Thursday, August 10, 2017
Have you ever stated, “That is a beautiful church”? Most people do. Yet, what is “the church”? When Jesus said, “I will build my church” was he referring to a structure of brick, wood, and mortar (Matthew 16:18)? If so, was that “beautiful church” built by Jesus himself? A church building is not recorded in history until the fourth century! The beginning of the church is recorded in Acts 2. It is not built from finite materials, but by the blood of Jesus (Acts 20:28)! Surely Paul wasn’t referring to one built by man on the corner of some street?
Although the building of a house of worship is not wrong, there are some misunderstandings created about that building which are not biblical. This article will discuss some. First, we need to be aware of certain facts.
- A church building is not found in your Bible. It came into existence a few hundred years after the New Testament was completed.
- Even though the church began with about 3,000 on the first day, they didn’t believe a building was necessary to their work or worship (Acts 2:40-47). Preaching was done in the Temple courtyards, but disciples met for edification and fellowship in their homes as they broke bread and praised God (Acts 2:46-47).
- Most buildings are financed by the 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 collection. Yet, there is nothing in that passage which allocates buying property or building a house of worship. The stated purpose of that collection was 1) for needy saints in another city and state, 2) it was not for local needs. 3) it was for benevolent purposes, rather than evangelism or edification.
One misunderstanding concerns how one is to enter that house of worship. Some believe that silence is required to show reverence to God. This attitude was formed because people assumed the building was “God’s house” and the room where members worshiped was God’s “sanctuary.” Yet, such a view comes from an Old Testament practice rather than New Testament teaching. Who is “the house of God”? Paul informed Timothy that it was “the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15). Jesus is the high priest over “the house of God” (Hebrews 10:21). Peter informs us that “the house of God” is “us” and the Hebrew writer does the same (1 Peter 4:17; Hebrews 3:6). Paul also informs readers that a Christian is the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in him (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). The building is simply a gathering place for “the house of God” or “temple of God” to assemble in. The house of God is not a building erected by man from brick, wood, and mortar. Christians are that “house”! Jesus purchased it (Acts 20:28). That being true, to adopt a man-made rule that one must remain silent in the building where the house of God meets is a tradition based upon a misunderstanding of God’s word!
If silence is the standard for reverence, there is a contradictory problem! The saint is the house or temple of God not the church building. The Christian doesn’t have to enter the building to revere God, he should already be doing so because God continually dwells in him! That being so, if silence is God’s standard for reverence, shouldn’t the Christian, as God house, be mute? Since the Christian is God’s house, the building is only the edifice where the house assembles. If the house of worship is God’s house, and silence is equal to reverence, we are not reverent toward God until we arrive at the building and maintain silence! When some make the building into “a holy place” to worship, they make the same mistake the Samaritan woman did (John 4:19-20).
Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet in Jerusalem, worship the Father” (John 4:21). Some limit or restrict worship to a specific location! When we make the church building into a “holy place,” where we must go to be in the presence of God, we are reverting to a worship that became obsolete and vanished away (Hebrews 8:13)! Christians are continually in the Father’s presence, not just 1-4 times each week. We continually present ourselves to God as living sacrifices, not just one to four hours each week (Romans 12:1-2). We may assemble with others to edify one another, but our worship must be prior to that assembly, while in it, and continue after we have been dismissed from it. The idea that we “go to worship” at the church building assumes that our worship is to be limited to time and place. It isn’t. To fit that misunderstanding, different rules and practices have surfaced that lack biblical teaching!
Some believe they come into the presence of God when they enter the auditorium or “sanctuary.” This is the reason some believe it is wrong to talk or laugh prior to worship beginning because it defiles this “holy place.” In the first century, brethren met and ate in their homes. If we went back to assembling where they did, would we still be defiling God’s house by eating a meal in the home of a member where we are breaking bread and praising God (Acts 2:46-47)? Since “we” are continually “God’s house,” are we defiling God when we eat breakfast, dinner, or supper? As God house or temple, when we eat, isn’t it God’s house doing the eating? If you don’t believe that, you are admitting that you are absent from God because you aren’t in His presence until you are in the church building? Perhaps that’s why some believe they can use profanity elsewhere. They believe they aren’t in God’s presence!Some make the argument that any secular activity is forbidden in the church building because only spiritual actions are allowed. We are told that the reason for this “law” is because the Lord’s money may not be used to purchase anything which is not a “spiritual matter.” This objection is not made when the church purchases paper towels, tissues, and toilet paper for the bathrooms. Is visiting a bathroom a spiritual matter? Some argue that the 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 collection may be spent only on evangelism, edification, and benevolence. Yet, neither evangelism nor edification are mentioned in that passage. In fact, spending that contribution on local evangelism, edification, or benevolence is not there either! If one may add things to a passage that are not there, doesn’t that open Pandora’s box? Of course, if that collection may be used only for those three things, then who will be the official church interpreters on what evangelism, edification, and benevolence includes or excludes? How long or short would that man-made list be? Would churches divide because one’s list is shorter or longer than another?
What about dress codes? When did the phrase, “Sunday’s best” begin? Was it in Acts 2? When Peter stood up to preach, was he wearing a $400 suit, wingtip shoes, white shirt, and matching tie and socks? If a person subscribes to “church building Christianity,” that would be the law of how he must be dressed to please God when he steps into the pulpit! For some, their religious culture is dearer to them than what the Bible teaches. When one’s religious culture is written in stone and demanded, he has gone beyond the teaching of God’s word.
Dress codes are not sinful, but when they become law, they are! Most will deny that their rules are law. Yet, if someone suggests a change, the walls are quickly erected and defended. That defense claims it is biblical! That defense is usually, “Dressing up in your best shows respect to God.” If that is so, it leaves Paul and a host of others out because they were not married to our religious culture! If the religious culture of Paul is binding, as some think theirs is, we would still worship at the Temple and in the synagogue as he did! Manmade religious culture must not be bound! Yet, some do.
“A suit shows respect to God. If you visited the President of the United States, you would wear a suit. Should one pay more respect to the President than to God?”
That sounds logical, doesn’t it? However, wearing a suit to visit the President is a cultural thing, not a biblical law. When Paul worshiped God, or stood before governor Felix, he wasn’t dressed any different than he did every day (Acts 24:1-10)? The only dress code in the first century was applicable each day. They were to be clothed with Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 13:12-14). If those who are serving communion must wear a suit to show respect to God, why shouldn’t those being served be required to do the same? Are the “suited servers serving disrespectful members? Shouldn’t the audience also respect God? Such man-made laws work both ways! Such a “law” or “requirement” is equal to what is condemned in James 2:1-4. One should wonder if the person wearing the suit, also has a servant’s heart? Which one would God respect, the suit or the heart? Isn’t James 2:1-4 being violated when a man who may not own a suit, but whose heart is right, is eliminated from serving? What is being respected? Isn’t it the suit? What is the main qualification of one who serves on the table under such requirements? Isn’t it, “He must wear a suit”? Is any server asked about his heart? Why not? Isn’t that more important?
When did men start wearing suits to serve the Lord’s supper? A Bible student knows that it grew out of a seventeenth century culture rather than a first century command. When did congregations introduce “a table” into the assembly inscribed with the six words of Luke 22:19? It wasn’t in the first century. In fact, such furniture isn’t found in scripture any more than one would find a piano or an organ! It is another “rule” coming from the creation of the church building. When did the practice begin with men standing behind the table? You will find a piano in the assembly before you find that practice. If we were following the practice of Acts 2:46-47, we would still be meeting in multiple homes of members. The atmosphere would have a more meaningful relationship than is found in the sanctuaries and auditoriums of the 21st century. If ten or so saints were meeting in your home, would you require two or more men to pass the Lord’s supper? If so, what passage would you produce to prove it must be done that way? The way it is being done, regardless of the church you are in, originated from “church building Christianity”! So, the “required” suit rule comes from men rather than God.
Jesus told the apostles, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 NKJV Emphasis mine, RH). Jesus said, “love one another.” How will the world know that we are his disciples? The world often sees followers of Jesus displaying their “rules” to prove they are his disciples. How many of those items would completely disappear if we followed first century Christians by meeting in different homes rather than owning a building? Would Christianity fall apart if our congregations were owner-less? These problems show how easy, with time, different rules are made “lawful.”
Please remember that I am not saying church buildings are sinful! I am not saying we need to get rid of our buildings and go back to only house meetings! I am simply pointing out how misunderstandings of biblical teaching often lead to the creation of manmade rules which lead to division. We should learn the difference between what God has said rather than become slaves to rules introduced by man. Especially those that have been elevated to law!
So, what are your views of a building where the church assembles?