Christian Churches of God
Eating Together in Worship
(Edition 1.0 20060426-20060426)
The Laws of God command us to eat together in worship. How we do that, in both dress and manner, reflects on us as a church and as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God on this Earth.
Eating Together in Worship
God commands us to observe the Law and to meet together in whatever lands we are given as an inheritance in worship of Him. The structure and commands are given at Deuteronomy Chapter 12 in its entirety.
Deuteronomy 12:1 These are the statutes and judgments, which ye shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth.
Note that the time frame is not limited to the Temple and Jerusalem, but rather to any nation we are given, and for all the days that we live upon the earth.
2 Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: 3 And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place. 4 Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God. 5 But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come:
Thus, the Lord shall choose to set a place for every tribe and locality. The worship of false gods is to be rejected and is not to be imitated in worship of the One True God. All of the nations are to worship wherever the Lord places His name. The tithe is tied to this worship and the structure of the tithe in worship is to apply to the tribe and nation wherever they are placed in their inheritance.
6 And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: 7 And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee. 8 Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes. 9 For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the LORD your God giveth you.
Thus we are not to do what is right in our own eyes when we are placed in our inheritance and in safety.
10 But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; 11 Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD: 12 And ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God, ye, and your sons, and your daughters, and your menservants, and your maidservants, and the Levite that is within your gates; forasmuch as he hath no part nor inheritance with you.
We are commanded to go where the Lord our God shall choose to place His name, and all of us are to take our offerings and tithes and eat there together with the servants of God who have no other inheritance.
We are not to offer in just any place, but in the place set aside by God for that purpose. Today, that means the place determined officially by the Church as the instrument for the conduct of the Laws of God in worship.
13 Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: 14 But in the place which the LORD shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.
The normal eating of meat is not restricted by this order or law, which allows the killing and the daily consumption of meat in all of the gates of our people.
15 Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee: the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of the roebuck, and as of the hart. 16 Only ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water.
The restriction is that we may not eat the tithe within any of our gates, and it must only be consumed in the place that is set aside for the purpose of the worship of the One True God.
17 Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand:
These tithes and offerings are to be consumed only in the place set aside for the purpose by the Church in conduct of the feasts of the Lord three times a year in accordance with the Sacred Calendar (see the paper God’s Calendar (No. 156) and also Tithing (No. 161)).
18 But thou must eat them before the LORD thy God in the place which the LORD thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto. 19 Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth.
This aspect is not just to apply to Israel in its early inheritance but to the entire nation and to Spiritual Israel, which is the Church of God, as we see from this text. We are able to convert our tithes to money and go to the place set aside for us no matter where we are. As money is the normal means of exchange these days there is no problem in understanding this aspect and the concept of the tithe of that money.
The text requires us to go and to rejoice before the Lord God in all that we put our hands to do. The very act of going there and eating is a function of worship of the Living God and what we do. It is also mentioned in that aspect in Psalm 22:29.
20 When the LORD thy God shall enlarge thy border, as he hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, I will eat flesh, because thy soul longeth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after. 21 If the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to put his name there be too far from thee, then thou shalt kill of thy herd and of thy flock, which the LORD hath given thee, as I have commanded thee, and thou shalt eat in thy gates whatsoever thy soul lusteth after.
22 Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten, so thou shalt eat them: the unclean and the clean shall eat of them alike. 23 Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh. 24 Thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water. 25 Thou shalt not eat it; that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the LORD.
The whole nation, both the clean and the unclean (v.22), is to eat of these meats at the feasts. The blood of these animals is forbidden to be eaten or consumed.
The tithes and that which is acceptable before God are to be taken to the place of the Feast that has been chosen for that purpose. So, from the first part of the text in verse 17, we are forbidden to eat the tithe within our gates. However, when we are enlarged and the place set aside for the feasts is too far, then we may eat of the tithe within our gates as is necessary (v. 21), but we are expected to be at the place chosen for the Feast (vv 26-27). Thus, we must make every effort to go there but if we cannot then we may eat of the tithes at home. If we have to do so, we can convert the tithe to money and take it and offer the vows we have made before God in the place chosen. In modern times, tithes are in money anyway for most workers.
26 Only thy holy things which thou hast, and thy vows, thou shalt take, and go unto the place which the LORD shall choose: 27 And thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, upon the altar of the LORD thy God: and the blood of thy sacrifices shall be poured out upon the altar of the LORD thy God, and thou shalt eat the flesh.
There is an injunction here in the text concerning the requirement for us to observe these aspects forever. Christ fulfilled the law of God and thus eliminated the sacrifice, but he did not do away with the law and he did not eliminate the feasts or the tithe.
28 Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD thy God. 29 When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; 30 Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. 31 Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. 32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
Thus, it was always understood that we had to comply with the law and keep the Feasts of God and meet together in worship as commanded assemblies.
That was understood from earliest times. David was aware that he had to attend the New Moon Feasts at the court of the king as an officer (1Sam. 20:5,24). He was required to be in attendance. If we dress before civil dignities, how much more should we do so before God and our brethren?
The Church did this in assembly as we read in Acts 2:42-47.
Acts 2:42-47 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (KJV)
As they were added to the Churches grew, and the people regularly worshipped and ate together.
They worshipped in the Temple while it stood at Jerusalem and went to the houses of the brethren and ate in common. Outside of Judea they met in their houses and ate together in worship
The Church at Corinth was turning these feasts into occasions of offence and was told to eat at home if they could not behave themselves in a seemly manner.
1Corinthians 11:20-34 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. 21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? what shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. 23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.
Thus the annual Lord’s Supper was an occasion of solemnity and commemoration but it was being turned into revelry at Corinth. The brethren were to come together to eat and to behave in a seemly manner when eating together.
In this way they were to be ambassadors of God and respectful of each other.
The Church understood this aspect but was mindful that the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). The way we conduct ourselves, and the respect we show the brethren is indicative of our own attitudes towards God and Christ in the Church.
The brethren were all given codes of dress. Men were not to have long hair (1Cor. 11:14) and were to dress appropriately. Women were to wear modest apparel.
In like manner also women should adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array. But with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
The word ‘broided’ in the KJV is the Greek plegma, meaning plaits or hair braided in an ornate fashion. It was the custom to dress the hair with gold and pearls etc. The reference is considered to be to wives rather than females generally.
Comment: The text is not implying a total ban on the wearing of jewellery or braided hair, but rather Paul was expressing caution in a society where such things were signs of extravagant luxury and proud personal display.
Compare also 1Peter 3:3-5:
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their faith in God used to make themselves beautiful.
So also women were not to wear the apparel of a man nor a man that of a woman under the law.
The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abominations unto the LORD thy God.
It is because of these restrictions and the long-standing customs of the Churches of God they were to comply with a dress code according to the customs of the nations within which they resided.
The Sabbath Feasts of the Church were always regarded as bridal feasts where we dressed to be before our coming husband Jesus Christ, and for worship before our Father, the One True God.
Thus, the very minimum standard was the best suit or dress that we had for special occasions. At the very least we dressed as we would for business in showing courtesy to those with whom we ate.
Only over recent years has it become fashionable in some countries not to dress in a semi-formal manner for the Sabbaths and Holy Days of the Lord, when either going to church or afterwards at communal meals. However, that does not make it right. It merely means we are lowering our standards in disregard for the dictates of Scripture and the customs of the Churches of God.
It has always been the practice of the Churches of God that women do not wear slacks on Sabbaths, New Moons and Holy Days but dress in an appropriate manner with a dress or skirt and blouse, with or without a jacket.
Males always wear a shirt and tie with a jacket in cooler climates both at services and at meals.
In Asian nations formal national dress such as batik shirts or Barongs (in the Philippines) are accepted formal wear.
Sarongs and Saris are also acceptable national dress for formal wear.
Smart casual dress can apply at Feast meals on other than Sabbaths and Holy Days.
In outdoor activities women may wear slacks and boots.
Jeans are not acceptable in any indoor activity but may be worn in outdoor settings such as barbecues and hikes.
Sandals have been worn since footwear was invented and have never been regulated, however, they should be worn appropriately.
Sport or orthopaedic footwear can be worn only as necessary for medical reasons at any Church formal meals and functions.
These standards have been adopted by resolution in all the national bodies of the Churches of God and by the World Conference.
If we do not respect one another enough to dress in an appropriate manner we should stay home. Remember we are part of the Body of Christ and our dress should reflect that fact. Whenever we meet together we are before God and we should honour Him in our dress, as well as in our speech and behaviour.
In conclusion, it is up to us to dress appropriately so as not to give offence to God or any of our brethren. People in need should be assisted so that all are able to attend the Feasts, to fellowship and eat together on a regular basis whenever possible, and to have the basic necessities of life, as we saw in Acts 2:45, in order that we lack nothing.