Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Terms of communion and unity

This concludes some cursory comments on the subject of terms of communion and visible unity. It is a matter of emphasis elsewhere in the New Testament besides what we have noted already.  "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).

Where unity is broken by open and persistent disobedience to God's Word there is a necessity to suspend communion. "If any man obey not our word by this epistle" (2 Thessalonians 3:14). "Who concerning the truth have erred" (2 Timothy 2:18). "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof from such turn away" (2 Timothy 3:5).  "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us" (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Paul commands us to "withdraw from every brother that walketh disorderly." That withdrawal relates to church communion. Yet the man is a brother, a professing Christian. He is walking disorderly and breaking unity however gracious his state may be. He must be withdrawn from. "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother" (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15). Again he is to be treated as a brother but to publicly "note" such a man must mean church censure. "Now, I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Romans 16:17)

In the context of discussing the Lord’s Supper, the apostle Paul speaks of divisions of practice and doctrine. It cannot be right that "when ye come together in the Church, I hear that division exist among you” (1 Corinthians 11:18). Yet he goes on to say in verse 19 that "there must be also factions among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." There must be a distinction made between those that accord to the truth and those that do not. In other words terms of communion are necessary in order to uphold unity and order. "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ, that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." (Philippians 1:27)

"Whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing" (Philippians 3:16). There is to be a unity of mind in the truth which is to be shown in Church communion.  "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10)
Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus; that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5) 

Some other helpful articles may be found here and here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The unity of the visible church and terms of communion #3

Acts 15:22-23 "Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia"
  • Unity can be established by settling questions using the God ordained means of church courts
  • Voting is a scriptural and necessary element of this
  • Individual church members ("the whole church") are to assure themselves that the decrees of church courts are in accord with Scripture
v24 "Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment"
  • unbiblical terms of communion are not only unsettling but also subverting and destructive to the Church
v28 "For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things"
  • when Church courts settle questions based upon the Word of God it can be said to be the mind of the Holy Spirit
  • Church courts possess only ministerial authority i.e. limited by the authority of Scripture to declare the revealed will of God contained in Scripture
  • Terms of communion are necessary things
  • Terms of church communion are a burden meant to be demanding and not light
  • the burden must be no heavier but also no lighter than the Word of God requires (Revelation 2:24)
  • Prohibition and discipline as well as teaching is required in order to attain unity and order
v29 "That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well."
  • Terms of communion may restrain certain elements of everyday life as directed by Scripture. It is not exceeding the bounds of Scripture or Church authority to restrain certain aspects of our conduct
  • Terms of communion will involve separation from idolatry
  • Terms of communion may involve things indifferent or not expressly sinful in themselves but which would breach the bond of love and peace through stumbling and offending others. Romans 14 speaks of receiving those weak in the faith, not scandalising them and preventing them from having communion with us on the basis of something that we believe to be indifferent in itself.
  • Terms of communion will involve avoiding the appearance of evil 
  • Terms of communion may involve temporary application of permanent principles
v30-31 "So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation".
  • decisions of Church courts should bring encouragement to believers. It is encouraging when matters are clearly settled rather than left as open questions
Acts 16:4-5 "And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily".
  • the decisions of church courts are binding and can be described as decrees to be kept
  • the authority of church courts can extend over national and regional boundaries
  • Uniformity in terms of communion is necessary for unity
  • Such terms are to be taught and preached
  • This leads to increasing in numbers
  • It is not divisive to assert and maintain scriptural terms of communion
  • Terms of communion are necessary "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" Action is required where there is disobedience to the Word of God.

One put down and another set up - #Election2015

The result of the UK General Election has taken many by surprise. Political pundits made confident forecasts. Politicians made strong assertions. The outcome was, however, entirely different. Men failed to account for the sovereignty of the Most High.... read more here

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

How to vote?

we must esteem it not merely a duty but a privilege, to remind the people, that it is through having God glorified in the exercise of their political privileges, that they will have the nation blessed, and that the rule " whether therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God," is as applicable to the exercise of the elective franchise [i.e. voting], as it is to the discharge of any duty we may have to perform, or the enjoyment of any privilege we may possess. By the people being brought to act on this rule, they will encourage the righteousness by which a nation is exalted, and discourage the sin which is a reproach to any people, and by which they are ruined.
Synod of the United Original Secession Church, May 1885.