Strictness Not According to Knowledge
Text: Matthew 15:1-14
I. In our zeal to live as God requires, we will at times take on more restrictions than God has placed upon us.
A. Ecclesiastes 7:15-16
1. A confusing verse. Is Solomon saying don’t follow God’s laws strictly? Have a little sin in your life?
2. The answer is a few verses later in a wise observation - Ecclesiastes 7:20
3. A person who sets a goal to live a perfect, sinless life will fail.
a. Only our Savior has never sinned
b. Yet, some will strive so hard for perfection that they become afraid of doing things that might be wrong.
c. The end result is that by avoiding an overt act of sin, they commit a sin of neglect - James 4:17
4. A person who longs for absolute perfection is unable to obtain it because we are not always fully sure whether something is right or wrong.
a. It is that uncertainty that can lead to sin
b. We either say, “Oh well, no one is perfect” and we casually do things we ought not to do.
c. Or, we avoid all uncertainty and thereby not do what needs to be done.
B. The Pharisees were a group who zealously strived to follow God’s law perfectly.
1. They developed a system of rules designed to keep people from sinning.
a. Where God left something vague, the Pharisees strived to come up with crisp definitions so mistakes would not be made.
b. The problem was their rules were of man, not of God - Romans 10:1-3
2. Matthew 15:1-14
a. Rules about washing before meals was not commanded by God
b. Rules that one law can replace the obligation to fulfill another law
II. I was asked a question that went something like this: “Our congregation meets in a rented hall. Would it be wrong to make use of the facilities available for a potluck gathering? I understand that the church doesn’t have authority to own a kitchen, but I was wondering why we couldn’t rent the facility where we happen to meet for a meal that is separate from the worship service.”
A. In answering this question, let us return to the basics
B. The services of the Lord are not to be used for social activities - I Corinthians 11:20-22, 34
1. The purpose of coming together is to worship God, not for partaking of meals
2. I frequently receive invitations to come hear the gospel preached, but the incentive to come is the free food.
3. I’m also told about the distraction fresh-perked coffee and other savory smells make near the end of services
4. Then there are some who become distracted, leaving services for a moment to make sure food is turned on at the proper time or not becoming overly done.
5. The appetites of men take precedence over the worship of the Almighty God!
C. It is not the church’s responsibility to provide social entertainment for its members.
1. Brethren are encouraged to enjoy each other’s company and to share meals together - Acts 2:46 (Notice the “house to house.”)
2. But the church is not asked to provide a hall for potlucks or wedding receptions.
a. Such would be a misuse of the Lord’s funds because the Lord has not authorized such spending.
b. To use the Lord’s money for such purposes would be wrong.
III. Yet, in avoiding this problem, we can make rules that God has not made
A. I heard some say that it wrong to eat in the building.
1. I know of no passage where that is stated.
2. My office is in the building and there have been times when I end up munching at the desk while I’m trying to get material put together because I’ve run out of hours in the day.
3. If men are gathered to make repairs, I know of no reason why food cannot be brought to nourish these workers.
4. These examples do not violate I Corinthians 11 because no one is gathered for worship
5. Nor is the Lord’s money being spent on food or social entertainment
B. The example of Paul
1. In Acts 20:7, the brethren are gathered to partake of the Lord’s Supper in a third story room
2. Paul speaks at the gathering until midnight.
3. About that time a young man falls out of a window to his death.
4. Paul goes down and raises the man back to life.
5. But notice what happens next - Acts 20:11
a. This was not the partaking of the Lord’s Supper as only Paul is mentioned as eating
b. The Lord’s Supper is shared by all - I Corinthians 10:16-17
c. The meal takes place after midnight, so it is no longer the first day of the week
6. But for our purposes note that the meal Paul ate was eaten in the same facility used for worship just a few hours prior.
1. So long as the worship is kept distinct from worldly matters, it doesn’t matter if the same facility happens to be used for multiple purposes.
2. However, this doesn’t give a congregation the right to use the Lord’s money to build a multi-purpose facility.
a. Buildings are built as a convenient place to gather.
b. They are places which saves the congregation money in the long run over renting a facility.
3. When the Lord’s money is spent, it must be spent in accomplishing the Lord’s will.
IV. You might say, “Ah! I understand. A church can rent a facility that might have a kitchen, but it can’t spend money to build a kitchen or dining hall.”
A. Once again, we must be careful not to make a rule that God hasn’t made.
B. Acts 6:1-4
1. The church in Jerusalem was responsible for the care of a large number of widows
2. Such was required in certain cases - I Timothy 5:3-16
3. The number of widows in Jerusalem that met these qualifications must have been significant. It took six men to coordinate their care.
4. Notice they were serving food daily and serving at tables
a. The wording implies to me that meals were being served at a central location in a dining hall, though it is possible that they were making home deliveries.
b. Where was the food being prepared?
C. If a congregation had a large number of widows to feed and having a kitchen and dining hall allowed the congregation to meet that duty with less cost, then there would be nothing wrong with building it.
D. Does this mean every congregation needs to run out and buy a kitchen and dining hall? No, because most congregations don’t have so large a number of widows on their rolls that a kitchen and hall would make the facility practical.
V. God stated what He wanted to state in exactly the way He wanted it expressed.
A. We cannot go beyond what was written - I Corinthians 4:6
B. But neither may we eliminate what God has allowed in our zeal to stay within the bounds of God’s law.