WHAT IS BINDING?

Neal Griffin

Binding? What is binding? We hear this question in connection with the work and worship of the saints. It would be very much in order, before we consider this question, to determine what is in fact the "work and worship" of the disciples of Jesus.

The plain truth of the matter is that when Paul referred to the Christians at a particular place, he used the Greek word "ecclesia". The King James translators used the English word "church". It was not Paul, led by the Spirit, who used the word "church". It was the uninspired translators who used the word "church", which does not translate the Greek. The word "church" has no Greek counterpart. This is easy to understand when we consider that many English words that were coined after the first century have no Greek counterparts. To name a few: "helicopter", "aircraft carrier", "computer", jet-plane". These words do not translate back to Greek because there were no such things as these in existence during the first century. And though this is easy to understand, it is not so easy to understand why the translators used the word "church" which has a religious connotation. The word "ecclesia" has no religious connotation at all. It should convey the idea of an assembly or group and nothing more. In fact, it is the same word that is used in Acts 19 to describe an angry and confused mob of unbelievers. But, it is also not easy to understand why the King James translators did not translate the word "baptizo" to immerse. There was a word during the first century that properly translated the word "baptizmo", but the translators chose not to use it because the Church Of England, over which King James was head, was already practicing sprinkling instead of immersion when the translation was authorized.

The word "ecclesia" is a people word. It is never used to denote a corporate entity that is present even when the people are not. Paul does not speak of some mysterious entity that is present when its members are assembled in their Church of Christ building, but that is not present when the very same members are assembled at the picnic grounds. Paul never used the word "ecclesia" to denote a corporate entity nor any other institution that exists with or without the members. When saints are assembled at the picnic grounds, it is the ecclesia (God's people) who are assembled there.

So, what is the point? The point is simply this: Whatever individual Christians do as servants of God with His blessing, whether with other Christians or not, it is the ecclesia that is doing it. It is the work of the ecclesia that they are doing. Paul is not the one who introduced the idea of the "collectivity" having a different work than the individuals. This idea is the twisted product of the world. It is of men completely.

And, likewise, the worship of individual Christians constitutes the worship of the ecclesia. Individual Christians offer up their lives in service (worship) to God every moment that they live. (Romans 12:1.) This is the worship in spirit and truth to which Jesus refers in John 4:23. Please note that this worship is offered up, not in, but in contrast to, a place. Worship in spirit and in truth is NOT worship that is confined to a building. What goes on in an assembly of Christians is not the worship of the ecclesia. The New Testament does not ever refer to a "worship service" as we use the term. Worship (service) takes place in the hearts and lives of individual Christians. Whatever individual Christians do in service (worship) to God, it is the ecclesia that is doing it. It is the worship of the ecclesia. It is the ecclesia engaging in worship. Christians living out their lives in service to God is the worship of the ecclesia. It is NOT the adhering to minute details of a legislated requirement to which many so-called "sound Churches" rigidly adhere in their official worship "services".

So, in view of this, what laws are binding on Christians today? Here they are: Paul said in Galatians 5:14: "The entire LAW is made complete in this one command: love other people the same way you love yourself'. In Galatians 6: 15-16: "It doesn't matter whether a person is circumcised or not. All that is important is being a new creation. Peace and mercy to the people who follow this rule -- to God's Israel." And Jesus summed it up beautifully when asked to tell what was the most important commandment. He said to, "love God with all your heart and your fellowman as yourself." Paul said in Galatians 6:2, "Help carry each others' burdens and so fulfill the LAW of Christ."

These are the things that are binding on Christians today. But more importantly, if we do these things, we are free of law-keeping as it relates to salvation. "Sin shall not rule over you, because you are not under law -- you are under God's gracious love". {Romans 6: 14.)

And in Romans 7:6. "But now we have been released from the law". Nothing in our work or worship will entitle us to salvation.

What then, should be our attitude toward born again brethren who walk in the Spirit and practice the law of love in their daily lives, but who do not draw the stone conclusions as we do from certain contested passages in the Bible? Do we have the obligation to mark them, or to withdraw from them, or to count them as heathens? Do we? Do we have the right to attack them from the pulpit as if they were devils? Do we? Can we brand them as false teachers because they disagree with us on contested passages? The Bible says in Romans 15:7, "ACCEPT one another, as Christ accepted you". Men say otherwise. Whom shall we believe?

When we project our opinionated conclusions above the peaceful harmony of our brethren, we are not trying to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Why don't we, instead of looking for excuses to separate, look for ways to show our love for one another. WE ARE NOT UNDER OBLIGATION TO AGREE ON EVERY ISSUE THAT THE HUMAN MIND CAN INVENT. If we spent as much time as we should offering thanks for all that God has done for us, we wouldn't have time to fuss over issues on which God has not chosen to make Himself clear.

Let us draw nigh unto God and He will draw nigh unto us. Jesus promised that whosoever hungers and thirsts for righteousness shall be filled. I believe Him. I am suggesting that if we pray, from contrite hearts, to know His will, He will make it known to us, and we will truly be filled with the Spirit. Amen.