“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb 10:24–25 ESV).
The Meaning of Forsaking the Assembly
What does the scripture mean by forsake? The word “forsake” comes from the Greek word εγκαταλειπω, egkataleipo, which means to “1. leave behind, leave, allow to remain; 2. forsake, abandon, desert” (BDAG 54). As a person may practice sinning in stealing or reviling, the apostle instructed Christians not to practice the sin of forsaking by leaving this assembly behind.
Does this mean that someone who forsakes the assembly once is sinning, or is this a sin if this is a continual act? How many times must someone miss the assembly in order to be forsaking it? One intentional or neglectful disregard for the assembly is a sin. However, the problem was that these had made it “a habit,” a practiced behavior, and have left the assembly behind. Continuing in such behavior is forsaking the assembly. All the occurrences of egkataleipo in the Bible reveals that forsaking can include just a one time act and not just an abandonment of assembling (Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34; Acts 2:27; Rom 9:29; 2 Cor 4:9; 2 Tim 4:10, 16; Heb 13:5). However, Christians are reasonable to infer that those who are sick, disabled, or caring for the disabled are not forsaking the assembly.
The Meaning of “the Assembly”
Which assembly are Christians not to forsake? A literal translation of Hebrews 10:25 is “the assembly of ourselves.” In Hebrews 10:25, assembly is not accurately translated “assembling” as a participle or “to meet” as an infinitive. This translation is misleading. This word is a noun neither a participle nor an infinitive; although, this word is translated in the NKJV as “assembling.”
“Assembly” is a meeting, a gathering, a congregation. The article “the” is in Hebrews 10:25 according to the NKJV but not in the ESV. The Greek article is present in this passage and operates to specify that this assembly is “the assembly” or “the gathering” from the Greek επισυναγωγη, episunagoge. This word only appears twice in the New Testament. The other use is for the day of gathering to the Lord ( 2 Thess 2:1). However, there are other references to “the assembly,” and that assembly has a specific meaning throughout the Christian Scriptures (1 Cor 11:22; 14:5; 12, 33, 34; Col 4:16; 2 Thess 1:4). The Scriptures refer to the assembly as a specific gathering where Christians met to partake of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. This is the assembly that consisted of teaching, singing, and praying. Hebrews 10:25 is not referring to Bible studies, home devotionals, or any other gatherings and meetings of the congregation for other works. There is precedent for Christians meeting often together apart from the assembly (Acts 2:46; 20:20).
Can “the assembly” include a second meeting on the Lord’s Day? The Christians in Troas did meet in the evening but that does appear as their only meeting on that day (Acts 20:7–12). The assembly is when every member gathers together to partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:22–34; 14:23). The elders of the church should decide when the assembly occurs and how to attend to those who must work, cannot attend for disability, or are giving care. This may include another meeting to attend to others in the evening. The Scriptures do not present 2 or 3 assemblies for different parties, styles, and conveniences of the congregation, but there is one assembly where the whole congregation gathers together. However, this does not mean that Christians cannot meet more than once in a day.
The Consequences of Forsaking the Assembly
Should Christians withdraw from those who forsake the assembly? Those who forsake the assembly have withdraw from God, Christ, and the church — the body of Christ. When one forsakes the assembly, they are no longer communing with Christ (1 Cor 10:16). They are no longer walking in the light and no longer have the forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:6–2:6). They have withdrawn from the congregation and the church that Jesus bought with His blood. They are forsaking “stirring one another to love and good works” (Heb 10:24). These Christians who forsake the assembly are practicing sin.
If someone forsakes the assembly and took the Lord’s Supper in one’s own home, this is disobeying God’s instruction and precedent for partaking of the Lord’s Supper in the assembly (1 Cor 11:17–34). However, there may exist occasions when one may only have the option of partaking of the Lord’s Supper alone or not at all. Paul may have been in this position when at sea (Acts 27). Each Christian must decide for oneself. Those forsaking the assembly are also forsaking congregational singing, congregational prayers, and congregational edification received from teaching (1 Cor 14:3, 6, 12, 15, 18; 16:1–3; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). Christ built the church (Matt 16:18). The church is there for the edification of every Christian (1 Cor 14).
Disassociating from Those Who Sin
How can anyone withdraw from the withdrawn? Disassociating describes withdrawal. Christians are not to associate or eat with anyone who practices fornication, greediness, idolatry, reviling, drunkenness, and extortion. The idea is to remove the evil and sin from the midst of the congregation. Paul commanded this withdrawal for when Christians gather in Jesus’s name (1 Cor 5). Likewise, Christians are to treat a person who personally offends and does not repent like a tax collector or heathen (Matt 18:17). Christians are also to avoid all divisive brethren and false teachers (Rom 16:17; Titus 3:10). Christians are to withdraw from those who walk in idleness and do not work to provide for themselves (2 Thess 3:6).
No scripture specifically refers to withdrawing from those who forsake the assembly. The only scripture that may apply to withdrawing from those who have left the church and forsake the assembly is 2 Thessalonians 3:14–15. However, this application is questionable because Paul wrote, “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother” (2 Thess 3:14–15). According to the context, this obedience was for all Christians to work to eat.
If forsaking the assembly continues, a congregation is not wrong to note and no longer associate with them when they have good reason to believe that this will restore the lost. Withdrawal takes place first in the assembly and as much outside of it by not eating with the one who openly continues in sin (1 Cor 5). Christians may have friends who are forsaking the assembly and yet seeking to keep the friendship active. This is when Christians should consider withdrawing to restore the apostate. Someone may face a decision when the congregation withdraws from a sinning family member. If this is one’s spouse, that Christian must maintain the marriage unless the sin is fornication (1 Cor 7:11–15; cf. Matt 19:9). However, whatever the relationship, one may withdrawal spiritually including no longer praying together over meals or consenting to a sinful spouse leading the prayer.
Withdrawal is for the purpose to cause one to repent (1 Cor 5; 2 Cor 2:5–11; 2 Thess 3:14). Because Christians find it hard and may want to avoid withdrawal, these circumstances should compel Christians even more to restore souls (Gal 6:1; Jas 5:19–20).
Holy Father, help us to reach lost souls. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Besides your first sentence, you’re absolutely right. You apparently assume that this is talking about disfellowshiping the world and “sinners”. This is not the case. Christ through His words teaches the disassociation and noting of “Christians” who are openly practicing sin. The thief, fornicator, and drunk are associated in life and welcome to assemble and learn, but not the thieving “Christian”, the sexual immoral “Christian”, nor the drunkard “Christian” since Christ’s words teach to disassociate and note them for their own good. If that is legalism, then I’m legalist as much as Christ is a legalist and teaches legalism through His Apostles and prophets.
hello, i have read most of the arguments herin and find most of it appalling in the least…. yes, i understand that we have to have guidelines and direction, but just about all this has been legalism. it is very clear in scripture that the kingdom of god is not meat and drink, BUT JOY, PEACE, AND RIGHEOUSNESS IN THE HOLY GHOST…. i am finding confusion, turmoil, strife, murmurings, and backbiting from most. we are to come out from among them and be separate, but that is in deed and action. that does not mean that we can not be associated with sinners, it means that we are not to participate in their sinful activities.. to make it plain and simple, this thing called chritianity is about living the life of christ and winning souls to the Lord. its about jesus and him crucified and when we begin to vary to far from that, legalism is not too far away. may the Lord give his light to all who read.
I can’t say if that’s the entirety of things I believe to be errors practiced in institutional churches. I would say the majority of my disagreement falls into four categories (pulled from the Wikipedia article on NI churches):
– Objection to support from the church treasury for institutions such as Bible colleges or orphans’ homes
– Objection to churches pooling their resources to perform a work under the oversight of a single congregation or outside institution
– Objection to church relief to non-Christians (defined as those outside the Churches of Christ), especially as an evangelism tool
– Objection to a church kitchen or “fellowship hall,” as well as other forms of church-sponsored social activity
You can read the article for brief explanations of the arguments against each. In each of these cases, it comes down to the distinction between the individual and the congregation.
Thanks for your patience.
Thank you. After all this discussion, I understand very little between what is binding and what is not binding regarding the collection. My last comment was for further explanation of conclusions. I’d like to narrow down what are the errors that divide proposed by “non-institutional” churches. In brackets, I put what I understand to be specifics that are not errors.
*Giving from the collection is not a “broad mandate”.
*Do not give from the collection to non-Christians [outside of giving from the collection to parents to give to their children].
*Do not give food, etc bought from the collection to non-Christians [outside of giving from the collection to the preacher, deacons, and Christians who can then give that gift to non-Christians].
*Do not give from the collection to a body of Christian teachers [outside of giving from the collection to Christian parents and, or Christian students to pay for the body of teachers].
*Do not give from the collection to a body of Christians searching for Christian homes for orphans [outside of giving from the collection to Christian foster parents and parents by adoption].
*Do not give from the collection through Christians of another congregation to missionaries.
*Fellowshiping in meals is not a “broad mandate”.
*Do not fellowship in meals within the room or connecting rooms where the Assembly is done.
*Do not use the collection to supply times of fellowship [outside of the Assembly and the worship thereof].
Is this a correct presentation of all erring practices of “institutional” churches?
I appreciate your continual discussion. I hope your next reply will conclude our discussion and aid me in my study of the Scriptures.
God bless you in our Lord.
Scott, if it’s okay, I’m going to do a bit of pruning of tangents to get back to the main topic. (For example, it doesn’t really matter what either of us call something. I personally try not to use “Christian” as an adjective, but it’s not like it’s terribly relevant or binding on anyone else.)
Re: a “broad mandate” – You have yet to demonstrate a mandate, let alone a broad one, for churches to do the things we’re discussing. Individuals, yes. Churches, no.
Re: the passages that define the example of how to use a collection – Off the top of my head, I Corinthians 16:1-4, Romans 15:26, II Corinthians 8:1-5, 9. (There are probably a couple of other references to these collections that I’m forgetting.) All of the examples and commands in the NT deal with churches giving to needy Christians.
Re: II Corinthians 9:12-13, I’ve actually answered it twice. I suspect you just hadn’t read down to the second answer (since you address it later) and had forgotten the first link. Also, I never said the only way to give to non-Christians was orphans’ homes; I’m well aware of other practices.
You’re also misunderstanding the post I linked to as well. v. 12 clearly says that this particular effort is a ministry to the saints; We learn from Romans 15:26 that it’s a contribution for the saints in Jerusalem; these are the “they” and “them” of v. 13 – the saints in Jerusalem specifically. “All” refers to “all saints.” Paul speaks of the specific recipients of this benevolence (Christians in Jerusalem) and generally of all saints (the word translated “contribution” being the word used to refer to what Christians’ with one another – “fellowship” in Acts 2:42 or “sharing” in I Corinthians 10:16). The same word is used in regard to non-Christians in II Corinthians 6:14, where it’s forbidden. The understanding of “all men” means that the Corinthians were in fellowship with all men, and Paul (who had forbidden such in his previous letter to them) is praising them for it. I hope I’ve explained more clearly this time.
Re: Galatians 6:10, I had addressed that in my first post: “The same with Galatians 6:10, where the context (‘each one’ in previous verses) clearly indicates it’s talking about individuals.”
Re: giving money directly out of the treasury to non-Christians, do you not buy their gas and food for them from that, or am I misunderstanding what you wrote?
Re: which Scriptures forbid institutional practices, again, the question is which passages authorize such. It’s the same principle as instrumental music; I don’t have to prove such is forbidden, the proponent of it has to show where God has expressed that He desires such (authority, in a word). Any other passages now that II Cor. 9:12-12 and Gal. 6:10 have been dealt with?
Re: Bible colleges – The institutional movement was mostly pushed by colleges in order to get their hands on fast cash from churches. When a movement begins in such organizations causing division in order to obtain money, is it any wonder that the organizations continue to be a source of evil and error later?
Re: fellowship halls – Again, where’s the authority? We’re talking incidentals vs. making something a work of the church. I think you understand the difference.
As I said in the beginning, all this comes down to the same question: Where is the authorization from God for churches to be involved in these things? I’m still waiting.
Thanks for your time and patience. I may be unavailable for a few days due to some personal and congregational matters, but I’ll try to get back as soon as I can.
I appreciate your correspondence and time given. I hope that you will remain patient with me, since I have a few more questions.
“Re: Powerpoint, of course we have authority for such. God has authorized us to teach, a broad mandate…”
*I absolutely and completely agree, but I will hold you to the “broad mandate”. The “institutional” churches agree completely.
“Either we have authority or we don’t. If we don’t, we should either find it, give up whatever unauthorized practice we’re doing, or never require authority for anything. Simple consistency. What we see in Scripture is a great deal of general authority (”do good unto all men,” etc.) given to the individual, but little given to congregations.”
*I now understand your words and hermeneutics. I agree completely and so do all “institutional” churches. We also agree and strive for this consistency.
“Re: “Christian schools” – Well, I don’t call them that (thus the quotes). I’d usually refer to them as Bible colleges, though that’s probably a bit of a misnomer as well…”
*Why not call what is Christian “Christian”? Christ’s Church is the Church of the firstborn ones. Families made of Christian parents are Christian families. Christian teachers form a Christian school. It is not Scriptural, but it is not un-Scriptural either, since there is the “broad mandate” to “bring them [children] up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
“Re: “Why, scripturally speaking, can churches not support schools of Christians?” – Where’s the authorization?”
*What happened to the “broad mandate”? Where are the specifics that would exclude us from using the “general authority”? Is there no “broad mandate” for supporting Christian teachers? If these questions are given Scriptural answers, there would be great resolution for all those honestly studying these differences. Please, expand with Scriptures.
“Re: benevolence for non-Christians from the church – Again, where’s the authority? All the examples and commands from the NT are for Christians only.”
*I understand that you believe that these examples define giving by the Christian collection. [Who do believe should oversee giving from the collection?] Please, show me these passages that define the congregation’s use of their collection. Again, 2 Cor. 9:12-13 and Gal. 6:10 have not been answered.
“Re: children, No, I don’t find…”
*Why the division because of giving to Christian homes and Christian workers who provide homes? What is it about orphans’ homes that makes it un-Scriptural? What is your definition of an orphans’ home? All I see is Christian workers and foster parents make a orphans’ home. There’s no hierarchy or great authority ruling over the churches from these Christians. Please, explain.
“Re: II Corinthians 9:12-13, I posted about that here, as indicated previously. The word ‘men’ is in italics, a translator’s addition avoided in the NASB. As outlined in the blog post, I don’t believe it’s the correct understanding of the context and that the more natural understanding is ‘all saints.'”
*Reading your post, you are wrong about the “institutional” churches. Giving to non-Christians does not result in giving orphans’ homes. The orphans’ homes are made of Christian foster parents and Christian social workers. We don’t give to denominational homes, secular nor state.
Regarding 2 Cor. 9:12-13, “men” does not change the text nor the meaning. You admit that the pretext shows the antecedent of “them” is “the saints” in verse 12. Now, in verse 13, what is in addition to “the saints” and is called by the general pronoun “all”? You say “all saints” without proof. You say that both pronouns refer to the same antecedent. You’re commentary translation would read, “while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with the saints and all saints”. This is not good English or Greek. Are you saying that the pronoun “all” serves no purpose in the sentence? This implies that “all” could be removed from the Bible. See, “all” is now operating without purpose since it doesn’t make specific or broad distinction to “them”/”the saints”. We conclude this to be all including those outside of being saints. Please, explain why there is division over such a simple thing.
Lastly, we don’t give money directly out of the collection to non-Christians as far as all of my associate in the mainstream churches throughout the south are concerned. The only things given to non-Christians is our time, labor, and from the collection, almost only food and may be gas. We lend our building for community meetings and voting booths. We don’t give drunk drinking money and anything like that. Please explain what specific Scriptures exclude this. Why is this not allowed under the “broad mandate”.
“Re: erring of schools, church sponsorship of them began with a McCarthyesque movement to oust anyone who stood in the way. When the root is bad, is it really any surprise if the fruits are as well?”
*You’ll have to explain further.
“Re: Acts 20, there’s a lot of discussion around what Paul’s eating in v. 11 is (Lord’s Supper or a common meal) that you’re probably aware of. And what form of time measurement he’s using, etc.”
*There is no discussion of anyone who reads the Greek or English in my opinion. Both the verbs “broken” and “eaten” are singular. Paul ate his own meal in the place of their assembly, but he did not do it in the Assembly. The “institutional” churches do not eat at any time a common meal in the Assembly. We do use the same building. I desire that our “auditoriums” were for all purposes having divides for classes and the ability to fellowship there too. Again, why would this divide us? There is no Scripture being violated since these are in God’s “broad mandate” and “general authority”. You said, “Re: fellowship halls and the like – As Paul told the Corinthians, we have homes to eat in; there’s no authority for fellowship halls in the NT, and it certainly seems to be contrary to that verse”, but now you have no problem with Paul eating in the upper room making it a “fellowship hall”. I still don’t understand. Please explain why this divides. I do understand the use of collection, but how is that not a matter of opinion? See, it all comes back to instruction on the use of the church’s collection and who oversees that.
God bless you.
Scott, sorry it’s taken me a while on this one. Crazy week at work.
Re: Powerpoint, of course we have authority for such. God has authorized us to teach, a broad mandate. This would include expedient means: speaking, visual aids, a place to teach, written materials, etc. so long as they aren’t otherwise lawless (i.e., you couldn’t steal a Powerpoint projector, obviously).
Either we have authority or we don’t. If we don’t, we should either find it, give up whatever unauthorized practice we’re doing, or never require authority for anything. Simple consistency. What we see in Scripture is a great deal of general authority (“do good unto all men,” etc.) given to the individual, but little given to congregations.
Re: “Christian schools” – Well, I don’t call them that (thus the quotes). I’d usually refer to them as Bible colleges, though that’s probably a bit of a misnomer as well. Why are you called “institutionalists”? More my term. Most NIs in years past (and often today) would have called you “liberals.” *shrug* I’m not terribly attached to labels and generally open to any accurate description that doesn’t offend.
Re: “Why, scripturally speaking, can churches not support schools of Christians?” – Where’s the authorization?
Re: benevolence for non-Christians from the church – Again, where’s the authority? All the examples and commands from the NT are for Christians only.
Re: children, No, I don’t find authority for directly giving money from the church to the children. However, it stands to reason that if you provide benevolence to a Christian parent, their child is going to indirectly be aided. I don’t see how that authorizes direct aid to non-Christians, however.
Re: II Corinthians 9:12-13, I posted about that here, as indicated previously. The word “men” is in italics, a translator’s addition avoided in the NASB. As outlined in the blog post, I don’t believe it’s the correct understanding of the context and that the more natural understanding is “all saints.”
Re: erring of schools, church sponsorship of them began with a McCarthyesque movement to oust anyone who stood in the way. When the root is bad, is it really any surprise if the fruits are as well?
Re: Acts 20, there’s a lot of discussion around what Paul’s eating in v. 11 is (Lord’s Supper or a common meal) that you’re probably aware of. And what form of time measurement he’s using, etc. However, one of the main points of I Corinthians is that they should eat elsewhere and not turn an assembly of the church into a recreational activity. If Paul was eating a common meal, I don’t see a violation of that principle here any more than I see it in a mother feeding her hungry 2-year-old some Cheerios during the assembly.
Re: removing fellowship halls and having individuals do as they wish, that’s fine with me. It’s usually what we do in NI churches anyway. Homes are opened, or we can go out to eat at a restaurant, or individuals will get a meetingplace for a potluck, or whatever. We just had our usual Super Bowl get-together at the home of a family here, in fact.
Thanks again for your kind consideration.
Jeff, I hope you’ll consider some more questions and some of my points.
“If we really don’t have authority for them, we shouldn’t be using them, no?”
*I disagree. I think. Your words seem contradictory. There is no authority for powerpoint, which I don’t think that excludes. Do you? I absolutely agree with your statement, “The general command absent specifics authorizes the fulfillment of it so long as that is otherwise in accordance with God’s will.” The general command is open to all options that are not already sinful. I think we agree.
“‘Christian schools’ – Yes, the schools existed for years. Again, their existence was not the issue in the institutional divide.”
*Then why do call them “Christian schools”? Why are we call “institutionalists” rather than mis-managers of the collection or something like that?
“The issue was congregational funding of such.”
*Why, scripturally speaking, can churches not support schools of Christians [“Christian schools”]? A Christian school is simply a body of teachers and students. I can’t understand without Scripture.
“congregational benevolence for non-Christians – All the examples and commands in the NT for churches deal with benevolence for Christians only. Obviously, we need God’s approval to know something is His will.”
*In the case of collections, I am only aware of general commands and not specifics. I’m not aware of any instructions for congregational giving only to churches and Christians. What about children? That’s an unfair question (someone could ask the same about baptism), but I’d still like you response. Second Cor. 9:12-13, “For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men,” See, “liberal sharing with them [the saints] and all” is who was given.
“individual vs. congregational – That’s the whole crux of the matter.”
*How? What commands are there for congregational giving that are specifics that exclude non-Christians? Does this include children?
“how church funding of Bible colleges has worked out – Well, you seem to have a minority opinion there, IMO. ACU, Pepperdine, Lipscomb…”
*How do you know that it is the funding on congregations that caused this? I’m aware of false teachers at ACU, but not how congregations did this or even individuals. The death of Pepperdine’s Bible department and it has become denominational. I know that Lipscomb has some false teachers. What facts do you have to show that congregational giving caused this excluding individuals giving? I recognize erring of the schools, but how do you know that this is because of church’s giving? Anyone giving could lead to corruption. How do false teachers rip apart sound congregations? It is not usually because other churches gave them money. It is the false teaching. If there is any problem with schools, it is that elders do not closely keep watch over their teachers and students.
“fellowship halls and the like – As Paul told the Corinthians, we have homes to eat in;”
*Yes, but this has little to do with fellowship halls. Paul ate his own bread (Acts 20:11) in the upper room of the Assembly where they partook of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). Certainly, Paul is not contradicting himself, but he did correct those who turned the Lord’s Supper into a common meal where not everyone was present, which the Assembly is “the whole church comes together in one place” (1 Cor. 14:23). I agree that people should not come and eat the Lord’s Supper before the Assembly or make the Assembly into a feast.
“there’s no authority for fellowship halls in the NT,”
*There’s no authority for us to talking via computers. Is there authority for using the church’s collection of building bathrooms, water fountains, sinks, pews, carpeting, and so on. No, there isn’t. This is why there are institutional congregations that see inconsistency in this. Is not having authority the same as “The general command absent specifics authorizes the fulfillment of it so long as that is otherwise in accordance with God’s will”? No authority does not exclude. The specifics do as you admitted earlier. This is where I always have considered our differences to be. Is there a difference between Scriptural, un-Scriptural, and non-Scriptural (opinion)? Singing is Scriptural, instruments are un-Scriptural, and songleaders are not Scriptural. Things that are not Scriptural, like evangelizing via car or phone, are not wrong, but these are not Scriptural. It is the un-Scriptural things that are sinful. Please consider and think this over. This is why we do not go beyond what is written, and we are not commanded do not go beyond what is written and what is not written.
“In collective matters such as these, the one who objects has little choice between approving (and violating their conscience) or leaving.”
*I can see that and I agree. No one can worship in a way where their conscience would be bothered. I can see how one would not be able to give to the Church who would collectively give it to something that offends them.
“The obvious answer is to remove that which causes the division in the first place.”
*Or, what if collections for kitchens and institutions were collected separate from the congregation by a collection of individuals. Many of the kitchens and so on that I have known to have been built were from individuals and not in the collection. Unless, maybe we could convince you otherwise by the Scriptures.
Scott, thanks for your reply. There’s no defensiveness on my part, just matter-of-fact-ness. There’s a great deal of misinformation out there about the division, so without knowing an individual’s knowledge, I try to establish the facts at the beginning.
Re: authorization and song books, etc. – If we really don’t have authority for them, we shouldn’t be using them, no? If God instructs us to teach, for example, does that not authorize that which aids us in doing so (Bibles, workbooks, Powerpoint, etc.)? If God instructs us to assemble, does that not authorize a place to do so? And so on. The general command absent specifics authorizes the fulfillment of it so long as that is otherwise in accordance with God’s will.
Re: “Christian schools” – Yes, the schools existed for years. Again, their existence was not the issue in the institutional divide. The issue was congregational funding of such. As best as I can tell, aside from a couple of churches in Texas very quietly sending some money to Abilene Christian, it didn’t happen prior to WWII.
Re: congregational benevolence for non-Christians – All the examples and commands in the NT for churches deal with benevolence for Christians only. Obviously, we need God’s approval to know something is His will.
Re: individual vs. congregational – That’s the whole crux of the matter. If God has not authorized a congregation to do something, it doesn’t need to be doing it. It’s incumbent on the institutionalist to demonstrate approval from God for their practice.
Re: how church funding of Bible colleges has worked out – Well, you seem to have a minority opinion there, IMO. ACU, Pepperdine, Lipscomb… all the significant colleges and universities seem to be lost to the liberal institutionals. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but for now we’ll just agree to disagree.
Re: fellowship halls and the like – As Paul told the Corinthians, we have homes to eat in; there’s no authority for fellowship halls in the NT, and it certainly seems to be contrary to that verse. In collective matters such as these, the one who objects has little choice between approving (and violating their conscience) or leaving. It’s not possible for fellowship to exist under those circumstances. It’s not a matter of judging others, nor is it a matter of simply being uncomfortable; it’s a matter of what I can participate in and approve of in good conscience, as are all collective matters.
Re: how to restore unity – The obvious answer is to remove that which causes the division in the first place.
Thanks for your thoughts and good attitude, Scott.