Some Questionable Doctrines
These studies examine the traditional doctrines held by the Church of Christ to see if they are actually taught in the scriptures. This is not an "anti-Church of Christ" site. I was reared in the Church of Christ and have been preaching since 1968 in the Church of Christ. My desire is that we walk righteously before God, not according to traditions of men. Bernie Parsons
"Forsake Not The Assembly"
by Bernie Parsons October 09, 2002 Rev. 01/29/2005
Several traditional doctrines in the churches of Christ have perturbed me over the years. I could not find these doctrines taught in the Bible, although there is sometimes given a "book, chapter, and verse " to justify a particular doctrine. I wish to address some of them here in an effort to stimulate my brothers and sisters to think a little more deeply and and little more clearly regarding them. Jesus said that we would know the truth, and the truth would set us free.
As I researched these doctrines in the Bible, I was struck by how our interpretation seems so far afield of what the scriptures are actually saying about these matters. Searching the history of the church, back through the various movements and schisms that have developed, these doctrines are found to be attributable to man, not to God.
If you miss "church (worship) service", you will go to hell. Or, as one man put it, "You must be here every time that the doors are open." Hebrews 10:25 is then misquoted, usually rendered as "Forsake not the assembly." (I have heard Protestants using this same misquotation, which indicates to me that it is not unique to the churches of Christ, but is a Protestant doctrine.)
Hebrews 10:21-25 "And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
The first problem with this doctrine is that the scripture is not merely misinterpreted, it is actually misquoted! Verse 25 is a continuation of what is being presented in the preceding verses. Verse 24 indicates that the readers of this letter are to give thought as to how they might trigger actions of love and good works in others. Verse 25 then tells the recipients of this letter not to abandon--give up completely--the gathering of themselves together, as some had already done!
Assembly is a noun, and denotes a gathered body. Assembling is a verb, indicating the action of gathering together. To forsake--abandon--the action, or practice, of gathering with fellow-believers is quite different than occasionally missing one such assembly.
In context, we read that the Hebrews (descendants of Abraham, the Jews) were leaving their new-found faith in Christ as their savior, and were returning to the Law of Moses. The entire letter to the Hebrews deals with this problem, and is written to persuade Christian Jews not to reject Jesus in favor of the Law of Moses.
Hebrews 10:4-10 "For it is not possible that the
blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the
world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared
me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.
Hebrews 10:28-29 "He that despised Moses' law died
without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye,
shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the
Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an
unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?"
Which brings me to another incorrectly taught passage, a doctrine that we also seem to share with the Protestants.
If you commit sin while knowing that it is sin, God will never forgive you. This is referred to as "The willful sin." The following verse is offered as proof:
Hebrews 10:24-29 "And let us consider one another
to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves
together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye
see the day approaching.
In context, this was a warning to the Christians Jews not to return to the Law of Moses, as some had done, offering the blood of bulls and goats. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for all time--after Him, there would be no further sacrifice acceptable to God. Thus, by willfully rejecting the blood of the Savior, the son of God, there was no other sacrifice that they could offer that God would accept. "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins".
We see that the "willful sin" is that of rejecting Jesus as Savior, after knowing of His sacrifice, and role, for us. It is not "forsaking the assembly", as some insist. As for "forsaking the assembly", a devious explanation is often offered as to why "we must be there every time the doors are open". Some argue that the elders designate the time and place of assembly, and since that they are the church leaders, every member of the congregation must be there as appointed. To which I ask, "Who gave them the authority to bind something that is not in the scripture on the congregation?"
The reply is, "We are to submit to the elders."
Hebrews 13:17 "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."
1 Peter 5:5 "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder."
Well, let's examine the role of the elders. Elders are to lead the congregation in righteousness, leading them in the teachings of God. This does not give them authority to make up rules and bind them on the congregation. The elders are not to be as lords over the congregation, ordering them about, making up rules. The role of elders is one of godly example, and of humble leadership.
1 Peter :5:5 "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."
Ephesians 5:21 "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God."
Notice in 1 Peter 5:5 that the verse is often only partially quoted--the full quotation indicates that we are all to submit to one another. Even the elders are to be humble, submitting to others. We are here to serve one another, not Lord it over one another, as our Lord often reminded His students. It reminds me of what the Lord said about the Sabbath:
Mark 2:27 "And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:"
Let me paraphrase by pointing out that the "elders are appointed to serve the congregation, and not the congregation to serve the elders".
1 Peter 5:1-6: "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:"
We all, as members of Christ's body, serve each other.
Matthew 20:25-28 "But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Philippians 2:3-7 "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:"
1 Corinthians10:24 "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth."
Additionally, recall the words of our Savior in:
Matthew 23:8-12 "But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted."
No, friends, the elders are not given carte blanche to make up rules and bind them on the members of the church. Instead, they are to look out for the congregation, leading them, serving them in the ways that Jesus taught and walked. Let us not use them as an excuse to bind tradition as the commandments of God, and let us not accept the misquotation, "forsake not the assembly".
We should look forward to attending the assembly of the church, for it is there that we are edified and comforted--assuming that the elders and church leaders are acting according to scripture. It is not an occasion to harass and harangue, nor to denigrate and destroy.
Love, in Christ,