Last article in series What Is Wrong With the Church of Christ? (12)

By Larry Ray Hafley

The chart below is self explanatory. Many things are said to be “in Christ.” These items are listed and the Scriptures cited. How does one get “into Christ” where the benefits and blessings are located? The Bible says we are “baptized into Jesus Christ.”


GET “INTO (In His Body, Church)

CHRIST” 1. All Spiritual Blessings Eph. 1:3


BLESSINGS 2. Grace 2 Tim. 2:1

ARE? 3. Salvation 2 Tim. 2:10

4. Eternal Life 1 Jn. 5:11

5. Redemption Eph. 1:7

6. Forgiveness of Sins Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14


INTO JESUS 7. Righteousness 2 Cor. 5:21

CHRIST” 8. God’s Love Rom. 8:39

Rom. 6:3 9. Born Again 2 cor 5:17

Gal. 3:27 10. Peace Jn.16:33


Men today tell us that we should stress the blessings in Christ, but that we should not give emphasis to baptism and the church. Should we follow their advice? Are the items “in Christ” a part of God’s provisions of grace while the way to obtain those blessings (baptism) is not?

1. Noah was a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5). (A) Suppose he told men that salvation from the flood was by finding “grace” as he had done but failed to tell them that deliverance from drowning was in the ark and that they had to be in the ark to be saved. (B) Suppose he told some that salvation by grace was “in the ark” but failed to tell them where the ark was located. Would this have been right? Let us ask Noah. Noah, why did you tell men to find grace and not tell them where that grace was obtained? Noah, why did you tell some that salvation was “in the ark” but fail to tell them where the ark was located? Noah replies:

I believe that we are too busy trying to preach ourselves. We are trusting too much in the ark and not enough in God. Men trust in the map that tells them how to get to the ark rather than in God. If I preach that men must be in the ark to be saved, they will trust in the ark as their savior. The ark does not save. God saves. Therefore, I believe in emphasizing the message about the grace of God that I found (Gen. 6:8). If I preach that the ark is the place of deliverance from the flood and tell men how to get “into” it, that would make me a “preacher of the ark” and not of “grace.” Men might charge me with teaching “boat salvation” if I tell the truth, so I just preach “grace” and trust in the Lord.

Can you imagine Noah saying such things? No; yet that is what men say of us today when we preach that salvation is in the Christ and that Jesus is “the savior of the body,” the church (Eph. 5:23).

2. In Numbers 21, the people murmured against the Lord. He sent “fiery serpents” among them. Many were bitten and many died. They cried unto the Lord for deliverance. God told Moses to lift up a brazen serpent. Those who looked on it were healed. God’s grace made the serpent of brass. His love and mercy provided for their healing. Should Moses have told the people of God’s grace, love and mercy while refusing to tell them to come to the serpent of brass and look on it in order to be healed? Should Moses have reasoned that if he dwelt on the serpent of brass that men would trust in it rather than in the Lord? Should he have told them of what God had done for them in graciously granting the brazen serpent but fail to tell them where the serpent was located so they could come and look on it and live?

I can hear Moses’ critics: “Moses, you should preach God’s love and his desire to save. You should not preach so much on the serpent. You should not spend so much time telling men where the serpent of brass is located. They are trusting in the map that leads to the serpent rather than in God. Moses, you are preaching `snake salvation.’ It is alright to tell men of the brass serpent, but do not spend so much time on where it is located and do not tell them that they must `look’ on it in order to be healed. When you do that, people put their faith in their eyesight and not on the Lord.”

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of men be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:14, 15). Men had to be told of the lifting up of that serpent in the wilderness. Men had to be told how to receive the healing in that serpent (come, look and live). Men must be told of the lifting up of the Son of man on the cruel cross. Then they must be told how to appropriate the benefits of that death on the cross (“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”).

3. Naaman was told to dip seven times in the river Jordan (2 Kgs. 5). When he did. so, he was cleansed of leprosy. Let us hear Elisha’s critics. “Elisha, you said nothing about God’s great grace and power. You told Naaman, `He that goeth and is washed shall be cleansed.’ You made it sound like the water was Naaman’s savior. Now, we believe that Naaman had to dip or be diseased, just like you do, but we believe that you should put more emphasis on God’s grace and love and not so much on the dipping and the water. Why did you fail to stress God’s power and grace to heal? Why did you not mention those things? That is the trouble with prophets today. They preach the doing of the dipping and leave out the kindness that cleanses.”

Would that have been a fair criticism of Elisha? No, and neither is it fair to criticize gospel preachers who do as Elisha did through his messenger. When we tell men what to do and how to be healed from sin, we are not ignoring or neglecting the grace of God. We are not making the water our savior. Elisha did not. We do not. In fact, when Naaman obeyed the prophet’s word, he said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel” (2 Kgs. 5:15). He did not trust in the washing or in the water. He trusted in God after he did what God said do. It is just as true today. If Elisha had such critics and if he had listened to them, Naaman would have died of leprosy!

One Ark, One Serpent, One River, One Cross, One Body

We may speculate that Noah was not the only one whohad access to a sailing vessel. Surely, someone had a ship; it is unlikely that Noah had the world’s only boat. How-ever, as we know, he had the only boat that would float. Are we being negative and narrow-minded when we declare that all of those outside the one, true ark drowned? Did the screams, prayers and sincerity of those perishing in the waters of the flood count for nothing? Were they really all lost outside the ark?

Only one serpent of brass was upheld in the wilderness. Only one provided for healing of snake bite. What about a prayerful prophet, miles from the camp, who constructed his own serpent of brass? Could he call men to it and tell them that they need not make a long trip to Moses’ serpent? Could he tearfully tell them that God is a God of grace, love and compassion? Could he tell them to simply bow “right where you are and say the sinner’s prayer”? Could he tell them to pray and look on his substitute serpent? Could he promise them a healing if they would take “a look of faith”? Yes, he could have done all those things, but to what avail? Would it have helped? Are you so narrow-minded that you actually believe there was only one, true serpent? When you preach and point to Moses’ serpent, are you not putting your faith in the healing power of the serpent and not in the grace and power of God?

Naaman thought that “Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus” were just as suitable as the Jordan. “May I not,” he angrily protested, “wash in them and be clean” (2 Kgs. 5:12). Was there really only one, true river? Could noble Naaman have washed in the Wabash, could he have dipped in the Danube, and been healed? The Jordan had no healing power of itself; baptism has no healing power apart from the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 3:21). The church cannot save; a wooden boat cannot save; a brazen serpent cannot save. However, only those who obey God’s chosen appointments can be saved by his grace and power.

Three crosses were “lifted up” the day Jesus died. Shall we say that by choosing the proper cross that we are worshipping wood and trusting in a tree to save? Shall we have “the cross of our choice”? We can no more pick and choose our own cross than the Israelites could pick and choose their own serpent. So, we come to the only cross that can save, that of the Christ. How do we obtain the healing afforded by that cross? Do we pray to it? Do we bow before a symbol of it? Do we wear a replica of it around our necks? Do we simply acknowledge that cross and “claim” its power to remit and redeem? “What must I do to be saved?”

Does the answer to that question take away from the cross and Jesus’ death? Did Noah’s entering of the ark negate God as his savior? Did the Israelite who looked on a material serpent deprecate God’s power? Did Naaman’s washing in Jordan deprive God of the glory of his healing? No (2 Kgs. 5:15)! And when a man preaches the truth regarding water baptism he is not turning men from the death of Christ. He is leading them to it (Rom. 6:3, 4; Col. 2:12). We are “baptized into his death.” Telling Naaman what to do and where to do it did not discredit the power of God. Telling snake bitten men where the brazen serpent was and how to be healed by it did not turn men from the work of God, and telling men what to do to be saved doesnot turn men from the grace of God and the cross of Christ!

(1) God reconciles men “in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:19)

(2) God reconciles men “in one body,” the church (Eph. 1:22,23; 2:16).

Conclusion: Men are reconciled unto God if they are in Christ, in his body, the church.

(1) One “in Christ” is not an alien (Eph. 2:12, 13).

(2) One “in the household, or church of God” is not a foreigner (Eph. 2:19; 1 Tim. 3:15).

Conclusion: One is in God’s family if he is in Christ, in his body, the church.

(1) People are “baptized into Jesus Christ” (Rom. 6:3, 4; Gal. 3:27).

(2) People are “baptized into one body,” the church (1 Cor. 12:13).

Conclusion: People who have not been baptized are not in Christ, in his body, the church.

Are the facts and conclusions above true? One brother has said that he is “not one of those `circle drawing,” arrow pointing’ preachers.” That is presumably how he “answers” the Scriptures cited above. Smirky grins and snide disclaimers cannot upset the firm foundation of God! The material above is the truth, not because we say it, but because it is what the Bible teaches. What of those who refuse it? “But though we or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8).

It will not suffice to say, “We point men to Christ and the cross and not to baptism and the church.” There is no excuse for those who sweetly state, “We point men to Christ and the cross of grace and not to baptism and the church.” One cannot have Christ and he cannot lead men to Christ apart from the word of Christ. Men do greatly err who believe to the contrary. Do not be fooled by those who eloquently “mouth” or speak the term, “Christ,” but who would seek to turn you from the “word of Christ” in the New Testament.

(A) Jesus said, “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Lk. 10:16). Those who refuse the teaching of Jesus on baptism and the church refuse Christ and God the Father! (B) Jesus said, “He that receiveth whomsoever I send (the word of the “holy apostles and prophets” of the New Testament  LRH) receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me” On. 13:20). Those who preach the truth on baptism and the church as taught by the apostles are the ones who receive Christ and God. Those who speak against the preaching of those items do not receive Christ; they have not God (2 Jn. 9). (C) Jesus said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (Jn. 12:48). The one who does not receive the words of Christ concerning baptism and the church directly and personally rejects Jesus!

Final “Word Of Exhortation”

Max Lucado, Rubel Shelly, Bill Love (author of The Core Gospel), C. Leonard Allen (author of The Cruciform Church), and others are having an impact among churches and preachers of Christ. The material in this lengthy series is designed to combat their philosophy. Many do not perceive the need for this series. They will say that we are fighting straw men and windmills, foes that do not exist. If they are right, no harm is done by reminding brethren of these basis truths, and, therefore, no offense should be taken to these warnings. (Oh, how fervently do I pray and fondly do I wish that they were correct in their assessment!) They do not believe that such views exist among children of God. However, letters and articles, experience and observation speak to the contrary. If you have not seen or heard such things as we have discussed, thank God. If you have not, it is likely that you will. Restless winds of doctrine are stirring; there is a covert network of men and minds that resent the teaching of the word of God we have set forth. Their mouths and methods are subtle. If possible, they would deceive the very elect. Keep your eyes and your Bible open (Acts 17:11).

The faith began in a fight (Acts). Every bit of ground that has been gained for the kingdom of God has been taken and seized. None of it has been granted or given. Our old “adversary” fights hard and dirty. He never relents. He uses honey and artful guile to attract followers. What he cannot win on the battlefield, he will seek to connive and carve out at the bargaining table of compromise. What he cannot answer, he will seek to question. What he cannot dispute, he will seek to cloak in doubt. What he cannot conquer, he will seek to confuse. What he cannot outrun, he will seek to outlast. What he cannot defile, he will seek to discourage. “We are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor. 2:11). “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).

Do not allow “the book of the law” of the Spirit to “depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest” (Josh. 1:8, 9).

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 11, p. 6-9
June 2, 1994