An Alphabetical Analysis
Volume 10 - Practical Truth - Page 272 of 277
This most important subject has been examined with some degree of
thoroughness in Part 5, to which the reader's attention is drawn, as the
space available will not allow of a repeat here, but one or two observations
of a practical nature may not be amiss.
The homely character of the Church in the beginning
We gather from the epistle addressed to Philemon that the church met in
his house (Philem. 2), and from Colossians 4:15 that the church at Laodicea
met in the house of Nymphas, and from the emphasis upon domestic and homely
virtues expected of a bishop (1 Tim. 3) we realize that the practice was
universal.  The epistle to the Ephesians says nothing about a meeting place,
but it does say that the believers who made up the Church of the Body of
Christ were 'builded together for an habitation of God through the spirit'
(Eph. 2:22).  In the practical section 'the unity of the Spirit' is
emphasized, but not a church membership.  There are 'pastors and teachers'
but their work is defined (Eph. 4:12,13).  The nearest approach to any kind
of collective worship is found in Ephesians 5:19 where 'in psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs' the believer makes melody in the heart unto the Lord.
This reference is repeated in Colossians 3:16.  The only thing recorded in
Colossians as taking place in the church is the reading of the epistles
addressed to Laodicea and Colossae (Col. 4:16).  The presence of 'bishops and
deacons' in the salutation of Philippians presupposes some law and order, and
as a church the Philippians were commended for their kindly support of the
apostle (Phil. 4:15).  The office of a bishop is defined, and its
qualifications set out at some length.  He was one who 'takes care' of the
church of God, and was 'apt to teach', but no qualifications especially
associated with public worship are mentioned.  The same is true concerning
deacons (1 Tim. 3:1 -13).  Timothy was exhorted to be an example of the
believers in word, in conversation, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity,
but the only reference to ministry seems to be the words that followed this
'Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine'
(1 Tim. 4:13).
Elders that rule well are to be counted worthy of double honour,
especially they who labour in the word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17).  In the
epistle to Titus we find mention again of elders (Tit. 1:5) with their
qualifications (Tit. 1:6 -9) which are practically the same as those set out
in 1 Timothy 3, but while exhortation and the conviction of gainsayings is
mentioned and practical godliness is enjoined (Tit. 2), the maintaining of
'good works' (Tit. 3:8), and the rejection of a confirmed heretic form part
of the apostle's instruction, there is a complete silence as to any form of
worship, any regulation of services, anything approaching an 'order of
service' as understood by that term today.
As for 2 Timothy, it is too well -known among students to need proof
that the church as an organized assembly is not stressed, but an intensely
individual element characterizes this last of Paul's epistles.  Soundness of
doctrine, soundness in practice, godliness in every department of life, these
and parallel virtues are met with but not the slightest word to give us any
inkling of how the church worshipped God.  With the strong reprobation of
'tradition' and 'commandments of men' in Colossians before us, we dare not
accept the traditional customs of any existing church.  The central feature