Leaving The Church - Is It Biblical?
by Zin Yi
This is an excerpt from an e-mail response to the following questions:
- Do you think leaving the church is a biblical action?
- Should we continue to talk with those still in our former church?
Dear Fellow Believer,
What a blessing it is that we have fellow like-minded believers with whom to discuss such grave matters, and indeed, as the Lord allows, to derive comfort that is mutual.
Because it is He Who "is able to keep [us] from falling" (Jude 24) and causes us to "do those things which are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3:22), by His unspeakable grace, I firmly believe that even if the statement "I, even I only, am left..." (1 Kings 19:14) were somehow true, it would not shake any of us from falling from the truth of His word. Nevertheless, it still IS a great blessing to know and interact with other believers, yes?
Yes, I believe we are to depart out from the churches. As with any doctrine, it actually is impossible to wait until all the "problematic" verses have been resolved in one's mind. None of us came to embrace the doctrines involving God's wonderful sovereignty because all the "Come ye" & "Whosoever," verses, for example, all of us sudden became plain. Rather, it was by faith which accompanies regeneration, that we trusted that God's word could not teach two different truths. It was either by the faith of Jesus Christ, apart from the works of the law, OR by the works of the flesh (one or the other). In other words, we learn truth by His opening of our understanding, by the mysterious, internal working of the Spirit within us. This applies especially in the area of assurance of salvation. In spite of the sins we continue to find in our lives (which of course should continually change - the bible does not allow for a struggle with one blatant, insistent sin throughout one's entire lifetime), we nevertheless believe that we are the sons of God, crying, Abba, Father. This we do, in spite of the evidence in ourselves to the contrary at times, in spite of not having solved all the unclear, if not seemingly oppositional verses.
But there are certain rules we all follow in the basic hermeneutical approach. We always try to interpret implicit verses with the explicit. In other words, the most clear statements of the bible become guides for interpreting other less clear ones. This is true of the Death of the Church issue. There are plenty of clear, direct statements which, I believe, do teach that we are to leave the corporate church. Galatians 4, Hebrews 12, Revelation 19 & 21 help in making the distinction between the corporate and eternal Jerusalems.
Regarding our continuing interaction with those in the church,
there are, as I am sure you have concluded, two rules to follow:
1) At the moment the Gospel - any aspect of it - is presented, the first and the most important duty of the believer has been accomplished (2 Timothy 4:2). When there is resistance to the Gospel, that is, if the ones to whom we are declaring truths "put it from [them], and judge [themselves] unworthy of everlasting life," we are to "turn to the Gentiles" - that is, to publish the truth elsewhere (Acts 13:45-47).
2) We are to never disassociate ourselves willingly from anyone based solely on the fact that they are sinners. After all, we are to all cry, "Oh, wretched man that I am!" Anything coming close to such an action of disassociation in the New testament was the disciplinary action of excommunication, which nonetheless was executed with the expectation/hope that the sinner's "spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Corinthians 5:5). In the same chapter, God declares that although we are not to "company with fornicators" within the setting of the corporate congregation, and thus not to partake of the Lord's Supper with such (1 Corinthians 5:9, 11), when it comes to sinners in general, that is, with the "fornicators of this WORLD," we are, by design, to come in contact with, and to attempt to present the Gospel to, such ones as God allows. Otherwise, we "must needs go out of the world" (1 Corinthians 5:10).
If, therefore, you believe that the bible declares the corporate body to be dead, then this truth is that which you must share with others; especially those with whom you have a relationship, those who will at least give you an initial hearing - because you do not know what the Lord has panned for them. Continuing to interact with such persons in no way compromises or mars the purity of your stance. We must, especially in such difficult times, must be like the wife of an unbelieving man as we, before all still in the church, demonstrate our "chaste conversation coupled with fear...the hidden man of the heart...a meek and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:2, 4).
Personally, I still do keep in touch with several of those in my previous congregation, and have from the beginning made it known that I will be giving a formal presentation on the issue very soon, and the Lord willing, so I shall. Because this is, as stated above, the duty of every believer - to declare the Word (Proverbs 11:24-26) - and God will do the rest (1 Corinthians 3:6).
I pray that this e-mail is used of God in assisting you. I earnestly pray that your convictions in the Word grow each day, as the "High and Lofty One of Israel" draws you ever closer to His wondrous light, by the operation of His indomitable will. Let us praise His name.