Twelve people were in attendance and participation was encouraging, insightful, and brotherly.

[1] What sources of truth obligate the church: the Bible, dreams/visions, traditions, councils, personal experiences, statements of faith/denominational distinctives?

Unlike the words of men, those of the Lord Jesus Christ are “spirit and are life” [Jn.6:63].  The only value of dreams, visions, prophesies, and teachings are if they illuminate and convey the truth of the written Word of God contained in the Scriptures as is explicitly stated in Jeremiah 23:16-36.

God has revealed His will for His people as written in the Scriptures, and no personal experiences should diminish or contradict that truth contained in the Word of God.  The word “obligate” denotes “to bring or place under moral or legal duty or constraint.”

Hearing the Word of God is what obligates the church [Lk.8:21], even to refusing to be bound under the yoke of religious authorities; “We must obey God rather than men” [Acts 5:29].

It is the Scripture that is inspired of God, not men and even the men who wrote it [2 Tim.3:16].  Though written, the Word of God is living, powerful, and our judge [Heb.4:12].

We are not “to exceed what is written” [I Cor.4:6], and all things contained in the pages of Scripture are for our profit and instruction [I Cor.10:11].  The traditions of men are in conflict with and nullify the Word of God; we cannot be obligated by both [Mk.7:1-13].

Only God has authority to obligate the church, and God’s will is violated if the church is obligated by anything outside of that will as expressed in the truth of His Word, the Bible.  The cultures of the world are obligated by omens, oracles, divination, dreams, and traditions; the church is obligated by the truth from Genesis to Revelation, however that truth may come to us, even from the mouth of babes.

[2] Discuss worship and what is musically appropriate in the assembly.

When we sing to the Lord with Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, it is to be with the Word of Christ richly dwelling within us [Col.3:16].  Therefore significant biblical content is to be discovered in the lyrics rather than trite, shallow, or erroneous messages.

The focus of our worship is to Christ with a motive springing from His indwelling and the expression of that.  Worship and music are not necessarily linked, as worship is far broader than an activity engaged in during church gatherings.

Worship is the offering up of our bodies as a living sacrifice continually as a willing and loving expression of wholehearted devotion to Christ [Rom.12:1,2].  Worship is not synonymous with the activities of the church and participating in its programs; it is the outflow of a life lived to the glory of God.

All music worships something – exalts, promotes, and is devoted to its object – whether noble or ignoble.

Jesus and the apostles sang a hymn [Mt.26:30] as did Paul and Silas [Acts 16:25].  All spiritual singing is to be “with the mind” [I Cor.14:15] and therefore mindful, and not mindless.

[3] What does it mean to be a disciple who is becoming biblically literate?

The word “disciple” means “a learner.”  Disciples are learners and slaves [Mt.10:24].  As learners we readily confess our ignorance and thus humility is the hallmark of a disciple.  Slaves are purchased possessions and hence have no rights.  A disciple is one who, therefore, is free of self-will and ambition.  His only legitimate concern is: What has my Master said so that I might perform His will.

Becoming biblically literate is not gauged by academic progress in acquiring biblical information.  Jesus did not come to bring us a new “law,” but rather to lead us into a proper pure and loving relationship with God and men through His Word.  The Pharisees missed this aspect of a learning and growing relationship by wrongly imagining that in their knowledge of the Scriptures, they possessed eternal life [Jn.5:39].

Being a disciple involves significant interactions as followers of Christ rather than participation in a religious system. Disciples are to demonstrate our love for Christ by actually living by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  This process involves the transference of knowledge which leads to following our Guide whereby we become trained to be like Christ.  Discipleship is a complete abandonment of self unto Christ.

The hard saying of discipleship [Lk.14:26f] are hard to our flesh, but are actually simply expressions of the reality of being a learner/follower; no man can serve two masters.

Genesis 24 illustrates the process of discipleship.  Rebekah, the willing bride-to-be, leaves her native land to travel to her bridegroom’s home, escorted and guided by the servant of the father.  There she will abide for the rest of her life in Isaac’s loving care.  So we too willingly leave all for the sake of Christ whom we have not seen, journeying through this world in the company of the Holy Spirit who reveals to our hearts the greatness and glories of Him with whom we shall dwell as His bride throughout all eternity.

[4] Concern, correction, and discipline in the church: how are they to be expressed?

All that we do is to be done in love [I Cor.16:14].  The purpose is to help and restore, not to criticize and cast away: to bear burdens too hard to carry without assistance [Gal.6:1,2].  Ideally, someone who is known to the erring one will come alongside to show love and compassion to maintain a long-term relationship that honors Christ.

The process outlined in Mt.18:15-18 is not a perfunctory following of protocol, but a loving prolonged demonstration of genuine concern for the spiritual well-being of the brother or sister.  All avenues are to patiently be exhausted before proceeding to the next stage in that process.  It is to be done as brother to brother, and not as a function of the elders, pastor, or leadership hierarchy.

As a final resort, the one who persists in ungodly behavior is to be separated from the church into the world where there is no such loving care and fellowship to be found – in Paul’s words, delivered over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit may be saved [I Cor.5:5].

From a shepherding standpoint, one must search out those who have gone astray in order to restore them in love.  An elder is not be sharply rebuked, but rather appealed to as a father [I Tim.5:1]; Nathan with David is a good example of this.

Such correction and discipline is not only for the good of the one at fault, but is an outflow of grace so that the little ones are not caused to stumble and perish [Mt.18:14].  It is vital that the facts of the situation be known prior to raising a corrective issue with the individual so that false accusations are avoided and resentment not be fostered.

[5] What is the biblical role of women in ministry and assembly gatherings?

The respective roles of man and woman are outlined in Eph.5:22-24.  The man represents Christ and the woman, the church.  In this analogy, whatever is appropriate for the church with respect to Christ is fitting for the woman.  The church may pray to, sing to, testify about, and praise the Lord Jesus.  However, the church may not lead, direct, teach, or usurp authority over Christ.  Thus, by way of principle, the woman may pray, sing, testify, and praise in the church, but not lead, direct, teach, or usurp authority over the man.

While there is no difference between male and female in Christ Jesus with respect to acceptance before God and the blessings of salvation [Gal.3:28], there is a distinction of role and function from the beginning by God’s design; the woman was created to be a helper [Gen.2:18], and helpers by definition are not the head, leader, initiator, and instructor.  This is reiterated in the New Testament, hearkening back to the original order established in Eden [I Tim.2:11-13].

Women are to keep silent in the church, not in an absolute sense, but with respect to usurping authority by teaching and leading the assembly [I Cor.14:34f].  This was not stated as a prohibition of uneducated persons speaking in the assembly, but because by spiritual analogy, it is inappropriate for the church to instruct Christ.  The older women are to teach the younger women the truths of practical godliness [Tit.2:3-5], but not to teach the assembly as a whole.

In the church, it is the glory of Christ that is to be seen, not the glory of man.  And thus the man is to not cover his head since he pictures the glory of God, and women are instructed to cover their heads because they represent the glory of man [I Cor.11:7].  It is an acted out parable of what is spiritually fitting in the church; Christ is to receive the glory, not man.  He is to be seen and His Word is to be heard.

Without controversy, Deborah was used by God in the public arena, but it was shameful, and the glory went to a woman and not to the victorious commander of the Lord’s host [Jud.4:4-10].  So it also becomes shameful for a woman to lead and teach in the church [I Cor.14:34,35].

Summary submitted by Steve Phillips