Thou Art Without Excuse
The Jews rightly judged the Gentiles as worthy of condemnation because they violated God's law but Paul told the Jews that they were guilty of committing the same sins as the Gentiles. (Rom. 2: 1-3)
This is not written to ridicule but to call attention to some (not all) of the errors in a recent article, titled, "Legislative Tendencies Among the Conservatives." The author said that the liberal brethren are wrong in having church sponsored recreation. Quote: "Since entertainment is not a work of the church, the church has no business paying for the refreshments or for recreational facilities. A church which sponsors parties or builds a youth center is operating in an unauthorized field." He also accuses some of us who preach and try to practice a strict adherence to the law "as going beyond the principles and legislating on incidental matters about which the New Testament is silent." He then says, "if some members of the congregation (not the church as such) wish to eat a meal in the basement of the church building, why not? If some class wants to have a party (not church sponsored) and use a room of the church building, why not? If they leave the building in the same shape as before and do not cost the church a red cent, why not?"
I am afraid that our writer doesn't have a clear picture of the use of a church building. Perhaps a few principles would help.
God forbids the church engaging in any activity unless there is a "thus saith the Lord." She must not "go beyond the things that are written." (1 Cor. 4:6) The church is a spiritual institution, "not eating and drinking" (Rom. 14:17), therefore, her mission is exclusively spiritual. (Eph 3:10) Before the church may build a meeting house there must be authority from God's word to do it. The authority inheres in the command to assemble, to preach the Word, and partake of the Lord's Supper. (Heb. 10:25; 1Cor. 11:23-26; Matt. 28:20) It is therefore, a tool for the church to use in performing the work that God has given the church to do. The building belongs to the church, or, more properly speaking, to the Lord, for it was purchased with his money out of gifts given to him. (1 Cor. 16:2) It is as sinful to take that which belongs to Christ and use it for our personal use as it is for a man to take that which belongs to me and use it without my permission. There is just as much authority for the church to buy the turkey and dressing as there is for the church to furnish the heat, lights and building.
I want the writer of the aforementioned article to seriously consider the questions he asks. Why not have a social gathering to eat a common meal? Why is it wrong for a church to build recreational facilities? You answered right, there is no authority to do so. Now use the same reasoning on your questions.
Where is your authority to use that which belongs to Christ (a building built with his money to do his work) for social gatherings? You condemned the liberals for using that which belongs to Christ (his money) for unauthorized purposes. "Wherefore thou art without excuse, 0 man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another; thou condemneth thyself: for thou that judgeth doth practice the same things." You advocate the use, without authority, of that which belongs to Christ (a building built with his money.)
For informative purposes, I point out to our writer that it is sinful for a Bible class of the church to decide to have a party. If it can decide to have a party, it can decide to take up a collection and send to a needy evangelist, therefore, it would be an organization within the local church which is as sinful as establishing one larger than the local church. Through wrong word usage he states the thinking of our digressive brethren and I don't believe that our author intended to convey that idea.
The last error that I want to notice Is, he attempts to prove his proposition by past practices. He names "singing with dinner on the grounds." He makes two mistakes. Number 1, is that past practice is not authorization to do a thing. Number 2, is that all examples of eating a meal in a church building or on the grounds are not parallel. One occasion might be a social gathering such as our writer approves and yet on another occasion we might have all day services or a work party (to carry out the mission of the church) where some or all brought something to eat. I have no objection to the satisfying of physical needs, even during a class, or a sermon, be it a sandwich, cracker, drink of water, or using of the rest rooms. The satisfying of physical needs would be incidental to the performing of the mission of the church. All things needed, to effectively and efficiently perform that work in decency and in order, are authorized.
If a thing is an incidental it is authorized because it is inherent in the command to do that which the incidental is related to.
The eating of a social meal or having a party is totally unrelated to any work that God has given the church to do according to your own reasoning. How can you classify such things as "incidentals." Webster defines, "incidental 1. happening as a chance or undesigned feature of something: casual; hence, minor; of secondary importance, as an incidental expense."
As long as Christ is the head of the church he has the sole right to direct what work she is to do and to direct the use of all things (church building and contribution) that are peculiarly his. It is not we who legislate, but those who say we can use a building for social purposes.
I pray that we will study and apply the principles governing the use of things belonging to the Lord and not "go beyond the things that are written" lest we be guilty of condemning others while we advocate and do the same things.
— Box 325, Kent, Washington