CHRISTIAN ASSEMBLY - Bible Counsel - Feature Page 4
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The ministry here is for those who are redeemed, and value church truth, and want to understand God's way and government in His assemblies. The Church Truth page may also help. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
S C R I P T U R A L A S S E M B L Y
(I John 1:3-4)
(A statement adapted from a newspaper report
in the early 1900's)
There is a fellowship of Christians in this
city gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus
Christ alone (Matt.18:20), apart from organ-ization and systems of man's devising. They believe in the absolute inspiration, infallibility, and all-sufficiency of the Holy Bible as the Word of God to man (2 Tim.3:16-17; Heb. 4:12; 2 Pet.1: 20-21), and seek to obey "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), "rightly dividing the Word of truth" (2 Tim.2:15). They, therefore, reject all human creeds, programs, names and titles, etc. as adding to God's Word (Matt. 17:4-8; Acts 2: 41-42; Acts 20:27; Rev. 22: 18-19), and not suited to a gathering led by the Holy Spirit (Gal.3:3; Eph. 4: 30; 1 Thess. 5:19).
These believers own that the church is "one body" (1 Cor.12:12-27), and therefore seek to express that oneness in love according to the Word of God, and in happy fellowship with other scriptural assemblies throughout the world (Rom. 12: 5). This is not another innovation in Christendom, but a continuation of that revival of church truth which God raised up in circa 1800 AD. They see there is no such thing in the Word of God as going to "the church of your choice", as is often said.
As to church government this company, or assembly, takes no name other than what the Scripture allows and which is common to all saints of God. They have no hierarchy or min-ister in charge, and believe in the priesthood of believers and the leading of the Holy Spirit for the exercise of spiritual gifts (I Pet. 2:5,9;
I Thess. 5:19; I Cor.14:12). They come together to remember the Lord in His death every first day of the week, and meet at times for prayer and study of the Word (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor.11: 23-26).
They also hold themselves responsible for preaching the gospel to the public, and teaching the children about the love of God. At public meetings they take no collections, seeing that the gospel is free, and the Word of God teaches there are those "within" and those "without" (1 Cor. 5: 12-13; Col. 4:5). The only ordinances they hold are baptism and the Lord's supper, which the Lord gave to His disciples to keep until He returns (Mark 16: 15-16; Rom.6:3-4; Luke 22: 19-20). Care is exercised to see that a scriptural order of meeting and discipline is carried out (1 Cor. 14:40).
As to God's work of grace these Christians understand that God, in His great love (John 3:16), sent His Son "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). They acknow- ledge the ruin by sin from Adam and Eve (Gen.3; Rom.5: 12-21), and that "all have sinned" (Rom. 3: 23), "there is none righteous" (Rom. 3:10), and "except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). They believe the Bible teaches the worthlessness of good works or feelings for salvation (Gal.2:16; Eph.2:8-9; Titus 3:5). They see that salvation is by the suffering and blood of Christ (1 Pet.1:18-20), and that He must be received by faith for eternal life, which then cannot be lost (Rom. 6:23; Rom.8:15-16; Gal.4: 4-7; 1 John 5: 10-13).
It is generally held among these brethren that the return of Christ for His bride, the church, is the proper hope of every child of God before judgment is poured out on this world (1 Cor. 15: 51-57; 1 Thess. 4:16-17; Rev.4:4,10; Rev.5: 8-10; Rev.19:7,11). They understand that after the translation, or rapture, of the church there will be a tribulation period on earth, then Christ will return with the saints to reign a thousand years before the new heaven and new earth are formed (Matt. 24:29-31; Matt.25:31-46; 2 Pet. 3: 10-13; Rev. 20: 6; Rev.21:1).
They see that everlasting condemnation awaits all who reject the grace of God in Christ (John 3:36), and everlasting joy in heaven awaits every true child of God (John 14:2-3; 2 Cor. 5:1-2;
1 Jn. 3:2 ).
[Adapted from an old pamphlet - R.L.D.]
NOTE: Is it time to take a stand on the truth of the Word and honor the Lord? Our loyalty should be
to the Lord rather than men and their religious ideas. Readers are urged to stand apart from religious sects and earnestly seek the scriptural path. One will hear teaching and diverse ministry along our pathway from many sources . One should always test it by the Word of God (see John 5:39; Acts 17:11; II Tim.2:15; II Tim. 3:16; Titus 1:9).
Whether it is profitable often depends, too, on our state of soul. This paper is prepared with
much care and prayer to be a help and honor the Lord. Comments and questions are welcome.
Refer to History Page for further such ministry]
Truths To Be Held By A Scriptural Assembly
THINGS TO BE HELD BY A SCRIPTURAL ASSEMBLY, THOUGH A FAITHFUL SAINT MAY NOT UNDERSTAND IT ALL. THE ELDERS MUST GUARD AGAINST CONTRARY TEACHINGS.
1. The Bible as the complete and infallible Word of God to man, and all that God wanted man to know and obey regarding Himself, His work, purposes, and plan through the ages and for eternity. Readers ought to distinguish between the Old and New Testaments, the Israelites (Jews) and the Gentiles, and the church (bride of Christ). There are important divisions of the Bible which ought to be understood along our path.
2. The Trinity of God---Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one. All serious seekers need to understand this to appreciate much about God and His ways, and honor Him in obedience and holiness..
3. The Lord Jesus Christ as deity; and His virgin birth, holy life, ministry and purpose; divine sacrifice; coming reign and glory. This all needs to be ministered in accord with the Word of God.
4. Heaven or Hell---the only two destinies for eternity for man in this age. One ought to have a good understanding of them, and the various judgments described in Scripture.
5. Baptism as a testimony to identify one with Christ in separation from the world, and to honor Him. It must be seen as a necessary symbol of identification and not a means of salvation.
6. The new birth by the Holy Spirit as essential to be saved for eternity and go to heaven as a child of God. If one fails to see this they can not be settled about salvation and eternal hope. Truly receiving Christ will bring the Holy Spirit upon one.
7. Prayer as a humble and holy conversation for communion with God regarding worship, trust, and needs. One surely needs this for a profitable and faithful Christian life.
8. Appreciating the church as the bride of Christ and collective testimony under God's government, ministry, and according to His order and pathway; and our place in it in both the universal and local aspects (Acts 2:41-42 and the epistles). Church truth ought to be understood as the true believer's calling and dwelling place in the "household of faith", not in religious organizations of men. One needs to appreciate that while they may manage or mismanage their personal walk with the Lord, they need to be obedient to the Word and in submission to God's government in the church ---the gathering of saints in the universal fellowship.
9. Expression of the "one body" of Christ in a worldwide fellowship in the manner given in the Word to be like-mind, expressing unity, and of one accord with all believers. There is no such thing as "the church of your choice", as many Christians say. Each assembly should be even as the whole in the world, though separated only by geography, not by doctrines.
10. Judging & disallowing evil in the assembly to maintain holiness.
11. The priesthood of believers and their responsibilities as holy and royal priests unto God and for the good of others. Saints ought to appreciate this service and be faithful in it---always in accord with the Word.
12. The Lord's table for the true gathering place established by God. This speaks of the gathering center for the Lord's people in a locality and in the world, which must not be after religious ideas of men.
13. The Lord's supper at His table for collective worship and to remember our Savior in His death for us. It speaks of devotion, holiness, and communion as given.
14. Honoring the Lord and esteeming His holiness in the assembly.
15. The hope of the translation (rapture) of the church (the bride) to dwell forever with Christ. Truly, this world is not home for the saints of God, and we look for "a city whose builder and maker is God".
16. The gospel message to be preached to the world as given in God's Word. Faithful saints ought to show the love of God, and be a light and speak the gospel of Jesus Christ to all around them.
Most other scriptural things are a matter of conscience, though some may be important to honor and please God, to be faithful, and to prosper in our souls. Those things which are carnal and defiling must not be allowed among the saints. - RLD; ref. CCC, CM 9.
Some thoughts on the history, the form, the function, and the truth of the Church for the saints.
CHRISTIAN BRETHREN FROM 1827 AD
The general references by some writers about the so-called Brethren Movement of circa 1800 AD, speaks of some prominent Brethren associations, which have left the recovery movement for a more loose and open path, or a more legal, strict, and controlling organization. While these various division sects of the movement exist, not much is known to many Christians about the original mainline fellowship sometimes referred to as Brethren From 1827 AD. It is non-denominated and viewed by those associated with it as the mainline revival of Church Truth, which held to the original purposes of the Christian revival of 1827 AD --standing against the various church divisions in the world, without a name or following a man and systems of rules and innovations. It is often not recognized and that is because they refuse any name not given by God in His Word, though they are often referred to by the name of an assembly they have been associated with in the past and some others since. They value the sound ministry and history as available at Bible Truth Publishers, Addison, Ill.
This association of saints has sought to avoid any organization or rules of men, and keep the simplicity intended in the original recovery of Church Truth, by the several saints led of God to restore His intent for His testimony. They have intended to esteem the Word of God by holding Scripture-only for the Church in the world in both the universal and local aspects in various countries. The innovations of men are not included in this fellowship. Some of those faithful original brethren who set forth the fundamentals of God's testimony were J. N. Darby, J. G. Bellett, G. V. Wigram, W. Kelley, C. H. Mackintosh.
About twenty years into the recovery of the scriptural order of circa 1800, the first major division occured in the revival with a more open and looser line of things by one prominent brother, who disagreed with Bible-only; and some other departures occurred in years to follow by brothers with ideas for changes or rejection of assembly government. This present fellowship has resisted the divisions and continued down through the years, and one can read some about this history at Bible Truth Publishers, Addison, IL, where one can make inquiries.
God's Testimony In The World Today
By Robert DeWitt, '05; add: 12/17
[The testimony of God is revealed in His Word, which shows deity, creation, history of man and God's care; God's covenants with Israel, the purposes and mind of God, redemption, expectations, blessings, judgments, the future and God's glory, etc. In this day, called the dispensation of grace (Eph.3:2-7), it includes the Christian experience: redemption way, church truth, and spiritual life - John 14:6. Real Christians have been given the bigger and overall picture, and need to be balanced believers and take "all the counsel of God" - Acts 20:27; "...for unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required" - Luke 12:48.]
If the church was going on in the world as God intended, all believers would own the authority of God's Word, be in subjection to it, and be together of "one accord" and "like-mind", expressing the "one body of Christ" (Rom.12:5; 1 Cor.12; Eph.4; Phil.2:2). They would not forsake the gathering together (Heb.10:25), so what should it look like in practice?
A. Our individual conscience before God would not conflict with His collective testimony. There would be no divisions of God's people into various sects, systems, and independency; and though there could be no perfection among men, there would be only one testimony, though many experiences, as in the beginning.
B. The universal church in the world and all local gatherings would be orderly, true to Scripture, and in happy fellowship together showing love, and the truth would be esteemed. God's government would prevail, rather than the religious ideas of men and a rebellious spirit toward Bible-only faith. There would be no man-made sects.
C. There might be those associated with gatherings in various places who would only appreciate it somewhat, as followers after Christ with little understanding and not yet "born of the Spirit"; and some others would be truly "children of God", though perhaps weak and having hindrances making them not ready to be gathered at "the Lord's table". There would certainly be faithful saints gathered in fellowship with varied spiritual discernment, woshipping and studying God's Word; and waiting on the leading of the Spirit, not exalting self and offending God and their brethren.
D. The collective testimony would surely be as follows:
1. GATHERING TOGETHER: There are many papers available on the truth of gathering which are available from the sources listed below. 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, holding the same faith. We need to appreciate that. 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, but holding to God's work of "unity of the faith". The gathering is to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone (Matt.18:20), not to personalities, a hierarchy, sectarian systems, emotional experiences, programs, rituals, etc., which usurp the Lord. It is good that an assembly is scriptural in form, but is it then falling short by going on independently and with innovations?
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 must receive "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), and be "rightly dividing the Word of truth" (2 Tim.2:15), not holding 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 and truth of gathering. A saint 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.10-12). The holiness of God and His honor is paramount. Can one agree with 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 with "no schism" as God says (1 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, 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? There is such a fellowship today. Should not all believers be with such a fellowship?
4. ACKNOWLEDGING THE PRIESTHOOD: To exercise the priesthood of believers
(1 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: 5-6), etc., which denies liberty. The gifts of pastors, teachers, and evangelists (in the plural) are gifts within the gathering, not titles and positions. Has the reader considered this?
5. TRUSTING THE LORD AND HIS WORD: The Word of God is the only authority and path for the Christian faith, rather than man's preferences or reasonings, which will lead one astray. Study, prayer, worship and praise, and trusting the Lord is essential. Is this a reasonable thing for Christians?
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, etc. Worship is devotion and according to the Word, not some zeal for a show, which is pride. Has the reader thought much about worship?
7. APPRECIATING THE ASSEMBLY: We ought to appreciate the assembly as given and maintain God's collective testimony, rather than the ideas and governmental ways of men; and should desire to have "all things be done decently and in order", as God says. We ought to stand apart from unscriptural assemblies and not give them credibility by associating with those sects and systems, though we love all saints of God. Do we esteem the simplicity of God's universal way, and value the order and local government ordained by God, 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 to know the Lord should be practiced, rather than the energies and religious ideas of men. What does one think of this?
The local and universal church must encompass these things and not depart from the Word, if it should be called: God's true testimony in the world.
God's purpose for gathering may speak of things beyond our understanding, so obedience to the Word is essential. It is His testimony, not ours (John 17:11, 21-23; Acts 2:42; Eph.4:3-6). A faithful collective testimony in the world shows forth the "one body of Christ" and our union with Him, which pleases God; and He desires to be glorified before all the creation and desires a testimony for unity and good in the world. We should not oppose the work of God and grieve the Holy Spirit. The simplicity of gathering and God's thoughts on unity can be studied in other papers. Contact the writer.
God's principles for gathering also speaks of obedience, and one ought to appreciate the bigger picture as far as it is revealed through the Word (Matt.18:20; John 14:23; Eph.2:19-22; 2 Tim.2:15; 1 Thess.4:16-18; 3 John 4). We should be "rightly dividing the Word of truth", and holding "all the counsel of God". Saints need to appreciate how the whole of His Word shows His mind that we should be together now as we will for eternity. This does not speak of mergers, but gathering in accord with God's Word. Some papers on the principles, frequent questions, and church history are available through the writer for further study.
God's people for gathering is the church ("called out assembly pertaining to God"). One is in the church (the "body of Christ" which is "the bride") by faith in Christ and the "new birth". That one is then called to "keep the unity of the Spirit", and gather as appointed to remember the Lord Jesus Christ in His death for us; also for fellowship, collective prayer, teaching, and preaching the gospel. God desires a people to love who will also learn to love Him, and will love all His children (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor.11:23-29; Gal.3:28; Eph. 4:3-6; 1 John 3:11-24). They are gathered not by their will, but by the will of God, which means they need to come to the Lord's table in holiness and "unity of the faith". One might view other papers on examining self, and the paths we take.
God's place for gathering is the local assembly in fellowship with the universal church in the world. There are many nice Christians everywhere, but nice Christians (or family or friends) are not the ground of gathering. God has always had a place (see Deut.12:5-8, 13-14; Matt.18:20; Matt.26:17-20). It is a place of His appointment, and the saints "are gathered" by the Spirit, not wherever they choose to gather (Matt.18:20). The local assembly must express the unity of the "one body of Christ" in accord with the Scripture (note Rom.1:7; 1 Cor.1:2; 1 Cor.16:19-20; 2 Cor.1:1; Phil.4:21-22; Col.4:15-16), even though many dear saints of God do not appreciate the place, and set up many different tables after their own preferences. Some believers, not finding the assembly entertaining or involved in worldy activities, leave; and some do not want "all the counsel of God", or they have a conflict with a brother and do not resolve it, or they may rebel against assembly government, so they leave and join or start something new. This has been the history of the church since God's revival of church truth in circa 1800 AD. One can read ministry on this history in other papers and at the site: www.bibletruthpublishers.com and come to find this testimony which has continued.
God's plan for gathering is not our ways (Isa.55:8), so we must follow His plan. The Lord's table and the supper is a collective thing, not something done in private devotions. He gave us baptism for a standing with Christ as a seeker, and then asked us to keep in remembrance His sacrifice by the Lord's supper at His table. One ought to also understand the distinction between the table and the supper. Acts 2:42 shows also God's intent for the gathering of His people. Papers written on baptism, the Lord's table, and assembly conduct might help one to see some things which must not be compromised (1 Cor. 14:40). Contact the writer at the site: biblecounsel.net on the Internet.
1. On the first day of the week the saints should gather together to remember the Lord Jesus in His suffering and sacrifice for us as He requested (Luke 22:19-20; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). This is when the Lord's table is spread in collective worship to "show the Lord's death" (1 Cor.11:23-29), give thanks, sing praises, and meditate on His love. It is a holy and quiet time of devotion, not a time for preaching or other activity.
2. A time might also be set for Scripture reading before or after the remembrance meeting to study together, and the children might also be taken aside during this time for special classes.
3. Other reading meetings might be held later in the day, and a time set for preaching the gospel in a public way, where lost souls are invited to come and hear words of life.
4. It is also good to have a special prayer meeting time during the week to gather for collective prayer for the testimony, help, and intercession for all saints---especially those in need.
5. At times it is nice to have a special fellowship day for the saints to gather for sound ministry by those with an exercise to share Godly thoughts and encourage the saints, and all to enjoy fellowship in the things of God; and at times to have a special meeting during the week when a fulltime ministering servant visits to help, teach, and be an encouragement.
This is all in accord with the Word, and should be done in fellowship with every other scriptural assembly in the world.
God's priorities for gathering include order, holiness, government, and soundness in doctrine. One should understand what an assembly holds, and know its history, before being associated with it. Many are independent groups, or descendants of divisions, and though they may have a similar form of gathering they do not hold the truth of gathering.
There is room for conscience (Rom.14), but some things must not be compromised. A believer is gathered into the local fellowship and is then part of the universal testimony in the world, and is welcome wherever this truth is maintained. Papers on subjects concerning the man, the woman, the elders, the priesthood, and church doctrines, etc. are available to study.
Some Christians find the scriptural assembly too limiting for their interests, but one must be reminded that it is God's place in holiness and not a social club. It should be a place of Christian love, care, teaching, faithfulness, and devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ. Social activities and fun times for saints are good, but outside the assembly meetings, for that is not the purpose of Bible testimony.
[ADDENDUM 12/09: With reference to government and the assembly elders (overseers), as mentioned above, it should be noted that in a truly scriptural gathering God sets forth a few brothers as elders with a Godly spirit and scriptural discernment, and holds them accountable to maintain the truth and guide the testimony, though the whole church should be concerned and involved. Elders are not appointed by men, and they may not be preachers, but are seen as Godly and have the unction of the Spirit for oversight. The saints need to consider them. This writer has other papers on this calling of God.
It is also important to see that children of God are not given approval to go off independently, for we are "bought with a price", and we belong to God. We are always members of the "one body of Christ", and thus we are responsible to the local church, which is part of the universal church. There is no such thing as "a church of your choice", as many Christians like to say. This church truth was recovered in AD 1827, and we really need to appreciate God's revival, and learn dependency and unity. -RLD: CF12]