I can well expect some initial disagreement with the following paper, for many are satisfied with what they are associated with, but I hope readers will at least pray about this paper to see if God will show them a broader view than what they might already hold. I personally value this writing as in conformity with the Word of God.
EXPECTATIONS FOR THE CHURCH
An Introduction To Christian Gathering
[Since there is no such thing as "the church of your choice" in Scripture, as some Christians assert, and we are called to express the "one body in Christ" in the world, what is God's expectation? It surely is to obey, not mergers of all diverse ideas, nor isolating oneself from other saints. It surely is keeping the Word and honoring the Lord in a collective way and for one's personal life. One might think they are on sound ground in compliance with God, but to be confident of that one needs to be fully in accord with the Scripture in communion with the Lord, prayerfully seeking the Lord's mind. One cannot suppose he or she is honoring and obeying the Lord by going on contrary to the Scripture. - R. L. DeWitt ]“Whatever we see as the way, we ought to first read and pray, and not hesitate to say: Lord, do not let me go astray.”
If the church was going on in the world as it should, all believers in Christ would be in one happy worldwide fellowship in accord with the Word of God and yielded to the leading of the Spirit. That should be the desire of all faithful saints. Every gathering would be holding and practicing the essential truth.
After the departure of the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, with their teaching and care, Satan ---the enemy of our Lord, began to corrupt God's testimony. It was a little easier then, for the written Word was not readily available and few people could read. If one now reads and looks at church history since the beginning, and considers what the New Testament church was like under the Apostles, one can see how the testimony was soon Judaized like unto the religion of Israel.
Since the church was a new order and calling forth a bride for Christ after Israel's religion was done away, we find a new work and a new way for the people of God. It is called the dispensation of grace (Eph.3:2-12). The church is not an extension of the Israelite religion. It is a new testament of God for both Jews and Gentiles founded on the Messiah ---Christ of God. In Acts 2:41-42 and in the Epistles, God gives us His mind for our pathway, and we need to appreciate that.
Some believers know what the great Roman Catholic religious system (which rose up about 500 AD)., did by its hierarchy, rituals, doctrines, religious ideas, and innovations; and how it became a controlling force by violence and an army, and quickly established its' order and will. The writings of old could not be read by uneducated men, and those who gained control of the Holy Parchments kept them for their own designs. The gospel message of justification by faith was lost for nearly 1,000 years, and unregenerate men set forth a religion after their own ideas and for their own glorification. It was truly "the Dark Ages", as historians call it. This occurred as the real saints neglected the foundation truth and the counsel of faithful teachers, and began to listen to the many religious voices around them. Many Christians continue to do that today.
One might see the paper on Church Condition in the Christian Counsel Collection, which will give one an overview of the general history. One can see there how God began to revive the gospel message, and by circa 1500 that truth was boldly proclaimed again by faithful men (such as Martin Luther) as the oppressive rule of the Roman Catholic Religion waned under the hand of God. Basic education and the advent of printing made circulation of the written Word more available. The formation of many denominated assemblies arose, and were sadly following after the traditions, rituals, and innovations of their mother---that great religious system of Rome, which had prevailed for so long (Rev.2:20-23).
In the early 1800's God began a recovery of church truth with a calling back to the Word of God and the liberty of the Holy Spirit. A great revival of the truth called "the brethren movement" began in 1827 A.D., and it is that which some are endeavoring to maintain today in rejecting sectarianism. Much has been written and is available for those who are serious seekers (contact Bible Truth Publishers at Addison, IL). That revival was a good work, but Satan soon began his attacks to divide and scatter these saints. We will not consider further that history here, but want to share something of how church truth then continued for God's testimony worldwide.
For some of us, we must stand apart from many sects of men, so to honor the Lord and not give credibility to their heresies by associating with them, though we love all dear saints of God everywhere. Truly, the sectarian spirit does not honor God, and we are not sectarian if we hold to the Bible. One will find this kind of fellowship to have continued that revival from 1827 A.D. worldwide in full accord with God's Word, though there is always weakness and failure among all saints everywhere. There is no perfection among us, but God does have a perfect path.
While we should not dictate conscience, there are essential tenets of the faith we must not compromise in the local assemblies. One may not understand all things, but one should be clear about the value of essential truths and feel free to ask questions of the brethren. We must not support rules made by men to govern our pathway, but must hold what we see as essential biblical things. Gathering does not mean that one must see everything the same as others, but if one does not understand the basic truths of Scripture, we would hope they will continue seeking to know and understand more fully. We certainly cannot accept every religious idea people have. God's government must prevail. At times some leave the scriptural fellowship for a wider and more permissive path, and some who are under discipline go off and join or set up another table to suit themselves. We do and should feel bad about that, as does God.
The rewards given in heaven to the saints is for faithfulness---what we did with what we were given. A true believer in Christ might live in an independent or carnal way pleasing self in this world, but he or she will thus forfeit much before the throne of grace, for there are expectations and accountability before us. Hopefully, saints of God will not fight against the “unity of the faith” that God enjoins us.
We should want to encourage and help each other, learn the Word of God, and be in accord with it. Rather than feel a need to leave the scriptural assembly over some disagreement, it should be fully explored. God will honor that spirit in His assemblies.
We should not accept inter-denominationalism, I believe, which is sectarian, and we should stand apart from the various sects to express the truth of the "one body in Christ" after the scriptural path (Phil.2:2). Ultimately, the elders must act on behalf of the assembly to maintain the true testimony with all other such gatherings in the world. We may appear exclusive by some Christians (and have been called that at times), but truly we only intend to be scriptural and seek the glory of the Lord and the good of all saints everywhere, and that is not a popular thing. One is invited to "Come and see", as the Lord said, and know what is true. We should want to have a happy fellowship and be always faithful to the Word of God, and we should seek to help others be on that ground. - RLD