Is the expression “the whole assembly receives and the whole assembly puts away” scriptural?
Reception to and removal from an assembly are not merely earthly decisions; they are administrative actions. The assembly administers on earth the will of God in heaven. The Lord teaches this in Matthew 18:18, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The assembly administers a case by either applying heaven’s discipline or releasing from it. The assembly thus acts in its character as the “House of God” (1 Timothy 3:15; Genesis 28:17). When the assembly carries out the Word of God, His will in heaven and the assembly’s action on earth are the same.
God views the assembly as a unit when it prays (Acts 4:24), responds (11:22), worships (1 Corinthians 10:17), and acts (Matthew 18:17). Whether or not every believer in the assembly moves in harmony with the whole, the assembly has the character of a body (1 Corinthians 12:27) and moves as a single unit. Therefore, administering for God, the assembly receives and the assembly puts away. Seen by God as a unit, “the whole assembly receives and the whole assembly puts away.”
Do overseers receive to or put away from the assembly?
Answering this may be repetitious, but necessary. While a meeting of overseers an assembly meeting (Acts 20:1 15:6), the elders do not act on behalf of the assembly. The “church of the living God,” not the elder is the House of God (1 Timothy 3:15). The elders are the leaders (Romans 12:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 5:17; “rule means “lead,” W. E. Vine) are guides (Hebrews 13:7,17,24, AV mg.). As men of maturity in devine truth, they lead the assembly in carrying out the Word of God. They are responsible to know the relevant facts of the case; for the good of others, they may be wise not to share some of what they know. They do not come to spiritual decision through popular consent, but, by the character and evident fairness and the fear of God, they bring the assembly to a scriptural consensus. The assembly follows their scriptural guidance and administers for God. Oversee have the weighty responsibility of knowing God’s Word and ways and of then guiding the assembly to act for God. This is not guesswork. Overseers need and deserve the prayerful support fellow-believers.
Must an assembly act with unanimous consent?
The assembly should act with unanimous consent. Godly overseers know that their leadership does not flow from official power but from spiritual weight (1 Peter 5:3). A shepherd’s consistent character, honesty, and concern for the Lord and His people gains the confidence of God’s flock. His own humble submission to God’s Word sets the pattern that leads others to submit to God’s Word (Acts 20:28).
The ideal is for a well-fed flock to recognize the care of those who feed it, to gladly follow their servant leadership (Mark 10:42-45), and to unite around its shepherds in crisis. To our shame, wherever human responsibility is involved, the picture is less than ideal. Both shepherds and sheep have the liability of the flesh within (Romans 7:18). A lack of assembly unanimity may reflect the limitations of either the shepherds or the sheep, or, more likely, both.
In Hezekiah’s times, God prepared the hearts of the people and, from their low spiritual condition, brought them to a united spirit of worship (2 Chronicles 29:36). Wisdom waits on God to so work that His people will be united around His Word. Men who force their way rather than waiting on God to open the way give evidence of self-will. This cost Saul his kingdom (I Samuel 13:11-14).
The sad condition may arise in which a united, humble oversight must move forward in dependence on God and guide the assembly to act when some in the assembly still dissent. Such a condition should lead all in the assembly to a spirit of brokenness before God. Something is wrong and each should be asking, as the disciples did (Mark 14:19), “Is it I?”
When some dissent, are the assembly’s decisions therefore not binding?
This cannot be answered lightly. Rebellion is always justified in the eyes of those who rebel. It is always classified by God as being akin to witchcraft (1 Samuel 15:23). Those who openly resist the decision of the assembly betray their willful character. In the rare cases when the dissenters are right, they can trust God to give them an opportunity to speak privately with the leaders and effectively express their concern from Scripture. They can trust the power of God’s Word to work for blessing. They can cry mightily to God in secret.
“Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25) was a dangerous and God-dishonoring condition. So it is in the assembly. The assembly’s decisions are binding. God views the assembly as a unit.
In the rare cases where an assembly’s decision is not consistent with the Scriptures, God holds the leaders and the assembly responsible (1 Chronicles 21:17). In His governmental dealings, the results will be telling (1 Corinthians 11:30-32).