"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.XI No.II Pg.7-10
February 1949

"My House Shall Be Called A House Of Prayer

L. Heron

Arlington, Texas

The title of this article is a quotation from Jesus when He drove from the temple them that bought and sold. On two occasions Jesus drove from the temple those who did not have proper respect for the house of worship. (John 2 and Matt. 21) Although there is a great deal of likeness between them they are not the same occasion. Once Jesus said: "You have made it a den of thieves." The other: "Make not my Fathers house a house of merchandise."

Since there is nothing in the New Testament just to take up space, there is a grand purpose for the Holy Spirits preserving this for our learning. That purpose is that we may have proper respect for things dedicated to the service and worship of God. Although we all know there is a world of difference between the "meeting house" and the church of our Lord, there are many examples given to teach us to respect the "house of prayer."

The position I am taking is not the one taken by all my preaching brethren, even some of my close friends, but it is the position which I believe to be safe and right, and is, therefore, the position I shall hold until some Scripture be given to prove it wrong. I find a certain amount of satisfaction in opposing anything I believe to be contrary to the truth of God.

A Look At The Temple and Tabernacle

(and applications made)

When God led the people into the wilderness, away from the idolatry of Egypt He ordered them to build Him a house. In Exodus 25:8 He called his house a sanctuary—a holy, dedicated place. This fact alone suggests that it was to be used for a special purpose—the worship of God. In Lev. 17:4-6 God spake of this sanctuary as a "place of sacrifice and worship." In Lev. 8:10 Moses takes the oil of dedication and dedicated not only the tabernacle, but the furnishings as well. Why did he so do? Did this ceremony change the building so far as one could see? No! Why, then, the ceremony? God desired that all get the significance of this sanctified, dedicated place of the Lord. All will recall that all that was done in, and concerning the tabernacle must be according to the command of the Lord. In Lev. 10, when Nadab and Abihu would use "strange fire," contrary to the command of the Lord, they paid for their folly with their lives. The same is true of Uzzah, in his touching the Ark. 2 Sam. 6:5-6. We have so long applied these things to denominational error that most of us think the Holy Spirit placed these on record for that purpose only. Concerning the former error God said: "I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me and before all the people I will be glorified."

Sure, there is condemnation in these for denominational error, but the people with whom God was then dealing were not in denominational error. Lets not overlook the lesson there for ourselves.

When we come to study the temple the first thing that impresses us is that it surpassed the tabernacle almost beyond our conception. In I Chron. 17:11-12 it was made known that Solomon was to build the Temple. God called it a "house of God," and He was speaking of the temple. In I Chron. 28:10 it too, was called a sanctuary. When this temple was finished it was dedicated to the worship of God. Solomon, in his prayer of dedication, spake of it several times as "The Lords house," "a place of prayer and sacrifice, worship" In 2 Chron. 7:16 God accepts this temple as "His house." and "hallowed it." In Ezek. 43:2 we learn the temple was "sanctified" Ezek. 42:13-14 it was "sacred." "but," says someone, the meeting house is not sanctified! Could you prove that? I have heard of their being "dedicated" even by men. But if we should agree that the meetinghouse is not sanctified, dont forget the things that made the temple sacred, sanctified. Have you ever asked yourself why they were? When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush He told Moses that the ground around there was holy. How come that part of a sheep-pasture holy? It had not been before. Why was it then? Why was it not thereafter? You can see the why. It was then, dedicated to the service of God. The presence of God, the Glory of God was there.

Abuse And Misuse Of Dedicated Things

While Israel was wandering in the wilderness they were to keep holy the Sabbath which God had "hallowed." That day was no different from any other day except that God had commanded that it be kept "holy." God hallowed it. God also made it clear that failure to respect the sacredness of that day was punishable by death. In Num. 15:32-36 there is a sad account of a poor fellow who reasoned that it was no different from any other day, in any sense. He died for polluting the Sabbath of the Lord.

We learn from Ezek. 44:5-9 that to bring the uncircumcised into the temple was to pollute it. In Acts 21:28-29 Paul was charged, by a prejudiced mob, of committing such a sin. He was not guilty; but this account informs us that, even though their religious convictions were shallow, they knew it was for them to show respect for the house of God.

When Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem (2 Kings 24 & 25) he took from the temple the vessels which were used in the services and carried them away into Babylon where they were placed in the palace. About fifty years later Belshazzar is reigning instead of Nebuchadnezzar. While entertaining a thousand of his lords and ladies (so they were called) he sent for those vessels and commanded they be used in the drunkenness and revelry. Isnt there something significant to the fact that at that moment appeared the handwriting on the wall? Suppose I ask why this sudden condemnation? Was it because they were drinking? Was it, purely, because they had no regard for right? Was it because they did not respect the Lord? No, these were not the reasons. They were a people who had ever been given to such sins. If you desire the real answer to the question listen to Daniel when he is giving the King the meaning of the handwriting. "—And thou, his son. 0 Belshazzar hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them—"

Is there any guessing about the matter? I am stating that it is a dangerous thing to use for some earthly purpose the things that have been dedicated to the service of the Lord.

Yes, I agree, these things were sacred. And again I ask why were they sacred? The temple and tabernacle and their furnishings were sacred for some two or three reasons. Because of the presence of the Lord. Because of the law of the Lord. Because of the blood or, the sacrifices. I learn from Matt. 18:20 that "Where two or three are gathered together—" the Lord is there in the midst of them, We cant see Him. Neither could Moses see Him in the bush, but He was there, and even the ground about was, therefore, holy. In Acts 10:33 Cornelius said: "— we are all here present before God—" I know there is a sense in which we are always present before God, but when we come to the house of the Lord, when we come to worship etc. we are present with the Lord in an unusual way. In the Hebrew letter the Apostle, or writer goes into detail to make us see how much more were the things of the new covenant than anything under the old: The Mediator, the Law, the Sacrifice, the Promises, the Priesthood, etc. In the Tabernacle there went the blood of bulls and goats "which could not take away sin," while in the meeting house we have the emblems of the blood of the Lord which can, in no manner, be compared to the blood of bulls and goats, so far as its atonement is concerned.

Meeting House Not A Social Nor Recreational Center

(and should not be used as such)

The time has come when one can go into some meetinghouses and find anything from a modern kitchen to a morgue. Anything one desires to do he can find the means in some of our modern meetinghouses. Take exercise, play ping-pong, read magazines, listen to the radio, or even the organ, piano (for special occasions, however) cook and eat a meal, take a nap, play pool, or well, what do you want to do. If we dont have it well put it in.

I know, by observation, if by no other means, that these things have no place in a house of worship. I list a few reasons why I say these things should never be in the place of worship. First, they divide brethren. Yes, there are a great many who still insist on doing things as they should be done—according to the Scriptures. They will not endorse the above. When they stand for the truth as they should a division is likely to follow. I was on a lecture, not a thousand miles from Arlington, and less than a hundred years ago, and while being shown through their new building wherein are many of the things mentioned above, I asked my guide, and brother, "Well, just what do you really think about all this?" He dropped his eyes to the floor and answered: "Perhaps it is all very well, but I do know we have lost some of the best members this congregation ever had just because of these very things." I could get no more out of him. That was enough. If a thing were perfectly alright in itself, yet is a matter of expediency, it becomes sinful when its introduction causes a division among brethren. A preacher friend, and a good fellow, I know, told me some time ago that he could not get along with the eldership where he was preaching. They were, as he put it, "good men," but they did not like it when he conducted a Halloween party in the church building. Division is sinful and when things, not involving doctrinal truth, cause divisions, then the things are sinful.

Second, perhaps this should have been first, but I am not trying to list these in order of their importance, these things rob the services of the church of its spirituality. It is little wonder that so many fail to be impressed with the spiritual significance of the worship services, When a congregation tries to compete with everything from a cafe to an undertaking establishment it is bound to have its effect on all, both young and old. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their misuse of the Lords Supper, —some became drunk, and others showed disrespect by bringing their ordinary meals to the place of worship. In this rebuke Paul asked a question. Will you hear it? "What? Have ye not houses to eat and drink in? Or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not." (I Cor. 11:22) True, I know they were not discerning the Lords body and blood. But what of the question: "Have you not houses in which to eat and drink?" All of us who have pointed out the reasonable inference, what about the reasonable inference here? I have no better sense than to think the apostle is inferring that such is not to be done in the place of worship, — eating an ordinary meal.

Third, these things lower the activities of the congregation to a sectarian level. I know one should not shrink from doing a thing just because the sects are doing it. I also know there is no reason FOR doing a thing just because they are. As for the things Im mentioning, some would not be the least out of place in any sectarian church in the country. It should be impossible for the world to see any likeness between the church of our Lord and Sectarianism.

Fourth, this is all unfair to your youth. It is a good thing some of us have "our young people." Any time one desires to bring something unscriptural into the affairs of the church, we hear: "We must do something for our young folk." I say this young folk problem, which is not really a problem, at least of the church, as a church, is all unfair to the young people. Some have talked about this so long they have made the youth in the congregations over the land think they ARE a problem to the church. The greatest problem of the young folk of our day, if there is any problem, is the parents. I get tired of this asking the leadership of the church: What is the church doing for my children?" What are you doing? If it is true that the church is not doing anything, it is still up with a good many parents the church. Dont misunderstand, I think it is a fine thing for Christian parents, to get together, as Christian parents, and provide things of a wholesome nature for the young folk. I think we should bring, and keep them together. I think we should be willing to spend ourselves, and our means toward that end. As Christian parents we should do this. But let us not try to shift our God-given responsibilities, as parents, to the leadership of the church. The church is not a social institution. When one becomes a parent, he just then becomes responsible for his child, socially, as well as every other way. If caring for the young, socially, were a problem of the church, then, that man who is not a member of the church, but who has a house full of children, would have no such responsibility at all. What are you doing for your children? Father has his work, his golf, his club, his fishing, his lodge. Mother has about the same crowded program. Her housework, (which must not include caring for children) her circle, bridge, tea, shopping, and too, she must spend a day or so a month in some meeting learning how to bring up her children, while some other mothers are at home, or some other suitable place doing just that, while her own are tucked away in the picture show or roaming the streets. If we are really too busy to care for our children, live with them, play with them, take an interest in their interest etc. then, we are too busy to have children. If the best we can provide for our children, socially is the auto ride, the road house, dance floor, bathing pool, and the picture theatre; there is no need to try to dress up the meeting house and attract them, and at the same time maintain in them a respect for the house of the Lord.

I have a world of confidence in our young folk. I think they are the finest yet. They are doing well considering the examples set before some of them. The dishonest, and profane fathers, the cocktail-sipping, dancing, cursing, smoking mothers have no right to expect anything better of their children. But the young folk are no problem to the church, they have been made the "goat" when something is being done that is not in keeping with the Word of God. Our youth will have just as much interest in worship services today as they ever did if we will keep the meeting places "places of prayer."

Promoters In The Field

Yes, this, like every other sin has its promoters. I think, however, most are engaged in it quite unconsciously. First, there are the over-enthusiastic teachers and preachers, those with more zeal than knowledge. If we can take over the responsibility of the children that will please the busy parents, and we shall be in demand. We get concerned about our young folk and insist that this or that be done in order to "save them." We persuade the elders, and here it is. In the many years I have been preaching I have met more unreasonable preachers, in matters of this sort, than elders and deacons. I once preached for a church where there was a very fine young lady who taught one of the classes. She got so much concerned with the young folk that, without the permission, or the knowledge, of the leadership, she took the class, all dressed up as spooks and goblins, to the meetinghouse and conducted a Halloween party. Yes, the intentions of such enthusiastic workers may all be very good, but they must be controlled by those who have knowledge along with the zeal.

Others who are promoting this sin are the thoughtless parents. As already mentioned we have led them to believe that the responsibility of oaring for their children is to be given to the leadership of the church. Their first, and perhaps last, thought is that something is being done for children, with little, or no consideration for whether that thing is in keeping with the wishes of the Lord.

Finally, often this is promoted by the leadership. Not that they desire to do anything that is not proper, but they, doubtless, have not given such matters the proper amount of thought. They have not discovered that such is not in keeping with the purpose for which the meetinghouse was erected. They desire to have peace and are willing to pay the price of cheapening the services, and the place itself in order to have that peace.

If Christian parents desire to contribute of their funds to provide things of a social, recreational nature for youth, and even to build a house in which such is to be done, that will be well and good. Such a move might well have the endorsement of all. But when the leadership of the congregation raises a sum of money to build a "house of worship," and then uses twenty-five percent of that money in providing these social and recreational things, it is nothing less than obtaining money under false pretense.

The buyers and sellers of Jesus day were not engaged in an illegitimate business but they were doing business in the name of religion, and in the "house of prayer." There is no real evidence that they were dishonest, as some have ventured. Jesus did say: "—you have made it a den of thieves—-," but some scholars, including Adam Clarke, suggest that they were thieves in that they were not serving souls in the temple as they pretended to be, and the very nature of their business in the temple robbed it of its dignity. There can be no question that Jesus was speaking of the temple when he used the term "house" in the passages mentioned. "You have made it— " Their business there did not pollute the "family" of God, but, rather, His temple.

If we would have all to respect the "house of the Lord," whether the family of the temple, lets keep the place of worship a "house of prayer."