The Only Way to Worship is according to these Rules

Hard line Churches of Christ from the Restoration Movement (about 10% to 20% of Churches of Christ) have theology that is based on the belief that all the early churches recorded in the New Testament writings adhered to a rigid worship format that was standardized across all congregations. No variation from this format was tolerated according to this belief. Furthermore Churches of Christ interpret phrases in the scriptures like “obeying Christ”, “the sound doctrine”, “the pattern of sound teaching” and “pleasing to God” as adhering to the congregational worship formats:

1. preaching,

2. singing (a capella only)

3. giving money (Sunday only)

4. praying, and

5. eating the Lord’s Supper (Sunday only)

CatholicChurchThe idea that all the congregations had a standardized worship format is reinforced by the observation that the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, Anglican and Lutheran churches all have standardized worship services, prescribing when to stand, kneel, pray, sing, respond, cross yourself, shake your neighbor’s hand, and take communion.

But proving that all the congregations recorded in the New Testament were supposed to adhere to a standardized worship format is not easily proven. In fact I would put forth the idea that there were no standardized worship format rules in the early church. And the only time worship formats are mentioned in the New Testament writings they are mentioned either as incidental to the story being told, or they are mentioned because people were becoming selfish in the way they were worshipping, losing the focus of God and love as the center of worship.

Because the church at Ephesus “broke bread” together on one Sunday of one week, that means to the hard line Churches of Christ that the “oft” Jesus commanded implied that all the early churches took the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. Because the apostle Paul commanded the Ephesians and Colossians to sing and make melody in the heart, only the instruments of the voice and the heart are permitted, no other instruments of music are permitted in the hard line Churches of Christ. These rules are baffling to those who are not privy to the premise the Churches of Christ bring to the New Testament writings: all worship and organization must be standardized and authorized in the New Testament writings.

burntofferingIn the Law of Moses there are clearly laid out rules about the feast days (like the Passover) and how God wanted to be worshipped at the tabernacle: sacrifice a cow, cut it open like this, lay it out like that upon the burning altar, eat the cow while standing in front of the tabernacle gate, etc. In the New Testament writings there is no such format laid out. In fact it seems to me like some of the writers of the letters to the churches might be surprised that their letters made it into the canon of the Christian Bible. If they had known they were going to be read for 2,000 years they might have made a couple of things clearer. Even the Jews when they came up with the synagogue system, had very little to go on in coming up with a format for their meetings. (The oldest excavated synagogue building dates to 150 BCE.) There is no “authorization” for the synagogue in the Bible comparable to the way the hard line Churches of Christ demand authorization for corporate worship practices. There is no “authorization” for appointing elders in each synagogue, and there is no authorization for how to format the worship service of the synagogue. The Jews who were in captivity in Babylonian (597 – 538 BCE) just decided to build their own synagogues to preserve and teach their beliefs while in a strange land. And they brought the synagogue system back with them when they returned to Jerusalem years later.

The fact that most of the early church probably co-opted the worship and organizational format of the synagogue never seems to have crossed the minds of the hard line Churches of Christ. Instead there was a diligent searching of the New Testament letters to piecemeal a rigidly legislated format and organization together: elders and deacons, five acts of worship.

But that is not what Jesus taught. Jesus taught about fasting, praying, giving to the poor, paying taxes, loving your neighbor, obeying Moses, avoiding hypocrisy, attitudes toward money, sex, power and forgiveness. He taught against praying for show in the synagogue and striving to sit in the seats of honor at the synagogues. He even talked about taking a brother before the  congregation (synagogue) if you had a problem with him/her. He asked his disciples to remember him as often as they ate the bread and drank the cup. Other than that Jesus was not interested in the organization of the early church, or the worship format of the early church.

cleansetempleSo if we were to truly imitate Jesus we also would not be interested in the worship format or the organization of the early church. Jesus was largely anarchic: ignoring the power structures of his day. Yes, he said to give to the social structures what was their due, but he also ignored the religious rulers and the social rules of his day, cleansing the temple even in the face of the temple police guard, and accusing the temple rulers of making it a den of thieves. When he was kicked out of all the synagogues, he just kept on teaching what he believed right up until his government killed him.

So the hard line Churches of Christ have taken the opposite tack: never oppose the government (except when the government takes our hard earned tax dollars and feeds the poor with it), but insist on a rigid organizational and worship format for the congregation. This is the opposite of what Jesus did and taught in his life.

Advertisements

About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in Bible, Command, Example and Necessary Inference, History, Instrumental Music, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

66 Responses to The Only Way to Worship is according to these Rules

  1. Jenny says:

    Not only did the Church co-op the synagogue organization and format, but Jesus accepted and participated in this man-made system! If it offended Him, He certainly had the opportunity to attack it the same way He did the temple marketplace. I think that’s powerful evidence that Jesus wouldn’t think badly of any “innovation” (e.g., pot-lucks, seminars, Gospel meetings, retreats, Sunday school classes, VBS, movie nights, blood drives) if Christians had godly intentions and worked hard to insure its success.

    • Mark says:

      So true. Don’t forget: Christmas and Easter celebrations, too.

    • Mark says:

      Yes, since Jesus accepted and participated in the synagogue, a man-made system, then that is an Example and a Necessary Inference that we can use man-made systems to study and worship today.

      • bryan says:

        But Jesus actually lived under the Old Law, not the New. So His examples are not binding. — Isn’t that twisted?

  2. Pingback: » The Only Way to <b>Worship</b> is according to these Rules | Ex-<b>Church</b> of <b>…</b>

  3. Dave W says:

    Since Paul said that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) and the OT was the ONLY “scripture” in existence at the time, I have never understood why the ENTIRE OT is ignored in this matter.

    Psalm 150 is certainly NOT part of the “law” that got replaced and it COMMANDS to use instruments in a worship setting:

    1 Praise God in His sanctuary; ….

    3 Praise Him with trumpet sound;
    Praise Him with harp and lyre.
    4 Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
    Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
    5 Praise Him with loud cymbals;
    Praise Him with resounding cymbals.

    • Jenny says:

      I never understood that one either, and also Psalm 47, to add handclapping to the list. There’s also a mention for raised hands, but I don’t recall where it is.

      • Dave W says:

        LOL – Actually that one in in the NT:
        1 Timothy 2:8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

    • Remember that when Paul wrote 2 Timothy 3:16-17 he had in mind at least the Gospel of Luke (10:7), which he also called “scripture” in 1 Timothy 5:18. Remember that Luke wrote of formerly written narratives by ministers and eyewitnesses of Christ (1:1-3), which was reference to the Apostles by John (1 John 1:1-4). These must be the Gospels. Paul’s foresight would include all New Testament scriptures by the context of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which includes 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and 4:3-4.

      • Mark says:

        Just because Paul quoted from the same Old Testament scriptures as Jesus does not mean that Paul was quoting from the gospel of Luke. No, Paul specified which scriptures he was talking about: the ones that Timothy had known from childhood, that were taught him by his mother and grandmother. Paul said the Old Testament scriptures would fully equip Timothy unto every good work.

    • willy says:

      The old Testament also mentions animal sacrifices.
      Do you also follow those rules?
      Or just the ones you want to such as instrumental music?

      • garycummings says:

        The early Church used the OT to preach from as it was the only set of Scriptures they had. I am sure the early Church used instruments, as Paul used the word PSALLo to describe Christian sinning, and PSALLO meant to sing with an instrument. As far as animal sacrifices go, the Holy Spirit taught that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was the last sacrifice. Animal Sacrifice was part of the Levitical law, which was abolished at the cross. Instrumental music was never abolished, and we are free to use it or not use it. We are not free to demand that acapella ay the only way to worship God. That attitude is divisive, sinful and cultic.

      • Dave W says:

        Well – since the Leviticus description of those sacrifices REQUIRED them to be carried out by a levitical Priesthood with an extant Temple, which is not functioning today; it is impossible to follow “those rules.”

        Besides, most of the animal sacrifices were superseded by Christ’s death on the cross.

      • Mark says:

        The book of Acts records the Apostle Paul continuing to make animal sacrifices after he preached the gospel to the Gentiles.

      • garycummings says:

        Where does it say in the text that it was an animal sacrifice. There were other kinds? Did everything Pail do consistent? I would say “no” here. He did something expedient to please Jews and Jewish Christians, that is all. I think he made a serious mistake.

  4. This reminds me of the progressive members of a church of Christ, who complained to the elders that they did not feel comfortable raising their hands in worship, so they got some other members to oppose the elders and eventually started another congregation to worship freely. Yet, as the members of that new progressive congregation report, they still do not raise their hands. They made a division about nothing. Instead of being example of light and live in love with differing brethren, some would rather complain.

    This is article sounds like you are speaking 2 different things. You have not offered any alternatives to Christian worship and how it would differ in the 1st century and now from what the Church of Christ believes. You are misleading to speak as though the churches of Christ partake of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week because of one example in one verse rather than noting 1 Cor. 11:17-34 shows that they were commanded and partook of the Lord’s Supper in the Assembly every time. You also have a simple straw-man against singing only as though Christ’s Spirit did not teach that speaking, singing, and praying are to consist of meaningful words rather than mindless sounds or include “soulless” instruments (1 Cor. 14:7-19).

    You know that the Apostle Paul taught the same things to the same churches, and that 1 Corinthians was verbatim written to all Christians (1 Cor. 1:2, 4:17, 7:17, 11:2, 14:34-37, 16:1-3). You know that decency and order are for all assemblies alike and that these assemblies all include the Lord’s Supper, singing, praying, speaking, and giving to the collection (1 Cor. 11:17-34; 14; 16:1-3). What is to change from what Christ’s Spirit made perfect?

    One of the reasons that many struggle with this subject is because they perceive that the New Testament scriptures lack authority and completion since they think the Christian scriptures were not collected by the Apostles and prophets of Christ in the 1st century. Yet, the Apostles speak of the collection of the Christian scriptures in the first century under the oversight the Apostles (1 John 1:1-4, 2 Pet. 1:16-21, 3:15-16).

  5. Mark says:

    Hi Scott,
    Lots of assumptions, and difficult to follow arguments.

    • Are you saying that I assumed that Christ’s Spirit teaches that which is perfect? Do you not understand 1 Corinthians 14:7-19? I am not making arguments. I am trying to get you to think about these things. If you resist, then you judge yourself.

      Be careful to not deceive yourself.

  6. BH says:

    It says in I Peter his epistle was directed to the diaspora in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadochia, Asia and Bythinia. They are the ones mentioned keeping Paul’s letters. That’s all. It doesn’t say anything about them receiving copies of Matthew, Mark ,Luke and John not to mention letters mentioned in other parts of the Bible but not in our canon today. I’d like to see a copy of the Laodeciam epistle.

    • BH,

      You make good points. Did Paul ever specifically write any known scripture to anyone in Cappadocia, Bithynia, or Pontus? No, but they had “all” of Paul’s writings according to Peter that are “scripture”. Why not see the New Testament being collected as the Old Testament added prophetic writings when written? Peter also noted the prophetic word from John and himself to “you” in 2 Pet. 1:16-19 to which he referred to this as “Scripture” (1:20-21). Add to this that John said in the present active tense that “we are writing so that your joy may be complete” (1 John 1:1-4). What would those writings consist of? Consider also that Paul quoted Luke 10:7 in 1 Timothy 5:18. He recognized this Gospel as “scripture” under the oversight of the Apostles, and Paul did not forget Luke’s Gospel or any other Christian scriptures when he wrote 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Did not Luke refer to previously written narratives about Jesus from the ministering eyewitnesses in Luke 1:1-3? Who were those eyewitnesses according to the Apostle John in 1 John 1:1-4?

      What is lacking from the canon that was not overseen by the Apostles? The letter from the Laodicea mentioned in Colossians 4:16 is literally “from” or “out of” Laodicea from the Greek preposition ek and not just an article in the genitive form. The letter mentioned there was coming out of Laodicea, and that town being on the trade route between Colossi and Ephesus. As the Colossians were instructed to share their epistle, the Laodiceans had another epistle that was written apparently to Ephesus. They certainly would have been the ones to have passed the epistle to the Ephesians to the Colossians. This only has to be explained to those who read the text in English. These are things we learned in Critical Intro to the New Testament 101. Considering other writings, Clement of Rome’s epistle to the Corinthians containing 66 chapters never claims inspiration, but quotes many scriptures including Acts, 2 Peter, and 1 & 2 Corinthians as “scripture” before the destruction of Jerusalem (41:2). Outside of Clement’s scope, there are no other writings to consider other than John’s completion of Revelation.

      Clement said, “You all are contentious, brethren, and are zealous concerning things that pertain not unto salvation. Look diligently into the scriptures, which are the true sayings of the Holy Spirit. You know how that nothing unjust or corrupt has been written in them; for you will not in them find the just expelled by holy men. The just were persecuted, but it was by the lawless; they were thrown into prison, but it was by the unholy; they were stoned, but it was by sinners; they were slain, but it was by wicked men, even by those who had taken up an unjust envy against them” (45:1-4).

      Who these that Clement speaks of writing the Scriptures?

      • If you believe the canon is complete, and if you believe the Greek Scriptures are authoritative, then why don’t you listen to them? Not one of them says that the Greek Scriptures are a rule book/catechism/creed book for the church. Not one of them states that we will find an outline of how to do this or that in the local assembly. All of those things are additions and assumptions that your tribe has brought to, and piled upon, the scriptures. Those are certainly not contained in the scriptures.

      • Exo,

        “THAT the word of the apostles shall be the only creed, formula, and directory of faith, worship, and Christian practice, when the ancient order of things is restored, we have offered some evidence to show. The constitution and law of the primitive church shall be the constitution and law of the restored church. As the constitution and law then admitted all the faithful disciples of the Lord to an equal participation of all privileges; so when the same is again adopted, the same privileges will be extended to every orderly citizen of the kingdom. Without any of our modern creeds in substance or in form the church was once united, complete, and happy, and will be so again. For the same cause will always produce the same effect. When the disciples shall return to the Lord he will return to them.”

      • Mark says:

        I believe you are quoting from Thomas Campbell, who grew up in the Old Light anti-burgher closed communion Presbyterian Church in the 1700s. Notice how he is looking for a constitution and law within the word of the apostles, something that the apostles said would not happen. The apostles said the constitution and law would be written on our hearts, not on stone as the Ten Commandments were, nor on paper or vellum, but in our hearts, written by the Holy Spirit.

  7. BH says:

    Scott Said:

    You make good points. Did Paul ever specifically write any known scripture to anyone in Cappadocia, Bithynia, or Pontus? No, but they had “all” of Paul’s writings according to Peter that are “scripture”.

    BH:

    II Peter 3:1 mentions this is his second epistle to those he considered “beloved”, so as I understand it II Peter is addressed to the same people (Pontus, Galatia, et al) as his first epistle. I do not see any where in the the text that it necessarily means they had collected all of the epistles Paul may have written. They may very well have only had the ones he had written up to that time, with others we know of know being written later. I perused through I and II Peter to see any dates or specific time periodss that would correlate with secular events but found none. If you are aware of any (and thus then date for certain when I and II Peter were written in relation to when Paul’s letters were written please let me know.

    • Yes, Peter mentioned his impending death in 2 Peter implying that Paul was about to be martyred or mostly likely had already died for Christ in 65-66 AD. Peter wrote speaking of “all” of Paul’s epistles as you can read in 2 Peter 3:15-16 (65-67 AD). Add to this that there are 270+ apocryphal writings from 2nd-4th centuries that some tried to add to the Christian Scriptures, and yet we only have 28 apostolic writings from the 1st century, and one of those is Clement’s epistle. Besides this we have Polycarp’s, Ignatius’, and Irenaeus’ writings. How could we be lacking any other writing? Why did these other writings survive and the apostolic writings were lost? Think about that, and I think you can understand why so many Christians are so staunch about a closed collection rather than an open canon.

      • BH says:

        Good evening Scott,

        You are correct that Peter does allude to his death, but there are no secular dates in the epistle to let us know just when this took place. There is no mention of Paul’s death.

        As for the claim “all” his epistles mentioned in chapter 3 means the total sum of all letters Paul wrote over his ministry has not been proven. The question is still begged here.

        As for the apocryphal writings you mentioned some of them are of shoddy quality, while others are of pretty good literary quality. Also, if you study history of the canon you will find that various churches did include some of these writings now rejected as scripture while others rejected or doubted some which were later included in your Bible today. This is troubling. I wonder what primary sources are still available in which the elders, pastors, or priests and bishops at the time explain why certain books now included in the canon should be rejected. You asked about how so many church fathers writings survived but some apostlic writings got lost. It really does surprise me that men high up in the church supposedly the “cream of the crop” regarding theological training of the day would goof so bad as to doubt a legitimate epistle or gospel of the apostles. And because of that I now I must ask the question how the churches, spread far and wide, knew a legitimate gospel and epistle when they came across one.

      • How did they know an apostolic writing? Peter expected them to know (2 Pet. 3:15-16). The letter delivered from these apostles among the churches could be recognized as Paul noted to the Thessalonians concerning any false writings to have appeared to have come from him (2 Thess. 2:1-2, 3:17).

        I do not find confusion over what writings were Scripture and what were not in the New Testament or in any of the early Christian writings of the 2nd century.

        We do know that Peter and Paul were martyred by Nero, and traditional history places Paul and then Peter. Nero killed himself in 68 AD according to history, so we can generally know of this period of time. Both Apostles were apparently in Rome in the 60s. Paul arrived there in 60 AD according to Acts. Peter mentioned being there in 1 Peter. Peter would have known of all Paul’s writings being completed there in Rome from prison and house arrest. Peter calls “all” of these “letters” “scripture”. How could there by any writings missed especially with Peter writing prophetic word (2 Pet. 1:16-21)?

  8. BH says:

    Scott said:

    Why not see the New Testament being collected as the Old Testament added prophetic writings when written? Peter also noted the prophetic word from John and himself to “you” in 2 Pet. 1:16-19 to which he referred to this as “Scripture” (1:20-21). Add to this that John said in the present active tense that “we are writing so that your joy may be complete” (1 John 1:1-4). What would those writings consist of? Consider also that Paul quoted Luke 10:7 in 1 Timothy 5:18. He recognized this Gospel as “scripture” under the oversight of the Apostles, and Paul did not forget Luke’s Gospel or any other Christian scriptures when he wrote 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Did not Luke refer to previously written narratives about Jesus from the ministering eyewitnesses in Luke 1:1-3? Who were those eyewitnesses according to the Apostle John in 1 John 1:1-4?

    BH:

    I do not dispute that the Bible claims that the early Christians were collecting the epistles and writings of those they thought were inspired of God and even regarding them as scripture. The problem is if you look at the development of what we call the canon there was not universal agreement as to what was inspired or not? A certain church claimed they had a letter from Apostle Matthias and it was held as tradition, passed down from the older folks who were told by the older folks Matthias really sent the letter? And what of the Ephesians? When the Christians were debating what were legitimate epistles, gospels, and such why should the Ephesians claiming their letter was legitimate as opposed to some other church claiming they had a legitimate letter from an apostle like Thomas? And whatever proof the Ephesians may have had that their letter was legitimate how do I know such evidence wasn’t fraudulent?

    • Have you read these apocryphal writings? Read the epistle of Barnabas and the infancy Gospel of Thomas or the supposed writings of Peter. You will see why these are not accepted. Also note that these are neither claimed to be from the 1st century nor were these apostolic. Have you read the Shepherd of Hermas? Compare this writing with the Apostolic collection along with Polycarp and Ignatius. I think you will see these are not on the same plain.

      Only in the late 3rd c. and 4th c. can we know that some debated the writings of Hebrews through Revelation, and we know this because of Eusebius’ words. He does not mention writings being added, but only the 27 as there are other sources too like Athanasius (5th c.) and the Sahidic Coptic text (2nd c.). I know of no other record of debating the collection of the Scriptures besides Eusebius unless you want to consider the Stoic twisting of Christ into gnosticism. How do we know there was any debate in the 2nd century? Polycarp, Irenaus, Hippolytus, Justin Martyr, and another, whose name I forget, do not debate the scriptures. In fact, these take them for granted like the Apostles do in their later writings of the Christian Scriptures.

      In the end, there is no debate over the Apostolic writings. We know what these are and strangely we only have the 27 of the Christian scriptures that are more important than the 270 other writings. Do you not think the 27 apostolic writings are missing some while the apocryphal uselessly abundant?

      • Hi Scott,
        I don’t think anyone but your cronies can understand what you are saying. And when you went to Bible college I think they passed you on enthusiasm and loyalty rather than on logic.

        From now on: restrict each post to 200 words that make one point and one point only.

      • ExcofChrist,

        I rejoice in your condescending insults against the goodwill and love of Christ in my brethren. I must be undermining errors with the Truth or you would not say that you do not know (Matt. 21:25, Luke 20:7).

        Your note says “500 words” as of right now. I thought you more accepting of Jesus’ words and His Apostles. I will note 2 or 3 witnesses rather than just one point about one point.

        While you insult me, I pray that God bless you.

      • Mark says:

        And your threats of fire and brimstone coming down on me are better?

      • BH says:

        Dear Scott,

        As I admitted before some of the apocryphal writings as most refer to them are very poor literature, however, a lot of them are pretty good quality. And here is a problem. Just what constitutes good literary quality?

        And it is not true that some books were disputed while others were included. There were books accepted as inspired new testament literature not found in our bibles today but were in some Bible copies back then. This is easy to research in more detail so I’ll leave it at that. And as you said some doubted Hebrews through Revelation up till the 3rd and 4th centuries which leads to the problem of how do you know what was an apostolic writing and what was not?

        And here is a dilemma for you. If you accept the “church fathers” as authoritative proof to show this or that book belongs in what we call the “new testament” then why is their evidence (through qoutes and use for doctrine) for the old testament apocrypha not accepted. To me, if they were so inept and unlearned to qoute false old testament books for doctrine and such then I really don’t think they have any business telling me what ought to go in the new testament either.

        We have plenty of writings left from Roman Catholic “church fathers” giving us their opinions about this subject. What Church of Christ preachers living in the second or third centuries have left any written documents telling us their opinions about the development of the canon?

      • I would consider Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius, Justin, Dionysus, and Hippolytus as preachers, teachers, and proclaimers of the Church of Christ. I think these would speak of the canon being developed if it was developed rather than each writing being adopted as scripture when written as we see in the Apostolic writings. These early Christian writers note the Scriptures without feeling the need to express their opinion about what writings belong, which shows that it was not an issue of debate, and that Christians already knew what writings were apostolic. With the time these early church writers take to address heresies, we would expect them to speak of their acceptance of a standard collection if such we under continuous attack. I know that Hippolytus has much to expand upon using the 4 gospels. I will have to again become familiar with his words to expand.

        I have not read of them quoting from the OT apocrypha as “scripture”. Do you have any reference to that?

        The doubt about the writings appears to be something stirred by heretical sects in the 4th century. I am not aware of any source that showed any doubt of the apostolic scriptures of the New Testament. I would happily concede if I could be shown such sources.

        Otherwise, I find it unlikely any doubt over apostolic writings. For only 28 writings have come out of the 1st century during the time of the Apostles. Twenty seven of those writings are in the NT.

  9. BH says:

    Scott said:

    What is lacking from the canon that was not overseen by the Apostles? The letter from the Laodicea mentioned in Colossians 4:16 is literally “from” or “out of” Laodicea from the Greek preposition ek and not just an article in the genitive form. The letter mentioned there was coming out of Laodicea, and that town being on the trade route between Colossi and Ephesus. As the Colossians were instructed to share their epistle, the Laodiceans had another epistle that was written apparently to Ephesus. They certainly would have been the ones to have passed the epistle to the Ephesians to the Colossians. This only has to be explained to those who read the text in English. These are things we learned in Critical Intro to the New Testament 101.

    BH:

    The idea that the “Laodecian letter” was actually the Ephesian letter in circulation on its way to Colossia is simply question begging. Troas was mentioned in Acts 16:8-11 as a place Paul visited, as as far as we know it could have been a letter her wrote them circulating down to the Colossians.

    I will not comment on the Greek and the proper way to translate ek. While I personally see no reason to doubt that the letter was actually a true letter to the Laodecians and not from another community the Laodecians simply read and forwarded on, it is not neccessary at this time to debate with you about the Greek.

  10. BH says:

    Scott said:

    Considering other writings, Clement of Rome’s epistle to the Corinthians containing 66 chapters never claims inspiration, but quotes many scriptures including Acts, 2 Peter, and 1 & 2 Corinthians as “scripture” before the destruction of Jerusalem (41:2). Outside of Clement’s scope, there are no other writings to consider other than John’s completion of Revelation.

    I’m still wondering about this epistle to the Laodecians and just what it was and what it contained. Also, I wonder just what the other apostles and their inspired disciples may have written to churches they founded, if they indeed did do so.

    Also, a quick read of Philemon and Esther will find no claim of inspiration either. And if you dismiss Clement’s claim of the Phoenix rising every 500 years who is to say that wasn’t a miracle of God? A donkey by miraculous power can open his mouth and rebuke Balaam to show it is wrong to not follow God’s will, why not have a Phoenix raise from the dead every 500 years to prove god can indeed raise the dead people too?

    • I think the Phoenix is an interesting point from Clement, but I do not see it qualifying or disqualifying. I take it as useful figure of speech. Clement could have claimed inspiration in 66 chapters, but instead he sets his writing apart from scripture and apostolic authority. Philemon has the authority of command and serves as a part of the Apostolic precedent.

      • BH says:

        Dear Scott,

        It has been a while since I have read Clement and I am short on time. Does Clement disavow his letter to Corinth as being scripture? I know it was read in the churches in and around Corinth during church services for a long time. I always thought that Clement, being close to the apostles, was regarded like Mark was—their letters and gospels carried authority because they were disciples of the apostles themselves with inspiration given to them too.

        And the so called epistles of the apostles and disciples not found in our bibles today claimed apostolic precedent (whether true or not) and I am not quite sure what you mean by “authority of command”. Could you explain this phrase further?

      • Clement quotes so much scripture, but he never gives a command as though he has any apostolic or prophetic authority. I do not remember Polycarp, Justin, or Hippolytus writing in this way either. He does not write like Jude or James. Mark apparently had much oversight from the apostles and along with the consent of witnesses there in Jerusalem. Traditional history from Eusebius teaches us that he wrote with Peter. Clement writes after Peter had written 2 Peter and was most likely already martyred, which Peter referred to this impending death in 2 Peter. Clement is so close to Peter and Paul in Rome that I cannot believe that he would have any errors certainly not anything vital.

        I like Clement’s writing. His teaching is so scripture based that his teaching does not change any doctrine. His writing is certainly a very useful commentary, reflection and confirmation of the 1st century church. He also shows the immediate acceptance of apostolic writings to be “Scripture”.

      • Oh, about “authority of command”, I mean that Paul as an Apostle gives commands to Philemon. As for “apostolic precedent”, Paul interaction with Philemon set an example for us to follow today with regards to esteeming our leaders and following the words of the Apostles.

  11. BH says:

    Scott said:

    Who these that Clement speaks of writing the Scriptures?

    BH said:

    Obviously people he thought were inspired. Problem is just off the top of my head he makes a seeming reference to Wisdom, a book in the Apocrypha , and there is a direct reference to Judith, a book also in the Apocrypha.

    • Now, you are speaking of the Old Testament apocrypha. Let’s stay on target. We know the Old Testament apocryphal was not recognized by the Jews at any time as inspired but admittedly added by the Roman Catholics in the 16th c.

      • Mark says:

        Who knows, Scott? You know? Or everyone knows? I think BH was using your quote from Clement, and saying that Clement also quoted from books you do not accept.

      • BH says:

        The Apocrypha was included in western Bibles long before the 16th century and was qouted by the “church fathers” as authoritative for doctrine way back even then.

      • Who told you this? Because this is not according to the history that I have read, but they could be wrong. What quotes from the early church writers do you have referring to any apocryphal books as scripture and, inspired?

  12. BH says:

    In my second reply to Scott I wrote:
    When the Christians were debating what were legitimate epistles, gospels, and such why should the Ephesians claiming their letter was legitimate as opposed to some other church claiming they had a legitimate letter from an apostle like Thomas?

    I meant to have it say:

    When the Christians were debating what were legitimate epistles, gospels, and such why should the Ephesians claiming their letter was legitimate +be accepted+ as opposed to some other church claiming they had a legitimate letter from an apostle like Thomas?

    • The other churches could have if they had such a writing, but again these apostolic writings were accepted as scriptures by the Apostles. This was not a single church’s decision or appeal. These writings were circulated and accepted by the Apostles and prophets as scriptures. Remember how Peter noted that Paul’s writings went out to Bithynia and Pontus. This sets the Scriptures apart from other possible writings like the first 1st Corinthians or the proposed Laodicean letter. These other writings would have been added if these were inspired. Yet, these were not.

      We must be careful about this historical doubt, because many Christians and scholars find little to doubt Apostolic collection. In fact, it takes more presumption to consider these writings incomplete than complete. It is hard to believe that the Apostles oversaw the collection with the deal and cap of the completion of John’s Revelation, than to consider the Apostolic collection is incomplete. How would God permit the Old Testament to be collected and completed as written, but the New Testament is doubtful.

      God bless and thank you for the discussion.

      • Typos corrected: “It is hard to believe that the Apostles oversaw the collection with the seal and cap of the completion of John’s Revelation, than to consider the Apostolic collection as incomplete.”

        Please, forgive my handicap.

  13. With the Christian Scriptures confirmed and complete in the 1st century under the oversight of the Apostles, then clearly their teaching is completely revealed in the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17, cf. 1 Tim. 5:18). What other forms of worship is there in the Scriptures other than the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:17ff), the teaching (1 Cor. 4:17, 7:17, 14), the singing (1 Cor. 14:15), the prayers (1 Cor. 14:15), and the collection for specific needs (1 Cor. 16:1-3)? Are these not the forms of worship used to stir one another to love (Heb. 10:24), good works (Heb. 10:24), edification (1 Cor. 14), and praise in worship (Col. 3:16, Heb. 2:12, 13:15)? What are we missing and what more do we need?

  14. BH says:

    First off, is there any website with a discussion board on it where this conversation can be carried on in neutral ground? No disrespect to Marc, but this lay out is hard to follow.

    It is common knowledge that Jerome included the Apocrypha in his Bible in the late 300’s AD and the church fathers had been referencing the Apocrypha as authoritative years before this. Clement for example makes a direct reference to the Apocrypha.

    As far as Clement being Church of Christ, well, he uses the Apocrypha in his writings. And Hyppolitus, well, he speaks well of Victor as a bishop in the church (Victor was a pope) and completely rips Zephyrus his successor. He also mentions the church having bishops, priests, and deacons

    Ignatius makes a distinction between a bishop over a city and presbyters and seems to imply he has no problem with such an arrangement and was even a bishop himself.

    As for your claims about the canon it seems you have a tautology here. We know we have the correct canon in the bible because the Bible has these different books in it that comprise the canon. And yes, some did indeed doubt some of the books we have in the New testament today and some canon and Bibles had books in them not in our today.

  15. Gary Cummings says:

    This is an interesting discussion. I think the main reason I left the COC in 1971, was the realization that they confused the New Covenant (written in our hearts) with the New Testament documents. The New Covenant is received by faith in Jesus Christ. The New Testament is autopsied through rationalistic assumptions about God and logical absurdities.

    There was never a time when the early Jesus Movement had all of the New Testament in one book. Various churches in various parts of the empire has different Gospels, as well as different scattered letters of Paul and the other NT writers. In fact the New Testament was probably written over a period of 60 years, from about 49 AD for Galatians to 98 AD for Revelation (under the Domition theory). One scholar thinks all were written by 70 AD, as none of them mention the accomplished destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. That may be. However, it took a long time to collect the many Gospels, and letters into the current form of the NT we now have. About 150 AD, I believe the Muratorian canon had their list of approved books. It is lacking some of our current NT books. Revelation was suspect for many years, even to the time of Luther, who hated the book.

    All in all, the NT is not an exhaustive or perfect recollection of the New covenant written upon our hearts. God’s Word is perfect, but the NT does not contain all of God’s Word. John the Apostle did say that there are many things that Jesus said and did which were not recorded in John’s Gospel.
    I am sure that Peter and Paul and others said and did many tings not written in their letters or the book of Acts. I think we have to settle for the fact that the Bible is not a detailed, minute blueprint of everything God wants us to do, think and say. For people in the 19th century to conjure up a “pattern” or a blueprint for “the New Testament Church” is a fallacy. Christ is the pattern and that pattern is Cross-shaped. Take up your cross and follow Jesus, not CENI or “The New Testament Pattern”.
    Thanks,
    Gary Cummings,
    former member and minister of the Churches of Christ.

  16. Stillwating says:

    This type of commentary is exactly why people are turning away from the church. You muddy the waters with legalisms etc. No wonder people throw up their hands and walk away! The truth is NO one knows the truth! The only thing I have learned from all of you is that none of you know anything for sure. It is just one opinion versus another opinion. No one can prove their point of view.

    • Mark says:

      Hi Mallory,
      I’m not sure what you are criticizing. There are some things that are plain and easy to understand–like the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). We can agree on that?

      • Stillwating says:

        Hi Mark, thanks for your response. Let me be more clear on what I am saying. I am a member of a conservative church of Christ and do not agree with the legalistic approach we take towards a number of things. When I read the above exchanges it reminded me of numerous discourses we have had in our local congregation wherein nothing was made clear. The reason being that the opinions expressed by members was based on opinions not well grounded in diligent research. The exchange of opinions only confused those not well grounded in scripture. I find myself confused and not understanding the above exchanges. Perhaps lack of knowledge on my part. Anyway, do not want to offend anyone, just an observation. I do not find some of the Sermon on the Mount easy to understand. It goes so much deeper than meets the eye! Thanks again for your time!

  17. Gary Cummings says:

    We all have opinions about everything. I try to give an educated opinion based on a lot of study and actual facts. I am fallible and do not have all the answers, and I tend to listen to the opinions of others, until they start making absolute claims like the Church of Christ trolls who come here to spiritually abuse people.

    • Stillwating says:

      Gary, I agree with you. I too tend to listen to the opinions of others because I am still searching for the Truth. Sadly, I must agree with you too on the church of Christ spiritually abusing people. I wonder what makes us do that? I do not like it. Thank you for your response.

    • NicoleOakley says:

      Agreed! I stop listening once Church of Christ trolls coming here to spiritually base people…..just as they were trained to do so. It’s sad and unfortunate but will likely always remain the case. Remember: they are right and if you disagree you are wrong.

  18. garycummings says:

    SW,
    Thanks for clarifying. Yes, absolute claims like the COC makes leads to spiritual abuse. Any religious group that claims they are the only true church are the worst king of spiritual abusers. They claim all power, knowledge, righteousness and cast all others to Hell.
    Be free in Christ, Gary

    • NicoleOakley says:

      I probably should not have been so sarcastic in my last response, however, I am relatively new to breaking free from these bonds. I am always searching. Thank you for your posts that allow me to see and understand that there are others out there who also understand.

  19. bryan says:

    In Acts, we see that the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were still “zealous for the law” some 30 or so years after the church was founded. In other words, the Jerusalem congregation, home to most of the Apostles, still practiced the Jewish traditions, laws, customs, and holy days. My guess is that they met and worshiped on Saturday. So, at least that congregation was very, very different from the Greek churches and very, very different from modern day CoC practices. I would think that the Jerusalem congregation would not be accepted in modern times as a true “Biblical” CoC. To take it further, I’ve been out of the CoC for many years. Been to most every other denomination since then. And I’m now starting to challenge it all when it comes to how we Christians “do church”. I mean, really, there’s not a hill of beans difference in any of them. Why not challenge and reconsider the whole thing – especially in light of the continuing decline in attendance and membership in all denominations. Why is church (all denominations) sermon-centered? Why are Sunday Schools “Bible study” centered? Even those “modern” churches who have embraced “small groups” – why are the small groups Bible-study centered? Is this the way that it should be? Can we not have something else?

    • Mark says:

      I’m late but the last time I went to the cofC, nothing was left but a few songs, a long sermon, and a lonely communion. It had been a number of years and was last year on the Sunday that was Christmas Day and I knew not to expect much but took my mother. Attending an Anglican frequently reminded just what all the cofC leaves out. They still won’t read any gospel or writings of the prophets. Then they wonder why so many are missing. Sad.

  20. garycummings says:

    Bryan,
    That is a very good post. I think the way things are done now in most places is a far cry for the first 70 years of the JM (Jesus movement as i hate the word “church”) Both the Jewish and Gentile sectors of the JM were more fluid and more communal in nature, They were very similar to some more communal movements like the Hutterites (they have their own set of gross problems). They had daily or weekly communal meals called love feasts, foot washing, and a eucharist service of bread and wine. They baptized adults in the nude (imagine that one being done now!) Not all small groups have to be for Bible study, how about just prayer or silent worship (like the Quakers)?

Please limit comments to 500 words per day or they may be reduced by the editor.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s