Monthly Archives: January 2016

Why We Need Denominations: How the variations of practice show us the beauty of the Gospel

denominations

SOURCE: The first church I remember attending was an Assemblies of God church in Albuquerque, N.M. After we moved, my family joined the Evangelical Free Church of America in St. Louis, Mo. Now I am on staff at a non-denominational church in the area while I finish up my Master’s at a Presbyterian Church of America seminary. And my favorite writer is C.S. Lewis, an Anglican.

These are the ecclesiastical flavors in which my mind has soaked. And I have loved it. I love denominations. That’s not to say that I would like to be in a denomination, but I appreciate them enough to write about it.

Denominations are beautiful. While some within the Church see them as schismatic and unhelpful, I see them as lovely, imperfect variations on a single, pure theme.

But personal preference aside, are denominations actually biblical? That’s a difficult (and perhaps unfair) question.

Try asking it another way. Are Baptists biblical? Are Methodists biblical? Are Lutherans biblical? Or is it only us “non-denoms” who have gotten things right?

On issues that aren’t the Gospel and don’t pertain to the Gospel, Christians have this wild freedom to lovingly differ with their brothers and sisters.

Paul reminds the Corinthian church that he preached to them the pure, unadulterated Gospel. The Gospel is of first importance to the Church (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

Opponents of denominations will argue that Paul is calling the Church to unite around the Gospel and forsake all other creeds and confessions. (“I’m not a (insert denominational label), I’m simply a Christian.” After all, denominations focus us on the secondary issues when what we need to focus on is the primary issue: the Gospel of Christ.

But rather than explicitly forbidding ecclesiastical denominations (a concept that didn’t even exist in the early church), Paul is reminding one local congregation in central Greece to focus on one thing as of first importance. He doesn’t say that other issues are not important. But he is reminding them of the overshadowing primacy of the Gospel.
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The Dangers of “Sinless Perfection” Doctrine by Reese Currie

sinless-perfection

Some, not all, Church of Christers claim to be without sin and to be perfect. So this article is posted here for them.

SOURCE: I’ve been receiving an increased volume of e-mail lately from proponents of “sinless perfection” doctrine in response to my article, “Can We Live Sin Free?” None of these supposedly sinless folks offer any argumentation from the Bible, since the doctrine they espouse can’t be found there, but yet they seem quite concerned that I’m doing terrible things to peoples’ Christian walk in maintaining that humans never attain sinless perfection. I am, according to one writer, “an agent of Satan” holding back the true believers in Christ, and should “seek God and be taught of Him.”

Obviously, another article on this is required, since the first, although quite laden with Biblical facts on the matter, does not dissuade these people from e-mailing me to label me a heretic, unknowledgeable, and “Satan’s agent.” So, I offer these facts about people who advocate “sinless perfection.”

Advocates of Sinless Perfection Do Not Believe the Bible.

James writes, “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2). So, is James not saying here that a man can indeed be perfect? No, because only a few verses later, he comments, “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8).

There are two things about sinless perfection to be drawn from James’ comments. First off, James is stating that no man can tame even the tongue to the point of perfection, let alone his whole body. Advocates of sinless perfection are calling James a liar and are calling the Scripture a lie in this instance.

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ANSWERING THE HARDLINE CHURCH OF CHRIST – How2BecomeAChristian TV

Examining and answering some hardline Church of Christ myths and false teachings

The Church of Christ Reverses the Order of Repentance and Faith

Repentance and Faith_01

SOURCE: The Church of Christ gospel “plan” is to hear, believe, repent, confess, and be “water” baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Here it is reasoned that if one will simply perform these “5 steps,” the believer will thereby save himself.

Notice that this plan places faith before repentance.

To those in the Churches of Christ, this is “common sense” because it is believed that ‘one must believe before he can repent.’ This view arises from their understanding of both “faith” and “repentance.”

“Faith” in the Churches of Christ is understood as nothing more than ‘intellectual assent” or accepting the facts of the Christian faith. To them it is believing God’s historical testimony about Himself, Jesus Christ, and that of the rest of the Bible.

Repentance on the other hand is understood as moral “self-reformation.”

In regards to faith, those in the Churches of Christ often fail to understand that there is a deeper, more substantive aspect of faith which is believing on Jesus Christ for eternal life, and most cannot distinguish between mere intellectual belief or assent from a personal faith that is trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

Here, they will cite that “even the devils believe” (from James 2:19) in their sermons and will contend that even the “faith of devils” is the same as any other faith except that the faith of devils lacks any moral or religious good works.

Thus, their understanding gives rise to their reversal of the scriptural order of repentance and faith, and yet as we will find, there is not a single scripture in the New Testament to support their view.

To the contrary, when we consider this in light of Scripture, we find repentance actually preceding Faith:
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‘Names’ in the Bible for God’s Church

Whats-in-a-name

All of these combined are referred to as “the churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16) … never used as a singular group or as a proper name…

This is a list of descriptive terms of God’s people.
“the kingdom of Heaven” or “Heaven’s kingdom” (Mt. 16:19)
“the church in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1; 11:22)
“who were of the Way” (Acts 9:2)
“the churches throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31)
“the church in Cenchrea” (Rom. 16:1)
“the churches of the Gentiles” (Rom. 16:4)
“the church that is in their house” (Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19)
“the church of God in Corinth” (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1)
“the church of God” (1 Cor. 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; Gal. 1:13; 1 Tim. 3:5)
“the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 10:16; Eph. 4:12)
“the churches of God” (1 Cor. 11:16; 2 Thess. 1:4)
“the body” (1 Cor. 12:18-25; Eph. 4:16; 5:23)
“Christ’s body” (1 Cor. 12:27)
“the church” (1 Cor. 12:28)
“the churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33)
“the churches” (1 Cor. 14:34)
“the churches of Galatia” (1 Cor. 16:1)
“the churches of Asia” (1 Cor. 16:19)
“the churches of Macedonia” (2 Cor. 8:1)
“the churches of Judea” (Gal. 1:22)
“those who are of the household of the faith” or “the members of the family of the faith” (Gal. 6:10)
“the church, which is his body” (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23)
“members of the household of God” or “members of God’s family” (Eph. 2:19)
“the kingdom of the Son of his love” (Col. 1:13)
“the body, the church” (Col. 1:18)
“his body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24)
“the church that is in her house” (Col. 4:15)
“the church of the Laodiceans” (Col. 4:16)
“the church of the Thessalonians” (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1)
“the churches of God in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 2:14)
“the church in your house” (Philem. 2)
“the general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:23)
“God’s household, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15)

A different list provided:
the church (Used 56 times: Acts 11:26 the most common term used in the Bible)
the body, body of Christ, Christ’s Body [body = church Eph 1:22-23] (Used over 50 times: Col 1:18; Rom 7:4; 1 Cor 10:16; 12:27; Eph 4:12)
church of God or assembly of God (Used 10 times: Acts 12:5; 20:28; 1 Cor 1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Co 1:1; Gal 1:13; 1 Tim 3:5; 3:15)
churches of Christ or assemblies of Christ (used once: Rom. 16:16)
the way (used 7 times exclusively by Luke in Acts: Acts 9:2; 18:25; 19:9, 23; 24:4,14,22)
flock (used 4 times: Acts 20:28,29; 1 Pe 5:2,3)
the sect, sect of the Nazarenes (Used 3 times: Acts 24:5,14; 28:22)
general assembly (Heb 12:23)
church of the firstborn (Heb 12:23)
church of the saints (1 Cor 14:33)
house of God (I Tim 3:15)
church of the living God (I Tim 3:15)
kingdom of God (Col 4:11 and many other passages)
kingdom of his dear Son (Col 1:13)
kingdom of Christ and of God (Eph 5:5)
family of God/ household of God/ house of God (1 Tim 3:15)

Courtesy Larry D. Crosby

Question: “Which church is the true church?”

one-true-church

SOURCE: Answer: Which church—that is, which denomination of Christianity—is the “true church”? Which church is the one that God loves and cherishes and died for? Which church is His bride? The answer is that no visible church or denomination is the true church, because the bride of Christ is not an institution, but is instead a spiritual entity made up of those who have by grace through faith been brought into a close, intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9). Those people, no matter which building, denomination, or country they happen to be in, constitute the true church.

In the Bible, we see that the local (or visible) church is nothing more than a gathering of professing believers. In Paul’s letters, the word church is used in two different ways. There are many examples of the word church being used to simply refer to a group of professing believers who meet together on a regular basis (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 8:1; 11:28). We see Paul’s concern, in his letters, for the individual churches in various cities along his missionary journey. But he also refers to a church that is invisible—a spiritual entity that has close fellowship with Christ, as close as a bride to her husband (Ephesians 5:25, 32), and of which He is the spiritual head (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 3:21). This church is made up of an unnamed, unspecified group of individuals (Philippians 3:6;1Timothy 3:5) that have Christ in common.

The word church is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia, meaning “a called–out assembly.” The word describes a group of people who have been called out of the world and set apart for the Lord, and it is always used, in its singular form, to describe a universal group of people who know Christ. The word ekklesia, when pluralized, is used to describe groups of believers who meet together. Interestingly enough, the word church is never used in the Bible to describe a building or organization.

It is easy to get ensnared by the idea that a particular denomination within Christianity is “the true church,” but this view is a misunderstanding of Scripture. When choosing a church to attend, it is important to remember that a gathering of believers should be a place where those who belong to the true church (the spiritual entity) feel at home. That is to say, a good local church will uphold the Word of God, honoring it and preaching faithfully, proclaim the gospel steadfastly, and feed and tend the sheep. A church that teaches heresy or engages in sin will eventually be very low on (or entirely bereft of) those people that belong to the true church—the sheep who hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow Him (John 10:27).

Members of the true church always enjoy agreement in and fellowship around Jesus Christ, as He is plainly revealed in His Word. This is what is referred to as Christian unity. Another common mistake is to believe that Christian unity is just a matter of agreeing with one another. Simple agreement for the sake of agreement does not speak the truth in love or spur one another on to unity in Christ; rather, it encourages believers to refrain from speaking difficult truths. It sacrifices true understanding of God in favor of a false unity based on disingenuous love that is nothing more than selfish tolerance of sin in oneself and others.

The true church is the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2, 9; 22:17) and the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12; 1 Corinthians 12:27). It cannot be contained, walled in, or defined by anything other than its love for Christ and its dedication to Him. The true church is, as C. S. Lewis put it, “spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners.”

http://www.gotquestions.org/true-church.html

Question: “What are the steps to salvation?”

Steps to Salvation puzzle button

SOURCE: Answer: Many people are looking for “steps to salvation.” People like the idea of an instruction manual with five steps that, if followed, will result in salvation. An example of this is Islam with its Five Pillars. According to Islam, if the Five Pillars are obeyed, salvation will be granted. Because the idea of a step-by-step process to salvation is appealing, many in the Christian community make the mistake of presenting salvation as a result of a step-by-step process. Roman Catholicism has seven sacraments. Various Christian denominations add baptism, public confession, turning from sin, speaking in tongues, etc., as steps to salvation. But the Bible only presents one step to salvation. When the Philippian jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul responded, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).

Faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior is the only “step” to salvation. The message of the Bible is abundantly clear. We have all sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Because of our sin, we deserve to be eternally separated from God (Romans 6:23). Because of His love for us (John 3:16), God took on human form and died in our place, taking the punishment that we deserve (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). God promises forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven to all who receive, by grace through faith, Jesus Christ as Savior (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24; Acts 16:31).

Salvation is not about certain steps we must follow to earn salvation. Yes, Christians should be baptized. Yes, Christians should publicly confess Christ as Savior. Yes, Christians should turn from sin. Yes, Christians should commit their lives to obeying God. However, these are not steps to salvation. They are results of salvation. Because of our sin, we cannot in any sense earn salvation. We could follow 1000 steps, and it would not be enough. That is why Jesus had to die in our place. We are absolutely incapable of paying our sin debt to God or cleansing ourselves from sin. Only God could accomplish our salvation, and so He did. God Himself completed the “steps” and thereby offers salvation to anyone who will receive it from Him.

Salvation and forgiveness of sins is not about following steps. It is about receiving Christ as Savior and recognizing that He has done all of the work for us. God requires one step of us—receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and fully trusting in Him alone as the way of salvation. That is what distinguishes the Christian faith from all other world religions, each of which has a list of steps that must be followed in order for salvation to be received. The Christian faith recognizes that God has already completed the steps and simply calls on us to receive Him in faith.

http://www.gotquestions.org/steps-to-salvation.html

CHURCH OF CHRIST: What about James 2:24 and ‘not justified by faith only’?

ARE WE SAVED BY FAITH OR WORKS

SOURCE: Members of the Church of Christ will sometimes cite James 2:24 as ‘proof’ that the believer’s justification is not by faith alone.

Here they will point out that ‘this is the only passage in the Bible where these two words (faith & alone) come together, and the Bible is very clear when it says that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.’

Keep in mind that context of James 2:24 is dealing with Abraham, and this verse concerns the time when Abraham was about to offer up his son Isaac upon the altar.

And here James asks the rhetorical question, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?”
It is here that I’d like to pose a question as it relates to the context.
Is this passage talking about Abraham’s (forensic or legal) justification where God ‘deemed, or declared Abraham as righteous’, or is the passage talking about Abraham being justified (shown, deemed, or declared as righteousness) before men?

This is a very relevant question because Romans 4 tells us that Abraham was justified before God long before Isaac was even born,

And it wasn’t by his works, but rather by his faith!
The point of all this is that the justification found in James 2:24 concerns a completely different time, circumstance, and event, which was over 20 years after the justification where “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
James 2:24 says, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?”
Yes, Abraham was justified by his works-
But was he justified (shown, deemed, or declared “as righteous”) before God or before men?

Anyone who understands James 2:24 to be talking about Abraham’s legal or forensic  justification before God has a real problem, because when Paul talks about Abraham’s justification in Romans 4, he makes it very clear that justification before God is not by works:

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  Romans 4:3

Unless Scripture contradicts itself— and it doesn’t since it is God’s inerrant Word, James 2:24 cannot be talking about Abraham’s legal or forensic justification before God, but rather about being ‘shown, deemed, or declared as righteous’ before men.

Looking at the context, Abraham’s justification before men by works “fulfilled” his positional justification before God, which was by faith years before.
In other words, because of his faith God ‘deemed and declared Abraham as righteous’, and he was righteous in his position; this was a legal and binding act. However, when Abraham offered up Isaac, he was living his life experience before men in a manner that was consistent with his position.
“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” James 2:21-24

But there’s another point that relates to the words only and alone.

The NKJV reads: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”

The Greek word translated only here is monon, which is an adverb.
Adverbs modify adjectives, verbs, or other adverbs.
Adverbs do not modify nouns.
Adjectives modify nouns.
We know that this is an adverb (monon) and not an adjective (monhs) since Greek has a different forms for each word.
Hodges makes this comment concerning the adverb monon used here in James 2:24
“The Greek adverb “only” (monon) … does not qualify (i.e., modify) the word faith, since the form would then have been monhs. As an adverb, however, it modifies the verb justified implied in the second clause [“and not only justified by faith”]. In other words, James is saying that a by-faith justification is not the only kind of justification there is. There is also a by-works justification. The former type is before God; the latter type is before men.” 
Thus, we might paraphrase the sense of Jas 2:24 in this way: ‘You see then that a man is justified by works, and not only justified by faith.’
Hodges also makes a helpful observation that this distinction is also found in Paul’s writings in Romans 4:2. The apostle tells us that there is such a thing as “works” justification before men, but not before God:
“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Thus, the only way a man can be justified before God is by faith.
References:
1) Zane C. Hodges, The Epistle of James: Proven Character Through Testing (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1994), 71
2) Zane C. Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege: Faith and Works in Tension, Second Edition (Dallas: Redención Viva, 1992), 34

20 Ways to Know You Attend A Hardline Church of Christ

20 Ways copy2SOURCE: 1. Believe or assume that man is born basically ‘good’ or morally neutral, and does not have a prior inclination or predisposition to sin or to do evil.

Answer: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man (Jesus Christ) the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:19

“…I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:21-24

“For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all.” Romans 11:32

2. Believe that the unsaved, natural man can understand and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ without the inner working of the Holy Spirit.

Answer: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” John 6:44

“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor. 2:14

3. Believe that if a person will simply try and apply themselves that we have the ability in our own strength to live every day without sinning.

Answer: “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9

“There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” Ecc. 7:20

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23

4. Believe that to be saved, all a person needs to do is cooperate and be obedient to all the necessary moral and religious requirements of the New Testament.

Answer: “And if by grace, then it (salvation) is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:6

“For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Galatians 3:21

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Eph. 2:8-9

5. Believe that the definition of baptism (to dip, to plunge, or immerse) only means to be dipped, plunged, or immersed in the medium of water.

Answer: “He (Jesus) commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free- and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” 1 Cor. 12:13

Author’s note: Water baptism is simply the believer’s outward sign or symbol of the true, actual, or Holy Spirit baptism that occurs at the moment of conversion.

6. Find it difficult to explain how that John the Baptist said he baptized with water, but there was One coming after him (that is, Jesus) who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

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Answering the Church of Christ Name Game by Bob Ross

Whats-in-a-name

SOURCE: One brother put it rightly when he wrote: “They (the Campbellites) have been quarreling over a name for their baby ever since it was born.”

They have called themselves “Reformers,” “Restorationalists,” Disciples of Christ,” “Christians,” “Christian Church,” “Church of Christ,” and even a few other titles. Barton W. Stone contended for the name “Christian,” while Alexander Campbell thought “Disciples” was better.

Apparently there was quite a bit of “heat” between Campbell and Stone on this point.

The matter of having the correct name is still an important issue in the Churches of Christ and many do not believe that one can be saved unless he wears the right name. Some will even go so far as to say that “The” must not even be attached to “Church of Christ” while others will not even allow any additional items to be added which would identify its locality.

For example, ”Main Street Church of Christ” would be considered wrong.

Of course, not all Campbellites believe alike on these foregoing restrictions, but all of them are concerned about the name they wear. And often they will cite some verses in the Bible which they believe teach the wearing of a “correct” name.

Here, we will take a look at of some of those passages that are often used.

Matthew 16:18: “… and on this rock I will build My church.”

Campbellites reason from this verse that since Christ said “My church,” it must have been named after Jesus Christ.

However, you will notice that there is no name given in the verse and there is no command to wear a name in the verse. When we read “My church” it simply tells us whose church it is.

One may say “I will build by fence,” but does these mean he will place a name on the fence which reads, “The Fence of Mr. Jones”?

Certainly not.

Someone may build and own a fence, but it does not mean that the person will provide a name for his fence.

Acts 4:12: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Question: Does this verse command us to hang out a name over the church building?

If so, what is that name?

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