If you were to ask a Christian for a “creed” of the church of Christ, he could only offer you a copy of the New Testament. The only written creed the church that Christ built has ever had is the New Testament. It was given by the inspiration of God unto all good works. 2 Tim. 3:16-17. It meets the needs of the entire world. Mark 16:15-16. This is the only message we are authorized to use in the conversion of sinners. 1 Cor. 9:16; Matt. 28:18-20.
Jesus taught that the word of God is enduring and that by it we shall be judged. Luk. 21:33; John 12:48. The authority of Jesus as expressed in the New Testament is the only safe guide for the church. It is sinful for the church to submit to any other authority. The gospel is God’s power to save. Rom. 1:16. James says it is able to save. James 1:21. Paul writes that it did save the Corinthians. 1 Cor. 15:1-4. The curse of God rests upon the man who preaches another gospel or dares to add to or subtract from it. Gal. 1:8-9; Rev. 22:18-19.
In spite of the plain Bible teaching above, we find good, religious people subscribing to human creeds. Even those who subscribe to man-made creeds will not claim for them any saving power. They are but the products of human opinion and stand as barriers to the unity of religious people.
Man-made creeds are based upon two wicked assumptions: (1) The New Testament is not sufficient to meet the needs and govern the people of God. (2) This supposed insufficiency can be remedied by weak, fallible, erring men. Without such assumptions there is no excuse for the making of any human creeds.
Human creeds are objectionable for a number of reasons:
As simple Christians we take the authority of Jesus as expressed in the New Testament as our only rule of faith and practice. It is the one creed that needs no revision. In work and worship all can be united scripturally ONLY ON the NEW TESTAMENT.— Rufus R. Clifford in MESSENGER OF TRUTH, published in the Columbus Dispatch by Aubrey Belue, Sr. on March 19, 1970.
Have you ever read this passage of Paul recounting the history of his people and considered what is recorded concerning David? Among the first things we typically think of when we think of David is his sin with Bathsheba, but there is no mention of this sin in the New Testament. There is a reason that David was “a man after God’s own heart”. We learn much from the examples of Godly men in Scripture, and the way that David treated sin is a great lesson to learn.
David did his best to avoid sin. In the early days after David was anointed, King Saul did his best to make David’s life miserable. He tried to kill David at least 11 times (1 Sam. 18:11,17,21; 19:1,10,11,15,20-22; 23:15; 26:2) Most in this world would work hard to repay Saul for his cruelty, but David did not.
David had two opportunities to end these problems and easily take the throne. However, in 1 Sam. 24:1-7, 10 David does not kill the man that God had placed as King. This might seem odd, especially since God had already told Saul that his reign was going to end because he was not faithful (1 Sam. 13:13-14). We have no way of knowing whether David knew of this exchange, but even if he didn’t, nowhere do we see David given a command to kill Saul. In 1 Sam. 26:7-11, David is given a second chance to kill Saul, and he doesn’t even have to do it himself! He forbids Abishai to kill Saul because Saul is still the king that God had anointed to lead Israel. This is what authority is all about. God didn’t ask for it, so David will not do it. If we want to avoid sin, we must be prepared to do no less and no more than what God asks for.
Even when Saul is dead, David is not happy about it (2 Sam. 1:5-16). David is free from this pressure of Saul seeking his death, and even has the crown at his disposal – but this fails to make him joyful. This is because David was not seeking his own will – he intends to do the will of God, no matter what. Our Savior was the same way – “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:30).
As we have referred previously, there was one time that David did NOT do his best to avoid sin. The sin with Bathsheba and the following plot to kill Uriah (2 Sam. 11) We can note two things: David was at home when he likely should have been in the field of battle with his men (11:1), and David pushed for an opportunity to meet with Bathsheba, when it should have ended there (11:2-5). There are many great lessons to learn from these events, but for the purpose of this article, we must understand that despite all of David’s great achievements, he was still a man with the desires of a man.
The prophet Nathan showed David the sin that he had committed (2 Sam. 12:1-15). It is hard to believe that David did not realize the grievous error he had made. In essence, Nathan told David, “You could have had anyone you wanted, but you took what belonged to someone else.” It is notable that David, with his sin fully revealed, seems to immediately respond with “I have sinned against the LORD.” (12:13).
Over the rest of his life, it would seem that David continued to seek the will of God in dealing with this great sin. In Psalm 38, David is “plagued” with his great sin. In Psalm 32, David is joyful over being forgiven of this sin. What a Godly example for us!
In all this, David was indeed "a man after God's own heart". We see this clearly in Psalm 51. David was a man who sought God’s mercy (1-6), a man who sought God’s cleansing (7-13), and a man who sought God’s pleasure (13-19).
David was a great man, but far from perfect. However, it wasn’t that he was perfect – only that he was penitent. May the same be said of us! -Steven McCrary
To know the great truths of God requires that we dispute the distractions and problems of the world. To seek God with one foot in the world essentially corrupts our mission, and we end up with a false deity. It is necessary that we see Jesus for who He is, and not who we decide Him to be. Jesus reminds his listeners of the focus needed by the Kingdom citizen, and the benefits of that focus. We would all do well to heed this great lesson.
Our "eyes" (in a physical as well as spiritual sense) are the windows we use to perceive the world. They truly are the "lamp[s] of the body". Our eyes are the only way that light enters our bodies at all. In a spiritual sense, we must consider that our "eyes" perceive external things. Jesus is not indicating a "found truth" within ourselves, but implying an external stimuli reaching inward. Any idea that we create truth within ourselves is exposed as faulty by the very example that Jesus uses. We know that our eyes do not create light; rather, they process light in ways that our brains interpret accordingly. Thus, our spiritual "eyes" are meant to receive the truth of God and transmit it inward to our hearts. We have to desire this, just as some Gentiles desired to "see Jesus" (John 12:21).
This spiritual "sight" depends upon how our eyesight is trained and focused. One who has vision problems requires glasses or contact lenses to see, or perhaps undergoes laser eye surgery to make the necessary corrections. In much the same way, we must be taught how to "see" Jesus properly. This requires our eye to be "single" (KJV), or "sincere" (NKJV). This focus should pervade everything we do as a disciple of the Messiah. It must overwhelm every decision we make, and everything we do or say. Paul understood this: "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (Colossians 3:17).
Finally, we must remember the consequences of a lack of focus: deception and condemnation. Our perception of truth can negatively affect everything we are. The obvious problem occurs when we become consumed with the things of the world (politics, squabbling, crises, suffering) and our focus goes away from the LORD. Something much more sinister is when we are "following God" in name, but in our focus looking at everything else but Him. Israel had this same problem (Isaiah 55:1-9). If our focus is lacking in this way, we will find nothing in the end but total darkness (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).
God gives us a way to go. "You will make known to me the path of life. In your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand are pleasures forever." (Psalm 16:11). He does not hide Himself, but makes Himself available to all. "And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 39:29). He invites us all to see Him as He is. "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." (1 John 3:2). "And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely." (Revelation 22:17)
If we want to see God, we can. He tells us how to do so. Praise God for his openness and genuine lovingkindness! –Steven McCrary
Parents, teachers, and others frequently express concern over the lack of religious conviction evidenced by many youth today. A materially-minded society, the unsettling prospect of growing up in a world threatened with nuclear destruction, and the inconsistencies between "saying" and "doing" which youngsters see on every hand surely affect their thinking. The truth is that the philosophies of youth often reflect the philosophies of their elders. Why should we be surprised, when so many of the parents and teachers of our time reject God as He reveals Himself in the Bible and His testimony proclaiming Jesus Christ as His Son sent to reign as King of our lives?
An honest examination of the evidence for the divinity of Jesus compared with that given in support of figures in secular history makes one wonder how a would-be thinker doubts the first, yet believes the second. Alleged exploits of the Pharaohs, Babylonian kings, Persian rulers, Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, the Caesars, the Herods, along with the multitude of characters and events of the last 19 centuries are accepted usually without question of their validity; however, when unbelievers and critics of Biblical history are faced with Biblical testimony of equal weight pertaining to alleged historical facts, they often discredit such matters simply because they do not appeal to their reason.
Certain rigid realities center in the alleged resurrection of Jesus. These events are narrated by the four gospel writers and the Apostle Paul. Matthew and John write as
Eyewitnesses and Luke as one who had traced the course of all things accurately from the first. (Luke 1:1-4). In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul alleges himself to be one of a multitude of eye-witnesses of the risen Jesus and as one untimely born. In this text Paul affirmed that more than half of the 500 persons who had seen Jesus at one time were still alive when he wrote. The implication is that they could be interrogated. Paul's statement to Festus in Acts 26:26 was "These things were not done in a corner."
This alleged fact of Jesus's conquering death manifested itself in many forms. First, there was a change in attitude on the part of his disciples from despair to joy as their disbelief turned into belief on the ever-increasing testimony of eye-witnesses. One of the strongest evidences of the resurrection is that those who were later to give lives for their testimony were at first the strongest disbelievers; they had to be convinced before they would preach what they believed and seal their faith with their blood.
Second, the evangelistic fervor growing out of the original announcement must be explained by an honest doubter.
Third, this evangelism inevitably led the witnesses into conflict which brought them pain, hence the need for the skeptic to explain the suffering endured at the hands of both Jews and Romans because of their religious convictions founded in the alleged fact behind it.
Fourth, the moral reformation produced by the gospel must be explained by an honest critic; for example, one must account for the change in the lives of the Corinthians. (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
Fifth, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, with the implication of what he was and had, as opposed to what he became and gave up, must be explained. (1 Phil 3:3-11)
When the two lines of evidence (secular history and Biblical history) are considered, there is no doubt that the Biblical writers have been subjected to an incomparably greater critical analysis than any other writers of antiquity—including Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Virgil and others whose works are glibly quoted. The question, is: how can an honest person be so certain that the Biblical narrative is not authentic and is undependable whereas the alleged contributions of these other writers are of such great cultural value and so meaningful to our knowledge of the past?
It has been said that on the same basis that evidences are admitted into any court of equity according to the strictest interpretations of English law, Jesus Christ stands before the world confirmed by the most carefully screened testimony as the Son of God possessing all the authority He claimed for Himself. An examination of the evidence proves that He rightfully commands our submission to Him as Lord and obedience to His Word as revealed in the Bible. - James R. Cope, The Bible – The Way, 1-17-1971
I have often seen someone ask for an “unspoken prayer request”. This is when someone asks for prayers publicly, yet does not give the reason for the prayer, or anything about what is going on. Most of the time, they will add that “God knows the reason.” Nothing is wrong with this thought, as we always should seek the prayers and support of others. However, we must keep in mind that our prayers (and their direction) are very important. This is time devoted to spending with our Lord in focused remembrance of where we are in relation to Him. Let us consider some examples where when to pray and not pray is discussed in the Scriptures.
First, I should make it clear that when we do see these requests, we ought to be praying for that person in a general way, that God’s will be done in their life and that their spiritual growth begins or continues (1 Tim. 2:1-2; Phil. 4:6; Rom. 10:1-4). In fact, in some cases it seems that ending the practice of prayer for others would be a violation of God’s will. When the Israelites said, “…we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations…” (1 Sam. 8:19–20), the response from God was to give them a king. Samuel helped to accomplish this, anointing Saul, but the Israelites also understood their need to repent of the rebellious attitude they had displayed (12:19). However, Samuel’s response was gracious: "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.” (12:23) Samuel implies that to stop praying for them would be sinful. We need to understand and apply this great truth. We have brothers and sisters who are spiritually suffering and need our prayers. We need to be willing and able to see these troubles and pray for those suffering from them (James 5:16).
That said, there are certain situations where the Scriptures seem to indicate that praying for certain situations would not be very fruitful. John speaks to one of these situations: “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.” (1 John 5:16-17) Specifically, John is saying that we can hope for results from prayer for the Christian who is struggling with sin yet wants to follow God, yet we should not always expect results from prayers for the Christian who has completely turned away and has no interest in doing the right thing. Certainly we can pray generally for their well-being and have a hope that one day they will change, but if we understand the record of Scripture, we see that God eventually “gives up” those who do not want to be a part of His kingdom (Ps. 81:12; Rom. 1:24).
The difficult question is knowing when such a thing has occurred. We cannot and will not have a perfect knowledge of the matters of others, and praying for others does not require this. However, the effectiveness of our prayers is tied somehow to the confession of others (James 5:16). Thus it would seem that we have a need to know SOMETHING if someone is to “confess [their] trespasses”.
Jesus encourages us to do good in the light of day. When I see a post on Facebook that says, “unspoken prayer request. God knows,” I have to wonder about Jesus’ words: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (Jn. 3:19–21)
Of course, we can appreciate a measure of privacy in our lives, and we are not required to share every detail publicly. In fact, there are situations where this would be unwise if not dangerous. However, if I am working in the light of day, and petition others for prayers, I will want them to have some basic idea of what I’m struggling with so that their prayers can be properly focused.
The Scriptures seem to be plain; while I can pray generally for God’s will to be done in any situation, I have found no examples in Scripture of someone requesting prayer without giving the reason for such a prayer. We should not expect help from others when we are unwilling to be open and honest about our struggles. Anyone who is doing good things will work within the light, with nothing unscrupulously hidden. -Steven McCrary
Some say that we are saved by grace alone; others say that we are saved by faith only. The Baptists say in Article 4 of their confession of faith “We believe that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace,” and in Article 5 they say concerning justification that it is “solely through faith.” They are not only confused about what the Bible teaches, but are also confused about what they teach.
“Wholly of Grace”
When the Baptists say that “the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace” they are excluding everything else. The word “wholly” means “To the whole amount, extent, etc.; so as to compromise or involve all; entirely; totally; altogether; quite.” For a sinner to be saved wholly by grace means everything else but grace is excluded. If it is wholly of grace, then, there is no place for faith or repentance. If you bring in faith and repentance it is not wholly of grace.
“Solely of Faith”
In speaking of justification article five of the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, which is used by Baptist Churches, says it is accomplished “solely through faith in the Redeemer’s blood.” “Solely” means “The only one or ones; exclusively or only; wholly; merely.” If the justification of a sinner is “solely through faith” then, it cannot be “wholly of grace.” In fact, it cannot be of grace at all. If it is “solely through faith” repentance has no place in the justification of sinners. Christ said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3)
Which Shall We Believe?
Which shall we believe, article four or article five of the Manual? Neither, for both articles are wrong; the Bible does not teach that the salvation of a sinner is “wholly of grace,” nor that a sinner’s justification is “solely through faith,” but “by grace are ye saved through faith.” (Eph. 2:8) Not “wholly of grace” nor “solely of faith,” but “by grace are ye saved through faith.” Again we read: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom. 5:1,2) It is by faith that we have access into grace by which we are saved. “Access” means “admittance; approach; passage; path.” So faith is the path or passage that leads to the grace of God and without either of the two, sinners would be hopelessly lost.
What about These?
We are saved by repentance (Acts 11:18), by confession (Rom. 10:10), by baptism (1 Pet. 3:21), by the gospel (I Cor. 15:2), by calling on the name of the Lord (Rom. 10:13),by hope (Rom. 8:24), by works (James 2:24), by the blood of Christ (Rom. 5:9. by love (John 3:16), by obedience (Heb. 5:9), by Christ (Matt. 1:21), and it also is stated that God is our Savior in 1 Timothy 4:10. On the day of Pentecost Peter exhorted the people saying, “save yourselves from this untoward generation.” (Acts 2:40) Which of these saves us? Al1 of them. God saves us, but he uses all of these things in saving us. By what authority could we leave out one thing that the Scripture says saves us?
We Understand This
We know that blood is essential to life, but the body may be full of blood and yet die because the heart fails to pump that blood through the body. Remove a man’s brains and death is certain. Because this is true, we will not take the position that our lungs are not essential to life. Because the body needs air we will not deny it food and water. Since we understand that all of these things are essential to life of the body, why can’t we understand that everything that the Bible says saves is essential to salvation?
The Bible Says...
“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (I Pet. 3:21) This passage states just as plainly that baptism saves as Eph. 2:8; states that we are saved by grace. If we can understand one then we ought to understand the other. Again we read:
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mk. 16:16) If we can understand that faith is essential to salvation we ought to be able to see that baptism is also essential. If we can understand that repentance in Acts 2:38 is in order to the remission of sins, why can’t we understand that baptism is for the same purpose? It is an ignorant and foolish generation which can understand the organs of the body. but cannot understand plain commands of God. -Walter N. Henderson
Much is being made lately about the reality that “good” men study the same information, given by God, and have exactly opposite conclusions. I have some concern about arbitrarily referring to us as “good” in ANY case, because only God is “good” (Matt 19) – and specifically with regard to reacting to information. Usually the scenario offered is extensive: honest, humble, obedient, intelligent, unprejudiced (?), only desiring to please God, etc. With a certainty that only God truly has, some are willing to grant that standing to MOST who engage in such study, and then on that basis look for flaws either in the information being given, our approach to understanding it, or the level of importance we must attach to the conclusions we draw.
To start with (and I hope this is true of ALL of us), let us take the first option off the table. As David said in the 19th Psalm, “the law of the Lord is PERFECT….the testimony of the Lord is SURE….the statutes of the Lord are RIGHT….the commandments of the Lord are PURE….the judgments of the Lord are TRUE and RIGHTEOUS ALTOGETHER…”
There are TWO things we must not forget:
The word of God is UNTOUCHABLE! It is “holy”. Rom 1:2 Its quality is a reflection of the quality of its Giver! Mishandling even a “jot or a tittle” is something that Jesus Himself would not do! Matt 5:17,18 Our every thought, and every action, must pass its test to gain approval from the Author….
God said EXACTLY what He wanted to say, in words of His own choosing…WHATEVER consequences obtain from human reaction to it are already factored into it and occur by divine design. As He says, “it will accomplish the purpose whereunto I have sent it” – Isa 55:11. (which does NOT mean that everyone who hears it will always be changed for the better.) If some fail to accept it, or reframe it to satisfy their own agenda, God has even promised to help them depart – 2 Th 2:10-12
Greater care should be taken by some in the language they use to define our problems – NONE of those problems come from God, and whatever misunderstandings we humans have do not come from an INADEQUATE or NON – UNDERSTANDABLE message. That is one thing I am going to “assume” that all will agree to – if there are those who do not, there is a need for a more fundamental study about the basic matter of evidences, which is not the purpose of these posts. We can even say that the WORD itself functions as a part of the “sifting” process. Often, with God, the direction toward which the word is designed to take us requires a high degree of humility, selflessness and sincerity to be carried out, and we reveal much about ourselves by the way we respond – Gen 22:12; 1 Cor 11:19
Is our sincerity REAL? Are we totally SUBMISSIVE to the divine Will? These are things our response will, over time, demonstrate – and that is what God intends! -Aubrey C. Belue, Jr., Facebook, 2013
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
This beatitude is a balm for many. It sets forward the concrete truth that God wants His people to have comfort. It promotes the idea of a God who will help us in times of need and want, and facilitate a solution to the hurt and grief we experience. Though this does communicate a true aspect of who God is, we also understand that this is a decidedly shallow way to completely understand this beatitude.
To know Christ’s words, we must consider what we are supposed to “mourn” over. Remember the framework of the beatitudes! These are elements of what the Christian is supposed to be. They are not unreachable ideals, but understandable concepts, and they are meant to show us an accurate picture of a citizen of the Kingdom of Christ. These are not what the Christian seeks to be, but what the Christian simply IS. The beatitudes work counter to the established order of men – regardless of the time period or cultural makeup. What Jesus says here runs counter to our most base tendencies.
A Kingdom citizen will mourn over their sins. This is “Godly sorrow” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Sinners do not mourn over sins, and in fact will often gloat and boast about them. Many Christians who have fallen away rejoice in their new-found "freedom" to ignore the restrictions of a life with God, and embrace the sin that snared them in the first place. Paul wrote of these: “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19)
With the Kingdom citizen, sins are a source of anguish. Their presence means that something must be done to stop them, and the solution of cleansing by the blood of Christ must be sought. If we do not truly mourn the sin, we will skip right past that and seek comfort concerning that sin.
Before I became a Christian, I would justify my life by essentially saying, “I’m not that bad. I’m not murdering anyone or stealing anything. I’m not hurting others with my life.” My parents sought to help me understand my need to change, but I also had friends who would pat me on the back and tell me that I was a good person. I wanted the comfort without the mourning. The reality is, whatever “comfort” I got was not true comfort.
Only God can truly comfort us! If we try to give or receive comfort outside of forgiveness, we fight a losing battle. There is a great need in our souls to be cleansed by God, free of every sin. God can do this. Again Paul writes, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14).
This is our great spiritual sufficiency. If we ignore this, we sweep aside the real solution, and settle for a fake one. We ignore our needed mourning and embrace a false comfort when we say, “I know this is wrong, but God knows my heart. It will be okay”, or “I know the Bible tells us this is sin, but God knows I need to be happy”, or “I can’t imagine that God would hold me accountable for this.” We can live in this delusion only as long as it takes for the judgment day to arrive, when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Bearing the yoke of Jesus means rest for our souls. No longer are we burdened with sin that destroys us, but we are freed to serve a God who comforts us. It is amazing to consider our God’s salvation, and the comfort found in it! -Steven McCrary
Ps 50:21 “These things hast thou done, and I KEPT SILENCE; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.”
Every once in a while, some “wise” man tackles it again, and speaks with certainty about things he cannot possibly know!
1) Fact #1 – When He is silent, it is because He has His reasons NOT to speak! He “KEEPS” silence (or not). God’s silence is no accident, nor is it a a”spur of the moment” thing. He KEEPS silence, and He BREAKS silence, in a way consistent with His nature and purpose.
2) Fact #2 – The fact that we have no current record of God speaking to a certain matter – especially of matters which occurred thousands of years before --does not mean that He had NOT spoken on that matter. By inspiration (2 Sam 23:2); by dreams (Gen 37); by visions (Dan 9); by lot; by Urim and Thummin – He DID reveal His will. Not every such expression of God’s will (especially since it did not pertain to us) is recorded. To unequivocally state that God did NOT speak to allow or deny certain things in times past, in view of this fact, is the height of arrogance. We need to be reminded: De 29:29 “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
3) Fact #3 – For US, God has determined that we live by His WORDS, not by His SILENCE. “Man shall live by every WORD…” (Mt 4:4). We must “SPEAK as the oracles of God”…(1 Pet 4:11). Our souls are purified in obeying the “truth” (in itself, “silence” reveals NO truth) (1 Pet 1:22-25); He holds us to “what has been written (revealed, not withheld)” (1 Cor 4:6).
At the conclusion of the latest article I read which sought to neutralize God’s silence, human judgment (not God's word) grants to us the choice to respect God’s silence, so long as we do not expect others to do so, and receive them regardless. But, as far as I can see, there are no grounds for compromise – we either respect it when God does not express His will, and act only when He reveals it to us, or we do not. And only those who have that mutual respect for the will of Almighty God should receive our respect and endorsement. -A.C. Belue, Jr.
Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
Names are Important. Corporations are extremely insistent upon their product name being emphasized correctly in advertising. They want the correct name to be displayed so that consumers buy the correct product. The names of the inheritors of a will must be correct in order for that inheritance to properly apply. If someone uses a derogatory term to describe us, our reaction is usually hostile. Many are brought into court on the charge of public slander because the name of someone has been defamed. Names matter. What we call others, and the terms we use to describe things, are important. Without names, there is confusion.
We must consider whether it truly matters what a church calls itself. On the one hand, I intend to show that what we call our local congregation is important. On the other hand, I intend to point out that names do not always define us unless we are living up to that name.
God holds names as being important. He named Adam (Gen. 5:2), and renamed Jacob to Israel (Gen. 32:27-28). God even prophesied the name of His Messiah (Is. 9:6). Names were important among the Christians of the 1st Century, though sometimes for the incorrect reason (1 Cor. 1:13).
I am often asked “what kind of church” I go to. When I mention that the congregation I worship with has “church of Christ” on its sign and is known by that name, it seems that many lump that into the denominational designation. Because those among what I would call the Faith do not organize themselves as a denomination (primarily meaning a central man-made organization that claims to be a part of a bigger whole), to say that the “church of Christ” is a denomination is a misuse of the term.
The church I worship with uses the name “church of Christ” to describe themselves. This is more utility than tradition, however. It succinctly describes what we are all about. We seek to be the Church that Christ built (Matt. 16:18), but “Church of Christ” is not the only name we could use. In various places throughout the New Testament, it is called “My Church” (Matt. 16:18), “The Church” (Acts 8:1), “Church of God” (1 Cor. 1:2), “The body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12), “The church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15), “Church of the first born” (Heb. 12:23), and “Churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16). We would suggest that any other names of identification are simply inaccurate, and not descriptive of the Body.
Are there churches calling themselves “church of Christ” who act as a denomination? Undoubtedly. Congregations of brethren who use the treasury to fund human institutions and universities are essentially “denominations” without using the term. Their doctrine is often “handed down” in many ways as the Baptists or Methodists.
Again, we seek to be the Church that Christ built. The reason for this is that there is only one Church that we want to be identified with. The Bible Emphasizes that One Church. Paul writes, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;” (Eph. 4:4). There are actually multiple bodies in the religious world, composed of many different spirits. Some - even among those I would call brethren and saints - would have us believe that the denominations are just the same as we are, when their faith and practices are different from what the Bible teaches. This confusion should not be so (1 Cor. 14:33). We should listen to our God.
Further, we can find that many of the names used by the denominations are only partly descriptive of the One Body. For example, the Baptists use a term that focuses on baptism – a necessary component of the plan of salvation (Mk. 16:16); this, however, does not completely describe the Church. Methodists traditionally believed in a method of biblical interpretation, doctrine, and practice. While we certainly see a method to God’s plan in Scripture, this also is not completely descriptive. Even still, Presbyterians emphasize in their original teachings of the need of “Presbyters”, essentially Elders of the church. This again only describes in part concerning the church that Jesus died to build (Acts 20:28).
Someone might say, “The Bible mentions ‘churches’ in the plural form!” Indeed it does. However, when the plural form is used, it does not refer to different denominations, all teaching different doctrines, offering different plans of salvation and diverse in their practice and worship; but rather to congregations who have obeyed the same Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4). We are not born so that we can be just “part of a Church”, but we are born again to see and enter the Kingdom of God - His rule (John 3:3-5)!
To claim that the plural form of “churches” in the New Testament references bodies of saints who believe and practice all sorts of different things is a woeful misunderstanding and misuse of the text. The different churches in the New Testament were similar in their uniform faith and practice, and the Apostles pressed them to become increased in their unity. Paul writes, “Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” (Phil 3:16). Yes, we have different congregations, but the model is for all of us to be unified in doctrine and practice - not different doctrines and different practices! Paul appealed to the brethren in Corinth to be truly joined together: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Cor. 1:10)
Christians need to be clear to the world. Some suggest that we abandon all names and just call ourselves “the Church”. This would not be unscriptural, yet we have to ask, would it be honest? We cannot be ashamed of the name of Jesus (Mk. 8:38). Further, we need to be open and honest about what we believe and practice (Rom. 12:17). Certainly we can use other names than “church of Christ”, but I would suggest that no other name would be so completely descriptive of the beliefs, teachings, and practices of those saints who stand for the Lord daily, and sacrificially give themselves to His service. Of course, what we are called means nothing if we are not standing for Him in the first place (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:16, 22-25). -Steven McCrary