In the four previous articles we have written about the church in relation to what “church history” has recorded. We have paid some attention to the structure, the leadership, persecution, and whether or not church councils are proper avenues to set forth doctrine. Today we want to give our attention to the worship of the church and its relationship to what man has altered through the years.
In brief, let us begin with the teaching of the New Testament. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman that those who worship God must do so in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). The meaning of this phrase “describes the two essential characteristics of true worship: in spirit, as distinguished from place or form or other sensual limitations (4:21); in truth, as distinguished from the false conceptions resulting from imperfect knowledge (4:22)” (Vincent Word Studies, E-Sword). “True worship must be in harmony with the Nature and Will of God” (Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary). Thus, acceptable worship to God is from the spirit of man in accordance with the truth of God.
In the New Testament we learn that those who implemented this holy standard did so by the authority of Jesus (Colossians 3:17) and, moreover, that which was taught by Paul, the same was taught by Peter (1 Corinthians 15:11). It is important to also note that what Peter, Paul, or John taught, whether in Jerusalem, Rome, or Ephesus, it was the same in every church (1 Corinthians 4:17; cf. Romans 15:18). On the occasion of Pentecost, those who accepted the Holy Spirit’s doctrine “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42, ESV). The four things mentioned in this single verse are of note. The apostles’ doctrine is simply the teaching of God’s word (1 Peter 4:11), fellowship pertains to the gathering together of the saints (Hebrews 10:25), and the breaking of bread would be communion (or the Lord’s Supper, Acts 20:7).
The first century can be called the “apostolic age;” after the first century it is commonly called the age of the “apostolic fathers” (Kuiper, p. 44). “The apostles were followed by the Apostolic Fathers. From their writings [the apostolic fathers] we can see that the signs of deterioration were disturbing the Church. In the course of the next four hundred years that deterioration increased steadily” (Kuiper, p. 44). Though there was much moving away from the teachings of the New Testament, there were some who tried to stay faithful to the Lord’s way. It cost them dearly, but the glory associated with the Lord’s name was greater than the glory associated with any man (cf. Hebrews 11:35-40). About the time of the thirteenth century and following into the seventeenth century the great protestant reformation started and anchored itself in place. Unfortunately, this commendable effort went only so far as to attempt a reformation, that is, a reforming of the church. When this did not work, men tired of the corruption and started their own church, trying to adhere to Scripture. this, however, produced man-made creeds, that is, teachings that did not necessarily conform to God’s revealed word. It was in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that some denominational preachers started taking a stand on the New Testament exclusively, and thus was coined the term a restoration movement. In other words, they determined to say “let us speak where the Bible speaks and let us be silent where the Bible is silent.” This motto soon became a mission statement because it corresponds exactly with 1 Peter 4:11 and Romans 15:18.
The Highway Church of Christ, therefore, is a local religious body that seeks to restore (in relationship to man-made churches) and elevate the teachings of Scripture to its rightful place, as the supreme godly document that declares unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Our worship is simple, but godly. We teach what the Scriptures teach (and nothing else), we offer our prayers to the Lord continually, we observe the Lord’s Supper weekly, we give of our means for the cause of Christ, and we sing our songs of praise without the use of the mechanical instrument. We do these things on purpose because this is what the Lord said in His word. “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth’” (John 4:21-24, NKJV).