By Larry Ray Hafley
Several articles of late have spoken of commitment to Christ. No informed Christian denies the need, but while contending for commitment to Christ, some decry “church of Christ theology in the process of conversion.” It is charged that “Neo-Phariseeism” is “in the church of Christ today.” If these allegations be true, they are indeed abominations to be abhorred. Whence cometh this series of complaints? Are they valid? If there is Phariseeism and ecclesiastical gospelism, it must be stopped. However, let none confuse urgings to the New Testament order with creedal, institutional salvation.
We are told that “commitment is to a Person,” not to a series of conditions to be obeyed. That is only partly correct. We ought to commit ourselves unto Christ (2 Tim. 1:12; 1 Pet. 4:19). Our commitment initially comes through obedience to a series of conditions (Heb. 5:8, 9; Matt. 7:21; Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38). Last year, in debate with a Primitive Baptist, I affirmed, “The Scriptures teach that Christ died for all the sinful race of Adam and that He offers the remission of alien sins to all alike through the gospel conditions of faith, repentance, confession, and baptism.” Is there a genuine, New Testament Christian who could not make, the same affirmation? Yes, commitment is unto Christ, but that commitment is not made until we are obedient “unto a series of conditions” that have been prescribed in the word of God.
Further, we are reminded that the early, evincing evangelists preached “commitment to a Person,” that they did not emphasize the church as a “legally identifiable body.” In Acts 8:5, Philip “preached Christ unto them.” What did it mean to preach Christ? It meant that he preached “the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12). I wonder if the things concerning the kingdom of God had anything to do with the church? I wonder if the things concerning the name of Jesus Christ had anything to do with repentance and baptism (Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:38)? The Thessalonians in like manner were called by the gospel in order to obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 These. 2:14). They were turned by the word of God; that is, they were converted from idols to serve the living and true God, as opposed to the dead and false idols they formerly served (1 These. 1:9; 2:13). In truth, that is commitment to a person. Note, also, however, that they were “called . . . . unto his kingdom and glory.” They were called unto the church, the realm of the redeemed (1 These. 2:12). This is the very same thing as being “called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). When men are called to the kingdom and glory of Christ, they are called to Christ. So, please spare me these sermons about “commitment to a Person,” rather than to the Church. The church is His body (Col. 1:24). When one is called unto it, he is called unto and into Christ.
In Acts 11:19, “a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” In Acts 18:8, the very same thing occurred, except this time it is said, “many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized.” Those two statements are synonymous, interchangeable-they say the same thing in essence. When Barnabas saw the believers, it is said that “he saw the grace of God.” That is, he saw the effects of God’s grace. A host had been converted. They had “believed and turned to the Lord.” We may call that “commitment to a Person.” But they had, upon hearing the gospel, believed and been baptized. It is the same thing. Do not lecture to me about distinctions without a difference.
Philip preached Christ to the Ethiopian treasurer. That would qualify as preaching “commitment to a Person,” I suppose. I prefer to call it what Luke called it. At any rate, after hearing comment concerning “commitment to a Person,” the treasurer wanted to be baptized. Once again, commitment to a Person involves and includes commands to be obeyed (Acts 8:35, 36). If there is a gospel preacher who does not believe this, he ought to be committed.
Truth Magazine XXI: 8, p. 114
February 24, 1977