Scriptures and Thoughts on the Word “Church”

Greek:

Ekklesia – an assembly, a casual gathering of people, or people with a shared belief.
Generally any group, or specifically God’s “called out-ones” universally or in a particular assembly.

Hebrew:

Qahal – “assembly”
Edah – “congregation”

Where can a church meet?

 (Romans 16:3-5) Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house.

 (1 Corinthians 16:19) The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.

 (Colossians 4:15) Greet the brothers in Laodicea, as well as Nympha and the church that meets at her house.

 (Philemon 1:2) to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets at your house:

Do the following verses suggest that early Christians congregated in the synagogue?

 (Acts 13:42-48) And as Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God. And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles… And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

 (Acts 18:26) And he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

 (Acts 19:8) And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

 (Acts 2:46-47) Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Other places:

(Acts 20:7-12) On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead.

 (Acts 16:13) And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.

 How should we reconcile congregational autonomy with universal cooperation?

 (Acts 14:23) “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

 (I Corinthians 16:1-4) “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:  On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.  But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me.”

What bearing does the following passage have, considering that apostles and prophets were involved, which are not with us today?

(Acts 15:1-6) “And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.” “So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.  And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.”But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.””Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.”

(Acts 15:22-32) “They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.”Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” — to whom we gave no such commandment — it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,”  …”We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.  For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:”  …”So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter.  When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement.” Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.”

What is the “rock” that Jesus built His church on?

(Matthew 16:13-19) Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.

(John 20:21-23) So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

(1 Peter 2:4-8) And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,”and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

(Ephesians 2:19-22) So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

(1 Corinthians 10:4) and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.

Do different guidelines apply to the church when assembled versus when dispersed?

(1 Corinthians 14:34-35) The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

(1 Timothy 2:11-12) A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.  (1 Timothy 3:14-15) I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

(1 Corinthians 11:20-22) Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.

(1 Corinthians 14:26-33) What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

What does ‘forsaking the assembly’ mean and is it ever acceptable?

(Hebrews 10:23-25) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Forsake – to “leave in the desert,” to abandon, to leave in straits, neglect

Assembling together – From episunago; a complete collection; especially a Christian meeting (for worship) — assembling (gathering) together.

Habit – ethos – an unwritten custom; behavior based on tradition (a habit) fixed by the religious social life of a nation.

What is the basis for the unity of the church? Complete doctrinal agreement? Following Jesus? Something else?

(Ephesians 4:1-16)
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peaceThere is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptismone God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,
“WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH,
HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES,
AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”
(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachersfor the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christuntil we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

(Romans 14) do not judge based on “opinions”

What names or descriptions are given to the church in Scripture?

Brethren: (occurs 188 times in NT)

“Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” (Acts 6:3)

“And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.” (Acts 11:29)

“Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.” (Acts 15:32)

“After some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’” (Acts 15:36)

“And he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.” (Acts 16:2)

“After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.” (Acts 21:17)

“There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome.” (Acts 28:14)

Church: (occurs 112 times)

The church in Jerusalem.” (Acts 8:1)

The church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31)

“They had appointed elders for them in every church.” (Acts 14:23)

The church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

The church that is in their house.” (Romans 16:5)

“All the churches of Christ greet you.” (Romans 16:16)

“The churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

“The church of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:2, 10:32, 15:9, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:13, 1 Timothy 3:5)

“The churches of God.” (1 Corinthians 11:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:4)

“The churches of Judea which were in Christ.” (Galatians 1:22)

“The churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.” (1 Thessalonians 2:14)

“The household of God, which is the church of the living God.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

Saints: (occurs 61 times)
“Your saints at Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:13)

The saints who lived at Lydda.” (Acts 9:32)

“To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints.” (Romans 1:7)

“And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27)

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

“as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” (Ephesians 5:3)

“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.” (Philippians 1:1)

The Way: (occurs 5 times)

“So that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:2)

“About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way.” (Acts 19:23)

“But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets.” (Acts 24:14)

Should people ever be kicked out of the church? If so, when and how?

(1 Corinthians 5:9-13) I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.

(1 Corinthians 5) Entire chapter (2 Corinthians 2) The Outcome

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Verses and Thoughts about the word “Christian”

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Christos – Christ, the Greek form of the Hebrews “Messiah,” which means anointed one.
-ianos – indicates that a person is the follower of a leader or the slave of a master.

Christianons – A person who follows and belongs to the Christ, the Messiah, the annointed one.

(Acts 11:26) “And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”

(Acts 26:28) “Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.’ (NASB) ” [or] ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’ (NIV)

(1 Peter 4:15-16) “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.”

Why do we use the term “Christian” so much more frequently than the Bible does? Is that okay?

The Context of all three passage cited above suggests that “Christian” was a name given and used by outsiders about the church. Thus, the NT writers had no habit of using it themselves.

Does our usage of the same term as the world reflect a concerning lack of distinctiveness in our thinking?

Perhaps a shift towards the language that the 1st century church actually used with frequency about themselves could help up demonstrate the distinctiveness of the true church?

Are there other terms we ought to use more often?

Brethren: (occurs 188 times in NT)

“Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” (Acts 6:3)

“And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.” (Acts 11:29)

“Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.” (Acts 15:32)

“After some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’” (Acts 15:36)

“And he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.” (Acts 16:2)

“After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.” (Acts 21:17)

“There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them for seven days; and thus we came to Rome.” (Acts 28:14)

Church: (occurs 112 times)

The church in Jerusalem.” (Acts 8:1)

The church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31)

“They had appointed elders for them in every church.” (Acts 14:23)

The church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

The church that is in their house.” (Romans 16:5)

“All the churches of Christ greet you.” (Romans 16:16)

“The churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

“The church of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:2, 10:32, 15:9, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:13, 1 Timothy 3:5)

“The churches of God.” (1 Corinthians 11:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:4)

“The churches of Judea which were in Christ.” (Galatians 1:22)

“The churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea.” (1 Thessalonians 2:14)

“The household of God, which is the church of the living God.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

Saints: (occurs 61 times)

“Your saints at Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:13)

The saints who lived at Lydda.” (Acts 9:32)

“To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints.” (Romans 1:7)

“And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27)

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

“as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” (Ephesians 5:3)

“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.” (Philippians 1:1)

The Way: (occurs 5 times)

“So that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:2)

“About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way.” (Acts 19:23)

“But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets.” (Acts 24:14)

Is it okay to call someone a “Christian” if they have some false doctrines or practices? If yes, explain. If no, what should we call them?

(Matthew 7:21-23) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

(1 Corinthians 5:11) “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler– not even to eat with such a one.”

(2 John 1:10) “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting;”

(Matthew 7:15) “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

(Revelation 2:2) “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;”

(Romans 14:1-4) “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables onlyThe one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

Given that the term “Christian” appears to have been imposed and mostly used by outsiders to refer to those who followed or claimed to follow Christ, does this effect our answer?

How can we honor God through the name “Christian?”

(2 Timothy 2:19) Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”

(1 Peter 4:12-16) Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler;16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name

(Acts 5:40-42) They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

(Acts 21:13) Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

What attributes should a Christian clearly exhibit?

(Acts 4:13) Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.

(John 13:34-35) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

(Acts 17:10-12) The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.

What does it mean to “be a good Christian” or to say “I need to be a better Christian,” and how can we do this?

Tradition!

Many in the church today seem to have a negative view of the word, “traditions,” and perhaps in some instances they should.

In Mark 7, Jesus told the religious leaders of his day: “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition,” or as Matthew 15:3 and 6 record, why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?… You invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.”

This statement of Jesus followed His quoting to them from Isaiah 29:13, which states: “this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” Jesus said they were “teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

But are traditions all bad?

Paul told the Thessalonians, “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) He also told the church in Corinth, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.” (1 Corinthians 11:2)

Just a few verses later in the same chapter, when Paul was instructing the women of Corinth to cover their heads while praying, he referred to this instruction with the Greek word “sunétheia,” which indicates “a custom, habit, or practice,” something that becomes “intimate” or “customary” through repeated usage.

So how are we to judge which traditions are valuable and which should be thrown out?

Notice from the verses that we have listed that the Bible does not exalt or denounce ideas and practices based simply on whether they are “old,” or “new,” but rather on whether or not they are conducive to godliness and in line with Biblical doctrine.

  • If the keeping of a tradition requires us to set aside God’s word, it must go.
  • If observing a particular tradition causes us to break God’s commandments, it must be abandoned.
  • If the process of learning our traditions “by rote” has resulted in heartless, mechanical worship, something must change.
  • If we are teaching our traditions as though they were the very words of God, we must stop.

On the other hand, if our traditions call us to godliness, enrich our spiritual lives, and bring honor to God, all without violating His revealed will, they are to be cherished and prolonged.

But what if a particular tradition is not causing any harm, and violates none of God’s commands, but some find it pointless and wish to abandon it while others think it continues to be useful?

A similar situation occurred in Romans 14.

Old dietary and holiday traditions still existed among new converts form Judaism to Christianity. Disagreements arose about the usefulness and validity of these old traditions now that the Christ had come. But Paul did not exactly pick sides. Instead, he seamed to confirm to them that either position was potentially acceptable: “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.”

To see more of what council the church in Rome was given, read through Romans chapter 14.

Are you in a Spiritual “Echo Chamber?”

Last week, when we dissected the account of the Prophet Jonah, we noticed in the first few verses that “Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” If you are familiar with the story then you know that his plan to physically run away from God did not turn out so well.

Jonah had to learn what David spoke of in Psalm 139:7-10: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.”

And while we may not physically run away from God, are we not behaving in a similar manner when we silence our God-given consciences, or deliberately put His words out of our heads in order to avoid the feeling of judgment? Do we not bury our heads in the sand when we just disregard His commands?

“Yes, I know I should be sharing the gospel with people wherever I go, but… lets talk about something else.” “Yes, I know the Bible says those actions are sinful, but surely God wants me to be happy.” “Well, I should probably get baptized but… I’ll do it later.”

Just as Jonah’s running away did not actually remove Him from God’s presence, ignoring or forgetting God’s words does not get us off the hook either.

In the book of Micah it is recorded that the people behaved in this way. After being chastised for their wickedness and warned of impending doom it is said: “‘Don’t say such things,’ the people respond. ‘Don’t prophesy like that. Such disasters will never come our way! (Micah 2:6-7, NLT)’” It was as if the people believed that if they did not hear God’s truth, then it did not exist.

Instead, they wanted to listen to people that would tell them what they wanted: “Suppose a prophet full of lies would say to you, ‘I’ll preach to you the joys of wine and alcohol!’ That’s just the kind of prophet you would like! (Micah 2:11, NLT)”

Even the world recognizes the danger of surrounding ourselves by people who only tell us what we like to here. Recently there has been a lot of talk about the dangers of social media becoming an “echo chamber” in which we become surrounded by likeminded individuals who will not challenge us to grow in our understandings.

Paul told Timothy that the same thing could happen to Christians if they were not careful: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

The truth is that there will always be someone somewhere willing to tell us what we want to hear just so we can feel good about ourselves and not be troubled with God’s truth. In this way, we can convince ourselves of whatever it is that we would like to believe, as though our obliviousness to reality actually altered the truth.

Beginning in Proverbs 1:20 we find a lengthy passage about wisdom crying out in the public square, asking if anyone is actually going to listen to her. The choice is yours. There are plenty of fools waiting to tell you exactly what you want. Or there is wisdom, crying out from the pages of the Bible for whoever is willing to listen.

Let the Bible Speak

Psalm 119:105 states, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” In this simple metaphor the psalmist communicates a very important idea: God’s word is an outside source of knowledge and guidance, over and above our own feelings and opinions.

Isaiah 55:10-11 says “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

If indeed God has sent His word out to accomplish His purposes, we ought to let it speak for itself rather than twisting it around to say what we want it to. We must resist the temptation to simply assume that Bible affirms what we want it to affirm. We must be willing to listen with open hearts.

Acts 17:11 says of the Bereans, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

The test that the Bereans used to determine the truthfulness of an idea was not how it made them feel, or how popular it was in the current political or religious climate, or what their families had always believed, but rather what the Scriptures said.

Consider one final passage, 2 Timothy 4:1-5, written from the experienced apostle Paul to the young preacher Timothy.

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Notice a few key points from these verses:

  1. Paul considers this instruction so important that he charges Timothy in the presence of God and Jesus, who will judge us all one day.
  2. Paul tells Timothy to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. In other words, be deeply concerned with the truth of scripture, even if that truth is not popular.
  3. There is a real temptation for us to only listen to people who tell us what we want to hear. This is a destructive tendency.

Whether you consider yourself “doctrinally conservative” or “doctrinally liberal,” or don’t necessarily really know or care how you would be categorized, the scriptural plea to all of us is this: let the Bible speak.

 

An Outline of the Book of Romans

Colosseum in Rome
The following is an overview of Romans based on our weekly Sunday Morning Bible Study at Mankato Church of Christ from June-July, 2015.

Introduction.
Paul addresses himself to the Romans and expresses a desire to come see them. (1:1-17)

 No one is justified by works.
The world is a dark place, spiraling downward into sin. (1:18-32)
Even “good, moral people” fall short. (2:1-29)
Being a Jew does have some advantages, but NO ONE has the ability to justify himself to God based on his own merits. (3:1-20)

We are justified by grace through faith in Jesus.
Salvation is made available to us through Jesus Christ. (3:21-5:21)
It is a gracious salvation, it is not deserved. (3:21-5:21)
We access it by faith. (3:21-5:21)
Faith is a trust in God despite discouraging circumstances, and is completed and evidenced by obedience. (4:18-25, James 2:14-26)

We are not only justified, but also sanctified.
This salvation is not merely forgiveness, so that we may continue in sin that grace may abound. It is also comprised of a transformation, as we die to sin and are set free from our slavery to it. (6:1-23)

How and why the Old Law has been done away with.
How can Jews simply lay aside the Old Covenant law code? Because they died to it when they died with Christ, that the law of the Spirit might replace it. (7:1-6)
Are we saying that the law is bad? Not at all, but that sin has used it to ruin us. We are in desperate need of Jesus Christ, not merely the law, to solve this problem. (7:7-25)

Sanctification by the power of the Spirit.
It must remain amply clear that living according to the flesh still leads to death, even under this new covenant. (8:1-13)
Walking not according to the flesh but in righteousness is achieved by following, setting the mind on, and being indwelled by God’s Spirit. It is a matter not merely or rule keeping, but of inward change. (8:1-8:27)

What a glorious plan God has made, that He should justify us to Himself, that Christ Himself would not condemn, that having given us His Son, God would also give us all that we need. (8:26-39)

God is not breaking any promises to Israel.
God always knew that not all Hebrews would be saved, and that the Gentiles would come in, and has spoken accordingly through the prophets. (9:1-33)
The invitation is certainly open to all Jews, since Christ is the fulfillment of Judaism. (10:1-11:6)
Gentiles ought not to be arrogant about this, for though God may use them to make the Jews jealous, He can just as easily remove them from the plan if they display unbelief. (Romans 11:7-36)

Therefore, give your life to God.
In light of this doctrine, your service and your sacrifice to God is to give your life to Him. (12:1-2)

Your relationships with fellow Christians should be mutually edifying. (12:3-13)
You should treat your enemies with kindness rather than revenge. (12:14-21)
You should be in subjection to your government. (13:1-7)
All of your relationships are to be governed by the law: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (13:8-14)

Do not judge your fellow Christians over matters of personal opinion. (14:1-12)
Avoid causing a brother to stumble by your actions, even if those actions are not inherently sinful. (14:13-23) 

Closing thoughts and reminders
Accept and edify each other. (15:1-12)
Paul’s expression of personal joy at the success of the congregation and the salvation of the gentiles (15:13-21) and reaffirmation that Paul wants to visit. (15:22-33)
Warning about those who cause divisions. (16:17-20)

Greetings to many diverse Christian brethren. (16:1-16, 21-24) 

All glory to God through Jesus Christ. (16:25-27)