By Larry Ray Hafley
“Wherever God has a child, I have a brother.” True. I agree. A child of God is a brother of mine (1 Jn. 1:3; 3:1). One who is born of water and of the Spirit, one who obeys the gospel, one who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, one who repents and is converted, that one is my spiritual brother. He is in the household or family of God (Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:6).
Men often use the statement, “Wherever God has a child, I have a brother,” to imply that we should not combat denominationalism. They argue that there are saved people in all churches, all denominations, and that it is the height of bigotry to deny our kinship in the Spirit and in the family of God. Further, they affirm that those of us in the “Church of Christ sect” are as much a denomination as what we attempt to oppose. They say that the mystical, spiritual and universal body of Christ includes the saved of all denominations, including the “Church of Christ.” So, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Lutherans, and others are God’s children and, consequently, my brethren.
What does the Bible say? Does it teach any such thing? I belong to no denominational body. Religiously, I am not a member of any organization formed and founded by men. There may be a “Church of Christ sect” or denomination. If so, I am not a member of it. If I am, I was enrolled against my will, and if I find it out, I shall leave kicking and screaming.
I am a Christian. I was born into that relationship. The seed, the word of God, the gospel of the kingdom (Lk. 8:11; Matt. 13:19), was sown in my heart. I believed it, repented of my sins, confessed with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and was baptized in water for the remission of sins. I was, upon a simple, though sublime, confession, buried with my Lord by baptism into His death, and raised to walk in newness of life (Acts 2:36-38; 8:5, 12, 36-38; 22:16; Rom. 10:9, 10; 6:3, 4). Every other person on earth who has followed the same path is a Christian, a child of God, my brother. The Spirit is witness (Rom. 8:16).
What of devout, pious people who are members of religious institutions unknown to the New Testament? I am not their judge, but I can state the will of God. “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:13). What of the worship of men, worship prescribed by the doctrines and commandments of men? I am not their judge, but Jesus said, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8, 9). Are mechanical instruments of music, Lent, Easter, and Christmas of God, or are they of the doctrines, traditions and commandments of men? Answer the question before you condemn it.
God’s child is my brother, but who is God’s child? “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26, 27). How many people in denominational churches will say they were “baptized into Christ”? How many religious people will admit that they were baptized by the authority of Christ “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38)? Baptism by the authority of the Lord never put one into a denominational church. Still, they believe on the Lord Jesus and claim to be my brethren.
Are they? “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” One of the things the Lord said was, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). Members of denominational churches call Him Lord, but they do not do what He said with respect to baptism. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”- (Matt. 7:21).
Why stress baptism? Why make it so important? In the days of John the Baptist, “the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him” (Lk. 7:30). They rejected the counsel of God against themselves. How did they reject God’s purpose? “Being not baptized of him.” If one rejects baptism into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, if one refuses the command to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of sins, does he reject the purpose and counsel of God against himself? If not, why not? If they did so in John’s day, why not now?
I cannot accept and tolerate more than “one baptism,” or “one body,” or “one faith” any more than I can embrace and endorse many Lords, Spirits, Gods or Fathers (Eph. 4:4-6). If there-is one Lord, one God and Father of all, and if I cannot abide any other, by what standard shall I countenance and condone a variety of baptisms, bodies (churches) and systems of faith? If “one body” means there are more that are justified, does “one Lord” mean there are more that we may kneel before?
“But Protestants and Catholics believe Jesus is Lord as fervently as you do.” One may be a believer, and not know the truth, not continue in the word of Christ, and, consequently, not be made free from sin (Jn. 8:30-32). There are unsaved believers (Jn. 12:42, 43).
How does one get to be a Protestant or a Catholic? Obedience to what New Testament passage will make one a Protestant or a Catholic? What verse tells one how to become a Lutheran? What passage makes one a Presbyterian? What Scripture tells one how to become a Missionary Baptist? None; no, not one. So, if one gets into those religious bodies, he does so without the Bible. He does so on the basis of the doctrines and creeds of men. No member of those churches can put his finger on the word of God that authorized him to join his particular church.
It is a plain and simple fact that no convert in the New Testament was ever made a Baptist or a Methodist by obeying the gospel as preached by the “holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” Were the people in Acts 2 Lutherans, Mormons? Was the eunuch a Baptist, a Pentecostal? Was the jailer in Philippi a Roman Catholic? If the gospel they obeyed added them to the Lord, if they were baptized by one Spirit into “one body,” or church, how does one today get into denominational, religious bodies? It is certain that it is not by obeying the same gospel they obeyed.
Those who obeyed the gospel in the New Testament were saved and added to the Lord’s body (Acts 2:47; 11:21-26). We read of the “multitude of them that believed” (Acts 4:32). Later, these same people are called “the church” (Acts 5:11). “The church,” therefore, is “the multitude of them that believed. ” Saul made havoc of “the church” (Acts 8:3). He persecuted “the church” (1 Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1: 13). He breathed out “threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9: 1). He did “much evil” to “the saints” (Acts 9:13). He destroyed “them which called on this name” (Acts 9:21). The saints, the disciples and them that called on the name of the Lord are called “the church” which Saul persecuted. What church was it? Those saints and disciples are my brethren. The church they constituted is the one I contend for. Did Paul persecute the Methodist Church, the United Pentecostal Church, or the Baptist Church? No. Were those saints and disciples whom he persecuted called Lutherans or Mormons? No.
You may claim spiritual kinship, relationship and fellowship with people and organizations unknown to the Bible. That is your prerogative, your choice. But you cannot do it on the authority of heaven. You will act without the word of Christ in adopting boards, societies and institutions and their members as your own. You can extend open armed fellowship and brotherhood to include whomever you will, but you cannot do it by the word of the truth of the gospel.
In short, we should not brother anyone the Lord has not fathered.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 8, pp. 236-237
April 16, 1987