We do it more than we realize: we hear an interpretation of a passage many years ago, believe it, then think about how it applies. If we don’t apply it in that way, we are disobedient to God. This is so easy to do, but the danger is you could end up adding to the Law of God. Forcing one application on all Christians is making a law where the Scriptures do not make laws. That is the work of the Pharisees. The other danger is you could be wrong about the interpretation in the first place. Two examples to illustrate (I could be wrong on my interpretation of these, but these are just examples of a greater point I am trying to make):
- Acts 1.8- Jesus said after the Holy Spirit comes on his disciples, they will be “his witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” It has become so common for preachers to preach that your city that you live in is “your Jerusalem” and the district or county or island you live on is “your Judea”, and so on. It has become so common that if you don’t follow that pattern for evangelism and missions, you are disobedient to God. But is that the right application based on right interpretation? Was that a command, or a promise? Was that not fulfilled in the book of Acts? Perhaps, since that was fulfilled in Acts, we are in the period of simply evangelizing “the ends of the earth” until Jesus returns. Perhaps, there is much more freedom in missions strategies than first meets the contemporary eye.
- “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” In Matthew 6, Jesus warns against giving to the poor in order to be seen by men. This leads many Christians to think passing an offering plate in service is sinful (because everyone can see you putting money in it!!!), and to never tell anyone that they are fasting. It’s funny, though, it never leads most Christians to think praying publicly is a sin. And, is Jesus’ point that you should never give, pray, or fast publicly? Or is it that you should not do it IN ORDER to be seen by men? I wonder if telling people your motivation for never doing things publicly is just as sinful as doing things publicly to be seen by men.
Just be careful. The problem with Fundamentalism is very similar to Pharisaism: there is one, and only one, application of this specific command. In many cases, I am sure that is true, but many more in which it is clearly not. God’s Word is sufficient, not just to tell us what is needed for life and godliness, but sufficient to actually help us in life and godliness.
Thankful for the clarity and the exaltation of Christ and His word by a faithful preacher, David Platt:
1 Samuel 2.30-32 promises that the Levitical priesthood will end because of the sin of Eli. And they will never be reinstated. There will never be a reinstitution of that priesthood because Levi will be replaced by a “faithful Priest” (1 Sam 2.35), which points us to Jesus.
If you want further proof of that, read Revelation 7.4-8. There is a lot of debate about this passage, obviously. But just a couple observations: John “heard” the number 144,000. He was not necessarily looking at 144,000 individuals. God wants to teach us something by the number. Also, notice Levi is one of the tribes. There is no distinction anymore between Levi and all the rest. Levi is just one of the 12 tribes, no longer the tribe of the priesthood.
This has to be because this “Israel” has the only Priest they will ever need. It is the Lamb near the throne in v9. Revelation 7 is not referring to a reinstitution of national Israel. It is the declaration that the true spiritual Israel is sealed, through the blood of the Offering of the Great High Priest, who is Himself both Priest and Lamb.
Sounds like a silly question, doesn’t it? Obviously, the Lord’s Supper is more important than church membership.
But read the question again. Couldn’t we say there’s another sense in which church membership is more important on earth? In the eternal state, there will be one Body of Christ in which you will not have to make distinctions between Presbyterians and Baptists, or worry about transferring membership from First Baptist to Second Baptist. In short: on earth, church membership matters; in heaven, it won’t.
This whole issue is one I constantly wrestle with. I do believe in the grand scheme of things the Lord’s Supper is more important than church membership. Where it gets sticky is I would allow more people to partake of the Lord’s Supper than I would allow to become members of the church. To some, that probably makes it seem like I take church membership more seriously than I do the Lord’s Supper.
I think my practice is consistent with everything I’ve said about the prioritization of both issues on earth. In one sense, I have to bar certain Christians from membership if they cannot affirm our doctrinal statement, because church membership matters more on earth than it will in heaven. In the other sense, I have to allow more Christians to take the Lord’s Supper regardless of what they believe because I think that meal is more about the Body than it is about our local body.
Can’t wait till the Marriage Supper.