It would make it easier for new readers to understand what is written here if they had the Editorial in the March 1991 issue. In any case, I will try to make the answers to these questions clear and factual.
I received five questions from a reader. In the March issue I answered Question No. 1 - "How do you worship God?" Now I address the other questions.
Question No. 2: "Do you attend worship services?"
In the last issue I showed from Scripture that "worship" and "service" are substantially the same thing. If you "worship" God you also "serve" Him in what is done. I gave scriptures and examples to prove this to be the truth. For example, I cited Matt. 25:31-46 where we read of those who had "worshiped" and "served" God by feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, taking in strangers, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison. I also pointed out that there is nothing in NT Scriptures about what churches today have designated as "Worship Services". There is no instruction, command, or example for Christians to attend "Worship Services." Worship and service are both something that the saint DOES, not something he attends! Where do you read in Scripture of saints ever attending "Worship" or even a "Service"? Where is such a law, requirement, or practice clearly taught in NT Scripture?
I have no God-given duty or obligation to "attend" what the religious world today, on its own authority, schedules and calls a "Worship Service" or even "Worship". Neither do you. This is a law of men; a law of the institutional church!
Oh, yes, I do worship and serve the Father on a daily, full-time schedule. Even publishing THE EXAMINER is part of my "service" or "worship" to my Father. This is also true of all the writers and all those who support this effort financially and otherwise. This is NOT my work or "service" alone. No! It belongs to all of you who are involved in helping with it in any way. May God richly bless you one and all.
God needs nothing from us! Our worship or service in His name is not for His personal enjoyment, upbuilding, or satisfaction. Our God is not vain and is not personally benefited, flattered, or satisfied because we serve or worship Him. He is not unhappy or lacking if we do not worship or serve him. It is wholly and solely for our present and eternal well-being that He wants us to serve and worship Him - and no other being is entitled to or worthy of such!
Now a specific answer: Yes, I do on occasion "attend a Church Worship Service" when I visit some church. It is a "Church" Worship Service! The members usually speak of it as "going to church ". It is the "Worship Service" of an organization or corporation; and everything is under the control of that humanly-devised entity. Almost all of these corporations have a corporate Board of Directors (the legal and official title of the Church Rulers), which also goes under the title of the Eldership - a term not found in NT Scriptures. This corporate Board (Eldership) schedules, stages, and controls what is done. It is all done under the "auspices" of the corporate church. The members are under obligation to the church to attend the "Worship Services", especially the "main" one on Sunday morning! That one seems to be the most important, has the largest attendance, and seems to give the attender more "credit" than the evening "Worship Service." Certainly it is of greater "value" and earns one more "Brownie points" (?) than the Wednesday evening "Bible Study" Church service.
Keep in mind that all of these "services" are under the control of the local church organization and its corporate officials! You follow and obey their plan and setup. YOU have neither voice nor vote in what is said or done. You take the Lord's Supper as the corporate church dispenses it! The church controls the Lord's Supper and all the properly trained and indoctrinated members know that they must go to this place, meet with this organization, to officially receive the Lord's Supper. Just as the Roman Catholic Church "owns" and controls the Mass. Only the officials, the priests, can administer the Mass. The teaching and practice of the C of C church today is that only the church, through its officers, can administer the Lord's Supper! You must go to the appointed place, only on the appointed (by men !) day, to receive the Lord's Supper from the appointed (?) source the - church institution!
The submissive, controlled members, the laity, are to also "lay by in store" (money, that is) into the Sunday "collection" at the church where they "hold membership". Members are the source of revenue for the church institution. The church "law" is that the members must do this each and every Sunday and only on Sunday! Like robots they do as they are commanded by men, without any questions or concerns. They are taught (falsely) that this is their "duty" and they are as blindly submissive to the teaching of their rulers as the Roman Catholics are to their priests/rulers.
Nowhere in the (NT) Scriptures are saints required to contribute into a local church treasury as an "act of worship" to God. There is no example of such. This is man's way of "robbing" men and women of their money to provide financial support for a human institution called a "church" - of some brand. Almost all denominations do this. It is another form of "taxation without representation"! Remember the members are the source of the needed income to operate this human institution and pay the salary of its employees.
Yes, on occasion I do "attend a worship service" at some church. In a number of churches over the country we have some long-time, very dear friends and loved ones, who are members of a church and at times we go to be with them. Let it be clearly understood that I do not in anyway whatever feel discomfort being with any of these blessed saints. They are my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ and I love them all. However, I do not accept the church institution/organization to which they belong to be from God in any sense whatever. It is from men! I do not approve of it. I love the "members" (people) of these churches, whatever the denomination. And the C of C church in all of its divisive sects is a denomination the same as all the others. Each local church of Christ church is a sect in itself and therefore wrong. Each local church claims to be autonomous (self-governing) and independent; that is, each one is self-sufficient and exists complete as if it is the only one in the world! They even boast that there are no ties between them, but all informed people know better.
Once again I challenge the preacher/clergy in the C of C churches to name one essential requirement to be a denomination that is not true of C of C churches. I have been making this challenge for several years, often in this paper, but not once has any preacher even. attempted to name a single essential requirement to be a denomination that is not true of the C of C churches! Why? The answer is obvious.
Question No. 3: "Do you give as prospered?"
If the question is asking if I "give as prospered" into some local church treasury, the answer is an emphatic "NO"! I am opposed to the church institutions of men and do not support such financially or otherwise.
Yes, I do "give" where I determine there is a real need. As an example, take the case in Acts 11:29-30. In this case, which is a classic example for us, there was a real "need" for help for the poor saints in Judea due to "a great famine." Agabus told the saints in Antioch about this "need". The result: "And in proportion that any of the disciples had the means, each one of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders." Note carefully that "each one of them" decided for himself whether he would or would not give to help in this situation. The decision belonged to each disciple, not to some church institution and/or its Eldership. It was delivered to the elders in the country of Judea (not to an Eldership) for them to distribute for the purpose it was sent. In this work the elders were servants, not Church officials!
Many other passages teach us that we are to use our means to help the needy, the widows and orphans, and others who need help. Each saint is personally responsible for the use or disposition of his/her own resources. That is your personal responsibility and decision. You are wrong to turn it over to others to serve as your proxy! You are wrong when you merely drop your "contribution" into the church collection and leave its use to the discretion of some Eldership. The most important use of the money collected, in their minds, is to pay the corporate church expenses - pay for the building, the fellowship/recreation building, building upkeep, parking lot, youth building, janitorial service, and the salaries of the church employees, chief of which is the highly paid Pulpit Minister. In most churches the members have no idea how much money is spent for what. You are abdicating your responsibility when you merely drop a contribution into the church coffer and leave it to the officials to spend as they see fit! This is wrong. You had better accept your personal responsibility for the use of your own income.
Question No. 4: "Do you meet with saints? Where?"
Yes, I often "meet with saints." I meet with saints in our home, in other homes, at the Truth and Freedom Forum, at special meetings in various parts of the country, in motels, hotels, restaurants, work places, out in the open, and other places. And, yes, even "in church" as I mentioned above. Jewel and I often read and study God's word, pray, and observe the Lord's Supper on our own. (Sometimes I have been in two or three different meetings on the same day and observed the Lord's Supper with others each time.) There is no law from the Lord Jesus governing any of these things. In fact, there is no law or requirement in Scripture that sets aside some special day for worship. Sunday as the specific day for worship came from the Roman Catholic Church, not from God's word. Christians have the divine right to worship and serve their God on any day they please; in fact, every day should be a day of worship and service to God. A regular, set "meeting" of Christians is not required by God.
There is no special or required place for meeting with saints and there is not nearly as much emphasis given in Scripture to "meetings" as we have been taught! Nothing in Scripture tells us that the early disciples met in special "membership-type" groups; that is, the same people meeting together all the time and that this was the duty and the work of the disciples. All that many church members do is "attend church" and they believe that thereby they have done their whole duty. This means sitting in the pew and following the program where everything is controlled and the "Worship Service" goes like clockwork. Today's church members have been taught and trained that their "duty" is to attend the meetings of the church. Hence, most disciples who have left the church institution have retained the every Sunday "meeting-with-other-saints" concept of the institutional church. They are well-trained in this going-to-meeting concept and practice. It is very difficult to give it up. Everyone likes being with the crowd, even if they really don't know but few of them. Understand this: Sunday is no more a special "set" (by God), day for worshipping or serving God than any other day. The Lord's Supper is not restricted to Sunday only!
Remember, as I pointed out in the previous editorial, Jesus and His disciples observed the Lord's Supper on Thursday evening. That is an "inspired, approved example" for the Lord's Supper at that time; and I defy anyone to prove from God's word that it is wrong for us to follow that example. There is no set or special day for worshiping or serving God. We are to serve or worship Him everyday.
Meetings for mutual edification are of real value to all of us (Heb. 10:23-25; Rom. 15:14). But "going to meetings" is not an end with itself.
God has not put His children under a system of laws and regulations by which we are justified if we keep them. We enjoy a freedom in Christ that allows us to serve Him and live for Him in whatever ways we know to be in harmony with His will and the freedom we have. There is no law from Jesus Christ that requires you to "go to the appointed place, at the appointed time, to do the appointed things, in some appointed way," under the direction and control of the church organization and its officials (Elders) as I put it so often. Law takes away freedom and grace. We are free in Christ. Christ has set us free from laws, rules, and all control of men in serving our God. He alone is our Lord and Master.
Question No. 5: Will you "explain acceptable worship?"
I believe in the previous editorial, along with this one, I have fully explained what I believe to be "acceptable worship" to our God and Father.
Closing Observations: 1 ) It should be understood that one can indeed "worship" God in vain. In Matt. 15:9 we read: "But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men." This clearly proves that people can and do worship God by "teaching". The Pharisees and scribes "worshiped" God. Jesus said they did. But it was empty or vain worship; not acceptable to God the Father. Why? They were teaching for doctrines the commandments or precepts of men. False teaching equals "vain worship."
Jesus called them "hypocrites," a word He reserved for those who knew that they were teaching for truth their ideas and laws. They had "invalidated (made void) the word of God for the sake of your traditions," their own laws. Jesus said that they transgressed "the commandment of God" and set forth their own teachings as the teaching of God. They were hypocrites! Hypocrites of this kind are still alive and well on planet earth. Many are in the high places of church leadership and rule.
2) The Pharisees are not the only ones who have "invalidated the word of God for the sake of your traditions." The religious world today is full of such traditions, doctrines, and precepts of men; and such is taught as the very word of God! Just consider all the conflicting and confusing doctrines being proclaimed today as the truth of God, just as the Pharisees did it then. There are at least 400 different denominations with a lot of divisions within each one. Denominations are all from men! The religious world is one great big denominational disaster! And now, as it was in Jesus' time, the laity or pew-people are the unwitting victims of such evil.
Many in the professional clergy today are in the same league with the Pharisees in their teaching and practice. They are today's counterpart of the Pharisees of that day. They are paid hirelings preaching what their peculiar sect or denomination has prescribed for them to preach. They preach for pay! And to please the payees! Especially the Church Board of Elders, where the power to hire and fire resides. What else would you expect since they are an employee of the church institution? The one who pays the fiddler has the right to call the tune. And the hiring church and its rulers definitely call the tune for their hireling preacher!
The church/denominational religious systems are the devil's greatest allies and the destructive snare for multiplied millions of church/denominational people. Churches/denominations are ALL from men; not any are from God! Wake up, dear people, your eternal destiny is at stake!
One additional observation: "And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him..." (Matt. 28:17). When they "worshiped Him" what did they do? Did they sing, pray, observe the Lord's Supper, preach, and take up a collection? Seems ridiculous doesn't it? They worshiped Him, but what did they do? I don't know, but it could have been several things. Whatever they did, Matthew, who was there, called it "worship." Think seriously about this. - cah