"THE EPISTLE OF JAMES" Heavenly Wisdom Vs. Earthly Wisdom (3:13-18) INTRODUCTION 1. In the Old Testament book of Proverbs, we are encouraged to seek after wisdom - Pr 3:13-18; 4:7-9 2. Likewise, in the New Testament we are exhorted to walk with wisdom - Ep 5:15-17 3. But in Jm 3:13-18, we learn that there is more than just one kind of wisdom (READ) 4. In this lesson, we will take a look at what James describes as two different kinds of wisdom: "Heavenly Wisdom Vs. Earthly Wisdom" [In discussing these two, James does so by making several contrasts; the first being...] I. A CONTRAST IN THEIR "ORIGIN" A. EARTHLY WISDOM IS NOT FROM ABOVE (15) 1. It is EARTHLY a. I.e., worldly b. Wisdom that is according to the world's standards c. But this wisdom is foolishness to God - cf. 1Co 1:20 2. It is SENSUAL a. Appealing to the senses, the emotions, the passions b. Wisdom according to what FEELS right (but that doesn't make it right) 3. It is DEMONIC a. The kind of wisdom possessed by the devil and his angels b. A wisdom that often finds its origin in the influences of Satan! B. HEAVENLY WISDOM IS FROM ABOVE (17) 1. It comes from GOD - cf. Jm 1:17 2. It comes via PRAYER - cf. Jm 1:5-8 [Knowing the origin or source of each kind of wisdom ought to encourage us to select the right one. But if that is not enough, then consider how James describes...] II. A CONTRAST IN THEIR "NATURE" A. EARTHLY WISDOM (14,16) 1. Full of BITTER ENVY 2. Possessing SELF-SEEKING IN THE HEART 3. This wisdom extols as virtues such qualities as: a. Power b. Position c. Privilege d. Prestige 4. It was this kind of wisdom... a. That prompted Satan and his angels to rebel against God b. That prompted the disciples to argue over who would be the greatest in the kingdom B. HEAVENLY WISDOM (17) 1. It is first PURE a. Above all else, it is true to God's Will b. Not one to compromise truth for the sake of peace 2. Then it is PEACEABLE a. Holding firm to the truth, it makes every effort to be at peace - cf. Ro 12:18 b. For example, speaking the truth in an attitude of love - cf. Ep 4:15 3. GENTLE a. That is, kind in one's dealings with others b. Not harsh, even when right and dealing with those who differ - cf. 2Ti 2:24-25 4. WILLING TO YIELD a. Not in matters of truth b. But in matters of opinion - Ro 14:1 c. In matters of liberty - Ro 14:19-21 5. FULL OF MERCY a. Quick to forgive the offenses of others b. Wisely understanding one's own need of mercy - cf. Jm 2:13 6. Producing GOOD FRUITS a. Notice verse 13, where it says we are to show by our conduct our true wisdom and understanding b. This wisdom takes one beyond being a HEARER to being a DOER - Jm 1:22 c. Understanding that "faith without works is dead" - Jm 2:26 7. WITHOUT PARTIALITY a. Showing no respect of persons - cf. Jm 2:1-13 b. Rather, treating all fairly, on the same basis 8. WITHOUT HYPOCRISY a. Indicating that all of the above is not an "act", a "show" b. But that it comes from a heart desiring to please God, not man [Certainly the superiority of "Heavenly Wisdom" over "Earthly Wisdom" is apparent in this passage. But as additional proof, notice also...] III. A CONTRAST IN THEIR "FRUITS" A. EARTHLY WISDOM (16) 1. Causes CONFUSION 2. And EVERY EVIL THING 3. Makes you wonder what kind of wisdom... a. Is behind denominationalism b. Is often manifested in some congregational meetings B. HEAVENLY WISDOM (18) 1. Produces PEACE, instead of confusion 2. Bears the fruit of RIGHTEOUSNESS, instead of every evil thing CONCLUSION 1. Certainly when we compare their ORIGIN, NATURE and FRUITS, the wisdom to be preferred is "HEAVENLY WISDOM" 2. What kind of wisdom do we have? a. Those who have "EARTHLY WISDOM" boast of theirs (14) b. While those who have "HEAVENLY WISDOM" show theirs by their good conduct done in meekness (13) 3. What kind of wisdom do we want? a. If EARTHLY, then no effort is necessary 1) Just do what the world tells you 2) Just do what feels right b. But if HEAVENLY, then we must be diligent 1) To seek such wisdom from God 2) To demonstrate such wisdom by our conduct 4. What kind of wisdom do you have in regards to the gospel of Christ? a. EARTHLY WISDOM makes no response to the gospel, or if any, only that which is convenient b. HEAVENLY WISDOM receives the commands of the gospel joyfully and obediently - cf. Mk 16:15-16; Ac 2:38 Have you demonstrated "HEAVENLY WISDOM"?
God, Abraham, & Child Sacrifice
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The usual ploy of atheists in their efforts to discredit the inspiration and integrity of the Bible is to attempt to pit one passage against another, claiming they have pinpointed a discrepancy. Typical of these attempts is the refusal to evaluate the textual data objectively and fairly. In his debate with Apologetics Press staff writer Kyle Butt on the campus of the University of South Carolina, atheist Dan Barker insisted that God endorsed human sacrifice by His alleged morally irresponsible act of ordering Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. In his first speech, Barker stated:
Does he [God] accept human sacrifice? In some verses yes, in some verses no. Remember the thing about when Abraham, he asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. By the way, Abraham should have said, “No way, I’m better than you, I’m not going to kill my son.”1
Ironically, due to the aimless, subjective nature of atheistic “ethics,” atheists have no objective basis or absolute standard by which to evaluate the taking of life—even animal or plant life. Yet, even very liberal thinkers have conceded circumstances under which it might be appropriate to terminate the life of a fellow human being (e.g., if a person were guilty of mass murder). The Bible quite properly identifies a variety of circumstances under which the taking of human life is moral and rational—including God’s own execution of large numbers of people throughout history (e.g., the Flood in Genesis 6-9). The Law of Moses included a minimum of 16 capital crimes.2 If at least one instance of taking human life is morally justifiable in the mind of the atheist, God cannot rightly be indicted for stipulating the instance. It becomes merely a matter of determining the ethical appropriateness of any given instance. It is no longer a matter of if it is morally right to require the death of a person, but simply when it is right to do so.
Another factor to consider in ascertaining whether God can rightly order the death of a person pertains to the very nature of human life itself in the great scheme of things. If humans possess an immortal soul, a spirit, then killing the body does not extinguish that life. As Jesus declared: “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5). If there is an afterlife, terminating physical life on Earth is not actually a termination of that life, since conscious existence continues in the afterlife. Hence, again, the question is not whether human life may be terminated in this life, but only the conditions under which life may be taken and who is authorized to do so.
The passage in question is found in Genesis 22. The stated purpose of the incident pertains to God’s desire to “test” Abraham (Genesis 22:1), i.e., enable Abraham to recognize and demonstrate the level of his own faith in God. God’s instruction to Abraham is found in these words: “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:2). A series of events then transpire over a period of three days—giving Abraham sufficient time to assess in his own mind the depth of his faith and commitment to God. James spotlights this very feature:
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only (2:21-24, emp. added).
Observe that James wrote as if Abraham actually completed God’s directive (“offered”), which shows that the objective was to test Abraham’s willingness to obey—without actually completing the deed.
The Bible clearly affirms that God would never require an immoral act—including child sacrifice (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2). In the book of Kings, God condemned the Israelites for mimicking the abominable practice of the Amorites who offered their children as sacrifices to their pagan gods. He vehemently insisted: “I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination” (e.g., Jeremiah 32:35; cf. 19:5). It did not enter God’s mind to actually have Abraham kill his son. Here, then, is the salient question: is it morally wrong for God to test a person’s faith and commitment by ordering him to perform an act,3 while not actually intending to require (or allow) the person to do so?
The Bible is its own best interpreter, and if one honestly desires to arrive at the truth (John 7:17), and will do what the Bible itself insists is necessary to achieve that goal, i.e., apply oneself diligently to studying, examining, and weighing the biblical evidence (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15), one can ascertain whether the Bible actually contradicts itself and whether God is morally irresponsible. The inspired writer of the book of Hebrews solves the dilemma posed by Dan Barker. Read carefully his assessment of Abraham’s action regarding his son:
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense (Hebrews 11:17-19, emp. added).
Observe that in Abraham’s mind, Isaac was as good as dead, i.e., he fully intended to sacrifice his son as directed. However, one cannot successfully maintain that Abraham was guilty of agreeing to commit an immoral act—since he fully believed that the death of his son would be immediately reversed. The strength of this conviction (which is the central feature of Abraham’s great faith) is further seen in the fact that he informed the servants: “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (Hebrew plural, nasucach, Genesis 22:5, emp. added). Abraham fully recognized that the moral nature of deity would not sanction child sacrifice. God’s prior declaration, that Isaac would be the one through whom He would fulfill His promises to Abraham, was sufficient proof that God would circumvent his action by raising Isaac from the dead.
After a careful evaluation of the textual data, we are forced to conclude that, though God instructed Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice, the purpose of the command was merely to enable Abraham to manifest the strength of his faith and trust in God, and that it did not enter God’s mind actually to have Abraham kill his son. Isaac was, in fact, a foreshadowing of the coming Christ. Incredibly, the perfect nature of God required that He sacrifice Himself in the person of His Son in our behalf: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all…demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 8:32; 5:8).
1 Kyle Butt and Dan Barker (2009), The Butt/Barker Debate, Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/catalog/product_info.php/products_id/952.
2 Dave Miller (2002), “Capital Punishment and the Bible,” http://apologeticspress.org/articles/1974.
God Rules Even When Atheists Attack
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
In years gone by, candidates for public office in the United States were admired for their Christian heritage, beliefs, and practices. They respected the Creator. They quoted His Word. They prayed to Him for divine assistance. They acknowledged His sovereignty and recognized that “He rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28). Americans expected their elected representatives to honor God in private andin public (see Miller, 2008). Oh, how times have changed. Sadly, the very thing that Americans once expected from their leaders—a reliance on the Creator and Sustainer of life—has become increasingly attacked and hated...and now is supposedly a reason candidates are disqualified from serving in public office.
Consider the comments by Sam Harris in a recent Newsweek article. Harris has written dozens of articles in the past for such prominent publications as The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, and The Times of the United Kingdom. He has appeared on The O’Reilly Factor as well as Brian Flemming’s documentary film The God Who Wasn’t There. His latest books, The End of Faith (2004) and Letter to a Christian Nation (2006), both were New York Times best sellers. He is on record saying such things as, “If you are concerned about suffering in this universe, killing a fly should present you with greater moral difficulties than killing a human blastocyst [three-day-old human embryo—EL]” (2006, p. 30). In short, Sam Harris is one of the world’s most well-known, vocal, influential, militant atheists.
In the September 29, 2008 issue of Newsweek, Harris penned an article titled “When Atheists Attack.” After painting vice-presidential candidate, Governor Sarah Palin, as an unqualified, ignorant beauty queen, Harris wrote concerning what really bothered him about the Governor: “I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn’t: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events. Needless to say, she shares this belief with millions of Americans—but we shouldn’t be eager to give these people our nuclear codes, either” (152:33, emp. added). [So, should we put our nuclear weapons in the hands of people who believe that “killing a fly should present you with greater moral difficulties than killing a human blastocyst”?]
The fact is, though God created humans with free will (cf. Joshua 24:15), God uses our free will to accomplish His purposes. Scripture repeatedly testifies to the fact that God is in control of the Universe and everything in it. He is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). The psalmist wrote: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.... God is the King of all the earth” (103:19; 47:7). Four times in the book of Daniel we are reminded that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men” (4:17,25,32; 5:21). Although God does not maneuver His human creation like robots, He is in control. For most of America’s history, the overwhelming majority of our elected officials (1) believed that God ultimately was in control and (2) prayed that His will be done in America (see Miller, 2008). Today’s media would have us reject both Scripture and our country’s Christian heritage. When Harris wrote, “Every detail that has emerged about Palin’s life in Alaska suggests that she is as devout and literal-minded in her Christian dogmatism as any man or woman in the land” (2008, p. 33, emp. added), he meant it as criticism. Supposedly, America should not be run by “devout and literal-minded” Christian leaders.
The fact is, however, if America is to survive as a nation, it must reject the godless, immoral, anti-Christian outlook that Sam Harris and others continually propagate. We must turn to the Almighty, Who “rules in the kingdom of men,” and recognize that every decision we make, including selecting government leaders, must be based upon our recognition of God’s sovereignty. He not only “rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28), but He judges both nations (in this lifetime; cf. Genesis 11:1-9; 18-19) and the individuals who make up nations (at the end of time; cf. Acts 17:30-31; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
Harris, Sam (2006), Letter to a Christian Nation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf).
Harris, Sam (2008), “When Atheists Attack,” Newsweek, 152:32-35, September 29.
Miller, Dave (2008), The Silencing of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
God Put Wits In Godwits
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
At one time, Michael Johnson was the fastest man alive. He once covered the last 100 meters of a 200-meter race in 9.6 seconds (“The Fastest Man...,” 2007). A human running at a speed of 28 mph is quite impressive, but neither Michael Johnson nor any other human can maintain such a speed for more than a few seconds. Marathon runners may be able to run 26.2 miles without stopping, but no one averages more than 13 mph while running great distances. Although the human body is a meticulously designed “machine” (see Jackson, 2000), which functions perfectly for its intended purpose on Earth, there are limits to what a person can do. When these limits are compared to the speed and distance a particular bird recently flew, one gains a greater appreciation for God’s wondrous creation.
In February 2007, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey fitted 16 shorebirds, known as bar-tailed godwits, with satellite transmitters. One of the godwits, dubbed E7, made its way from New Zealand to Alaska over the next three months, flying 9,340 miles with one five-week-long layover near the North Korea-China border (Hansford, 2007). After nearly four months, the godwit began its uninterrupted flight back to New Zealand. Amazingly, this little bird, which normally weighs less than one pound, flew 7,145 miles in nine days without stopping, averaging 34.8 mph. Without taking a break to eat, drink, or rest, the godwit flew “the equivalent of making a roundtrip flight between New York and San Francisco, and then flying back again to San Francisco without ever touching down” (“Bird Completes...,” 2007). Equally impressive, the godwit’s approximately 16,500-mile, roundtrip journey ended where it began. Without a map, a compass, or even a parent, godwits can fly tens of thousands of miles without getting lost.
Scientists have studied the migration of birds for decades and still cannot adequately explain this “age-old riddle” (Peterson, 1968, p. 108). Their stamina and sense of direction is mind-boggling. In his book Unsolved Mysteries of Science, evolutionist John Malone reported how much progress man has made over the last few centuries in understanding how birds are able to journey thousands of miles with pinpoint accuracy (2001, pp. 114-122). Yet, he concluded his chapter on bird migration, saying:
Partial explanations abound, but every book or scientific article on bird migration is full of conditional words and phrases: “It may be...but it also might not be.” We know more about how birds might achieve their epic flights around the world, but there are still far more mysteries than there are explanations. The tiny songbird that reappeared to build its nest in the apple tree outside your window—and we know from banding that it can indeed be exactly the same bird—has been to South America and back since you saw it last. How can that be? This is one case where it may be nicer not to know—simply allow yourself to be swept up by awe and wonder (p. 122, emp. added).
Try as they might, evolutionists attempting to explain the complexities of bird migration can only offer woeful (and often contradictory) theories, at best (Peterson, p. 108). How can a person reasonably conclude that non-intelligence, plus time, plus chance equals a one-pound, bar-tailed godwit flying 7,145 miles in nine days without stopping for food, water, or rest? The “awe and wonder” to which John Malone alluded should be directed toward neither mindless evolution nor the birds themselves, but to the “great and awesome God” (Daniel 9:4) Who has done “wondrous works” and “awesome things” (Psalm 106:22), including endowing birds with the amazing trait we call “instinct.” Truly, it is not by evolution or man’s wisdom that a bird “soars, stretching his wings toward the south” (Job 39:26). Rather, “the stork in the sky knows her seasons; and the turtledove and the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration” (Jeremiah 8:7, NASB), because all-knowing, all-powerful Jehovah is the Creator of them all.
“Bird Completes Epic Flight Across the Pacific” (2007), ScienceDaily, September 17, [On-line], URL:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070915131205.htm.
“The Fastest Man on Earth?” (2007), [On-line], URL: http://www.eis2win.co.uk/gen/news_sprintrecords020805.aspx.
Hansford, Dave (2007), “Alaska Bird Makes Longest Nonstop Flight Ever Measured,” National Geographic News, September 14, [On-line], URL: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/09/070913-longest- flight.html.
Jackson, Wayne (2000), The Human Body—Accident or Design? (Stockton, CA: Courier Publications).
Malone, John (2001), Unsolved Mysteries of Science (New York: John Wiley & Sons).
Peterson, Roger (1968), The Birds (New York: Time-Life Books).
Published in The Old Paths Archive
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE LORD’S CHURCH AND THE RELIGIONS OF MEN
By Dub McClish
Let us begin by defining some of the terms in the title:
* The Lord’s church: By the Lord, I refer to the Lord Jesus Christ, Whom God the Father acknowledged as His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased (Mat. 3:17; 17:5). By church, I refer to that which the Lord promised He would build, founded upon the bedrock fact that He was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mat. 16:16–18). In the immediate context, He identified this church He would build as “the kingdom of heaven” (v. 19)
* The religions of men: This phrase acknowledges the obvious and indisputable fact that men have invented, established, and nourished various religious institutions. From ancient times, men—in their ignorance andsuperstition—have “sought out many inventions” in religion (Ecc. 7:29), producing a profusion of “homemade” religions. This plenitude includes not only the many pagan religions, which venerate their invented gods, but also embraces thousands of distinct religious bodies that claim at least some relationship to the Christ. In common parlance, they are what we know as “denominations.” They view the church set forth in the New Testament as an invisible body of which all of the denominations are a part. Our study will mostly concentrate on these man-made religious bodies.
* The difference between: By this phrase the title affirms that the New Testament church and the religions of men—whether pagan or denominational—are distinct and different in fundamental ways. Moreover, it ispossible for persons of normal intelligence to perceive this distinction. Further, not only is it possible to know the difference in these matters, it is mandatory for men to make this distinction if they would be saved at last.
Depending upon which Internet source one consults, he will find various figures for the number of distinct denominations in existence (e.g., 34,000, 38,000, 40,000). Space limitations obviously prevent notice of detailed differences between even a few of these religious bodies and the church the Lord built and owns. We must therefore deal with some broad principles that demonstrate this distinction. The failure to recognize the essentiality of these principles is at the basis of the very concept of denominationalism, whatever the specific brand. The minute peculiarities of the various denominations (including some that falsely wear the designation, Church of Christ) are but symptoms of this failure.
It is not in the purview of this article to set out the case for the fact that Jesus did build the church as He promised or the how and when of its beginning. I assume that the reader is sufficiently conversant with the Word of Godto know this history. Further, it is not in the scope of this discussion to set forth the case that the Lord and His apostles intended for the church as he established and propagated it through the Gospel to remain through the ages as it existed in its beginning. Suffice it to say that every exhortation to abide in the Truth and every warning against departing from it (of which the New Testament contains hundreds, either in explicit or implicit terms) is intended to keep the church uniform from its beginning “unto the end of the world” (Mat. 28:20).
The following principles distinguished the church in the first century from the religions then extant, consisting of Judaism and the paganism of Greece, Rome, Egypt, and other nations. These principles will maintain the church’s purity. As soon as men abandon any of these principles they will cease to be the New Testament church. These same principles continue now and will continue to draw the differential line between the church of the Lord and all its counterfeits.
Respects the Absolute Authority of Jesus Christ
When the apostle Thomas exclaimed to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28), he employed the authoritative term, Lord, found almost 250 times in the New Testament in reference to the Christ. In each usage it is laden with the authority of a ruler, a master—one who is to be obeyed without question.
Jesus performed His “mighty works and wonders and signs” (Acts 2:22) not primarily to relieve human misery. John assigns the principal reason for writing his record of some of Jesus’ miraculous acts that were witnessed by and affected thousands of people: “Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name” (John 20:30–31). If merely the record of Jesus’ miracles was for the purpose of creating faith in His Divine Sonship (and, by implication, in His authority), then surely the very miracles themselves had the same primary purpose.
Immediately before His ascension, Jesus claimed that His Father had given Him “all authority…in heaven and on earth” (Mat. 28:18).
A millennium before Jesus’ birth, David prophesied: “Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Psa. 110:1). On Pentecost, after quoting David’s prophecy, Peter applied its fulfillment to the Christ: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified” (Acts 2:36, emph. DM). Jesus’ ascension to glory and limitless dominion also fulfilled the prophetic vision Daniel saw five centuries before the fact:
I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Dan. 7:13–14).
In his remarkable “resurrection chapter,” Paul stated: “For he [the Christ] must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy is death” (1 Cor. 15:25–26). When He ascended on High, He presented to the Father His Calvary blood through which He “made purification of sins,” whereupon He “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). He thereby became “The blessed and only Potentate the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15).
While His authority is universal, it particularly applies to His church. Paul wrote of the incomparable power God gave His Son “...when he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:20–23).
As its builder and owner (He purchased it with the awful price of His blood [Acts 20:28]), He has absolute authority over the church. Since His ascension and heavenly enthronement, He has reigned over His kingdom, which, as earlier noted, is a figure for His church (Mat. 16:18–19; Heb. 12:23, 28; et al.). This authority means that Jesus, the Christ, alone has the right to determine every feature and facet of the church.
Recognition of and reverence for Jesus’ absolute authority is patently absent in the religions of men, including the denominations that are filled with professed believers in Him. They will all give lip service to this authority, but when their unauthorized practices and false doctrines are challenged, they will revert to their threadbare slogans: “Doctrine doesn’t matter,” “We can’t all agree,” “All of the churches get their doctrines from the Bible,” “We’re all going to Heaven; we’re just taking different roads,” or the real clincher, “It makes no difference what one believes as long as he’s sincere” (a precursor to postmodernism). All such banalities are but advertisements of failure to bow in submission to the Lord they profess to believe in and serve. That same Lord they confess, but refuse to obey, made the fate of all mere “verbal disciples” unmistakably clear: “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 who is in heaven” (Mat 7:21). On another occasion, He asked the piercing question: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
Failure to honor or rebellion against the authority of the Christ is the fundamental difference between the Lord’s faithful church and every other religious body, including apostate “Churches of Christ.” It is for lack of this crucial commitment to the authority of the Christ that men go astray into their endless varieties of religion. This fact is no less true of errant brethren who have led hundreds of congregations into quasi-, if not full, denominational status. Some of them have strayed through outright rebellion, though others, while apparently desiring to submit to the authority of Christ, are totally clueless concerning the way to ascertain scriptural authority for any given practice. All such have abandoned the apostolic precept that will keep the Lord’s church just that—the Lord’s church: “And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name [i.e., by they authority, DM] of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).
Recognizes that the Christ Exercises His Authority Only Through the New Testament
Those who truly honor the absolute authority of Jesus Christ understand that he exercises this authority through His inspired Word, and though no other medium. The Lord’s church has continued to exist since its inception only because godly men and women have sought New Testament authority for all that they do—and from no additional source. This fact explains why they—and no others—are the Lord’s church. When the Lord referred to those who refused to do “the things which I say” (Luke 6:46), He indicated that He exercises His authority through the words He spoke while on earth.
The Father decreed that the authority of His Son should be exercised through His words, when at the Transfiguration scene He thundered from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Mat. 17:5b). The Hebrews writer declared that God’s Son is His spokesman for all remaining time: “God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son…” (Heb. 1:1).
While both the Old Testament and the New Testament are God’s inspired revelation, the authority of the Old Testament ceased with the death of Christ, whereupon He symbolically “nailed” it to His cross (Col. 2:14). Those who try to combine parts of the Old Testament with the New Testament produce man-made churches. God no more gave the law of Moses to govern men since the cross than He gave the law of Christ to govern men before the cross.
Our Lord returned to His Father two millennia ago, so we shall never hear the powerful and gracious words as they fell from His human lips. However, in God’s perfect providence, He arranged for a written record of thosevery words to be preserved. On the matchless authority of Jesus, those words—collectively called “the gospel”—are to be proclaimed “even unto the end of the world” (Mat. 28:18–20; Mark 16:15–16). The stress on the authority of His Word is unmistakable when He says, “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments” (John 14:15) and “He that loveth me not keepeth not my words (v. 24a). His words will be the standard of Judgment at last for all those who have lived since the cross: “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
Jesus also exercises His authority through the words of other selected and qualified men, principally His apostles. To these men He promised that, upon His return to the Father, He would send to them the Holy Spirit Who would “guide you into all the Truth” (John 16:13).
Through these men and a very few other first-century saints the Lord revealed the fullness of His will. These men first “spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21, emph. DM), then wrote the revealed Word that comprises the New Testament. That which Paul wrote is therefore as authoritative as the words that our Lord spoke, for the Lord is speaking through him. Paul reminded the Corinthians: “If any man thinketh himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). So it is with all of the New Testament writers—their words are the will of the Christ, through which He exercises His authority.
The exertion of His authority through the New Testament alone excludes all extra- Biblical sources. The revelation of His will was completed when John laid down his pen on Patmos. The Holy Spirit has not revealed any additional Truth since. All of the denominations that claim affinity with Christ claim to honor the Bible. However, they all accept other authorities in addition to the Bible. It is these additional authorities that make them distinct denominations, built by men, rather than by the Savior of men. The following few examples illustrate the way varied sources of authority produce the thousands of varied religious bodies:
* The Roman Catholic Church relies upon the “traditions of the fathers” plus the “ex cathedra” rulings of the councils and popes.
* The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has its Book of Mormon (which it claims is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”), Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants, plus its President and apostles.
* The United Methodist Church has its Book of Discipline, plus its annual conferences.
* The Presbyterian Church USA has its Constitution (containing ten historical creedal statements, the backbone of which is the 1647 Scottish Westminster Confession of Faith) plus its annual synods.
* Baptist Churches have their Baptist Standard Manual, by Edward Thurston Hiscox, plus their annual conventions.
Every attempt to make the Lord share some of His absolute authority—executed solely through the New Testament—with any other authority source will invariably result in a church of a man or men rather than the church of Christ. Herein lies a principal difference between the Lord’s church and all the religious orders of men.
Recognizes that Obedience to the New Testament Plan of Salvation Is the Only Means of Becoming a Member of the Lord’s Church
Inspiration inseparably intertwines salvation and the church Jesus built. He began adding those who are saved to His church on Pentecost and has not ceased doing so “day by day” (Acts 2:47). His church is His “depository” of saved people. He will save “the body” (Eph. 5:23), which is His church (1:22-23). At His coming, He will “deliver the kingdom [His church, DM] up to God” (1 Cor. 15:24; cf. Mat. 16:18–19; Heb. 12:23, 28). Men are redeemed/forgiven of sins/saved by the blood of Christ (Eph. 1:7), which explains Paul’s declaration that the Lord “purchased” the church with His blood (Acts 20:28). If Christ will save only His church and if He adds one to Hischurch only at the point at which one is saved—forgiven of his sins by the blood of Christ—then the most profound and far-reaching question of all time is, “What must I do to be saved?”
Directly contradicting the foregoing Scriptural evidence is a fundamental misconception held by most, if not all, Protestant denominations: Salvation and church membership are entirely separate matters, realized at separate times and upon separate actions. One is saved at point “A”; he becomes a member of a church—if he chooses to do so—at point “B.” The Roman Catholic and Mormon Churches (and perhaps others) correctly teach that salvation and church membership are inseparable, however they both corrupt this Scriptural Truth by their numerous and egregious errors concerning both the church and the plan of salvation.
Now, back to that day when those first saved ones were added to the church: What did those sinners do so that Luke, the inspired historian, might call them “saved”? Having learned this, we shall at the same moment learn the means of their becoming members of the Lord’s church. We shall also at once learn what men must do—from that time forward—to be saved and to be added to the church, for that same Pentecost gospel is to be preached and practiced “unto the end of the world” (Mat. 28:20). The Lord’s “day-by-day” adding will not cease until time is no more (Acts 2:41, 47).
The thrust of the first part of Peter’s sermon on Pentecost was aimed at convincing unbelieving Jews (many of whom had cried for Jesus crucifixion fifty days earlier) that “God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified” (Acts 2:36). The powerful application of prophecy and eye-witness testimony stirred heartfelt conviction in some, causing them to interrupt Peter with the question, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (This is obviously an elliptical statement, which, if fully stated, would have been, “What shall we do to be forgiven of this heinous sin?”) Their question was tantamount to a confession of their faith in the One Peter had set before them as “both Lord and Christ” (infidels do not ask what they should do to be saved).
Peter’s inspired answer is crucial, completing Heaven’s universal, age-enduring plan whereby alien sinners may be forgiven, redeemed, and saved: “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of yours sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). He continued preaching and exhorting “with many other words” (v. 40), at the conclusion of which, “They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls” (v. 41). Luke then states that “the Lord added to them [“the church,” KJV] day by day those that were saved” (v. 47). Let us analyze and summarize:
1. Peter commanded confessing believers to repent (i.e., turn in mind and deed) of their sins.
2. Peter told confessing, penitent believers to be baptized (i.e., immersed in water).
3. Peter explicitly stated the end of their baptism: “unto the remission of your sins”—he obviously thought it necessary for them to understand its purpose, as we also must.
4. Peter issued these commands, not upon his own authority, but “in the name [i.e., by the authority, DM] of Jesus Christ” (cf. Mat. 28:18–20; Mark 16:15–16; Luke 24:47).
5. Those who have receptive hearts to Scriptural teaching do not argue the necessity of baptism; those who argue the necessity of baptism do not have receptive hearts (Acts 2:41).
6. Remission of sins is interchangeable with salvation; when Peter told them the way to receive remission of sins, he told them the way to be saved.
7. When the 3,000 obeyed the commands of Christ, including baptism, they were thereby saved by the sin-sacrifice of blood He shed on Calvary and offered in the heavenly Holy of Holies (Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5; 7:14; Heb. 1:3; 9:12–14).
8. When the Lord saved them, He simultaneously added them to His church (vv. 41, 47), and He will continue to do so until He returns to take His faithful ones home.
Standing in stark contrast with the foregoing information are the answers that men in their man-made churches have been giving to this question for centuries. Common answers include such things as “Pray the sinner’s prayer,” “Invite Jesus into your heart,” and “If you believe in Jesus, He will save you.”
With few exceptions, Protestantism subscribes to Martin Luther’s sixteenth-century sola fide (solely by faith) dictum: One is saved by faith alone—at the time he intellectually accepts the truth that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God. This dogma rules out any human “works” or actions whatsoever (with the necessity of baptism as its specific target). The sinner, thus pronounced “saved,” may or may not be admitted for church membership uponprofession of his faith, depending on the denomination.
This faith-only/no-works doctrine not only contradicts Scripture; it is also self- contradictory. How shall others know one believes in Christ without the “work” of confessing “with the mouth,” which is an entirely separate operation (“work”) from believing “with the heart” (Rom. 10:9–10)? For that matter, Jesus said that belief in Him is “the work of [i.e., ordained by, DM] God” (John 6:28–29). If salvation is apart from any and all human activity, faith itself is thereby eliminated.
Ironically, the denominations separate salvation from church membership, which is correct with regard to all of their churches. One who obeys the Lord’s plan of salvation will never be in a denomination unless he joins one through apostasy. Since God and His Son had no part in building the institutions of men, there is no salvation in any of them. Jesus left no doubt about it: “Every plant which my heavenly Father planted not, shall be rooted up” (Mat. 15:13).
Simply put, one cannot be saved without being a member of the church of Christ, and one cannot be a member of the church of Christ without being saved. The only means of being saved is by obedience to the plan of salvation first heralded in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, which all of the denominations despise and disallow. Thus not only may men be members of the church of Christ to be saved at last, they must be, for membership in the Lord’s church and those who are saved are simply two ways of describing one outcome: the company of those who have been reconciled to God through His Son. Herein lies a clear distinction between the church Jesus built and all of the religions and churches men have founded. Woe be unto the person who would dare blur this distinction, as so many, even among those claiming to be the Lord’s people, have done and are doing.
Recognizes that the Lord’s Church Possesses Unique Characteristics by Which It May Be Identified
Every religion or denomination of men has its peculiar characteristics that make it distinct and distinguishable from all others. These include such things as their organizational structures, worship practices, and membership requirements. One of the most of obvious of these is the name a group chooses, which may relate to a founder (Lutheran), a practice (Baptist), a type of polity (Presbyterian, Episcopal), an event (Pentecostal), a place (Church of England), or others.
What is true regarding these traits of identity for the institutions of men is no less true of the church Jesus built. It is utter folly to deny this premise. In the face of liberals who have expressed remorse that they ever emphasized these marks, I stress the necessity of never ceasing to do so. Only by recognizing what they are can one distinguish the Divine institution from the plethora of human counterfeits. This distinction is the very thing the liberals despise, for it hinders their goal of carrying the church into the fullness of the denominational maelstrom.
They neither believe in the necessity nor the possibility of maintaining the church in its primitive purity.
One can as well identify and locate a stolen car without knowing such things as its make, color, body style, model year, and license number as to identify and find the church of Christ without knowing its unique characteristics. The New Testament writers reveal these in the Acts and the epistles that follow.
Our Lord “built” His church according to His own infallible plan, which flowed from the “eternal purpose” of Deity (Eph. 3:10–11; cf. John 18:36)). God gave Moses a blueprint for the tabernacle in the wilderness, strictly enjoining him to “make all things according to the pattern” (Exo. 25:40; Acts 7:44; Heb. 8:5). Just so, the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, gave His apostles His pattern for the greater institution (Heb. 8:6), His church, to which they faithfully adhered.
By studying the direct statements, accounts of action, and implications of the New Testament writers, we can know these marks of distinction. Through the providentially preserved written records of these inspired men we learn the way people enter the church (per our prior discussion of the plan of salvation). We also learn of its organizational structure, its worship activities, the way it finances its work, and the designations used in reference to it.
The church exists in both a universal and in a local sense, as determined by context. All of the churches of Christ in various localities all over the world compose the “universal” church. The Lord thus referred to the universal church in His promise to build it (Mat. 16:18). The Bible frequently mentions local churches (e.g., Jerusalem [Acts 11:22], Antioch [v. 26], Ephesus [20:17], Corinth [1 Cor. 1:2], et al.). At times we read of the churches in a geographical area (e.g., “the churches of Galatia” [1 Cor. 16:1; Gal. 1:2]; “the churches of Asia” [1 Cor. 16:19; Rev. 1:4]; et al.).
Scripture reveals no church polity relating to the church universal, such as would provide for a superstructure of universal headquarters, officers, or assemblies. Rather, all “government/structure/organization” is at the local-church level. Each church has its own plurality of elders/bishops/pastors when men therein meet the Holy Spirit’s qualifications.
These men are charged to rule and lead the church so that it remains faithful to its Head (Acts 14:21–23; 20:28; Phi. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1–7; 5:17; Tit. 1:5–9; Heb. 13:17). No local
eldership or church has any authority over any other eldership or church. To assist the elders and serve the church, each church appoints deacons, who must also meet Scriptural qualifications (Phi. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8–13).
1. The church’s specified day of assembly is the first day of the week, the day the Lord arose from the dead (John 20:1; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1–2; Heb. 10:25).
2. The Lord’s day assembly is characterized by specified and/or exemplified worship activities, including eating the Lord’s supper (unleavened bread and fruit of the vine) as a memorial to the slain body and shed blood of Jesus for our sin-offering (Mat. 26:26–28; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:17–34). Worship also includes praying to the Father in Jesus’ name and singing hymns of worship and exhortation (1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19–20; Col. 3:16). In these assemblies a free will offering, according to one’s income, is collected to finance the work of each local congregation (1 Cor. 16:1–2), and a man, so appointed and prepared, delivers a message from God’s Word (Acts 20:7).
3. The church of Christ has only one way to acquire the funds necessary to execute the will of its Founder. Paul set forth this means in his apostolic order to the Corinthians: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first [on every first, Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible] day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come” (1 Cor. 16:1–2). We note that this command is not limited merely to Corinth, but it had already been delivered to the Galatian churches. The universality of this practice (and those previously noted) is certified by Paul’s earlier statements to the Corinthians, reminding them that he delivered the same doctrine “everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4:17; cf. 7:17; 14:33). We note also that such collections are never solicited from any but members of the churches.
The New Testament does not specify an exclusive “name” for the church. The most frequent tern used in reference to the church is just that: “the church,” for there was only one. No one in the first century asked “Which church?”—made necessary only by the emergence of the babel of denominationalism
Since the Christ built His church, it follows that the church of Christ would serve as a Scriptural and logical description of and designation for it. However, Paul’s statement to the Romans, “All the churches of Christ salute you,” takes us beyond implication (Rom. 16:16b). “Churches of Christ” cannot exist apart from the individual “church of Christ” in various locations. Other designations in Scripture include “the church of God” (1 Cor. 1:2; et al.) and “the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15). These are likewise warranted because the Father and the Son are one (John 17:9–10). All of these terms are therefore authorized to designate the church.
However, to avoid confusing the Lord’s church with denominations that have chosen such names as “the Church of God,” “the Churches of God,” and “the Church of the Living God,” expediency dictates consistent use of churches of Christ in reference to the Lord’s church. Please observe that merely affixing a Scriptural designation to a religious body (e.g., Church of God or Church of Christ) does not thereby imply that it is a Scriptural body. One may put lipstick on a pig, but it remains no less a pig.
Men, not content to submit to the authority of Christ, have altered and adulterated His church in every one of its identifying characteristics. Their very concept of the church is a disgrace. As earlier noted, to them, “the church of Christ” is the “invisible church” that encompasses the thousands of bodies professing belief in Christ in any degree, regardless of variegation. They have invented acts and implements of worship in a thousand ways. They have substituted ecclesiastical hierarchies and headquarters for the Savior’s simple blueprint. The churches of men are often little more than business enterprises, raising revenues by whatever means works (raffles, parking lotsales, fairs, merchandise sales, solicitation from non- members, et al.). The variety of names that human religious orders have had to invent to distance themselves from all others is nothing short of amazing.
The unique marks of identity for the church, discernable in the New Testament, set it apart from all of the innovations of men. If these peculiar characteristics, set forth and practiced under apostolic tutelage, are unimportant, why did Divine Providence preserve the record of them? If these details concerning the identity of the church are unimportant, why is the church itself important at all?
Recognizes that the Foremost Task of the Church Is Spiritual in Nature
The church Jesus built and died for is a spiritual institution. He so stated explicitly to Pontius Pilate: “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36). Jesus did not establish a political, philosophical, commercial, recreational, benevolent, entertainment, or social institution, but a spiritual one. The work of any institution proceeds from its nature, that is, the “kind” of institution it is. All this, if we had nothing more, tells us that the work of the church pertains to spiritual matters and aims.
Jesus had one all-consuming passion and work to accomplish in coming to our earth— “For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). These words are but a rewording of “the Bible in miniature” we so well know: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Paul understood fully the work His Lord came to accomplish: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). All of His work had this singularly spiritual aim.
Some might ask, “But what about all His works of compassion to relieve suffering?” None other ever possessed so much compassion for human woes as our Lord had. While He relieved untold physical and emotional misery through His miracles, signs, and wonders, these ills did not compel His earthly sojourn; they might even be termed “incidental” to His real work. He had been doing these merciful acts (including raising the dead) for centuries through some of the prophets. He could have continued doing such through His apostles and other New Testament saints without setting foot on earth. No, He came to accomplish a spiritual work beyond the ability of man nor angel.
His wonders and signs had a far deeper and more far-reaching end than relief of physical suffering, as welcome as that was to its recipients. John states it plainly (as noted near the beginning of this article): “Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name” (John 20:30–31; emph. DM). I re-emphasize: If the purpose of John’s record of Jesus’ signs was in order to prove His Sonship, how much more must this have been the purpose of the signs themselves? Thus His marvelous miraculous displays were principally aimed at proving that He was Who He claimed to be and that He could therefore do what He promised He could/would do. Jesus came to relieve all mankind of the worst maladyand handicap of all—sin, with all of its terrible consequences in this life and its unutterable consequence in eternity. This stated purpose of His miraculous activity further underscores the fact that Jesus’ work was spiritual in nature.
Further, ought not the work of His spiritual body coincide with the work of His physical body? We should not then be surprised that the principal work Jesus gave His church to do is to save the lost, or at least make available to them that which will save. Through His thrice-stated charge to the apostles, He set forth the work of His church:
Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Mat. 28:19–20).
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned (Mark 16:15–16).
And he said unto them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:46–47).
Significantly, as earlier emphasized, in Matthew’s account of the Master’s commission He extended its terms beyond the apostles’ generation, “even unto the end of the world” (28:20). As long as the world stands and as long as the church exists among men, just so long will the work of the church be to do its utmost to save sinful men by declaring to them the gospel, “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Paul fully understood this was to be the perpetual, all- consuming task of the church. With his Roman execution in sight, he instructed Timothy: “And the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
None of the foregoing is to deny that the church of the Lord has the responsibility to compassionately help the helpless as she has opportunity and ability. The numerous New Testament examples of and injunctions concerning the kindness and benevolence that should characterize churches of Christ are summed up in Paul’s words to the Galatian churches: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). Even such acts of benevolence, especially extended to the unredeemed, should have a spiritual motive behind them, as expressed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 5:10).
Nor does the principal work of the church disavow its need to strengthen and edify itself. What Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church he doubtless taught the other churches as he circulated among them: “Wherefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as also ye do” (1 The. 5:11). We know that he did so admonish the church in Rome: “So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another” (Rom. 14:19). Again, the edification is not from selfish motivation, but that we might “be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
When one observes the chief work and emphasis of the denominations generally, the contrast with the Lord’s mandate for His church is staggering. The reasons for the existence of many of them spring from their adoption of the humanistic “social gospel” that centers chiefly on man’s life in time far more than in eternity, on the body rather than the soul. Some churches have become little more than fronts for left-wing political causes. Some are outspoken defenders of sodomy and abortion. Their ideas of “church work” are such things as operating soup kitchens and hospitals. The Bible to them is little more than a religious relic to display on the altars of their “sanctuaries.”
Even those denominations that are generally more zealous, evangelistic, and “soul- conscious” do their work in vain, for they refuse to tell sinners the way to be saved. Jesus’ description of the scribes and Pharisees well fits them: “Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is become so, ye make him twofold more a son of hell than yourselves” (Mat. 23:15).
We cannot help but observe that over the past few decades hundreds of local churches of Christ have veered to one degree or another from the work the Lord assigned to them.
Symptoms include spending vast sums to build gymnasiums, initiating programs and “ministries” (and hiring “ministers”) to meet every “felt need,” and offering classes in such subjects as weight loss, improving nutrition, how to “ask someone out,” meal planning, clothes shopping on a budget, and on and on the list goes.
If the Lord’s church fails to make preaching the saving gospel to a lost world its priority, it will not be preached, and (for the extant generation) the pre-incarnate Word may as well have stayed in Heaven. Obviously, the denominations will not do so, for they do not know what the gospel is. May His faithful churches redouble their efforts to “go…into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). The primacy of this work of getting the unadulterated gospel into the world to the extent of each church’s abilities and opportunities represents a major contrast between the church of the Lord and all of the religious institutions men have originated.
In an age when “do your own thing” and “have it your way” in religion are running amok, it is impossible to overemphasize the necessity of seeing the beautiful simplicity of the church as Jesus built it. Once one catches the picture of the original, he will see just as clearly the striking contrast between the New Testament institution and the utter shambles men have made in their sacrilegious attempts to improve upon it. He will also understand that neither he (nor anyone else who has lived since the cross) can be saved apart from it. One cannot remain faithful to the Christ apart from understanding these fundamental differences between the Lord’s church and the religions of men.
[Note: I wrote this MS for and presented an oral digest of it at the Contending for the Faith Lectureship, conducted by the Spring Church of Christ, Spring, Texas, February 19–23, 2014. It was published in the book of the lectures, What Must a Christian Do To Remain Faithful to Christ? ed. David P. Brown (Contending for the Faith: Spring, TX)].
Published in The Old Paths Archive