Can We Worship Together?

By Irven Lee

No man upon the earth has a perfect understanding of the perfect law of liberty, therefore there is none with an exact copy of the life of Christ. Some of the false teachers among us have started with this fact. and with the direct or indirect influence of John Calvin have come up with the idea that the perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. The instruction or teaching in the epistles loses much of its importance in. their hands as they make a distinction between doctrine and gospel. They see people baptized into Christ, and they then would take away much of the occasion for fear and trembling and the special diligence suggested in taking heed lest we fall. This doctrine is more wide-spread than many admit, and only the tip of the iceberg has come to light. Let us give thanks to God for those who have worked hard and sacrificed much to awaken a precious body of people to the coming storm. Storms, you know, can be devastating. This danger is being pointed out by more and more who are aware of it. No babe in Christ is safe in the presence of skilled teachers of this grace-faith-unity movement, because they can make error look like truth.

There is another unfortunate problem that grows out of the fact that we do not all know everything there is to know. Can two people worship together if they find that there is some subject on which they cannot agree? Must every church divide into two warring camps if some question arises . among the members? If one cannot meet for worship with any church in which there are a few who do not agree with him fully on every topic that comes up for discussion, he may be forced to hunt far and wide for such a group. If he does find this sound church (in which the members all agree with him), it may soon divide and begin biting and devouring one another over some new question which some one happens to bring up for discussion. When troublesome questions arise there are at least two tasks we could consider. We may patiently search for the scriptural answer for the question that will settle all trouble for all time to come, and we might give prayerful thought as to how we can live with the problem.

Some questions are of the type that will not stay answered. If Bible doctrine and styles or customs are in conflict, there is the perennial problem and the continuing arguments. None, not even the most skilled, can come up with the answer that will settle the issue to the satisfaction of all in all communities. If some position is taken by strong-willed and able public teachers, they may be able to drive every member to conformity by making a hobby of their concept. If this strong-willed leadership is less skilled, they may only succeed in dividing the church. If a man has forced his ideas upon the church by his dogmatism and sarcasm or if he divides the body, he has no great room for boasting even if he is correct in his doctrine. The inspired teachers depended more on reasoning and persuasion and less on intimidation to get the desired results: The lord’s church is not encouraged to, use the forte, of discipline-that was’ characteristic of the concentration camp, such as Hitler used in the day of his power. This is not to say that the church may. .never mark, avoid, reject, or withdraw front the ‘disorderly brother. Sometimes the wrong people are marked. The., proud and-dogmatic teacher Who would ridicule and reject all who differ with him may be more seriously guilty than those he would score,

It seems that there are some who would quarantine and isolate some very excellent and useful men who hove not accepted their official position on some question that is ever with us. Thereby much talent goes to waste, and ill will takes the place of the brotherly love and patience recommended in the good book. From Romans, chapter 14, it is evident that brethren who were better informed were being taught to love and to worship with some weak brethren rather than to despise them. Weaker brethren were taught to avoid harsh judgment of those who did not accept their scruples. Both groups were taught to allow the Lord and Master to handle the matter of judgment in such cases. In cases mentioned in this chapter, one from either view could be easily convinced that he was right, but the servant stands or falls before his own master. Sometimes it is the publican servant, the bowed head, that is justified before the Master rather than the Pharisee who was so thankful that he was not like the publican. He was not like the publican, but this was not grounds for his pride or vaunting.

Should we offer the Lord’s Supper at the evening service? Should women answer questions in a class where there are men and women? May women teach classes of children or women? Should women wear some head covering in hours of worship? We are not suggesting that it is wrong to study or to discuss these questions, but we are saying that no man will arise tomorrow and say something that will please God and satisfy all the hearts in the Lord’s church from coast to coast. There can be courteous discussions, and there can be mutual respect among those who differ. There are churches blessed with wise leadership who seek ways to live with these problems rather than crucifying those who do not agree with the local preacher at the time. In such cases, happy congregations continue to grow and to accomplish much to the glory of God. Must every one who does not say what you say on one of these questions be crushed and abandoned regardless of his good attitude, clean life, and the great good he has accomplished in the Lord’s vineyard? Be careful. The one who is criticized may be better in God’s sight than the critic.

–Via. The Sower.

Truth Magazine XXIV: 10, p. 162
March 6, 1980