The Church and the Word
Every church has its problems. This is only to be expected for the members of Christ’s church on earth are all sinners. The Lord’s people have been saved by God’s marvellous grace but each one of them is only partly sanctified in this life. What the Lord said to Joshua He says to us today: “there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed” (Josh.13:1).
For this reason Paul exhorts believers to put on “bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col.3:12,13). In this spirit of brotherly love the cause of Christ goes forward in the world.
In what way did Christ forgive us? Freely of course! But how did our pardon come to us? Did Christ simply absolve us with no action at all on our part? No! He first convinced us of our sin and misery, making us aware of our guilt before God, showing us our involvement in Adam’s original sin, the corruption of our nature and our many personal breaches of God’s law. Only when we had repented of our sin were we acquitted and brought into the enjoyment of fellowship with God and His people.
Fellowship among Christians is only possible when believers submit to the same authority for their belief and behaviour. The supreme standard for the faith and life of the church in every age is Scripture and only Scripture. The Lord Jesus Christ is the church’s sole King and Head and He exercises His authority over her through His Word alone.
Whether it be in doctrine, worship or practice individual churches have no right to enforce or permit anything within their bounds except what is written in God’s Word or may be fairly deduced from it. We cannot pick and choose where the authority of Scripture is concerned.
This brings us to a topical matter. All right-thinking people were appalled at what took place at the recent General Assembly of the Church of Scotland over the call of an openly-homosexual minister to a charge in Aberdeen. We may be thankful that there are still many in the Kirk who are prepared to say that homosexual practice is sinful according to the Word of God, as indeed it is. The Bible says, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination” (Lev.20:13). However the same Bible also says, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1Tim.2:12). If Scripture is supreme in the question of sodomy then surely it should also be supreme in the question of women in church office? Yet the battle in the Kirk over that issue was given up long ago.
When Scripture is no longer allowed to govern the affairs of a church then the time has come for those who love the Lord, having made their views known, to move elsewhere. Apostatising churches may even go so far as to cast out godly people. What does Scripture say? “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2Cor.6:14). The Lord promises to receive such and be a Father to them. We will never, ever lose out by being faithful to God’s infallible Word!