The Importance Of Believing And Obeying Only The Truth!
(John 8:31-32; 1 Peter 1:22-25)
By Kenneth E. Thomas
How often we hear folks say that one doesn't have to be a member of any church to be saved. Just "join the church of your choice," we are told. Too, we hear that what one believes really doesn't matter so long as one is honest and sincere. This lesson asks and answers some thirteen questions, which show that such cannot possibly be true.
1. Is the Bible true?
2. Must one believe what is true?
3. Do you teach the truth?
4. Must truth be obeyed?
5. Must one believe what you teach?
6. Must one walk in the truth?
7. Must one abide in the doctrine of Christ?
8. What about those who wrest (twist) Scripture?
9. Must one be a member of Christ's blood-bought body, His church, to be saved eternally?
10. Will following your teaching make one a member of Christ's church?
11. Must one stand on the same spiritual ground on which you stand to please the Lord?
12. What (who) will Christ return to receive unto Himself and deliver to the Father in the end?
13. What is the one body in which men are reconciled unto God by the cross (Eph. 2:11-16)?
Before proceeding, please read the thirteen questions posed. These are, for the most part, what this article will be about.
It never ceases to amaze me, as I listen to preachers who claim they are teaching the will of Jesus Christ their audience, who end up saying something like the following; "If you arenít already attending somewhere (which actually means anywhere)", or "if you donít have a church home already, why not come here? Now, I donít want to pull you away from another church, but I do want you to know that you are welcome here." Before most radio or TV broadcast end they will say something like, "Be sure to attend the church of your choice this Lordís day."
Doesnít That Sound Nice?
All of that sounds so nice and so sweet and accommodating to the listeners. Then someone, like one of my brethren, or I will come on the air and begin to identify the truth which we affirm must be believed to become a Christian, and we identify the relationship, in which this places one, as te church of our Lord Jesus Christ. We likewise tell folks that believing and obeying the truth of Christ makes one simply and only a Christian. We say also that the wearing of divisive names and dividing into warring sects is contrary to the will of our Master, who loved and died for us, and is sinful (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; John 17:17, 20-21; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25). Immediately, we are at odds with the great majority of our religious neighbors. Consider the following from our list.
1. Is the Bible true? Unless folks accept, unequivocally and without any reservation whatsoever, that the Bible is indeed the inerrant, infallible and unalterable word of God Almighty, there is no reason to proceed any further. Unless we have a common standard by which to judge each religious question that may arise, we can come to no common understanding. The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches (Southern, ket) by Edward T. Hiscox states this matter better than I possibly could, so let me insert it just here.
Articles of Faith 1. "Of the Scriptures: We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God as its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter; that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds and opinions should be tried" (page 58). In These Folks Called Baptist, edited by Jimmy H. Heflin, this article is repeated, but he inserts the word "shall" in place of "should." In either case, they endorse folks who hold up every creed, opinion, or conduct to the scrutiny of the Scriptures. This would of course include The Standard Manual For Baptist Churches. I agree with this statement; how about you? The Bible being true, anything that disagrees with that which is taught in the Bible is of necessity false. See?
Christ and His apostles did not hesitate to brand as false doctrine anything that was not in harmony with the Bibleís teachings. They did not hesitate to brand as a false teacher anyone who taught differently to what the Bible teaches (Matthew 15:1-9; Acts 13:6-12).
2. Must one believe the truth? We have already answered this question in the above. The Bible is truth (John 17:17). Truth must be believed (John 8:32). This brings us to the next question I have posed.
3. Do you teach the truth? Ask one of these Protestant preachers this series of questions and he finds himself in hopeless contradiction oftentimes. a. Do you teach the truth? b. Must one believe exactly what you each? You will note above that just about every one of them will say you may "join the church of your choice." This is actually saying that you do not have to believe exactly what he teaches, nor be a member of the church with which he is affiliated. Still, he wants you to believe he is teaching the truth and that he is a member of the church that Jesus built! Pshaw...Canít you see though this facade?
4. Must truth be obeyed? Our answer is an unequivocal, yes! Jesus not only said that men must believe the truth in order to be made free (John 8:31-32), He likewise said through His Spirit-guided Apostles, that men must "obey truth" to be made free (1 Peter 1:22-25; Romans 6:16-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:12-13). Again, the fellow who tells you he teaches truth, but that you do not have to believe exactly what he teaches, nor obey what he teaches, to be free from sin and error, is all mixed up in this matter. The Bible is true. Truth must be believed. Truth must be taught and truth must be obeyed. The above covers number 5.
6. Must one walk in the truth? According to the apostle John, yes! He set forth the need to "walk in the light" in order to attain and maintain fellowship with God and with others of "like precious faith." He spoke of how he rejoiced to find folks who "walked in truth." John wrote, "This then is the message which we (those to whom the inspired word was revealed, ket) have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as He (God, ket) is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we confess (as Christians ket) our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:5-7, 9). In (3 John 4) he spoke of rejoicing to find the children of the elect lady "walking in truth."
7. Must one abide in the doctrine of Christ (truth)? Why, of course one must "abide in the doctrine of Christ." John is clear on this point as well. This shows also that one may know or recognize truth so as to walk in the same. Too, one must be able to know who is teaching truth so as not to "bid God speed to error." Some versions say not to "give a greeting" to the one who comes teaching a different doctrine. Let us notice the pointed passages of divine instruction along these lines.
"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds" (2 John 9-11). One would do well to read, along with this strong admonition, such passages as 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Galatians 1:6-11; Ephesians 5:11; Revelation 22:18-19; John 12:48; Luke 6:46.
8. What about those who twist the Scriptures? We have answered this question already in the above passages of course, but there is much more said along this line in other pointed passages. If one could twist the Scriptures with impunity, there would be no such thing as religious error. There would likewise be no such thing as a false teacher, of whom Jesus repeatedly warned His disciples in such passages as Matthew 7:15. Matthew 15:14 Ė "if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch or pit." Peter wrote about some of Paulís writings, that he wrote some things that were "hard to be understood." He went on to refer to what Paul wrote as "Scripture," and said that, even though hard or difficult to understand, those who twisted what he wrote did so "to their own destruction," as it is with other scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). Peter also said it was those who were "unlearned and unstable" who did such twisting of the Scriptures. Paul said that folks who listened to what he preached and compared it to the written word were noble. (Acts 17:11). He warned against being "carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Ephesians 4:14). See also 2 Timothy 4:1-8.
9. Must one be a member of Christís blood-bought body, His church, to be saved eternally? Again, I answer with an unequivocal, yes! Why do I answer, yes? Because to say, "no," is to denigrate "Godís eternal plan through Christ" to save mankind. The church was planned from eternity and was purchased with the blood of Jesus. To say that one can be saved and not a member of Christís church is to not only denigrate the eternal plan, but is to denigrate the precious blood which bought that church (Philippians 2:5-11; Ephesians2:13-17; 3:1-6; 4:1-6; 5:22-33).
10. Will following your teaching make one a member of Christís church? We have seen already that Protestant preachers teach that folks have a "choice of churches." Likewise they teach that one can go to heaven and never be a member of the church. Proof is seen in that they teach "salvation solely through faith." (Hiscox Manual, Article V, page 62.) Under the heading of "How To Become A Christian?" in Mr. Billy Grahamís Crusade edition of the New Testament, he states, "Eternal life is yours the moment you believe." Jesus said, "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16).
Peter told folks on Pentecost to "repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). When folks did that, they were added to the number of disciples and said to be "added to the church" (Acts 2:40-41,47). See also Colossians1:13-14. You see, when one is "born again," born of the "water and of the Spirit," it is into the kingdom (John 3:3-5). Paul wrote how God saved us "by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). The same thing that saves one, automatically makes him a member of the church of Christ. A child is born into a physical family. We are born into the spiritual family. The child takes the family name and is heir to the family inheritance. We, too, take the family name which is "Christian," and we become "heirs of eternal life" and "joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). The child when born doesnít search for a family to join. No, he is already in the family. Likewise, when we are "born again "of water and the Spirit," which is immersion in water "into Christ and into the one body," we do not look for a "church to join." We are members of the church automatically. The church is "Godís household," or family (1 Timothy 3:14-15).
One may "join" every denomination in town, by accepting their distinctive rules for membership, without ever accepting Godís saving grace through obedience to the gospel of Christ, whereby he is saved and becomes a member of His church! Truly, Jesus was correct when He said they (denominations) are "plants not planted by God" that are destined to be rooted up (Matthew15:13-14; Psalms 127:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
11. Must one stand on the same spiritual ground on which you stand to please the Lord? As we have seen already, no denominationalist of whom I am aware will even claim such. Then, of course, he has no right to expect others to come stand where he stands, does he? If I am not standing on totally scriptural ground, I have lost all right or any reason to expect others to come take a stand where I stand! If one can be saved in another spiritual entity (church) than the one of which I am a member, why be a member of "mine?" If one can be saved without believing exactly what I believe and practicing what I practice, why should he come stand with me? Some areas about which I speak are:
1. Terms of salvation from sins: hear, believe, repent, confess Jesus as Lord, and be immersed into Christ "for the remission of sins."
2. Acceptable worship on the Lordís day: assemble to partake of the Lordís Supper weekly; sing, pray, preach and teach Godís word, give a "free will offering" into the local treasury. God is glorified by Christians only in the church (Ephesians 3:21). Worship must be in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). Only authorized activities may be engaged in with Christís approval (Colossians 3:17; 2 John 9). You cannot worship God acceptably in a denomination. They donít even offer the Lordís Supper weekly. They sing and play mechanical instruments and exact a tithe from the membership just to mention a few of the problems.
3. Organization of local churches of Christ: bishops (elders), deacons, and other saints (Philippians 1:1-3; Acts 14:23; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Hebrews13:7, 17; Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5). Qualifications for these men are found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. No synods, councils, associations etc. The only entity, in Godís arrangement, for collective "church action" is the local congregation. There is no such a thing as a one man "pastor" system known to the New Testament. No denomination fits the pattern of organization and, therefore, cannot be properly identified with the church revealed in Scripture.
4. The mission of Christís church. We have seen already that there is no organization larger, smaller, or other than the local congregation known to the New Testament church. Whatever the mission of these local churches, it must be carried out by the churches, not turned over to a human institution, a sponsoring eldership, or some society to which the church simply sends funds. Rather, elders along with the assistance of the deacons and other members must do every thing they are authorized and commanded to do. This is Godís pattern for "church work."
What did they do as a collective function in the first century? Methods may and do change, but what they engaged in does not and cannot and still claim to "abide in the doctrine of Christ." 1. They assembled for worship as seen above. 2. They gave to support the work of the church, which involved preaching and teaching to convert the lost and to edify the membership (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9). 3. They relieved their own needy among them (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Romans 15:25-26). They had no social , recreational, or political agenda as church work. The sum total of what local churches of Christ did in the first century, when men inspired by the Holy Spirit were present among them, forms the pattern for what may engaged in to this good day (Philippians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Acts 20:6-7). We know this is so, for the men chosen by Christ were sent the Holy Spirit to "guide them into all truth" (John 16:12-13; 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21).
12. and 13. What (who) will Christ come back to receive and to deliver to the Father at the end of time? It will be His church, the kingdom of God and of Christ (Ephesians 5:27; 1 Corinthians 15:23-24; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). No denominational members will be among this blood-washed throng! As we have clearly seen, men are "reconciled unto God in one body by the cross" (Ephesians 2:13-16). To be "in Christ" and "in this one body," one must have obeyed the gospel from the heart (Romans 6:3-6; 16-18; 1 Peter 1:18-19, 22-25; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). See the "great commission" passages (Matthew 28:18- 20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45-47).
Observe the cases of conversion in the Acts of the Apostles: clearly folks heard the gospel, believed in the Christ of that gospel, repented of sin and error, confessed Jesus as Lord, and then were immersed unto the forgiveness of sins and thereby were numbered among the saved in the church of Jesus Christ. This is where reconciliation to God may be found and in no other relationship (Ephesians 2:13-17; Acts2:41, 47; Colossians 1:13-14).
I hope I have written plainly enough that all, who have not, will now be stirred to "obey the gospel" of the Son of God. There is no other way provided for salvation than through Christ and His church by the gospel (John 14:6; Colossians 2:8-13; Ephesians 2:13-16;1 Corinthians12:13; Ephesians 4:1-6).