What Is Wrong With the Church of Christ? (11)

By Larry Ray Halley

What does it mean to preach Moses? “For Moses .. . hath … them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day” (Acts 15:21). To read Moses’ writings is to “preach” Moses. The preaching of Moses is not limited to preaching about Moses’ life, his work, his person, his giving of the law. While the preaching of Moses includes those things, it is not restricted to them. Likewise, what does it mean to “preach Christ”? When we read and teach the New Testament, we are preaching Christ. The preaching of Christ is not limited to his life, his work, his person or his death. It includes those items, but it is not restricted to them, for Paul said, “the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). To preach the Old Testament economy is to preach Moses. To preach the New Testament system is to preach Christ, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17).

Every law and lamb of the Old Testament was ratified and sanctified by “the blood of calves and of goats” (Heb. 9). No matter how obscure the ordinance, it was “given by Moses” and sealed with “the blood of goats and calves” (Heb. 9). To preach it was to preach Moses. All grace and truth of the New Testament was ratified and sanctified by “the blood of Christ.” No matter how obscure the ordinance, it “came by Jesus Christ” and was signed, stamped and sealed with the blood of him who is the true “lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (in. 1:29; Heb. 10:29).

Imagine an ignorant Israelite who would say, “We need more preaching about Moses and the lambs and less about washings and the tabernacle.” Can you see how preposterous such a proposal would be? Were Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel ever told:

You are a great preacher of the truth, but we believe you have a misplaced emphasis. All you do is “rake the brethren over the coals.” You and your legalistic guardians of the party of the prophets are always preaching about corruptions of the organization and worship of the priests. You criticize every little thing that sincere brethren want to do in the temple. You challenge the scripturalness of some of our methods of work and worship. You threaten us with “negative” sermons which predict our overthrow because of our innovations.

Gentlemen, we are tired of hearing your exhortations about doing things “according to the pattern.” We need less preaching about the law and scriptural worship in the temple. We need to hear more positive preaching about the loving, life of our beloved Moses; we need more preaching about the precious blood of our sacrificial lambs. We want more preaching about the life of Moses and less about his law. We want less preaching about the qualifications of priests and the laws about an acceptable animal to be offered (no sick, lame, blind, etc.) and more preaching on the blood of the lamb itself.

If our modem situation is any example, the prophets surely heard such things as described above. If you can absolve the prophets of the imaginary charges above, you should have no problem in answering critics in the church today who make similar, parallel indictments. (See chart on next page.)

(In the last segment of this extended series, we discussed the first three points on the chart above. Hence, we begin here with the fourth section of the chart.)

4. 1 Corinthians 2:2; 4:15; 15:1-4 (Christ Grace); Acts 18:8;1 Corinthians 1:13; 12:13 (ChurchBaptism): Though it is not specifically stated that Paul preached “the grace of God” in Corinth, there can be no doubt that he did so (cf. 2 Cor. 6:1). Paul preached the cross; he preached nothing except “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:2). While “the blood of Christ” is not attributed directly to the forgiveness of the Corinthians, there can be no doubt that it cleansed them (1 Cor. 15:3, 4; 2 Cor. 5:21; 8:9). Assuredly, all who would “preach Christ crucified” must preach grace through Christ our Lord! The Corinthians were “born again,” begotten by the gospel (1 Cor. 4:15; 1 Pet. 1:23). Did the preaching that Paul did include or exclude preaching about baptism and the church?

What occurred when the Corinthians heard nothing except “Jesus Christ, and him crucified”? “And many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). If all they heard were the facts of the death of Jesus on the cross, how did they know to be baptized? “Every one” of the Corinthians had been baptized (1 Cor. 1:12, 13; 12:13). How did they learn of this duty to be baptized? Remember that all that Paul preached was the gospel, so how did they know to be baptized when they heard what he preached? They knew to be baptized because the preaching of the gospel includes baptism.

How do we know the gospel includes baptism? “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:15, 16). Shall we separate Mark 16:15 from Mark 16:16? The Corinthians were “baptized in the name of ” Christ (1 Cor. 1:13; 6:11). If all the Corinthians had heard was the story of the cross, how did they know to be “washed” or baptized in the name of Jesus Christ? They were taught it, that is how! But taught what? Namely, two things (1) “Neither is there salvation in any other (nameLRH): for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). (2) “All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:18, 19). The Corinthians, therefore, were taught that there is salvation only in the name of Jesus Christ and that they must be baptized into that name in order to be washed, cleansed, sanctified and justified by the grace of God and the blood of Christ.

Did the Corinthians hear any preaching about the church when they heard the preaching of the cross? Paul said they were “all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13). That body is the church (Eph. 1:22, 23). They were baptized “into” the kingdom, the church (Col. 1:13; Jn. 3:3-5).

In Acts 18:27, the Spirit says that the Corinthians “believed through grace.” Those who believe and are baptized into the church of our Lord, are the ones who believe “through grace.” “Evangelical, fundamentalists” claim that they are leading men to Christ “through grace.” They are deceived. Men who “believed through grace” in the New Testament were men who had heard the gospel story of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. They were men who had “all” been “baptized into one body,” or church. The spirit of compromise wants to believe that the good-hearted, sweet-spirited people of denominational-ism are somehow recipients of redemption, though they have never been “washed” and “baptized into one body.” Our sorrow and sympathy for their delusion and damnation must never cause us to diminish the demands of the cross. Rather, it should, if we truly love and trust in God’s grace, cause us to press the terms of gospel obedience even more ardently in order that they, too, may truly believe “through grace.”

5. Acts 20:24 (ChristGrace); Acts 20:21,25,28 (Church Baptism): What did Paul preach in Ephesus? He told the elders of the church in Ephesus that his ministry was “to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). He commended the church “to God, and the word of his grace” (Acts 20:32). Critics of the church today claim that we need more such preaching about “grace” and less about the church and baptism. We must determine the nature and content of “the word of his grace” if we want to know what it means to “preach the grace of God.” Undoubtedly, Paul preached “grace” in Ephesus. Of what did the preaching of grace consist? Undeniably, it chronicled the events concerning the cross of the Christ at Calvary (Eph. 1:7), but did it contain anything else?

First, “the word of his grace” had a “negative” edge to it. “Grace” condemned false religion ”Moreover ye see and hear … at Ephesus . . . this Paul hath persuaded much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands” (Acts 19:26). Some brethren contend that we are not preaching the grace of God when we confute and refute religious error. However, Paul was preaching “the word of his grace” when he said there “be no gods, which are made with hands.” Thus, if a gospel preacher today says that there “be no churches made with hands” (Martin Luther, John Wesley, Joseph Smith), he is preaching “the word of his grace.” The church and gospel preachers have been rebuked for not preaching “the grace of God” when they identify and expose the churches and doctrines of men. Such criticism shows that the critics do not know what it means to thoroughly and completely present the grace of God.

If controversy arises due to the condemnation of a denomination, some will say, “That is just like the Church of Christ; they are always running down other churches and saying they are the only true church.” Paul, in preaching “the word of his grace,” preached that there was only one true God. In preaching “the word of his grace,” one may preach that there is only one, true church. “But what if it offends people? What if it makes people mad? What if they `storm out’ and refuse to listen?” In Ephesus, many “were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude…. And the same time there arose no small stir about that way. . . . And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath and cried out” (Acts 19:9, 23, 28). What was “the uproar” in Ephesus all about (Acts 20:1)? It was all about Paul’s preaching of “the word of his grace.”

Are you hearing such preaching today? If not, you may be worshipping with the wrong church, or you may have the wrong preacher, or both.

Second, Paul preached the conditions of salvation as he preached “grace” in Ephesus. How do we know this? He preached “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21; Eph. 1:13). Paul preached water baptism in Ephesus. “When they (the Ephesians) heard this (“the gospel of the grace of God”), they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). What is baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus” for? What is its purpose? Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). In preaching “grace,” Paul preached faith, repentance and baptism. How, then, can critics say, “We are not preaching God’s grace when we preach baptism”? The truth is that the critic either does not know what it means to preach the grace of God, or else he loves religious error and is ashamed of the truth. With the information above, the critic is without excuse. Now, he knows. If he remains critical, he exposes and condemns himself On. 3:19-21).

Third, Paul preached “the kingdom of God” in Ephesus (Acts 20:25). To preach the kingdom of God is to preach the name of Jesus Christ, his headship “over all things to the church” (Acts 8:12; Eph. 1:22, 23). The saved are translated “into” the kingdom (Col. 1:13). The Ephesians were reconciled “unto God in one body,” the church. The saints at Ephesus, the church, were sanctified and cleansed “with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26). They were called “unto his kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12). “Unto him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:21). (A) The new birth, “ye must be born again,” (B) entrance “into” the kingdom by water baptism, (C) redemption and reconciliation by the blood in the church  all of these things were a part of Paul’s preaching of “grace” and “the kingdom of God” in Ephesus (Acts 19:5; Eph. 1:7; 2:16; 5:26). One is not “neglecting grace” when he preaches the kingdom of God and the things that “pertain” to the church of our Lord (Acts 8:12; 20:28).

Fourth, Paul preached redemption “through his blood” (Eph. 1:7). This redemption “purchased” the church of God (Acts 20:28). (A) Redemption by the blood was “in Christ” (Eph. 1:7; 2:13). Reconciliation was “in one body by the cross” (Eph. 2:16). Gentiles at Ephesus were “aliens” until they were “accepted in the Beloved,” in Christ, and “reconciled . . . in one body,” the church (Eph. 1:6; 2:12, 16). They were “strangers” (i.e., “aliens”) until they were “of the household (church) of God” (Eph. 2:19; 1 Tim. 3:15). Therefore, Paul preached that one is not redeemed and reconciled unto God by the blood outside of the church. This is a part of what it means to preach “the gospel of the grace of God” and “the kingdom of God.” Do not be deceived by “despisers” who degrade such preaching. With feigned words they piously proclaim their love for grace while they deny the very words of grace in the New Testament. If one alters his preaching to suit his concept of grace, he will “fail of the grace of God” and do “despite unto the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29; 12:15).

6. Galatians 1:6 (ChristGrace); Galatians 3:26, 27 (ChurchBaptism): The churches of Galatia were “called into the grace of God” (Gal. 1:6). As such, they were called “unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:9), “called . . . to glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3), “called . . . out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9), and “called . . . unto his kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12). Critics of the church of the Lord say that we should emphasize the calling of men “into the grace of God” and give less stress to calling men into the church, the kingdom. They say that we are preaching “ourselves” rather than preaching grace when we call men unto fellowship with us in the kingdom of God.

Those “called . . . out of darkness into his marvelous light” were “built up a spiritual house”; they were “the house of God” (1 Pet. 2:5; 4:17). What is the “spiritual house of God”? “The house of God . . . is the church of God” (1 Tim. 3:15). Thus, those “called” into God’s light and grace are called into his church and kingdom. If one is not calling men into the church, the kingdom, he is not calling them into the grace of Christ!

Jesus Christ had been “set forth” and “crucified among” them as Paul preached the word of the cross unto them (Gal.1:4; 3:1,13). By the faith, by the gospel, the Galatians had been called “into the grace of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-8). They were not justified by works of the law, but by faith in the faith of Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:16). The gospel is the faith (Gal. 1:8, 23). Sinners obey the truth, obey the gospel, obey the faith (1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Thess. 1:8; Acts 6:7). The Galatians had obeyed it (Gal. 5:7). What did that entail and include? “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For (the reason that you are now children of God by faith) as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26, 27).

Paul saw no inconsistency with saying that men who were “called into the grace of Christ” were “baptized into Jesus Christ,” so why should we feel uncomfortable when we say the same thing? Paul gloried in nothing except “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). Still, he preached that men are called “into the grace of Christ” when they are “baptized into Jesus Christ” (Rom. 6:3,4, 17, 18). Any man who makes you feel uncomfortable when you preach the truth on water baptism is not an advocate of the grace of God.

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 10, p. 19-22
May 19, 1994