By Larry Ray Hafley
Nothing is wrong with the church of Christ as de-signed, defined and described in the Bible. Men, though, have criticized God’s people throughout the ages. This criticism is not confined to those that are “aliens … and strangers . . . (who are) without God” (Eph. 2:12; 2 Cor. 10:10; 3 In. 9, 10). “False brethren” secretly, privately bring in their “damnable heresies” in order to draw away disciples after themselves (Acts 20:28-32; Gal. 2:4, 5; 2 Pet. 2:1; 2 Cor. 11:13-15). This will be discussed in later segments of this series.
However, in this first installment, we shall note some “common complaints” against the church of the Lord. Observe the chart on the next page.
There are many others, of course, but these are some of the complaints with which Christians are most familiar.
“The Church Of Christ believes water is their Savior, but Baptists believe in ‘blood salvation.”‘ If one dares to say what Jesus and the apostles said about the essentiality of water baptism “for the remission of sins,” he surely will be charged with believing in “water salvation” (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21). Should one, in order to avoid and avert the stigma of “water salvation,” cease to preach the truth? “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4). Let men say what they will. Let them rant, rave and rail against the revelation of God. After the Christian and the critic are dead, the word of God will still say, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” will stand when the world is on fire! Do not be dismayed or discouraged by the taunting words of men that are mere sounds in the air. They will perish with using, “but the word of the Lord endureth forever” (I Pet. 1:25). If you are deterred and defeated by the cry of “water salvation,” if you allow it to dissuade, distract, and destroy you, the word of Christ will convict and condemn you in that last, great day, “but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (I In. 2:17).
Since Baptists believe water baptism is essential to membership in a Baptist Church, would it be fair to charge them with “water membership”? Should we say Christians believe in “blood membership” in the body of Christ but Baptists believe in “water membership” (Acts 20:28; Eph. 2:16)? Baptists would not consider that to be a fair assessment of their position. Just because water baptism is necessary to be a member of the Baptist Church does not prove they believe in “water membership,” as opposed to the blood of Christ. Likewise, just because water baptism is necessary for salvation (Mk. 16:16), does not prove we believe in “water salvation,” as opposed to salvation by the blood of Christ (Rom. 6:3, 4; Rev. 1:5; Acts 22:16).
“Don’t Believe In Old Testament”
This charge arises whenever Christians “rightly di-vide the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Children of God believe every “jot and title” of the Old Testament. We believe a great fish swallowed Jonah because the word of God says so. We believe the children of Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry land because the word of God says they did. The same thing is true with every-thing else recorded in the Bible. We believe it all, but because we teach the truth; namely, that the Old Testament is not our authority, it is “slanderously reported” that we do not believe in the Old Testament (Eph. 2:11-16; Col. 2:14-16).
Jesus the Christ now has “all authority” in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). We hear “him that speaketh from heaven” (the Lord Jesus), not “him that spake on earth” (Moses; Heb. 12:25). Do our critics follow the law of Moses, or are they under the law of Christwhich? If they are under the law of Moses, “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). If they are not under the law of Moses, but are under the law of Christ, shall we charge that they “do not believe in the Old Testament”?
Those who make the charge do not offer the blood of bulls and goats. They do not slay lambs in their worship services. Shall we say, then, “they do not believe in the Old Testament”? They do not observe the passover of Exodus 12. Why not? Is it because they” do not believe in the Old Testament”?
“The Church Of Christ has a `head’ salvation. They do not believe in the work of the Holy Spirit on the heart.” Because we do not believe that repentance, remission and redemption are accompanied by shouting and shaking and by jumping and jerking, we are charged with not believing in the Holy Spirit’s work in the plan and process of pardon. Because we do not believe that conviction and conversion are carnal convulsions, we are accused of not believing in the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit convicts the convert and sanctifies the sinner (Jn. 16:8; 2 Thess. 2:13). He does it through the word and teaching of “the apostles’ doctrine” as set forth in the New Testament (Jn. 8:32; 17:17, 20; 2 Thess. 2:15). “Now when they heard this (the word of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:4), they were pricked in their heart” (Acts 2:37). This word is addressed to the mind, the heart of man (“blinded minds” equals “blinded hearts” Ephesians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4). The righteousness of God which is by faith says, “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy hearts: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:8, 17). That “word: that is in the “heart” is the word that is “in their minds” (Hebrews 8:10; 10:16). It is placed there by the Holy Spirit through the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13; James 1:18; 1 Corinthians 14:37; John 16:8; 17:17, 20; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 10:15)
Those who would convince us that we “do not believe in the Holy Spirit in conversion,” attempts to do so by using oral, spoken words. They address their arguments to our heads, to our minds. What is the matter? Do they not believe in the Holy Spirits work in the teaching of folks like us? Are they not trying to use “head knowledge” to convince us that a “head knowledge salvation” is wrong? Why do they not rely on the Holy Spirit to convict us? Why do they make their appeal with preached, spoken words? Is it because that they “do not believe in the work of the Holy Spirit”?
Whats Wong with The Church of Christ
“Don’t Believe in O.T.”
“Don’t Believe in H.S. Conversion”
“Don’t Believe in Miracles”
“Think They’re Only Ones Saved”
“David Had Music, They Don’t”
“Think Church Is Their Savior”
“Started By Alexander Campbell”
“Salvation By Works”
“Condemn Everybody Else”
Why are These Charges Rarely Heard??
“Dont Believe in Miracles”
This false charge is hurled against the church of the Lord because Christians use the Bible to show that men today do not work miracles by the Spirit of God as they did in the New Testament (I Corinthians 13:8-10; Mark 16:17-20; Hebrews 2:4). As stated above, we believe every miracle in the Bible.
Do Pentecostals walk on water as Jesus did? Do they feed thousands of people with five loaves and two fishes? Do they raise the dead? Some claim they do. I have begged Pentecostal preached to take just one little step, length wise across a baptistery, but none has ever done so. I have pleaded with them to raise just one person from the grave. In debate, I asked a Pentecostal preacher to feed 500 (not 5,000) who were in attendance with five loaves and two fish, but he refused. Did he not “believe in miracles”?
God once made a man from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7), but he no longer does so. Men are now born according to God’s law of nature and procreation. No one doubts that God could make a man from the dust of the ground; no one denies that he made Adam from the dust of the earth. Pentecostals acknowledge this and they recognize that God no longer forms men in this way. Do they, therefore, “not believe in miracles”?
I have asked several Pentecostal preachers if their wives came from one of their ribs. (I always glance at their wives in the audience as I ask the question!) I ask them if they can provide a wife for a man by taking one of the man’s ribs. I ask them if they know of any man today whose wife used to be a rib. The answer is always the same, “No.” Does that mean that they do not believe in miracles? No, it simply means that God, though he could perform such miracles as he once did in the Bible, now no longer does so. Likewise.
“David Had Music; They Don’t”
Yes, David used instruments of music in worship (Psa. 149:3; 150:3, 4). So, because he did, we should, too. Well, David offered animal sacrifices (Psa. 20:3; 51:19). Should they do so because David did? David had seven wives, and the Bible says that he took more (2 Sam. 3:5; 5:13). Is there a Baptist Church that will allow its preacher to have seven wives? David did! David, acting by Divine authority, killed some of his enemies (1 Chron. 14:14-17). Because David did so, may we do so today in the same manner (1 Sam. 17; 2 Cor. 10:3-5)?
“Think They’re The Only Ones Saved”
You have heard all of the snide jokes designed to show that the “Church of Christ believes they’re the only ones who are going to be saved.” Is Christ the only Savior (Jn. 14:6; 1 Cor. 8:6)? Suppose a Buddhist said to a Baptist, “You believe your Savior is the only Savior.” Would a Baptist take offense at that? No, he would simply attempt to teach the truth on the matter (Matt. 28:18; Acts 4:12). Let us do the same. There is no need to be ashamed, no need to apologize, no need to compromise and no need to deny the truth. Let us do the same.
The church, the saved, is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:18,24). One drinks, participates, in the fellowship of the Spirit, in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 2:16, 19-22). There is “but one body,” or church of Christ (Rom. 12:4, 5; 1 Cor. 12:20). At least, that is the testimony of Scripture “There is one body” (Eph. 4:4). Since the body is the church (Col. 1:18, 24), and there is “but one body,” there is but one church! “And he (Christ) is the Savior of the body,” “the church” (Eph. 1:22, 23; 2:16; 4: 4; 5:23). One may as well be ashamed and make fun of the one and only Savior as to be ashamed and poke fun at his one and only church, the body he has sanctified and purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25, 26). “And he is the Savior (the one and only Savior LRH) of the body” (the one and only body Eph. 1:22, 23; 4:4) Will someone in denominationalism cast aspersion against the fact that Jesus is the only Lord and Savior? Then why object to the saving of his only body, the church?
“Started By Alexander Campbell”
At one time or another, if you have attempted to convert people, you may have heard that “Alexander Campbell `started’ the Church of Christ.”
Nearly 1,800 years before Alexander Campbell was born, the New Testament spoke of the body or church of Christ. Men and women were added to it (Acts 2:47; 8:12; Col. 1:13). The church suffered persecution (Acts 8:1). Therefore, Alexander Campbell could not have “`started’ the church of Christ.” The Holy Spirit said, “The churches of Christ salute you” (Rom. 16:16). Whether Martin Luther, Joseph Smith or Alexander Campbell founded a church or not, it is certain that they did not “start the church of Christ.” Jesus did that all by himself he did not need the help of those men (Matt. 16:18)!
There is nothing that I believe, teach or practice in religious matters that had its origin with either Alexander Campbell, Alexander Graham Bell or Alexander the Great. If there is, what is it? Baptism “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38)? Weekly Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7)? Singing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)? Giving on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:2)? The virgin birth (Matt. 1; Lk. 1)? Churches in certain geographical areas referred to as “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:2)? Whenever and wherever one obeys the gospel of Christ he is added by the Lord to his body (Acts 2:47; Col. 1:13; 1 Cor. 12:13). That process did not begin with Alexander Campbell!
“Salvation By Works”
“The Church of Christ believes in salvation by works, but Baptists believe salvation is by faith.” The New Testament clearly teaches that salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). Salvation is “not of works” (Eph. 2:9; Gal. 2:16; Titus 3:5). One cannot save himself. God is our Savior (John 2:9; Titus 2:13).
Not By Works Of The Law Of Moses Gal. 2:16.
Not By Works Of The Flesh Gal. 5:19-21.
Not By Works Of The Devil 1 Jn. 3:8.
Not By Our Works 2 Tim. 1:9.
Not By Works Of Darkness Eph. 5:11.
The grace of God and the blood of Christ are the basis, the grounds of salvation. Faith, repentance, confession and baptism are the terms, the conditions, with which man must comply in order to be forgiven (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 10:9, 10). The blessings and benefits of the grace and blood of Christ are conditionally received. Jesus is “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9). “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” (Matt. 7:21). Justification is by faith, but “not by faith only” (Rom. 5:1; Jas. 2:24).
Even those who charge that we believe in “salvation by works,” acknowledge that one must believe and repent before he can be saved On. 8:24; Acts 2:38; 17:30; Heb. 11:6). These are “works” that one must do in order to receive God’s free gift of salvation (Rom. 1:5; 5:1; 6:17, 18, 23; 10:9, 10; 16:26). Faith is a “work” On. 6:29). Is it a “work of God,” or is it a work of men? One might say that baptism is a “work.” Is it a work of the law of Moses? Is it a work of the flesh? Is it a work of the devil? When these questions are answered, the confusion should be dispelled with him (Acts 10:35).
“Condemn Everybody Else”
“The Church of Christ always condemns other churches; they’re always running down other religions.” Are our critics condemning us and running us down when they make this charge? They say we are “always `knocking’ other churches.” Are they “knocking” us when they say this? If it is wrong to condemn others, are they wrong to condemn us for condemning?
Disciples who do not condemn false doctrines and false religions are deficient and derelict in their duty. The Holy Spirit tells us to “cast down” reasonings or arguments that are contrary to truth (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Titus 1:9-13; 1 Jn. 4:1,6; Rev. 2:2). If you have a preacher who will not do the work of “condemning other religions,” you have the wrong preacher (I Tim. 1:3; 4:1-3,6,16; 2 Tim. 1:13; 2:2; 4:2-4).
Do Protestants “condemn, knock and run down” the Jewish religion when they tell a Jew that he is unsaved and that he must “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ”? Again, the answer to that question should dissipate their objection against Christians. Truth by its very nature, condemns error; obedience condemns disobedience. This is how Noah “condemned the world” (Heb. 11:7).
“Have it your own way” religions are not of God (Matt. 15:8,9,13). The religion of Jesus the Christ is the most rigid, inflexible, unbending, uncompromising system ever known (Jn. 8:24; 14:6; Acts 4:12). It allows no competition and tolerates no opposition (1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; 1 Tim. 1:3; 6:3, 4). “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no Savior” (Isa. 43:11). “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14:6). “Neither is there salvation in any other” (Acts 4:12). The “devout and honorable” of this world, the good, moral persons, and the religious who do “many wonderful works” are all lost and rejected (Acts 10:2, 22; 13:50). “If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20). “Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God” (2 Jn. 9). “Teach no other doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3).
If, on the one hand, a man does not accept the exclusive, ironclad, absolute nature of these solemn, settled facts, he has no business attempting to be a teacher in Israel. If, on the other hand, one says he believes and knows the certainty of these inviolate precepts and principles, he is duty bound before God and men to preach, press and present them “with all authority,” “with all boldness,” and with “great plainness of speech” (Titus 2:15; Acts 4:29; 2 Cor. 3:12). To do otherwise is the basest betrayal, the most terrible treachery, rivaling that of Judas Iscariot himself.
Why Are These Charges Rarely Heard?
Why are the criticisms above heard so infrequently in our day? I am not certain that I know all the reasons, but let me state one or two for your reflection. First, the denominations are no longer characterized by conviction. They waver and careen “as children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” In days gone by, most Baptists believed that the Baptist Church was the church built by Jesus. They believed that the Baptist Church was the New Testament church. That is generally not true today among Baptists of our day. Hence, they are less dogmatic, less combative, less confrontational. Second, brethren, members of the Lord’s church and gospel preachers, are less aggressive, less militant than they once were. This is a shame and a disgrace. There is no need to be abusive, cutting and unkind, but there is a crying need for men of faith and uncompromising conviction who will “preach the word; be instant in season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2).
When men did this work in that way in the New Testament, there was a firestorm of opposition; there was “much contention” (1 Thess. 2:2). Cities were stirred as passions were ignited with unbelief and a love for darkness rather than light(Acts 13:50; 17:5-7; 18:12; 19:23). “There arose no small stir about that way.” As someone said, everywhere Paul went he either started a riot or a revival. Is our preaching like that of the New Testament in its bold, aggressive, uncompromising militancy? The faith of Christ is distinctive. It is unique. Like God himself, “there is none other.” Is its unique, distinctive nature and quality made crystal clear today? Are counterfeit systems of religion held up and contrasted with the pristine purity and power of God? Are the doctrines and commandments of denominationalism being exposed as frauds? Are they being compared with the truth, weighed in the balances and found wanting? It was done in the New Testament (Acts 17:2,3,16,17,23f). “Thou hast tried them that say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Rev. 2:2). Is it being done where you worship? Why not (Phil. 4:9)?
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 20, p. 16-20
October 21, 1993