A couple of verses that we have discussed before to start…
“And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42.
“ Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16.
And there are numerous others addressing the assembling of the beloved in Christ.
The question is, are these regulative for the gathering of believers now? And what precisely are they describing?
As I stated in another post, my interest in this was initially focused by several articles in the Canons of Dordt. In those sections it is pointed out that the believer can draw great assurance from the fact that they are assured of their standing before God by the very beliefs that saved them – in Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2), and not necessarily in other outward signs. Further, it is pointed out that believers should continue to diligently avail themselves of the ‘Means of Grace” that were provided by the Lord in support of their justification, sanctification and assurance.
In the two verses quoted above we find a Scriptural proscription not only for the assembling of the Saints, but even more for their ongoing life in Christ. I am more and more convicted that these specifications from Scripture are both regulative in nature and exclusive in scope. Moreover, there are no alternatives specified in Scripture.
The obvious counter argument is that these were culturally based, for those times alone, and thereby can be redefined today for modern cultural norms. However, I do not see any specifics of times and culture in these verses or their context that would indicate that. In fact, the terms used are sufficiently general to define a model for life as opposed to some specific actualization of a cultural venue. As such, I reject that argument.
Next, am I implying a narrow reading of the principles that would imply a specific instrumentation (a big issue today) or style of hymnody? Not at all. Although I think that there are some restrictions implied, we are not talking about an RPW (Regulative Principle of Worship) which demands the acapella singing of KJV-only Psalms (to take an extreme but existing example). In its restrictiveness, I think that would defy the regulative principles implied here, just as much as many emergent approaches most certainly do.
I am talking about an ‘attitude’ model as much as anything else, and the actualization falls naturally from that, not the other way around.
What is that model? Well, let me close this post by parsing the verses above for the implied components:
1. devoted to the Apostles’ teachings – for us, the Scriptures
2. fellowship – notice that is fellowship in the teachings
3. breaking of bread (communion, not dinner)
5. Word dwell richly within you, (the Word) teaching and admonishing in
5.3 spiritual songs
all rejoicing in thankfulness to God.
There you have it – a gathering focused upon the Lord in every way, directly and primarily through the Scriptures and things drawn from them – always looking up so to speak. Not a single word about anything at all of man – no mention of programs, books about programs and self-actualization, etc.
These plus a few others that expand upon them embody the sole regulative model in Scripture and thereby the regulative model for God’s people, the beloved in Christ – a model for all time.