Is There a Minimum Requirement for Christ's Church?

Or am I just in a lodge?

John J. Malone, Millard Community Church, Omaha, Nebraska

(Note from Brent: Please read this, and consider it. Then ask yourself, "In light of the obvious facts surrounding the Assembly with regard to truth, justice and people wanting to have the pre-eminence, does the Geftakys group biblically meet the definition of an Assembly?" This article generated a lot of discussion when John posted it on the Assembly bulletin board, until he deleted all his posts.)

Matthew 16:16-18 " And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 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 18:15-20 " Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

1st Corinthians 6:1-3, "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

1 Timothy 3:15, " But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."

1 Timothy 5:19-20, " Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear."

Hebrews 10:28, "He that despised Moses's law died without mercy under two or three witnesses."

While there should be no legal requirement on earth for a group of people to peaceably assemble, and either call themselves or not call themselves as they please, surely there is a requirement in heaven that God decrees for a group of people to be properly called His church. We certainly know that if there is a minimum requirement for Christ’s church, that we could find it in God’s Word.

Mathew 16 is the first reference to the word “church” in the New Testament. Upon it, the confession of the Lord Jesus as revealed from above by His Father, the Lord says He will build His Church. If such confession is the anticipated bedrock, then Christ’s church, which rests upon the established cornerstone of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, must be made up of those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The next reference in the New Testament to “church” comes from the Lord as pertaining to order. Again, this is foundational stuff. Having stipulated the minimum requirement for inclusion, divinely revealed faith in Christ, He now pronounces the minimum requirement for maintenance. That minimum requirement can be summarize as “integrity.”

To see what this fundamental integrity actually is we can look at the principle underneath it. It is a simple one, and a legal one: “two or three witnesses.” In Mat 18:17, it is assumed that the forum of the church is always open to two or three witnesses. In other words, no discussion of that openness is even needed; it is merely assumed. This was a principle of operation in the Jewish synagogues already.

This principle was foundational also to the forensic justice that is in the law (Heb 10:28). It is the basis of the promised presence of the Lord Himself in the matter of judgment (Mat 18:20).

In 1 Corinthian 6, it is assumed that the church convenes itself as a court as necessary to settle matters pertaining to this life (torts). Likewise, it is implicitly assumed from Matt 18:15-17, and again from 1 Tim 5:19, that the church IS CONVENED to hear charges of infidelity of various kinds against fellow believers. It even appears from the Scriptures that special provision is made for charges to be brought against elders only publicly, and that, when sustained, open public rebuke should follow. This may be the only way an elder can be found blameless.

It may also be the only way an elder can be faulted. It would appear it is NOT necessary to go to an elder individually (1 Tim 5:19). One can see good reason: the elder can act quickly against the aggrieved party, and, if a Diotrephes (see below), can even enforce their expulsion.

So the church is not MERELY a platform for instruction, but a complete forum for all “trueness.”

Unhappily, we do not have examples of successful churches in this regard, but we DO have examples of one that failed. That example is found in 3rd John, where Diotrephes “loved to be first.” Notice how this narrows down this experience: Diotrephes was not second, nor third, which, in a group is still “eminent.” No, Diotrephes HAD to be FIRST. Not only did he keep the word of God away from the church, for John had to write to Gaius (3 Jo 9), but he also threw any who receive the brothers bearing the truth out. In other words, Diotrephes destroyed the “trueness” – the integrity – of the Christian gathering, and therefore was destroying the church itself.

We do not know that John ever was able to “point out [Diotrephes] evil deeds” but he was minded to (3 Jo 10). Apparently, only the apostle could conduct this work, or he would have called Gaius to do so. The apostle CERTAINLY did not advise Gaius to associate or submit to that evil man. The apostle Paul boasted that neither nor any of his company submitted themselves (“not for an hour”) to the misbehaving brothers who claimed to be “of James” and would rule over the Galatians.

We are without apostles today  - and apostolic ministry, by the way, except as it is imbedded in the Scriptures. But we are not without Diotrephes. The answer we have is to not be like him, to not tolerate his rule over Christ’s sheep, to follow the faith of the apostles, and to know and follow the faith of those who so exemplify them. If we fail in this, Christ’s church becomes Diotrephes’ Lodge, and the Lord Himself is on the “outside”, offering personal fellowship to those “inside,” who are trapped in arrogance and ignorance.

When the church of God is called the “house [hold] of God,” and the “pillar and ground of the truth,” it is not merely pulpit ministry that is targeted, but the trueness judicially available to all the members of the house. Just like any proper home, God’s house is not a crash pad or a fast food-joint, but somewhere the children of God can mature to full adulthood, and come into their privileges as sons.

The church is assumed to be a forum where truth will be established and recognized. Conversely, a Christian assemblage that is NOT a forum where truth can be established, it is NOT Christ’s church, but just part of man’s lodge system.

These two requirements are not the ONLY requirements for an assemblage of Christians to be considered Christ’s church, but they are certainly requisite minimums.

Sunday, December 01, 2002 (update)

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