Christian Unity?


Last evening I was reading some articles on the web and came across one by one of our “traditional” brothers whose subject was the danger of “Denominationalism”. His thesis is that denominations and denominational churches are unscriptural because they violate passages in the Bible that call for the unity of believers. How can denominational churches claim unity when their very existence is based on their differences? Up to this point the author was making a logical case. Then he disengaged his brain and exposed either his ignorance, (he is a bright, well educated man) or his bias.

After excoriating all denominational churches, and as a result all their people, he then made the case that the churchs of Christ alone are the undenominaitonal churches and are thus the only biblical ones. Any casual observer must admit that churches of Christ have their share of divisions. Here I will only consider the fractions of the churches of Christ, not the Restoration Movement churches as a whole which is a greater problem for anyone who subscribes to the notion that only the church of Christ has unity as discussed in the Bible.

Hmmm, church of Christ unity. In the very same paper by the very same author, there was a piece thrashing North Richland Hills church of Christ for having musical instruments in their worship services. Not only did the author disagree, not only does he not intend to fellowship with such people, he declares that they are not even saved. Some unity huh?

Lets see just how unified the beloved coC is. Institutional vs. non-institutional, once cuppers vs. multiple cuppers, Sunday school vs. non Sunday school, paid preacher, vs. mutual edification, just to name a few. I think you get my point. Then there are those who flagrantly lift their hands in worship, clap along in time with songs, sing during the Lord’s Supper, have a kitchen in the church, have women actually speak in an assembly, consider others outside of churches of Christ Christians, etc., etc.

Christian unity? I believe the denominational churches might have more unity than the coC. I have never heard a Baptist pastor brand a Methodist unsaved because they have different ideas about church government. I have never heard a Calvinist write off those in the “free will” camp as lost because they don’t agree with him on all 5 points of Calvinism. I admit that there is a sprinkling of those whose particular pet doctrine or myth defines in their mind who is saved and unsaved, but largely most denominations work fairly well together. Not so for our beloved churches of Christ.

I am glad to report that things are changing. There is a grace awakening happening across the Restoration Movement churches in spite of the viscous attacks of the most strict traditionalists and zealots. There will always be those few of every stripe who demand that everyone agree with them on every point or be damned to hell.

The sad truth is not obvious to most people but it is true none the less. Without exception those folks who believe someone else is lost because of what they either do or do not do on a given Lord’s day are also wrong on the doctrine of salvation. They put man in the drivers seat with God at his disposal in opposition to the biblical position of God being in control. Every person I have ever had communications with who teaches either a works based salvation or a supposed mixture of works and grace, to the last one, vehemently denies what he clearly teaches. Only one time in my 40 years of being a Christian have I had anyone admit that he believed we are saved by works.

There is only one unifying point that should bond believers of all brands, our common faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. All of the other practices and beliefs that divide God’s people pale in comparison to what we believe about Jesus Christ the son of God. We must first agree about who He is and what He has accomplished for sinners, and then how we receive the gracious gift He offers, which is eternal life. (Romans 6:23)

His peace,
Royce

 

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Singing off key using a pitch pipe made of gopher wood


Several months ago, I was assailed by a few brothers in response a letter I wrote that was published in the Christian Chronicle. In that letter I had not embraced the party line on the subject of singing and music in churches of Christ and Christian churches. After exhausting his other familiar arguments, one brother asked in an email the following question.

   “Could Noah have built the Ark out of Mesquite wood and been pleasing to God?  We follow God instructions and are accepted or we no not follow His instructions and are condemned.  Real simple

This was his last of a series of emails we exchanged. His view was that any person or congregation that is not acapella is not right with God and should not be the recipients of our fellowship. My reply to him follows.

My dear brother xxxx

May I appeal to your common sense? Taking your line of reasoning to its logical end, one could invent all sorts of sins, and thus reasons to not to “fellowship” lots of folks. The bible says nothing about making the human voice louder by using electronic equipment, but every acapella congregation I have ever visited had a public address system. The bible says nothing about a church building, water coolers, air conditioners, heaters, telephones, church buses, and the list is endless. None of them is sinful just because the bible never mentioned them and musical instruments are not either.

The bible says “I am the Lord, I change not” (Mal 6:3) and, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 8:13) The Psalms encourages God’s people again and again to praise God using musical instruments. When did that change? How much more of the Psalms should we disregard today?

Should I fellowship you? Just because you worship in a church that adheres to the church of Christ tradition of acapella singing, is that enough of a reason? Should I also require that you are a “one cupper”? Should I add that you have no Sunday school? They are not mentioned in the bible! Should I check to see if you comply with every other rule that suits my taste?

Or should I fellowship someone who speaks against brothers who love Jesus as much as you do? Should I fellowship a man who is critical of everyone who is not like him? The first fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 is “love”. Paul talked at great length about the importance of love and the futility of serving God without it. He said even if he became a martyr for the faith without love, he would have failed. I think it is striking that immediately after the famous verses on the supremacy of love Paul said these words.  “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (1 Cor 13:11) If I am required by my Lord to love my enemies I believe I can manage to love and have fellowship with those who have surrendered their lives to Him, even if they are not like me in some ways. I like Paul’s way better than your way brother. In his letter to the Philippians he said this, “ Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”  But Paul, do you know they have a piano? Do you know they pool money together with other churches to preach the gospel on foreign soil? Are you aware they have some folks singing while others only listen? But what about the TBN TV network?

Paul would say again, “if Christ is preached I  rejoice, and will rejoice”. I believe I will too.

Royce

We restoration people have much larger fish to fry than what some congregation does on a Lord’s day in some distant city. Before we can hope to be people who embrace scriptural unity we must grow to the place where we can say with Alexander Campbell, “We are only Christians, but not the only Christians”.  And, have the same view of others who claim Jesus as Lord as Paul did.

His peace,
Royce