So my good husband took Jerry in a little room and gave him a bottle of water and just chatted (…well, Jerry chatted…for a very long time), while we were about the living water in the next room. With open Bibles in both languages, we studied. Since Maria’s background in Mexico was first in Catholicism and then in a popular denomination, Maria was concerned that she had not found a church that aligned with the Bible as she understood its teachings. So we painstakingly examined what the New Testament says about the church. What would that church look like today?
We started with the names that are given to that church. We saw that the church is called the body in Ephesians 1:22, 23. It’s called the “church of Christ” (meaning the church belonging to Christ) in Romans 16:16 and the “church of God” In I Corinthians 1:2 and other places. It’s called the “church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23), and it’s simply called “the church” in many places. Maria agreed that it just would not be right for human beings to put their own names or even names they would personally assign on the body for which Jesus died, because it’s HIs bride (Ephesians 5: 23). He gets to pick the name. After all, how would you feel about your husband if he was okay with you wearing someone else’s name?
We spent a while on how and when the church was established in Acts 2. Maria realized quickly that, if your church has a founding date other than Pentecost of 33 AD, it is not the church of the New Testament.
We talked about the founder of the church, Jesus of Nazareth, and how that any church that claims another founder would not truly be the church of the Bible. Maria said that, sadly, “her” church back in Mexico did have another founder and another beginning date. The more we talked, the more she wanted to find the church of the New Testament.
The next thing we talked about was organization. We went to I Timothy 3 and Titus 2 and Maria read for herself. She discovered that there were some very simple and easy-to-understand qualifications that must be met by a plurality of leaders in congregations. Here’s where she solidified her already haunting doubts that a papacy, a board of directors or a national or international council for a church could ever be what God intended. She came to fully realize that, in searching for the church, she must find a group of people who were autonomous…independent from hierarchy…a group which follows the Word as its only creed and its local elders as they feed the flock (Acts 20:28) and rule in matters of judgment.
And we talked about worship. We really talked about worship. We went all the way back to the times of Adam and Eve and talked about how that God IS concerned with the details of worship. We saw how that the whole Cain and Abel incident was precipitated by a lack of faith. That lack of faith resulted in worship that was not according to God’s command (Hebrews 11:4; Romans 10:17). We went to Leviticus ten and noticed the wrath of God poured out on Nadab and Abihu as the new priesthood system began with their presumption that they could offer a non-prescribed fire in their worship. Maria was all over this. It does matter to God that we follow directions for worship! She was thoughtful as we talked about worship and how that it’s never been intended to be an activity that pleases the worshippers. The audience of worship is God and He gets to decide what is acceptable in worship. It dawned on Maria…maybe for the first time…that, just because someone is worshipping does NOT mean that God is pleased with that worship. In fact, much of the book of first Corinthians was written to instruct about proper worship. It matters. She was getting it.
So we noticed how New Testament Christians worshipped. They sang together…simple, a cappella music (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). We noticed how that we know, both from scripture and from history, that instrumentation in worship was not a “thing”—never even introduced in worship—till hundreds of years after the church began. We even noticed how leaders in denominations, which are today fully instrumental, were appalled when the organ was first introduced (http://www.bible.ca/ef/topical-historical-quotes-about-music-in-worship.htm) We talked about the prayers of the early church in worship and their weekly observance of the feast commemorating the death of Jesus. We talked about the teaching that happened when they came together. Maria was turning pages in her Spanish Bible. I was hoping Glenn could “visit’ with Jeff for just one more hour because the most important part of our discussion was just about to happen…