Bible Questions And Answers

Bible Questions And Answers

Question: Could you please print an article about eating and drinking in the church and is there any scriptures of this in the Bible?  We have an annex to eat in at the church we attend, but this goes on in the church still.

     Answer: This question betrays a gross misunderstanding of the nature of the church. As Christians, we eat and drink “in the church” every day. But when we speak of the Lord’s church as though it is a building or a physical place, we perpetuate very serious error, and create untold confusion about the scriptural issues involved in this question. If a Christian eats and drinks, he is doing do “in the church” because that’s where the Christian is at all times.

     The word “church” is not used in the New Testament to refer to a building, and there were no “church buildings” in the early days of the church. The first known “church building” did not come along until about 200 years after Christ. Then, man began to erroneously refer to the meeting house as the “church” and then started to impose all kinds of unbiblical restrictions upon what could and could not be done “in the church.” Even in our day, congregations have been torn asunder by man-made doctrines declaring that it is “unscriptural to eat in the church.” Let’s look at what the Scriptures say about this matter.

     During his earthly ministry, Jesus taught that under the new covenant the place of worship is insignificant. “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father,” (Jn. 4:21). Christian worship is not limited to a particular physical place. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshipers,” (Jn. 4:23).  Whether or not worship is acceptable to God is not determined by the physical place, but by whether or not the worship is in “spirit and truth.”

     Since Christians are commanded to regularly assemble, a meeting place is required, (Heb. 10:25). Assembling requires a place to assemble, but the particular place is not specified, and is therefore a matter of expediency, (read carefully Rom. 14). Churches of Christ have met in the temple, private homes, brush arbors and tents, denominational buildings, fire halls, storefronts, and many other places, including church buildings rented or purchased by the congregation. If it is unscriptural to eat in a “church building,” it would be wrong to eat in a private home being used as a meeting house, or any of these other meeting places.

     The scripture usually cited by those attempting to forbid others from eating in the meeting house is 1 Cor. 11, in which Paul was addressing abuses of the Lord’s supper by the church at Corinth. But a careful reading of that passage in its context shows the meaning to be otherwise. The primary problem at Corinth was division in the congregation, which manifested itself when they assembled together, (11:17-18). They had corrupted the Lord’s supper, converting it into a common meal in which some who brought food were eating well, before others who were going hungry. Far from being in “communion” or “fellowship” with each other, they were making distinctions and divisions among themselves, perverting the very nature of the Lord’s supper. It was in that context that Paul rebuked them for abusing the Lord’s supper, and told them it was not possible to properly observe the supper under such circumstances. Common meals should be eaten with thanksgiving, and they have no proper place in the worship assembly. Note in vs. 22 that in their abuse, they were “despising” the church (not the church building). Anytime we make improper distinctions among brethren, treat some better than others, we are “despising” the church of God. That teaching had nothing to do with “church buildings,” something which Corinth did not even have!

     If it is wrong to eat in a church building, would it not be wrong to drink from a water fountain in that building? If it’s wrong to eat in the church building, how about in the foyer, or on the porch just outside the foyer? How about a mint or an energy bar in the auditorium? Or would we have to go to the “annex” to eat that? Do you see how silly such man-made laws can become? The truth is, the building is merely a tool for carrying out God’s commands.

            It may be appropriate for the elders to restrict food in certain parts of the church building, but the reasons have nothing to do with “eating in the church” because the building is not the church. We need to be content to call Bible things by Bible names. Or, in the words of Paul, “all speak the same thing, that there be no divisions among you,” (1 Cor. 1:10).

-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.