My Thoughts. . .
Thursday, November 28, 2019
Pick up any “medicine,” whether across the counter or prescribed, and it has a warning label. In fact, some warnings inform you that side effects may produce the very conditions it is supposed to protect you from! If so, you are encouraged to “stop” ingesting it and immediately call your doctor! Very discomforting information. Yet, that same warning should be attached to other things besides medication.
There are things which we have innocently accepted that were handed down to us from centuries ago. Like medicine, it offered a solution to what was considered a problem. It was an “expedient” to make something work better or more smoothly. It did, or our ancestors would not have adopted it. Yet, we live in an imperfect world that attaches a price tag to everything. Yes, everything.
For example, Jesus invites, “Come to me all you who labor or are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Yet, that “rest” has a price tag attached! Jesus also stated, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22). He warned, “Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35). That “rest” could cost you your life! That’s the label warning!
The first century church grew rapidly. About 3,000 on the first day (Acts 2:41). Another 5,000 men not long after (Acts 4:4). So, you have a single saved group that met in a Temple courtyard and from house to house (Acts 2:46). The Jewish Court stopped the meetings in the courtyard with several arrests and beatings until finally Stephen was killed and persecution scattered the church (Acts 3:1-3, 17-18, 21; 5:17-18, 26-28, 33, 40; 7:54-59; 8:1).
The Temple meetings may have produced larger crowds bringing in a multitude of converts like the 3,000 and 5,000. Yet, the “label” warnings began almost immediately (Acts 4:17; 5:28). These warnings culminated in Stephen being murdered and Saul building a reputation (Acts 7:59-60; 8:3). Yet, this did not stop the house to house assemblies.
House to house meetings contained fewer numbers. An opportunity for 8,000 plus to be together was eliminated. Yet, meetings continued (Acts 12:12, 17). Elders continued to shepherd the flock. Conversions continued. The gospel began to spread beyond Jerusalem. House assemblies were found in those locations where the gospel was preached (Acts 16:34; 20:20; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2). House assemblies were useful and expedient. Without street signs or a church building, Paul and group found the assembly in Troas (Acts 20:6-7). Yet, some today would see the downside of that arrangement. They cannot visualize eight thousand partaking of communion without it being in only ONE room. Their understanding cannot perceive how an eldership can shepherd people without eyeballing the sheep in that one room. One group believes communion is limited to all drinking from one cup. Another believes communion must be in one room to be scriptural.
In the third or fourth century church buildings were first mentioned. This was an expedient that took attendance out of private homes and put them in a centrally located place. It was easier for travelers to locate. More people could be together to partake. Singing probably improved. But even this expediency had its negatives. It developed into the location where believers had to gather in order to be in the presence of God. It became God’s house or temple rather than that label continuing to refer to the saints (Hebrews 3:6). The assemblies became more formal. A clergy was developed to lead the laity in authorized worship. At first the congregants stood, but seating was introduced. A good expedient, but with its shortcomings. Attention was focused on what the clergy did. The attendees did not face one another nor was there communication of encouragement between people since the back of someone’s head faced them! Holiness was transferred from God’s original building stones (1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Peter 2:5) to the brick and mortar that became the substituted holy place. Time erased the first century’s meeting agenda so any assembly not in the building at the appropriate times must be sinful. House to house meetings for “worship” became pass tense. Worship took on a different meaning and rules and regulations were created to solidify its holy importance. Proper attitudes in that special place were expected. Special furniture was created, introduced, and accepted as the way things should be.
Some expedients or traditions may be good and useful. However, when expedients and traditions become “the way it must be done,” then whatever benefits they once brought, vanishes. The way we do things in the twenty-first century may not be sinful, but we must continually recognize their origin. They are not commanded by God. Such things are our creation to make our way of doing things run smoother. Just because an expedient or tradition has that characteristic doesn’t make it God’s standard. Like medicine, some actions still have labels which warn us that a good thing may end up being bad for us! Even good things have their price tag!