“Is the Church of Christ Really The Church of Christ? ” (I )

By Donald P Ames

Reviewing the “Confession of an Ex-Campbellite”

Recently a tract came into my hands by Jim B. Miller of Box 1313, Brenham, Texas, who claims to have been “formerly affiliated with your denomination,” but is presently the minister of the First Assembly of God in Brenham. Since this tract was placed beneath the windshield wipers of every car in the parking lot of the South Houston church in Houston, Texas, I am sure Mr. Miller will have no objections to my making its contents public and examining some of the points he has to offer.

Refuses to Debate

Like so many others who do not like to have their doctrines publicly exposed to the word of God before a mixed audience which is able to determine who is setting forth the truth of God’s divine word, Mr. Miller goes out of his way in this tract to note: “Let me make it plain that I will not debate with any Campbellite believer believing as I do that debate is a sinful practice loved by reprobate men (Rom. 1:28-29; 2 Cor. 12:20).” (Italic his-DPA). If Mr. Miller had taken a little more time to study the above passages, he would have discovered that the word “debate” in both passages is translated “strife” in the New American Standard Bible and other later translations, and refers to the idea of bitter quarrels with personalities, rather than an honest investigation of the word of God within the confines of a proper atmosphere. Even the apostles themselves “argued” (Acts 6:9), “debated” (Acts 15:7), “reasoned” (Acts 17:2), and showed such was to be done (Jude 3, I Thess. 2:2, etc.). Jesus’ many exchanges with the various leaders of Judiasm are still further evidence that such is expected of all who would defend the whole counsel of God.

However, after his bold statement of why he refused to engage in a debate, Mr. Miller then goes on to say that such “does not mean that I will not welcome your disputation or criticism.” Now, I wonder if that means that he would answer such with what he believes the word of God teaches? If so, he has a debate (“a rose by any other name is still a rose”), and if done in the proper spirit, would be doing exactly what the apostles and our Lord did-and if not, it would be done in the manner which was condemned. I trust we can conduct this study on the high plane God would have it.

Formerly A Member

Mr. Miller says he was formerly a member of the Shaw Street Church of Christ in Pasadena, Texas, being baptized in 1962. He claims he “remained with them long enough to objectively compare their teachings with the plain teaching of the Bible,” and that as a result of careful study, promptly left again in 1963. He then objects to the plea to “Speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where it is silent;” saying that in many cases, “the Church of Christ often speaks where the Bible is silent and remains silent when the Bible speaks-especially in regard to their pet doctrines!” Since I know nothing about the Shaw Street Church of Christ itself nor Mr. Miller, I hope he will not think me rude for being equally as blunt in assessing the situation as I see it. It seems quite obvious to me that Mr. Miller did not remain “long enough” to fully understand what the word of God actually teaches, or else never fully understood it in the first place. In reading the material within his tract, I note he himself is very guilty of “speaking where the Bible is silent and remaining silent where the Bible speaks.” If I am wrong in such an assessment, I welcome his efforts to show me such from the word of God. However, his statements serve as pretty good evidence that he went out from among us that it might be made manifest that he was not of us (1 Jn. 2:19).

“One Scripture Only, Please”

Listing 30 challenges against the “pet doctrines” of the body of Christ, Mr. Miller calls for “one Scripture only, please.” His argument is that anything requiring more than one scripture is unscriptural. Such logic does not follow, and I am sure I could readily demonstrate such to be true about the doctrines of the First Assembly of God as well. Nevertheless, I shall seek to give him some very plain Bible answers that ought to satisfy anyone seeking to do the will of God. This, we shall seek to do by placing his challenge first, and then the answer to follow.

1. That “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” is not valid without water baptism (Acts 16:31). Jesus answered this in Mark 16:16 when He Himself placed the additional restriction “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” on to the plan of salvation. Since “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17); it follows that the jailer had to believe before he could do anything else, thus Paul spoke the word of the Lord to him to produce that faith (verse 32), that ,he might be saved. James 2:19 notes that even the demos believe, however, that does not mean they are saved, because one must also “obey” in order to be saved (Heb. 5:9). No one can “obey” a command to believe, hence that is still further testimony that something more is required (Acts 2:38). Mr. Miller might also note that nothing is said in that passage about repentance either (Acts 17:30) nor of confession (Rom. 10:9-10), yet he would not exclude either because they are not in that one verse. No one passage within the word of God contains all the plan of salvation, yet one cannot be saved without doing all that is required by God.

2. That if we love the brethren but have not been baptized we cannot pass from death unto life (I John 3:14). We readily acknowledge no man can love God and hate his brother (1 Jn. 4:20), but is that the plan of salvation? John 3:16 alone is more than enough to answer this argument, since the above passage says nothing about believing, repenting, or confessing-all of which even Mr. Miller would admit is essential. That which proves too much proves nothing, and again Mr. Miller is caught within his own contradiction by denying the rest of the word of God to lift one verse and try to base his whole argument upon it alone.

3. That the term “born of water” (John 3:5) really means “born of baptism” (John 4:14, Isa. 12:3). Since neither Isa. 12 nor John 4 even mention being “born” at all, Mr. Miller is caught groping in the dark for a mere play on words, as Jesus was merely using the situation at hand in John 4 to illustrate a spiritual lesson, as he also did in John 6:54. The proper parallel to this passage readily identifies baptism as the thing under consideration when one looks at either Titus 3:5 or Eph. 5:26 where the word “regenerate” means to be “born anew” and refers back to the very idea in John 3:5.

4. That “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” is not valid without baptism (John 3:16). Again, we could just ask the same thing about repentance (see point No. 1). Note the following from the NASB in John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Belief often includes the idea of obedience, and that includes repentance and baptism as well, thus he who believes “should not perish” because he should go ahead and obey (Heb. 5:9, Acts 6:7, etc).

5. That “the just shall live by faith” includes water baptism and works (Rom. 1:17). What faith? The word of God itself is what is under consideration, and all that is included therein (Rom. 1:16). There is a difference in the works of men and the works of God that we might also point out too. In Jn. 6:29 belief is referred to as a “work” of God. Only by faith in the word of God to do all that it requires can any righteous man live-and that includes the whole of the plan of salvation.

6. That the “works” of James 2:14-20 is water baptism. Who ever said it was? The “works” here refers to an obedient faith as contrasted with a professed faith (vs. 1819). That simply means true faith is manifested in obedience, or doing the “works of God” which He has instructed. Thus one passage refers to Abraham as being justified by faith (Heb. 11:7), while another speaks of it by works (James 2:21). But again, the works were not works of man’s merits, but works’in obedience to the will of God, by which we are justified by Him (vs. 21, Heb. 5:9).

7. That Saul of Tarsus was not saved in Acts 9:6 before his baptism in water (I Cor. 12:3). If so, he was saved while he still was in his sins (Acts 22:16), and since sin cannot enter heaven, neither could Paul until he was saved, redeemed from his sins! As for the term “Lord,” it merely refers to a title of respect for a higher power (sometimes translated “sir”-see also I Pet. 3:6), and did not mean Paul was saved (Matt. 7:21, Luke 6:46). Paul was well aware something greater than himself was present (hence the term “Lord”), but he did not know who until Jesus answered him. “By the spirit” within the context of 1 Cor. 12, does not mean “one who is a Christian,” but rather refers to the guidance and planning of the Holy Spirit in fulfilling the purpose of God (Mark 16:20, Heb. 2:4) and thus is totally unrelated to this subject.

8. That what Paul Amust do” (Acts 9:6) was to be baptized rather than suffer Agreat things”(v. 16). Who said either was excluded? I wonder if Mr. Miller actually thinks Paul could have become a great spokesman for God in pointing men to Christ and the remission of their sins if he was still in his own sins? (Acts 22:16) Obviously it had both an immediate anti future application.

9. That a person “contacts the blood in the waters of baptism. ” Since we are saved by the blood of Christ (Eph. 1:7, Rev. 1:5), maybe Mr. Miller would like to show me the verse that says we contact it in faith only. Christ’s blood was shed in his death (Matt. 26:28), and in the watery grave of baptism we come in contact with his death (Rom. 6:3-7) where the blood washes away our sins and we come forth with a clean conscience (1 Pet. 3:21). The same parallel exists in the cleansing of the leprosy of Naaman in 2 Kings 5-full obedience was required to obtain the blessings, and not that the water itself was miraculous or that one must find literal blood.

10. That a man cannot be justified by faith without baptism (Rom. 3:8). I suspect the real passage he has in mind is Rom. 5:1, and no one denies we are saved by faith, just like we are justified by works (James 2:24). What Mr. Miller assumes in this passage is that we are saved by faith only (reread James 2:24). A rereading of points No. 1 and 4 will answer his point here also.

11. That the “one baptism” of Eph. 4:5 is water baptism (1 Cor. 12:13). Since the disciples were told to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them ” (Matt. 28:19), he has his answer. No one but God can baptize one with the Holy Spirit, but Jesus told his disciples to do the baptizing. We note that “water baptism” was what they practiced (I Pet. 3:20-21, Acts 10:47, Acts 8:37-39), and there is no reference of them commanding anyone to be baptized in the Holy Spirit or that Holy Spirit baptism was to save anyone. As for 1 Cor. 12:13, we have here another parallel to John 3:5, Eph. 5:26 and Titus 3:5-under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (through the word-Eph. 3:5), they were all baptized into the one body. Mr. Miller has no case at all for Holy Spirit baptism in this passage if he keeps it within the context of 1 Cor. 12, which he tries so hard not to do.

12. That the word ‘for” in Acts 2:38 means “in order to” and not “because of” as in 1 Cor. 15:3, etc. For one who claims to have searched carefully to learn what God has taught, Mr. Miller shows a great lack of comprehension with this argument. The word “for” in Acts 2:38 is from the Greek word eis, and is rendered “in order to” by every reputable lexicon in print. It is a forward looking word, and does not look backwards. Jesus used the same Greek word eis in Matt. 26:28 when he said his blood was being shed “for the remission of sins.” Did he mean “because of?” When Mr. Miller finds the answer to that passage, he will find the answer to Acts 2:38. As for the word “for” in 1 Cor. 15:3, Mr. Miller shows poor research. The Greek word here is the word gar, and is correctly rendered “because.”

13. That baptism is not a ‘figure” (1 Pet. 3:21) and ‘likeness” (Rom. 6:5) but a means of salvation. Again Mr. Miller is guilty of mixing his figures and substituting in order to suit his man-made doctrines. The “figure” in 1 Pet. 3:21 is between the water that separated Noah from the lost and dying world during the days of the flood and the water of baptism which separates the Christian from the sinner today. And in Rom. 6:5 the “likeness” is in the burial of Christ in the grave and the burial of baptism as the old man of sin is done away and we are raised to walk in “newness of life . . . freed from his sins.” The figures and likenesses do not do away with the purpose itself, but merely serve to illustrate its nature and purpose.

14. That `form” in Rom. 6:17 refers to water baptism. The word “form” means “a mold or pattern,” and refers to the results of the teaching of the doctrine of Christ molding us into a creature of His will when we have become “freed from sin” (v. 18)-which was accomplished when we were buried with Christ in baptism (Rom. 6:3-7). Again, the context itself serves as the answer to Mr. Miller.

15. That observance of a weekly Sunday communion is commanded. Using his own logic, perhaps he would also like to show where a weekly contribution is commandedyet he would not think of abolishing it. By apostolic example we find the disciples meeting on the first day of the week to break bread (Lord’s Supper-Acts 20:7), and since every week has a first day, we know this is the pattern (as is also verified by history-see also 1 Cor. 11:20). As the “seventh day” meant weekly, so does the “first day.” Here again, not only does Mr. Miller follow an example (1 Cor. 16:1-2) for giving, but violates it in partaking of the Lord’s Supper any time other than weekly.

(More to follow)

Truth Magazine, XVIII:29; p. 8-10
May 23, 1974