THE ASSEMBLY DOCTRINAL BASIS AND PRACTICES
Index of Beliefs
- The Assembly Distinctives
- The Doctrinal Basis
- The Local Assembly Principles and Practices
- Leadership of the Local Church
- Gifts in the Church
- Responsibilities of Believers
The Assembly Distinctives
The Christian Brethren are often so described because they prefer to be known by a designation comprehensive enough to embrace all their fellow Christians along with themselves. They have no central organization. They belong to a large number of local churches or assemblies, spread around Malaysia and the rest of the world. Each of these local assemblies is independent in its administration; there is no federation or union linking them together on an official basis.
Yet there is a recognizable family likeness among them, and their sense of a spiritual bond is strong. The only organized linkage that they have is through the Christian brethren of Malaysia Property Trust Berhad, which keeps the local assemblies’ properties in trust. In addition to this the Christian Brethren are also gazetted in the 1957 Government Gazette. Further the regular inter-assembly ministry and gospel, the annual leaders’ conference and other joint activities (such as Bible Camps) are a constant binding factor.
The Christian Brethren hold the historic Christian faith, because they find it plainly taught in the Bible, which to them is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. They are wholeheartedly evangelical in their understanding and presentation of Christianity, proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as the all-sufficient Saviour of all who put their trust in Him and as the only hope of mankind. For this reason they find it especially easy to co-operate in Christian witness with others who share this evangelistic emphasis, and in many inter-denominational causes their influence is greater than their numbers might lead one to expect.
It is practice rather than doctrine that mark them out. Among the Christian Brethren baptism is administered only to people who make a personal confession of faith in Christ, and the mode of baptism is immersion. They observe the Lord’s supper every Sunday and hold that the Lord’s Table is for all the Lord’s people. This is their most distinctive gathering. When they meet for communion, together with any Christians who join them for the occasion, their devotions are conducted by no presiding ministers or pastors and follow no predetermined sequence, but are marked nevertheless by a reverent spontaneity and orderliness. Various brethren contribute to the worship by suggesting suitable hymns, reading and expounding a passage from the Bible, sharing and exhorting God in prayer.
The Christian Brethren have no ordained ministry, set apart for functions which others cannot discharge. A considerable number do give their whole time to evangelism, Bible teaching and pastoral care, but are not regarded as being in clerical orders. Responsible brethren called elders or overseers administer the various local assemblies. These have no jurisdiction outside their local assemblies, and inside them they try to guide by example rather than rule by decrees. Deacons and deaconesses assist the elders or overseers.
The Christian Brethren have always manifested a supreme lack of interest in their numerical strength. This is because of their distinct feature of maintaining fellowship rather than membership. Obviously this simply means that it is never a question of one joining the assembly and becoming a member but rather sharing in the fellowship with those who love the Lord because of their common salvation in Christ Jesus. In this fellowship they should continue steadfastly. Thus the assemblies do not urge Christians to join their church to become members, but they invite them to share in the fellowship of the saints because they are members of the Body of Christ.
The church has been placed in this world as God’s representative and witness. And it would be incongruous to solicit money or funds from the world to support Heaven’s ambassadors and His work. Therefore, the assemblies do not solicit any funds from non-Christians. They consider giving as an act of worship and thus obtain all their funds from believers to maintain and honour His Name, His ministry and His witness.
The Doctrinal Basis
The following statement has been prepared for the purpose of making known what the Christian Brethren believe. It is presented as a means towards declaring some of the truths of the Scriptures, which are acknowledged and valued by the Christian Brethren who seek to adopt the New Testament truth and hold to the New Testament practices.
- The Bible, comprising the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God and is fully inspired, inerrant, completely authoritative and sufficient. (John 10:35; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 1 Peter 1:10-12; Ps. 19:7-11)
- The Scriptures set forth the eternal Trinity, that is, the Unity of Godhead, which has ever existed in three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Ex. 3:14; Deut. 6:4; Matt. 28:19; John 8:58; Gen. 1:2,26; John 1:1-2, 5:17-23; 15:25-26; 16: 7, 27-28; Phil. 2:6; Heb. 1:1-3, 8)
- This one God is infinite in knowledge, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, truth and love and is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. (Acts 17:24-28; Rom. 11:33-36; 1 John 1:5, 4:8)
- The Scriptures teach the deity, virgin birth, true humanity and absolute and essential sinlessness of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Matt. 1:23; John 1:1-4; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb. 4:15; 1 John 3:5; Rom. 8:3; Gal. 4:4; Matt. 1:20-25; Luke 1:35; John 1:14)
- Christ died as a sacrifice for our sins, was buried, and rose bodily on the third day and ascended to the right hand of God the Father where He ever lives to make intercession for His people. (1 Cor. 15:3-4; Eph. 1:20; Heb. 7:25; Heb. 10:12; Rom. 4:25; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 9:24-28; Matt. 28:5-7; Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9: Eph. 4:8-10; Heb. 4:14-16)
- Christ will come again to receive all His own and subsequently to set up His kingdom on earth. (John 14:3; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 19:11-16; Luke 1:32-33; Isa. 9:6-7; Dan. 2:44-45; 7:13-14)
- There will be a resurrection of the just and later of the unjust; the portion of the believer will be everlasting life and the portion of the unbeliever will be everlasting punishment. (Matt. 25:46; John 3:16; Acts 24:15; 2 Thess. 1:8-9; Rev. 20: 4-15)
- Man is fallen and guilty, he is sinful by nature and by choice, and cannot save himself. (John 3:19; Rom 3:9-23)
- Salvation is only by grace that is by God’s free favour without human merit; this salvation is on the ground of the blood of Christ and is received by faith in Him. (Rom. 3:22, 5:9; Eph 2:8; 1 Peter 1:19)
- None can see or enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again; the new birth takes place by the operation of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God when he accepts Jesus Christ as his Saviour, Lord and Master. (John 3:3-6; Titus 3:5-7; 1 Peter 1: 23)
- Those who repent of their sins and believe in the Gospel of Christ receive the forgiveness of sins and have redemption, and are fully and freely justified before God. Thus justification of the sinner before God is by faith in Christ alone. (Luke 24:47; Acts 13:38-39; Acts 20:21; Rom. 3:21-26; Rom. 4:4-5; 5:1; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Gal. 2:16)
- Every believer is eternally secured as to his salvation, and the Holy Spirit indwells in him as the earnest of his inheritance, as well as enabling him to discharge his constant responsibility to please God in his life and service; he is called upon to make himself acquainted with Divine teaching and to have the Word of Christ dwelling in him richly. (John 10:28-29; John 15:7, 16:4,15; Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30, 6:17; Col. 3:16; 1 Peter 1:14-17, 2:1-2)
- The claims of Christ as Lord of the believer extend to his whole person, spirit, soul and body; to his gifts and abilities, his time, money and possessions, and to all departments of his life. (John 13:14, 20:28; Acts 10:48; 1 Cor. 7:39, 12:3; 2 Cor. 4:5, 10:5; 1 Thess. 5:23; Eph. 4:5; 1 Peter 3:15)
- By virtue of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, all believers are incorporated into the church which is the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22-23; Eph. 4:4)
- God in His sovereignty has chosen according to His perfect will, but man is responsible to God, and the Gospel message is for “whosoever will”. (John 3:16; Rom. 8:28-30, 9:14-23; 1 Peter 1:2)
- The Christian is not of this world, and his real citizenship is in heaven, but it is his duty to obey all lawfully constituted authority and to do good to all men. (John 17:14; Acts 5:29; Gal. 6:10; Phil. 3:20; 1 Peter 2:13, 14)
- The Scriptures teach the personality, power, malignity and final doom of the devil, called Satan. (Job 1:6-12; Matt. 25:41; John 8:44; Eph. 6:11-12; Jude 9; Rev. 20:10)
The Christian Brethren Assemblies in Malaysia and the rest of the world generally accept the following principles and practices: –
The Foundation of the Local Church
Jesus Christ the Lord is the only and sufficient foundation for the establishment and witness of a local church. (1 Cor. 3:10-11)Gatherings of a local church are in the name of Christ Jesus alone, owning His Lordship and thus realizing His presence. (Matt. 18:20; 1 Cor. 5:4-5).Thus the church is the body of Christ and has only one Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Every born-again believer is a member of this body.
The Power of the Local Church
Fellowship in the Local Church
Fellowship in local churches is confined to born-again believers. (Acts 2:47; Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 11:16, 14:33; 2 Cor. 6:14; 1 John 1: 3, 7). Fellowship would involve responsibility and the acceptances of discipline by the local church.The only names, which are used for the Lord’s people, are those which belong equally and exclusively to all children of God, e.g. believers, brethren, christians, disciples, saints. (Matt. 23:8-10; Acts 11:26; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 4:12; Heb. 3:1).
Ordinances of the Lord
The Lord’s Supper, in remembrance of Christ Jesus and to proclaim His death, burial and resurrection until He returns, is observed each Lord’s day at a gathering of the church for that purpose. (Luke 22:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-24).This meeting, without human president or programme, is characterized by liberty of brothers to function publicly under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and by the exercise of priesthood privately by all and publicly by brethren who lead. (1 Cor.12:8-11, 14:26-35; 1 Peter 2:5, 9).In this way it recognizes the Lordship of Christ and the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide the worship and in the ministry of the Word.Baptism of believers only, unto the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and expressive of the judgement of God against themselves, is by immersion in water (the only form envisaged in the New Testament), and those baptized express also their intention to walk in the newness of life; all believers should be so baptized. (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 7:29,30; Acts 2:41,8:36, 8:38, 19:5; Rom. 6:1-14).
In short, baptism by immersion in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is for born-again believers only, on the confession of their faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Leadership of the Local Church
The care of the local church is in the hands of overseers or elders who are qualified according to the Scriptures, appointed by the Holy Spirit, and recognized by believers. (Acts 20:28; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5-9; Heb. 13:7,17,24; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Acts 14:23; John 21:16)
The local church is governed by a plurality of elders with the delegated authority from the Risen Head (Christ Jesus our Lord) to exercise leadership and discipline.
Hence it would suffice to say that the elders are concerned with the spiritual well being of their assembly while the deacons and the deaconesses are involved in the day to day affairs of the church and deal with practical matters.
Gifts in the Church
Whilst every believer in the assembly is endeavoured with at least one spiritual gift, some are given more and are to be used for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. (Eph. 4:12; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Cor. 12:7; Phil 2:3,4).
The assemblies generally accept the following spiritual gifts as still relevant in our time; prophecy (edification, instruction, consolation and exhortation), pastoral care, teaching, knowledge and wisdom, discernment, giving, helps, evangelist, hospitality, faith, intercession, missionary, leadership, administration, showing mercy and service. (Rom. 12:6-13; 1 Cor. 12:8-10; Eph. 4:11; 1 Peter 4:10-11; 1 Tim. 4:13; 1 John 4:1-6; 1 Cor. 2:1-13; James 1:5-6; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 1 Peter 5:11; 1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Tim. 4:5; James 5:14-16; 2 Tim. 1:16-18).
New Testament pastors and teachers are to be regarded as God’s provision for the adjustment and equipment of Christians to function faithfully in service and in building up the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 14:31; Eph. 4:7-14; Titus 1:1-11; 1 Peter 4:10).
Responsibilities of Believers
Whilst some are called as evangelists to preach the Gospel, all Christians are responsible to have fellowship in that work and to make Christ known by active and sustained witnessing.. (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:1,4; Rom. 1:5,16; 2 Cor. 4:3-4; Phil. 1:5-27; 1 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 4:5).
Believers are to hold the truth in love, and expressing Christian affection to the saved and the unsaved alike by sacrificial service. (John 13:34-35; 1 Cor. 13:1-13; 1 Cor. 16:4; Eph. 4:16; Heb. 10:24) The Lord’s work should be sustained by willing, sacrificial, regular and proportionate giving by all believers. (1 Cor. 16;1-2; 2 Cor. 8:5,12,9:7-13; Phil. 4:18; 3 John 7).
The Christian women always have performed much valuable service in connection with assemblies. In fact, it is not too much to say that the assemblies would not be what they are, nor could they accomplish what they do, without the sisters.
Whilst many types of service may be performed by sisters, the New Testament forbids them to teach or to have authority over men. (Luke 8:2-3; Acts 9:46; Rom. 16:1-2; 1 Cor. 14:34-35; Phil. 4:2-3; 1 Tim. 2:9-12; Titus 2:3-4).
During the gathering of believers as an assembly, the sisters are expected to have their head covered as a symbol of their acceptance of God’s order in the church. (1 Cor. 11:1-16).
The priesthood of all believers. Every believer is a holy priest to worship and is a royal priest to witness (1 Peter 2:5-9).
In view of the fact that whenever the New Testament denotes Christians as priests, the reference is always to the church in its entirety rather than to some privileged circle within the church, the brethren refuse to recognize a priestly ‘caste’. And this negates entirely the segregation of believers into groups such as clergy or laity.
Last updated: 16.11.2013