RBS Tabletalk

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Spiritual Declension: Lessons from Early 18th Century Particular Baptists, Part 2-Controversies over More or Less Minor Issues

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  1. Thanks for the good post, Jeff.

    Todd Wood

    January 13, 2009 at 4:20 am

  2. […] has been recently spotlighting a slice of that history with lessons to be learned from the […]

  3. This wee joke needs to be vocalized in an Irish accent. It’s about, Wee Willy, the Irish Baptist who was lost at sea for a couple years, having been marooned alone on a desert island. Now rescued, and on the deck of the ship heading back to Ireland, the captain and Wee Willy watch the island recede in the distance. “Willy, I see you built three huts during your time on the island.” “Yep, ah did indeed.” “Well,” inquired the captain, “what was that hut there on the right?” “I lived in that hut.” answered Wee Willy. “That was me house, so it was.” “And that second hut there,” asked the captain, “what did you do in that hut?” “Ahh, that was me church” said Willy in an air of reverence. “That’s where I went to church.” “Oh, I see,” said the captain. “And what about that third hut over there? What did you do in that hut?” “Well,” said Wee Willy curtly, “that’s where I used to go to church!”

    Alan Dunn

    January 13, 2009 at 9:05 pm

  4. Great humor, Alan! It makes the point.

    deangonzales

    January 13, 2009 at 9:28 pm

  5. Alan ,

    Good to hear from you.

    ‘Voices of friends from cyberspace frontier
    Help to remind that we’re all still here’

    Funny joke (or perhaps not really funny but sad)

    jsmitheasley

    January 13, 2009 at 9:46 pm

  6. Jeff,

    I am really enjoying the series of articles and finding them informative and challenging! Thanks for the reality check!!

    As for the joke…. The truth of the matter in Northern Ireland is there’d be far more empty huts on the island!

    Alistair W
    RBCR, CA

    Alistair Winter

    January 14, 2009 at 12:04 am

  7. That was a good joke so it was! (I liked the “so it was” touch Alan!

    Alistair, you should have written it thus,

    “the truth of the matter in Northern Ireland is there’d be far more empty huts, so there would!’

    Anyway, great posts Jeff, having been looking forward to hearing/reading some of this stuff.

    Paul Wallace

    Paul

    January 14, 2009 at 12:41 pm

  8. Dear Jeff,

    Great post. Are we not entrusted with a ministry of “reconciliation” and not alienation? God give me grace to be more concerned about winning people than arguements. Speak the truth in love means God want us to communicate His cause with His heart. You have reminded me again of what I pray the Lord will do more and more in me as a pastor of people… put on Christ who is “gentle and lowly of heart.”

    Thanks again!

    Adam Davies

    January 14, 2009 at 2:26 pm

  9. Thanks Paul, Alistair and Adam. Good to hear from friends.

    jsmitheasley

    January 14, 2009 at 8:14 pm

  10. Pastor Smith,

    Excellent post. I have a question for you. Since we all agree that the disciples met on the Lord’s day for worship, ought attendance at both morning and evening worship services be a requirement for membership? I mean, can we be dogmatic about SS, AM, and PM services when no such times are fixed in Scripture? Certainly we can expect attendance for worship on the Lord’s day unless providentially hindered, but must brethren divide over this issue? I’ve heard of a church in which a substantial number of members came to the conclusion that the Pastors were requiring more of them than the Lord did with regard to this. They wanted more latitude in the use of their Lord’s day, and believed that attendance at PM services or prayer meetings was an issue of Christian liberty. This became a matter of disunity for a long time until the Pastors finally put their foot down and advised that all members who were unwilling to submit on this issue had to resign, and if they continued to attend the church, could not take the Lord’s Supper. A big split ensued.

    Now the church is a mess, everyone is hurt, and the future viability of the church is in question because so many members have left. Is this an issue worth taking such a stand on? Isn’t there room for legitimate differences among brethren about such a matter? In order to address the disunity, shouldn’t the Pastors have instructed those brethren with a stricter view of these things that there is room for differences among us?

    I appreciate your thoughts.

    RD

    R. Delaney

    January 15, 2009 at 2:56 am

  11. Dear RD,

    I am grieved to hear of the church split that you describe. You have opened up a question that of itself could be the subject of a series of blogs. So I’m going to have to give a short answer (relatively) assuming certain things as commonly understood. Let me make a few preliminary comments first.

    First, obviously when talking about a church split there may be myriads of factors involved in this situation that I don’t know about. It’s impossible for me to know all the factors since I am not a party to or privy to all the circumstances. Thus whatever comments I make are made with that qualification.

    Second, the situation you mention is not exactly of the same nature of what I described in my blog. What I described had reference to interchurch issues and divisions among churches more than intrachurch issues.

    Now for my thoughts on the questions you ask.

    First, pastors have a governing function in the church under Christ. Their function is described as that of shepherds, teachers and governors or overseers. There are very important limitations to their authority of course. For example, they cannot require of people anything that is a violation of God’s word, or exercise authority outside of their sphere (the church), appoint officers or excommunicate without the church’s consent, and they themselves are accountable to and liable to church discipline for sinful behavior etc. So there are important limitations. However they do have a governing function which involves at least these three things…1)Implementing the directives of Christ in the church 2) Presiding over and directing the affairs of the church, and 3) Upholding and enforcing the circumstantial policies of the church. This matter of church meetings falls under this third category.

    The general directive is given to God’s people to forsake not the assembling of themselves together. This is a command. The question is often raised. “But how often are we to assemble together?” Well it is clear that we should at least meet on the Lord’s day, the first day of the week. But how often are we to gather on the Lord’s day? How long should our meetings last? Should we have any other stated meetings such as a midweek prayer service? Well the fact is the bible doesn’t give us detailed answers. We know in the O.T. there was a morning and an evening sacrifice. In Acts we find a church gathered on Sunday until midnight on one occasion. There are indications that there were other occasions when the church gathered to pray and so on, other than on Sunday. So how do we determine how often the church gathers and what is expected of the members in this regard?

    My answer is that all of those details have been left up to the church and its leaders, the elders, to determine. Circumstantial decisions like that, as our confession states in ch.1, must be made in consideration of the general principles of scripture such as we find in 1 Cor. 14, “Let all things be done unto edification” and, “let all things be done decently and in order”. However someone has to decide and it’s not just for each individual member to decide for themselves and do their own thing. This is a matter for the church and its elders to determine and God has given real authority to the elders to preside over, help to establish, and to enforce the circumstantial policies of the church.

    This is not legalism. Let me illustrate. As a father I have the authority to establish certain policies in the realm of my home. I cannot require my family to disobey God but when it comes to circumstantial matters I can establish polices. For example, I may establish the policy that the children are not allowed to jump up and down on their beds. Now the bible no where says, “Thou shalt not jump up and down on your bed”. Does that mean it’s legalism for me as a father, within our home, to establish that policy? No, because it is a circumstantial policy made in an attempt to apply certain biblical principles to a particular situation within a sphere for which I am responsible (the necessity of taking care of one’s property…protecting one’s safety etc..).

    In our church we have already agreed together in a very orderly way in our constitution that the recognized stated meetings of our church (those which all of the members are expected to attend unless providentially unable) are the two worship services of a normal Lord’s Day, Sunday School, weekly prayer meetng and any duly called church business meeting. Again, this is in our constitution and folks are made aware of what the expectations are before they ever join the church. When they join the church they are accepting this policy that our church has established. A person can appeal the church’s policy at some point and policy matters of this nature can be reviewed by the church and if deemed best by the church and it’s leaders adjustments can be made. However it’s not up to individual members to make up their own policies and completely ignore the policies the church and its leaders have established and the elders are sworn to uphold.

    Concerning the situation you mention, I would assume the church of which you speak had certain policies in place before these folks became members. If there was a desire among a significant number to make adjustments in that policy they could make an orderly gracious appeal. I would also assume there was probably an orderly process for doing so in the church constitution. If there was, that processs should be followed. If the elders and the majority of people (whatever majority necessary) determined not to change the policy the folks in question would then be left with a choice. Abide by the church’s policy or leave and find another church.

    Again I offer these thoughts recognizing that there may be a number of factors in the situation you mention that I’m not aware of.

    Grace and Peace,

    Jeff Smith

    jsmitheasley

    January 16, 2009 at 3:24 pm

  12. Thanks Pastor Smith,

    So then, in your view, this matter is worth separating over. Even though the members (and former members) of the church on both sides of this issue are in agreement with 98% of the Confession, agree on the essentials of the faith, etc., they should split over required attendance at all stated meetings? In other words, a matter of church policy, particular to that church’s leadership, is the dividing line? Is this really the Lord’s desire for His people? To splinter into smaller and smaller groups over relatively minor issues? Thank you, I appreciate your thoughtful, sympathetic response.

    –RD

    R. Delaney

    January 16, 2009 at 5:32 pm

  13. “So then, in your view, this matter is worth separating over. Even though the members (and former members) of the church on both sides of this issue are in agreement with 98% of the Confession, agree on the essentials of the faith, etc., they should split over required attendance at all stated meetings?”

    Dear RD,

    As you know I did not say “they should split” etc.

    As I mentioned I don’t know all the circumstances of the situation you mentioned. I do think it is grievous this has happened but I am not prepared to assume all the fault is with the elders and the stand they took. Perhaps the fault lies with folks who joined understanding the expectations in that particular church and then refused to keep their covenanted commitments. And then when the majority of the church members and its elders were unwilling to change their attendance policy upon an appeal they left in a less than Christian manner and by disaffection and evil speaking drew others with them. So then they would be the ones who split the church. I’m not saying that this is what happened. Again, I don’t know what really happened. I’m just saying that not knowing all the facts, my years of being a pastor make it at least conceivable to me that this is a possiblity.

    Please read very closely what I said in my first response to your questions. I think you may not have understood me correctly. My point was that each individual local church must establish policies regarding what meetings they will have and what expectations are for the members with respect to those meetings. I did not say the elders arbitrarilty do this. This is done by the church and its elders. Most churches do this by adopting a constitution. Once that is determined new applicants for membership should be made aware up front what the expectations are as determinded by that church and its leadership. Thus they know what they are before they become members. A local church is not a body of people left to do what is right in their own eyes with no membership requirements or expectations. It is a body in which we are subject to one another and in which there is a structure of government.

    Regarding attendance expectations I think it is wise sometimes to make exceptions for folks who drive a long distance. Most RB churches I believe do that. I also mentioned that policies can be changed in a church, including specific policies regarding stated meetings and attendance expectations. Normally there is an orderly framework for seeking to do that. If some folks wish the policy to change they can make an appeal and if enough are of that mind the whole church can be informed and take the proposal into consideration. Again there is usually in every church constitution an orderly procedure for considering and adopting changes to the church constitution.

    However, again, its not just left up to every individual to decide how often they want to attend services. Church membership involves commitment. Some expectation has to be established and it is the church as a whole with its leaders who must make that determination. A person is always free to find a different church if they don’t like the expectations of the one they are considering.

    Hope this clarifies, brother.

    Jeff Smith

    jsmitheasley

    January 16, 2009 at 6:58 pm

  14. Thanks for the clarification, I know you were not suggesting they *should* split of necessity, but that if they couldn’t agree one option was to split. But I say, why split at all over this? A church constitution is a man made document. The reference you suggest from the book of Judges, namely, that each individual cannot “do what is right in his own eyes” is quite a stretch from the context in which that verse was applied by the Holy Spirit. That had reference, as you know, to great and perverse moral evil. Since all we can dogmatically say is that the church met together on the Lord’s day, and no # of meetings is fixed, we should allow for differences among us on this issue. We are all committed to meeting on the Lord’s day. If we submit our consciences on this matter to congregationalism and the opinion of the pastors (which may have been 20 years ago when the constitution was written), we are adding to what the Scriptures have revealed about this matter. If this was so important to God (i.e. # of meetings, etc.) He would have spoken more clearly about it.

    That is all to say, we are at times in danger of elevating our confessions and church constitutions above Scripture and the light of conscience. Even though a church constitution usually has a provision for appeal and revision, you usually need quite a high % of agreement from the church body to do so.

    I’m just thinking through these issues, so I’m asking as one that is teachable….

    –RD

    R. Delaney

    January 16, 2009 at 7:37 pm

  15. RD,

    If you don’t mind let me try one more time to help you think through this a bit.

    Do you agree that the church is to meet for public worship at least on the Lord’s Day?

    I think you would say yes.

    Do you agree that the church may meet at other times for prayer or special services?

    I think you would say yes.

    Do you agree that the bible gives no dogmatic answer as to how many times the church should meet?

    I think you would say yes.

    Would you agree then that some decision has to be made about that by the church and its leaders?

    I think this is obvious and I think you would agree. There has to be some decision made regarding what this particular church will do. When we will meet, what time will we meet etc…?

    Thus my point, that the church together with its leaders has to determine these questions. This is similar to questions like, how long the services will be, how many songs will be sung, how many public prayers will be offered, how long the sermon will be etc…Decisions have to made.

    Now for the church to function in certain of these circumstantials of worship decently and in order and fairly, with the same expectations for everyone, there needs to be some understanding on this matter of when the church meets and when the members are expected to be there. It is not legalism or elevating church constitutions above scripture for the church to determine how it will apply scriptural principle to this question in its own situation and to put that down on paper so that everyone knows who comes into the membership of the church. That is wise to do that. That is an attempt to do things fairly, decently and in order.

    If a person joins a church should they not be expected to abide by the church’s policy on such matters? And if after being there a time they decide they can’t or don’t want to do so, to make an appeal in an orderly, and not a divisive, manner? And if one is a member of a church and the majority of the members do not wish to change the policy do you not then have a choice, either abide by the church’s policy, even though you don’t prefer it, or find another church.

    Let me try to illustrate this in another way. What if you had a group of people in the church who believe it’s best if worship services only last 20 minutes. However it is the practice of the church for the services normally to last 1 hr. 15 minutes. Of course the bible no where tells us how long the worship services must be, does it? Imagine the group that only wants 20 minutes is 1/4 of the membership. They make an appeal…The matter is brought to the pastors and then by them to the rest of the church for consideration. The reasons and arguments of this group are heard. Reasons on the other side are heard. Ultimately the pastor and 75% of the remaining membership do not want the services to be kept to only 20 minutes. Now what do you do? Well these folks who want a 20 minute service have a choice. The church has spoken on this. So they must submit to the church’s practice or find another church if this is really that important to them. One option that I do not believe the elders should allow is for those folks to come to church, get up 20 minutes into the service and walk out. That’s a rebellious attitude that is disruptive to the peace of the church. They should not be allowed to do that and at the same time remain members in good standing. Also you can’t have double standards and different expectations for different folks merely based on each persons preference. That would lead to chaos and anarchy in the church.

    Or take the same illustration and apply to a question about the time of the services. You have minority group who wants Sunday Morning service to start at 9am. However the church’s practice has been and is for mornng worship to start at 10am, and neither the pastors or the rest of the members prefer to change it. Hopefully the pastors are open to such suggestions and are willing to consider them etc..but ultimately a decision has to be made one way or the other. You can’t have everyone coming to church at different times. So is it right then and okay for the group who prefers if services start at 9am to just not come on Sunday anymore? Is it right for them to call the pastors and everyone else legalists? I trust you get the point.

    Maybe these illustrations help.

    Perhaps we have discussed this enough. Maybe it would be best that any further discussion of this matter be done in private.

    May the Lord give you much grace and wisdom.

    Jeff Smith

    jsmitheasley

    January 16, 2009 at 10:14 pm

  16. Pastor Smith,

    I understand your reasoning. I’m not arguing against the Pastor’s ability to set times for worship, etc. I’m saying that the Pastor does not have the authority to *require* attendance at more services than the Lord in the Scriptures has revealed. You are setting up, which is at best by implication, a certain schedule that places guilt on a Christian’s conscience if he doesn’t attend a particular service. The pastor and the people can agree to have SS, AM & PM, write it down in the constitution, and implement it. However, the Lord has not *required* it of His people to attend more than one service, since no where in Scripture is a # of services mentioned. We only know that they met once on the Lord’s day. SS is nothing more than a 19th century tradition. When Pastor’s start requiring more of the members (or prospective members) than the Lord does, they are going beyond Scripture. To judge someone’s spirituality by the # of services he attends is not judging by a biblical standard. There are many members in our churches who have little vital religion, but as long as they show up for the 4 weekly services they’re OK. *Requiring* attendance at 4 weekly meetings in order to be a member of the church Christ shed His blood for is going beyond Scripture. It’s Christ’s church, not the pastor’s church.

    If some of the members want to attend all 4 meetings, by all means, they are free to do so. If others only attend one meeting on the Lord’s day, they by all means should be free to do so. Should a Christian be excluded from the membership of any church because he only feels the Lord requires attendance at one meeting per week? Or does he have to meet a standard set up by the church constitution that is absent from the biblical text?

    Sorry for posting further comments on this topic as you wish to discuss this privately, but I wanted to make my points clear in response to your recent comments.

    Thanks for the interaction.

    Grace and Peace,

    RD

    R. Delaney

    January 19, 2009 at 4:30 am

  17. RD,
    Thank you for the interaction. I do have two more questions for you 🙂

    1)Let’s say a church has just one service on the Lord’s day and the necessary majority of the members and it’s elders choose to have the service at 10am. What if others don’t want to have service at 10am. They want to have it at 1pm. Obviously the bible no where commands what time we must meet(just as you’ve been arguing it doesn’t command how many times we are to meet). Therefore if some decide that they’re not coming at 10am. They’re going to come and have their own little service without the elders and the rest of the church at 1pm. Imagine that the justification for this they give is “the bible no where commands what time we are to meet. For you to expect everyone to meet for worship at 10am on the Lord’s Day is legalism and is requiring of something extrabiblical”. Now would you believe that their argument is legitimate?

    2). ch.1 para. 6 in the 1689 confession applies to the matters we have been discussing. It says…

    “There are circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed”

    The second question is this….when it comes to what is referred to in that quote…”circumstances concerning the worship of God and government of the church common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence”….

    When it comes to such matters, that cannot be determned dogmatically from scripture, who is to determine what a particular church will do? Who determines when we meet, how many songs we sing when we meet, how many prayers we pray, the method in which we recognize new members, the place where we conduct baptisms etc…etc….etc….

    Is every individual in the church to come up with their own ideas and just do what they want or does the church body as a whole together with it’s elders decide on these things?

    Jeff Smith

    jsmitheasley

    January 19, 2009 at 4:28 pm

  18. Hi Pastor Smith,

    I’m not asserting that the elders don’t have the ability to set times for worship, the order of worship, etc. because the Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt meet at 10:00 am on the Lord’s day”. Those issues fall under the paragraph you cited from the Confession. I’m asserting the elders don’t have the *authority* to require attendance at more than one meeting on Sunday because there is no clear command to do so. Like I said, we can only assert that the disciples met on the Lord’s day, not that they met 3 times. Obviously, pastors and people would agree on an acceptable time when they would all meet. It would be silly otherwise…

    Grace and Peace,

    RD

    R. Delaney

    January 20, 2009 at 12:43 am

  19. Brother RD,

    I understand better the argument you are trying to make. However I’m not sure I see the difference between the church body with its leaders agreeing on and determining the time the church is expected to meet and the church agreeing on and determining the number of times the church is expected to meet. We are told neither in scripture. So why does the church not have the same liberty to determine and agree concerning both or either in terms of what is ordinarily done and expected? The only situation I can think where we are specifically tolds about the time of a Lord’s Day worship gathering is in Acts 20:7ff and in that instance the church met until midnight and then continued until daybreak the next day. I don’t think that mandates that every church must do that, nor do I think it forbids it.

    Concerning how many times we meet there are some factors that incline me to believe it is wise for the church to meet more than once on the Lord’s Day

    1. The Lord’s Day is the New Covenant application of the fourth commandment. According to the fourth commandment the whole day is the Sabbath. Thus since the whole day we are to set aside our normal labors and recreations, there is more time and opportunity for the church to meet. Since the meetings of the church are not presented as painful unpleasant experiences for believers, but joyful foretastes of heaven I have a hard time understanding why anyone who is committed to keep the entire day as the Christian Sabbath would be against gathering with God’s people more than once on that day. It also seems very reasonable to me to at least gather twice and to only wish that the weakness of our minds and bodies in their present state did not hinder us from gathering more or even for the whole day.
    2. R. Scott Clark has an interesting chapter in his book “Recovering the Reformed Confession” on the subject of the second service. He traces out a pattern we see in scripture. In the Old Covenant as part of the consecration of the Aaronic priesthood, there was to be a morning and evening sacrifice. Ezra 3:3 says that at the rebuilding of the altar in Jerusalem according to the law, the priests offered sacrifices morning and evening. There were also morning and evening sacrifices everyday (1 Chron. 16:40). The superscription of Ps. 92 says that it was a song for the Sabbath day. However one views the force of the superscription it tell us how the Psalm was traditionally understood and as a Psalm for the Sabbath day it says this, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and your faithfulness every night.” In all of this we see a morning and evening pattern. Now let me quickly say that I am not saying this proves or dictates that we must have a morning and evening service but it certainly shows that having such is consistent with a pattern that we see in the O.T.
    3. In the N.T. it is true that details are scanty in the book of Acts. However in Acts 3:3 we see Peter and John going to the temple at the ninth hour, a regular hour of prayer. This seems to imply that the the apostles continued observing the regular hours of prayer in the temple at that time. Acts 5:21 tells us that the apostles were teaching in the temple in the morning. It is certain that the apostles attended synagogue services in the early years when permitted(Acts 13;14; 14:1;17:1-4; 18:4, 26). This apparently continued to some degree as late as the early second century. I’ve read that the synagogue held two services. Just as the early Christians followed other aspects of the synagogue worship the pattern of two services each Sunday was practiced by early Christians. Pliny the Younger reported that the Christians met on Sunday before daybreak and then again later in the day. This practice of morning and evening continued through the medieval church and into the Reformation. The Reformed standards, (Westminster Directory for Public Worship, Canons of Dort, Heidelberg) called for two services on Sunday.
    The fact is that this is has generally been the practice throughout the history of the church.

    I do not set these facts forth as arguments that prove that we must meet twice. But simply as evidences that this is what generations of Christians have done and this morning and evening pattern even goes back to Old Covenant worship. Thus at the very least it is not unreasonable for churches to have two stated meetings that members, who are able, are ordinarily expected to participate in. If that’s legalism the whole Christian church has been guilty of legalism throughout its history. It is no more unreasonable, it seems to me, than the church choosing to meet at 9am instead of 10am or 11am instead 1pm or whenever the church and its leadership decides is most fitting for that church’s circumstances. Can exceptions be made for some people? Is there flexibility which allows adaptations to every church’s circumstances? Sure. But I believe there should be good reasons for a person to absent themselves from any gathering of the church on the Lord’s Day. Are those who do so keeping the whole day as the Christian Sabbath in their home? Do they understand that the public means of grace in some ways have priority over the private means of grace?(another subject worth writing a blog about:)) Is there something else they have to do during that time that is more important or more enjoyable? It is difficult to find anything more important or more of a blessing than attendance at the public means of grace.

    But again I am willing for each local church to determine these matters for themselves so long as they meet at least once. I will not separate my church and myself from interchurch communion with another church for that reason. Let each church and its leaders be fully persuaded in their own minds as to how best to make use of that day in their church’s particular circumstances.

    To brethren in churches who have two services who absent themselves from one of them I would ask why? I would also ask them to examine themselves. Is this because of heart disinclination to public worship and the public means of grace? If so this is a sad sign, not of enlightened Christian liberty, but of spiritual declension. I would also ask them if they covenanted with the rest of the church when they became a member to attend both services? If they did do they realize that they are guilty of lying and covenant breaking? Also I would ask them this….if the church body and its leaders have chosen to have the church called together for worship twice on the Lord’s day in application of their legitimate authority to order the circumstantial details of the church’s life, have they graciously appealed to the church by proper means and channels for a change in that policy? If not how do they justify their refusal to attend one of those gatherings in light of Heb. 13:17, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

    Feel free to respond further, brother. I think I need to move on from this for now. Though, I would be glad to interact further in private if you would like. Thanks for the gracious manner of the interaction. May God give us both grace and wisdom.

    Every Blessing,

    Jeff Smith

    jsmitheasley

    January 20, 2009 at 4:59 am

  20. Hi Pastor Smith,

    I understand needing to move on, but let me conclude with this. I personally agree that a pattern of morning and evening worship can be established from Scripture, but nowhere does the Bible assert this pattern to the degree common among Reformed Baptists and others (which is, we do this so you must do this too, otherwise you can’t be a part of Christ’s church in this place). I prefer and attend morning and evening worship. However, I do not expect my personal convictions (or the pastor’s for that matter) on a relatively minor issue of church practice (and I say relatively minor in comparison with the essentials of the faith, the Trinity, the doctrines of grace, the diety of Christ, etc.) to be set up as law in the church.

    Although it can be established that a pattern of morning and evening worship has been observed throughout church history, that does not in itself lay down the practice as anything more than a tradition. Traditions can be helpful, but ought not to command our consciences or place a burden of guilt on the people of God for not observing them.

    Some RB churches have one service in the AM, or an AM and afternoon service. Are these churches out of line? Are they thumbing their noses at well established church tradition? Why is a Christian at one church looked upon as being in spiritual declension if he doesn’t attend the PM service, but at another church that only has an AM service no such charge would be made? If AM and PM are going to be asserted as the clear will of the Lord in the NT, then RB churches must be consistent on this matter and exhort all RB churches to fall in line.

    The Lord’s day can be kept holy without attending a PM service. As to why a Christian would not want to attend PM or SS, that is not for me to judge. Perhaps they don’t feel it is required of them by the Lord. Perhaps they have a weak constitution and the rigor of the schedule causes the Lord’s day to be a day of exhaustion instead of rest. Perhaps they cannot assimilate 3 doctrine laden messages a day. There are many reasons why a brother or sister in the Lord cannot keep this church-made requirement. However, they are still Christians for whom Christ died and ought not to be kept out of your Reformed Baptist church (or mine). I think we are setting a bar for church membership that is higher than the Lord does, and I think that is pretty clear.

    Thanks for the discussion, my brother. May God bless your shepherding…

    –RD

    R. Delaney

    January 20, 2009 at 2:57 pm

  21. RD,

    Obviously we could go on forever about this, it seems. I think all that I have said already touches on most of what you say above. I’ll not go over all that ground again. May God give wisdom to every church and its pastors as they determine what their policies should be in these matters for their particular circumstances.

    Thanks again for the discussion, brother. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with your spirit.

    Jeff Smith

    jsmitheasley

    January 20, 2009 at 10:14 pm


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