Four Things Concerning Worship Not Parallel
Since the beginning of time, men have sought to worship God. God has not left man without revelation concerning worship. Acceptable worship is not just a guess or hunch but following divine revelation. The first worship experiences we read about in the Bible are found in Genesis 4. Cain and Abel, sons of Adam and Eve, both attempted to worship God. Abel's sacrifice was pleasing to God, while Cain's was rejected. Hebrews 11:4 gives some insight as to why one was accepted and the other rejected. Abel's was by faith, that is, he did what God said do (Romans 10:17).
There are several situations that arise from time to time that cause people to question whether a particular practice is right or wrong. I want to examine a few of these in light of God's word.
First, I have known of congregations of the Lord's church both in the USA and overseas that do not meet on Sunday night or Wednesday night. I have known of some small rural congregations made up mostly of senior citizens that, due to health reasons, chose not to meet on Wednesday nights for Bible study. I have also known of some brethren who question whether a church that does not meet on Wednesday night is scriptural or not! Certainly there is nothing wrong with meeting on Wednesday night for Bible classes or any and every night of the week to study the Bible. The question is does the New Testament teach that Wednesday night is an appointed assembly where all the saints are to meet? The answer is no! I have known of congregations that meet on Tuesday or Thursday for Bible study and not Wednesday. Could a church meet on Tuesday and Thursday each week for Bible study instead of Wednesday? The Lord's church is required to meet on the first day of the week for worship (Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 16:1-2; I Corinthians 11:20; I Corinthians 14:23, I Corinthians 14:26-28,34). However, to bind other days or times on other congregations would be wrong.
Second, I was on a mission trip outside the USA and conducting a gospel meeting for a congregation and observed something different concerning worship. When the Lord's Supper was served, the man who led the prayer said, "Let us all take the bread and wait and everyone take it at the same time." I observed that people broke off the bread and held it in their hands and when the men got back to the front, he said "And now let us take the bread together," and everyone did. The same was done with the fruit of the vine. This was their custom. They did not bind it on others or consider me to be liberal because I was accustomed to doing it differently. And, unlike the "antis," they did not try to convert me to doing it their way. As I thought on these matters, I asked myself does their custom violate any passage or principle set forth in the Word of God? I could not think of any, and so I did not exhort them to change and do it the way we do it in the USA.
A third point I want to discuss deals with the question, "Must the Lord's Supper be offered twice on Sunday?" Back some time ago, a preacher was sick Sunday morning and could not drive the distance to his preaching appointment. He felt better that evening and decided to attend the congregation near his home. After services were over that evening, he became somewhat upset with the men of the congregation because they did not offer the Lord's Supper at the evening services. He later questioned their soundness because they did not offer the Lord's Supper at the evening services. I was preaching in the area and was asked to call this preacher and discuss these matters with him. I called him and spent a great deal of time discussing these matters with him. His position was that it is unscriptural for a church not to offer the Lord's Supper at the evening services. I tried to reason with him that it was not wrong to offer the Lord's Supper at the evening services and that he could not make a law that required such when the Bible had not. I also asked him if that congregation where he visited could choose not to meet at all on Sunday night and be scriptural, and he said no, that in order to be faithful they must meet on Sunday night. He then chided me and said "According to you, maybe they could just not meet at all on Sunday." He called me a liberal and said I should go join Rubel and his group
Now brethren, where would you go to show from God's word that meeting Sunday night is required? In most places I have visited in Africa where people walk to worship, they meet one time on Sunday. They spend an hour or more on Bible study. Then in worship they may have an hour or so of preaching. Then the man in charge during the Lord's Supper may take 30 minutes or more reading passages and discussing the importance of the Lord's Supper and what it should mean to us as Christians. Then they walk home and do not come back that night. This is a matter of option, and brethren should be careful to not bind their opinions and practices on others. These brethren did not sin by not offering the Lord's Supper at the evening service. This is also a matter of option.
Fourth, I want to discuss the divided assembly. The first three points I have talked about in this material are matters of option. In these matters liberty is given and there can be diversity. However, the divided assembly is not parallel to the above three points. In I Corinthians 11, Paul discussed the abuses the brethren were practicing concerning the Lord's Supper. In verse 20 he said, "When ye come together therefore into one place." Corporate worship involves coming together. Hebrews 10:25 refers to the assembling of ourselves together. In I Corinthians 14, Paul discusses the abuses of some concerning spiritual gifts. Concerning speaking in tongues he said in verse 23, "If therefore the whole church be come together into one place." Then in verse 28 he said, "But if there be no interpreter let him keep silence in the church...." This has reference to the worship. Then notice verse 34: "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak." This obviously has reference to the corporate worship where the whole church is come together into one place. When the worship is divided into groups such as youth, teens, men, women, these passages are violated. God in His wisdom wanted the whole church to come together into one place and worship Him. The divided assembly is not a matter of option and indifference. Careful study should be given to these matters. "God is spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).