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.