Not too long ago, my wife and I had an opportunity to visit with another congregation. During one song, in a specific place, individuals in the audience let out a “hoot.” Although this did not violate my “comfort zone,” it did cause some reflection on my part.
Was there anything wrong with the “hoot”? I am not one of those folks who is bent out of shape by something different done elsewhere that is not practiced where I worship. So, I did not take Paul’s statement out of context and attempt to see the “hoot” as being a contradiction of 1 Corinthians 14:40, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
My reflection was more along the lines of the future. Humans have a tendency to make a practice into a custom, a custom into a tradition, and a tradition into the law of God. What may have started out with meaning, often ends up being something we do, not from the heart, but from “that’s the way we have always done it.” It loses its original purpose and significance and digresses into an action done “because that’s what our parents and grandparents did.” Then, when someone questions it, or heaven forbid, wants to eliminate or change it in any way, their actions are considered heresy.
When Moses lifted up the brass serpent on a pole, there was a divine reason for it. Those bitten by snakes lived rather than died because they looked upon that brass serpent (Numbers 21:8-9). However, by the time of King Hezekiah, the purpose had changed (2 Kings 18:4). It had become an object of worship and needed to be destroyed. Imagine the alarm generated in the hearts of those who heard Hezekiah’s order. Many of those folks looked upon that object as something commanded by God, built by Moses, and which made it possible for many in that generation to exist because their ancestors were healed by the sight of it. It was no longer a creation by Moses for a past purpose, but had taken on a name and worship. It was Nehushtan. Strangely enough, the word translated means, “a piece of brass.” Yet, they worshiped it!When we look at 2 Kings 18:4, it makes us wonder how Israel could come to worship something which they called “a piece of brass.” Yet, are our motives for making traditions into the law of God anymore questionable?
Look at the laws some have made over the Lord’s supper.
- The fruit of the vine must be served in one container to the congregation. If the container is dropped or runs out prior to everyone being served, a larger one must be obtained and the serving started again from the beginning.
- The fruit of the vine must be fermented.
- The fruit of the vine must not be fermented.
- The unleavened bread must be made from wheat.
- Communion must be served prior to preaching.
- The bread must be served before the fruit of the vine.
- The bread must be broken by the one who presides prior to it being offered to the congregation.
- The communion must be served in an upper room.
- The Lord’s supper must be observed in the evening only – after 6 o’clock.
- The communion may be served to a congregation only once. A night time serving is unscriptural.
- When the Lord’s supper is being served, the congregation must observe silently as an act of reverence and/or respect.
- During the communion, there may be no other acts of worship performed, such as singing, praying silently, or reading one’s Bible.
- Those who serve on the table must wear suits and ties as a sign of respect or reverence.
- The elements must be covered with a table cloth prior to the elements being served.
- The table upon which the elements sit must be in front of the auditorium.
- The Sunday night serving of the Lord’s supper must be in the auditorium/sanctuary. They may not be dismissed to partake in another location.
- Only men may serve the congregation the Lord’s supper since this is a “male only” role. Allowing women to serve would be a violation of 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 and/or 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
- An announcement must be made to the assembly when the Lord’s supper is finished, that the collection to follow is not a part of the communion.
- In the prayer prior to the communion being served, the pattern or formula must be followed as given in Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25.
Yes, these and many other customs have found their way into law. Families have been torn apart due to religious differences on these matters.
My parting reflection is: Are any of these things the “good news” of Jesus Christ?