Thursday, December 29, 2005

The 'True Church' Syndrome - John Reisinger

Nearly every book that I have read, and every sermon I have heard on the subject 'The New Testament Church' made two dogmatic assumptions followed by a logical conclusion based upon those two assumptions. The two assumptions were not spelled out as clearly in each case, but always these two assumptions were treated as 'biblical facts' that were beyond either question or discussion. As a result, the view of the Church was already established before you ever opened the Bible to discuss the subject. The implications flowing out of the conclusions were not always stated in bold terms but again, all of the points were assumed to have been established unquestionably as biblical facts. These 'established facts' were then used as the key arguments to settle many difficult questions of church membership; of who may or may not partake of the Lord's Table; of which church is a 'true' church, etc.

ASSUMPTION NUMBER ONE: Jesus established a church on this earth and promised that this church would prevail in all ages. That 'fact' proves that there is a physical local church organization in the New Testament Scriptures given to us as a clear role model to be followed today in all of its details.

When I speak of 'a true N.T. church' in this article, it is this institutional role model concept that I am referring to. Those who make this assumption feel the very integrity and sufficiency of the Bible is at stake. In their mind, to reject this assumption is to reject the Bible as our complete rule of faith and practice and believe that God has left us basically to 'do as we please' in church order. This assumption irrevocably commits you to a mind set toward the Scriptures that cannot avoid a sectarian and separatist attitude characterized by external legalism and tyrannical leadership.

ASSUMPTION NUMBER TWO: We can only expect God's blessing when we organize and operate our local church exactly like this 'true New Testament role model church.' We must follow the 'clear apostolic example' in its total function, its method of organization and operation, its officers, its membership requirements, etc., as they are clearly set forth in the Scriptures in every essential detail. Just today I read a lengthy article on the church that began by saying, "We believe that simply a return to the biblical pattern of the church in a spirit of seeking the Lord with all of our hearts will bring the revival…"

CONCLUSION: To refuse to organize and operate the local congregation according to the role model given to us in Scripture by divine inspiration is to 'substitute man's wisdom for God's clearly revealed will.' This conclusion is inevitable when a sincere person adopts these two assumptions. He will more and more isolate himself from any individual or group that 'refuses to follow the true N.T. pattern for the Church.' He will justify his actions by saying, "My conscience is bound to obey God's Word (clearly set forth in my creed). For me to have fellowship with any group or individual that deliberately refuses to submit to God's truth (my creed), is the same as my denying that God has spoken clearly on this matter." The very inspiration and authority of the Word of God is at stake in this man's mind. I readily admit that if the two assumptions are correct, then such a conclusion is valid. However, both assumptions are false.

It is a total waste of time to discuss any kind of organization or cooperation in the work of God's kingdom with a man committed to these two basic assumptions unless the particular work begins and ends with his specific 'local church.' It is 'all or nothing' with him. One of his favorite expressions will be, "We cannot open the door to even the slightest exception to God's true church order." This person sees only two possible positions. (1) Admit that God's truth (his creed) cannot be violated by any exceptions, or else (2) admit that the Word of God is insufficient as a rule of practice for church order. The creed may be Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or even the 'no creed' creed of the Brethren, but the mentality and attitude toward other Christians will always be the same.

It ought to be obvious that such an approach to the doctrine of the Church must soon lead to the attitude, spoken or unspoken, that "WE alone are the only people that really believe and follow all that the New Testament Scriptures teach about the church." Once this attitude is imbedded in the mind it does not take long to reason 'therefore we are THE TRUE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH.' The arrogant pride and intolerance that attends such an attitude is an abomination to both God and men. No one thing has more hindered the gospel of God's sovereign grace than this attitude and mind set. History is full of bloodshed because men who held these presuppositions also acted upon the necessary implications whenever they had the civil or ecclesiastical power to do so.

It is impossible to make the first assumption without also making the second one. You cannot believe that the N.T. Scriptures reveal an institutional role model for church order as clearly as it teaches justification by faith without being forced to believe that we have all of the essential details of that model in our particular local church. Once this is believed you have no choice but to claim divine authority for every detail of your particular system since God Himself 'revealed that system in His inspired Word.' Likewise, you must then treat all who disagree with you as rebels that 'reject God's authority' because they 'refuse to bow to God's true church polity.'

I repeat, it is impossible to make the first assumption without finally coming to the logical conclusion that your system and organization is the 'true New Testament church.' You may say that you are a true New Testament church, and that all who agree with you are also true New Testament churches, but the result will be basically the same in your attitude toward other believers. This kind of mind-set simply must lead to bigotry and conceit in order to be consistent with itself. You will only be able to enter into any kind of meaningful relationship and labor in the gospel with those who dot the I and cross the T exactly as you do. Even the slightest deviation must be seen as opening the door in compromise that in 'twenty years will erode and destroy everything.'

Continued Here


At 7:09 PM, Blogger Reformation Truth said...


At 6:31 AM, Blogger Steve said...

While not agreing with him on every point i would not want to leave the article and presuppositions made if I were writing a paper. They are worthy of comment and address.


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