A good friend of mine told me about your web site and that your material has been a wonderful resource for him.
You have a wonderful article answering the question: “Is it scriptural to have recorded music (not vocal) in a wedding ceremony that is held in the church building?“
In that article you made the statement: “Second, the building was purchased with the Lord's money and so it should be used for the Lord's work. Some object to weddings being conducted in the building because it is not a work of the church. Others see weddings as something approved by God and have no objection to the building being used for additional purposes that God approves.”
This issue has arisen among us regarding both wedding and funeral or memorial services. We are a relatively young congregation with no eldership and it appears we have strong feelings on both sides of this issue. One older man in the congregation made the comment to me today, “if a man helped to build the building and wants to have his memorial service in the building he worshiped in for years it doesn’t seem right to say that he can’t.” Hmmm…
It appears that this issue needs to be resolved one way or the other in the next few weeks. I am planning to preach some sermons on fellowship and dealing with the “erring brother” but wondered if you had some biblical arguments along these lines. How do we respond to a brother who says we don’t have the authority to hold weddings or memorial services in property purchased with the Lord’s money for the Lord’s purposes?
I have some notes that I have compiled on the subject but they are not much and any thoughts you might have along these lines would be greatly appreciated.
The difficulty that arises is that people often have strong opinions about various subject matters, but they focus on only being satisfied if their way is done. The concept that in some matters God allowed leeway for choice doesn't seem to register. As a result, people lose track that their purpose and the purpose of the church is to get people to heaven.
The dispute in the first century over the eating of meats sacrificed to idols makes a good illustration even though this particular issue doesn't bother the church today. Idolatry was rampant in the early days of the church and along with it came animal sacrifices. Many idol temples butchered a lot of animals, so to help finance their operations, they sold the leftover meat in the market. In many places it would be hard tell where a shop was getting its cuts of meat. Some Christians took the hard line of refusing to support idolatry in any way, even indirectly. Others said meat was meat. They were purchasing meat at a store, not in some idol's temple. "For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables" (Romans 14:2). What Paul is saying is that the latter group, the ones who only saw meat for sale, were the more accurate in their understanding of the Scriptures. They were stronger in the faith.
"Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one" (I Corinthian 8:4). Idols were figments of men's imagination. They didn't really exist. Thus it didn't matter if some cut of meat in a shop was earlier a part of an offering to a non-existent god. However, facts by themselves do not show concern for other people. "Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies" (I Corinthians 8:1). A person can be factually right and lacking love at the same time. (Sound familiar?)
A person with the greater knowledge of the Scriptures must also take into account the views of someone who has less knowledge and less faith. "However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled" (I Corinthians 8:7). This is because the things that we do must be from faith. "Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:22-23). Faith alone doesn't make something right. Notice that Paul said you are happy if the things you approve don't condemn you before God. But a person with doubts condemns himself if he goes against his conscience, even when dealing with something that God allows.
This becomes a critical point. Can at least one side see that the other side, while not doing as they would choose, are at least not condemned in their choice? "But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse" (I Corinthians 8:8). Paul is stating that God doesn't require that we eat certain foods in order to be saved, nor does it harm a person if he chooses not to eat certain foods. Thus both the eater and the non-eater, by God's teaching, can stand before God justified.
This greater understanding, which usually belongs to the mature Christians, places a greater responsibility or burden on their shoulders. "But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ" (I Corinthians 8:9-12). The problem is that the more knowledgeable brother might push the weaker brother into doing actions before he has faith that his actions are right. Thus he will violate his conscience and that is a sin. Therefore, the stronger brother becomes a party to causing a weaker brother to sin.
I wish more people would realize this. When you cause someone to act against their conscience, you are committing a sin. The action you are encouraging may be perfectly right, but without consideration for another's conscience, it can be wrong. Instead, it would be better for the stronger brother to take on unnecessary restrictions to his action rather than to cause another to sin. "Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble" (I Corinthians 8:13). "Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way" (Romans 14:13).
This would give the appearance that the weaker brother is in control. All a brother would have do is say, "That offends my conscience," and the stronger brethren would bow to his will. Such a thing is backwards. Since when should weaker, less knowledgeable, brethren be in control? Romans 14 was written by Paul to say that there must be a balance. "Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him" (Romans 14:3). The weaker brother cannot state or view that the stronger brother is sinning just because he advocates or does something the weaker brother would not do. That is a hard pill to swallow because it means the weaker brother must realize that his view isn't necessarily right. I don't know many who have been able to do this -- personal pride too often gets in the way. "Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4).
What is needed is an understanding of our brethren, that each is striving to serve the Lord to the best of his ability. There are plenty of issues out there where it is not a matter of a personal decision, but where a person is violating God's law directly or by omission. Deal with those and let God handle the ones where you might not be sure. "He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's" (Romans 14:6-8).
So let's take another issue: women wearing head coverings during worship. Some sincerely believe it is necessary and others believe it is not. Both sides have reasoned arguments as to why they came to their conclusion. But the fact of the matter is that if a woman is forced to wear a covering who does not believe it is necessary, then she forced to act not in accordance to her beliefs. She would not be any more submissive, which is what the covering is supposed to represent, with the covering on than with it off. If a woman chooses to wear the covering, it has no impact on any other person in that worship service. Thus those who do not wear the covering ought not to treat a sister who does with contempt, nor should the sister who does wear it judge those who do not. This doesn't mean the issue can't be discussed from time to time, but there is no reason why women with differing beliefs on this issue cannot worship together.
Now, what about the use of the building for weddings and funerals? Again, we find that those on both sides have sincerely held beliefs. We had that discussion here. The conclusion was that those who did not find it wrong, could use the building for weddings or funerals so long as no reminders were left to bother the conscience of those who objected. At the same time, brethren who were getting married, who wanted everyone to attend, purposely chose to have their weddings or funerals elsewhere so that no one attending would have a conflict in their minds about whether to attend. In other words, no one wanted someone having to choose between their beliefs and their friendship. Notice that the strong forego, and the weak don't insist when they are not involved. "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being" (I Corinthians 10:23-24).
So going back to your question, no it is not right to say that a brother cannot have his funeral in the building, but since you have brethren who sincerely think it is wrong, that brother ought not to force the brethren with whom he has worshiped all these years to make the uncomfortable decision of attending their beloved brother's funeral or sticking to their belief. The answer is a no-brainer, I would want my brethren happy to be there to give my family comfort. I would not want to cause them to sin by violating their conscience, so I will plan to have my funeral elsewhere even though I and everyone else knows perfectly well that I don't have to. I would do it because I want to.