Section 7. Living The Faith... The Biblical Christian/
The Church... Then and Now


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The Church... Then and Now
Part IV -  Is The Church Supposed To Be a Spectator Event?

Carol Brooks
Edited by Vicki Narlee





 The Church Supposed To Be a Spectator Event?
When most Christians think of church, a largely spectator event comes to mind.

Other than join in a few hymns (usually pre-selected by the "worship leader", "choir master", or member of the clergy) the congregation largely sits quietly in their pew, while the pastor conducts the service and delivers the sermon. They stand and sit on cue and pass the offering plate.

However, the concept of virtually inactive, mute believers would have been totally foreign to the early church. The New Testament teaches that gathering together with other Christians is to be a participatory and interactive event, where each person uses his God given spiritual gifts for the benefit, or building up, of the congregation as a whole. In speaking of the varieties of gifts given by the Spirit, such as the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, healing, faith, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing of spirits, various kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues, the New Testament says (All Emphasis Added)

    Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NASB)

    So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church. Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. (1 Corinthians 14:12-13 NASB)

    What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26 NASB)

    And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16 NASB)

    As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. (1 Peter 4:10-11 NASB)

However, it is also very important to note that although every member of the church could use his gift in the meetings, Paul was very clear that while there was liberty, there was not to be any confusion, because our God is a God of peace

    Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? .... If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. [1 Corinthians 14:23, 27-33 NASB)

Romans 12:1
begins with the word "therefore", which means that it is a transitional verse. Paul lays down a doctrinal foundation in the first eleven chapters, then discusses how these doctrines are to be implemented in our daily lives. The "therefore" begins a section on right action, based on the right belief outlined in chapters 1-11. Paul begins the chapter by  exhorting the Roman Christians to actively choose to present their bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God (Romans 12:1-2).

After which, Paul pointed out that the human body has many parts, each of which performs a different function, yet is indispensable in it's contribution to the smooth working of the body. Similarly, God had granted certain gifts to the members of the church, each of whom had a different gift, and had a different role to play. Therefore the Romans needed to humbly use whichever gifts God had given them, for the good of all the members of the church, and the proper functioning of the body of Christ. (Note: Verse 3 leads us to consider the possibility that some were overly proud of the gifts that they had received, therefore tended to disparage others who had 'lesser' gifts.) Please read Paul's words very carefully

    For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. [Romans 12:4-8 NASB)

In other words, the first order of business was to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, and the second was to use our gifts for the benefit of others. There was no 'professional' ministry. Everyone who had a gift of the spirit had the privilege of using his gift for the good of all in the church assembly. Every member of the church had a role to play in the functioning of the body as a whole.

    Pl. note Many orthodox Christians believe that the "miraculous" gifts such as tongues, miracles, word of knowledge, healing and prophecy were once given to support God's revelation, but were withdrawn once the church was established. The Holy Spirit still calls, convicts and regenerates sinners, but doesn't do much beyond that. Others maintain that effective evangelism can not take place without signs, wonders and miracles. Like most doctrinal debates, both sides use Scripture (in fact often the same verses) to support their positions. The problem being that we cannot put all the gifts of the Spirit into the same category, but have to distinguish between the temporary "sign gifts" and permanent "gifts of the Spirit". Without a Biblical understanding of the gifts of the Spirit and why they are given, many people have been led to think that the much of the supernatural phenomena they have witnessed, or even experienced, are from God, when in fact they are nothing but occult manifestations. See Cessationism

    Tongues were a known language in the New Testament and there is absolutely no evidence to show that it was some form of ecstatic speech. Besides which, since Paul instructed that everything was to be done decently and in order, where does the the unintelligible gibberish, jerking, twitching, falling on the floor etc. all come from? Has the allure of receiving some form of deeper spiritual experience deceived countless millions into accepting this counterfeit? See Tongues

    Also See How Do You Determine Your Spiritual Gift?

Theater or Living Organism?
The church and its services should not resemble a theater in which one, or more, paid actors dominate the stage, while every one else looks on, and occasionally applauds. The church, is living, breathing, dynamic organism, and all believers, and the gifts imparted to them, are necessary to make the whole body function smoothly. With the average human being's love of pomp and show, rituals and ceremonies, ranks and titles, the temptation to import some facets of the Old Testament priesthood must have been overwhelming to the early leaders, who imposed them on New Testament Christianity. And, since then we have, as usual, accepted the status quo, never bothering to look any deeper. Although I have no idea what his other beliefs were, the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones, minister of Westminster Chapel in London for some 30 years, said it well

    Are we giving the members of the church an adequate opportunity to exercise their gifts? Are our churches corresponding to the life of the New Testament church? Or is there too much concentration in the hands of ministers and clergy? You say, "We provide opportunity for the gifts of others in week-night activities." But I still ask, Do we manifest the freedom of the New Testament church? . . . When one looks at the New Testament church and contrasts the church today, even our churches, with that church, one is appalled at the difference. In the New Testament church one sees vigor and activity; one sees a living community, conscious of its glory and of its responsibility, with the whole church, as it were, an evangelistic force. The notion of people belonging to the church in order to come to sit down and fold their arms and listen, with just two or three doing everything, is quite foreign to the New Testament, and it seems to me it is foreign to what has always been the characteristic of the church in times of revival and of reawakening. [16]

When was the last time you were able to use your spiritual gift in compliance with the pattern established in the New Testament?

If you are largely unable to use your gift for the benefit of other believers, what exactly are you supposed to use it for? While a gift like the distinguishing of spirits may come in very useful for the individual, gifts such as healing, miracles, prophecy, the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge, etc are largely useless, unless used to edify other believers.

But somewhere along the line, a bunch of local extended families became a huge universal organization, with layer upon layer of rank, each subordinate to the one above. A spirit led church, which gave every member the freedom to contribute to the meeting, became a formal liturgical service, set in stone by the church hierarchy.

Which brings us to the next question, i.e. Where in the world did our version of priests, pastors, deacons, bishops, archbishops etc. come from?

With the exception of the word "clergy", many of the modern terms we use in reference to the leaders of the church, do find their roots in the New Testament. However, the concept behind the words has changed so much, that it has become the very antithesis of what Christ planned for His church. Our church leaders and the various man-made functions assigned to them, bear little or no resemblance to the leaders of the New Testament, and the role they played in the early church.


001orange  CONTINUE ON TO CHAPTER V: Church Leaders... Then and Now. Local New Testament Congregations and Their Spiritual Leaders. Origin of the word "Clergy". The "Elders" and Their Function... Rule or Tend? The Pastors and Priests, The Bishops... The Chair and The Titles. Were There "Bishops" In The New Testament? The Ministers/Deacons. The Elders.. How They Were Appointed, What Their Job Was, and How Many were in Each Church. HERE


End Notes
[13] Sandy Simpson. The Biblical Definition Of Worship. http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/biblicalworship.html

[14] http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=worshipful&searchmode=none

[15a] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, Zondervan Hardcover. 1995. Preaching To The Unchurched. Pg 189

[15b] ibid. Pg. 299

[16] Martyn Lloyd-Jones Knowing the Times [Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989] Pgs. 195-196


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