Understanding Christ and the Church
of Lesson, December 6, 1998
Hills church of Christ
Intro: "What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder" (Gen. 2; Mt. 19). While this has specific reference to marriage, there is an underlying principle that applies to anything God has seen fit to joint together. Man has no right to loose what God has bound (Mt. 16:19).
We can see this principle in the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament. Truth has been revealed through the ages by the same Spirit of God and it is one seamless depository of truth from Genesis to Revelation. Yet God has divided that truth and applied it as it suited His purpose (Heb. 1:1-3). The Jewish nation was bound to the Law of Moses, but all men are now loosed from it (Col. 2:14). We are taught to learn from it (Rom. 15:4) but it has no authority over us as does the law of Christ (Rom. 8:1-3).
There is a Oneness in the relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:1- 3; John 1:1-2; Matt. 3:16-17) that is so complete that the three Personalities that comprise deity can properly be called, "One God" (Dt. 6:4). Jesus said, "The Father and I are one" (Jn. 10:30). We know this is not a contradiction of terms but explains how the Godhead is joined together in perfect unity, inseparable.
The "one flesh" of the marriage relationship is so much a reflection of Christ and the church that God has decreed against separation except in the case of adultery. Only sin or death can break the unity of the marriage bond.
In each of these cases, and more, God has decreed that some things are so intricately linked that they are to be seen as one. Once some things are linked by the power and will of God, only God can separate them and it is a sin for man to attempt such a separation. Yet sadly, as we know too often, men try to separate what God has joined. We see this today in Christ and the church; in the gospel and doctrine of Christ.
I. There are efforts that seek to separate Christ from the church; gospel from doctrine. Though often discussed separately, both of these attacks on our subjects have their root in the same error: a rejection of Christ's authority and a desire to practice lawlessness (Mt. 7:15-23).
A. Efforts to separate Christ from the church:
B. Efforts to separate gospel from doctrine:
- Landon Saunders, "Heartbeat" radio program that never identified itself with "Church of Christ" in order to escape prejudice, or alienate people against his message. "Just preach Christ."
Charles Holt denied that local churches had a right to exist but that we were individual Christians under Christ as head. His ideas about the church would have eliminated local churches completely.
"Our goal of being the church must derive from a personal love relationship, discipleship relationship with Christ rather than a reproduction of form, ritual, methodology. I am no longer looking for a list of items to reproduce in corporate life. I'm trying to see Jesus, so I can live Him" (Rubel Shelly, transcript from Richland Hills Church of Christ, Ft. Worth, TX, 2/3-4/90, quoted in Behold the Pattern, Goebel Music, p. 298-299). This view would destroy the church revealed in the New Testament.
C. Why are these things being done? It should be emphasized that it is symptomatic of every age to give lip service to God while practicing lawlessness, iniquity (Mt. 7:22-23). Worship remains as worship, but it is perverted worship, providing a facade of religion for carnality. Wolves are disguised as sheep (Acts 20:29); Satan is seen as an "angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14). True, not every one intends to be lawless. There are many who are deceived, even laboring under the delusion that their deeds are noble. But the end result is the same: departure from God's way.
- "The Cruciform Church" by C. Leonard Allen gives a logical explanation for the development of the view that gospel is distinct from doctrine. He draws upon C. H. Dodd (prelate of the Church of England) who saw a "core gospel" that related to salvation while doctrines were unimportant. Leonard Allen puts into scholarly form the same false doctrine held by Ketcherside, Garrett, Hardin, and others.
"No honest opinion held by one who is in Christ and who respects his Lordship, is 'another gospel.'...A many may hold a view as to the perseverance of the saints, the manner of the resurrection, or the second coming of our Lord...but he cannot be debarred from citizenry in the kingdom of heaven..." "No man 'preaches another gospel' simply by being mistaken about some aspects of the will of God, otherwise one would need to know perfectly the divine will or be a perverter of the gospel." (Carl Ketcherside, "Another Gospel," Mission Messenger, 1965, pp. 4, 7-9).
The gospel "consisted of the life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, coronation and glorification of Jesus" (Mission Messenger, Dec. 1972, p. 180).
"Not one apostolic letter is a part of the gospel of Christ...the Roman letter was not a part of the gospel..." (Mission Messenger, Feb. 1973, p. 20).
"The implications of all this to unity and fellowship are weighty. It means that the gospel itself, not our doctrinal interpretations, is the basis of our being one in Christ and in fellowship with each other. That is, when one believes in Jesus and obeys him in baptism, he is our brother and in the fellowship..." Leroy Garrett, "The Word Abused," Restoration Review, XVII, No. 3, pp. 42-46).
"What is the basis of one's hope before God? Is it not that we sustain a right relationship with God through Christ?> Therefore - does our salvation depend upon being right about everything, or in being right about Christ?" (Arnold Hardin, The Persuader, "What is the Gospel? # 3).
The sentiments expressed in these few quotes could be multiplied many times, by many speakers. The effect of separating "gospel" from "doctrine" is to allow all kinds of error to be fellowshipped while giving an appearance of loving Jesus. It is interesting (but sad) to see where those espousing this doctrine have wandered.
There is nothing new in this. Idolatry did the same thing: perverted the worship of God into worship of objects of man's own choosing (Romans 1:18-32). Israel did this when Jeroboam created the golden calves at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12). We should not be surprised at modern counterparts to idolatry as lawless men continue to change truth into error.
- Lawless men do not seek pure worship; it inhibits the desires of the flesh.
To change pure worship into what men like, the particulars of worship have to be changed.
To change the particulars of worship, the scriptures that authorize worship must be changed.
To change scripture, source of scripture must be changed.
Change the Source of scripture and idolatry is the result.
Today, men who do not like to be limited by pure worship will follow this course of action, as in every age.
We are most familiar with the major movement of our time: Calvinism. Though primarily a practice of denominationalism, Calvinism has an increasing influence on brethren in our time.
The effect of Calvinism on the church of the Lord is as outlined above: it will change the particulars of worship, the concept of truth and the nature of God, the source of truth.
a. Pure worship is changed to produce carnal worship.
b. The church is changed into denominationalism.
c. The scripture is changed into creeds.
d. The nature of Deity is changed to changed so as to accommodate iniquity.
II. Calvinism, the handmaiden of change in the denominational world, is making inroads among the Lord's people. It is the vehicle of change as people accept a perverted concept of grace that allows diversity of doctrines.
B. Note: One may never recognize the system of Calvinism for all that it is.
- Bringing theology of Augustine to the masses, popularizing theology for non-theologians.
Effect of Augustine on evolution of Roman Catholicism.
Reformation of Martin Luther
Five Points of John Calvin
- Total Hereditary Depravity
Perseverance of the Saints
- Imputed Righteousness, the mechanism for transferring sin and righteousness.
Result: Complete denominational system that:
a. Believed man was unable to respond to God without a special work of the Holy Spirit.
b. No "works" were of any benefit to man's salvation, even obedience of faith (Jn. 6:28-29; 8:39). Even faith is seen as a gift from God, rather than a result of studying God's word (Rom. 10:17).
c. Justification was by faith only (baptism rejected as a work)
d. Sanctification was seen as different from Justification. Justification is a finished work in Christ; sanctification is an unfinished work in man.
e. Unconditional grace that makes doctrinal correctness unnecessary; promotes unity in diversity.
- Calvinism changes the view of the church
a. The church is unimportant to salvation; one church is as good as another
b. Belief in Christ saves; one may join the church of one's choice
c. One may never belong to a church and yet go to heaven; salvation is found in Christ separate and distinct from the church.
- Calvinism changes the view of the gospel
a. An arbitrary re-definition of "gospel" and "doctrine" are created
b. Gospel has to do with the deity of Jesus, a work of justification
c. Doctrine has to do with sanctification, it is never perfect, never finished.
d. One must accept the deity of Christ to be saved; doctrine is unimportant and unity in diversity is accepted and encouraged.
e. "It makes no difference what one believes just so long as one is honest."
C. But the effects of Calvinism as a theological system is having its effects upon preachers in the church of Christ today.
- Some may only know about "salvation by faith alone" and rejection of baptism
Some may know of the "once saved, always saved" doctrine
One may know of the rejection of "one church" and love of denominationalism
But behind these familiar doctrines lies the logical, systematic creedal system of Calvinism that gives a false sense of salvation and leads many to be lost.
- The use of commentaries, books, sermon outlines and study helps has led many into false concepts of Bible subjects. Men like John Scott, Charles Swindoll, J. I. Parker, Charles Colson, et al, have had a decided effect on many young preachers who do not distinguish between popular Calvinism and truth.
The nature of man ("Man, because he is man, sins," Edward Fudge)
The nature of works (confuse works of men with works of God; reject obedience as salvation by works).
The nature of the gospel and doctrine: ("Wrong about doctrine; right about Christ."). Result: diversity of doctrine allowed, permissive toward error; rejects scripture as always being clear and understandable.
Rejection of doctrinal preaching (charges of "Perfectionism" and tolerance for error). "Sound preaching" is too hard, negative, drives people away.
Accusations of preaching too much about church, not enough about Christ. Doctrinal sermons about identity of church, work of the church, worship of the church and structure of the church are labeled as sectarian, "church of Christ church doctrines").
Grace is redefined as unconditional as well as unmerited, resulting in the belief that grace covers Christians even as (and while) they sin. This encourages toleration of those who differ on doctrinal points (divorce, premillennialism, gambling, immodest apparel, social drinking, instrumental music, etc.).
Reluctance to preach distinctive doctrines of Bible; preach about the one true church; the "unity of the Spirit" (Eph. 4) and the exclusive nature of Christians and the church as "sanctified" people (2 Cor. 6:14ff); address the sins of Christians and churches as opportunity presents itself.
III. The Answer: Preach the Whole Counsel of God
Acts 20:26-32 - preach whole counsel - Titus 2:11-12 - word of His grace
B. Why preach the whole counsel? Because departures will come - 1 Tim. 4:1
- Preach the truth about the church and about Christ
a. Mt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18
b. Impossible to preach Christ without preaching the church
c. Impossible to preach church without preaching Christ
d. Understand the difference between "Christianity" and "churchanity"
e. Must teach that the saved are in the church - Acts 2:47; Eph. 5:22
f. Christ and baptism - Acts 8:35-36
g. Cannot separate body from head.
h. Must not be ashamed of uniqueness and exclusiveness of body of Christ.
i. Church of Christ is no more optional than Christ.
- Preach "the faith:" both gospel and doctrine - co-extensive terms; used interchangeably
a. 2 Jn. 9-11 - the doctrine Jesus taught; not just doctrine about Him
b. 1 Tim. 1:8-11 - gospel includes doctrine
c. 2 Tim. 3:16 - doctrine includes gospel
d. Jn. 18:19 - Jesus' teaching. Was it gospel?
e. Acts 5:21, 28 - disciples entered Temple and "taught" about Jesus
f. Acts 5:42 - "teach" and "preach" Jesus as the Christ (gospel)
g. Acts 13:12 - Proconsul believed the "teaching" of the Lord
h. Acts 13:5, 7, 8, 10, 12 - interchange of "word of God," "the faith," "right ways of the Lord."
i. Acts 17:18-19 - "preached Jesus," - "this new teaching"
j. Acts 15:35 - preaching and teaching the word of the Lord
k. Acts 20:20 - preaching and teaching to the church
l. Acts 20:25 - Paul preached to the elders
m. Rom. 1:15 - gospel preached to church at Rome
n. Rom. 6:17ff - form (pattern) of teaching was the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the gospel.
o. 2 Thess. 2:14-15 - called by "gospel," hold fast what you were "taught"
p. Terms "the faith," "gospel,"" "truth," "word of God," "word of Lord," doctrine," are all terms used interchangeably (Acts 17:3-19; Col. 1:5; Eph. 1:13; Jn. 8:32; Ja. 1:18; Jn. 17:17; Jude 3; Gal. 2:5, 14; Gal. 3:1; Phil. 1:27; Acts 13:5, 7, 8, 10, 12; etc.
q. Sinners obeyed:
(1) the faith - Rom. 1:5; 16:28
r. Christians are established in:
(2) the truth - Rom. 2:8; Ja. 1:18
(3) that form of doctrine - Rom. 6:17-18
(4) the gospel - Rom. 10:16
(1) the faith - Phil. 1:27
s. Note what "walking in the light" is in 1 John 1:7
(2) the truth - 2 Pt. 1:12
(3) the doctrine - Acts 2:42
(4) the gospel - Rom. 16:25
(1) walking in the witness of the apostles - 1:2
(2) walking in what the apostles declared - 1:3
(3) walking in the message which we heard - 1:5
(4) the things written - 2:1
(5) His commandments - 2:3
(6) His word - 2:3
(7) His walk - 2:6
(8) the New Commandment - 2:8
(9) the things you know - 2:20
(10) the truth - 2:21
(11) the things taught - 2:27
(12) in Christ - 2:28
(13) righteousness - 3:7
(14) the message you heard - 3:11
(15) hearing the apostles - 4:5 - the truth 4:6
(16) testimony of God's son - 5:11
(17) things written - 5:13
(18) an understanding to know - 5:20
- Preach About the Grace of God
a. Titus 2:11-12 - unmerited favor is not unconditional grace
b. Eph. 2:8-9 - By grace (God's part) through faith (man's part)
c. The Gospel of God's grace is predicated on God speaking and the ability of man to hear and respond in faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:26 - obedience of faith)
d. Grace is not a license to sin - Rom. 6:1, 15
e. Realize that when the gospel plan of redemption is preached, grace is being preached; when the church is preached, grace is preached; when the "doctrine of Christ" is being preached, grace is being preached.
f. It is wrong to re-define grace into the denominational concept and then filter scripture through that kind of grace.
C. Sadly, this is necessary, to cleanse the body of Christ - 1 Cor. 11:19
D. But preaching the whole counsel of God bring Christians to perfection and equip the saints for service (Eph. 4:11-16).
IV. Need For Today
Let us be sure that we understand and maintain Bible definitions for disputed terms.
B. There is a proper relationship between Christ and the church, between grace and faith.
C. The New Testament uses gospel and doctrine interchangeably and we should resist efforts to separate them into opposing ideas.
D. Recognize that some brethren have allowed Calvinistic concepts to make deep inroads into their thinking, preaching and practice.
E. Return to the purity of the doctrine of Christ.
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