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Keeping The Spirit Of Worship

Keeping The Spirit Of Worship
By Richard Nichols

Published in
The Christian Informer
November  2006

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Since the first century faithful Christians have met on the first day of the week to “break bread” (Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:25).  >From the Scriptures and historical in- formation we know that there was a great “falling away,” which developed into the Catholic Church, with its Pope, who is worshiped and is said to be the “Vicar of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:3,4).  We also understand that the Scriptures indicate that the faithful church, the bride of Christ would be invisible to the world for some one thousand, two hundred and sixty years.  She “fled into the wilderness” and became unseen for this great length of time (Rev. 12:6,14).  Nevertheless, we believe Christians continued to worship according to the Holy Ordinances given by the Lord’s Apostles through all that time.
We have a few historical glimpses of God’s people through the Dark Ages–little bands of Christians meeting here and there holding to the Lord’s commandments no matter what the cost. Oh yes, the campaign of Satan to exterminate God’s people that we read about in the New Testament continued on relentlessly.  Although persecuted, they shared the joy of the apostles in suffering for the Christ;  See Acts 5:40,41; 9:16; 1 Peter 4:14-16; 2 Timothy 3:12.  (Sometime, if given the opportunity, read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs). 
At the close of the Dark Ages there came a period known as the Reformation movement. Through the centuries the Catholic church had embraced change after change.  Eventually, there was little left that resembled the church in the New Testament.  Many corrupt and sinful practices had crept in through the years.  But finally there arose some among them who, having access to the word of God, began to recognize some things wrong in the Catholic Church both in doctrine and practice.  Some of these men began to urge a reforming of the church.  When they would discover and abandon one error they unwittingly would continue to embrace others.  Over and over groups pulled off forming one denomination after another.
Toward the close of the 1700s there were men who arose out of the denominations who saw the futility of trying to reform the old Roman Catholic Church with all of its sins and errors.  These men began to encourage everyone to return to the original New Testament pattern and to followthe teaching of Jesus and His Apostles without change.  Their work in Europe and mainly in America became known as the Restoration Movement.
These Restorers saw that Jesus said the seed of the kingdom is the word of God (Luke 8:11), and they reasoned that as long as the seed remained the Lord’s kingdom would remain.  They saw that when the seed of the kingdom was planted in good and honest hearts in the New Testament it brought forth Christians only, therefore, they concluded, when the seed of the kingdom is planted in good and honest hearts today it will bring forth Christians only.  They also saw that when people in the New Testament became saved that the Lord added them to His church, and concluded that if people today are saved in the same way that the Lord will add them to His church.
They began to urge men to come out from denominationalism and be Christians only.  They would say something like, “When the Scriptures speak, we speak, when the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.... Let us do Bible things in Bible ways and let us call Bible things by Bible names.”  Those of us who are older have heard these sayings and repeated them over and over.
You recall that the Apostles found it necessary to address a number of errors in doctrine and practice that had crept into the church in its early days.  Paul had to teach the Corinthians to not follow preachers (1 Corinthians 1:11-17).  He corrected them in their corruption of the Lord’s supper with a common meal (chp. 11).  Their teaching was often a matter of confusion, but Paul told them that it was to be done to edify all hearers.  He commanded that their women were not to speak in the worship.
A number of preachers, in Paul’s day, taught that it was necessary for Gentile Christians keep certain practices of the Law of Moses.  Others taught that Christ was totally a spirit being with no genuine human flesh.  Others taught that Christ’s return had already transpired and many had missed it.  All of these had to be corrected.
We can read from history that one of the first “innovations” brought into the church after the passing of the apostles was that men-pleasing teachers began to present in the worship the writings of uninspired men.  Another innovation was the placing of what they called “holy water” in the entrance of the meeting place  for “Christians” to dip their fingers in while the non-Christians not privy to the rite would fail to do that and thus they could distinguish between the two groups. 
The apostle in 1 John 2:19 sums up all mens sins into three categories, saying, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”  You can think up anything that men can do to violate the will of God and it can fit into one of these.  Human nature hasn’t changed since creation.  For example, men have been grappling to get ahead of each other since the beginning.  So Satan through men’s pride pressed for more and more elevated positions and recognition.
In the early church there were men who watched for the souls of the flock called “shepherds,” “bishops,” “elders.”  They were satisfied with those terms used on the men who were overseers of the  congregation.  These overseers would meet from time to time and one would preside over the meeting so they began to advocate another title for this one.  We know that all the same men who were “elders” or “overseers” of a congregation were the “bishops” of that congregation. They first abused this Scriptural term applying it to one of them calling him “the Bishop” and others were simply the “elders.”  Later there were “Arch-Bishops” and “Cardinals” and, finally, the papa himself, The Pope.
There remains in men, even among us, those who are consumed with the unwholesome desire for elevation and recognition.  Some are like the one John referred to in 3 John 9 when he said, “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.”  Is this not what the inspired Apostle condemned, saying, “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another” (1 Corinthians 4:6)?
One brother said, “Pride is going to send more people to Hell than any one number.”  That seemed too broad a statement when we first heard it.  Now, we recognize the pride that makes a person strut about and show off what they have and can do.  God hates this (Proverbs 6:19).  But isn’t it pride that keeps a man from saying “I’m sorry”?  Isn’t it pride that won’t let us admit we’re wrong?  Isn’t it pride that keeps many people from confessing their sins?  Sometimes our pride is hurt so badly that we “just will not forgive?”  But remember, friend, we must forgive or we can’t gain forgiveness.  “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy.” (James 2:13)