October 31, 2017: Today marks the five-hundredth anniversary of what has come to be considered the formal beginning of the Protestant Reformation. That’s because, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther (1483–1546), then a Roman Catholic Augustinian monk and priest, nailed a notice on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He titled the notice, “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” but it became known as Luther’s 95 Theses.
Ten to fifteen years ago, I exchanged a couple of letters with one of the elders of a small Baptist congregation in rural America. In one letter to him, I asked him some questions about a matter of their worship service. In his answer, he politely answered my question, but he prefaced his answer by saying, “In what you call a worship service….” He never explained it further, but his saying that was like a small poke that awoke something in me. I already had a question in the back of my mind about what I felt was the common overuse and abuse of the term “praise and worship service” to refer to the lengthy, contemporary Christian, music performances that were beginning to dominate so many churches. Now, I was stimulated to look into the worship service itself. How should it be conducted? What was its goal? What were its biblical origins? What I found startled me.
I used to do some freelance editing for a man who ran a Christian publishing, Internet, and speaking ministry. A few years before his death, he found that he was unable to, in good conscience, continue his membership in the church of which he had been a member and elder. Soon afterward, “Christian” forums had threads about him that went something like this: “Did you hear that so-and-so is no longer under the accountability of a church?” “What? Do you mean that he’s not under a church covering?” “This is outrageous! How can he continue his ministry while being unfaithful?” “Well, all I know is that as long as he’s not under the authority of a church, I’m not listening to him any more.”
A. The answer to this question is more important than we might at first think. Since at least the time of the Edict of Thessalonica in AD 380, Christendom has ignored with grave consequences Pilate’s inability to charge Jesus with a crime. Today, millions of American Christians also ignore this matter. So, what is the answer to the question, and why is it so vital?
A. To the uninitiated, this might seem like an obscure, academic question. It is, in fact, a highly contentious issue, with each system of theology answering it differently. And the answer one settles on will shape one’s theology.
If you and I were hiking along a mountain trail and you were in front of me, and I suddenly yelled out, “Look out!” what would you do? I think you would likely stop dead in your tracks and look around. Then you might see that you were on the edge of a precipice, and that with one more step in the direction you were going, you would have fallen over the cliff to your destruction. So you would probably back away, look around, study the terrain, maybe look at a topographical map, and find a safe path and take that.
“Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them. They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered.” (Ezekiel 34:4, 5 NASB*).
A. It is estimated that there are over 43,000 Christian denominations worldwide and that by 2025 that will be 55,000. In other words, Christianity is fragmenting more all of the time. Yet Jesus prayed for the unity of His people. Has Jesus failed? Did the Father not grant His prayer? Or are we misunderstanding something about the denominations?
A. Thank you for your question concerning when women are to be silent. This question was written in response to the article, “The Role of Women in the Church.”
A literal translation of the first part of 1 Corinthians 14:34 is, “Let your women be silent in the assemblies.” “Assemblies” is a plural noun translated from ekklēsiais. In the singular, ekklēsia often refers to the saints who are called out of the world and gathered to a spiritual assembly before God. In that sense, the ekklēsia refers to God’s people, not to a building or even to an assembly in that building, but to the people. However, in the plural, as it is in 1 Corinthians 14:34, ekklēsiais is referring to the local assemblies. Never does ekklēsia refer to a building.