Closed Worship

Jerod Clark

February 8, 2009

Wow... this entry cought my attention as I've been teaching my youth group about "doulos" (the NT Greek word for slave which is often translated "servant") for three weeks now. I myself wouldn't shy away from this topic with the seeker crowd. Christians have watered down who we're supposed to be for far too long and secular society knows it. We need to preach the truth and not be ashamed (Romans 1:16-17).

Carl Walker
February 8, 2009


There are three aspects of your comments I wanted to address.

First, the checking of the badges, etc., is probably because there are bad people out there you read about in the news who go into churches and shoot people and cause disturbances.

The people running the convention and the hotel are probably worried about the legal consequences if any of that happed so I wouldn't worry or be bothered by that.

Generally I feel that anything that has to be done in secret is probably something wrong but there are exceptions.

If something is being discussed which might be distorted by some in a group in such a way as to hurt someone but that getting the truth is important, I think one might be needed until the truth is found..

The last and most important is the difference between us and the slaves in history and much of the world and I hope the speaker spoke on it.

There is a story told of a famous artistically talented slave whose master gave him a good life. A wealthy man told him he didn't realize how lucky he was to be a slave and have someone to take care of seeing he was fed, housed and taken care of.

The slave answered the man with one question. "Would you change places with me?"

I can't think of anyone I would want to have the power over me that slave owners had over a slave.

We aren't bought by a stranger at an auction. God gives us freedom to choose Him or to reject him..

He created a wonderful world and said "It is good." and then he created us able to experience and freely enjoy this wonderful world.

He loves His creation which includes us. He loves us and wants our love in return. He could have created us so we had no choice but he gave us freedom to choose or reject him.

So I gladly give that power to God because I know He loves me and wants what is the best in every way even when what is the best is not what, to my limited knowledge, would seem to be the best for me..

And He knows best, so much better than I do, I will try to do His will and will trust and love Him until my life is over.

Have a blessed and happy week.


February 8, 2009

I agree. It is one thing to target different types of religious discussion to different people, but interested people should be allowed, even invited, to see the whole thing, no matter where they are in their faith. Worse to look as though we are hiding something than to present an aspect of christianity that seems off-putting.

February 8, 2009

As the Hebrew prophet Bob Dylan said, "Ya gotta serve somebody. It may be the devil, it may be the Lord, but ya gotta serve somebody". Maybe John MacAurthur did not unpack his topic well.
I believe there are meetings that are primarily believer meetings. ist Corinthians 14 says "If an unbeliever or ungifted" (if, not when) enters your meeting they will think you are strange if you all speak in tongues at once-denoting that this meeting was primarily a believer meeting with a possibility of unsaved guests. However, Peter's meetings in Solomon's Portico section of the temple were open seeker meetings, evangelistic in nature. Too often we treat every meeting as if it were an evangelistic rally. I don't think any Christian meeting should be truly restricted, however, we can recognize that some meetings are for the family and some are for seekers.

February 8, 2009

The Revised Standard Version translates "servants and handmaidens" as "male and female slaves." Somehow, I think something was lost in translation. I also distrust ANY Greek which is offered as a correct understanding of what Jesus really meant. Jesus most likely spoke in Aramaic, and may also have read from Hebrew. Translations of Jewish scripture into Greek have some known and obvious errors, such as the abominable myth that Jeptha (ha-Giladi) offered his daughter as a burnt sacrifice, centuries AFTER Abraham was told not to sacrifice Isaac. Ask any rabbi, they will be horrified that you could think such a thing possible. After all, prohibiting human sacrifice was one of the things which distinguished the Jews from the Canaanites. Where did the misunderstanding come from? Wrong Greek word used in translation. The Hebrew means elevate to the service of God. The Greek means burnt offering. Look at the context, even in translation: the daughter mourned her virginity, not her imminent death. So let me say in conclusion: I am NOT and never have been a slave to Jesus Christ. I make a FREE CHOICE of what I offer to Jesus. That's the way God wanted it. If you choose to be a slave, find a door, and pierce you ear against the door.

February 8, 2009

I definitely think that worship services should be open to anyone who wants to attend for other than disruptive, or criminal, reasons (not that you can prevent that sort from showing up.) As for the topic of being "slaves to Christ", I don't see how the topic can be discussed without being contrasted with our original state of being "slaves" to SIN. We are all slaves to something, or someone. Will some people misinterpret or distort that message? Sure. Just like they [try to] do with everything else the bible says. We just have to have faith that God will use his words to fulfill his own purposes and that those who would distort it, will be thwarted.

February 9, 2009

Type your comment here
i believe that as christians, the awareness that we are always being watched and observed by the world should lead as to prayerfully asked the Holy Spirit to guide us in the things we do or say. even the best intentions and carefully chosen words is subject to misrepresentation or misunderstanding. the amazing thing is that the Lord can and wants to use us in many ways to reach the lost. we do not need to "water down" anything if our words and deeds are always controlled by God. though, i have to admit this is easier said that done. but in our weaknesses, His grace and power is more than sufficient. i'd like to encourage everyone not to stop ministering and advancing the Gospel.

February 9, 2009

There may be an occasion where worship, for pastoral reasons should be closed, just like some meetings of church leadership should be closed.

There is a reason that not everything is recorded in the Bible

Jesse Phillips
February 9, 2009

I agree worship should never be closed. However, I don't think they're doing anything wrong by keeping people out who have not paid to attend the event. I bet it was pretty expensive, and in this economy, it's not fair for us to expect them to not look after their financial affairs.

February 9, 2009

Jesus never restricted anyone from his sermons, or anything he did. He knew when he told someone not to tell, that they would anyway. Now to today, there are churches out here who restrict many things they do. It's in the by laws or the rules or the plans and issures part of the church. Oh, this is confidential and you can't be here, or you can't take communion because you are not babtized or worse not babtized in this church. There have be to many rule and regulations which happer the true meaning of the love of Christ Jesus. I have been to those churches, where the people say or you can't do that because you aren't from here. The only time there should be restrictions is in the private discussions of families with the clergy. All aspects of the church should and could be open to those who come to worship. That way they can better understand what they have to do to belong to God; not to the chuch. In God's Grace John

February 9, 2009

As far as I know MacArthur is a Calvinist so fence-riding is not an issue. You're either elect or you're not and the word "slave" is not going to sway you. But seriously, the word slave today carries connotations it did not have in the days when the Bible was written. Being a slave was not the best job in the world but it really depended on your master.

For instance, Abraham's slave, Eleazar I think he was called, would have inherited Abram's wealth had he died without an heir. Slaves were like family and worked your land as did your son's and daughters.

February 9, 2009


February 10, 2009

Due to your closing comments and the preface about Greek/Aramaic discrepancies utilizing a completely different pericope I have to inquire. I'm wondering if you can support the idea that God wants us to make a "free choice" about what we offer to Christ. I think Scripture teaches differently (not only about the idea of a "free choice" but also about the idea of offering Christ anything worth less than filthy rags). It's not that we do not have free will. It is that we are free to choose to be slaves of Christ lest we become slaves of unrighteousness. As others have shared we are slaves to one or the other.

Why would a believer not want to be a slave of righteousness? If not righteousness, then what?

Or is it that we should only be servants of Christ? Again why not be a slave? Listen to Christ's own words...

"It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[a] and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,[b]" - Matthew 20:26-27

[a]Matthew 20:26 Greek diakonos
[b]Matthew 20:27 Greek bondservant (doulos)

(For NASB, KJV, ESV, and NIV)

The reason I bring up this passage is because it specifically designates between servant and slave.

And again Paul shares with us that we were "bought with a price".

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." 1 Corithians 6:19-20

Be interested to hear your thoughts...

February 10, 2009

I agree with most of the previous commentators here - I don't think worship should be closed. I think that we often underestimated the "non-Christian", and also the power of the Word of God being preached. As mentioned above also, there are some meetings that are specifically for church members, but common worship should not be one of them.

February 10, 2009

Actually Jesus did restrict attendance for some of His ministry. The biggie is the Transfiguration. Only Peter, James, and John were invited. Also in the garden before His death. There are probably other examples...

February 10, 2009

Do you not know that you were bought with a price, not with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ? I would love to say that the truth is... but all I can say is, as I see it, we are slaves. The question is, are we slaves of sin or of righteousness? I want to be a slave of Christ, by His grace. Peace.

February 10, 2009

Okay I'm not mad anymore. I do think that worship should be shared with all who come to hear the word or God. I just have a hard time when I see the pastor staning before the congregation wanting the admiration we should be giving to God. It brings me to the realization that some pastors are there as an example of Christ Jesus. Then some are there for the glamour or money it can and will bring. A pastor with a million dollar home somehow seems like they are the slave owners and we who give to him or her are the slaves. We are not slaves to God, but the all mighty dollar, which bought the home in the first place. No more rants and it doesn't do any good. I'll pray for those who are less fortunate and for those who are more fortunate. In God's Grace John

February 10, 2009

First, I thought this was about closed worship, and then the question, "What is worship?" Why would a unbeliever want to enter into worship of that or whom the unbeliever does not know? How can that one truly worship?

Second, we are slaves. We were bought with a price. Not silver or gold, but with the precious blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. We are by default slaves. That we are slaves has never been the question. The question is, of whom or what are we slaves? Are you a slave of sin and Satan, or of righteousness and God? By God's grace I pray we answer, "We are slaves of Christ Jesus!"

February 10, 2009

For what does Jesus need slaves? For what purpose does the omnipotent Creator of the Universe concern himself with us at all? As C.S. Lewis pointed out, The Enemy (of Screwtape and Our Father Below) wants men to become servants so they can be sons, to surrender their individuality only so it can be restored to them. On some level, for some reason, we must be valuable to God, not mere filthy rags, or he would not have bothered to create us at all. However, we certainly have nothing of any worth on the divine plane, no merit worth comparing to the Most High God (Micah 5: 6-8), EXCEPT whatever that divine purpose and value may be. I relate to the phrase "bought with a price" as ransom, not purchase of chattel. But the point several people have made about the meaning of the word "slave" is very important. There are probably twenty different meanings and definitions of words which might mean servant or slave or something different from either, depending on the cultural context not only of the original language, but of the translator. There are African words which have some meaning of servitude, but also nuances as to community status, family relation, and other matters which have been crudely translated "slave" by well-meaning Europeans. The field laborers of the North American colonies were called servants, wherever they came from, before "slaves" became more common, and specific to those from Africa. The Umaayad Caliphs of Cordoba entrusted top government posts to their slaves, because they didn't trust individuals of their own status with such power. Incidentally, the KJV has Matthew 20:26 saying "minister," and 27 saying "servant," which could be wrong, but the contrast points out how inane it is to seize on a word, give it a translated meaning, and then say "ah-hah, here is what Jesus really meant." I don't buy it, particularly from a Calvinist (thank you Marc). Paul wasn't Jesus, and Jesus didn't speak in Greek, as far as we know. I suspect that what Jesus REALLY said lies buried under layers of Greek philosophy, beyond our ability to reconstruct -- and Matthew, who wrote in Greek, is himself a bit suspect, although I won't throw away the Gospels on that account.

February 11, 2009

God doesn't need us. We need him. Therefore we enslave ourselves to the only saving grace in existence.

Regarding sons and slaves I think Mr. Lewis was referring to John 8:34-35 which I think is a completely different context and still only benefits the slave position.

We are not filthy rags; the offering of our deeds to him is. Deeds are simply the response of true saving faith. They offer God nothing.

The only thing that makes anything we do worthwhile is God's grace being part of it. We bring nothing without him first providing the grace that makes "good" possible.

In regards to the price being a ranson and us not being chattle, what did Mr. Lewis say was the great sin?

Perhaps the words you refer to have such issues but we're talking about one word: doulos, whose main meaning is nothing other than slave. It has been translated "servant" or "bondservant" but there were other Greek words that specifically for these. Why did the NT authors choose doulos if other, more correct words were available? I'm guessing they, along with the Holy Spirit, selected it because they indeed meant slave. Go figure.

Africans, Europeans, and North Americans might matter if we were talking about that, but we're not. Let's stick to scripture and its culture, yes?

Regarding the "aha" phenomena, it only seems honorable to respect the work of translators who are our brothers and sisters in Christ. To assume that translators are so careless in their work is likewise inane, yes?

Comments like "beyond our ability to reconstruct", "Paul wasn't Jesus", and "I suspect..." seem heavily based in independent presupposition, not honest and humble exegesis. If we assume such comments valid, what is a valuable text then? It would seem Paul is off the table, the gospels are suspect, and all English translations are pretty much corrupt. Since none of us can literally go back to ancient Greece and hear first hand their philosophies fully explained, who knows how many passages we've misused, abused, and turned into refuse?!

Or we could simply believe that God is capable of having men today understand his word and that perhaps if God meant slave he used the word most commonly associated with slave in the day of it's authorship. That word would be doulos. I'm going with that. Otherwise all of scripture is negotiable and it is all individualistic in the end. We will each have our own meaning and truth will disappear.

The primary meaning of the actual Greek word written - doulos - is slave plain and simple. Rationalize it away if you want. But one has to wonder why, why, why on earth would we...

February 11, 2009

I am a slave to none, a friend to those who accept me as a friend. I could approach an omnipotent deity only with fear and wonder, except, that deity has chosen to accept me as a friend. I admit, I am turned off by the modernistic hymn, "I am a friend of God." I have only heard it sung once. It sounds boastful, and a free gift from our Creator is nothing to boast of. If he wanted slaves, he could have created programmed robots, who would march around all day chanting "Worthy is the lamb" or whatever mindless syllables they were programmed for. Such "praise" would mean nothing. When we pray, it is not, or does not have to be, mindless syllables. It can be freely given, grateful, honorable, praise, from weak hairless little bipeds who recognize and adore the source of their being. How wonderful that, when offered, it is accepted.

February 12, 2009

This is my last attempt seeing as this post is originally about open worship, not about being slaves of Christ. Nevertheless, here goes...

We are free to be slaves of righteousness/God/Christ as in 1 Peter 2:16 "Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as (doulos) of God." Even though we have been given the honor of being adopted as sons and thus heirs with Christ we are to see ourselves as slaves lest we abuse the grace we've been given through pride and self-righteousness. It is good to keep Galatians 6:3 in mind.

Slaves can be defined by the following...
- the are the subject of exclusive ownership
- they are completely obedient to their master
- they are subject to an alien will, a will not of their own
- they are completely dependent upon their master
- thier discipline and rewards come solely from their master

which of these is not true?

One final note, doulos (slave) is found in nowhere else but the NT to describe a worshipper; philos (friend) however is...

February 12, 2009

I fully subscribe to the statement "all English translations are pretty much corrupt." I wouldn't take Paul off the table, but I have serious doubts that every word he wrote was inspired by the Holy Spirit, or even based on reliable understanding of the Old Testament scriptures. The gospels are indeed suspect, but they are the best record we have of the lives and work and significance of Jesus, whom Christians, by definition, recognize as the Christ, so we have to work with them. I wish we had more accurate sources, but we don't. That is honest, although not humble, but humility is something I offer to God. My brothers and sisters in Christ, however modern or ancient, are fallible human beings. We could all be wrong. In fact, we all are wrong. We just haven't sorted out who is wrong when. If recognizing yourself as a slave brings you closer to God, so be it. If thinking of myself as a slave pushes me further from God, I should avoid it. (That's pretty close to something Paul said about diet). In the end, it IS individual. That's why Wycliffe and the Roman hierarchy differed. I am not your spiritual overlord, nor are you mine. Truth is of God, our opinions are our own. What God has for me is for me.

Bert Johnston
February 12, 2009

Jerod, you've made a very pertinent point about open and closed worship. Problem is, we are living in fearful times, and are learning to trust only the neighbors we know. How soon will our churches feel they must check membership credentials at the door lest they be bombed?

February 13, 2009

i'm surprised you're shocked that something coming out of MacArthur's mouth would be utterly irresponsible in the presence of non-Christians of average intelligence. who but fundamentalists takes this joker seriously?

February 15, 2009

Slaves can also be defined as:

chattel used for the benefit of a master who considers them no better than animals
motivated to rebel at the slightest opportunity, as they have no reason to love their owner
ruled by whims of their master, however irrational
having no identity or free will independent of their owner

Bottom line: if it brings you closer to God to think of yourself as a slave, do so. If it drives you further away from God to think of yourself as a slave, for God's sake, don't.

February 16, 2009

The only reason, in my opinion, that such a thing would drive one away is because they introduce concepts of slavery that are foreign to the context, which all the ones provided above are. Paul, and the other apostles who utilize doulos, never speak of being a slave subject to these things. To do so would be to serve a god who is not God.

Let's examine them.

Scripture is quite clear that God loves mankind and that men are above animals, so the first one is out.

I think Scripture is overwhelmingly clear that men have a reason to love their Creator, so despite man's rebellion anyway, man has no justification for such rebellion. So, number 2 is out.

I believe Scripture contains numerous episodes where men are subject to a God whose motives they fail to understand (I can provide biblical references if needed, but any honest reader knows these well). So number 3 is not false, as the others, but it is not catagorically bad as implied by list above itself.

Finally, one would have to be quite blind to ignore the truth of free will in scripture and it's paradoxical relationship to God's sovereignty. A freely chosen limited will is still free will. Likewise to believe that the individuals in scripture have no "identity" is beyond a stretch. Who one person is in Christ is not who all are in Christ. The huge diversity of personalities devoted to God seen in the bible seems to heavily favor a freedom of both will and identity. So, while it is perhaps less clear than the others, I would still say the fourth one is without merit as well.

So while you're right that slaves can be defined as above, slaves of Christ can not be lest one routinely violates Scripture. Likewise, nothing on the above list is required of slavery. Rather, I would say, such things are sinful abuses of a slave relationship. Paul gives masters advice on how to treat slaves. None of the above, as implied, fit the prescription do they? I think the answer is clearly, "No."

One final thing, the idea of piggybacking doulos and its use into Christian liberty theology itself is just strange (and bad exegesis). Given your proclaimed catagorical dismissal of Paul it's odd that you use his rhetoric to defend your position. Maybe you can explain that please?

February 16, 2009

To keep this brief, your reference to your own opinion, and approval of diversity, add up in MY opinion to complete justification of what I just offered. Words can be defined in various ways, understood in various ways, there is a diversity of experience and response, so, I can't piggyback my faith on your choice of terminology. We each have an individual relationship to God. As for Paul, I haven't said the man never wrote a word worth considering, I just don't take every word he wrote as "Thus saith the Lord." Besides, if you take every word he wrote as inspired, then I may well quote it when debating a point with you, precisely because you would consider it authoritative.

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