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Denominations Gone Wild: What Happened To Unity?
The Bible teaches that Christians ought to practice a single faith. It reads: "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:4-6). Yet, today, every man does what is right in his own eyes. What's the solution? Pastors and elders must set the church in order.
The apostles did not lay down different worship patterns at the various churches they established, as the following apostolic warning indicates: "If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice - nor do the churches of God" (1 Cor. 11:16). Likewise, God had told Moses, "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mount." Just so, after correcting many deviations from the God-given pattern, Paul the apostle told the Corinthians "The rest I will set in order when I come" (1 Cor. 11:34).
Moreover, those who care to look into it will find that the phrase "set in order" represents a technical, liturgical term found three times at the end of Exodus as a summary for the refrain, "just as the Lord had commanded Moses." Exodus 39-40 uses the phrase "set in order" specifically of those three symbols most prominently regarding the Church and its holy jurisdiction -- the table of showbread (representing the Lord's Supper), the lampstands or candlesticks (portraying the churches themselves in Revelation 1-3) and the altar (symbolizing the prayers and praise of the saints in the New Testament).
This order whereby the apostles and prophets laid the foundation of the Church (Eph. 2:20) does not refer to "order in general" (where orderliness sits opposed to chaotic worship), as many commentators have falsely surmised. Rather, it has in mind the priestly order assigned to care for the worship of God so that it proceeds precisely as God has commanded, without deviation or exception. Liturgical care and precise obedience to the biblical pattern of worship form the basis of the Holy Spirit's applause given to both the prophet (and priest), Samuel, and to King Josiah, in these words:
"And the children of Israel that were present kept the passover at that time, and the feast of unleavened bread seven days. And there was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah was this passover kept" (2 Chronicles 35: 17-19).
If one heeds the tone carefully here, he might note that this compliment comprises as much an indictment against Israel as a lauding of the fidelity in worship displayed by the prophet and king favorably named in the passage. It also tells us that God takes note when His people deviate in the least from, or conform exactly to, His own established worship pattern. He cares.
In the New Testament, "order" in the churches refers to the priestly order of Melchizedek. Hence the saying of Paul, "Follow me as I follow Christ." The context tells us here that Paul was making a point about the pattern of worship (liturgy), meaning "Following the apostolic pattern, as we have delivered to you the teachings of Christ." The apostolic duty requires Paul to perform the liturgy of the churches just as Christ -- the head of the Church as High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek -- dictated by his words and deeds. The Lord Jesus sets the pattern. Here the saying applies, "My House, My rules." Christians -- pastors and elders -- must not deviate from this pattern. For the one Lord commands it, the one faith requires it, and the one baptism we shares promises this obedience in worship.
Conclusion: The extraordinary diversity in worship patterns among religious groups today -- which many applaud as "blessed diversity" -- shows that our churches and nations are filled with all manner of idolatrous fancy and man-made innovation in worship. This shows a disdain for the commandments of God, and a hostility toward His word. And that is precisely how He regards it. The Bible itself insultingly calls this "will worship," meaning worshipping God by the doctrines of men, rather than by the acceptable divine pattern found in the commandments of God. Col. 2:22-23 reads, "...Which all are to perish with the using) after the commandments and doctrines of men ... Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh."
Let the reader recall that diversity in Israel's liturgy among its kings came only through REBELLION without exception, starting with Solomon's idolatry. Rather, the Bible commands that we must have "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." And this ONE faith which God commmands has a name in the Bible. It is called "The faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12). It is this faith alone we must practice in the churches. And if anyone wants to be contentious about this, the apostles and prophets had no other practice - nor did the churches of God.
Carson Day has written approximately 1.3 gazillion articles and essays, many with very insightful, if alternative, viewpoints. He presently writes for Ophir Gold Corporation, and specialized in the history of ideas in college. He has been quoted in the past as saying "What box?" and remains at large despite the best efforts of the civil authorities.
You can visit the Ophir Gold Corporation blogsites at http://scriberight.blogspot.com (Writing With Power), http://ophirgoldcorp.blogspot.com (OGC's Free Web Traffic), or http://ophirgold.blogspot.com (Church and State 101)
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