"Getting The Cart Before The Horse"

by Kenneth E. Thomas

       Often when folks get things mixed up and in their improper order we say they are "getting the cart before the horse." If ever this saying applied, it does in many religious matters. The following are just a few examples.

Peace Before Doctrinal Purity

       The "Prince of peace," Jesus Christ, said to His disciples:

       "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I am come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Matthew 10:34-37). See also (Luke 14:25-33).

       Since truth will never be accepted by the masses, Jesus was speaking of the results of some within a family accepting while others rejected the truth. To one who learns and submits to the soul saving truth of the gospel, a peace which passeth all understanding is possessed (Philippians 4:7).

       This peace belongs to one even in the midst of great hostility and adversity as can be seen in the case of Paul and Silas who had been beaten and cast into an inner cell at Phillipi. With their backs lacerated from this beating, at midnight they were "praying and singing hymns to the Lord" (Acts 16:15). Jesus warned His Apostles of the troubles to expect as He sent them forth to preach the gospel:

       "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘a servant is not above his Master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me" (John 15:18-21).


       "These things have I spoken to you, that you should not stumble. They will put you out of their synagogues; yes, the time will come that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service” (John 16:1-2).

Truth Condemns Error

       Peace has always alluded the true disciple of Jesus Christ, because as he goes about preaching the essentiality of believing on Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God in order to please God, he is thereby condemning the majority of the world today as in the first century. Those who reject Jesus as their Messiah feel the need to belittle and sometimes seek to destroy the one who says one must believe on Jesus or perish, as well as repent or perish (John 8:21-14; Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30-31; John 14:6). Sooner or later those who compromise other teachings of Christ for the sake of peace will end up giving up this truth also. Most Jews still reject Jesus Christ of Nazareth as the divine Son of God almighty and the Savior of the world (Matthew 1:18-21; John 1:29).

Jerusalem Church Scattered

       The very first recorded gospel sermon was a hard hitting message condemning the Jews in Peter’s audience who had caused their own Messiah to be delivered to the Gentiles for crucifixion. They had waited for Him for years and then didn’t recognize Him when He came, because he did not do what they expected Messiah to do. They, like many today, wanted Messiah to take up an earthly throne in Jerusalem Palestine and restore Israel to her former prominence among the nations. Jesus had already said “My kingdom is not of this world..” (John 18:36). Peter placed Him on David’s throne alright, but it was in heaven at God’s right hand (Acts 2:22-36). Peter’s sermon did reach a few of this massive audience who asked for information about being forgiven of their sins (Acts 2:37-41,47). The others among them began to plot and plan for ways to destroy these Christians. From that day forward as we trace the history of the church of Christ through the Acts of the Apostles, we read of persecution being heaped upon them by their enemies (Acts 6:8 through Acts 8:4).

       The religion of Christ not only called upon folks to accept and obey Christ as God’s Son and our Savior, it also demanded then as well as now, one to give up any belief or practice contrary to His will. This caused no small stir among the idol worshippers among them as can be seen when Paul at Athens turned some from the use of images in worship of the goddess Diana of the Ephesians ,to the Christ. This teaching got into the pocketbooks of the image makers who made their living from manufacturing these images of silver (Acts 19:23-20:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

       Today we must call upon folks to give up all human elements in religion and submit only to that which is authorized by Christ. Every belief and practice contrary to what He authorizes when engaged in renders one’s worship null and void. Read (Matthew 15:8-9; 17:1-5; Colossians 3:17; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2 John 9-11). We must fight (spiritually speaking) any and all who would bring things into the religion of Christ for which no authority exists (Jude 3: Ephesians 5:11; 2 John 9-11; Galatians 4:9- 20; 2 Timothy 4:1-8; Revelation 22:18-19).

Salvation Before Baptism

       One reason why Christians have so many fusses with our denominational friends is because they have gotten the cart before the horse on the subject of when one is saved. They teach salvation at the point of faith in Jesus Christ before and without immersion in water. They have the New Testament order reversed! The creeds of men and what the denominational preachers preach and write all say “saved first and baptized later.” Jesus said to His Apostles when He sent them on the worldwide commission, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved..” (Mark 16:15-16). Jesus has belief plus baptism equals salvation. Our religious neighbors of about every name say, “he who believes is saved and should then be baptized if he gets around to it, but that it isn’t essential to being saved. That is like saying belief minus baptism equals salvation. Not so!

Human Names Before The Divine

       Many people have been sold on the false idea that there is nothing in a name. Consequently they wear some divisive denominational name such as Baptist or Methodist just to mention a couple. This is just another example of folks who have the cart before the horse as it were. In fact, I will go a step farther and say that they are not hitched at all! Why? Simply because that which gives one the right or the reason to wear some sectarian name and that which must be believed and obeyed in order to have the right to wear the name of Christ, differ almost totally as seen in the cases of conversion.

Take A Simple Test

       Ask one of your denominational friends to answer one question. Make it this simple question. “What are you religiously?” I can just about guarantee you that the answer to said question will be something like, “I am a Baptist.” Or “I am a Methodist.” Depending of course on their denominational affiliation. Now ask a member of the New Testament church what he/she is religiously and see if you aren’t faced with a startling and a different answer, yet an answer that all who believe on Christ as the divine Son of the living God know to be exactly proper and scriptural. He/she will say simply “I am a Christian.” The Scriptures teach that names are indeed important! One cannot please Christ while wearing an unscriptural name religiously (1 Corinthians 1:10-12; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Peter 4:16; Acts 11:26b). As the Apostle Paul preached to king Agrippa, he was touched to a degree with Paul’s explanation as to what he knew the prophets had written. He said to Paul “..Almost you persuade me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28). That is exactly what followers of Christ became when properly taught the facts of the gospel and when they submitted to its commandments. There were no Catholics or Protestants in those days. The Bible only has always made Christians only. That is all it will make of one today. The “seed is the word” (Luke 8:11). Seed reproduces after its kind. What it made in the first century is what it will make today.

Human Creeds Before The Bible

       Uninspired human creeds promote division among would be followers of Christ today as always. Though written in defense of what those who wrote them believe to be the will of Christ, these many creeds are often at odds with the teaching of Christ as well as being contradictory of other creeds written by equally well meaning authors. Some of them even contradict themselves within their own pages. They often have the doctrine of “faith alone” on one page and salvation “wholly of grace” on another. Martin Luther actually added the word “only” in (Romans 3:28) where Paul wrote that we are justified by faith without the deeds of the law (of Moses ket). For a time, he rejected the book of James due to his inability to reconcile the book of Romans with James. James wrote that we are justified works and “not by faith only” (James 2:24). What about you? Do you have the cart before the horse in this matter?

Salvation Before & Without Church Membership

       The cry goes up from the Protestants, “the church doesn’t save anyone.” We agree that the church isn’t our savior. Jesus Christ is the Savior (Matthew 1:21; 2 Timothy 2:10) But! Consider the following:

1. God planned the church from eternity (Ephesians 3:8-11).
2. Men are reconciled unto God by the cross “in one body” (Eph. 2:11- 16).
3. “There is one body” (Ephesians 4:4).
4. This “one body” is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18, 24).
5. Christ is its founder, its builder (Matt. 16:13-19; Matt. 15:13; Psalms 127:1).
6. Christ is the “head of His church” (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22).
7. Christ is “Savior of His church” (Eph. 5:23-27; 1 Cor. 15:24; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).
8. The saved are added to this church or translated into this kingdom upon obeying the gospel commands (Acts 2:37,38, 41,47; Colossians 1:13- 14; John 3:3-5; Titus 3:4-6).
9. The church is made up of blood purchased people (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:18-19). That which saves (the gospel - Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8), is that which causes one to be numbered, along with others, in this relationship, His family or household, the church purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 2:22-38, 41;47; 1 Timothy 3:15; Colossians 1:13-14; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

       God has no children who are not in His family or household. The church therefore is made up of the saved. The church doesn’t save Christ does. Who does He save? He saves His followers and they are His church. See? Don’t get the cart before the horse in this matter! Many do and this is fatal to one’s soul.

       What I am trying to get you to see is the fact that God sent His Son to die for the sins of mankind, That is the gospel. When we believe and obey this gospel we are numbered among the saved of earth and come into a relationship with all the redeemed of all the ages in the church, the kingdom of Christ (Hebrews 12:22-29). We aren’t trying to get people out of their church and into our church. We simply want folks to become Christians, members of Christ‘s church. See?

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