Is the Gospel Meeting, as we have it, based on Scripture or on 19th century church practices? Is there warrant, for example, for singing hymns with unbelievers?
It must be acknowledged that there is no "chapter and verse" to which one might turn to substantiate the holding of a weekly Gospel Meeting as has been traditionally practised by assemblies of the Lords people.
The commission given by the risen Lord to His disciples was, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mk 16.15), and His last recorded words prior to His ascension were, "ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1.8). Many examples are given in Acts of how and where the gospel was preached: publicly in the city of Jerusalem, in the porch that is called Solomons, before the council, in the city of Samaria, in the desert, in the synagogues, in the house of Cornelius, and so on.
However, Paul envisages the possibility of unbelievers coming in among the people of God as gathered together: "If therefore the whole church be come together into one place...and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers" (1 Cor 14.23). No doubt, opportunity would have been taken to proclaim the glad tidings. At least, in the context, the outcome could well be that "the secrets of his heart (are) made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth" (1 Cor 14.25).
As to singing hymns with (or in the presence of) unbelievers, Paul says again in this very passage, "every one of you hath a psalm" (1 Cor 14.26). Most gospel hymns do convey gospel truth; however, those not saved should not be encouraged to sing words which evidently do not come out of a personal experience.
Over many years there has clearly been a good reason for an assembly holding a regular weekly Gospel Meeting in the Gospel Hall (the very name indicating a place where the gospel is preached). Many have been converted during, or as a result of attending, such meetings. However, each assembly should regularly review its "gospel effort". Gospel meetings do not have to be held at 6.30pm on a Lords Day evening. If no unbelievers are attending such meetings, then a different form of outreach should be considered.
David E West
To what does "the camp" in Hebrews 13.13 refer, and in what way, if at all, would it apply today?
The exhortation in the passage cited shows that just as the Lord Jesus fulfilled the type of the sin offering which was burned outside the camp (v.12) so true believers should gather to Christ outside the camp. "The camp" was the Jewish religion that had become apostate and was finished with by God at Calvary. It had become a dead religion occupied with dead works (Heb 9.14). The background is almost certainly Exodus 32 and 33 when the camp of Israel was marked by apostasy. Moses gave a clarion and radical call to those in the camp to go forth outside to the tent that he had erected. This tent was not the Tabernacle, for it had yet to be built. Moses tent was a protest against the apostate state of the camp of Israel. Only those who were exercised about seeking the Lord left the camp and went out to Moses
I have no doubt that the exhortation to go forth outside the camp has a present application to Christians today. From the year 1825 onwards, Christians with deep conviction, and many at personal cost, came out of established religion to gather to the Lords name alone. Christendom is but an extension today of Judaism, and may be described as but a patchwork of Judaism. The very existence of an assembly today is a testimony to a rejected Christ and a protest against man-made systems. Is one justified in comparing Judaism and Christendom today? Consider the following: Judaism had its temple worship, so does Christendom; Judaism had its human priesthood, so does Christendom; Judaism had its human ordination and its robes of office, so does Christendom; Judaism had its altars and holy precincts, so does Christendom; Judaism had its ordinances and laws, so does Christendom; Judaism had added to the word of God its traditions making it of non-effect, so does Christendom. The command to go forth outside the camp today is as applicable now as it was in the first century to the Christians appealed to in Hebrews. Believers should have a conviction to obey this command, drawn by the magnetism of the person of Christ and willing to bear His reproach.
John J Stubbs