We at the La Crosse church of Christ have been witnesses to some views among our brethren over the years that the Bible will show to be far too extreme. Many have gone off to the left, and many have gone off the path to the right, not rightly dividing the Word in either case, but rather dividing the Lord’s church. This, of course, is nothing new, but is an extreme situation where we are, and it has resulted in a massive loss of influence for the Lord’s church in the world around us. Why did Jesus pray in John 17:17 that we all be one? Do you remember? It was so the world would “believe” in Him. Yet, many of us want to make it a test of fellowship whether we eat in the church building, or not. Then there are those on the other side of the fence who insist that we fellowship (show our approval of) those who continue to reject the Divine pattern for worship that is clearly revealed in the apostles doctrine in the New Testament. Many of the latter ones will eat in their church buildings just to spite those who won’t.
We have been sympathetic with those who insist on only using the Lord’s money collected on the first day of the week for what is authorized in the Bible, namely, evangelism, edification, and benevolence. But when they say it is a sin to eat in the church building, they are going beyond what is written. Revelation 22:18,19 say, “If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life…” One extreme is just as bad as the other when you bind it, make it a test of fellowship, and divide the church over it. Adding to what is written is just as bad as taking away from what is written.
In 1 Cor. 11:17-22, Paul never rebuked the church for eating in their meeting place. He rebuked them for making a common meal out of the Lord’s supper. He was rebuking them because there were cliques, or, “factions” among them, and some would get to eat and drink, while others went hungry. They had forgotten their purpose for assembling. In verse 22 he said, “Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?”. He wasn’t saying the only place they were allowed to eat was at home. He wasn’t saying they weren’t allowed to eat together, and he wasn’t saying they weren’t allowed to eat in their meeting house. He was telling them to remember the purpose of their assembling and to keep their common meals separate from the Lord’s supper. He was saying to fill up at home before you come together for the Lord’s supper, but he wasn’t implying it was a sin to eat in their meeting house. To say that he was is extreme, and it defeats Paul’s whole purpose of writing 1 Corinthians. Read 1 Cor. 1:10,11 before you read 1 Cor. 11.
Over the last few months in my studies with three preachers and one preacher’s wife, all four admitted it was not a sin for a preacher or workmen to eat in the church building, but it is a sin for the church to eat together in the same church building after the worship service is closed. I told all four of them that I just can’t eat my lunch in my office, and then get up and preach that it is a sin to eat in the church building like they obviously would have me to do. So far, nobody has been able to show me the logic behind their reasoning. Making it a sin to eat in the church building is causing division in the Lord’s church for at least two reasons. One reason is it has become a doctrine and a commandment of men. The other reason is, there is an “in your face” attitude among those on the opposite side of the fence. There is more on this to come.
Preacher / Evangelist for the La Crosse church of Christ