Friday, January 2, 2009

The Family of God

This is the last post regarding my concerns about the website www.house-church.org. Overall, I like the concept and find it to be in accordance with Scripture. But there are three issues with the content that I wanted to address for sake of discussion. This is the third. Since we agree that house churches are the New Testament, apostolically and God-ordained locations for the gathering of the saints for worship, then we must ask the logical question, "What should we do with the members of the household who are unbelievers?"

The same question should be asked of churches today, regardless of where they meet. Is church a place for unbelievers? The answer is primarily "No." But there is also a "Yes" element that I will discuss first.

The primary purpose of the Church Body is to worship God. Most would agree that is the reason for gathering weekly. Yet so many of those gatherings tend to be evangelical in nature rather than pure worship. Evangelism is for the sinner/unsaved. Week after week they are invited to church. Yet there is a curious mixture of evangelism and worship. This cannot be. Sinners cannot worship. They neither know God nor are known of Him. There is no spiritual connection whatsoever between a sinner and God. No prayers are effectual. No singing reaches His ears. He does not receive the worship of a sinner.

The correct "church service" for a sinner is purely an evangelical one. Just remember that sinners don't get saved by watching the saints. No yearning is produced in them by participating in worship. There is no "I wish I had what he/she had" produced. We know that salvation is purely an act of God. He grants them the faith to believe by the hearing of His Word. In this case, that Word is the Gospel. I Corinthians 15:1-6 is a good selection for this. We know that no one is saved apart from the blood atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is the faith-saving grace of God as spoken in Ephesians 2:8-9.

Just as no sinner can worship, neither can a Christian who regards sin in his/her life. God commands His saints to be pure, holy, and blameless according to Ephesians 5:25-27. He gave us the power to be sinless through His Holy Spirit. While it is our responsibility to do so, and it is hard work, it is nevertheless true. Jesus said in Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." This is not some future heavenly promise. This is a NOW, heavenly promise fulfilled each time we worship God in the beauty of holiness.

Paul expounds on the sinning saint question in I Corinthians 11:28-32, "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." Therefore, before a saint can worship, he/she must be right with the Lord. This is accomplished by the gift of repentance that the Holy Spirit joyfully gives to His saints.

Now concerning unbelievers in the church or house-church, whether they be family or otherwise, God's Word does not discern. All unbelievers are sinners and therefore subject to the same condemnation as the world according to John 3:18. Therefore they can have no part in worship. In fact, if they are present with a gathering of worshipping saints, evil is necessarily brought into the midst. Discerning saints should be aware of this and respond in obedience to the Scriptures such as I Timothy 6:5 ("from such withdraw thyself.")

This may be a difficult doctrine to swallow. After all, they're family and they live under my roof. How can I do this to them? Jesus leaves no room for them as he states in Luke 14:26, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." God demands that His worship be pure and shared with no one.

So what do we do with the unsaved in our households? We do all we can outside of them participating in worship to ensure that they hear the Word of God. The rest is up to God. And when the saints gather together in homes, the unbelievers should politely be asked to remain in other room or place. Again, as Paul stated, should a sinning saint or wicked sinner partake unworthily in worship, they do so to damnation, becoming weak, sickly, and dying.

This is the same experience as in the Old Testament. God does not change. Only once a year could the High Priest enter into the Holy of Holies to worship the LORD. He could not enter without first purifying himself with water (washing of the water of the Word), putting on the priestly garments (washed white in the blood of the Lamb), making atonement first for himself (there is no redemption of sin without the shedding of blood), then for the people (He offered one sacrifice for all sins forever). If he did not do this in the prescribed manner, he was immediately struck dead and dragged out by a rope tied around his ankle.

Sadly, many are weak and sickly and dead in our churches today because the Church is asleep and not obeying the commands of true worship. Stop bringing sinners into church if the service is for worship. Christian, stop going to church if there is sin in your life until you get right with God and start being the Church. Whether you meet in a home or a building, whether your group is large or small, keep the sinners and saints separate, lest judgment come upon us more severely than it already is. Let this judgment instead start at the house of God as we are warned in I Peter 4:17.

This is the end of thoughts on this topic. Enjoy God's blessings in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3)

1 comment:

Jeffrey A Pelletier said...

Form by itself doesn't cause anything, absolutely. It can and has but it is not absolutely reliable. What is reliable is authencity in relationship based on love, for this is how the body grows. But where we meet, is irrelevant. I attended a house church for 6 years, we met house to house, shared a meal, and the entire event was usually 4 hours. But it whithered.

16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Eph 4:16). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.