|Check it out 1 - With which believers do we celebrate the Lord's supper? (1)|
|It deals initially with the subject of 'receiving at the Lord's Table' or rather accepting for the 'breaking of bread'. The translating is done from dutch by dutch', forgive therefore some 'dutchisms'. We are thankful for the help we received in our work from Jose Nanninga of Orangeville, ON; she is a niece of the author.|
The contents gives a lot of details about the ins and outs of 'reception'. The style may be typical of some European cultures and could give the impression of being here and there somewhat
imperative, but the particulars can serve as guidelines in studies on this subject. It also shows how thorough the author is (and for that matter the dutch brethren) in dealing with this issue.
We trust that the Lord will bless this treatise and use it for his glory.
CHECK IT OUT #1
by J.G.Fijnvandraat, Nyckle Haismawei 7, 8915 DR Leeuwarden, Holland
Edition: 1995 Distribution: Postbus 113, 8170 AC Vaassen, Holland
(note: words between  are by the translater)
WITH WHICH BELIEVERS DO WE CELEBRATE THE LORD'S SUPPER?
For our readers
The 'Check it out' series is [primarily] intended for believers
known in the christian world as 'the brethren'. They definitely
do not want to use this name as a classification, but consider
every believer as their brother or sister in the Lord Jesus
Christ. As a group they might also be known as 'assembly of
believers'. Even that, however, is not meant to be apart from
other believers. They want to come together simply as an
'assembly of believers', nothing more, nothing less.
There is in our personal walk of faith always a certain tension
between principle and practice. We know what God asks from us as
christians, but we do not always answer to it in practice. That's
why we continually need to be encouraged, admonished and
corrected by the word of God. That goes for every christian
group, also for the above mentioned. The same tension exists
between principles we hold and the practical outworking of it.
Here also, we need to be encouraged, admonished and corrected.
In view of this, a number of 'Check it out' brochures are
published with the purpose to be a challenge for our 'own'
readers. The title of this brochure is chosen as an encouragement
to do what the Jews in Berea did with what Paul taught them. They
did not take that for granted, but searched the Scriptures 'to
see if what Paul said was true' (Acts 17:11).
Principles we stand for
In 1991 a book came out by Medema Publishing in Vaassen [Holland]
under the title 'One in the name of Jesus'. The subtitle reads
"Biblical Principles 'the brethren' stand for". Now the big
question is if we 'brethren' indeed hold to those principles. It
is even questionable if we all know the principles of our
assembling. For some the main characteristic seems to be
'believers baptism'. When, after having been in the assembly for
some time, they hear that in certain countries or regions
so-called family baptism is practised, their spiritual world
caves in. For others the distinquishing characteristic is the
fact that sisters have their head covered in the meeting. If
someone carefully asks the question if 1Cor 11:13 really deals
with praying and prophesying in the church, they panic and
conclude that the principles of our gathering are being tampered
with. Closer to home are the ones who think the distinguishing
characteristic is the fact that everyone is allowed to say
something. Someone from 'the outside' said it like this: 'The
assembly....oh, that is the club where whoever knows it, can say
it'. For others - and that is what this brochure deals with - the
main characteristic is that someone can only be received to the
Lord's supper if he or she completely joins us. Maybe someone
will say that I exaggerate the above illustration. I can only say
'I hope so', but I am not so sure.
The intention of this brochure is not to deal with all aspects of
our assembling. The emphasis will be on the question with which
believers we celebrate the Lord's supper. I could have given this
brochure the title 'Who do we admit to the Lord's supper?'
However, I do not really like the word 'admit.' It makes me think
of an official checking admission tickets. I could use the word
'receive' but then the emphasis would only be on our
responsibility concerning the receiving of believers. Let us
realize, that every believer personally should ask him/herself
with whom he/she can celebrate the Lord's supper. Therefore, if
someone comes in contact with us, it is as much his/her good
right to test us. That's why we should also ask ourselves the
reverse question, namely: do we really live up to what the
scriptures say, in order that true believers want to, and will be
able to celebrate the Lord's supper with us. That does not just
concern those that come in contact with us from 'the outside,'
but also the youth that grows up in our midst. Those young people
want to know why we are apart from all other churches and groups.
They want to know the principles and look for the practical
outworking of it.
One in the name of Jesus
As a young man I struggled with the question if we as a little
group really were on the right track. Both my parents went to
'the assembly'. Together with other brothers, who had the gift of
teaching, my father ministered the word there. Every Sunday I
went with them to the little meeting hall where about forty
believers met to celebrate the Lord's supper and to listen to the
ministry of the word. For me, it was not set in stone that this
little group had 'the truth' concerning the principles of meeting
together. On Sundays we saw two groups of christians, each going
to a large church building. Were they all seeing things the wrong
way? And what about all the ministers who had studied for it?
Added to that was the fact that I attended a reformed teachers'
college where I was considered to be the odd one out. First, I
was taught religion by a liberal preacher who swamped us by his
criticism of the Bible; after that an orthodox preacher was
appointed to teach us from the 'Three Formularies on Unity.' I
had to digest all sorts of controversial ideas. But I thank God
that he gave me clarity in that. I learned that the truth was not
necessarily held by the majority (think of the twelve spies);
that knowledge by itself is no guarantee for right opinions
(think about the Pharisees and Gamaliel); that in the scriptures
God has indicated how we should meet and that we cannot ignore it
based on 'God's hand in history'.
This I learned by verbal instruction, but specially by reading
the writings of 'the brethren'. In those writings the emphasis
was on meeting on the basis of the oneness of the body of Christ.
We did not consider christians as being members of any church or
group, nor of 'the assembly'. In principle we knew ourselves to
be one with all true believers and wanted to receive them at the
Lord's supper if they were not living in sin. Of course I
wondered if that was put into practice. I was told of examples of
believers of different churches who were received in our midst
when they were visiting family or relatives. They found this to
be such an experience that as a result they were convicted of the
truth of the standpoint of 'the brethren.' At the time, I read
about a very good example in one of the brochures, concerning a
well-known preacher in Rotterdam.
He wrote 'the brethren' that he wanted to attend their meeting
the following Sunday and asked if he could partake of the Lord's
supper. A few older brothers discussed this matter and told him
that he was welcome and that he could also break bread. In
response, the preacher wrote back that he was not really planning
to come, but that he had written to find out if 'the brethren'
really acted according to the principles they preached. His
actions were of course not nice, but later the incidence was
often related to show that we practised our principles.
Testimonies like that convinced me then that we acted according
to our principles of gathering 'on the basis of the one body'.
Unfortunately, I realized later that this happened only in the
past, but later on actually not any more. Especially after the
Second World War we became more narrow-minded. I see it as a
shortcoming that I did more or less put up with this situation
and even condoned it sometimes. This brochure serves to rectify
some of that neglect as much as that can be possible.
They devoted themselves to the breaking of bread
Every believer in Jesus Christ wants to answer to the request of
the Lord Jesus that he made when he first instituted the Lord's
supper. 'Do this in remembrance of me'. Celebrating the Lord's
supper is a communal affair. That, of course, raises
automatically the question with whom you should or may celebrate
the supper. Questions such as: on what grounds do you do that?
how should it be carried out? are of course connected with that.
These are the important questions we are going to study together.
After Pentecost the Holy Spirit was imparted to the followers of
Jesus Christ in Jerusalem and they started to celebrate the
Lord's supper. We read in Acts 2:42: ' They devoted themselves to
the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of
bread and to prayer'. With the expression 'the breaking of bread'
is meant celebrating the Lord's supper (Acts 2:46, 20:7). At the
Lord's supper, just as at any ordinary meal, the bread was broken
first. In the course of time the act of 'breaking bread'
indicated specifically the Lord's supper.
The verse in Acts 2 shows that the breaking of bread was part of
the congregational service of the first christians. If I speak
specifically about the Lord' supper in this brochure, it does not
mean that I consider that as in unconnected act. Unfortunately,
that often happens. The bible shows us however that the
celebration of the Lord's supper forms part of larger area of
fellowship with each other and with God. All these activities are
related to 'assembly life.'
Not a question of doctrine, but of walk
Those that were converted as a result of the apostles' teaching,
celebrated the Lord's supper out of love for God and for Christ.
They also felt the bond of that love with each other. They still
had to learn what it really meant to be a church. This teaching
was only just partially known by the apostles. As children of
God, they knew themselves joined to their heavenly Father. They
knew each other as brothers and sisters and therefore realized
that they formed a spiritual family. They knew from the word of
the Lord that they were sheep of the flock of which he was the
Shepherd. They could know that they formed a spiritual house or a
spiritual temple. They could deduct that from the word of the
Lord directed to Peter, 'On this rock I will build my Church'
(Matt 16:18). But what that entailed would for a great part still
have to be revealed to them. Only later did the first disciples
learn about the Church as the body of Christ, through the
ministry of Paul, to whom God had revealed this aspect of the
This teaches us an important lesson. We do not have to know all
aspects of the truth of God's word about the Church in order to
celebrate the Lord's supper. Therefore, we cannot require that
knowledge of each other either. The first christians had life of
God and on that basis they came together and celebrated the
Lord's supper. Instruction in the 'teaching' went along with
that, but knowledge of the teaching was not a prerequisite.
Sometimes it is said among us: 'but they do not understand the
teaching' or 'they do not have the insight!' That is unfortunate,
but it is no reason not to receive those believers if there are
no other hindrances. When I was young it was impressed on me that
the teaching was not the importance, but life of God. We
celebrate the Lord's supper because we are believers in Jesus
Christ; we love him and we want to honour his request. 'Do this
in remembrance of Me'. Of course, love for the Lord Jesus creates
a desire in us to increase our knowledge and insight, but
knowledge should not be made a prerequisite for celebrating the
Pictures of the Church
How to conduct the church service, of which the Lord's supper is
part, is in the first place not dictated by only quotations from
God's word, such as:
'What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together,
everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a
revelation, a tongue or an interpretation, all of these must be
done for the strengthening...... Two or three
prophets should speak and the others should weigh carefully
what is said'. (1Cor 14:26,29)
More important is the fact that the Church is presented in the
scriptures, among others, as
the Body of Christ and the House of God
These two pictures contain all the characteristics of the Church
that christians have to deal with in the practice of their
meeting together. The Bible deals with these characteristics
Characteristics of the Church
These are the characteristics of the 'body':
- The guidance of the body rests with the head.
- The body consists of many members, each one with his own
function and the necessary skills
- The body forms one unit, and there is only one body.
(Rom 12:1-8; lCor10:17; 12 and 14; Eph2:16; 4:7-16;
Some of the characteristics that belong to the picture
of the 'house' are:
- General priesthood;
- Order and discipline concerning the holiness of God.
(Eph 2:19-22; 1Tim 3:14-16; 1Pe 2:4-9, Ps93:5)
In practice these symbolic pictures mean the following:
- The believers as members of the body of Christ must be able to
freely exercise their gifts in the assembly as well as outside
it, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through whom Christ, as
Head of his Church, rules.
It is in conflict with the headship of Christ and moreover
restricting the liberty of the Holy Spirit who wants
to use in the meetings 'whomsoever he wills', when the agenda of
the religious service is placed in the hands of
one person, who has been appointed by people for that purpose
and has to meet the conditions made by people. The same goes for
gifts to the outside [to reach outsiders], when these [gifts] are
controlled [by an administrative body].
- There is one Assembly, one Church only and she is indivisible.
All believers are members of the body. That is the only
membership the Bible knows. The forming of various denominations
or companies is contrary to both aspects. The Bible does not
know of membership of a church or group, but only the
membership, or 'being a member' of the body of Christ.
- The Scriptures do not know of 'highpriests' or any form of
chief priests [when referring to the Church in the New
Testament]. All believers are priests. The only specific priest
is Christ. He, and he only, is the Highpriest. The arranging
of classes of clergy and laity, competent and
incompetent, is contrary to the Scriptures. The only restriction
the Bible mentions is that sisters should be silent in the
- In the Assembly all carnal activity is to be judged, because it
causes disorder. There is to be discipline in walk (1Cor.5)
and in doctrine (2John:9). Because of the extreme tolerance in
christendom these points are of great importance to be
observed when receiving believers from other circles. On the
other hand we should realize that exercising discipline in not
just to expell the wicked person from our midst. That is the
extreme of discipline. It is actually not a measure of
discipline, but an action to be taken after all discipline and
all instruction has failed.
Check it Out 1 ch 1.lwp
WITH WHICH BELIEVERS DO WE CELEBRATE THE LORD'S SUPPER?
The free working of the Holy Spirit
In the previous chapter we dealt with certain precepts and
practices found in christianity. We do judge these principles,
but not the persons. Many christians are totally unaware that
they are in fact disobedient to God's word. They are therefore
not ruled by a spirit of selfmindedness, unbelief or rebellion.
We have to distinguish between objective disobedience in
ignorance and subjective deliberate disobedience.
It is often said that because of the order of service in churches
the free working of the Holy Spirit is curtailed. That may be so,
but a few remarks are in place.
First of all, the Holy Spirit is not quenched in church
fellowships. God gives rich blessings in all sorts of churches
and groups wherever Christ is preached from the scriptures.
Fortunately there are still many preachers who are not
influenced by new theologies and who bring a message with much
Also we may well consider that more conversions take place in
groups who to some degree have a form of organization, than with
us, who claim the free working of the Holy Spirit.
Lastly, let us remember that it is one thing to acknowledge a
principle, and another still to work it out. Frankly speaking: if
one Sunday after another the same speaker gets up and others do
not get a chance to be used by God's Spirit, this is also a
curtailing of the free working of the Spirit and that is much
more serious, because 'we know better'.
The Church precious to God
Before we actually start with our subject, it will be good to
realize that the Church is very precious to God. He has obtained
her for Himself by the blood of his own Son (Acts 20:28). God was
willing to pay that price. All believers belong to that Church.
To use another picture, together they form the precious pearl,
for which the merchant, our Lord Jesus Christ, sold all he had
(Matt 13:45,46). It suits us, to fold our hands, close our eyes
and say: 'Thank you, Lord God, thank you, Lord Jesus, that you
loved me so much and were willing to pay that price for me'.
It follows from these verses that the Church does not belong to
us, she belongs to God (Acts 20:28); she belongs to Christ (Matt
16:18). Therefore, we should not determine how the Church should
be run. Only God has the right to it. Christ determines it, not
we. As mentioned before, we find the instructions for this in the
scriptures, the inspired word of God.
The questions with whom we can celebrate the Lord' supper is
already somewhat explained before, but requires further
explanation. In no way do I want to claim that I know it all. And
I would again appeal to every reader to follow the example of the
Bereans by examining the content of this brochure and to test it
with the scriptures.
Fellowship as believers
Celebrating the Lord's supper is an important aspect of practical
fellowship as christians. We will look at the concept of
'fellowship' a little closer. The expression 'to have fellowship'
means: to share something together. It might be doing things
together. Or to share together in reproach or persecution. To
take part in the collection is another aspect. If together with
others you are involved with the same project or with persons,
you have in that sense fellowship with each other. We also like
to look at some biblical expressions of having fellowship. All
believers are called into fellowship with God's Son, Jesus Christ
our Lord (1Cor1:9). That means that we belong to Him and have a
part in everything the Father gave Him, as the glorified Man.
Believers know the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2Cor 13:13).
They are [indwelt] by the Holy Spirit and they also experience
that He is with them and leads them. We also have fellowship with
the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1J1:3). With the Father
we share the appreciation for the Son and with the Son we share
the love of the Father. As believers we walk in the light and
therefore have fellowship with one another (1J1:7). This
fellowship is practically experienced in our walking together and
is symbolically expressed by taking part of the Lord's supper.
In the practical outworking of our fellowship, we are exposed to
a. we curtail this fellowship by rules and regulations that do
not have a basis in scripture, whereby members of the body of
Christ are unjustly left out.
b. we may unjustly broaden our fellowship by carelessness, and
as a result celebrate the Lord's supper with persons who are not
We have to strive sincerely to walk in the right path between
these two extremes. After all, there are various scriptures that
deal with this question that occupies us. Some of the most
important: 1Cor5:6; Gal5:9 (in connection with 2Cor2:5-9;
2Cor7:11); 1Cor10:14-22; 1Cor 15:34; 2Cor6:14-18 ; 1 Tim2:19;
Heb13:12-14; 2J9-11; Rev18:4; Lev13,14; Num19; Hag2:11-15;
I hope to deal with a number of these scriptures in a separate
brochure. First of all, I like to point out that these verses ask
for a solid explanation. In general there is little difference of
opinion about the immediate explanation. But transferring the
teaching to our time and situation may give problems. One of the
mistakes is that in our application we go much further than we
can account for. The danger is then that we turn the details into
points of dispute that tend to divide us. Often in such a case it
is not a matter whether we close the door completely or open the
door wide , but if the door is not perhaps a few inches more or
We have already mentioned that assembling on the basis of
scripture means that we have to consider two principles:
- the Church is the body of Christ
- the Church is the house of God
The first principle unites all believers, wherever and in
whatever way they gather! If we did not have any other
scriptures, every christian would be able to celebrate the Lord'
supper with any other christian.
The second principle narrows this down, because there has to be
order and discipline in the house of God. For this reason we
cannot share the Lord's supper with just simply all believers.
Further still, scripture even warns us not to associate with
those who call themselves brothers, but who have an immoral life
(1Cor5:11) or with those who bring false teachings (see 2J:9).
The great challenge is to maintain the right balance between
these two principles, that complement each other.
Norms for partaking of the Lord's supper
It is my conviction that both principles, of the body and of the
house, are met if the following norms for partaking of the Lord's
supper are taken into account:
1. Persons have to be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. They should not be marked by moral (1Cor5) or doctrinal
3. They should not have contact or fellowship with 'wicked
people', (as in point 2) by which 'they have fellowship with
their sins'. On the contrary, they should judge these practices
I would like to add to point 2: they should not be sectarian and
turn against the teachings of the scriptures (Rom 16:17). Every
christian should adhere to these standards for himself and for
those with whom he is going to celebrate the Lord's supper.
Association or contact?
In the past, in following others, I formulated the third point
like this: he/she should not have any association with evil.
[Now] I have consciously rejected this reasoning, because the
scriptures do not use the word 'association' in that sense. If we
do this, we open the door for purely human conclusions and
opinions that are not covered by the scriptures. Moreover, in our
time, we know about associations that were totally unknown in
apostolic times, such as for instance the membership of an
The use of the word 'association' has led to the fact that
believers are refused to take part of the Lord's supper, because
on paper they are members of a local or world-wide group, wherein
somewhere in the world an evil person is found. They never have
contact with that person and would not even receive such a one in
their local fellowship. In such a case we go further than the
scriptures indicate. The Bible says of the believers in Sardis,
who are faithful, that 'they have not soiled their clothes'
(Rev3:4). Often we pass over this verse instead of learning the
lesson that outward association does not automatically makes one
unclean. There must be a specific intercourse, in which
fellowship with the sins of others occurs.
That is indeed the case if in a local assembly persons with evil
teaching and walk are tolerated. Such people would be encouraged
in their wicked ways if christian fellowship is practised with
them. Such an assembly is thereby co-responsible for their evil,
they have fellowship with their wicked work. We should not
receive believers from such assembly, but we should impress upon
them that 'the receiver is as bad as the thief' and that they
should separate from that assembly. The point here however is
about direct contact, the actual practising of fellowship.
An illustration might clarify the difference between contact and
association. Everyone will agree that the bond of marriage is a
very special association. In the Old Testament we read that if
someone had become leprous, he was to be put away as unclean,
outside the fellowship of Israel. Was the wife of this leper now
also unclean because of the marriage bond? No, only if she would
have contact with her husband. The Old Testament always deals
with actual contact, with touching. We have to take this into
account when we apply old testament data about defilement to our
situation. In other words, it must refer to direct spiritual
contact with evil persons. That's why I formulated condition 3.
This formulation is furthermore also completely biblical, for the
New Testament speaks about 'having fellowship with the sins of
others' and warns us about that. We already discussed that to
'have fellowship' means to share with another, together taking
part in something. To 'have fellowship with the sins of another'
also means then to have a part in his sins, to be responsible for
it. That kind of fellowship occurs if:
a. one commits the same sin (Eph5:11), in which case the second
norm is not met.
b. one supports evil persons and shares in their evil works or
wishes them success (2 John:11 and 1Tim5:22).
c. one refuses to separate from an environment or a system
clearly judged by God. One is then subject to the same judgement
because of identification with the wicked person (see Rev18:4 and
take note of the word 'so that'; compare also with Psalm 1:1)
Just a remark on the side: There is another phrase that we should
not use in my opinion: 'defilement of the Table of the Lord'.
This expression is not found in scripture and therefore
questionable. It is also a thoughtless expression. How then is
the Table defiled? Do we have to imagine that God sees the entire
Table as unclean? Or is it only stained? Maybe we should say,
there is a stain on the assembly who admits such a person. That
concurs with Jude:12 where it speaks of 'blemishes at your love
feasts'. Those blemishes can be removed by expelling such persons
from our midst. As christians we have to stay with expressions
used in the scriptures; that prevents 'slipping'.
Further explanation 1
The above [under 'Two dangers'] requires further explanation
about being a member of a local or world-wide church organization
where false teachers or moral evil is tolerated. Often we find in
these organizations modulations that operate entirely
unconnected. Therefore there is no direct contact or support as
in 2 John:10 and subsequently no fellowship with the sins of
others. It is a different matter when ministers in such a church
organization have fellowship with liberal colleagues in a
synod-meeting and give them 'the right hand of fellowship'. The
other way around there may be believers who want to stay in their
church because they believe to have the call to continually
witness against the decline, and do not extend the right hand of
fellowship to the minister and do not take part with him of the
supper, but over and over point out that he should turn away from
wrong doctrine. Each case should be evaluated on its own merits.
But the key question remains, whether one has actual fellowship
with the sins of others. Carefulness is required, but it may
never come down to curtailing practical fellowship whereby
members of the body of Christ are unjustly excluded .
Further explanation 2
As said before [under 'Two dangers'], there is a second danger,
that we allow anyone who comes in and claims to be a believer to
break bread. That kind of practice is at times defended with an
appeal to 1Cor11:20: 'A man ought to examine himself before he
eats and drinks of the cup'. This verse however deals with
insight into the meaning of the supper, that it is not an
ordinary meal, but a meal where the bread and the wine represent
a spiritual matter, the body and the blood of our Lord Jesus
Christ. Anyone who takes part of the supper must discern this for
himself. If he does not do this, and he eats and drinks only to
fill his stomach, then he 'eats and drinks judgement on himself'.
It deals here with personal responsibility before God.
On the other hand, it says in 1Cor5 that believers together have
to 'judge those who are within' and that wicked men have to be
removed from the fellowship. If christians are responsible for
removing wicked persons, then at the same time they have to see
to it that such persons are not being received at the supper. It
concerns here an authority which the local assembly has received
from the Lord and this is not something they claim for
themselves. There should therefore be sufficient time to talk
with a person and, if possible an opportunity to get information
about him. The need to do this may become clear by the following
A practical lesson
One Sunday morning I entered the meeting hall and saw a
[stranger] sitting in the back, unknown to me. I thought to
myself that he could well be a christian. It was still early and
I thought that maybe, together with another brother we could have
a talk with him to find out if he possibly could partake of the
supper. Yet I did not have the liberty and let it go. The service
started. When the bread went around, I heard behind me a noise:
someone got up and left. It appeared to be the [stranger]. The
bread was passed him by and therefore he walked out angry. I felt
unhappy when I noticed that. After the meeting I talked with the
brother who sat beside him, who told me he knew the man and that
his marriage was not at all in order: he already had a
relationship with three other women. His information made clear
that this man certainly could not partake of the Lord's supper.
Later on the man phoned me with the critical question if I could
explain 1Cor11:28 to him. I did and also pointed out 1Cor5
without addressing his own situation. I held out to him, that we
have the responsibility to take care, for instance, that an
adulterer does not take a part at the Table of the Lord. In other
words, if someone comes in without a letter of commendation and
without us knowing the person sufficiently, then it is not
possible to exercise such care. I told him he should not expect
to be able to just partake in that case without ado. My words
were not gracefully accepted and the matter was closed. It shows
however that practically speaking, 'receiving' on one's own
responsibility is contrary to the principle of 1Cor5.
The above viewpoint [explanation 2] which is often criticized, is
therefore far too liberal. As far as I know it is only practised
by a few churches and groups.
A separated circle of fellowship
Among believers of English speaking countries, the expression "a
separated circle of fellowship was introduced by a teacher called
F.W. Grant. [......................referring to typical dutch
situations] As a result, in some assemblies believers outside
this 'circle' who want to take part of the Lord's supper are
refused with the argument: 'Yes, but you are not in (practical)
fellowship with us'. In practice this means as much as: 'You
don't belong to our group'. Such a statement reminds us very much
of what the disciples said, who forbade someone to cast out
demons in the Name of Jesus. They gave the explanation: 'We told
him to stop, because he was not one of us'. (Mark9:38, Luke9:49).
The question however is not if one is in fellowship with us, but
if one has fellowship with the Father and the Son. The expression
'a separated circle of fellowship' may definitely not be used as
a barrier for believers, who do not regularly meet with us.
Assembling on the basis of the unity of the body
There are two more expressions that need a closer look:
'assembling on the basis of the unity of the body' and ' assembly
(in)[inter]dependence'. Both expressions are not found in the
scriptures and give reason to examine them more closely. We have
already noticed [see part 1: 'Not a question of doctrine.....]
that the first disciples were not aware of that principle. The
scriptures do not even use the expression 'assembling on this or
that principle'. We might therefore ask ourselves what we mean
with that expression. Assembling on the basis of a certain
principle means that some principles or regulations are
It is true that the unity of the body is indeed a distinguishing
mark of the Church.
Assembling on that principle includes that we take into account
that same unity. But in what aspect? That could hardly be
anything else than that we acknowledge all believers as members
of the body and that we know to be united with each other. We
talk about assembling on the basis of the unity of the body; [but
should we not talk about] 'assembling, among other things, on the
basis of......'? That [the former] could in fact mean nothing
else than that we receive at the Lord's supper all believers in
all circumstances. But we certainly do not practise that and that
is correct. We ought to exclude christians who live in sin, even
though we are convinced that they are members of the body. There
is something wrong then with that [the first statement].
As said before, a body is marked by three things:  it forms a
unity,  it has a head that directs everything and  members
each have their own gifts and functions. Is it not strange then
that we have only one distinguishing mark of the body as basis
for our assembling? Why don't we say that we gather on the basis
of the one Head? Or that we gather on the basis of the many
members? Not to speak of the aspects of the Church as house of
God! If we bring this in as well, we could also ask why don't we
gather on the basis of the priesthood, or of the holiness, or of
the foundation, etc? If we take as the basis a partly
distinguishing mark of the body, than our formulation is strange
and not sufficient. If it was all about the formulation only,
that would still do no harm, but we attach all sorts of
consequences to that formulation for the mutual relationship of
the local assemblies.
We also want to look at the second expression. The term
'assembly-[inter]dependence' means that the assemblies are
mutually dependent on each other. [However,] the thought of
mutual dependence fits into the picture of the body. The members
of the body are dependent on the head for guidance and existence;
not only that, they are also dependent on each other for their
functioning. The eye cannot say to the hand: ' I don't need you!'
The eye can see an object and want it, but it is the hand that
has to grasp it. The members of the body, the believers, are in
that way dependent on each other. But where in the scriptures do
we find that the local assemblies are in the same way dependent
of each other as the members of a body in relation to each other?
I do not want to say that they have nothing to do with each
other, but they are not dependent on each other in the same way
as the members of a body are.
We do not need to make objections to the term
'assembly-dependence' if it means that 'each local assembly as an
expression of the house of God is dependent on the LORD of the
house' . Because they have the same Lord, the assemblies are not
loose from each other! That comes closer to the truth. The
mistake however is made when the concept
'assembly-[inter]dependence' is connected with the concept of
'unity of the body'. We speak about acknowledging each others
decisions in connection with the unity of the body. The mutual
relationship of the local assemblies has however nothing to do
with the unity of the body.
The body gives a picture of the unity of the members, namely the
unity of believers each with their different gifts, but n o t of
the unity of assemblies.