Encouraging, Living, Reaching


A Response to Assembly Distinctives: Part 1

A Response to Assembly Distinctives: Part 1
Dec 31 Tags: church | 4 Responses Print Save as PDF

This was written in response to Are Assembly Distinctives a Good Thing?

I want to thank Crawford so much for identifying a troublesome matter that can sometimes be swept under the rug and shoulders shrugged when it rears its head.

I love the statement “It would be far better for each local church to search the scriptures themselves and follow those convictions than adhere simply to an established list of the ‘Brethren’”.

That the scriptures are our only authority is so plainly obvious. Sadly there is a tendency to artificially blanket-label groups as being either acceptable or not (and mostly not) based on these artificial labels.

In extreme cases, great sweeping strokes have been made at the expense of other groups on hear-say or casual interactions at best. Proverbs 14:15 tells us to “look well into a matter”.

Philippians 2:3 say to esteem others better than ourselves, in context, on the basis of unity in the estimation of the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, His deity, His manhood, His death and His resurrection. There is no other qualifier mentioned in this passage for esteeming others better than ourselves.

This as opposed to preemptively separating ourselves from other parts of the body of Christ based on the latest social media news about this group or that, or what so-and-so says about other believers.

God’s Word is the final authority

There is no other cornerstone, nor authority under heaven whereby we must be saved, Acts 4:11-12. And so it is for the head of the body of Christ AND local churches, Jesus Christ! His Word is sufficient and provides all authority for each local church regardless of its “label” to rightly divide the Word.

It is not good to have drive-by negative proclamations about other believers within the body of Christ, while inferring our own superiority… Speak evil of no man (never mind entire cross-sections of the body of Christ). Titus 2:3

Do the assemblies perfect doctrine?

Can any group claim with absolute certainty that they are doctrinally perfect? The moment we do, we become proud of something that is not true. No matter what our angle is at doctrine or to what degree we feel we are doctrinally true — if we ascribe purity, confidence, perfection and righteousness to anyone — or any group(s) — other than Christ, we also are in danger of heresy.

Jesus is our only gathering centre. He is our only object of affection. And it is by His power and righteousness alone, that we have any standing with God, either personally or collectively. Any bit of obedience we feel we may have been blessed with, comes from Christ, not from us nor any other group or label. 1 Cor. 3:5-6 and Hebrews 12:2 establish these principles sufficiently.

Accountable to Christ alone

And yes absolutely we aspire to more rightly divide the Word of Truth and more carefully attend to God’s Word… each assembly or local church is accountable for sure… but to Christ alone.

The problem with creating artificial categories of believers, is that yes, it does divide (and fosters an US & THEM attitude) and creates a basis for fellowship that is extra-Biblical. That does not mean we give up the authority of the Scriptures, quite the opposite.

We need to rely all the more on what God’s Word says, rightly dividing and paying attention to whatever it says, no matter who speaks upon it. Let God be true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4).

Let the Word speak and challenge us, and thank those faithful believers who would carefully open the Word of God, even if our pre-conceived notions are challenged by the same Word. Let us be like the believers in Berea, looking into it for themselves from God’s Word.

Us verses them

This kind of artificial separation happened before of course. Just read Acts 11:1-18 where Peter took flack for fellowshipping with believers of a different background.

It was so important to God to correct Peter’s THEM & US attitude, that He had to give Peter a special vision 3 times and repeated the message in plain language.

Peter tried to defend himself to the Lord (can you imagine) by siting his keeping of the law. But the Lord rebuked Peter, “Don’t make a distinction between my people that I have cleaned. They are all clean!”

Dropping man-made categories

Man-made categories of believers are just that… man-made… only God’s Word is the arbiter of truth and each case must be examined carefully to avoid anything unscriptural within the church.

However, our basis for fellowship within the body of Christ, is a person. Christ is not divided against himself, a wise man said, thus there is no division in terms of fellowship, within the body of Christ.

We may have to have respectful discussions seeking understanding first, if there are disagreements, and then let God’s Word have the final say. But our basis for fellowship, according to God’s Word, is the person, the wonderful Lord Jesus! Emmanuel… God with us!


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any other author or an official position of the assemblyHUB team.

Ross Rodgers

Ross Rodgers is in active happy fellowship with the believers at Lampstand Bolton Christian Church. He and his wife, Sarah Lynne have 4 children and serve in the church in various capacities. Ross enjoys writing and has contributed to various Christian topical forums and publications.

4 Responses to A Response to Assembly Distinctives: Part 1

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    Yes we need to accept all true believers as family in the Lord. There are basic doctrines that need to be defined in which some appear to be believers and are not. For example I worked for 26 years in a very Catholic country, and with a brief survey all would say that they believe that Jesus died for their sins. They would be immediately brought into fellowship and allowed to share in the breaking of bread, .. But this did not mean that they believed that they had eternal life by faith in Jesus alone. They still believed that Mary was a mediator, they preferred to pray to the saints, receiving Jesus means to take the host in mass, They still believe that they will go to purgatory and will have to pay for their own sins, or they can pay for mass to get them to heaven earlier. … We accept their simple declaration of faith as meaning there is an understanding of their . … I have also found this shallow understanding in some assemblies and denominational churches in Canada and the USA. … I work with International students (Atheists and Muslims) and meet in conferences with believers from Many denominational churches, but I find many believers are not able to give a clear gospel message to people who have no previous knowledge of God and the Bible.

    Many volunteers from churches with a solid evangelical background refused to work when I asked them to sign a simple statement of faith, and suggested certain doctrines they were not allowed to teach such as: 1. Baptism is not necessary for salvation, 2. You are not allowed to slay in the spirit. 3. You cannot lay on hands to give the Holy Spirit. 4. You are not allowed to teach that the gifts of tongues, miracles and healing are a sign of true faith. 5. There are no modern day prophets. (This is especially important for Muslim students who insist that Mohammed is a prophet) 6. Jesus is the Son of God but not God

    There are many more doctrinal issues which are borderline to cult teaching. When we being open to all, we need to understand what doctrines are we compromising? I consider some but not all to be true believers, but I cannot allow certain popular doctrines to be taught when I am in charge of this ministry to Atheists and Muslims. I must be true to the Word of God.

    I appreciate your general guidelines, but we are living in a time where the rapture is the next step in God’s prophetic plan. How many churches or even assemblies will still be full when that happens? ( I just say this for personal reflection and not doubting the faith of the new or weak believer, or of believers in churches which are not clear on many doctrinal issues.

    Paul and the Apostles took a very strong stand against false doctrines, and any that would affect the person of Christ the efficacy of the redemption of Jesus, the seriousness of man’s sin, and the eternal state of both the redeemed and unredeemed. Let us NOT water down our doctrine for the sake of appearing open to all churches.

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    Anna Grist

    Fantastic reminders and warnings. And encouragement! As someone who grew up in the assemblies and still absolutely supports and cherishes that heritage, where we moved we have been in fellowship with a completely different church family setting, and it has grown us in ways and love and understanding that has mirrored much of this article. And has proven that there are many companies of believers that are deeply fruitful and vibrant and healthy despite differences in practice/interpretation. And we have learned also that there are always going to be strengths and weaknesses in each group regardless of distinctives, but God has grace to work with the brokenness in each, and use it all for His glory, and to move from milk to meat in His own timing… it is amazing to see the unity despite differences that is possible. And the way you learn grace in real life.

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    Rayburne F. Winsor

    I read it and I like this part: “Do the assemblies perfect doctrine?
    Can any group claim with absolute certainty that they are doctrinally perfect? The moment we do, we become proud of something that is not true. No matter what our angle is at doctrine or to what degree we feel we are doctrinally true — if we ascribe purity, confidence, perfection and righteousness to anyone — or any group(s) — other than Christ, we also are in danger of heresy.

    Jesus is our only gathering centre. He is our only object of affection. And it is by His power and righteousness alone, that we have any standing with God, either personally or collectively. Any bit of obedience we feel we may have been blessed with, comes from Christ, not from us nor any other group or label. 1 Cor. 3:5-6 and Hebrews 12:2 establish these principles sufficiently.”

    I remember years ago when I was just a new convert (babe in Christ), I heard some members of a Baptist church affirm that they were going to build a model church. Well, I heard that many times before and I was not one bit surprised when the preacher that they sent out while in the process of looking for a new pastor split the church down the middle. He had his own brand of salvation which amounted to a legalistic form of sinless perfection. He even preached to missionaries who had labored for Christ on a foreign field for over 25 years to the effect that they were not saved. Beware when Christian leaders think they are doctrinally perfect. That is a form of pride that is a stench in God’s nostrils. No one has doctrinal perfection when it comes to understanding God’s Word (which is why we are exhorted in scripture to study diligently God’s Word in dependence upon the Spirit to give us biblical understanding)–and that includes Baptist, which is why I strongly feel that the principle or maxim stated: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things liberty “is a good maxim to practice in our dealings with brothers and sisters in Christ who may not see eye to eye on everything you do (i.e. Eschatology) and may not dot their “i’s” and cross their “t’s” the same way you do. God bless..

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