|Vol. 2, No. 4||Page 20||April 2000|
Bro. Rushmore, if a brother has forsaken the assembly and joined himself to another religious organization, are disfellowship proceedings warranted? ~ Glen Gannon.
Jesus promised to build only one church; “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The one church belongs to Jesus Christ, for he purchased it with his own blood (Acts 20:28) and he is the head of it (Ephesians 1:22; 5:23). The apostle Paul compared our Lord’s church to a body and taught by inspiration that there is only one (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4; Colossians 1:18). A scriptural appellation or name applied to that one body when referring to several congregations is: “the churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16). (Other biblical names include: “church of God,” 1 Corinthians 1:2; “house of God,” 1 Timothy 3:15; etc.) Saved souls become members of the Lord’s church by being added to it by Jesus Christ (Acts 2:47).
The careful Bible student understands that no other religious organization besides the church for which Jesus died and over which he is head has any right to exist. In fact, were every professed Christian to rely solely on the Bible for divine direction in religion, only one church ¾ the Lord’s church would exist. Denominationalism is extra-biblical and an affront to God. Even attempting to worship God by modifying or adding to his biblical instructions is offensive to God; “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).
The Hebrews writer noted that many Jewish Christians were turning from the church back to Judaism. The Book of Hebrews attempts to stem the Jewish abandonment of the Lord’s church by presenting extensive contrasts between Judaism and Christianity. Hebrews 10:25 commands God’s children not to abandon the church, in these words: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another . . .” To “forsake” is to “abandon.” A worse state of being lost than what awaited non-Christians awaits Christians who turn from God and the church (2 Peter 2:20-22).
Church discipline encompasses many phases, beginning with exhortation and study (Acts 18:24-26; Titus 3:10). However, Scripture enumerates a number of impenitent Christians from whom the church is obligated to withdraw fellowship: (1) factious persons (Titus 3:10-22, ASV); (2) false teachers (Romans 16:17-18); immoral Christians (1 Corinthians 5:1-13) and (3) those who walk disorderly or otherwise refuse to obey the Word of God (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14).
Certainly, Christians upon whom exhortation cannot prevail, who refuse to study God’s Word and abide therein regarding the Lord’s church, and who abandon the Lord’s church for counterfeit religion are walking disorderly. The full force of Hebrews 10:25 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14 apply to such erring children of God. What to do, then, regarding such a one is not a matter of preference but an obligatory matter already decided by God and recorded upon the pages of inspiration. Unfortunately, often the Lord’s church does not have the courage to do the biblically right thing because it is neither popular nor convenient.
What is your answer to teen-agers and adults wearing shorts to church ¾ some of the teenagers wear short-shorts? Need some scriptures. ~ Eldon Scott
Primarily two factors should determine the attire one wears to worship God ¾ reverence and modesty. The phrase “Sunday best” used to mean something and once reflected a widely held attitude regarding how to acceptably appear before God in holy worship. The question above and any response following pertains to what one chooses to wear when worshipping God, not the propriety of what an impoverished person may wear from necessity.
The principle behind “Sunday best” appears in the Book of Malachi.
“A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will he regard your persons? saith the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 1:6-9).
Instead of presenting the best sacrifices to God, the Jews substituted moldy bread and animals that were blind, lame and sick. The attitude was, “The bread isn’t good for anything else, let’s give it to God” and “These animals are worthless anyway, let’s sacrifice them to God.” Our heavenly Father, though, wanted and deserved the best the Jews had to offer. Not giving the best to God demonstrated a faulty attitude regarding worship ¾ about which God was angry. Not giving God the best failed to honor God.
God, through the prophet Malachi, proposed a test to see if moldy bread and sickly animals were an honor or a dishonor to God. Offer them to the governor and gauge his response. See if the governor felt honored or despised by such gifts. With this proposal in mind and regarding the question before us, how would our governors view shorts and short-shorts?
Imagine a distinguished invitation to appear in the Oval Office of the White House to meet the President of the United States. Imagine such an invitation to meet a state governor in his official office. Imagine an invitation to meet with the Queen of England in the royal palace. Imagine an invitation to meet with the head of state of any foreign nation. In all the magnificence and ceremony attending such a meeting, does anyone really think that selecting shorts or short-shorts for one’s attire would be viewed as bestowing honor instead of dishonor on these governors? God is more deserving of the honor that our governors would demand in such audiences with them. Shorts and short-shorts are entirely out of place and a dishonor to God when worshipping him. The same defective attitude exhibited by wearing shorts and short-shorts when in the audience of presidents, kings and queens is manifested every time one chooses not to wear his best when worshipping God.
Second, in both testaments of the Bible, God specifically regulated modesty during worship. Under Judaism, God legislated the attire that priests were to wear ¾ in part to preclude any immodesty.
“And for Aaron’s sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty. And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office. And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach: And they shall be upon Aaron, and upon his sons, when they come in unto the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity, and die: it shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him” (Exodus 28:40-43).
Superimposing our contemporary way of life on ancient Jewish society for the purpose of illustration, wearing the attire one might don for a backyard barbeque to worship God would have been entirely unacceptable to God ¾ perhaps even deadly. (Lest one object that these were priests whereas non-priests did not wear the same garb, remember that under Christianity each Christian is a priest, 1 Peter 2:9.) God further required the priests to distinguish between their priestly garments and other garments.
“And the priest shall put on his linen garment, and his linen breeches shall he put upon his flesh, and take up the ashes which the fire hath consumed with the burnt offering on the altar, and he shall put them beside the altar. And he shall put off his garments, and put on other garments, and carry forth the ashes without the camp unto a clean place” (Leviticus 6:10-11).
The principle New Testament passage that addresses modesty addresses it in the context of worshipping God. Specifically, the passage mentions prayer.
“I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works” (1 Timothy 2:8-11).
Of course, irrespective of worshipping God or outside worship in other public activities, modesty should be a concern of every thoughtful child of God. Especially short-shorts draw undesirable and perhaps lustful attention (Matthew 5:28). At best, shorts are an unnecessary distraction to worshipping God and have no place in our worship assemblies.
Summarized, shorts and short-shorts in worship (1) are not the best with which we can honor God, (2) manifest a defective attitude toward our majestic and holy God, (3) are immodest and (4) are an unnecessary distraction while worshipping God. We can do better than shorts and short-shorts when we come together to worship God and we ought to know better.