The Ancient Faith
THE WORSHIP OF THE CHURCH
Paul O. Nichols
“The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (Jno. 24). Thus was the teaching of the Son of God upon the occasion when He conversed with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well near Sychar.
Much has been said and taught, and much has been written concerning the necessity of observing the items of worship without addition. And most of it certainly has been worthy of consideration. But, we have been accused by the opposition of putting too much stress upon the materialistic side of our worship, and not enough emphasis on the spiritual significance of it. We emphatically deny the charge!
But I must admit that in some instances it probably seemed to those who have digressed from the truth, in listening to some of our discourses on some of the items of worship, that they had a logical reason for coming to that conclusion. Perhaps, some members do fail to realize that there is more to their devotion to God than to just worship “in truth.” However, if such is the case, it still does not give anyone the right to judge the rest and to lay such an unjust accusation at our door. And when it is all summed up, those who fail to worship in spirit” are no worse off than those who fail to worship “in truth,” for Jesus made both spirit land truth requisites of acceptable service.
To worship God “in spirit” simply means for us be sincere in our devotion to Him—to put our heart and soul into our efforts to serve Him. We should worship Him with every fiber of our being. That is one requirement that the Lord makes. The other is to observe each item of worship just like it is given in His word, without deviation. Remember, “God seeketh such to worship him” (Jno. 4:23).
THE DAY OF WORSHIP
“Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them . . . (Acts 20:7). It is generally conceded by men of authority that this passage has reference to the worship of the early Christians. The figure of speech used by Luke, the historian was a synecdoche. That is, he mentions a part of the worship with the intention of including it all. So according to this account, and also according to the writers of the history of the church, the Christians assembled to worship God upon the first day of the week.
The Jews, as God’s chosen people during the Mosaic dispensation, were given the seventh day as a Sabbath of the Lord. This day was sanctified as a memorial of the fact that through the strength of Jehovah they were led out of Egyptian bondage (Deut. 5:12-15). However, after a time God said that He was going to abrogate this commandment (Hos. 2:11). Then when Jesus died upon the cross, He said, “It is finished” (Jno. 19:30). The apostle Paul later said that Christ nailed it to the cross (Col. 2:14-17). That is the very reason why Christians do not keep the Sabbath today as the Israelites once did.
It was the first day of the week that our Savior triumphed over death, and placed the “rose of immortality” upon the tomb, becoming victor over death, hell, and the grave. With His resurrection He hallowed this day; for if Jesus had not come forth from the grave, His enemies would have gained the victory over Him, and the %mole world would be lost (1 Cor. 15:12-17). But Christ did rise! And that day became “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). No wonder the psalmist David, said, “This is the day which – the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psa. 118:24).
It was also upon the first day of the week that the doors of the church of the Lord were opened and salvation extended to lost and fallen man upon the simple terms of the gospel (Acts 2). And now, over nineteen hundred years later, the church still recognizes that day, remembering that truly it is “the Lord’s day.”
Next, we want to take up the various items of worship that God has stipulated for us to observe in truth.
Usually we begin our service with singing— not as a requirement, but as a matter of choice. Singing has a tendency to lift our spirits above the cares and chaos of this old life; and cause us to be in the frame of mind to serve the Lord more efficiently. “Behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart” (Isa. 65:14).
When we engage mutually in the service of God we should pour out our very souls on the vibrant strains of holy song. It is a part of our worship. Good singing means a great deal to a service. Usually a congregation which consistently has good singing also does well in the other parts of the worship.
Once in Texas I was talking to a man (a member of the church) who criticized a person’s taking too much interest in the singing of the church. Such ignorance! (Incidentally, he was not a singer) Personally, I am thankful that the church in general has better singing now that it did ten or fifteen years ago. I am glad that so many disciples are taking an interest in learning more about music and developing their talents so that they may praise the Lord a little better.
To worship God as we should certainly entails a candid consideration of the lyrics which we sing. There are some who pay so little attention to what they sing that they could sing “Yankee Doodle” in church service if it sounded the least bit religious. Every song we sing should be in tenor with the scriptures, and it is our individual responsibility to see to it that we sing no unscriptural lyrics. Is it all right to sing, a lie, but wrong to tell one? Paul, the apostle, said, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Cor. 14:15). Do we all sing like that? We had better.
Sometimes there are brethren who find fault with songs just because they happen not to appeal to them—not because they are unscriptural, but because of the time in which they are written, or the tempo in which they are sung, or some other reason based upon nothing greater than a whim or fancy of their own. The word of God designates no particular time or tempo for a song to be scriptural or right Then, that is a matter of discretion and liberty. But what is necessary is that those songs which we do sing are “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19).
For all the song leaders over the brotherhood we should indeed be thankful. But when we have several -men in one congregation who have the ability to lead singing, sometimes I think we make a mistake, in trying to use all of them in each service. We do not try to use all in the congregation who are able to teach, in every service; so why should we not exercise the same line of action in the song service? I opine that three men to lead the singing is sufficient in any average meeting of the church. Also it is advisable to begin the song service with a good wide awake leader who will get the worshippers into the spirit of the singing. Now, I do not mean to exclude any or rob any of the opportunity to develop their talent; another three could be used the next service and etc. But if you want the song service to be good, begin with a good song leader.
The next thing that we should notice is the fact that the songs selected should be appropriate. This responsibility should logically be assumed by those who do the leading. I’ have seen men wholly unprepared when called on to lead, and then have to ask if anyone had a selection. Then when they finally got a song selected, maybe it would be inappropriate. When a man is asked to lead he should be ready with his song, and be sure that it is both scriptural and appropriate. If a man is used to leading, he can be prepared. He knows he is apt to be asked to lead some.
We should always be interested in making our services smooth and attractive. Whatever is necessary to accomplish this is worthy of consideration, as long as it is right. One thing that would contribute to smoothness would be to select all the song leaders before the service is to begin, and have it understood how many songs are to be led by each man. This plan may not be feasible for every kind of meeting, but for the average it is a workable plan. I have seen it used very effectively.
It is the intention of the writer in this series of articles to cause the disciples of the Lord to feel a keener sense of responsibility toward the Creator and to help us to appreciate even more the great privilege of worshipping Him in the right way.
Singing is to be done in congregational capacity. Some have advanced the theory that perhaps the women should not sing since they are prohibited by the Lord from taking an active part in the public teaching service of the church (1 Cor. 14:34, 35; 1 Tim. 2:11, 12). However, I think this should cause no one a great deal of trouble. In Isa. 52:7-10, a prophecy concerning the church, the prophet of the Lord said that we would “sing together.” Then, after the church was established Paul wrote for the congregation to sing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), giving no restrictions except that the songs be Scriptural. (As proof that he included women also note the subsequent verses of the same chapters ; some of the writing is addressed to women directly.) The singing and the teaching in the worship are two distinctly different items. For instance, we are told by inspiration to teach one at the time (1 Cor. 14:31), but ‘we are told to “sing together.” Also different songs have different tempos, but such is not the case in the teaching. In singing we have different parts to be sung simultaneously, but in no way does this apply in the teaching. In fact, there is just no use in confusing the two items.
THE TEACHING SERVICE
“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). In this verse of Scripture the writer gives three requirements of a teacher of the gospel, (1) that he know the things given by inspiration, (2) that he be faithful, (3) that, he be able to teach. The lack of one of these could disqualify a person from taking part as a public teacher in the church. A man can grow in all three of these qualifications, depending on his initiative and desire to teach. Some are too lazy to teach, while claiming they do not have the ability. Many could teach, if they had anything to teach. And the reason a man does not have something to teach is because he fails to observe and to study. Many times a man claims he cannot teach, but if you should happen to bring up the subject of farming,. or automobiles, or politics, he could tell you a whole lot more than you thought the man ever knew. He could tell you just when to plant this crop and that crop, and he could tell you whether to plant .in the dark of the moon or the light of the moon. He could tell you just what new features this care has, and how many miles per gallon that make of car gets. And he could tell you exactly who is going to be the next president of the country, and he might even tell you his platform, and maybe you can hear him arguing politics two blocks away. But he cannot teach a lesson from God’s word. What is the trouble? Well, the trouble is mainly this, that the man’s interests lie not in eternal things, but in things of a worldly nature.
There is another type person who is willing to teach, but who should never make a talk publicly. It is to this kind of young man that the belated Brother Alfred Elmore once ‘said, “When I see you in the pulpit, I think that you should never get out. And when I see you out of the pulpit, I think you should never get in.” In other words, this sort of man can teach a good lesson in the pulpit, but his demeanor is such as to cause reproach on the church. Brethren, be sure a man is faithful before he is asked to take any active part in the services. One man once said. to another man, “What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Paul, the apostle, knew. this fact and so he wrote to a teacher of God’s word, “Be thou an example of the believers.. . .” (1 Tim:4:12). A man should always be an example of what he teaches and advocates.
One of the most pathetic cases to be considered is the man who is the very picture , of Christianity every day that he lives, whose language is as pure as the Lord’s Himself, who would like to teach and perhaps even preach, but who lacks ability and who through some handicap cannot make the grade. I have deep heart-felt sympathy for that man. But since he is handicapped to such an extent, the best thing for him to do is to find in what capacity he can serve best and then develop his ability in that line. One man said that if he could not do anything else’ he could sweep out the meeting house. That simply denoted that he would do what he could.
I have seen people make fun of a man in the pulpit, and I have heard some find fault ; and many times the ones who find fault and ridicule could not do half as well should they have the -responsibility. I found out a long time ago that I could learn something from anyone of average intelligence whether old or young. And when a man is teaching a lesson from the word of God, I should be paying attention to what is being said. I have even seen preachers sometimes cut up and whisper and carry on while services were in progress. When a person is whispering and passing notes around and laughing and giggling he shows that he is ill-mannered and ill-bred. He is inconsiderate both of the man who is teaching and the Lord Himself, and a very poor example. When we worship in spirit and in truth, our attention is on the services. There is no man in the world who knows it all. We should realize that we all have room to increase our knowledge.
Naturally when a man teaches he should have a desire for people to like to hear him as much as he likes to hear himself. One man gave three rules for public speakers which might well be considered. He said, “First, have something to say, second, say it, and third, sit down.” Another man said, (1) Stand up so you can be seen, (2) speak loudly, enough to be heard, and (3) sit down so you will be liked. Really there is almost as much in knowing when to it down as there is in knowing when to teach. There are some men who are good five or ten minute speakers, but who .are poor thirty minute speakers. We need to learn to what length of time we should limit ourselves. One preacher came from Texas to California tor a meeting. When he got there he told the brethren that he did not come all that distance to preach thirty-minute sermonettes. So, one night after he had preached one of his “distance sermons” one of his listeners shook hands with him and said, “Thank God you didn’t come all the way from New York.”
In this article we shall notice the memorial part of the service of the church; the part that calls-our minds retrospectively to the great sacrifice that was made for our redemption. To this item of the worship our attention has been called many, many times. And it has been viewed from various angles. Still there are many disciples of Christ who through neglect, ignorance, or just plain rebellion do not observe the communion as the Lord requires. May God help us to approximate the value of this great institution, and to have the courage to do His will concerning it.
It seems highly difficult for us to always get our mind’s consent to use Bible language when talking about Bible things. Sometimes it is because a person is ashamed to use scriptural phrases. Yet, Christ taught us to not be ashamed of Him, lest He be ashamed of us (Lk. 9:26). Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ . . .” (Rom. 1:16). So when we are talking about Christianity and religion let us use the appellatives and phrases of the Scriptures.
The item of worship that we have under consideration was called by inspiration the “Communion” (1 Cor. 10:16) and the “Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor. 11:20). Why, then, should any Christian call it anything else? Still there are members of the church who, when referring to it call it by such names as “Eucharist” or “Sacrament.” Such terms are completely foreign to the Word of God. but were coined by some who were not satisfied with what they could read in the Bible; and then some of the members have taken them up (maybe not both terms, but one) and made them a part of their own vocabulary. It is just as easy to use scriptural language as it is to use man-made Phrases. The next time we refer to it just call it “Communion” or “Lord’s Supper.”
WAITING ON THE TABLE
When a man waits on the table of the Lord, he should be sure that he emulates the example of the Savior that was set when He instituted the Communion—that is, as far as the precedents are concerned. Immediately someone howls, “putting yourself in the place of Christ.” Certainly, to an extent the man waiting on the table is occupying the place Christ did. Any man does when he officiates. But, what scripture does that violate, as long as Christ gets the glory. The apostle Paul said, “Be ye followers of me even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Someone has to wait on the table, so why not do it as much like the Redeemer did it as possible (in the particulars)?
In offering thanks for the Communion we should always do so scripturally. I have heard brethren different places offer thanks such as, “We thank Thee for this cup, the fruit of the vine, which is Thy blood… .” Such a prayer is neither scriptural nor true. God never shed His blood. Christ is the One who died and gave. His blood for our redemption. So we should thank God for the blood of His Son. In the second place Paul said. “The cup of blessing, which we bless . . .” (1 Cor. 10:16). He did not say, “cup, which is the fruit of the vine.”
Some brethren seem to think that, when they offer thanks, they are supposed to pray a regular prayer. But that is not the case at all. The main things that we are supposed to express thanks for at that time are the bread “which is the communion of the body of Christ” and the “cup’ of blessings, which is the communion of the blood of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16). And whatever else we thank Him for should be germane to the Lord’s Supper.
In observing the Communion there are certain requirements that have been given by the Lord. One of them is that we examine ourselves before we partake (1 Cor. 11:28). Now, if we fail to meet this requirement, we “eat and drink damnation” to ourselves “not discerning the Lord’s body.” It behooves us that we have our mind on what we are doing when we commune, for fear that we fail in our efforts to be saved.
The Lord’s Supper is supposed to cause our minds to return to the time that our Savior made the supreme sacrifice that we might gain eternal life. We should think about His dying on the cross, and the fact that He was resurrected, that consider that He is a risen Lord, living and triumphant. Also as we commune we should remember that Jesus is coming again. The next time to gather His own and take them home to Heaven.
To the person who is not a member of the body of Christ the simple memorial supper called the Communion may seem like foolishness. But to the child of God it stands as a monument in memory of the greatest event in the history of the world.
Once while thumbing through a thick volume I chanced upon a blossom that had been pressed between the pages. It was faded and it no longer had the fragrance that was characteristic of it; and it meant very little to me. And to this day I do not know who it was that placed it new and fresh within the leaves of that old book, nor do I know the reason why. But that flower may have come from the first bouquet or corsage that represented a deep and undying love of a young man for a girl—a love that was consumated in the holy bonds of matrimony. That marriage may- .have continued for more than half a century before the loving husband was called beyond the sunset, to leave to walk alone the pathway of life that faithful companion of his, that years before in the bloom of youth had put the little blossom that volume as a memorial of their love that never died. And again, the flower that I found might have come from the grave of a small child that had been cruelly snatched from the bosom of a loving mother. Perhaps, with aching heart and trembling hand she gently placed the blossom between the pages of that book that she might remember that little babe that she had to give up. She had such high hopes for her little one, but now all that was gone. All she could do was to remember, and the little faded unscented pressed flower from her baby’s grave acted-as a memorial.
And now, though simple as it is, the Lord’s Supper is a memorial to the Christian, helping him to remember what love God had for him when He allowed His precious Son, Jesus, to die through excruciating pain and agony upon the cross of Calvary. How could we not want to keep the Communion as the Lord gave it?
We have considered several of the items of worship thus far. Now we want to think about that part of the worship in which we talk to God.
I am of the opinion that the importance of prayer has been minimized by many members of the church, and therefore a weakened condition of the potential strength of the Cause in general has been the result. It has been said, “Prayer to the spiritual part of man is what water or air is to the physical body.” No one can be strong spiritually and not be a praying person. But because there have been some men of the denominational world that have claimed false merits for prayer that God has never given to it, some of the disciples of the Lord, like a pendulum, swing the other way, and all but fail to ever engage in petitioning God except on rare occasions, or when someone else leads the prayer. Some do not even know how to pray. What a pity! What a shame!
God has given some stipulated requirements that we must meet in order that the prayers that we pray will be accepted by Him. Here are some of the requirements: (1) Sincerity (Matt. 6:5-7), (2) In faith (Jas. 1:5-7), (3) With a forgiving spirit (Mk. 11:25, 26), (4) With spirit and understanding (1 Cor. 14:15), (5) In the name of Christ (Col. 3:17), (6) According to God’s will (1. Jno. 3:22). Perhaps it would be well to mention the fact that when a man leads a congregational prayer, he should be considerate enough of the other members of the congregation to speak loudly enough for all the others to hear what he is saying, and he should speak ‘ distinctly enough that his words will not be confusing. And while the prayer is in progress the rest of the worshippers should be considering that prayer as their own (if the requirements are met), attentively pouring out their souls in that petition.
The only other part of the service that we observe on the Lord’s Day is the giving, which we will now consider. It seems in some congregations that none of the members have ever been completely converted, while in other congregations there are some members that have to bear the load of taking care of the work of the Lord by giving as the Lord requires, while the delinquents continue to drift toward Hell. One man once told me (after he learned the Truth on the subject) that when he lived in Texas he would give a nickel or a dime, and the most he ever did give was a quarter. He said, “The Bible said give, but it didn’t say how much to give.” And the pitiful part of such an attitude is that the person thinks he has done his duty.
Recently I, with others, saw a tent in which a meeting was being held. It seated seven thousand—yes, seven thousand persons. Needless to say, it was denominational. The man who owns the massive tabernacle borrowed $125,000 three years ago to buy it and the equipment with which to haul it. He claims he now has just six more payments to make and he will have the note paid off. I cite this to show what a denomination is doing. We believe that these people are in error—I believe it with all my heart. And just think of the thousands of poor people who believe in this error. But while we condemn error, what are we doing with the Truth? The Lord provided a divine way of financing His work, and there is no error in His system. If a discrepancy is found it is with man, it is not in the plan that God gave. God’s way has been abused by both the sectarians and by His own people. But that does not mean, in any sense of the word that there is any imperfection in God’s system. Whether or not I give as I have “been prospered” (1 Cor. 16:1-2) still that is God’s will. And if I fail to “purpose in my own heart” and give accordingly, it is still the plan of the Lord that I do it that way.
It is no wonder that the Church is not able to do more in the world; it does not have the finances. Why does it not have the means with which to do the work it has been purposed by God to do. Oh, it does some of it, but why is it that we cannot do all that we should in teaching the deluded masses who are in the dark. Too many members have not been converted on giving! —some preachers, too.
Sometimes a person uses bad judgment and goes into debt. Then he wants to know if the Lord expects him to go ahead and give as he does the next person. Well, in the first place the Bible means the same to one member as it does to the other. Now, if I make a debt through poor business judgment, I should remember that the Lord is not responsible for that debt. Therefore, He should not have to pay for it. I might manage some way to get me a fine automobile or home, perhaps both, and then claim that it takes every penny that I can spare to meet my obligations. But whose fault is that, mine or the Lord’s?
Can we not see that the Lord’s plan of financing the Work is the most fair .that it is possible to invent? If we were required to give a certain number of dollars each Lord’s day, some would have to quit. But the Lord says to give as we are prospered. Then, if I have been prospered so much this week, I am taught to give according to my prosperity, and the other man is to do the same. But, if next week I am not prospered anything, remember I am not compelled to give anything. Is that not fair? Then to make it even more fair, we are taught to give as we purpose, thus making it a voluntary service. Thus we see we are required to purpose how much we have been prospered and give accordingly, “not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).
If all who claim to be members of the great body of Christ will begin to accept the responsibilities of Christianity, and all of us give to the Cause of Christ just as the Bible teaches, we will see even greater gains for the Lord. More precious souls will have an opportunity to hear the Gospel, and, consequently, more precious souls will sweep through the gates of immortal splendor to rest on the shores of sweet deliverance. May God help us to be Christians enough to be saved.
[This was a series of five articles which appeared consecutively between the months of May and September 1950 in the OPA]
Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade
God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter
Repentance – J. W. McGarvey