Amarillo Primitive Baptist Church
E-Bible Study – Volume I – Issue II
A study on Doctrine
What is the practice of the Church?
In the last issue of our E-Bible study we spent time considering the definition of Doctrine, and how that definition applies to the church and members of the church.  Another important and correlated consideration is that of the church’s practice.  While the idea of church practice can often be an amorphous subject, it is an important consideration in the life of a healthy church.
While there are many church practices, i.e., starting time, length of song service, how often to have communion, etc., that are merely a matter of each church deciding their preference there are also church practices that are prescribed by scripture.  It is these church practices which must be evaluated in order to determine the spiritual health and soundness of a congregation.
In future issues of our E-Bible Study and through additional discussion, essential church practices can be further fleshed out.  However, in order to provide an example let us consider the Communion service.  Within this service there are multiple essential church practices.  The first being that a church have a designated communion service.  The scriptures, for instance 1 Corinthians 11, give the church options on how often to have communion, but not once is there an option on whether or not to have communion.  Furthermore, we are instructed to use wine and not some other substitute and unleavened bread and not any other item.  These are essential church practices and should be looked for when deciding on the spiritual health of a church.
Are essential church practices less important than doctrine?
“That church is sound in their doctrine but their practice is a little off.”  I have head this statement made about many churches over the years.  Most of the time the statement is made in defense of the identified church, as if to say, they are ok on what they teach but the way they teach it is different.  The statement is made as an excuse or an apology for the church indicated.
In cases where it is non-essential church practices, such as the pastor wearing a tie or women wearing pants in worship, I would fully agree that doctrine is far more important than practice.  Items of dress, start time, use of song books, etc…, have very little impact on worshiping in truth and in spirit.  However, the same cannot be said for essential church practices.  Essential church practices are directly tied in with doctrine and must be held to just as strictly.
Going back to our example of the communion service.  It may seem as though it is an insignificant decision for a church to move from using wine to using grape juice in their communion service.  However, the use of wine instead of grape juice is a practice that cannot be separated from vital doctrine.  The use of wine represents the pure blood of Jesus Christ.  The process of fermentation removes the impurities from the wine.  A church changing to using grape juice in symbol denies the purity of the blood of Christ and lessens the sacrifice that was necessary to be paid for our sins.  This is just one example of an essential church practice which cannot be separated from doctrine and thus is not less important than doctrine.
What are the most important doctrines and practice of the true church?
This question in part goes back to a question that was asked after the first issue of our E-Bible Study.  While most active church goers can explain how they feel about their church, what they believe, and what their church is like they often struggle to answer the question of “What does your church believe?” or “What makes your church different from church so-and-so?”  These seem like such simple questions, and yet because of the interconnectedness of our beliefs they are often very difficult to answer.
So, how do you answer that question?  What is the most important doctrine and practice?  My recommendation is that you always emphasize that the most important belief and practice is that you believe in a sovereign and almighty God.  Too many Christians today believe in a God with limitations or they believe in a salvation that puts prerequisites on the saved.  When answering this question we should continually emphasize that the doctrines and practices of our church are all centered on a belief that God is sovereign and deserves all of the glory.  From this point we can explain so much of what we believe to be the truth of the scriptures.
Talking Points:
  • There are essential and non-essential church practices.
  • Non-essential church practices should be a matter of church liberty
  • Essential church practices are tied to doctrine and cannot be sacrificed in a spiritually healthy church.
  • We believe in a sovereign God that deserves all praise
In order to continue this discussion, please respond to this email using either reply (if you don’t want the whole list to see your discussion) or reply all (if you want to involve everyone). Questions, comments, thoughts, and suggestions are always welcome. These questions are just a starting point for a larger discussion.
May the Lord bless your studies,
Elder Jeremiah

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