It’s over to you now

My comment from Facebook:

When Christians are delivered from the traditions of men and delivered from being controlled by the religious system, then they are empowered to function together as the Church as the Lord leads and the Holy Spirit guides them. If they will sincerely ask God to bring them into fellowship with like-minded believers and they are willing to lay down their lives for the brothers and sisters then it always happens that before long there is a functioning unit of the body of Christ, a.k.a. a local church. It may not be a full-fledged NT church but it still meets in Jesus name and He is there in the midst as per His promise. But this is very rare these days to find people who have that real love of Christ. And many who claim to be “out of church” are also outside of the NT pattern, and have all kinds of bizarre unbiblical teachings.

11 Responses to “It’s over to you now”

  1. Al Nelson Says:

    Amen brother, a good word. But how do we define and what are the traditions of men?

  2. Sean Scott Says:

    I”m not sure the issue is simply “the traditions of men”. If you look at the passage where Jesus rebukes the traditions of man, it is not a blanket statement condemning all the traditions of men, even in a religious setting. Here’s the passage:

    “And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. “For Moses said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”
    (Mar 7:6-13)

    What is Jesus condemning?

    1) “teaching as DOCTRINES the precepts of men”
    2) “NEGLECTING the COMMANDMENTS of God and keeping and holding the traditions instead – as a higher rule of law the invalidates the commands of God.
    3) “invalidating the word of God by man made traditions”.

    So the issue at hand when discussing a “tradition/practice” of man is whether or not it’s taught as a doctrine and whether it violates and nullifies the commandments of the Lord. There are going to be traditions and practices that believers do that will and will not do these things.

    To make a blanket statement and forbid all practices because we cannot find them in the scripture is to do the same thing that the Pharisee’s did, which was to make commands that God never made. So in someones righteous zeal to do only what the word of God says, they can be a Pharisee in their actions and end up forbidding things that God never forbid.

    Here is a tradition or practice of man that is acceptable and does not violate the word of God, yet is condemned by some as evil because it’s a “tradition of man”.

    Let’s say our fellowship wants to write down a statement of faith, specifically as the Lord brings us together in unity regarding what we believe regarding both essential and non-essentials. We don’t make it a doctrine or teaching that every believer or fellowship must have a statement of faith. And the statement of faith does not violate or nullify any command of God. This tradition/practice of man is acceptable and does not fall under the condemnation of Jesus words as spoke in Mark 7:6-13.

    So the way I see it, we are not simply to judge a person or fellowship because the have a “tradition or practice” of man, but we are to judge the tradition or practice of man to see if it is taught as a doctrine, if it causes people to neglect the commands of God, and if the tradition invalidates the word of God.

  3. ian vincent Says:

    That’s very helpful, brother, thanks.

    So the way I see it, we are not simply to judge a person or fellowship because the have a “tradition or practice” of man, but we are to judge the tradition or practice of man to see if it is taught as a doctrine, if it causes people to neglect the commands of God, and if the tradition invalidates the word of God.

    I was thinking exactly the same thing.

    The “taught as a doctrine” element is the crucial factor.

    “…Making the word of God of no effect through your tradition…”

    So, the Word of God is sent from God to do a work, to powerfully change people’s lives to conform them to Christ. So then, as you have noted, it is only the things which hinder the Word of God from being effectual and powerful which are to be avoided – things which contradict the nature of Jesus.

    In our situation here in Shillong not having a name for the fellowship is a barrier in people’s minds and thus it becomes something which hinders the Word of God from having free course. So which is better, we be technically right but at the expense of people getting to hear the Word of God, or make a concession on a non-essential which will remove barriers to the Word of God having free course?

    If we rigidly and inflexibly hold to this one point of not having a name for our fellowship, in our particular situation, it would be a parallel to the traditions of men making the Word of God of no effect. We would be holding to something which we know is a barrier to people receiving our ministry simply for the sake of being “right”. If we are just serving ourselves and don’t care about others, then we could be smugly content with our strict adherence to the NT example, but we avoid such a smugness like the plague.

    Wrote this to a brother:

    But for the out-of-churchers what would be the point of being technically right on this one issue, that they can say they are Scriptural on this issue, when the rest of their life is far from being Scriptural? How will it appear on judgment day?

    If we are going to be Scriptural then our whole life should be Scriptural, and in the Spirit.

    If we are concerned about the NT pattern then we should actually do it in real life and live accordingly.

    It’s a much greater problem when Christians withdraw themselves from fellowship, and from functioning with other believers as a witness, than the problem of naming.

    Its a bit like the parable of the talents, and the one talent guy who hid his talent. He didn’t make any mistakes bcos he didn’t do anything. Similarly, some out-of-churchers would find fault with us naming the fellowship, but they may be much more at fault bcos they don’t obey the NT commands for the church, and just stay home and do nothing. With whom would God be more pleased?

    The term “scriptural” has many levels. What if a person ignores the Holy Spirit and becomes obsessed with one non-essential point, and argues with believers and even withdraws from fellowship over a non-essential? In their passion to be “scriptural” they are unwittingly becoming more and more unscriptural.

    I’ve seen people become obsessed with observing the NT pattern to the point that they are no longer led by the Holy Spirit bcos the essence of their talk is not about Jesus and His Father but more about how to do church. Their discussion is dead and unedifying bcos they are obsessed with things which the Holy Spirit is not obsessed with.

  4. Al Nelson Says:

    I do agree with much of what both of you have written in terms of how Mark 7 quoted above relates to how the Pharisees perverted the law for their own means and as I an has stated that if we are pointing to a New Testament pattern then we should be living it. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I know who does. I am trying to live out what I understand in Christ and looking to Him for more. If a pattern has been opened up before me regarding His life and the pattern of institutional church and the traditions they follow, who should I follow? Would it not be Christ? I cannot abandon Christ and what He has taught me can I? Even if others view it as “non-essential”. I do not see how what the Lord has taught me is non-essential. Especially in terms of all of these earthly things falling away upon His return. If these things like naming a church or some other tradition is going away, why can’t we or shouldn’t abandon what we can or have the light to see now? I hope you don’t see me as being divisive as I didn’t originate the discussion, but am perplexed as to how we got to this place at all. I am looking to Christ for His will and understanding and pray you are as well my brothers. Talk to you soon! Blessings in Christ.

  5. ian vincent Says:

    Hi brother,

    We are using the term “non-essential” as meaning non-essential for fellowship.

    When people deny the essentials we can’t have fellowship with them. That which is essential for salvation is essential for fellowship. That which is non-essential for salvation is non-essential for fellowship.

    But as i pointed out before there are many points where Christians do not strictly observe the NT pattern and yet still their integrity and conscience is not compromised.

    If you can still fellowship with me even though our church here in Shillong has a label then that means it is non-essential for fellowship.

  6. Mickey Merrie Says:

    For me it goes back to the fallacy of the word “church” which is not the meaning of His Ekklesia. Wherever you see the word “church” in the bible, (by the way it is seen in both the Old and New Testaments, thanks to translations such as King James), simply substitute “the physical building” and then ‘the called out elect of God.” Since there are about 150 opportunities in scripture the exercise will become quite profitable.

    Now IF you see this as “the place of fellowship” ie a physical building where a particular group meets, then it would be man’s natural process to name it. However, If you see this as ‘the called out elect of God” then you perhaps would better see this as a gathering that transcends places and times. The question for them then really boils down to, Who created this Ekklesia and what does He call it? For you see even the name Ekklesia was borrowed from a political setting.

    He calls this gathering from the Old and New Covenants various names, Israel, His Bride, the Elect, The Ekklesia/Ecclesia, and even His chosen people! Some saved by faith in the coming Messiah and other saved through faith in His finished Work at Calvary.

    So now we are down to the particular naming rights issue at hand. Scripture shows that various “churches”/”gatherings were referred to as for example the 7 “churches” named in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ as given to St John. These were “named” by physical geographic location. In other places we read of the “church” that meets at somebody’s home, or in the outer courts of the temple, or from house to house. In each case it was merely used a way of differentiating fellowships that were specifically being referred to in scripture.

    Is it then a sin to choose as a fellowship to name your fellowship? I don’t think so… But the question remains, WHY do we feel the need to take on a formal name, when the history of those who have chosen this method of identification is so anti Christ in their eventual walk? As in all things, fruit will be born from our choices. Any ‘works” that originate from Christ through me will bare good fruit. Any “works’ that are bore from me doing for Christ will bare bad fruit if fruit at all and will then be cut off and burned.

    Should we break from fellowship over this matter? Or should we split over what we see as essential or non-essential? Well isn’t that the very meaning of and fruit of denominationalism? And just what denomination didn’t originate in the flesh and as the satanic fruit it is?
    Denominations are divisions and Christ’s on “fellowship of the elect” will never taste of such fruit!

  7. ian vincent Says:

    Hi Mickey,

    Myself and many people i know have been teaching in depth on the very matter you raise here, that the church is a people not a building, for 20, 30 years or more (for me, about 25 years).

    (so when we relate to other believers it’s good to have some sense of the reality of their life and what they believe and do)

    There’s two ways to approach the problem:

    a) retreat into isolation (conserve) “On the back foot”

    b) or engage people and teach them the truth (advance) “On the front foot”

    I opt for plan b)

    Out of the couple of hundred believers i count as friends i don’t know of one who considers or thinks that a church building is “the church” (of course, i’ve met many people who do think the building is holy).

    Whether a local church is named “The church in Chloe’s house”, “Pine Street Church” or “New Day Church” does not in itself divide the body of Christ. Whether or not the body of Christ is divided does not rest on such flimsy things, but in what people believe, their attitudes to other Christians and their actions. It’s the reality that matters.

    (And whether we call it church, assembly or fellowship does not change the reality of what is happening there)

    (The believer who withdraws from having any real-life commitment to other believers is actually more divisive to the body of Christ than any of the above. And what if a believer has it all correct in theory, but has painted themselves into a corner of exclusivity where they have no real fellowship with anyone in real life? In the first century they would have been marked as divisive. )

    Let’s not confuse “The Church in the house of Chloe” or “New Day Church” with forming a denomination.

    If The Church in Chloe’s House begin to say “I am of Chloe” then a new denomination has formed. But if they say we are just a local group of believers who have approved elders and deacons and function in the NT pattern and the name only serves to identify it ON A NT BASIS OF IDENTIFICATION – that is, local churches were named (geographically), a name was needed to distinguish each local church.

    The purpose of the name “The Church in the house of Chloe” was so that people would know that it is a distinct church from “The church in the house of Appollos” etc.

    In Shillong we are beginning to function as a local church so we need to have a name, whether geographical or generic, which makes us distinct from other valid churches in the city, while acknowledging and proclaiming we are one body of Christ across the city. Without that distinction there is no accountability in real life. A believer could then just float around the body of Christ never submitting to godly elders.

    If a local church, however, chooses to have no name at all (they just say that they are a part of the body of Christ) and they can function as a NT church with recognized elders and accountability, then of course no one would think that was wrong, we would support them 100%.

    But what happens with that scenario is that others give the church a name by default and it may become known by the name of the most prominent elder in that church.

    It’s like if there was a guy who says he has no name, then its likely people would give him a name whether he likes it or not.

    (And we strongly disagree with Christians identifying themselves as Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans, Wesleyans or House Churchers or Out-of-Churchers etc..)

  8. Mickey Merrie Says:

    Thanks Ian for your thoughts. Since you also posted them on Michael Ferguson’s blog,
    my reply is posted there. I’ll not re-post them here.

    God speed friend and “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”

    Matthew 3:8 and Luke 3:8

  9. ian vincent Says:

    OK. God bless you brother.

    I posted it on Michael’s Blog bcos his post is about me, accusing me, but not naming me.

    You may have different values to me.

  10. Mickey Merrie Says:

    I don’t understand your reply, Ian.

    This work you are undertaking will produce fruit. Time will tell what kind of fruit it produces. Any man, being led by God has no reason to justify to any other man what it is he is doing. Simply look at Noah. It doesn’t matter what others think, nor how out of context the work. An ark was called for to save from the flood, and that in a world where it had never rained! Looked wrong…till it wasn’t.

    Walk where he leads you Ian, regardless of the cost. But never walk beyond him for the price is far greater than the cost.

    May the Holy Spirit always have his way in your fellowship friend And again, Godspeed!

  11. ian vincent Says:

    Someone asks me to explain what i’m doing.

    I give them an answer.

    Then they say that i am trying to justify myself.

    I’m sorry, we are on a different page here.

    I don’t understand your reply, Ian.

    But many people know exactly what i’m talking about. It depends on whether these issues have any connection to the way you live your life. Many Christians perhaps never consider these issues bcos it is not within the sphere of their life, they would never have to deal with these issues or even think about them.

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