Frequently Asked Questions
People often notice the long dresses and sleeves of our sisters. They want to know if there is religious significance to this or is it simply a costume.
The primary answer why our sisters dress the way they do is that the Bible makes clothing a moral issue and teaches principles that relate to dress. As Christians we need to make sure we apply those principles in our every day life. Otherwise, we will bring the displeasure of God upon us. The Bible teaches our clothing should be:
• Modest: The first reason given for clothing is in Genesis 3. Immediately after Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit they both knew that they were naked. Adam and Eve then made efforts to clothe themselves, even though they were the only humans around and the animals certainly did not care if they wore clothing or not. After they clothed themselves in what seemed adequate clothing (no doubt covering the more private parts of their bodies) God came to fellowship with them. Adam and Eve knew immediately that God would consider them naked, so they hid. God asked them why they were hiding. Let’s study Adam’s response, “And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (Genesis 3:10-11) You will notice that both God and Adam agreed that the man and his wife were both naked. They had clothing on, but they were naked. This passage teaches us that humans should cover their bodies in clothing that: (1.) is heavy or thick enough it conceals the body, (2.) covers the trunk and the major part of the limbs and is (3.) loose fitting, not clinging to the form of the body. When and only when clothing meets those standards may it be considered modest. For more on this subject, go to the e-literature section and read “The Sin of Bathsheba.” It goes without saying that all modern swimwear and many other warm weather selections would come under the category of what God would label as nakedness.
• Without ornamentation: the Apostles Paul (1 Timothy 2:9) and Peter (1 Peter 3:3-4) both explain Christian women are to be dressed without artificial ornaments. This rules out earrings, necklaces, rings, bows, and all types of jewelry. Godly women are to express beauty through a meek and quiet spirit, and through good works. This kind of beauty is prized by God and is recognized by men of all ages as being noble and upright. When this principle is applied to cosmetics and we believe women should refrain from wearing all types of makeup (See Jezebel as an example of a wicked woman and her efforts at beauty in 2 Kings 9:30) and from giving special attention to eyebrows etc. Furthermore the principle applies to superficial arrangements in clothing styles. Extras in lace, ruffles, trimming, and so forth are for the express purpose of enhancing the outward appearance and thus are avoided. God wants the glory of a transformed life to shine forth from the Christian woman.
• Separated from the world:“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18) “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2) These verses teach us that we should avoid changeable styles and fashions. Fashion and style has always been a problem with mankind. We have an innate desire to fit into what is considered fashionable in order to be accepted of men. (See Isaiah 3:16-26 for the fashionable clothing that God labels as filth Isaiah 4:4) God strictly forbids His children to seek acceptance with an ungodly society.
• Costly array: 1 Timothy 2:9 also addresses another area of clothing that God condemns. When clothing is used to express wealth it dishonors the principles of Christian humility. In fact the apostles advocated “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
The second reason for the particular type of style chosen represents a godly tradition. Long before any women in European or Western culture would dare wear trousers, they dressed in flowing skirts. When this was the norm, Christian women adopted a manner of dress known as the cape dress. The cape dress is a long dress going well past the knees that is accompanied with a shorter cape worn down to the waist. This dress was an application in the Western world of femininity and of humility. Once it was adopted it was passed from elder sister to younger sister, from mother to daughter as an appropriate application for dress. The Mennonite church has many such traditions. In any given era of time, effort has been made to apply the Bible to the way that culture lived. Then the application was passed on to the next generation. When the world changed and followed new norms, faithful Mennonites saw no reason to adjust their patterns. That is why you will see women dressed in old-fashioned dresses and the men dressed with simple “plain” suits which require no necktie to be completed.
Does a person need to be dressed in "plain clothes" to be saved? It is impossible to separate saving faith from following Christ in humble obedience. When "dressing plain" is an effort to serve Bible principles of humility and faith, it is part of the living faith that saves the soul.
Mennonite women who want to be obedient to the Bible wear a white cap or something similar on their heads. Why?
The white cap is a veiling to cover the hair. God's Word carefully details that Christian women are not to cut their hair but let it long and uncut. However, they are to arrange it in a modest un-adorned manner (1Timothy 2:9) and then cover it with a covering. Study 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 for more information.
The Mennonite church traditionally has used a white netting material for this covering, cut in a cap style. Each conservative church group makes its own application.
Our brethren often dress up for church and then their clothing is distinctive, appears different from the world. But often in everyday life their clothing is not remarkably different from the world. Is there a reason for this?
Christian men need to dress themselves by the same Bible principles as Christian women do. Our men do not stand out as much as our women because men often do not appear in public with as many violations of Christian principles as the women do. However, all brethren who are disciples of the Lord will dress modestly; i.e. with modest shirts and long trousers. They too will dress without ornamentation; without wedding bands, or ornamental watches or tattoos or earrings. They too will be separated from the world’s styles and therefore dress in the classic unchanging styles, avoiding fashions. They will dress in humble simple clothing.
We do not believe Christians should be different just to be different. Neither do we believe we dare dress in a pious way to cover a hypocritical lifestyle. The way one chooses to dress is to be an expression of his heart.
When some Anabaptists came to America they chose to endeavor to maintain the costume of the European peasant. They are recognized today as the Old Order Amish. Paintings of the Amish in Europe from the 1600's reveal they have changed very little from their ancestors. Some minor differences are they no longer use home spun cloth for clothing, and their trousers usually go to their ankles rather than to stop at the knee, knickerbockers style.
Mennonites became much more distinctive in their clothing after the industrial revolution of the late 1800's. They generally had chosen to adapt to the clothing of the culture without violating Bible principle, but at this time became creative in producing a style for men that would not change with men's changing fashions. The primary piece made at this time was the "plain suit," a suit coat made for dress up occasions which does not give room for the necktie which was merely an ornamental extra. This created a "plain" attire which you see in plain churches today.
Maybe you are thinking you would like to attend a conservative Mennonite church service. What should you expect? How should you dress? These questions are examined in this section.
Conservative Mennonite church services are patterned after the simple services of their forebears, the Anabaptists. These early seekers of Christ wanted to have their services focused on the principles of New Testament worship. Preaching the Word is a predominant theme (1 Corinthians 1:18-21). Congregational singing is predominant (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16) Giving is done in a confidential manner, but still a part of the church service (2 Corinthians 8, 9). Order and reverence are to be the rule at all time.
Therefore, you may expect the church service to be quiet and predictable. Families arrive at church - hopefully before the starting time. Men and women file in with their children, men and boys sitting on one side and women with their daughters on the other. At the designated starting time, someone who is appointed by the congregation will stand up and open the service. First in order is a time of a cappella singing. We sing in four part congregational singing with everyone welcomed to join in. Throughout the service someone appointed will read and explain Bible passages. At other times the congregation will pray, by all who can turning around and kneeling at their pews.
For Sunday School, the congregation divides up into classes according to age and gender. A teacher will take charge, following a lesson out of a booklet prepared beforehand, or else from a passage of Scripture announced the Sunday before. Members are encouraged to study Classroom participation is encouraged.
During the preaching, everyone sits quietly and gives reverent attention. Many take notes, following along with the Bible teaching. You may listen to these sermons preached every Sunday by finding them in the Sermons section of this website. Since our ministers are ordained from among the laity, the preaching reflects their personalities and individual interests. None of us have received formal training for preaching. It comes from the heart.
After Sunday School and Preaching are over, the service dismisses with a standing prayer and benediction. Most people linger and visit with one another for an extra half hour or even an hour.
In the event you happen to attend on a Sunday when Communion is observed, normally held spring and fall or two times a year, the service will revolve around that event. There will be no Sunday School, but rather devotions, preaching then sharing the emblems. After the observance of the Lord’s Supper, there will be a time when the members wash each other’s feet, brethren with brothers and sisters with sisters.
Another common feature is the holy kiss or salutation. The New Testament teaches that believers should give each other a holy greeting. ( Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12 and 1 Thessalonians 5:26)
Sometimes visitors want to know what type of clothing is expected of them if they visit one of our services. First of all we want you to know you are invited and welcome to attend. Please come as you are able. We do not expect you to have special attire. Please dress in modest attire, clothing that adequately covers your body. Also you will feel more comfortable if you dress in your more formal attire. We believe we should appear in our best dress to go to the house of God. We think you will soon forget about how strange you feel and begin to take part in the service. We invite you to come visit us soon!
If you visit an assembly of conservative Mennonites, you will immediately notice that men are sitting on one side and the ladies on the other. What is the reason for this?
We believe sitting separately contributes to a worship atmosphere, especially since our children sit with us in the assembly. We don’t have nursery activities for children, but as a rule the little girls sit with their mothers and sons with their fathers. As children move into youth they sit with other youth their age and gender. When someone needs to get out they do not need to move over someone of the opposite gender to get where they need to go.
This also encourages youth to be attentive and worshipful in the assembly.
This practice follows the tradition of the ancient synagogue.
If you attend a worship service of the conservative Mennonites, you will observe we do not have pianos, organs or other instruments present. There are reasons for this.
First of all, while we believe singing is an important part of our worship service, we believe too many performances are more about entertainment rather than heart felt worship. Also we believe the focus of a church service should be on Bible preaching and teaching. We believe it is the preaching of the Word that brings life, and conviction to the soul. Romans 10:13-17; 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 We are concerned that too much emphasis on performers doing the praise and worship for us may produce illiteracy of God's will for our lives. (This is also why we do not have groups do special singing for us in our services.) Often the first step into disobedience is ignorance.
We believe a cappella singing encourages personal participation. As the entire congregation join voices in song (men, women, children and youth) each becomes a part of the body in making their contribution. Many of us (depending upon which church conference or fellowship is in focus) use instruments in our homes, but do not use them in church. The primary goal is that we offer up the praise of our hearts, the fruit of our lips to God. This also is a part of the traditional Anabaptist heritage and stems from synagogue worship.
One of the radical differences of Anabaptist, (Amish and Mennonite) leaders from other denominations is that their leaders are chosen from among the people. This is often done by nominations and casting of the lot as is illustrated in the end of Acts 1. But how are they supported?
Our ministers are ordained from among our laity and receive their training from Holy Spirit enablement, Bible study and practice. They are ordained for life, and do not receive a salary. There are free will love offerings lifted on a regular basis, which the trustees decide how to divide among the ministry. These offerings help make up for the time sacrificed for the benefit of the congregation.
Congregations may not "fire" or dismiss their ministry unless they are found to teach false doctrine or are unfaithful in their personal lives. Many leaders give a lifetime of service to their flocks.
The type of leadership a church has greatly affects the mentality of the congregation. What do the Old Mennonites believe is the Biblical pattern for ordaining leadership?
Our churches practice a three office ministry. This three-office pattern originates in the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It is also the pattern of the Old Testament, where the leaders were Prophet, Priest and King. In the Priesthood there was a three office pattern of High Priest, Priest and Levite. In the New Testament Jesus ordained Apostles. They soon ordained deacons, and then other elders to take up the work of preaching and spiritual leadership. As the Apostles were limited in number and eventually passed on, they ordained certain leaders to be “ordaining elders.” For example, both Titus and Timothy were given instruction what qualities were to be evidenced as men were ordained. They were given responsibility to ordain leaders and to make sure nothing was left wanting in the congregations.
Therefore, we have a three office ministry. Deacons are primarily responsible for the financial matters of the congregation and to make sure the poor are properly cared for. They also share in the spiritual ministry (even as Stephen and Philip, deacons of the early church.) Ministers are ordained to preach the Word and to pastor the flock. Then we have elders who are responsible to pastor the pastors and to administer the ordinances and administrate ordinations. While we do not believe this is the only type of administration, it does serve the purpose very well when each takes place in humility and faithfulness.
Since your candidates for the ministry are not chosen from those who go off for specialized training, how do you know who from the church membership should take this responsibility?
You may have gathered by now that this FAQ section is the testimony of the conference of churches known as the Pilgrim Mennonite Conference. Our website has a congregational map feature that extends far beyond the PMC. Not all conferences subscribe to the same practices as are outlined below. However, the majority follow a very similar pattern.
Ordinations are both serious and joyful occasions in the life of a congregation. They are serious because our brethren are ordained for life. A large percentage of brethren who were ordained in their youth carry that charge until they die. In this lifetime they have an immeasurable influence on the congregation. This makes the work very serious.
Ordinations are joyful because it is through ordinations that the life of the church is preserved. A church will die if it does not have faithful leaders.
Ordinations are joyful because “...now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” (1 Corinthians 12:18) Faithful congregations and conferences go to great effort to have everything transparent and in the Lord’s control so the leading of the Lord may be manifest. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (Ephesians 4:11-15)
The actual visible process of selecting an ordained brother begins months before the process comes to fulfillment. Usually someone indicates there is a need. Often a request for an ordination is registered by an ordained brother who is faithfully serving and he requests help. Perhaps he sees his age or other circumstances are hindering the work and he calls for an assistant to be ordained. Sometimes there is an unexpected death, or perhaps the congregation is thinking of doing an outreach. Whatever the origin, the local ministerial team acknowledges the need and the local bishop takes the request to a quarterly bishop meeting. The request is usually registered in one meeting and then approved some three months later. After the bishops give their approval the request goes to the district ministry. (The district ministry is comprised of all the ministry who serve under a given bishop.) The same process serves with this district ministry, the request is given at one meeting and approved three months later. By now a number of months have passed. Often the congregation has been kept informed as to the progress of the ordination. Finally the congregation’s counsel is taken. An 85% favorable vote is required.
After all the approvals are granted, a date is set in the future, often as long as three months ahead but rarely more than six months. As the time approaches various messages are brought encouraging the congregation to “look out among their number” those who would be able to serve in the capacity given. Messages focus on qualifications. Sometimes a document is entitled "Our Congregation Prepares For An Ordination" is shared with the congregation. Brethren consider the qualifications given in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Each brother is urged to vote only for those they know well, and only vote after they have prayed and purged their hearts of all ulterior motives. Since this nomination is given in good faith and after serious deliberation, it will be respected and taken seriously.
Finally the day for nominations arrives. There will be visiting bishop(s) at the service to serve as outside witness(es). After a message the ordained men go to a private room to receive nominations. No brother who is eligible to be named would attend the private counsel in receiving names. First the ordained all give their nominations. This is to prevent them from being biased or influenced by the vote of the membership. Then each of the brothers who is 20 or older comes out to share a name. The ministry keep a close record, accepting each name that is given. Three witnesses (sometimes two and in the case of a bishop ordinations five) giving the same name are required for a brother to be considered in the class.
After the last of the nominations are given, the ministry in charge take a careful tally of the brethren named. After they know the list, they then arrange the brothers names in alphabetical order. This is so no one knows who received the majority of the votes.
When the ministry have reassembled in the auditorium with the congregation, then a public announcement is made and the brethren and their wives and the entire congregation learns who the brethren feel are the best qualified for the need at hand. This is not a popularity vote. Often times friends and popular brethren are passed over in favor of someone who seems fitted for the responsibility.
Then the nomination service is concluded with prayer and the brethren are dismissed. After dismissal, each of the brethren (and their spouses) is given examination questions in preparation for a later time of examination and instruction.
The examination day is attended by the nominated class, all the bishops who are able to attend and the local ministry. Each brethren is examined in his personal experience with Christ, his personal and family devotions, his doctrinal beliefs and other pertinent questions. If the examination reveals reasons why the brother is disqualified, the attending ministry must have a 75% agreement that the brother(s) should be disqualified and the brother who is being dismissed from the class has a complete understanding why this is happening.
The time of ordination finally arrives. There is often much suspense and tension in this service. Families and friends from far and wide come for this special service. In many ways this is a normal service, with congregational singing, devotional meditation and preaching and kneeling prayer. In other ways there is a great divergence in this service. If there is only person nominated or only one considered qualified after the time of examination, then there is an ordination by receiving vows, laying on of hands and a consecration prayer. If there is more than one qualified (as is often the case), then the lot is cast to discover whom the Lord has called to this work. This is done after this manner. After reading and exhortation from Acts 1 where the apostles filled Judas’ vacancy through ordination, the congregation prepares themselves for a special revelation from God.
Two brethren are given books of the same kind and in number according to the number of men that have been nominated. These brethren go to a private room. One places a lot slip (a special paper stating the calling the brother who will be named but who’s name is left blank until after the service) in a book. Then bands are placed on the outside of the books and each is prepared to look identical to the rest. The books are mixed by both until neither knows which book contains the slip of paper. In fact, no human being knows.
The books are brought out and given to the bishop in charge. While the brethren in the private room are preparing the books, the congregation is engaged in prayer and prayerful hymns. The books are arranged and set before the brothers who have been nominated.
Then each brother, in turn, rises to choose a book. After each brother has chosen his book, the bishop in charge opens the books until he discovers the slip of paper. By this the brother is known to be called of God for this special calling.
The brother who is thus ordained is immediately accepted by his congregation and the conference and given responsibility according to the charge which has been conferred upon him. This procedure brings great peace and blessing to the church.
Why would a church leader ever excommunicate a brother from the church? How does this work? Do you prevent him from coming to church?
The Biblical basis for excommunication as the church practices it is first found in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus’ teaching calls for excommunication when a person refuses to be reconciled to his brother. “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” (Matthew 18:17) While much is made over the fact that Jesus associated with heathen and publicans, this usually ignores that the fellowship Jesus had with the heathen and publicans was with those who had repented and been baptized by John. “And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.” (Luke 7:29) Even though these people had repented the Pharisees would not accept them. Jesus accepted every sinner no matter the sin, if they had repented and forsaken the sin. Jesus did not fellowship with sinners to comfort and support them in their sinful lifestyle.
In this teaching in focus, Jesus asks his disciples to draw a line of fellowship. If someone had wronged a brother and refused to accept and rectify the situation he could not be considered as a disciple. A heathen man and a publican was on the outside of fellowship. He was not treated as if he was a part of the church body.
A second Biblical example of excommunication is called for when one is immoral or guilty of mortal sins. As we come to New Testament church life we find excommunication taught in a very practical example. As recorded in 1 Corinthians 5, a brother in the church chose to live immorally with his father’s wife. The church overlooked this sin. When the Apostle Paul learned of the situation he gave very clear direction; the unrepentant sinner must be kept away from the communion table. Not just this sinner, Paul gives a list of the types of sins each one that warrant one to be banned from communion.
“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” (1 Corinthians 5:1-13)
There are two other reasons the Bible calls for excommunication. We will quote those. “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;” (Titus 3:10) Here a man should be excommunicated if he persists in promoting schism, primarily through false doctrine.
The last relates to anyone who refuses to accept and work with the church as they make Biblical applications to truth. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6-14)
So you may be wondering, “How does this work out in everyday church life?”
The first step to being able to carry out excommunication is through establishing church membership. Since this is addressed in an earlier question in this forum, we will not go over this again. But let it be noted that without a literal, physical roster of membership and the practice of close communion there can be no effective excommunication. When only members are allowed to participate in communion, then the church can say “No” to those who are disqualified.
The next step is to make sure reports brought against a member in the church are absolutely true; based on facts. The Bible makes it clear that no church action may be taken against anyone on the basis of one report. Church leaders may not be convicted except two or more eye witnesses bring the same story. “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” (1 Timothy 5:19) Often times finding the truth requires having the accused face his accusers face to face to find out who is telling the truth.
Whatever investigation must be carried out to find the facts, finding truth is an important step. An accused person must be considered innocent until proven guilty. Also one of the four above mentioned areas must be in focus. Church leaders are not allowed to discipline members to control them or on capricious feelings or a whim. The person who is in focus must feel the good will and love of the leaders who are working on his case. He must fully understand the reasons why the discipline is being taken, convinced of the truth of his error and the Bible basis why the action is being taken against him.
Before action may be taken against a member, the member should have complete knowledge of what is going to be shared. If the leader has written something that he believes is untrue or is unnecessarily harsh, he should have some say in altering the statement until it can be mutually agreed upon.
Finally the action of excommunication must be done in an assembly of the members. Even as Paul told the Corinthian church, “when you are gathered together in my name.”
The reason for this caution and deliberate steps is two-fold. One is to maintain a pure church. The other is to restore the brother; to bring him back into the fold.
Happy is the church who can restore a fallen brother into full fellowship after he has repented and amended his ways!
Many traditional churches have a large membership role with very small percentage actually attending or supporting on a regular basis. Other churches have gone to the other extreme and do not formally register members. All are encouraged to attend and partake of communion if they believe they are worthy. Why do churches of the Anabaptist tradition practice membership?
Our practice of membership actually begins with an account in the Bible of church discipline. This account is recorded in 1 Corinthians 5. The apostle Paul opens the chapter with an admonition and a rebuke because the church at Corinth was permitting a man with a sin unto death in his life to partake of communion.
The sin the man was involved in was that he was living in fornication with his step-mother. Some in the church were glorying in the grace of God and were not seeing a problem for this man to be a member with them.
Paul makes a remarkable statement in the middle of addressing this problem. “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:8)
In short, Paul is asking for the Corinthian congregation to keep a communion that was pure and free from known sin. Other passages enjoin individuals to examine their own lives and make sure they were living in Christian victory before partaking of communion. But this passage gives the responsibility of purity to the entire body.
In the last verses of this chapter, the record reads “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
Near the end of this passage Paul speaks of judging them that are within. We might ponder, “within what?” He goes on to speak of “them also that are without...” Without where? This within and without clearly refers to an invisible but very real line of those the church body was to feel responsible for and those they could leave in the Lord’s hands to be judged. They did not need to judge everyone in the world. But they did need to put away from within their fellowship the one who was living in sin.
From this writer’s experience comes a memory of a sincere seeker who was part of a church that did not practice close communion. Every believer was allowed to partake of communion. One day this sincere seeker came with a question.
“We have a dilemma in our church! The pastor’s brother, who is a deacon, came to church drunk one day. What shall we do. Some think we shouldn’t let him come to church any more. Others think, “Well, Jesus accepted sinners, so he should be welcomed at our church.” We are about to have a division in our midst. What does the Bible say we should do?”
I told him to go home and read 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Corinthians 2, and then he should come back and tell me what they should do.
The next day my friend came back with a peaceful look on his face. “Now I know what we should do,” he said, “We should not allow him to partake of communion until he has found deliverance from his sins. When he is living in victory, then we should give him membership and communion again. Meanwhile he is welcome to attend, but cannot be a member.”
And so it is. Our churches practice close communion. We welcome those outside our membership to come and watch as we observe communion. However, only those who are committed to the body and living in victory are welcomed to partake in communion. We want the old leaven of sin purged out. But we welcome anyone of the community, regardless of background, race or former depths of sin to come and become a member. We love all those who are seeking Christ’s blessing in their lives and invite them to become members in our congregations.
I listened to a man who shared a special dream he received from the Lord, showing what was going to happen in these last days. In an earlier vision from about 5 years ago he predicted the unusual development of our last election. Can we say he is a prophet from the Lord?
As Bible believing Christians, we find our security in the promise Jesus made to the Apostles. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” (John 16:13) In saying the Apostles would be given all Truth, Jesus was saying that nothing of further revelation would be given later in the church age. And so today, there is no more truth to be revealed to us than what the Holy Spirit revealed to them.
Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 13 we are told “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:9-12) This time "now we know in part" was in the time of the Apostles as truth was being revealed to them. Now we live in the time Paul referred to, "When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." In other words, the full body of truth is now revealed to us. The visions and revelations which were given in the transition era are now done away, finished, and will come no more.
Because of the teaching in Galatians 1:8, Revelation 22:18-19, we reject any special vision or revelation.
Early Anabaptists had their fiasco with special revelations and visions. This is the tragic story of Jan of Leyden and the Munsterites. You can read this story in Wikipedia, a story of a group of people who mixed the Old Testament, the New Testament and many of their leader's special revelations together to create a nightmare of sin and destruction. All the while this was happening they were known as Anabaptists. This created a terrible testimony for those who wanted to live by the New Testament in Christ's kingdom.
Special revelations from heaven are also what created Islam and the Book of Mormon. When a person may be believed to receive revelation directly from heaven, there is nothing at all to prevent him from exercising the selfishness of human nature to its most depraved capacity.
When I was a young child I was taught that Santa Claus would bring gift during Christmas. As I grew older and was baptized upon confession of my faith, I came to the point where I only wanted to celebrate Christmas because of the gift of Jesus. Now I am married and my wife and I are blessed with children. Some of them are already married and have children of their own. They don't all have the same view when it comes to celebrating Christmas. One of our married couple has come to the conclusion that it is wrong to observe Christmas. What do you believe?
Thanks for asking the question about observing Christmas. Why don't we take time to think through some Bible principles?
~ There is no Bible command that we should honor Christmas (but we are told to honor and commemorate Christ's suffering and death).
~ There is no commandment that we should not remember and honor Christ's birth.
~ The Old Testament warns us we should not learn the way of the heathen. (Jeremiah 10:2) Even though the Old Testament is not our guide for life, this passage would help us see we should not adopt the customs of the world around us.
~ We have many pagan influences in our everyday life in the Western world. Consider the names of the months of the year, or even the days of the week. Many of them are named after pagan gods. Using commonly accepted names does not mean we trust in those gods. Yes, if we had the privilege to rename them, we probably would enjoy giving them Christ-honoring names. But we are 6,000 years into history, not at its dawn.
~ Jesus probably was not born at Christmas. One model can find His birth date near that time but the day likely came from pagan origins. The model that would have his birth around Christmas? If Zacharias, John the Baptist father was serving in the temple at the Great Day of Atonement, (Fall equinox) then John was born mid-summer. If John was born mid-summer and Jesus was born six months afterwards then Jesus was born end of December. But Zacharias was likely serving in the temple during his normal course which could have been any time of the year.
~ Christian and godly parents love to give good gifts to their children. (Luke 11:10-13) This giving of gifts is a pattern of our heavenly Father's love and relationship to us.
~ There is room for differing convictions among Christ's body. We should be very careful not to violate the conscience of our brother (1 Corinthians 8). At the same time, there is no value in us developing strong feelings and creating divisions when a commonly accepted practice is not Scripturally forbidden.
What then is our conclusion? We have agreed as brethren to the following applications for Christmas.
~ Since the world gives attention to Christ in this season, we will do all within our power to honor Christ and leave a witness for Him before the world at this time. We use this time to sing Christmas carols to our neighbors or go as a congregation to sing in the Mall.
~ We will seek in our practices to be free from all pagan influences such as Santa, the Christmas tree, or other frivolities.
~ Families are left to their own discretion as far as giving gifts. However, we do encourage parents to give their children gifts on special days such as Christmas or birthdays and at random times. Children should feel they are loved and honored by their parents.
One brother's testimony is as follows.
"My wife and I found in our early marriage that this was an area we disagreed on. My family practiced gift giving and much witnessing to our neighbors over this time. My wife's family was in a setting that discouraged any recognition of Christmas. So we didn't observe it in any way. But as we watched our children grow, we saw they had no special favorable feelings for Christmas, and often sat to the side or were ashamed when people from the world asked them how they observed Christmas. It just didn't seem right to us to not use the time to build family memories and childish anticipations.
So we changed. Now there is modest gift-giving and many happy family gatherings. Sadly, our children are all grown and our house is normally quiet on Christmas morning, but we still treasure our memories."
Perhaps we can remember the verse, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)