L. We must restore life-style faith as opposed to assembly-oriented identity.
In the midst of the present decline of assemblies in Western societies there has often been futile efforts on the part of religionists to revive the assemblies of endangered churches. The focus on changing assembly identify has revealed a serious problem. The problem is that religion digresses to a “worship hour” assembly that is commenced with an “opening prayer.” The adherents are ushered through a series of ceremonies that are signed off after completion with a “closing prayer.” Religion is thus defined by the performance of both personalities and ceremonies that are boxed into an official assembly of the membership during the “hour of worship.” Contrary to life-style faith, the assemblies of the saints have become the highlight of the “Christian life.” The primary problem with this system of religion is that in the New Testament our faith is not defined by how we perform in an assembly. It is identified by how we focus our behavior on things that are above this world (See Cl 3).
Because the institutional religion of the day has identified itself by the rites and ceremonies of a performance-oriented assembly, there is a decline in “religion” (assemblies) in the American church. There is a decline because people have enough sense to understand that a faith that does not take them throughout seven days of victorious living during the week is not worth having. People thirst for a faith that is with them 24-7 throughout the week, not a faith that is active only during the “hour of worship” on Sunday morning.
Because of the assembly identity of religion today, there have been some frantic pseudo remedies introduced into the assemblies of many churches in order to stem the tide of the decline in the attendance at the religious theater. For example, some sort of entertainment has been brought in to excite the audience in order that everyone go away with some sense of emotional relief, or exhortation. Speakers have become “feel good” psychologists who can present messages that any good professional psychologist can present on a couch in an office.
One of the interesting complaints that we have witnessed is that in order for an assembly of religionists to be contemporary, women must have some public part in the theatrical performance. Regardless of what we might feel is the role of women in the large religious assemblies of the modern church, the placement of women in some role of notice in such assemblies seems to betray the fact that we have digressed into a norm of assembly behavior that was foreign to the New Testament disciples. For this reason, we are using a functional system of assembly today in order to read into the historical context of the early church some participation of women.
But we forget that in the first century, except on rare occasions, all the regular assemblies of the saints were conducted in the homes of the members. During these house assemblies nothing changed in the relationship between the husband and wife that was normal in the common day to day household behavior of both parties. The relationship between husbands and wives did not change whether there were visitors in one’s home on Sunday morning or evening. The husband remained the head, and the wife retained her submissive relationship with her husband (See Ep 5:22-33). This did not mean that the wife had to assume silence when a neighbor came over Sunday morning for worship.
Regardless of whether the neighbors came over to one’s home for praise and worship together as a household, the host husband and wife of the home carried on as usual. The role of the wife in her relationship with her husband remained the same in the home assembly on Sunday. But in the modern large assembly environment it seems that people are resorting to politics in religious institutional assemblies that were foreign to that which existed in the early church. It is necessary, therefore, that we take another look at those passages that deal with women in general in reference to the fellowship of the saints. It may be that we are missing something, or at least, using some passages out of their historical context.
M. We must restore the present gospel reign of King Jesus over all things.
When people feel that they are outside the realm of the reign of King Jesus when the assembly is terminated with a “closing prayer,” then there is little emphasis on maintaining a submissive spirit in every aspect of one’s efforts to live the gospel throughout the week. Add to this the present theological obsession that everyone is waiting for the rapture in order that King Jesus come and reign on this earth for one thousand years. During this supposed period of reign it is assumed that believers will have some carnal authority by which they can reign over others in the carnal kingdom reign on earth. If the supposed earthly kingdom is yet to come, then there is a twisted understanding of the present gospel reign of Jesus.
If we do not instill in others the present gospel reign of King Jesus over all that now exists, then there is little impetus to be submissive to a reigning King who has limited authority and power. We cannot put off the kingdom reign of Jesus to some time in the future. Though we do not see everything to be in subjection to Him at this time, we must not be fooled. He is still reigning as King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tm 6:15). If we think we can put off our submission until the one thousand years, then there is little urgency to live the submitted life today.
If unbelieving people are not willing to submit to the present reign of King Jesus, then there is no hope to bring them into the realm of His present gospel reign. Guaranteeing the submission of present unbelievers in a supposed kingdom to come is useless in giving hope to people who are now seeking in this life a hope that will take them beyond this world. If a church of religionists believe that they are preaching the gospel by approaching the unbeliever with a message that they do not have to submit to King Jesus in this present life, then they have lost the motivation to humble themselves in the sight of God. If people are taught that King Jesus only has limited power over all things at this time, then power has been extracted from His gospel reign. It is this power that motivates peace of mind in a trouble world. The present gospel reign of Jesus as head over all things, King of kings and Lord of lords brings peace of mind to those who live in a world of social turmoil. Therefore, the doors of those churches that are not preaching the present gospel reign of King Jesus need to close. These churches do not represent the King of kings. They do not have a message that brings peace of mind.
[End of series.]