By Kenneth Thomas
No one is a spokesman for what the church of Christ believes and/or practices. The New Testament church of Christ doesn’t have authority to formulate doctrine. The New Testament is “the faith once delivered” (Jude 3; Rom. 16:26; Phil. 1:27; Eph. 4:5; 1 Tim. 4:1; etc.).,
When individuals due to their faith in God the Father and His Son, submit their will to the will of Christ in gospel obedience, they become part of his purchased possession, his blood-bought body (Acts 2:22-38,41,47; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:22-25). Having accepted Jesus as the Lord of our lives (Acts 8:37; Phil. 2:11; Jn. 20:28), we are from that day forward submissive to his authority both in our individual and our collective lives if we are to walk before him acceptably (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 3:22-23; Col. 3:17).
The only entity for collective church action authorized by Christ is the local congregation (Phil. 1:1-2; Acts 14:23; 1 Pet. 5:15; Heb. 13:7,17; Acts 20:17,28,32; Phil. 4:15-16; 1 Cor. 16:1,2). Since each of these entities is self-governing under Christ’s rule as “chief shepherd” (1 Pet. 5:4), 1 cannot even speak for what any particular congregation may support, propagate or defend. I would hope that only the pure word of Christ would be taught and respected (Jn. 12:48; 2 Jn. 9-11; Gal. 1:6-9). It will be if they are to remain churches of Christ in fact, not only in name (Rev. 2:4-5; 3:1-5; Rom. 16:16-18). 1 am responsible to know exactly where the congregation with which I am affiliated stands concerning the will of Christ (Acts 17:11; Eph. 5:11; 2 Jn. 9-11; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; 2 Tim. 4:1-2; Gal. 2:2; Phil. 2:16). For the sake of saving space in this study as objectively as possible read each Scripture cited.
They Are Ignorant Or Malicious!
Folks who are either ignorant of the previously stated facts or just mean and maliciously inclined for whatever the reason, frequently misrepresent what we as members of the churches of Christ believe about any number of things. Often this is because we have exposed their unscriptural activities and unlawful origins, organizations, etc. “And they stirred up the people . . . they also set up false witnesses” (Acts 6:9-14). You see this practice is nothing new among the opposition!
If some of the tales I have heard about those of us who call ourselves just Christians and members of Christ’s body, his church, were true, I would not consider them as being representative of true and faithful followers of Christ myself and would not want anything to do with such folks. But let me assure you that much of what you have heard about us that is uncomplimentary is blatantly false. Much of it is designed to prejudice you against us so you will not listen to what we desire to show you from the word of Christ. See Acts 13:6-12.
What You’ve Heard vs. What Is True
1. “You folks are against music. ” Every so often someone will say to me, “Oh, you’re with those folks who do not believe in music in worship.” My answer shocks them usually when I say, “Why certainly we believe in music. Where did you ever get such an idea as that?” “Well, you don’t have a piano or organ, etc. in your services, do you?” The answer to that is you are exactly right. Faithful New Testament churches of Christ limit the music we use in worship to the kind of music Christ authorizes in his New Testament in both our assemblies and in our private devotionals. A study of everything said about music in the will of Christ will convince the honest heart that Christ authorized only vocal music for Christians in worship. He said he would send the Holy Spirit to guide his chosen writers into “all the truth” (Jn. 16:12-13). Every passage of Scripture in the New Testament concerning music specifies vocal music (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Jas. 5:13; 1 Cor. 14:15). There are four more Scriptures mentioning music in worship and they too say in no uncertain language what must be interpreted as vocal music. Music is very much an emotional, instructive and thrilling part of our worship assemblies as we worship “in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:23-24) as well as daily as we praise his name in song and as we honor his choice in music.
2. “Don’t believe Old Testament. ” You are wrong again! We believe as Paul stated by inspiration that “all scripture inspired of God . . . is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, throughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
We frequently use the Old Testament in sermon illustrations to teach the nature of God and the principles he revealed and preserved from these stories to teach us in this age as we follow him serving Jesus Christ. Paul said, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). We look at Israel of old and learn from their mistakes so as not to repeat such today by not doing as Christ teaches in his will (1 Cor. 10:11-12). In fact the faithful, obedient believers listed in Hebrews 11 are said to be a “great cloud of witnesses” and we are admonished by looking at them to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1-2). Yes, my friend, faithful Christians believe the Old Testament and use it as the Lord intends it to be used today. It is not our rule of faith and practice however, since Jesus “took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14). In Christ we receive the fruition of all the promises toward which the Old Testament pointed (Gal. 2:21-29; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; Col. 2:9-10; 2 Cor. 3:15-18; 2 Tim. 3:15).
3. “You all don’t believe in the Holy Spirit. ” Just because we reject the idea of a direct operation of the Holy Spirit separate and apart from the word of God in conversion doesn’t mean that we reject the Holy Spirit in conversion or as being one of the three divine beings in the Godhead. We believe in the Holy Spirit’s working in every case of conversion. He works through the agency of the Word which he inspired. Paul told Christians to “take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). This is why Jesus said to his apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:15-16). The gospel is God’s power to save (Rom. 1:16-17). We are called by the gospel (2 Thess. 2:13-14). There are no conversions by the Spirit where the word he inspired has not been taken. Jesus said as it had been prophesied, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (Jn. 6:44-45).
Also since we reject miraculous divine healing, so-called tongue speaking and other of the spiritual gifts which were exercised by Christians in the first century, we are charged with rejecting the Spirit. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
God is all powerful. He could if he chose today as in days past, grant his followers to raise the dead as did Peter and Paul (Acts 9:36-41; 20:7-12). They were given power to make a man who had never walked immediately leap and walk as in Acts 3:1-11. He could grant that a poisonous viper’s bite would bring no harm whatsoever to demonstrate his power and to cause them to listen to his servants (Acts 28:1-5). You see the people then of which we are speaking didn’t have a New Testament like you and me. The word of Christ dwelt miraculously in the men of God so the people would listen to their word, obey Christ and be saved. The miracles simply confirmed their word (Mark 16:1720; Heb. 2:14). Today we believe, based on the evidence revealed in his word. We believe on Jesus as the Christ not because we saw his miracles or were eyewitnesses to his resurrection from the dead but by what is written concerning these things (John 20:30-31). Faith comes to men today by hearing, not seeing. So Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
When the word was completely revealed and confirmed, the day of miraculous divine intervention ceased along with the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12. (See 1 Cor. 13:813; James 1:25; 2 Pet. 1:3.) God works today through his providence to accomplish whatever he desires in keeping with his revealed will. To expect a miracle today is to show one’s lack of confidence in the completed work of the Holy Spirit in the word and a lack of faith in God’s ability to work providentially.
4. “You all believe in salvation by works, not grace. ” If by works you mean obedience to conditions to receive grace, we plead guilty to the charge of “salvation by works.” We do not plead guilty to the charge that we somehow claim we are saved by works of human merit that negate God’s grace. I resent any person saying we reject God’s grace. We believe and stress salvation by grace through faith as taught in the New Testament (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 5:6-8; John 3:16-17; Heb. 2:9, etc.). We deny salvation by grace only or faith only because such is at odds with the teachings of Christ.
Obedience has never negated grace or faith in any age of God’s dealing with man. Even faith is a work (John 6:28-29). Faith as any other of God’s commands must be exercised by man to please God (Heb. 11:6; John 8:24). Such doesn’t negate grace! James shows, in his epistle, how saving faith is demonstrated before God (1:21-25; 2:14-26). Here he shows that obedience proves our faith and uses Abraham’s “ample of fulfilling what Scripture called his salvation by faith, when he offered his son (or was willing to) to God (James 2:21-23). Christ is the “author of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:9). The only one who will enter the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ultimately heaven itself, is he who “. . . does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:2 1). Godly sorrow worketh repentance (2 Cor. 7:10), but I must do the repenting or perish (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Pet. 3:9). My repenting does not in any way negate God’s grace. The same can be said of every command of Christ in the New Testament. I must confess Christ before men or he will not confess me before his father in heaven (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:10) but that confession does not mean I reject grace or faith. Then there is the command to be immersed in water (baptism) for the forgiveness of past sins by Christ’s authority (Acts 2:22-38,41; Luke 24:47; Acts 19:5). The gospel is called “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). But Paul by inspiration says the ones who do not obey the gospel will suffer eternal destruction. Let’s read the passage just here: “when the Lord is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:6-10). Obedience unites grace and faith. In fact in Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, obedience is called faith and disobedience is called unbelief (Heb. 3:12-19; 10:39). Therefore, faithful members of churches of Christ accept and believe every passage which says we are saved by faith as well as every passage which says we are saved by grace. There is no passage however which says one is saved at the point of faith or by faith alone! Nor is there a passage teaching salvation by grace alone! Salvation simply cannot be by grace alone and faith alone at the same time! If it’s by “grace alone,” then we don’t have to believe. If it’s by “faith alone,” there’s no need for grace. Yet in the creeds of men, both statements are made and neither is true. They are perversions of the will of Christ and should be opposed by any and all who know the truth (Eph. 5:11; Jude 3; 2 John 9-11).
5. “You all believe in water salvation. ” I marvel that some could be so misinformed on just about everything with which we have been charged! A person is as wrong as it is possible to be if he thinks that members of the churches of Christ believe in water salvation! We place our hope in the blood of the sinless Son of God for the remission of past as well as present sins (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:22; 2:9; John 3:16-17; 5:6-9; Heb. 4:14-16; 1 John 1:5-9; Eph. 2:13-16). The above charge is made because we accept believe and practice the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5 which is done for the same reason for which Jesus shed his precious blood on Calvary’s hill, “for the remission of our sins” (Matt. 26:28; Acts 2:38).
What Does The Word Of God Say?
Acts 9:1-6, 22:16
|Rom. 10:9-10||Gal. 3:27
- (): obtained from the passages in the left column
( X ): obtained from the passages in the bottom row
Please study the above chart carefully and see for yourself what Christ’s word teaches. Consider what I say here and come stand with us.
6. “You believe only members of the church of Christ are saved.” This statement is made frequently in an attempt to prejudice people. It works pretty well, too, I must admit. My answer to the charge is simply the following: I believe just about what every Bible believer says he believes. I believe and teach that one must follow the teachings of Jesus to be saved eternally, as well as to be saved from alien sins (Matt. 7:13-29; John 12:48). Christ purchased his church with his own blood (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25). Men are reconciled unto God in one body by the cross (blood) of Christ (Eph. 2:13-26). The one body is the church (Col. 1:18). Christ is the Saviour of the body (Eph. 5:23). When Christ returns his church, which is the saved (Acts 2:38,41,47; Col. 1:13-14), is going to be received unto himself as a pure chaste bride (Eph. 5:27), then he will deliver it to the Father in heaven (1 Cor. 15:24; cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18).
Yes, my friend, I believe Christ will receive only his bride unto himself; he is not a spiritual polygamist. He has only one, not hundreds of brides (2 Cor. 11:2-3; Eph. 5:22-33). If you are in a “plant the Lord did not plant,” you will be left outside. Come with us back to the Bible and be just a Christian, a part of the church that Jesus built (Psa. 127:1; Matt. 15:13). The church doesn’t save one, my friend, the church is the saved (Acts 2:47).
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 9, pp. 275-277
May 5, 1988