and delivery, yet the truth of the matter is that scriptural homilies are always conversations among a number of people! The Greek word HOMILEO is found 4 times in the NT and is translated “talked together”, “communed together”, “talked” and “communed” in Luke 24:14,15; Acts 20:11 and 24:26. Thus it is clear that sermonizing to assemblies of saints is an activity that is totally foreign to the NT! This is one major reason why the apostles never taught the early saints to buy, own, rent or acquire special church buildings but most often gathered in homes. (Acts 2:46, 20:20; Rom 16:3-5; 1 Cor. 16:19;
4:15 & Philemon 1:2). Even when the whole church in a city gathered together into one place “sermonizing” was never on the agenda nor was their venue on such occasions owned by the church! (Acts 2:46; 5:12; 19:9; 20:20 I Cor.11:20; 14:23 KJV) Col
The Lord Jesus and the apostles knew that monologue lecturing was the least effective means of communication and that conversations in which one is personally involved are remembered far more readily than lectures at which one was simply a passive listener. So too, believers today remember and retain far more of what is spoken in conversations in which they participate than they do from pulpit ministry.
Have you ever wondered why pulpit ministry and monologue lecturing has become the central and principal feature of the vast majority of church gatherings regardless of denomination? As far as the scriptures go, there is not one NT example of divine truth being communicated to believers by way of monologue sermonizing! And did you know that there is just one OT example of a monologue from a pulpit? That one instance which is the sole scriptural basis for pulpit ministry was in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah when the Israelites, just recently returned from captivity, did not have the scriptures available in their own hands and the scriptures were being read to them publicly! See Nehemiah 8:4.
How much more effectively the Word of God is communicated among the people of God when we listen to and obey apostolic traditions! And those who are regular participants in gatherings of saints characterized by “one anothering” can testify that such gatherings are far more interesting and edifying than gatherings in which they are silent spectators.
Have you ever participated in church gatherings where “one anothering” was the expected norm? Have you ever desired to be part of such gatherings of saints? Have you ever heard others express fears about the “dangers” of obeying such an apostolic tradition?
What are your thoughts, comments or responses to the above?