J. Kapteyn ~ Of Him Who is, Who was, and Who comes

Since the matter of the administration of the Word is not dependant on externals, as we have already seen repeatedly, we cannot be surprised that the administration of Word can be imitated, and that this has actually occurred in various ways again and again in the history of the church.

It is a relatively simple undertaking to set a building somewhere with benches, to put a man behind a pulpit upon which a bible is laying, and to proceed in such a way that for the eye there is no difference between this gathering and the lawful assembly of the congregation.

Similar attempts have in former times been undertaken by the king of the ten tribes: Jeroboam, the son of Nebat.

He had his reasons for it. It looked disadvantageous if not harmful for him, when his newly acquired subjects regularly entered the gates of Jerusalem to listen to the Word and watch the lovely and beautiful service of the Lord in the sacred buildings established there.

In order to stop his people from continuing to visit Jerusalem he gave them an imitation temple, imitation priests, imitation altars and so forth. They offered sacrifices there and sang psalms to God, just as it happened in Jerusalem.

Yet even if the similarity with what took place in the temple at Jerusalem was so thorough to the Israelite who lived according to the Word and took that as the guideline for testing and judging, it remained an imitation. It was in the end no assembly in the name of the Lord, no assembling designated by the Lord or proscribed and established by the Lord and the name of church service could not be assigned to it. Naturally those of the ten tribes demanded to call their activities in Dan and Bethel by that name. But the prophets would give no concessions in that regard. On the contrary they were sent by the Lord to prophesy against that imitation-altar and all worship performed there. When at last there was a king in the kingdom of Judah, Hezekiah that is, who sought to purify the deteriorated temple worship from all sinful impurities and who showed a glimpse of true reformation spirit when he sent out messengers beyond his own borders to the ten tribes to call them to Jerusalem.

He called them with the words: “now do not be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord; and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you.” (2 Chron. 30: 8)

Even the New Testament church found the need to challenge other assemblies who adorned themselves with the name of church.

Did the Lord Jesus Christ not give much comfort to His congregation in Smyrna when He inspired the following to be written to her: “I know your works, tribulation and poverty, but you are rich, and the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (Rev. 2: 9)

The Jewish synagogue in Smyrna disputed the name of church with the assembly of Christian believers, they claimed to have the oldest credentials, they were assembly of God from of old, signifying that at the most Christians actually formed a sect.

And in the course of time it has not become any better.

Our confession of more than four hundred years says this much at least: “We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully from the Word of God what is the true church, for all sects which are in the world today claim for themselves the name of church.”

Now the question is: how must those who are called and who are duty bound to join the congregation of God make out where they are actually called to go?

We can take the allegations of the Jews in Smyrna (against the Christians) for example; was there anything that could be brought against it?

Could not the Christians be put under the same judgment as the ten tribes when they abandoned the use of the temple?

How could a former lawful gathering of the church, as the synagogue would certainly have been, and wasn’t Jesus Christ’s own regular attendance there testimony of this, become a synagogue of Satan?

Now what the Acts of the Apostle’s has to say about this matter is very instructive.

For it must be evident that in his journeys to Asia-Minor Paul went first of all to the synagogue of every city when preaching of the only name Who is given under heaven by Whom we are to be saved.

We would not really have expected this of him.

For he was from the beginning the Apostle to the gentiles. The elect vessel (person) to call those who were far away and stood afar off (in their religion) to come near.

Wouldn’t there be reason enough for him not to interfere with the synagogues?

Yet every time he preached he began in the synagogue!

Why? As Paul and Barnabas stated themselves, they went with the conviction that this is how it must be done. When they left the synagogue to go to the gentiles in Antioch and in Pisidia they defended themselves over against the Jews by saying: “it was necessary that the Word of God was spoken to you first but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, we turn to the gentiles.” (Acts13: 46)

At the time Paul and Barnabas entered Antioch they had clearly recognized the synagogue there as the lawful assembling of the church. They also were not allowed to bypass the synagogue. For that would be the same as negating the church assembly instituted and preserved by God.

It was simply that the synagogue must be made aware of what was still unknown to it, namely that God had given Israel the promised Messiah.

If Paul and Barnabas had even for a moment directed themselves to the gentiles (first) it would have been nothing more than sectarian behavior.

Finally Paul was “constrained” to come to the gentiles, only after the synagogue rejected the preaching, the synagogue, which by confessing the name of Jesus Christ after Pentecost should have opened its doors for the gentiles, for in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek. But then the synagogue had ceased to be the assembly of the Son of God, and quickly became the synagogue of Satan when with slander and threats it persecuted the preachers of God’s grace.

Thus a lawful assembly can become false.

Therefore the Apostles have warned so strongly against false teachers in their letters, therefore the Apostle John had praised the congregation for simply denying the false teachers the use of the pulpit and had denied them from having any word.

For if after the falsification of doctrine the call for repentance is refused, things which always go together in the history (of the church), that assembly, which went over to “persecuting those who lived holy lives according to God’s Word and who rebuke her for its sins, greed and idolatries”, then reveals the signs of the false church. Not because it allowed errors to come in, also not because everything in her was spotted with sin, but because after being called to repentance and reformation she justified her sins and maintained them contrary to the prayer of the Lord.

So everyone, who is indebted to join with the true church must diligently and carefully by the Word of God investigate the history of the church to determine which assembly of believers are gathered and called together by the Lord God Himself.

Then he shall also avoid every assembly, which for whatever reason isolates itself and tears apart the cloth of the Lord’s table between themselves and others.

Jeroboam may have summed up all the objections which were connected with the communal gathering of the ten tribes with the two tribes, and he may have claimed so piously that they certainly would serve and wanted to serve the same God as in Jerusalem, yes that he would establish everything according to the example in Jerusalem, and yet with all this his assembling was not from God, not from heaven but from people. It was and remained a self-willed affair when he tore up the national borders of the God’s congregation, when he caused Israel to sin. For Jerusalem remained the city of the Great King, and the temple remained the place where Israel would gather to meet God, their God.

And it is still so today, that while many others (brothers and sisters 1940) gather at the place which is not proper, yet I, I have to come diligently to the congregation of God!

Because this is the demand of the Lord of Lords to His Israel!