THE AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH
Question: How do you explain Matthew 18:18 and John 20:23? Some have said that these words were added in the Middle Ages and were not proposed by the Lord Jesus Himself. How do you feel? Please answer me in The Christian. (Tsui)
Answer: These two verses are in the reliable manuscripts. There is no basis to say that they were added during the Middle Ages. The teaching in these verses is true. The Lord introduces His words in Matthew with the words, "Truly I say to you." This shows their importance. These two verses are on the excommunication of believers. If some are excommunicated from the church, it means that they were in the church. Therefore, what is covered here has nothing to do with salvation and perdition (1 Cor. 5:5), because the excommunicated ones are saved ones.
The meaning here is this: When the church excommunicates a believer and such an act is carried out according to God’s word, God will acknowledge in heaven what the church does on earth. John 20:23 is even clearer. Verse 23 immediately follows verse 22. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, there cannot be a proper excommunication. The authority of excommunication comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. These two verses should be read in conjunction with 1 Corinthians 5:11, 13 and 6:9-10. All those who have been properly excommunicated by the church will not reign in the millennium, though they themselves will be saved.
Question: Why does the book of Esther have no mention of the name of God? (Weigh)
Answer: This is, of course, the ground for the higher critics to criticize the book of Esther. But I will quote Dr. Gaebelein’s word, "Although the name God is not here, God Himself is in this little book. We see Him expressed in many areas. We see Him expressed in His arrangement and His power in delivering and preserving His covenanted people. Although God’s people were unfaithful, He looked upon them and cared for them. He destroyed the enemy’s plot. It is true that they had not called on Him. But His unbounded matchless grace was manifested to them. Hence, although this book does not mention God’s name, it shows God’s government."
Professor Cassel said, "This book was written by one Jew to all the Jews scattered in all the provinces of Persia. It recorded how God’s sovereignty delivered His people from inevitable woe through miraculous hands. This book has no other purpose except this one; it is not for recording other incidents. Of course, this book also describes to us the life in the Persian palace, which we cannot find recorded anywhere else."
Gaebelein also said, "This book points out the fact that after the Jews had left their homeland and outwardly had nothing more to do with God, God was still being gracious to them. This termination of outward relationship may be the reason for this book to avoid the name of God."
Question: I read Hebrews 6:2 concerning the teaching of baptisms and do not understand what it means. Please explain to me in detail. Do the different baptisms in this verse mean that in the ancient churches there was also a variety of rituals, as it is today with the variety of baptisms found in the various denominations? Or does it mean the baptism of water, fire, and the Holy Spirit? (Law)
Answer: In the ancient church, there was no other baptism except water baptism. The baptisms here do not refer to the baptism of water, fire, or the Holy Spirit. This is speaking of the various washing ceremonies in the Old Testament. The apostle is here exhorting the Hebrew believers to leave the word of the beginning of Christ and to go on to perfection. They were Hebrews and had much to do with the Old Testament. The baptisms here refer to the many washings in the temple. Even the laying on of hands here refers to the laying of hands on the head of the sacrifices in the Old Testament. In the New Testament age, there is only "one baptism" (Eph. 4:5).
Question: I have never seen the actual way of baptism. I wonder if it is all right for both males and females to baptize. Or should it just be males? If only males can baptize and the one being baptized is female, it is inappropriate for them to be in the water together for the sake of the weaker ones. Please do not ignore my questions for their insignificance, and please instruct me concerning the same.
Answer: According to the example of the Bible, we do not see sisters baptizing others. I dare not say that the Bible forbids sisters to baptize others, but it is clear that the Bible has not charged them to do this. As far as it being inappropriate for the weaker ones, we cannot be that concerned. I know that in the villages, when the brothers and sisters meet together under one roof, some unbelievers even criticize them for such. But we cannot separate the men and the women into two meetings just because others criticize us. If believers would keep a clear line between male and female in their daily lives and would walk soberly and properly, the unbelievers would have nothing more to say. John once baptized a prostitute. One thing is sure: "To those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure" (Titus 1:15).
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 07: The Christian (5), Chapter 20, by Watchman Nee)