It is great to be a Christian. The blessings of Christ are exceeding abundantly more than we can imagine. It thrills my soul to continually learn of God’s care and provision for my soul. A lifetime devoted to searching the Scriptures will never exhaust the measure of God’s love. Christian blessings are not only enjoyed in the life to come. God has also blessed his people immeasurably in this life. Christians have the peace that surpasses all understanding through the sacrifice and continued intercession of Christ.
Christians are blessed by God with membership in the church. God adds to the church those who saved (Acts 2:47). In this world Christians are to enjoy the abundant life (John 10:10) while anticipating the next. This life is enjoyed by being a part of God’s pilgrim family on earth. The old Jerusalem church enjoyed being together. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers….and all who believed were together” (Acts 2:42-44). The first Christians gathered for worship, were partners in God’s service, and were encouraged by one another’s presence—they were together.
It is this “togetherness” which this study is to address. How is the church family to be together? How is the church family to fulfill the command to “love one another?” These are essential characteristics of New Testament Christianity. For Christians to be together and love one another, we must gather together in social settings.
Surely all Christians enjoy the time of togetherness before and after worship services in the foyer. Christian worship and Christian work, while of vital importance, do not provide for adequate opportunities for growing in brotherly affection with one another. Therefore, Christians must seek times of togetherness in order to fulfill God’s ideal plan for his church.
We are aware that the question is not whether Christians are able to eat in the church building. The building is not sacred. The church is sacred. The quest then is to find New Testament authority for the church to plan and provide social activities. This article is not meant to defend an abuse of church funds by many. Neither is it intended to promote a “social gospel” whereby the church is turned into a country club. The purpose of the church is to glorify God (Ephesians 3:21). There are many activities which are involved in glorifying God through the church. There are also many ways in which a family may glorify God through their life. (BTW where is the authority for a family to provide entertainment for itself? Colossians 3:17).
The issue is not one of pragmatism. Gathering a crowd is not the purpose of the church. “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 1:17). The issue is not necessarily what may or may not be done with money in the church treasury. We are concerned with fulfilling the commands of God without drawing lines of fellowship on the nature of the expediency (be they wise or unwise) chosen. The issue is not what some prominent brother has said. The issue is how Christians may best follow God’s word and practice New Testament Christianity to its fullest.
The Necessity of Bible Authority or The Regulative Principle
The regulative principle is based upon the authority of God. Since God is the authority and speaks through his word—then the Bible is the authority or standard or regulator of what must, must not, or may be done. This principle can be easily seen in the Great Commission—Matthew 28:19-20.
“Moreover, the rule which distinguishes between pure and vitiated worship is of universal application, in order that we may not adopt any device which seems fit to ourselves, but look to the injunctions of him who alone is entitled to prescribe. Therefore, if we would have him to approve our worship, this rule, which he everywhere enforces with the utmost strictness, must be carefully observed. For there is a twofold reason why the Lord, in condemning and prohibiting all fictitious worship, requires us to give obedience only to his own voice. First, it tends greatly to establish his authority that we do not follow our own pleasure, but depend entirely on his sovereignty; and, secondly, such is our folly, that when we are left at liberty, all we are able to do is to go astray. And then when once we have turned aside from the right path, there is no end to our wanderings, until we get buried under a multitude of superstitions. Justly, therefore, does the Lord, in order to assert his full right of dominion, strictly enjoin what he wishes us to do, and at once reject all human devices which are at variance with his command. Justly, too, does he, in express terms, define our limits, that we may not, by fabricating perverse modes of worship, provoke his anger against us.” (John Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church)
Acceptable worship is a major New Testament concern and was a concern of Jesus.
He denounced the Scribes and Pharisees because they had “a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe [their] own traditions” (Mark. 7:9). And because of this fact our Lord went on to say this concerning their worship: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain: their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Mark. 7:6-7, quoted from Jer. 29:13) No doubt they were offended by this, but that is not what matters. What matters is that God was offended and, according to Jesus, there were two reasons: first, there was a setting aside of what God had commanded, and second, there was a diligent observance of what God had not commanded at all, but was only from man-made tradition. So, even traditions — highly esteemed among men — are offensive to God unless they are what He has commanded (http://www.westminsterconfession.org/worship/the-scriptural-regulative-principle-of-worship.php
“By these words [“in vain do they worship me,” etc.], all kinds of will-worship (ethelothreskeia), as Paul calls it (Col. 2:23), are plainly condemned. For, as we have said, since God chooses to be worshipped in no other way than according to his own appointment, he cannot endure new modes of worship to be devised.” (Calvin’s Commentaries, 16:253).
At the outset, we want to note the need for every Christian to submit to God’s authoritative Word. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul’s words, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). Likewise, Jesus commanded the apostles to teach Christians “to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Luke noted that Jesus had “given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen” (Acts 1:2).
Jude wrote to encourage Christians to “contend earnestly for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Christians should be “set for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:16). Divine commands are not options. Christians must submit to God. Any other course of action is rebellion against the Father.
Surely, all would agree that Christians should love one another. Developing genuine love for one another is commanded by God (John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 13:8: 1 Thessalonians 4:9). THE QUESTION FOR THIS TIME IS THIS “Is it the responsibility of the church to provide opportunities for the congregation to have quality time together to be encouraged and develop genuine love for one another?”
Remember, that if we are commanded to do an activity, then we are able to employ expediencies to fulfill that command.
Paul wrote, “Love one another with brotherly affection” (Romans 12:10). There the Holy Spirit employed the affectionate words φιλαδελφίᾳ (brotherly love) and φιλόστοργοi (loving dearly). This brotherly love cannot be developed without some sort of social gatherings. Sitting in a room together does not build a familial feeling. Brotherly love (φιλαδελφίας) requires quality time. This “quality time” is therefore an expedient to fulfill the command of developing brotherly love. This is all I will argue. I will not argue for the wisdom of some particular expediencies which some have employed.
What is an expedient? Bryan Vinson, Sr. provided an excellent definition in the first volume of Truth Magazine in an article titled “Law and Expediency.” He wrote:
“But what is expediency? An expediency, within the framework of Revelation, is but that way, means or method of doing that required by law and within the law. It is styled an expediency because it facilitates or expedites the accomplishment of a given task or the performance of a divine commandment … . There may be inexpedient ways of doing lawful things, but such would not render the performance unlawful or unscriptural. The very statement of Paul’s which introduces this subject here implies that the inexpedient, as distinguished from the expedient, is also lawful. Then when brethren make a test of fellowship of that which they appraise as an expedient, they, in fact, transform it from the character of an expedient to that of law. No mere expedient is justly a bond of union and communion, nor a just basis for determining the point of fellowship or dis-fellowship between brethren. In the final analysis the determination in any given instance of the expediency or inexpediency of a practice is left to the spiritual judgment of those in the church.”
Since “brotherly love” is commanded, the congregation is authorized to provide opportunities for social activities. Of special note is the word “φιλόστοργοi.” The word is defined as: “love or affection for those closely related ton one” by Louw and Nida.
Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament based on Semantic Domains 25.41 φιλόστοργος, ον
pertaining to love or affection for those closely related to one, particularly members of one’s immediate family or in-group—‘very loving, warmly devoted to, very affectionate.’ τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ εἰς ἀλλήλους φιλόστοργοι ‘love one another affectionately as fellow believers’ Ro 12:10.
The Theological Lexion of the New Testament says:
Theological Lexicon of the New Testament φιλόστοργος
The first characteristic of “authentic love” (Rom 12:9) is that it fills Christians with tender devotion to each other (verse 10; cf. F. Cumont, Studia Pontica III, 20, 14). Thus may we translate philostorgoi, which in the Koine often replaces the simple form storgē, which expresses familial affection, an attachment sealed by nature and blood ties, uniting spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters.2 Because this instinct or feeling is shared by animals and humans, Philo considers it a virtue only to the extent that it remains under the rule of reason;4 but in common usage, usage philostorgia has the more positive sense of the mother’s innate love, benevolence, and devotion toward her children; then that of a husband for his wife6 or a wife for her husband; of a father for his sons8 and of sons for a father. But philostorgia is also used for all links of kinship, even one’s attachment to guest-friends (SEG XVIII, 143, 69), or the attachment of slaves to their master.
Lidell and Scott say: loving tenderly, affectionate, of the love of parents and children, brothers and sisters, (H.G. Liddell, A Lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996), 865.
The Sadness of Division
Unfortunately, there will be strife among good brethren. Good people trying to do the right thing will often disagree on how to do the right thing. Joshua 22 records an example of good brethren suffering division because two groups of people had a misunderstanding of how they were to do God’s work.
The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had completed their promise to fight on the forefront of battle and were now ready to return to their homes on the eastern side of the Jordan. They had made this request to Moses in Numbers 32:1-5. Moses demanded that they not discourage their brethren by staying home. Instead they would inspire their brethren by fighting on the front lines—Numbers 32:16-22. After the war, these tribes were to be given the land of Gilead for possession—Numbers 32:29.
The time for settling in and receiving the promised land had arrived in Joshua 22. Joshua challenged the tribes to be faithful in his farewell to them. Joshua 22:4-5 says:
“Therefore, turn and go to your tents in the land where your possession lies, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan. Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
This great challenge made emphasizes the faithfulness to God and his word which is expected of all God’s people.
In that verse, the word “שִׁמְר֣וּ” is used twice and translated first as “be very careful” and then simply as “to keep” by the ESV. Brown Driver and Briggs Hebrew Lexicon says this word is defined as “keep, watch, preserve.” It is also used in Genesis 2:15 to describe Adam’s responsibility to “keep” the Garden. It used to describe “keeping” or “tending” a flock in Genesis 30:31. The word is also used of “treasuring up a memory” in Genesis 37:11.
This principle continues into Christianity. Christians are to “take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability” (2 Peter 3:17). Christians are to “contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Christians are to “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Christians are to take that carefully guarded faith and entrust it to others—2 Timothy 2:2.
All agreed in the importance of keeping the word of God. The will of God is not to be taken lightly. The word of God is central to hope, salvation, and eternal life. Therefore, the early church was “devoted to the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). The word “προσκαρτεροῦντες” translated “devoted to” means to “continue to do something with intense effort, with the possible implication of despite difficulty—‘to devote oneself to, to keep on, to persist in.’” The first definition of the word given in the standard Greek lexicon is “to stick by or be close at hand, attach oneself to, wait on, be faithful to someone.” Doctrine is important. Doctrine is a fundamental aspect necessary characteristic of the church. Paul wrote, “I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:14-15).
Love One Another
Most are familiar with the “agape” (αγαπη) love which emphasizes the choice of sacrificial devotion and service. However, Christians are also commanded to develop “brotherly love” with one another. The word “philadelphia” is defined as” affection for one’s fellow believer in Christ—‘love for one’s fellow believer, affection for a fellow believer.” This is the Greek word translated “brotherly love” in 1 Thessalonians 4:9, “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.” The second word translated “love” is “ἀγαπᾶν” (agapan).
The popular word “agape” (ἀγαπη) is defined as to have a warm regard for and interest in another, cherish, have affection for, love.” Perhaps, “agape” love emphasis the choice to sacrifice in order to build up another. The Bible’s original words for love are used more interchangeably than one might expect. However, some points of emphasis are still apparent.
This verb “φιλέω” is defined as “to have a special interest in someone or something, frequently with focus on close association, have affection for, like, consider someone a friend.” This word refers not only to a decision to accept and build up another through one’s own personal sacrifice (agape), but also ‘to have love or affection for someone or something based on association.”
This is the word Jesus chose to use in Matthew 10:37, when he said, “Whoever loves (φιλῶν) father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves (φιλῶν) son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Jesus was speaking of the quality of relationship which was developing. He also demanded that the relationship developed between himself and his disciples must be stronger than the relationship shared between family members. The plural form of the noun “philoi” (φίλοι) is translated by the word “friends” in John 15:13. They were “philoi” or “friends.” They had spent time together and developed relationships.
God has Commanded His People to Love Each Other
There is no question that God has commanded us to love one another. The New Testament commands us love using the command “love one another” eleven times. Notice the many commandments to love one another.
- The command, which is second only to the command to love God is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)
- “Love one another with brotherly affection” Romans 12:10. God commanded us to have “brotherly love” (φιλαδελφίᾳ) toward one another. He also describes this “brotherly love” (φιλαδελφίᾳ) as being with “brotherly affection” (φιλόστοργοι).
- “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8).
- “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:22).
- “Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).
- Since being together can often be difficult, God commanded “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). If we aren’t spending time together, we can’t fulfill this command.
- Christians must love one another because “but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
- Love is to fill the atmosphere of the Christian home. Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Wives are to “love their husbands” (Titus 2:4). Can a wife love her husband without spending quality time with him? Of course not. Neither can a congregation of people love one another without spending quality time together.
- In 2 Thessalonians 1:3 the Thessalonians love for one another was “increasing.”
- Paul said that one major purpose of the law of Christ was to develop love among God’s people. Paul’s personal preaching of New Testament Christianity was to bring about love. “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).
- 2 Timothy 2:22 tells us to pursue love…with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
- Philemon is commended for his love for Christ and for his love to all the saints (Philemon 5).
- Hebrews 13:1 says, “Let brotherly love continue.”
- 1 Peter 2:17 commands Christians to love the entire brotherhood.
- 1 Peter 4:8, Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
- One purpose of obeying the Gospel is to love one another “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for (εἰς) a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22). The stated purpose of Christians having “purified their souls though obedience to the truth” is “in order to bring about brotherly love (εἰς φιλαδελφίαν).” The English word “for” translates the word “eis” which means “to denote purpose in order to.”
The command to love one another with brotherly love demands real attention and real effort. The local congregation is not simply a group which meets for a couple hours a week. Instead the church is God’s family. God intends for his family to love one another with brotherly affection.
Since Christians are commanded to love one another…
Since Christians are commanded to love one another (meaning to develop true and meaningful relationships with one another), then all are authorized to be together in “social settings” and to provide opportunities for those gatherings. To limit “how” Christians spend time together and build “philadelphia” would be to limit an expedient and therefore build a law God had not built.
If Christians neglect this togetherness, they are neglecting God’s command to love by building relationships. Since this togetherness is commanded and authorized, the responsible use of funds is also allowable to promote brotherly love.
These affection relationships or “philadelphia” commanded by God cannot be accomplished by mere decision. They must be developed by spending time with one another. This must also be quality time. Sitting in an auditorium without conversation is not quality time. Simply sitting in a room together is never going to build the “philadelphia” which God commanded. In order to build this “philadelphia”, Christians must spend time together outside the worship setting. Since this is “philadelphia” is commanded, the means to carry out the command are authorized.
The Bible does not tell us exactly how Christians are to develop these relationships. Some have gone overboard in their emphasis of social activities to the exclusion of the Gospel and Christian duties. Far too many have neglected Christian work and worship in the name of “fellowship.” This is no fellowship at all. Instead it is a sad use of the name of Christ.
Some Biblical Examples of Togetherness
As Jesus began his ministry, he called the disciples to follow him (Matthew 4:19). Peter and Andrew left their nets and followed him according to verse 20. The word translated “followed” is the word which has likely taken on the technical meaning of “to follow someone as a disciple.” Still yet we can see the disciples began to experience life with the Lord. Another word “μαθητής” which is translated “disciple is defined as “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of view” (BDAG).
John had disciples or mathetoi, i.e. those who were constantly associated with him (Matthew 9:14; 11:2; Mark 2:18; 6:29; Luke 5:33; Luke 7:18; John 1:35. Jesus likewise had those who were “constantly associated with him” (Matthew 10:1; 11:1; 28:16). John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). They were his traveling companions. Through their travels they learned many great lessons.
It was because of the relationships which were built during this time that the disciples had an increased confidence in and devotion to the Lord. John was able to write, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life” (1 John 1:1 NASB). The fellowship among the disciples and Jesus was made stronger by the time which they spent together.
These relationships which Jesus expected his followers to enjoy is implicit in his preaching. If Jesus did not expect his church to spend quality time together, then why did he spend so much time teaching individuals how to be together? The great bulk of the Sermon on the Mount is about how to cultivate godly relationships. In fact, most of the New Testament is written to describe relationships which God’s people should share.
Philippians 4:2, “agree in the Lord.”
Ephesians 4:1-3, “ I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Colossians 3:12-14, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy an beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Without social time of some sort, these commands are needless.
The value of quality time is again seen in the life of Christ in Matthew 9:10-12. There Jesus is eating with his disciples and several lost people (9:10). This was a tremendous opportunity for Jesus to help his disciples and to help the lost people be saved. How did this opportunity arise? It was the sharing of a meal together. Jesus was so often involved in this sort of activity that he had the reputation of “eating with tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19). Jesus had these opportunities of quality time purposefully. He said, “It is not those who are healthy need a physician, but those who are sick.” How was Jesus trying to minister to the spiritually sick? He spent time with them and used that time to influence people for God’s glory.
When the record of Jesus’s miracles is listed, surely the feeding of the multitudes stand out. Jesus saw the suffering crowds and fed them. This meal was another teaching opportunity. From this quality time, the disciples saw further evidence that Jesus is the Christ. The multitudes saw a demonstration of God’s compassion. All this was possible because they were spending time together.
John’s Gospel is a record of Jesus’s interactions with individuals in social situations. The Gospel begins with the description of the incarnation— “He dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Jesus was willing to spend time with his people. The great miracle of Jesus turning the water to wine occurred during a social setting. Jesus began his discussion with the woman at the well in John 4 by asking for water. The remarkable emotion displayed by Jesus at John’s tomb in John 11 surely was caused by the great relationships built by enjoying quality time together. One of the sweetest teaching moments in the Gospels occurred as Jesus prepared breakfast for his disciples in John 21.
WHAT ABOUT LOVE FEASTS?
Love feasts (ἀγάπαις) in Jude 12. What is it? Fellowship meal? Communion? Regulated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11? Not sure. Louw and Nida offer this definition:
a special type of communal meal having particular significance for early Christians as an expression of their mutual affection and concern—‘fellowship meal.’ οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἐν ταῖς ἀγάπαις ὑμῶν σπιλάδες συνευωχούμενοι ἀφόβως ‘they are like dirty spots in your fellowship meals, for they feast together shamelessly’ Jd 12. The meaning of ἀγάπηb may be rendered in some languages as ‘meals in which you show your love for one another as you eat together’ or ‘your eating together as the result of your love for one another.’
BDAG offers the following: “a common meal eaten by early Christians in connection with their worship, for the purpose of fostering and expressing mutual affection and concern, fellowship meal, a love-feast”
In 2 Peter 2:13 Peter discussed those sinners who were “feasting with you.” By inspiration he wrote: “They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.” God spoke of Christians feasting together. We know what feasting is. Josephus used the same word: Hereby Noah learned that the earth was become clear of the flood. So after he had staid seven more days, he sent the living creatures out of the ark; and both he and his family went out, when he also sacrificed to God, and feasted with his companions.
The record of the early church’s development preserved in Acts makes it clear that at least in the beginning communal meals …, were commonplace (2:44–47; 6:1–2). There were also excesses and oversights connected with these fellowship meals (6:1–2; 1 Cor. 11:17–22)…. The importance of eating together in Jewish culture is well known, and in Greco-Roman culture communal meals often played an important role in the life of organizations.
Ignatius, in his letter to the Smyrneans (8), may give evidence that the love feast and communion were closely connected: “It is not lawful apart from the bishop either to baptize or to hold a love-feast [agapē]” (see Ignatius, To the Romans 7). However, Tertullian’s description is of a communal meal, which begins with prayer, followed by people eating and drinking, the singing of hymns, and a closing prayer (Apology 39). He does not connect this event with the bread and wine of the Eucharist. A note from Chrysostom suggests that the agapē feast of his day developed from the practice of the early church in Acts. Then, there was a radical sharing of all things in common (Acts 2:44). This practice ended, but the agapē meal, in which the rich provided food for the poor and all shared it together, became the “contemporary” expression of the earlier communal sharing (Homilies 12; 27).
Whether these developments are relevant to an understanding of the love feast as it occurs in Jude cannot be determined. What can be said is that the event (whether originally observance of the Lord’s Supper, a fellowship meal, or some combination of the two is meant) was to be a visible expression of love and unity. It is quite possible that the elements that only come to light in the later descriptions played some part in the earlier practice.
Understanding and Applying Authority Through General and Specific Commands
Back in Joshua 22:16-20 the Western tribes are prepared to go to war in order to wipe out any rebellion against God which would result in punishment being carried out upon all the peoples. The dangerous situation was averted by the people of Rueben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manesseh explaining more accurately what they were trying to do in light of God’s authority.
First, they recognized that there was no specific authority for building the altar. God had not instructed them to build it. Furthermore, it was not built in the location God instructed his altar to be made. The people said, “If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith against the LORD do not spare us today for building an altar to turn away from following the LORD. Or if we did so to offer burn offerings or grain offerings or peace offerings on it, may the LORD himself take vengeance” (Joshua 22:22-23). The altar was not for the purpose of worship. Just as a congregation’s social activities are not intended for worship. Instead, the social activities congregations practice are intended to promote brotherly love.
The altar was not intended to be a tool of worship. Instead, the purpose of the altar was to be a teaching tool. God had instructed his people to teach their children in the Old Testament dispensation just as God has commanded Christians to teach their children and to promote brotherly love among the entire congregation.
Therefore, altar was authorized. It was not authorized by specific command, neither was it a violation of any command. The altar was authorized by general authority—the command to teach. Similarly, the commands to “sing” and “speak to yourselves” in Ephesians 5:19 exclude instrumental music. God’s command to sing is broad enough to include all psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. However, it also limits the singing portion of our worship to psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
God’s command to love one another is a broad general command. God has given us some general principles of how to treat one another. God has commanded that we develop and nurture brotherly love among his people. Social activities are essential to fulfilling the command to love and are therefore authorized.
It Is Great to be A Christian
God’s plan for his church is truly amazing. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). God has given his people immeasurable blessings. One of those blessings is membership in the church.
In the church every Christian finds comfort (1 Corinthians 1:3-4). In the church every Christian finds purpose (Ephesians 2:10). John 10:10 tells us that every Christian has life and has it more abundantly. The word abundantly (περισσὸν) is defined as “being extraordinary in amount, abundant, profuse. Part of what makes the Christian life extraordinary is the brotherly love enjoyed by Christians. Just as the tribes enjoyed partnership in God’s kingdom, I pray that God’s people may enjoy being together in the kingdom today. Let us do all we can to promote that brotherly love among all God’s people.
 Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, 1977.
 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 662.
 William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 881.
 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 292.
 William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 5.
 William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1056.
 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 292.
 William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 290.
 William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 36.
 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 252.
 William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 7.
 Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 33.
 Philip H. Towner, “Love Feast,” Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker reference library (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), 495.
 Philip H. Towner, “Love Feast,” Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker reference library (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), 495–496.
 William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 805.