CHURCH TRUTH - Bible Counsel - Section C
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For saints who value
There seems to be three great spheres of Christian experience: Redemption Way, Church Truth, &
Spiritual Life (John 14:6). Most believers can ap-preciate redemption way and spiritual growth, but church truth seems to be much neglected. We need to take "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).
It is not required by God to be gathered in a scriptural assembly, but there is and will be blessing for saints to meet on that ground and part of a collective testimony worldwide, as God intended for His church, and by His revival of 1827 AD. Faithful readers here can gain some understanding of such fellowship, and may desire to be associated to also express the "one body in Christ", embrace "all the counsel of God", and show forth "unity of the faith" by the "Word of Truth". There is no such thing in the Bible as going to "the church of your choice", as many believers say. Write to the Site Manager for further understanding and to find a Scriptural fellowship.
CHURCH TRUTH is about faithful compliance and conformity to what God intended in Acts 2: 41- 42 at the beginning of the church, and then the Epistles. It speaks of obeying and honoring God collectively without innovations. One who is saved (Jn.3: 16) ought to follow the Word (see Jn.14:23-24; Jn.17:17; Titus 1:9; Phil. 2:2); including baptism, the gathering locally, the collective testimony in the world; and obedience to the Word, a Godly walk, the Lord's glory and honor, etc. A local gathering in accord with Scripture may be near to one to visit, if interested.
From time to time papers will be set forth here and on the Feature Pages herein, concerning various aspects of this truth. We ought to love all saints everywhere and be a help, even if we cannot walk with all. - RLD
NOTE: When we speak of a scriptural assembly we need to be prepared to show what it is biblically, and what it is not by the innovations of men. This writer feels free to invite inquiry on each issue or order of Scripture ---and distinguish between what men have invented (and often prefer), and what some of us are holding as true to God's Word and that recovery of circa 1800 AD. One might disagree, and that is a choice, but Scripture is quite plain as to what God has intended for His testimony in the world. One can write for help herein to find such a fellowship.
- RLD 08/15
Basic Church Truth
Introduction To Scriptural Fellowship
It seems important to have an introduction and guide to help believers in Christ seeking that which some of us see as a scriptural Church fellowship, to understand some tenets or principles of God's order and government here. It is His church, so our ideas are irrelevant, but therein "is the rub", as the saying goes; for many professing Christians hold firmly to their ideas, to the point of rejecting the plain Word of God. The following considerations ought to be studied carefully and prayerfully, and any questions ought to be resolved for one to be settled on the Christian pathway and collective assembly. We need to get into conformity to God's mind, honor Him, and thus ever seek unity with faithful saints in the world. - R. DeWitt, CA06: 2003; add: 09/15
A. OVERVIEW: It is always a happy occasion to welcome a new saint into church fellowship, and the following paper is given to help one understand basic things many of us see and are holding worldwide, and any questions or thoughts by the reader should be explored in further discussion with local elders. This applies especially to one who has seen this fellowship as generally true to the Word and would like further information.
Every believer in Christ ought to be gathered into the universal fellowship of saints, whether or not they understand all things; and if they do not understand the Bible, but enjoy worshipping the Lord with those who love Him and hold to the Word of God, they need to come and seek to learn about God's testimony. There is a danger for them to be drawn away after carnal men with worldly values, and some evil doctrines, so they ought to find what they see as fully true to God's Word, and pray much for the Lord to keep them safe from error.
It would be a great disappointment then to have one leave because they did not understand what the assembly must hold to obey and honor God. There are other papers also which address church history, scriptural gathering, meetings, and other questions. The writer is not being dogmatic or speaking for any others, but is stating an earnest prayerful understanding of Scripture from much study and experience over many years; and thus is persuaded to be in accord with Bible scholars and records of church history.
There are two things which might be studied to get a good overview of the Church in the world: the Word of God, and church history ---especially conditions from the Protestant Reformation to the present day. This writer has some history papers to help if one is interested.
B. SOME HISTORY: It is clear to many of us that while the Gospel message was revived and proclaimed broadly after the Protestant Reformation movement, circa 1500 A.D., the various church gatherings that developed had lost the scriptural order for the church; and were setting forth the organizations, hierarchy, creeds, and ceremonies they had learned from the Roman Catholic Religion for 1000 years. The Word of God was not in wide circulation until printing was improved after circa 1500 A.D.
By the early 1800's, God raised up an increasing interest in Church Truth for the pathway for believers. In those early years John Nelson Darby, who was a scholar of some renown in Ireland, and a barrister, was converted by reading the Holy Scriptures. In time he became a priest in the Church of Ireland. God led him to see that Christ is the Head of the Church, and there is a spiritual body on earth. He saw Christ as the gathering center, rather than religious sects and systems; and he saw the priesthood of believers in the "body of Christ" (see 1 Peter 2) and the leading of the Holy Spirit, rather than the hierarchy of men, dogma, rituals, and innovations. He separated from ecclesiastical associations and human order, and began to meet with a few other saints of the same persuasion in a home in 1827 A.D. in Ireland, in accord with the plain scrip-tural order. Others also began to appreciate this and embrace this thinking, and Darby traveled about preaching in many places and writing much on church truth. This revival and recovery of Scripture spread rapidly worldwide, and appeared to have the blessing of God.
Much has been written about this so-called "brethren movement" with the ministry of those early brethren which is available today (contact Bible Truth Publishers, Addison, IL -USA). Beside Darby, who seems to have been a principle agent in this revival of church truth, some of his contemporaries were J.G. Bellet, G.V. Wigram, W. Kelly, C.H. Mackintosh, and a few other less notable teachers. Not all those early brethren who were gathered were able teachers. Over time there have been divisions for a looser or more strict and legal line of belief, and all such assemblies have not continued in the same universal fellowship to express the "one body", which Darby held was essential (such as 1 Cor. 12:25). He departed to be with Christ in 1882 A.D.
Church truth is important for God's testimony in the world, His honor and glory, and our blessing; and is speaking of more than salvation of our soul and our personal love and devotion to Christ. It speaks of obedience and maintaining the good work God established for "unity of the faith" and His purposes. We need to take "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). Some of us seek to honor the Lord and maintain that revival in the early 1800's, and have continued to follow the scriptural path today. Does one have some interest and questions about this history?
C. SEPARATION: We should love all saints, but we should not merge and gather with all, lest the true testimony be compromised and lost (Amos 3:3). The applicant for this fellowship has presumably already appreciated the need to be gathered in accord with Bible-only, has separated from the various sects of men, and has come to see the gathering described here as standing on the Word of God alone, as our only authority for the Christian faith, and in fellowship with those of like mind worldwide. Our thought here is not to condemn any believers, but to speak of such as the preeminence of Christ by the Word and the Spirit, and God's order in general. One ought to also seek to understand internal realities of assembly life. If we were all perfect as we will be in Heaven, we would not have to speak of some of these things, but we need to prepare our mind to deal with the "fiery darts" and "the wiles" of the enemy which seek always to discourage and defeat us in our new life in Christ. We need to be committed to grace and care for the good of the saints and God's testimony.
D. ORDER AND FUNCTION: Our gathering as saints of God should not take a name (denominate---which would be divisive of all saints) and must be in accord with "all the counsel of God", and be "rightly dividing the Word of Truth" as God says; and the example of the assemblies from the beginning as found in Acts and the Epistles. It also ought to recognize the revival of church truth in the early 1800's as a work of God to recover truth that was lost. The spirit of sectarianism and religious ideas, which is everywhere in christendom, must not be allowed amongst us. The thought is not to dictate conscience, but maintain God's collective testimony.
1. GATHERING TOGETHER: There are many papers available on the truth of gathering, which are available from the sources listed herein. It is important to understand that God does not approve of independency, and the local assemblies after the New Testament scriptural order are simply an expression in a geographical place of the universal testimony in the world. There is "one body in Christ", and there ought to be a "unity of the Spirit" among the saints everywhere as it will be in heaven (see Rom.12; 1 Cor.12; Eph.4; Phil.2:2; etc.). This surely does not mean a merger of all the sects and religious ideas of men. The gathering is to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone (Matt.18:20), not to personalities, sectarian systems, emotional experiences, programs, rituals, etc., which usurp the Lord. It is good that an assembly is fully scriptural in form, but we must then ask if it is going on independently or maintaining the unity and spirit God established.
If one is a "child of God" by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is devoted to Him, is free of any moral or doctrinal evil, and desires to be gathered in a faithful scriptural assembly, that may be all that one understands; and if there is little danger they might bring in false practices or teachings, and will bow to assembly government, they can be received at the Lord's Table and enjoy a happy fellowship here and honor the Lord. Otherwise, anyone may come as a visitor and enjoy the meetings for a time, and with some further inquiry and study they may be helped to appreciate God's way and ask to be gathered.
It should be stated that fellowship includes also gatherings in happy activities, such as special social times, at summer camps, and at Bible conferences in various cities with many saints for good ministry and studies, visiting and making new friends; etc. Does one prefer some other thought about the truth of gathering?
2. RECEIVING THE TRUTH: Coming into the fellowship is a two-way thing. The individual must receive the fellowship, as well as the fellowship receiving the individual, so all need to understand the other and get acquainted. We want to receive "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), "rightly dividing the Word of truth" (2 Tim.2:15), not traditions, entertainment, creeds and pledges, religious ideas and unscriptural things which are for the flesh. The holiness of the Lord's table and the gathering requires that we "lay hands suddenly on no man" (1 Tim.5:22). All things ought to "be done decently and in order" (1 Cor.14:40). There are many lovely saints in the world, but lovely saints is not the ground of gathering. One who is gathered in another assembly known to be scriptural and in fellowship with us, ought to bring a letter of commendation (Rom.16:1-2; 2 Cor. 3:1; Phil.2:25-29; Phm.10-17). The holiness of God and His honor is paramount. Do readers have other thoughts on this?
3. EXPRESSING THE ONE BODY OF CHRIST: We cannot say we are the "one body of Christ", but we must endeavor to express the oneness of the body of Christ in the world (I Cor. 12:25), by full fellowship with all scriptural gatherings who are going on in a Godly way, and honoring them; not holding independency, nor mergers and unions, organizational membership, hierarchy of men to rule, etc., which divides the saints in the world and compromises the truth. Does one appreciate Christians endeavoring to express the "one body" of Christ worldwide? Should not all believers be doing it? God says: "Let all things be done decently and in order"
4. ACKNOWLEDGING THE PRIESTHOOD: To exercise the priesthood of believers (I Pet.2: 5,9), it must be seen as an important truth of the Word to be held; not titles, offices, hierarchy, dominion over the saints with selected ministers to lead, preach, and manage ("nicolaitanism", Rev.2:6), etc., which denies liberty. The gifts of pastors, teachers, and evangelists (in the plural) are gifts within the gathering, not titles and positions. Are there other thoughts about this?
5. TRUSTING THE LORD AND HIS WORD: The holy scriptures are our only authority for the truth, and we must not invent religious things to please the flesh. Study and prayer and trusting is essential. We must study to be in conformity to the mind of God. The reasonings and innovations of man must not be brought into the church. The church was formed on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2:42. It did not exist before then (see Matt.16:18). Nothing should be added by men to make the church (assembly) more entertaining or pleasing to the preferences of men. One should not expect the assembly to change, but rather be conformed to it. After one studies all the epistles in the Scripture carefully, it should be apparent that most of the church groups today have lost that simplicity and order. Are there questions about holding to the Word alone?
6. WORSHIPPING AS PLEASES GOD: One ought to understand individual and collective worship, and esteem the Lord's supper at His table as He gave us, rather than entertainment, sermons, activities, programs, etc. Worship is devotion and according to the Word, not some activity or zeal to serve. Do readers have questions about worship?
7. APPRECIATING THE ASSEMBLY: We ought to appreciate the assembly as given and not be innovative. We need to maintain God's order and government, rather than the ideas and governmental ways of men; and desire to have "all things be done decently and in order", as God says. We need to stand apart from unscriptural assemblies and not give them credibility by associating with those sects and systems. Do we esteem the simplicity of God's way, or do we need man's innovations in the church?
8. YIELDING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT: The leading of the Holy Spirit as in the early church (2 Cor. 3:17), is a precious thing, not ceremonies, schedules, and arrangements quenching the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), which dishonors God. Prayerful exercise should be understood and practiced, rather than the energies and religious ideas of men. What does one think of this?
E. SUMMARY: Other subjects concerning happy and Godly church life within the matters outlined above, ought to also be studied ---such as the meetings given in Acts 2:42; the Lord's Table and Supper; ministry and ministers; gifts; the place of brothers and sisters and overseers; responsibilities of saints as holy and royal priests; unity; problems of discord; spiritual maturity; divine and brotherly love; faithful service. The writer can provide papers to study. - RLD.
ADDENDUM: Ministry regarding this fellowship is available from the Internet site: biblecounsel.homestead.com or biblecounsel.net, and readers are encouraged to contact Bible Truth Publishers, P.O. Box 649, Addison, IL 60101 ---or the Internet at Bibletruthpublishers.com for more information and ministry books. This writer believes God wants us to know these things and value them.