As stated in the introduction, this series of posts have been framed with the newly saved person in mind, but we all have to take stock of our ecclesiastical position.
Ask the question, “does the group I am linked with match the New Testament pattern?” If not, you have a responsibility to respond to the teaching of Scripture and to meet with believers whose principles of gathering correspond to that biblical pattern.
Obviously this study has not been exhaustive, but be like the people of Berea, who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so”, Acts 17:11.
To be continued…
It was said of the Thessalonian assembly, “From you sounded out the word of the Lord”, 1 Thessalonians 1:8. This should be a characteristic of every local church. Indeed, its continued existence depends on an energetic successful gospel outreach. This is the only method by which sinners are won to Christ and added to the company of believers bearing collective testimony for Him.
A metaphor of the assembly in scripture is that of a golden lampstand, Revelation 1 – 3. The point of the illustration is that the witness of every local church should be such, that the light of the Gospel penetrates the dense moral and spiritual darkness that pervades our communities. New Testament churches were not just respectable, religious social clubs, but they comprised of people who had a burden to reach their neighbours and friends with the life-changing gospel. Their commitment to that goal was unquestioning.
To be continued…
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Collective prayer was an important function of the early churches, Acts 2:42, Acts 4:23-24, Acts 12:5, and the prayer meeting should still be a priority for every assembly. On some occasions in the Acts, these were impromptu gatherings in emergency conditions, but it is clear that meetings for prayer were a regular feature of the early churches.
The doctrinal part of the Word that regulates the conduct of prayer meetings is 1 Timothy chapter 2. The first two verses show how we should pray, blending supplications, intercessions and thanksgivings. They show for whom we should pray, and why, and really, the command to pray for ‘all men’ provides wide scope for our public prayers. As has been observed already, verse 8 indicates who should do the public praying, the men.
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The Lord’s Supper was instituted by the Lord Himself on the eve of His crucifixion. In the loaf and cup He was giving tangible emblems of His body and blood, and His command to His disciples was to perpetuate this ordinance in remembrance of Himself. The practice of the early believers in the book of Acts gives guidance regarding the ‘breaking of bread’. A quick glance at the end of chapter two will reveal that the participants were people who had been saved by responding to Peter’s preaching. Subsequently, they wereRead More
A reading of the New Testament will demonstrate that Christian women played a crucial role in the ongoing work of God. Such sisters as Priscilla, Phebe and Eunice are but examples of the noble band of women whose contribution to assembly life was invaluable. However, teaching the Word is vocal participation in the gatherings and is for the men only. That may sound strange in an age of equal opportunities in politics and business, but it is the clear teaching of scripture. The general statement that covers the point is, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak”, 1 Corinthians 14:34. The immediate context shows that the prohibition extends even to asking a question in a public gathering. Elsewhere, it takes in public praying, in that the men (Greek word meaning males) should pray, 1 Timothy 2:8, and it certainly forbids public teaching on the part of the sisters, 1 Timothy 2:12.Read More
In Christendom, a system has developed that we call the clerical system, in which one man has almost the sole responsibility of preaching to a congregation week by week. That practice is not based on the teaching of the Bible. In New Testament times, in each local church, a number of men had responsibility for ministering to God’s people. Indeed, every believer had some part to play, for the assembly is likened to a human body with each member playing a vital role. Every believer has been endowed with a spiritual gift that has to be employed for the good of the whole body. To pay one man to bear almost the whole responsibility of helping God’s people is a contradiction of the ‘body of Christ’ aspect of the local church, 1 Corinthians 12:27.Read More
The responsibility for leadership in New Testament assemblies devolved upon overseers, (often translated ‘bishop’ in the King James Version). These men are also described as being elders, that is, men of a mature spiritual experience, 1 Timothy 3:6. They were not elected by the congregation, but appointed by the sovereign choice of the Holy Spirit, Acts 20:28. Certain qualifications had to be met, and these are outlined in 1 Timothy chapter 3, and Titus chapter 1.Read More
One sad feature of the present day is that many of the Lord’s dear people are connected to religious systems in which believers and unbelievers are linked. That situation was never the norm in New Testament times. In 1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul described the composition of the church of God at Corinth like this, “them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints”. Thus each member was a genuine believer for it is our faith in Christ that sanctifies us, Acts 26:18. He also spoke of assemblies in general as “churches of the saints”, 1 Corinthians 14:33, another indication that there should be an exclusively believing membership.Read More
Modern ecclesiastical bodies consist of a central authority with numerous congregations responsible to that central office. The format differs from group to group, but there are general assemblies, synods of bishops, central oversights and so on. This concept of a headquarters on earth is alien to the Word of God.Read More
In our day, each of the sects and denominations of Christendom bears a title to distinguish it from other groups. Some take their name from a founder, and so there are Wesleyans and Lutherans etc. Others are identified by their form of church government, and so there are Presbyterians and Episcopalians. Some are known by a particular doctrine or practice that they hold, and so there are Baptists and Pentecostals. To willingly take any name that does not include all believers is to be