Close Communion Study Pt. 9 - (Principles of Fellowship—Inferences from the Correct Notions of Christian Society 1)
(Principles of Fellowship—Inferences from the Correct Notions of Christian Society 1)
But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. (Acts 19:9)
Question.—What is the first thing we may deduce from correct views of this society?
Answer.—If all the principles discussed hold, then it ought to appear highly reasonable and consonant to those principles that everyone admitted into church-communion, should be required to satisfy the church, previous to admission, concerning a soundness in the faith. Revealed truth is the very foundation of the Christian church, 1 Tim. 3:15. Edification in the faith of that system, is the great object of her communion, Eph. 4:15, 16; 1 Cor. 14:26. It is the faithful in Christ Jesus who are the members of the church, 2 Thess. 2:13, 14. Those who rule in the church, should, therefore, endeavor to have a reasonable certainty of their faith, Heb. 13:17. However, enquiries respecting religious experience provides a strong temptation for hypocrisy, Acts 4:32-5:4; 1 John 2:19; whereas questions concerning the measure and soundness of their knowledge of the doctrines of faith, are authorized by reason, and exemplified in Scripture, Acts 8:30, 31, 35-38.
Question.—What is the second thing we may deduce from correct views of this society?
Answer.—If our principles hold, then public articles of faith, creeds, or confessions of faith, are not only useful, but necessary, in the organizing and governing of the Christian church. The church is certainly built upon the revelation of God’s will which is contained in the Bible, Eph. 2:20. Scripture is the alone standard of truth and holiness, John 17:17; 1 Pet. 1:14-16. They are the alone infallible guide to glory and whatever does not speak according to them has no light, 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Isa. 8:20.
Yet, we confess it is fully consistent with all these superior honors due to the divine testimony to collect the sense of scripture into articles and creeds, by connecting passages that are remote from each other, by deducing inferences not particularly expressed, and by explaining those things otherwise made obscure to us by reason of distance from the originals, Ps. 78:4-6; 102:18; Acts 8:34, 35.
Now, particular occurrences in providence have occasioned the enlarging of the sacred canon of Scripture with new discoveries and applications of the truth, Ex. 17:14; yet, this Scripture revelation is completed, Heb. 1:1, 2. Nothing is to be added to it or diminished from it, Rev. 22:18, 19. Yet, the fact remains that the errors of mankind and the heresies of the Christian church make it necessary to exhibit the will of God in proper contrast to erroneous notions and ungodly practices, 1 Cor. 11:19; Tit. 1:9. This exhibition of truth and duty is a confession of faith, in a form, which requires transmission, 2 Tim. 1:13; Mal. 3:16; Ps. 71:18. There is a present truth, 2 Pet. 1:12; for which men must contend, Jude 3. There is every reason to believe that he who would give up one truth would give up all, Luke 16:10.
The idea that it is sufficient for men to express their belief in the Scriptures is manifestly wrong. In Jesus’ day the Pharisees and Sadducees pretended the same zeal for the law of Moses, Mark 7:3; Matt. 16:1; yet, there were divisions even amongst the Pharisees, John 9:16. In fact, none actually kept the law, John 7:19. Confession and assent to the divine testimony as held forth by the witnesses (i.e., human testimony to the divine) was required in the communion of the ancient church, Isa. 43:12. It is one thing to pretend to venerate the Bible and another to receive its doctrine entirely, Matt. 23:2, 3.
Written creeds and confessions present an objective standard of interpretation which can be used to evaluate individuals and churches in their fidelity to Scripture truth, Rev. 11:1. The churches in Pergamos and Thyatira are severely threatened on account of their indulgence of erroneous doctrines in their communion, Rev. 2:14-16, 20-23. Undoubtedly these errorists professed their adherence to the Bible, but something more is required to see that men stand fast in one spirit with one mind, Phil. 1:27. It requires a walking by the same rule, which is defined as something which the church must attain unto, Phil. 3:16. These words of faith and good doctrine are those which have been transmitted by a traditionary, or human, testimony, 1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 2:2; 2 Thess. 3:6. Yet, this is always received in subordination to the divine testimony, 1 John 5:9. There is a benediction of peace upon those who abide by this rule which is achieved through attainment, Gal. 6:16.