October 1, 1986 Issue
by Don McCord

Three important matters, what this writer sincerely considers very important matters, have come to his attention of late. Bear me out, dear reader, and listen, please, while I think out loud for a time.

    First, communion and singing--that communion is an ordinance of divine service in the church today is denied by none (1 Cor 10:16). That singing too is an ordinance of divine service is denied by none (1 Cor 14:15; Heb 2:12; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). No less can be said of praying (1 Cor 14:15), teaching (1 Cor 14:26-40), and giving (1 Cor 16:1-2). This writer sincerely believes in these, and believes most sincerely they must be observed strictly as the Bible teaches, and to do otherwise is to sin, and provoke therefore and thereby the displeasure of God now and after awhile. There is no excuse for unscriptural observance; there is no reason for disregard in matters of such moment. We hear these five ordinances of divine service called "items of worship". Why? Not because they are so-called in the Scriptures, for the expression is nowhere found in the original text and in no translation of which I am aware. This expression falls in the same class with many others; we have heard them so long, and they have been handed down to us without question for so long, we use them without thinking, and in so doing unintentionally substitute them for expressions we can plainly read in the Book. In Hebrews 9:1, I understand Paul was considering precisely what is under consideration here. He said: "Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service --". Contextually, he was teaching that just as under the new there are ordinances of divine service, so were there ordinances under the old. If singing, praying, teaching, communing and giving are not ordinances of divine service, what are the ordinances? So, where the Book uses a term, I am disposed to use that one in place of one that men may use; so instead of "items of worship", why not use the scriptural term and call them "ordinances of divine service", which indeed they are, and thereby preach and practice the ages-old Biblical concept mentioned by Peter in the first epistle 4:11 "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God". We need to clean up our language; this I believe, preach and try to practice. Man cannot improve on God's way of saying things.

The thrust of my thinking out loud about communion and singing though is not that they are ordinances to be observed properly, scripturally, but as was observed not long ago by this writer and others, communion and singing observed simultaneously; that is, while participants were breaking the bread and drinking the cup, a song or chant was being sung or chanted. I have been talked to about this, written to about this, called about this. I did not approve of the practice at the time, do not approve now, but I was determined then, and am determined now, to deal with the matter, wherein I may have a part discreetly, wisely, and in the fear of God, and in respect to and for brethren who meant well, and who intended no wrong-doing, no offense in the matter. It is my understanding the practice has ceased and will not be resumed. This journal has not always been noted for dealing with matters discreetly and wisely, and I am sorry, and I am determined that whatever role this writer plays in this will be fair and just, and I insist that others be like-minded.

Please consider these scriptural objections to chanting or singing during communion. First, the practice is contrary to the example (see Matt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-25; Lu 22:19-20; 1 Cor 11:23-34). That any practice is contrary to the example is reason enough to question it, to reject it, to not do it. Second, the singing in connection with the communion was after, and not during; this was the example per Matt 26:30 and Mk 14:26. Again, singing during communion is contrary to the example. Third, singing during communion is two ordinances of divine service performed at the same time, and, again, is contrary to the example. The example is that each and every ordinance of divine service is carried out or observed separately, never two or more simultaneously, or at the same time. Any practice that is contrary to a binding example is not right. This is why, among other reasons, the instrument accompanying the singing is wrong, and why the classes system of teaching and individual cups at the table are wrong contrary to the example, and therefore not right. All of these have every ear-mark of binding examples, please mark this well.

Second, 1 Cor. 5 and Its application there is the idea advocated nowadays that when Christians err, fall out of duty as we call it, leave the church as we say, go back into the world, we cannot associate with them, cannot eat with them, and 1 Cor. 5 is used as the basis of such teaching and practice. Dear reader, in all sincerity, this is false doctrine, taught nowhere in the Scriptures, and that includes 1 Cor. 5. Certainly, Christians are wrong when they err, go back into the world, leave the church, quit assembling; they need to be admonished, and restored. Christians though of this description are not in I Cor. 5. Follow me please: I have been in the church now for well over 45 years, and have preached in many places, and lived in a few, and I have seen very, very few Christians of 1 Cor. 5 description. I know I have not been everywhere, and have not seen everyone, but I am just thinking out loud within the scope of my experience. Let us analyze the matter in 1 Cor. 5: Within the full context we must conclude that those under consideration had not bodily left; they were still there; they had not quit assembling. Something therefore had to be done. The whole lump was being leavened. They were all "puffed up", "had not mourned", their "glorying was not good". The congregation was harboring the sinner, the sinner was still among them, the congregation was admonished to take steps that he "might be taken away from among them". This is a formal withdrawing from this kind of sinner. Under these conditions and these only are they admonished "not to keep company", "with such an one no not to eat". How will we ever restore the weak brother and sister who has left the fold unless we "bear the infirmities"; we do not do that by mistreating them, ignoring them as is too often the case, refusing to have anything to do with them. Certainly, if one has been withdrawn from per 1 Cor. 5, and fits the description, has to be essentially "taken away", then we must not company with him or eat with him until at such time as he repents and is restored. Let us not apply 1 Cor. 5 where it does not scripturally apply: let us not misapply. A man whose wife, or vice versa, just leaves the church as we call it, quits assembling is in a real predicament if he cannot keep company or eat with such an one; 1 Cor. 5, nor any other scripture teaches such! The Lord's way never puts us in a no-win situation, on a dead-end street, in a straight-jacket. Unscriptural and untenable positions are not only wrong, they place in jeopardy the souls of people; there is nothing sadder than when we fail to "rightly divide the word of God". Let us remember this about withdrawal while we are thinking out loud about this matter: it involves both the church and the offender, and for the good of both; the good of both is so often overlooked in my experience, dear reader, it has been the rule, not the exception. Something is wrong in such a procedure; it is not the Lord's for sure.

Third, our obsession with numbers -- that numbers are important, no one denies; that to some measure, strength can be determined by numbers is true; but that numbers are all-important, the number-one priority, of first and foremost consideration, is wide of the mark. Numbers captivate us, they impress us, and not always for the best. Sometimes they overwhelm us; deceive us, mislead us.

Example number 1: When we begin questioning someone about a given congregation, about the first question is, "How many attend", "What is the membership"? If the number is large, we are impressed; if it is small, we are depressed. In reality, the number matters little, and is certainly not of first importance. We never, or hardly ever hear such as this: How spiritually-minded are the members there? How full of zeal and enthusiasm are they? How concerned about one another are they? Are they all for the church? Do they lose themselves in the cause? How diligent are they in making their calling and election sure? How committed to the Christ are they? How fervent in the Lord's business are they? How committed are they in telling the Story to the community and to the world? Dear reader, if in our questioning we are seeking to determine the strength of a congregation, these are the kinds of questions we need to ask. In reality, numbers will not tell us much..

Example number 2: Another Lebanon, Mo. and Sulphur, Okla. meeting are past. Good meetings both of them were I am convinced. But, dear reader, what have I heard about both of them, just thinking out loud? I have heard a great deal about numbers. In fact, this is just about the first question how many were there this year? I am here to tell you, that just does not matter. I have heard some criticism; I have heard some about recreation, and that is all right, in its place. I have heard about how hot or how cool it was at the meeting places. I have heard about body-accommodations, sleeping and eating places, the lack or the abundance of them. I have heard very little though about things that really matter; such as, there was great preaching, there was great soul-stirring singing, there was fervent praying, there was love and concern shown for brethren and sisters, there was remarkable zeal. These are the things that matter most after all; the numbers attending are sort of the "fringe benefits," not the real thing!

Example number 3: It has been my honor to receive of late two lengthy reports about the meeting in the Dallas-Ft. Worth, Tex. area at Labor Day, both of them laudatory of the soul-stirring singing, the fervent praying, and the zealous gospel preaching; and, dear reader, not one word about the number. What perspective!! What spiritual insight!! What an acknowledgment of what it is all about anyway!! Dear Reader, you have been kind to let me think out loud with you. I am grateful.

Other OPA Article Links:

Lord's Supper
Withdrawal of Fellowship

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