The Monogamous Marriage of Christ and His Church Defended, from Baptist History

The Monogamous Marriage of Christ and His Church Defended, from Baptist History

The teaching that Christ has one Church is integral to a right understanding of the Person of Christ. Christ must have one Bride only. Moreover, His body must not be divided, fragmented, or depreciated in any way which would imply multiple faiths, Spirits, etc (cf. Eph. 4). It must also be said that this one body and Bride is not an earthly, visible institution, but an invisible, presently inaugurated reality received by faith in the present, to be seen with glorified eyes in the eschaton. Or, to put it positively, the one Bride of Christ presently instantiates, or becomes visible, only in local assemblies or churches.

Yet, the one Church of Christ comprises the whole of the elect people of God at all times and in all places. To deny the one Church of Christ comprised of all the elect, at all times and in all places, without qualification, is to deny Christ a monogamous betrothal to a single Bride, to affirm His body is still broken (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5; Mk. 10:8; 1 Cor. 6:16), and to deny the definite or limited atonement, contra Ephesians 5:25-27.

Below, it will be proved that Baptist history testifies to this common conviction. And while we Baptists have historically put much more practical emphasis on the local church, the unquestionable commitment to a single Bride of Christ may be clearly seen in the documentation below. Many of the document titles double as links to digital versions of source documentation. What is not linked is still sourced underneath the quotation. This symbol (*) corresponds to important commentary or clarifying subject-matter also viewable underneath the relevant quotations.

That Baptists Have Always Affirmed One (catholic) Church, Body, and Bride, We Affirm by the Following Proofs— 

Balthasar Hubmaier (1480-1528):

The church is sometimes understood to include all the people who are gathered and united in one God, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, and have confessed this faith with their mouths, wherever they may be on earth. This, then, is the universal Christian corporeal church and fellowship of the saints, assembled only in the Spirit of God, as we confess in the ninth article of our creed (Nicaea). At other times the church is understood to mean each separate and outward meeting assembly or parish membership that is under one shepherd or bishop and assembles bodily for instruction, for baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Balthasar Hubmaier, Balthasar Hubmaier, (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1989), 351-352.

The Schleitheim Confession (1527): 

The ban shall be employed with all those who have given themselves to the Lord, to walk in His commandments, and with all those who are baptized into the one body of Christ and who are called brethren or sisters… 

In the breaking of bread we are of one mind and are agreed [as follows]; All those who wish to break one bread in remembrance of the broken body of Christ, and all who wish to drink of one drink as a remembrance of the shed blood of Christ, shall be united beforehand by baptism in one body of Christ which is the church of God and whose Head is Christ.

Whoever has not been called by one God to one faith, to one baptism, to one Spirit, to one body, with all the children of God’s church, cannot be made [into] one bread with them, as indeed must be done if one is truly to break bread according to the command of Christ.

Hubmaier, Balthasar; Denk, Hans; Simons, Menno. The Anabaptists: Excerpts from the writings of various authors (Anabaptist Writings Book 2) . Solid Christian Books. Kindle Edition.

The Writings of Menno Simons (1496-1561):

But we teach and maintain by the word of the Lord that all true believers are members of one body, are baptized by one Spirit into one body (I Cor. 10:18) and have one Lord and one God (Eph. 4: 5,6).

All who are born of God, are partakers of the Spirit of the Lord, and are called into one body of love, according to the Scriptures, are ready by such love to serve their neighbors, not only with money and goods, but also, according to the example of their Lord and Head, Jesus Christ, in an evangelical manner, with life and blood.

Hubmaier, Balthasar; Denk, Hans; Simons, Menno. The Anabaptists: Excerpts from the writings of various authors (Anabaptist Writings Book 2) . Solid Christian Books. Kindle Edition. 

The Dordrecht Confession of Faith (1632):

VIII. We believe in, and confess a visible church of God, namely, those who, as has been said before, truly repent and believe, and are rightly baptized;* who are one with God in heaven, and rightly incorporated into the communion of the saints here on earth. These we confess to be the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, who are declared to be the bride and wife of Christ, yea, children and heirs of everlasting life, a tent, tabernacle, and habitation of God in the Spirit, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, of which Jesus Christ Himself is declared to be the cornerstone (upon which His church is built). This church of the living God, which He has acquired, purchased, and redeemed with His own precious blood; with which, according to His promise, He will be and remain always, even unto the end of the world, for consolation and protection, yea, will dwell and walk among them, and preserve them, so that no floods or tempests, nay, not even the gates of hell, shall move or prevail against them-this church, we say, may be known by their Scriptural faith, doctrine, love, and godly conversation, as, also, by the fruitful observance, practice, and maintenance of the true ordinances of Christ, which He so highly enjoined upon His disciples.* I Cor. 12; I Pet. 2.9; John 3.29; Rev. 19.7; Titus 3:6, 7; Eph. 2:19-21; Matt. 16.18; I Pet. 1.18, 19; Matt. 28.20; II Cor. 6:16; Matt. 7:25.

*This represents an error in Anabaptist thought which was rejected by later Baptists in that the one church of Christ is not visible, but invisible, cf. 2LBCF, 26.

*Some may want to argue the local church is assumed throughout the Dordrecht Confession. However, this is unlikely since, in the article above, “the church” under consideration will never be prevailed upon by anything, including the gates of hell—which no doubt occurs from time to time with regard to local churches. Yet, the one Bride of Christ is preserved in all ages.

A True Confession (1596):

XVII. That in the meantime, besides his absolute rule in the world, Christ hath here in earth a spiritual Kingdom and canonical regiment in his Church ouer his servants, which Church he hath purchased and redeemed to himself, as a peculiar inheritance (notwithstanding manie hypocrites do for the tyme lurk emongest the) calling and winning them by the power of his word vnto the faith, separating them from amongst unbelievers, from idolatrie, false worship, superstition, vanitie, dissolute lyfe, & works of darkness, &c; making them a royal Priesthood, an holy Nation, a people set at liberty to shew forth the virtues of him that hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light, gathering and writing them together as members of one body in his faith, loue and holy order, vnto all general and mutual duties, einstructing & governing them by such officers and lawes as hee hath prescribed in his word; by which Officers and lawes hee governeth his Church, and by none other.

A Short Confession of Faith (1610)

22. Such faithful, righteous people, scattered in several parts of the world, being the true congregations of God, or the Church of Christ, whom he saved, and for whom he gave himself, that he might sanctify them, ye whom he bath cleansed by the washing of water in the word of life: of all such is Jesus the Head, the Shepherd, the Leader, the Lord, the King, and Master. Now although among these there may be mingled a company of seeming holy ones, or hypocrites; yet, nevertheless, they are and remain only the righteous, true members of the body of Christ, according to the spirit and the truth, the heirs of the promises, truly saved from the hypocrites the dissemblers.*

*Here the one Church of Christ is put for “congregations… scattered in several parts of the world.”

Propositions and Conclusions Concerning True Christian Religion (1612-1614):

65. That the visible church is a mystical figure outwardly of the true, spiritual invisible church, which consisteth of the spirits of just and perfect men only, that is of the regenerate (Rev. i. 20, compared with Rev. xxi. 2, 23, 27).*

*This is a document prepared by English Baptists living in Amsterdam. It represents a positive development from some of the Anabaptist documents in that it carefully distinguishes between the visible and invisible church, a distinction made in the Scripture itself, cf. Eph. 5:25-27; Heb. 12 with Rev. 1-3.

John Spilsbury (1593-1668):

And lastly, I do believe that there is an holy and blessed communion of Saints, that God of his grace calls such as belong to life by election, unto the fellowship of his Son by the Gospel, of which matter, God by his word and Spirit joins them together in his Covenant of grace, and so constitutes his Church… 

The First London Baptist Confession (1644/46):

That Christ has here on earth a spiritual Kingdom, which is the Church, which He has purchased and redeemed to Himself, as a particular inheritance: which Church, as it is visible to us, is a company of visible saints, called and separated from the world, by the Word and the Spirit of God, to the visible profession of the faith of the Gospel, being baptized into the faith, and joined to the Lord, and each other, by mutual agreement, in the practical enjoyment of the ordinances, commanded by Christ their head and King.

The Faith and Practice of Thirty Congregations Gathered Together According to the Primitive Pattern (1651):

58. That it is the good pleasure of God, which hath given gifts of his grace to the Saints or Church of God,* that some of the gifted men should be appointed, or set apart to attend upon the preaching of the word, for the further edifying of the Churches, that they may be enabled to stand against all oppositions according as necessity requires, to the glory of God and their comfort. Eph. 4. II, 21.

*The “Church of God” is here put for all the Saints. They then utilize the plural “churches” which strongly implies an invisible church comprised of all saints which instantiates in several local churches.

The True Gospel-Faith (1654):

That all ought to avoid the hearing of any Teachers so as to learn of them, except believers dipped, and making of marriages with any out of the Church lest they be drawn from the truth.  2 Jno.10 v.; I John 4.6; I Cor.7.39; Deut.7.3,4; 2 Cor.6.14,15.*

*The use of “church” in this context must be generally or universally applied since it is extremely unlikely marriages would have been limited only to within local congregations at this time.

Midland Confession of Faith (1655):

9th. That Christ is the only true King, Priest, and Prophet of the Church. Acts ii.22-23; Hebrews iv.14, etc; viii.1, etc.

15th. That persons so baptized ought, by free consent, to walk together, as God shall give opportunity in distinct churches, or assemblies of Zion, continuing in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers, as fellow-men caring for one another, according to the will of God. All these ordinances of Christ are enjoined in His Church, being to be observed till his Second Coming, which we all ought diligently to wait for.

Somerset Confession of Faith (1656):

THAT this man Christ Jesus suffered death under Pilate, at the request of the Jews (Luke 23:24.), bearing the sins of his people on his own body on the cross (I Pet. 2:24), according to the will of God (Isa. 53:6), being made sin for us, (2 Cor. 5:11) and so was also made a curse for us (Gal. 3:13, 14; I Pet. 3:18.), that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:11), and by his death upon the cross, he hath obtained eternal redemption and deliverance for his church. (Col 1:14; Eph. 1:7; Acts 20:28; Heb. 9:12; I Pet 1:18, 19.).

The Second London Baptist Confession (1677/89):

1. The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all (Hebrews 12:23; Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:10, 22, 23; Ephesians 5:23, 27, 32).

Hercules Collins (1646-1702):

That is, as he is the Head, and the Church the Body; as he is the King, the Church the Kingdom; for Christ, as Man, is God’s Elect; yea the Head of Election and Predestination: he was fore-appointed to be the Head of a Holy Glorious Mystical Body, the King of a Glorious Kingdom, Captain of a Glorious Company, the Bridegroom of a Glorious Bride… *

*Historically, the mystical body is to be distinguished from the visible body.

The Philadelphia Confession (1742):

The catholic or universal church, which, with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace, may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.

John Gill on Hebrews 12:23 (1697-1771):

and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven; by the “church”, is not meant any particular, or congregational church, nor any national one; but the church catholic, or universal, which consists only of God’s elect, and of all of them, in all times and places; and reaches even to the saints in heaven: this church is invisible at present, and will never fail; of which Christ is the head, and for which he has given himself: now the persons, that belong to this church, are styled the “firstborn”; who are not the apostles only, who received the first fruits of the Spirit; nor the first converts among the Jews, who first trusted in Christ; but also the chosen of God, who are equally the sons of God, and born of him; are equally loved by him, and equally united to Christ, and interested in him: they have the same privileges, honours, and dignity, and shall enjoy the same inheritance; they are all firstborn, and are so called, with respect to the angels, the sons of God, as Christ is with respect to the saints, the many brethren of his: and these are said to be “written in heaven”; not in the earth…

Gill, John. Exposition on the Entire Bible-Book of Hebrews (John Gill’s Exposition on the Entire Bible 58). Grace Works Multimedia. Kindle Edition.

The New Hampshire Baptist Confession (1833):

Of a Gospel Church We believe that a visible Church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the ordinances of Christ; governed by his laws, and exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by his Word ; that its only scriptural officers are Bishops, or Pastors, and Deacons, whose qualifications, claims, and duties are defined in the Epistles to Timothy and Titus.*

*The Sandy Creek statement also implies a distinction between the visible and invisible church.

Treatise of Faith and Practices of the Free Will Baptists (1834):

The Church of God, or members of the body of Christ, is the whole body of Christians throughout the whole world, and none but the regenerate are its members.

Abstract of Principles (1858):

The Lord Jesus is the Head of the Church, which is composed of all his true disciples, and in Him is invested supremely all power for its government. According to his commandment, Christians are to associate themselves into particular societies or churches; and to each of these churches he hath given needful authority for administering that order, discipline and worship which he hath appointed. The regular officers of a Church are Bishops or Elders, and Deacons.

Compend of Christian Doctrines Held by Baptists: In Catechism (1866):

What is the church of Christ? His “calling” or followers taken collectively, or any number of them personally associated for his worship and glory. 1 Cor. 1: 2; Rev. ii: 7; Col. i: 18-24.

B. H. Carroll on Ephesians 5:25 (1843-1914):

“Christ loved the church,” that is, He loved the people who were to be given to Him—all of them. In eternity a joy was set before Him—a future reward.*

B. H. Carroll, Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews, (Nashville: The Broadman Press, 1942), 166-167.

*Carroll here admits the general use of the term church has in view all of Christ’s elect people. Unfortunately, he later circumscribes this church to a particular chronology by making it eschatological only. But this of course does not comport with Ephesians 5:26, which assumes the bride, in the here and now, is being sanctified. Carroll later rightly notes that while all the elect is the whole church, the visualisation of it takes place only in particular or local churches (cf. John Gill for sharper, more sensible categories).

The Particular Baptists & Covenant Children

The Particular Baptists & Covenant Children

This is part 2 of a series on baptism I’ve been writing.

It is often supposed by our paedobaptist friends that Baptists outrightly reject the notion of covenant-holiness with regard to children of believing parents. And while this is typically the case in modern Baptist circles, the 17th century Particular Baptists seemed to have no problem admitting infant covenant membership in some sense.

In the appendix on baptism, following the Second London Confession, 1689, they write:

As for those our Christian brethren who do ground their arguments for Infants baptism, upon a presumed federal Holiness, or Church-Membership, we conceive they are deficient in this, that albeit this Covenant-Holiness and Membership should be as is supposed, in reference unto the Infants of Believers; yet no command for Infant baptism does immediately and directly result from such a quality, or relation.

The phrasing is a bit confusing, but I will attempt to clarify: For the framers of our Confession, the deficiency in paedobaptist theology does not seem to be located in the admittance of federal holiness, and not even in some notion of church membership (although this must be understood in light of Baptist principles), per se, but in the presumption upon those things which leads to infant baptism. While infants may be sanctified in view of belonging to a believing household (1 Cor. 7:14), and while they are in constant attendance and participate somewhat at and in Christ’s church (yet, not being formal members thereof), there is nothing in either of those realities necessitating infant baptism.

To cap off their point, they appeal to a somewhat mutually understood definition of the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW), which was then agreed upon by both Particular Baptists and many paedobaptists in England. They say:

All instituted Worship receives its sanction from the precept, and is to be thereby governed in all the necessary circumstances thereof.

 

Are Israel and the Church Always Distinct?

Are Israel and the Church Always Distinct?

The question depends entirely upon in what sense we understand the terms Israel and church, respectively. If we mean Israel and church absolutely, as in true Israel and the true church, then they are one and the same thing (Gal. 6:16). If we only mean by Israel a political entity in which was found the visible artifacts of the Old Covenant administration, then there is an obvious distinction. The church in itself is no political nation, though it once existed under a covenant through which a political nation was instituted.

To dispel any doubts as to whether or not Israel and the church are ever identified with one another, it cannot be denied that Israel is called a church and even the church of God (cf. LXX, 1 Chron. 28:8). For example, Hebrews 2:12, quoting Psalm 22:22 says, “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the church I will sing praise to You.” In the LXX version of Psalm 22:22 (LXX, Ps. 21:23) the same term is used (ekklesia), indicating the author of Hebrews used the LXX rather than the Hebrew text in his quotation.

So, to answer the question, “Are Israel and the Church always distinct?” No, they are not. Israel is the church of God (2 Chron. 30:25; 1 Chron. 28:8). Thus, the question becomes, “Were there two churches, then? One for the Old Covenant and one for the New?” But, to ask this question would be like asking, “Does God have two brides?” Or, “Does Christ have two bodies?” The answer to either is most obviously “no.”

In Hosea 2:1-13, God appears to write off His bride. But then, starting in v. 14, He promises her restoration and purification (v. 19). Finally, He promises she will “know the LORD,” an echo from the promise of the New Covenant seen in Jeremiah 31:31-34, “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me…” It is this bride for whom Christ died, and also this bride who is called the church (Eph. 5:25-33; Rev. 19:7; 21:2, 9).

In Hebrews 3:1-6, we are told of one house over which Christ now presides, but before Christ there was Moses, who presided over that same house as a servant. What is this house of God over which Moses first served and then over which Christ now rules as a Son? “I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God… (1 Tim. 3:15).” The house of God is the church.

Thus, God has only ever had one true church—spiritual Israel—which has existed under both Old and New Covenants. The difference is not in the kinds of churches, as if there were different churches altogether. The difference is found in the two covenants, Old and New, under which the one church of God has existed since the fall of Adam.

No, God Has Not Taken Away Our Worship: A Response

No, God Has Not Taken Away Our Worship: A Response

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. — James 5:14

For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. — 1 Corinthians 11:30-31

For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. — 1 Timothy 4:8

But if so much concern be discovered for the safety of the body, we may conclude, how much care and attention should be devoted to the safety of the soul, which in the sight of God is of infinitely superior value? — John Calvin


This is the article that I didn’t want to write. Some questions I’ve asked in carefully considering what I should say and how to say it are: Do I use names? What sort of rhetoric should I use? How can I obey and glorify God in this response? I do not take this response lightly, and I’ve carefully considered what follows. The purpose of this article is not to call people out, it’s not to be argumentative, but it’s to edify the brethren through fruitful discourse. My motivator here is love—both love of God and love of neighbor.

The men to whom I’m responding are close to me, not personally, but doctrinally. Therefore, they and I are united upon the truth of the gospel in Jesus Christ. Because of this, I was surprised to see implied charges of murder and wicked intent coming from some of these men, the charges being made against churches who have chosen to assemble during these perilous times. 

Because of the approach I’ve elected to take, I’m going to paraphrase some of these statements without mentioning names or quoting them directly with the exception of one article, the author of which voluntarily made himself known and thus, I will go ahead in citing his material directly. I am not trying to be evasive. I’m only trying to protect the names of individuals I care about. I am also uncertain as to whether or not they would approve of their names being mentioned. Thus, I’ve opted to maintain privacy at this point.

Three Texts & Flimsy Rhetoric

Men throughout the ages have utilized Scripture within their rhetoric. Rhetoric is a good thing if used properly (cf. the apostle Paul in Acts 17). But rhetoric in which the Scriptures become nothing more than a rhetorical tool of persuasion is flimsy rhetoric. Flimsy rhetoric happens when a person takes a verse (say, John 3:16), and hastily misapplies it in their argumentation without regard to the actual meaning of the text itself. An example might be as follows: “In John 3:16, it says ‘whosoever will.’ Therefore, free will initiates our salvation!” Such flimsy rhetoric takes for granted an application that has yet to be argued for. This is to beg the question. More exactly stated, it’s a commission of the petitio principii fallacy, or circular reasoning.

There are three texts some have used in order to argue for the cancelation of worship services in obedience to governing authorities at both local and state levels.

Matthew 12:12

Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.

Some have drawn application from this text obliging Christians to cancel worship in order to look out for the welfare of their fellow brethren during the spread of COVID-19. But the context of this passage is within the context of Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath, at which point the Pharisees attempted to chide Him for performing work on a day of rest (Ex. 20:10).

It is impossible to get from “be willing to alter your worship pattern for the sake of your brethren” to “cease having a worship pattern altogether” without more information from the text itself. This text does not explicitly nor necessarily intimate such a wild conclusion. Jesus’ healing work of mercy happened within the context of worship, not instead or apart from it. Jesus’ works on the Sabbath always served to show forth the beauty of that Day rather than detract from it in any way.

Works of mercy serve to adorn what is already there, not abrogate it.

Romans 13:1

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

With Matthew 12:12 in hand, Romans 13:1ff is then invoked as part of a cumulative case against holding worship during the COVID-19 outbreak. As we have just seen, nothing about Matthew 12:12 makes cancelling of worship necessary, let alone lawful (cf. Ex. 20; Deut. 5; Jn. 20; Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; Heb. 4:9). 

Therefore, it is a wide stretch to suggest canceling worship is an act of obedience per Romans 13. Romans 13 does not give the government the authority to alter or do away with what God has commanded. The church should make alterations according to the light of nature—insofar as God’s Law allows—if she perceives an imminent threat. But this is not the same as canceling services altogether.

Matthew 23:23

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

I have seen this verse used to imply those who continue divine worship at this time are murderers at worst and Pharisees at best. The claim here is that this text provides precedent for suspending positive laws in order to uphold moral laws. But this isn’t Jesus’ point. Not even remotely.

The distinction here is not so much between positive laws and moral laws as it is between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. The Pharisees were keen to fulfill external obedience, yet their hearts were far from God. They lacked sincerity in their worship because they had not been born again, a point Jesus elsewhere emphasizes during a discussion with—you guessed it—a Pharisee (Jn. 3:3). The Pharisees were hypocrites because they continued on with the external affairs of worship while neglecting the spirit of the laws they sought to uphold—justice, mercy, and faith. Thus, they should have obeyed the ceremonial laws under which they lived while not neglecting their substance.

Charges of Pharisaism

An article by David de Bruyn titled ‘Wrong Responses to a Loss of Corporate Worship’, seeks to draw comparison from events following the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. to our current situation.

De Bruyn begins by saying, “When Israel lost its Temple in A. D. 70, you might imagine it would have prompted much soul-searching and repentance among the rabbis that had rejected Jesus as Messiah.” The destruction of the Temple, mind you, is supposed to be seen as analogous to the current restriction on worship imposed by the state during the COVID-19 outbreak. Much “soul-searching” was to be expected then as it is to be expected now. Yet, in and after 70 A.D., there was a lack of soul-searching just as there is now. These are the lines being drawn at the very outset of the article.

The general thrust of the text seems to be: Stop trying to continue your worship. Instead, understand that worship has been suspended for a season. Use this as a time to examine your own heart.

He continues by saying:

Instead of soul-searching as to why the central place of Jewish corporate worship had been removed, the Pharisees capitalized on the moment, knowing the Sadducees had lost their power. The synagogue would now become the center of Jewish religion, and the study of Torah a de facto form of atonement.

Was it bad for the Jews to want to continue worship as a result of the destruction of the Temple? Yes. But why? Because they had rejected the Messiah and, thus, were left without a lawful means of worship. This is not the case for many churches who have opted to continue worshiping during these trying times. New Covenant people are free to worship according to New Covenant ordinances unless God Himself changes or abolishes those ordinances through special revelation.

Pharisees were in sin while proceeding with Judaistic worship, not because they wanted to worship per se, but because they wanted to worship in the wrong way, that is, according to the Old Covenant instead of the New. They had rejected Christ, and with Him they rejected all lawful worship.

He goes on:

My argument was simple: we should mourn the loss of corporate worship, encourage home and family worship, pastor and disciple through technological means, but not attempt to create the impression that we are really still conducting corporate worship, in the truest sense.

He has just finished arguing against live-stream video “worship.” I would agree with his assessment on that point. Christians cannot worship through the internet. But what’s his alternative? Shut it down completely? If it’s a violation of the Regulative Principle of Worship to live-stream a worship service under the pretence of that live-stream being an optional mode of divine worship, then surely it’s a violation of the Regulative Principle of Worship to cancel worship altogether. 

Where in the Scriptures are pastors given the authority to cancel worship? Historically, only God Himself has done this, not through natural means, but through special revelation in concert with providence (i.e. a pronounced or prophesied judgment). De Bruyn continues:

Instead of asking how God might be chastening us, we find a way to notice the crisis without pondering its meaning, to respond to its exigencies without responding to its existence. That’s exactly how you end up like the rabbis of the first century: use necessity to justify pragmatism.

Unlike the providential hindrances throughout biblical antiquity, today’s crisis has no specially revealed divine commentary. Thus, De Bruyn’s interpretation of current events may be different than, but just as valid as, mine. Why? Because God hasn’t told us what they mean. God may have sent COVID-19 to test His church, to see whether or not she would continue to worship Him despite adversity and affliction. Or He could’ve sent COVID-19 to cancel the worship of His people. Which speculative assertion is correct? We have no way of knowing unless God Himself were to tell us. But, God’s canon is closed, leaving us with one option: Obey what He has told us through His holy Word.

He concludes his article by asking multiple questions, the answers to which would be purely speculative. Though De Bruyn never indicts pastors for continuing worship, implied in at least two of his articles (this one included) is that the pandemic equals prevention of corporate worship. But this is not so. There are many good churches who continue to meet while taking necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their people. There is nothing providentially preventing God’s people from corporate worship, and many churches who continue to gather across the nation prove just that.

Conclusion

There is much more that could be said here. Unfortunately, I have run out of both space and time.

There are ways for churches to continue gathering according to the biblical ordinance of corporate worship.

I fear Christians are seeing only two options: (1) tempt God and, in a grand act of idiocy, continue services as if the virus isn’t a thing (this does happen); or (2) capitulate to the government and cease worship for the foreseeable future (this happens even more).

There is, however, a third option: (3) adapt and overcome through obedience to Christ. God has not taken away our worship. Only the Word of God could take away our worship. He has, however, set a trial before us through which He is working the good of those who love and fear Him (Rom. 8:28). We must obey God rather than men, and we must obey according to the wisdom of the Scriptures.