Defining the church of Christ

While studying for a lesson on the church that I am giving next week, I came across this post from a few years ago. I made some slight alterations to the post and share it with  you anew.

What is the church of Christ? Admittedly, I feel completely inadequate to publish an answer.  The answer I will give is mine and not necessarily the answer of every one who holds membership in a congregation claiming to be the church of Christ

First, I share this quote from Frank S. Mead, Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 5th Ed, (Nashville:Abingdon Press), 1970. “There is a distinctive plea for unity at the heart of the Churches of Christ — a unity that is Bible based.  It is believed here that the Bible is the “beginning place” in and through which God-fearing people can achieve spiritual oneness” (p 85).  “They disclaim being a denomination, but claim to be nondenominational with no headquarters, no governing boards, and no clergy” (p 86). Mead lists numbers of colleges, universities, and lists a few publications in Texas and Tennessee then stresses, “Since all official status in these institutions is lacking, none of them being authorized to speak for the entire church, their conformity in ideas and teachings in all the more remarkable” (p 87).  Elsewhere in the article Mead mentions the concept of congregational autonomy with each congregation being governed by her own elders and deacons. (Mead lists, W.E. McClenney, B.W. Stone, and Earl I. West as sources for his information p 238.)

With this as background let me give MY answer to the title question: “What is the Church of Christ?”

Question MarkFirst while consisting of many congregations scattered around the world, the Church of Christ is universally one as she is: 1) the Body of Christ – Eph 1:22-23; 2) the Bride of Christ – Eph 5:21-33; Rev 21:2; 3) the Household of God – 1 Tim 3:15; and 4) the Kingdom of Christ – Col 1:13) among other descriptive terms.  Notice that each term is ultimately singular: body, bride, household, and kingdom; thus individual congregations made up of individual Christians are what comprise the universal singular Church of Christ.

I suppose the second point should answer who is a part of this universal Church of Christ?  Going back to God’s word we find that those who are in Christ by faith have put on Christ and become part of God’s family through the promised Seed of Abraham (Gal 3:26-29).  Here, I think is a particularly sticky issue.  In my past I have made too much of an argument about baptism and not enough about faith.  Let me be very precise in my wording; each individual that is a part of the house of God is saved by God’s grace through faith (Eph 2:8-10).  Without faith man cannot please God (Heb 11:6).  However, what is truly faith?  Faith is not mere mental acceptance of facts.  Faith is trusting obedience.  Faith that does not submit to God is not faith.  Those that put on Christ by faith in Gal 3:26 were those who were put in Him when by faith submitted to immersion to contact His blood.  Paul tells the Romans Christians he was glad they had obeyed from the heart the standard of teaching that saved them (Rom 6:17-18).  That standard of teaching that saved them was the same doctrine that Paul taught the Corinthians – (the Gospel – 1 Cor 15:1-5; Rom 1:16).  That good news that saved was the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus as Christ.  Paul explains the Roman’s faithful obedience to that gospel in Rom 6:3-6.  ALL the individuals world-wide who are en christo (in Christ), and ALL the assemblies of those individuals, are the universal Church (Body, Bride, Kingdom, Household) of Christ.

Now as Mead observed, these congregations are autonomous (self-governed).  Basically, that means what we do at Central may differ in someways from how they do things at Northport, Cottondale, Westside, Northwood, Mercedes Drive, East Pointe, University, or Parrish where I recently worked.  We may see some things as acceptable that others do not.  Some of the things they accept may not be acceptable here.  Sometimes these differences are merely cultural.  Sometimes these differences are simple matters of opinion.  However, there may be times when we think a Biblical issue is at the center of our differences. When the issue is considered by one or both to be a matter of doctrinal importance, lines of communication should allow for civil discussion.  If we come to an impasse, we may choose to limit cooperative fellowship.  That should not mean that each think the other is “hell bound and determined.”  Such should simply mean we choose to work along side of those we feel are more like us.

Ultimately, God and Christ will judge each congregation (consider the Seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 & 3 – God judged each individually), and they will judge each individual.  Maybe that is partly what Paul had in mind when he wrote, ” . . . work our your OWN salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12, emphasis; SMc).  You and I as individuals will stand before God on our own.  We will face judgment as to whether we as an individual were in Christ and lived in sanctification and holiness (1 Thess 4:3-7).  Each eldership will give account for the congregation they serve (Heb 13:17).

I am a Restorationist.  I believe that we must all go back to God’s word for life and godliness.  I believe as many before me that we must set aside denominational nomenclature and return to purely Biblical ideas and principles.  I believe there is room for division in opinions or expediency. I believe mutual understanding of Biblical doctrines provides unity whereas disagreements in doctrine limit fellowship.  I believe that as long as humanity is involved there will be differences that seem insurmountable.  I believe we should teach the truth as we understand truth, allowing for folks to disagree, while continuing to hold fast to healthy spiritual teaching (sound doctrine). I believe in the end of time God will sort out who is and who is not His children.  I believe I must do my best to follow God and to teach others what I learn.  I cannot force them to agree with me, but I must share what I see is God’s plan.  To do less would be irresponsible on my part.

– Scott

Turning Point III Revisited

Again, as I begin the new work with Central Church of Christ, and as I gain new readers, I find myself wanting to disclose a little bit about me and what drives me to do what I do.  This series on turning points is my way of re-introducing myself to you. Today I conclude My Turning Point.

Weekend Reading

I did not know then how I would serve him, I just knew I would. During my Junior High School years, I planned to play off-side guard for the Boston Celtics and help guide them to World Championships. I would use the fame and fortune of stardom to help people in the name of God. By the end of my Sophomore year of High School I became aware that colleges were not looking for average skill level players. Add to that fact that a driver’s license and a 1967 Mercury Comet that needed fuel and a few repairs required income, so basketball became a PE and backyard sport and I stopped playing on a team after that season. Now that hoop dreams were just that – dreams, I began to find enjoyment in biological sciences.

I began thinking back to the care I received in the hospital. I realized I could serve God as a Pediatrician, I might even make a little money too! I soaked up the information we learned in Anatomy and Physiology. My lab partner, who would be class Valedictorian wanted to be a Brain Surgeon (he is by the way), I was going to be a Pediatrician, and we fed off each other all year. Yet, I had concerns. All the schooling and the long hours of a medical doctor might interfere with regularly assembling with a congregation and may keep me too busy to serve the God the way I wanted too.

Then my English and American Literature teachers began placing a heavy challenge on us. They started making us write – every week! We had to expound poetry, review novels, write research papers, compose reactions to the papers of other students, and write about current events. This may not seem pivotal, but when career day came our guidance counselors suggested that we look at what we wrote about and what we enjoy reading about to help us determine what we might want to do with our lives. Somehow, every other paper I wrote brought in a spiritual point, even a paper on Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. My English teacher gave me the highest marks she could on my research paper entitled, “The Existence of God.” There was a theme evident in my writing.

God kept showing through. Like Jeremiah who said, “If I say, ‘I will not mention Him, or speak anymore in His name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot,” (Jer 20:9 – ESV), I could not help but mention the God who delivered me. I still cannot. Could I serve God as a Pediatrician? Yes! But not full time. Not the way I felt he deserves from me. I knew I could have a greater impact for God by using my gift of communication. I wanted to use my talents to point people to Him and his saving power (Rom 1:16). By my Senior year, I determined to preach. That is how I could serve God to the best of my ability, I was fulfilling a promise made a decade earlier. I am still trying to keep my promise.

What about you? Here is something for you to think about: How will you use the events and opportunities in your life for God? (cf. Eph 5:15-16; Col 4:5).

Have a great day! Thanks for letting me share!

Journey Through Mark – 11

Our journey today in the eleventh chapter of Mark brings us to the point where the tension between Jesus and the religious authorities of His day reach a boiling point. Already, the Chief Priests feel they have to stop this Jesus. They fear His influence on people. They fear this could result in a loss of revenue for them. Politically, they begin to fear for their already precarious position with Rome. And greater still, as leaders of Judaism, they had fears that this Jesus was misleading people away from the coming Messiah.

  • Mark 11:1-10 – Jesus enters Jerusalem with Triumphal FanfareWeekend Reading
  • Mark 11:11-14, 20-26 – Jesus and a misleading Fig Tree
  • Mark 11:15-19 – Jesus clears the Temple of Avarice
  • Mark 11:27-33 – Jesus’ Authority, where does it come from?

For our walk today we focus on Jesus and the events at the Temple, “And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.” Mark 11:15-19

We walk into the temple area known as the Court of Gentiles this is the open courtyard of the Temple. It is here that all people of all backgrounds and ethnicities can gather. Only Jews can proceed deeper into the temple, only priests can enter the Holy Place, and the High Priest alone can enter the Most Holy Place. The courtyard comprises the greater part of the approximately thirty acres of the Temple area.

By the time Jesus is ministering and proclaiming the coming Kingdom, this area of the Temple had become a market place, a bazaar, a giant yard sale, and stockyard. Here we come to be in the Temple, the place where God met with His people, where His people came to be nearer to Him. Here we are to worship and here we find, not God, but a market place – not a Publix or a Winn Dixie, but a market place like you would find in third world countries in our current world. Vendors are yelling from their tents and cubicles selling their wares. Pigeons are . . . doing what pigeons do. Animals are grunting, mooing, bleating, eating, and eliminating waste. We come to meet God and we meet the smells of dirty dusty animals and people. The atmosphere was less than conducive to worship.

Along with the disciples, we are trying to take all of this in, when we see Jesus. He seems to be too quiet and we can tell He is in deep thought. All of the sudden, Jesus cannot take it anymore! He seizes the moment. He overturns the tables of money changers and merchants. Coins roll across the courtyard, animals flee for safety, pigeons fly to the top of the walls, feathers flying as they escape. Jesus turns around those who using the Temple area as a short-cut to the other side of Jerusalem.

Jesus reminds them of the messages of the prophets:
“ . . . will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” Isaiah 56:7.
“Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD” Jeremiah 7:11.

What can we learn from these events?

We begin understanding that the Church (gathered Christians) is the Temple today. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” Ephesians 2:19-22. The Church is:

  • A Group Religion
  • For salvation of the lost
  • For Spiritual Worship in His Name
  • Not a set of religious programs
  • Not a society or country club
  • Not business

But we also notice that each individual Christian is a Temple of God in his/her own right. “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body”1 Corinthians 6:18-20.

  • Do not sell yourself to sin.
  • Do not see yourself to the world.
  • Do not sell out to materialism.
  • Keep focused on God (cf. Rom 12:1-2)

– Scott

Why Do We Fight Each Other?

Many years ago, even before men like Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, or any other American Restoration Movement leader said it; and even before the “Paulicans” in Britain and France circa A.D. 500-1200, there were men calling those who would follow Christ to follow only the Scriptures as their guide for life, congregational organization, and worship. Clement of Rome wrote to the Church in Corinth (A.D. 96) about some infighting they were having and quoted from Old Testament and from the letters of Paul emphasizing that inspired writing (including what would eventually make up most of what we call the New Testament) is the only authority. Can we still call for the same approach? Can we make our attempts at drawing near to God based simply on what He tells us. Can we for a moment forget tradition and paradigm? Will you help me “Go Back to the Bible?” Will you and I “search the Scriptures” for the validity or rejection of what everyone (including me) is saying?


Church Paintball Event – The only aim we should take at each other.

We are fighting each other. We fight over worship styles, calling one “Contemporary” and the other “Traditional.” We fight over the use or non-use of musical accompaniment to singing. We fight over leadership roles and service roles for men and women in the church. Church A does things one way and Church B does something completely different. Church A writes Church B off as “Liberal” since they have obviously “left the Faith.” Church B looks at Church A as “Traditional” since they have not progressed as to the spiritual level of “Freedom in Christ.” And BOTH congregations pull passages of scripture to defend their practices – sometimes they pull them out of context. When studying for ministry and preaching, we learned the danger of eisegesis over exegesis, but somewhere along the line, we forget those lessons and proof-text our preconceived or preferred ideas and practices. Once we form our opinions and go to the scriptures to defend ourselves, we have weapon against those who would dare to disagree or challenge us. Brothers and sisters, this is not the way we should be. We should discuss our differences, but with civility, no with love! Did not Jesus say, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Joh 13:35)? Did not John himself reiterate that point in his letters (1Jo 2:9-11; 3:10-12, 14-15; 4:7-12, 19-21)?

We are fighting because we forgot the concept of autonomy. Autonomy is not a word found in the Bible, but I believe the concept is. As Paul and others established congregations of disciples (Christians) they would later return or send others who would help each congregation set up a plurality of congregational leaders known as presbyters or elders. Through the apostles God gave these men the authority to oversee the congregation where they were leaders. Paul tells the elders of the congregation at Ephesus to “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (Act 20:28). Whereas the Apostles had authority over congregations as inspired men (remember the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15), I find no reason to believe that oversight of multiple congregations passed to others after the last apostle died. We have the right and responsibility to express our concerns, but not to oversee other assemblies or force them to comply with our paradigms or perceived doctrines. When we attempt to exercise control by manipulation, threats, accusations, etc. we are in danger of setting ourselves up as a regional “Bishop.” And in danger of repeating the mistakes of would be church leaders, Apostolic Fathers, and apologists of the Second and Third Centuries A.D. Can we authentically return to the New Testament as our guide for life, congregational leadership, and worship?

May I remind all parties of what James, the brother of our Lord said? “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel . . .” (Jam 4:1-2). We fight each other out of selfish desire. We want to be the one who is right. We want to be the one who controls what others say and do. We want recognition as a scholar or as a spiritual person. We want the world to see us as tolerant and open-minded. We want to stay unique from the world. We want to meet our wants and desires. (i.e. Brother C likes a-capella worship and Brother D desires musical accompaniment so “C” finds scripture to prove “D” wrong and “D” finds scripture to prove himself right. But neither wants to sit and have a loving open discussion, so they hurl scriptures and insults at each other like arrows from a bow, bullets from a rifle, or “smart” bombs with deadly accuracy.) That IS NOT brotherly love. We must return to our first love – Christ and learn to love each other again. Before we publicly take our brother to task, should we not remember the commands of our Savior, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Mat 18:15)? Instead of a public reprimand, take time for a personal email or better yet a visit. Remember Paul tells us, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Gal 6:1). Go in person, go in gentleness, go with a spirit of love and concern. We must not forget the simple rule that our Lord told His followers to live by, a rule we refer to as golden, that rule that says to think about how we want others to treat us and then treat people that way (Mat 7:12). Before we rake a brother or sister over the coals, we must take a deep look at ourselves and ask ourselves probing questions about our motivation for doing so. 

When we decide our motivation is pure, James gives us the process for peace. “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (Jam 4:11-12). Do not speak evil of each other. Do not call each other names. Do not accuse each other of being something they are not. Do not go back to Kindergarten and be a tattle-tale trying to get someone in trouble. Do not do it! Do not judge.  I know this is a misunderstood or at least misapplied word. Maybe a better word in our current culture is condemn.  Do not condemn.  You may disagree with someone, but since you are not inspired, you must let God sort somethings that are not specific in Scripture. We can let them know that we disagree with them and that we believe they are misleading others, and still refuse to condemn them to Hell for that belief. There may come a time when specific fellowship and cooperation can no longer occur because of different conclusions,but even then you can still love each other, albeit from a distance.

Currently, there are too many articles in print and online where we are devouring each other. There are too many mean-spirited comments on posts and blogs even when the original posts appears to result from love for the Church Christ died for and for the lost that the Gospel calls.

The blogs, posts, and comments that prompted this article are breaking my heart.  I am hurt, when I see people fighting instead of honest dialogue. I cry when I see fellowships, congregations, and families torn apart because we treat each other selfishly and not out of love. I weep when I think of how the accuser is laughing in delight when he sees the influence we have for Christ destroyed by our actions. Please join me in prayer for forgiveness for the times I act out or speak out of selfishness not considering others before myself, for forgiveness for the harm such a self-centered mentality causes the Christ’s Church, and as I pray that we meet to study together the will of God to continually search out how we can best be His people in a modern world. 

This article does not look at the specific issues, others are already covering the issues and with better scholarship than I might have. So now as we move along to read the studies and conclusions of other sinners in need and relying on the Grace of God, may we each keep our eyes on God’s will and not our own. May we each learn to live Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, ” . . . nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Mat 26:39b). May we set aside old traditions and new paradigms and sincerely follow the teachings of the God-breathed Text all while patiently allowing others the freedom to learn and grow at their own pace (1Th 5:14) until we all reach the goal of perfect Christ-likeness (Phi 3:13, 1Co 13:12; 2Co 3:18; 1Jo 3:2) when He reveals Himself from Heaven to claim His own.

– Scott

Thirteen Questions and Answers

Thirteen Questions:

Someone designed these questions to trap members of the Lord’s Church to second guess their allegiance to the church as the Body of Christ.  The author of the questions challenges “Campbellite” preachers and elders to not talk around them but answer them directly.  These questions are online and I first saw them about 5 years ago.  I accepted the challenge a few years ago in sermon form and now submit them here in blog form.

1. According to the history of the “Church of Christ,” God used certain men to “restore” the New Testament Church in the early 1800’s. Where was the true New Testament church before then? Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18). What happened to the church and where was the truth it was responsible for preaching before God restored it?

Answer: The Church existed, simply not in a mainstream setting.  The Restoration Movement was and is a continuing effort to restore people and groups to the NT Church.

2. If a “Church of Christ” elder refuses to baptize me, will I be lost until I can find one who will? Do I need Jesus AND a Campbellite “preacher” in order to be saved? If I do, then Jesus Christ is not the only Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) and the Holy Spirit is not the only Administrator (1 Cor. 12:13) of salvation – the “Church of Christ” preacher is necessary to salvation for he is performing a saving act on me when he baptizes me! Is this not blasphemy against Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost?

Answer: No one that I know of teaches that A “Church of Christ” preacher has to do the immersion.  The act is of God and involves God and the one being immersed.  The person doing the immersing is of little consequence.

3. If the water pipes broke and the baptistry was bone dry, would my salvation have to wait until the plumber showed up? If I were to die before then, would I go to hell? If obedience to water baptism is the means of forgiveness of sins, then I would.

Answer: A bathtub, pool, pond, stream, river, ocean, tank, and anything that can hold water is sufficient this question is “choking on a gnat.”

4. If my past sins are forgiven when I am baptized in water, and it is possible for me to “lose my salvation” and go to hell after being baptized, then wouldn’t my best chance of going to heaven be to drown in the baptistry?!! before I had a chance to sin so as to be lost again? If I wanted to be absolutely sure of heaven, isn’t that my best opportunity?

Answer: Time and space does not permit a complete answer, but let just say that if one will “walk in the light” he can be certain of salvation — 1 Jn 5:13.

5. If as a Christian I can sin so as to “lose my salvation,” just what sin or sins will place me in such danger? Is it possible to know at what point one has committed such a sin, and become lost again? Please be specific and give clear Bible references.

Answer: Any sin I refuse to let go of (repent of).  Mistakes are forgiven, but to die in open rebellion is dangerous.

6. If as a Christian I can fall and “lose my salvation,” is it possible to regain it? If so, how?If God “takes away” my salvation, doesn’t that make Him an “Indian giver”? How could I ever know for sure that I was saved or lost?

Answer: Yes it is possible to “regain” salvation, simply return to God — a prayer of repentance is what Simon the sorcerer had Peter pray.  Paul told the Corinthians to welcome the one who had repented that they had rightfully shunned.  God continues to offer salvation and wants all to be in heaven with Him, but by allowing us freedom of choice, we can (and some do) choose to leave Him. He is not an Indian giver, we are wishy-washy.

7. After becoming a Christian, are there any sins that will put me beyond the “point of no return” so that I cannot regain salvation? What sin or sins will put me in such jeopardy, so that, after becoming a Christian, I would be doomed to hellwithout any recourse? Please be specific and give me clear Bible references.

Answer: Yes — any sin I openly rebel in.  In other words, if I flaunt my sin in God’s face saying in my actions, “I don’t care if God disapproves of my choice, I am going to do it anyway.”  This does not include such things as accidental (unintentional) stumbling on my part.

8. If I committed some sin -whether in thought, word, or deed, one minute before a fatal car crash – would I go to hell if I did not have time to repent of it? And, please, don’t just say that it’s up to God without giving me a specific Bible reference.

Answer: No.  As long as we are not given to sin (rebelious).  God imputes righteousness to us because of our active faith.  This question shows a misunderstanding of what the Bible truly teaches.

9. Why does the “Church of Christ” insist that their name is scriptural when it cannot be found anywhere in the Bible? The church is referred to as the “church of God” eight (8) times in the Bible, but never is it called the “church of Christ.” The verse they use is Romans 16:16, but it doesn’t say “church of Christ.” Where does the Bible call the church the “church of Christ”?

Answer:  Any name found in the Bible is a Biblical name including church of God.  Again this question rings of ignorance of what is taught.  Rom 16:16 says churches of Christ in the plural sense, so a single congregation is a church of Christ.  If one would prefer the word assembly or congregation is as accurate as “church” so names may vary from location to location.

10. If the “Church of Christ” claims to worship God only as “authorized” by scripture because they sing only (and do not use instrumental music), then where do they get the “authority” to use hymnals, pitchpipes, pews, and indoor baptistries in their worship services? If the answer is that they are “aids to worship,” where does the Bible allow for that? Where is your required authorization? If a pitchpipe can be an “aid to worship” for the song service in the “Church of Christ,” then why can’t a piano be an “aid to worship” for Baptists who may need more help in singing?

Answer: Again this question begs for an argument.  The same place we get Authorization for buildings — expediency.  An organ, piano, band, etc. are not aids to vocal singing or to furnish ability to accomplish another part of worship as baptistery and pews.  I hope we are wrong on the instrumental issue, but I would rather get to heaven and have God say, “You could have had a band!” rather than hear Him say, “I said SING!”  A pitchpipe only sounds a beginning note — if you use a piano to sound the opening chord and then it was silent — so the congregation could sing vocally — I would not object.  The Bible gives authorization to sing, to immerse, and to assemble for worship.  Hymnals let us sing, a pitchpipe sounds a beginning note for on to sing, a pew provides a place to sit (a chair or window seat would do) as we assemble, a baptistery provides a place for immersion, a piano (or orchestra) does not sing.

(Note:  I answer the next three LONG questions with one answer.)

11. The “Church of Christ” teaches that a sinner is forgiven of sin when he is baptized in water by a Campbellite elder. Where does the Bible teach that water baptism is required in order to have one’s sins forgiven? Every time the phrase “for the remission of sins” occurs it is speaking of the fact that sins have been forgiven previously! The Bible plainly teaches that the forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon repentance of sin and faith in Christ – never upon water baptism! (Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 20:21; Romans 1:16; Romans 4:5; Where does the Bible teach that forgiveness of sin is linked with water baptism? When Christ made the statement in Matthew 26:28, “for the remission of sins,” it had to be because they had been forgiven all through the Old Testament! Christ shed His blood because God forgave repentant and believing sinners for thousands of years before the Son of God came to “take away” sins and to redeem us and pay the sin-debt with His own precious blood. How can one say that “for the remission of sins” means ‘in order to obtain’ in light of the fact that God never uses the phrase in that sense? In the Old Testament God forgave sin on the basis of a blood sacrifice (Heb. 9:22) – the Old Testament saints had their sins remitted (i.e., forgiven) but they were not redeemed until Christ came and shed His blood at Calvary. Their sins were covered (Romans 4:7; Psalm 32:1), but the sinner was not cleared of his guilt (Exodus 34:7) until the Cross (Heb.10:4). Before Calvary, the sins of believers were pardoned, but they were not paid for (i.e., redeemed) until the crucifixion (see Romans 3:25 and Heb. 9:12-15). When Jesus said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), all sin – past, present and future – was paid for, and the plan of salvation was completed, so that ‘whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins’ (Acts 10:43). In Acts 2:38, the people were baptized because their sins were forgiven (at Calvary when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,”) and they received the blessing of forgiveness when they repented of their sin of rejecting Christ and accepted Him as their Saviour and Lord. Friend, heaven or hell depends on what you believe about this.

12. If salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done, and baptism is a work of “righteousness,” then how can water baptism be a part of salvation? (Titus 3:5; Matt. 3:16) In the Bible, we are SAVED BY GRACE, and grace does not involve human effort or merit – grace is grace and work is work! (Just read Ephesians 2:8,9 and Romans 11:6.)

13. The “Church of Christ” teaches that “obeying the Gospel” includes being baptized in water in order to be saved. If this is true, then how is it that the converts of Acts 10 were saved by faith before and without water baptism? The Bible says in Acts 5:32 thatonly those who obey God may receive the Holy Ghost – so what did those in Acts 10 do to obey and receive the Holy Ghost and be saved? In the light of Acts 10:34-48, Acts 11:14-18, and Acts 15:7-11, how can anyone honestly believe that water baptism is necessary to salvation? Simon Peter said their hearts were “purified by faith” (Acts 15:9) and that we are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ like they were (Acts 15:11); that is, before and without water baptism! We know that unsaved people do not receive or have the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; Romans 8:9). We know that the Holy Spirit is given only to those who have believed on Christ (John 7:39). We know that the Holy Spirit seals the believing sinner the moment he puts his faith and trust in Christ as Savior, before he is ever baptized in water (Ephesians 1:12,13). How does the warped theolgy of Campbellism explain away these clear passages of Scripture without “muddying the waters” of truth and drowning its members in eternal damnation?

Answer 11-13: This is a disagreement over a term.  First the Church of Christ does not teach.  We try to let the Bible speak and we look to the Bible for answers to questions as individual Christians and independent congregations of God’s people.  There is no written standard for the churches of Christ outside the Bible.  Compare Acts 3:19 above with Acts 2:38 and you will find they teach the same thing — forgiveness of sin, based on penitent converts.  Forgiveness is only through the blood of Christ (Eph 1:7).  All spiritual blessings are in Christ (1:3).  The gospel is the only means to salvation (Rom 1:16). The gospel that saved the Corinthians and Romans is the same that saves us (1 Cor 15:1-5 / Rom 6:17-18).  This Gospel is the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ.  Paul teaches that the Christians in Rome had obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine — the earlier verses show how they obeyed the DBR — (Rom 6:3-6).  Paul says we are children of God by FAITH in Christ Jesus, and that we are in Christ when we put on Christ — we put on Christ when we get in Christ and by FAITH that is when we are baptized INTO Christ (Gal 3:26-27).  As a BAPTIST preacher recently told me, “any claim of faith that does not submit to immersion is not faith.”  That is my point exactly!  Salvation is not by man’s works.  God works and His work saves man, all that God asks of us is that we come to Him on Terms — that is not a work.  In Scripture baptism is never called a work (faith is – 1 Thes 1:3 and repentance is said to work – 2 Cor 7:10) There is a difference between working to EARN salvation and obeying what God commands.  A child does not earn a parent’s love by doing what the parent says; we do not earn salvation by doing what God commands.  We obtain it the way He says to obtain salvation.  Cornelius and his house received the Spirit, but that does not in that passage or in any references to that event equate salvation.  That reception of miraculous manifestation was to confirm to those with Peter and those to whom Peter would report, that God accepted the Gentiles and wanted them to be included.  If faith and prayer is all that is needed, why was Peter sent by God?  God heard Cornelius and knew he was a believer.  Why send Peter if a prayer of faith saved?

Building Up the Church – Old School

My "Second" Desk in my study

What you see on my “second desk” are back issues, or should I say “WAY BACK” issues of The Gospel Advocate.  These issues are from 1954 – 1955.  One of the issues mentions three baptisms in Gallipolis, Ohio.  One of those nameless three is my father.  Another issue seems to be a special issue on the topic of The Church.  Among the article titles are: Establishment of the Church; The Identity of the Church; How to Enter the Church; Does the Church Save?; How to Live in the Church; Church Autonomy; The Greatness of the Church; The Strength of the Church; and The Weakness of the Church.  Authors include: H. Leo Boles, C. R. Nichol, N. B. Hardeman, F. B. Srygley, L. O. Sanderson, B. C. Goodpasture, R. L. Whiteside, John T. Lewis, among others.

One article by C. A. Norred covers the topic, “Building Up Local Congregations.”  He gives six factors to build up the local church: 1) Personal Consecration and Individual Activity, 2) Study of the Bible, 3) Giving, 4) Attendance Upon the Meetings of the Church, 5) Prayer, and 6) The Preaching of the Word.

This article foreshadows a promised special issue of The Gospel Advocate for August, 19, 1954.  This then forthcoming special issue would discuss “How to Build Up the Church.”  I am going to look for a digital copy of this issue because the articles discuss some ideas and ministries that we can still use today.  The promised articles I am interested in are:

  • Building up the Church through Pulpit Preaching.
  • Building It up through the Bible Class Teaching.
  • Building It up through Personal Work.
  • Building It up through Improved Singing.
  • Building It up through More Spiritual Worship.
  • Building It up through Benevolent Works.
  • Building It up through Nurturing Young Christians.
  • Building It up through Prayer Meetings.

I think these ideas still work.

– Scott

Singing and Understanding

Recently, Cole’s dad, Rick shared a very interesting story with me.  But first let me give you some background.
Rick grew up attending a charismatic church, that uses popular style musical accompaniment, soloists, choirs, etc. in worship.  Rick was one of the soloists.  Rick married, Gina who grew up attending a non-denominational acapella Church of Christ.  Rick attended with her often, but remained loyal to the way his parents raised him.  A few years ago Rick and Gina began attending with us.  After a few months, Rick said he had some questions for me.  We met in my study before worship on Sunday afternoon.  He questions were great but that is another blog.  He surprised his family and to the delight of all here, he came forward and obeyed the Gospel that evening.  Rick now leads in worship in many different areas and teaches our young teens on Wednesdays.
Now back to Cole.  Because Rick’s family (parents, brothers, etc) are still part of the other group Cole and his brother Brooks will occasionally visit with family and attend worship where they assemble.  After one such visit, Cole told Rick and Gina, “That was a cool church.  They had a band with drums, guitars, it was great!”  Rick asked Cole a simple question, “What songs did they sing?”   “I don’t know,” Cole replied, “but it was awesome.”
After the conversation had changed Cole interrupted, “We did sing, ‘It is Well with My Soul,’ it was good too.”  Rick later discovered that the reason Cole remembered that one song was it was the only one the whole congregation sung acapella.  The message came through when the instruments were silent.
Now I wonder how Eph 5, Col 3, and 1 Cor 14 would fit into this event?

Re-Thinking Church

A lot of good religious folks are talking about the church, and are rethinking and redesigning the church.  This May 1 and 2 the congregation at Sweetwater, TN will host a series of meetings designed to help us “Think About the Church.”  If you are close by or are traveling through, please stop in.  Below is the advertisement for this series of meetings.  Oh, by the way, I am the guest speaker 🙂


Saddlebags, City Streets, & Cyberspace – A Book Review

I am reaching into the vault of book reviews to pull out this one, I shared with an online preachers groups a few years ago.

Michael W. Casey, Saddlebags, City Streets, & Cyberspace; A History of Preaching in the Churches of Christ, (Abilene;ACU Press) 1995. 210 pp.

Michael Casey provides the churches of Christ with an historical volume of a different genre from most other Restoration History texts.  One would expect that in a fellowship that focuses much attention on preaching in our worship, there would be multiple volumes discussion the development and style of our gospel preaching.

Casey develops preaching and advises his reader to realize that preaching is a living representation of a living message that will always change and adapt as people change and adapt within their environment.  According to Casey’s research, styles of preaching reflect not only the environment of the audience, but to a large extent the culture of the preacher.  As evidence of the adaptability of preaching, Casey points the reader to observe the change in Alexander Campbell.  He notes that Campbell made observed a change in sermon he preached ten months prior to crossing the Atlantic.  Campbell changed his preaching from a stoic recitation / reading to a more extemporaneous style for the American Frontier (p 19-20).  Early in the book, Casey warns that preaching, no matter the style or cultural form, must be faithful to the message of the Gospel.

Campbell, even while preaching more extemporaneously, preached from a Baconian (Rationalistic) style.  This style grew out of Thomas Reid’s ideas of Common Sense, which states that every rational individual will come tot he correct answer if given the correct facts. American Rationalism an adaptation of Scottish Realism had four principal elements: (1) enthusiasm for natural science, (2) strict empiricism, (3) a love for inductive reasoning, and (4) the celebration of Frances Bacon as the father of inductive science (p 25-26).  Out of this rational approach grew the tradition of debates.  The assumption of those debating is that if Common Sense is common then fact presented to a reasonable audience will convince them of the Truth.

Casey then gives descriptions of various styles of preaching and gives examples of those using these styles.  he describes T. B. Larrimore as an example of a Narrative Preacher.  He discusses the influence of N. B. Hardeman and his Tabernacle Sermons on Evangelism and Campaign Preaching.  Casey assigns the genre of “Scholarly Tradition” to those who delve into Historical Criticism, specific exegesis, and general application.  Many early proponents of this Scholarly Tradition were the professors and leaders at various Christian Colleges and Universities.  To Casey, those that preach “Jesus Centered” lessons are Evangelical in tradition.

Casey concludes asking, “What’s next?”  In this age of mass communication, we have very little reason to think that preaching will always remain the same.  If in the past, preaching evolved as Casey aptly describes, in this age of ever changing technology preaching will adapt, and should as long as preaching remains true to the Gospel message.  Casey recommends a shift or “reconnection of the academic discipline of rhetoric with homiletics” (p 199).

Seemingly, Casey blames much failure on the Rational Tradition for weaknesses in the Restoration Movement.  He also admits that each “tradition” has its own problems.  The emphasis then remains that the message is more important than the method of presentation.

In the intervening decade and a half since publication of Casey’s book technology has impacted preaching.  Additional material discussing “PowerPoint Tradition” and even the influence of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter on preaching would be a welcome appendix.  I would personally like to see and evaluation of the methods of Paul, Peter, Stephen, and especially Christ.  As 21st Century Restorers, we can still learn much from these great men of the past and those that followed them.

Preach the Truth, no matter what!