My Thoughts. . .
I know folks who believe culture is not tied in with being a New Testament Christian. Think about that statement. Isn’t that saying that one is attempting to restore the first century church into the twenty-first century by stripping it of its cultural statements? Do we? Don’t we discard first century culture and redress the commands and examples in twenty-first century culture? Would that action not be a substitution?
There are practices in the first century church that were not condemned which are ignored and substituted by twenty-first century Christians. Why? Because it is unlawful in our culture. Slavery is not condemned by any New Testament writer. In fact, Paul corrects the behavior of Christian slaves in Ephesians 6:5-9 and Colossians 3:22-25, but never condemns the practice. Perhaps today, when mobs who are destroying offensive statues realize the biblical position of slavery, may start burning Bibles because they too are offensive? Some Christians may be influenced to follow their example.
Today most believers stand firmly against slavery. We substitute the words” employee” and “employer” for “slave” and “master.” We make Paul’s instruction fit our culture rather than his. We justify this, not because scripture allows the substitution, but because THAT IS NOT OUR culture. When that happens, a contradiction is created between the claim that “we teach ONLY the Bible” and our insertions which are based upon and justified by our culture.
If we may rewrite practices found in scripture to fit our culture, then our actions will allow others to follow our lead. Whatever objections we raise against others following that course, will cry out against us. The view that first century culture had nothing to do with New Testament commands is without biblical confirmation. For the first ten to eleven years after the Acts 2 Pentecost, the church was Jewish. They continued to worship at the Temple and in the synagogue (Acts 21:18-26). After Peter visited Cornelius, he had to face his Jewish brethren when he returned to Jerusalem (Acts 11:1-3). A few years later, some of those Jews demanded that Gentile converts must be circumcised to be saved (Acts 15:1, 5). The decision was that Jews remain Jewish and Gentiles were not bound to Jewish first covenant practices (Acts 15:19-20). Not all Jewish saints agreed and a few years later they attempted to bind what God had not. Paul condemn this action as “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6-9, 2:11-14, 5:1-7, 12).
First century congregations met from house to house in small informal groups that were minus the roles created by the introduction of church buildings.
First century congregations did not have a piece of furniture called “the Lord’s table.”
First century assemblies followed the culture of women being veiled and men being without a covering while participating in prayer and prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:1-16).
First century assemblies had six speakers. Three prophets and three language speakers with their specific interpreter (1 Corinthians 14). 3 + 3 + 3 = 9!
Women in first century assemblies were forbidden to ask their husband questions “in church,” but were commanded to ask them “at home.” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).
Women were discouraged from braiding their hair with gold or pearls or wear costly garments but were to be dressed in a modest way (1 Timothy 2:9).
Brethren were commanded, five times, to greet one another with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16).
When giving to the Lord, the membership was to place their contribution at the preacher’s feet (Acts 4:33-34; 5:1). Members did not appoint a group of men to pass the plate. That was a much later addition.
When a church wide problem needed attention, the largest congregation met and settled it, then informed the other congregations about their decision (Acts 15). Their only choice was to agree.
The church met at night to partake of the communion, apparently following Jewish time (Acts 20:7-11). Paul used the assembly to preach. Those two activities are all that is mentioned.
A widow who could be supported by the church had qualifications she was required to meet to receive the church’s assistance. She must have washed “the feet of the saints.”
If a woman cut her hair it was shameful (1 Corinthians 11:5-6).
Does scripture permit a rejection and change of those commands? If a command may be stripped of its first century cultural settings, and a twenty-first century cultural attachment take its place, then wouldn’t the door be opened to do that with any other New Testament practice?
What is interesting, is that our desire to change those biblical commands from their first century cultural involvement and adapting them to twenty-first century practices, admits there is a relationship that those commandments had with the culture they were introduced in. The changes we institute of necessity divorces them from the culture they started with in order to be married to the one we are in.
Why bring it up? Every act has a reaction. It may be good or bad. The determination made on whether something is good or bad or whether we have the right to change anything has a way of dividing the body of Christ.