Unhappy With the Church of Christ?

There are many misconceptions about the church of Christ and about its membership and what they think. It is often said that the membership of the church of Christ are the people who think they are the only ones who are going to be saved. One wonders if people who make statements like that have ever read their Bible. The Bible clearly teaches one must be a member of the church of Christ (the church either belongs to Christ or it doesn't—you tell me which the Bible teaches). The church is his body (Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:18). Christ is "head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body." (Eph. 5:23 NKJV) If Christ is the Savior of the body and the body is the church and the church is his church then please tell me how you are going to be saved outside his body, the church of Christ? I would like to hear from you. But it is said we mean the denominational church of Christ that exists today. How do you know the church of Christ you see advertised today is a denomination? Are you like the one lady that told me years ago it was impossible today to have the original church of Christ? It was once possible but it is no longer possible, is that the idea? Many seem to think so. If they are right then no one can be saved today because that would mean Jesus is the Savior of something that does not exist today (reread the Eph. 5:23 quote in the paragraph above) and if it does not exist you cannot be part of it and cannot be saved. The lady's idea was that no matter what a body of believers was to believe and practice today it would end up being no more than another denomination for it is simply impossible in our day and age to have the original New Testament church. It is sad we have come to that kind of thinking in our time but denominationalism is dependent on that line of thought and cannot survive without it. If the New Testament church was to exist on earth today with a single name, identity, belief, and practice then it would destroy denominationalism which is the very thing denominationalism cannot allow and will not accept. If your faith and practice in your congregation was identical to that of a New Testament church, say the church in Jerusalem or Antioch of the first century, do not kid yourself into thinking that the denominations would admit it or accept it for if they did so it would mean their end. You would be in their eyes just another denomination because that is the way it has to be for them to survive, to justify their existence. However, denominational opposition to the New Testament church does not mean it cannot and does not exist on earth today. All of this has been a lead-in to what I want to talk about in this article. Many are unhappy with the church of Christ, thinking it is far from what it ought to be. They think we who are members of the church are blind and cannot see the problems in the church. Folks, the history of the church as recorded in the New Testament shows the church has rarely been what it ought to be. There is nothing new today along that line. Even in the original church of the New Testament, the church at Jerusalem, we find the Hellenist widows being neglected in the daily distribution of food (Acts 6:1). The Hebrew widows were being cared for but not the Hellenist widows. Should this have

been? Of course not! To their credit the problem was quickly resolved but there should not have been a problem in the first place. A little later we find two bold faced deceivers in the church (Ananias and Sapphira). Even the model church had problems. Who would even know where to begin in talking about the problems of the church at Corinth? The Holy Spirit himself speaking through Paul calls them carnal (1 Cor. 3:3). He speaks of envy, strife, and divisions among them (1 Cor. 3:3). They had in full fellowship a man living with his stepmother in a sexual relationship that Paul says not even the Gentiles (non-Christians) would tolerate (1 Cor. 5:1). They were suing one another in court (1 Cor. 6) which would certainly make for a loving church atmosphere would it not? Paul says, "No, you yourselves do wrong and defraud, and you do these things to your brethren!" (1 Cor. 6:8 NKJV) Then there was the way they were conducting the Lord's Supper which was atrocious (1 Cor. 11:20-22). Paul said about that, "I do not praise you." (1 Cor. 11:22 NKJV) Later in 2 Cor. 12:20-21 when Paul was planning another trip to Corinth he writes to them saying, "For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced." (2 Cor. 12:20-21 NKJV) Yes, there is no need to tell me the church is not what it ought to be today for when has it been? It has not been very often and not in very many places based on the historical record we have in the New Testament. In reading the book of Galatians it appears the churches there were ready to head away from Christianity and go into Judaism. Paul starts the third chapter, "O foolish Galatians!" (Gal. 3:1 NKJV) He says, "I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain." (Gal. 4:11 NKJV) "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace." (Gal. 5:4 NKJV) False doctrine was being perpetuated in the church of such a serious nature that if not countered would destroy it. Was there a problem in the church? One can also see problems in the book of Hebrews. They were not progressing in the faith as they should have been. "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food." (Heb. 5:12 NKJV) Some were forsaking the assembling of themselves together (Heb. 10:25). They had need of endurance (Heb. 10:36). A careful reading of the book leaves one with the impression they were wavering, or were on the brink of it, and thus were being exhorted and encouraged to stiffen up and hang in there. This book was not written to a particular church but it does show problems among the people that make up the church. You cannot get a perfect church without perfect people. Among the seven churches of Asia we see a church that had "left your first love" (Ephesus, Rev. 2:4 NKJV), a church that had some in it who "hold the doctrine of

Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality." (Pergamos, Rev. 2:14 NKJV) That same church, Pergamos, also had people in it "who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate." (Rev. 2:15 NKJV) Would you say there was serious false doctrine in the church? Why was nothing being done about it? Would you say this church of Christ was what it ought to have been? At the church at Thyatira Jesus says they were allowing Jezebel, "who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and beguile My servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols." (Rev. 2:20 NKJV) A lot of translations use the word "tolerate" rather than "allow" but the point is the church was letting it go on. Can you imagine that? Jesus described the church at Sardis as "dead" (Rev. 3:1) yet even so there were a few in it that had "not defiled their garments" (Rev. 3:4) and would be saved. They all could be saved if they would repent but that was a question yet to be resolved, whether or not they would do it. Finally, there was the church at Laodicea which was the lukewarm church (Rev. 3:14-22). This was the church Jesus said he would spew out of his mouth (Rev. 3:16). They could not see (Rev. 3:18) and did not know their true state (Rev. 3:17) yet Jesus teaches they could even yet repent and be saved (Rev. 3:19). One can see there have been very few congregations even in New Testament times that were what they ought to have been. The church at Philadelphia, Rev. 3:7-13, passed the test when the Lord (via means of John) wrote and it seems nothing negative was said by Paul about the church at Philippi. But even in the church at Colosse they were subjecting themselves to regulations (Col. 2:20-22) that were no part of the law of Christ but were in accord with "the commandments and doctrines of men." (Col. 2:22 NKJV) The church of the Thessalonians had those who were walking disorderly (2 Thess. 3:11). The church has always had problems and often very serious ones and one can only wonder how long the church at Philadelphia and the church at Philippi remained free of problems. Yes, people look at the church of Christ today that you see advertised and because there are problems within it the feeling is it cannot be any better than any of the denominations or Catholicism. But, here is the thing that makes the big, big difference. The one thing all the congregations I have discussed in this article had in common, along with the congregations of the church of Christ today, was that the membership understood what the true gospel was and believed and obeyed it and thus were in a place where they could be saved individually if not collectively. That place was the church of Christ, his body, his church, that which he is the Savior of (Eph. 5:23). Not everyone in the church of Christ, first century or today, is saved. How one lives after gospel obedience does matter and not all remain faithful or live the life. The problem today is the denominational world does not understand what gospel obedience is. As sincere as they may be, and I do not doubt them on that count, they do not and will not accept Peter's preaching on the day of Pentecost that baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Until they are ready to accept and obey that clearly stated

fact they remain outside the body of Christ which is what Christ is saving. One gets into the body of Christ by being baptized into it. "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." (1 Cor. 12:13 NKJV) We are baptized into Christ ("For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."—Gal. 3:27, NKJV) which is the same thing as being baptized into his body. Salvation is in Christ, not outside of him, and we are baptized into him. "Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus…" (Rom. 6:3 NKJV) Sins are only forgiven when one enters into Christ. Many denominational people will eventually be immersed but if it is for the wrong reason what does it avail? If I say I am saved before and without baptism, which is the same as saying I am saved without being in Christ and really do not need to be in him to be saved, why go bother with it at all for your immersion will not be that which Peter preached or Paul preached? The baptism Peter preached (Acts 2:38) gave you remission of sins. The baptism Paul preached (see the prior paragraph) put you in Christ where salvation is (see 2 Tim. 2:10) which is in reality the same thing Peter taught but in different language. I freely grant that everyone who has believed the gospel, repented of their sins, confessed Jesus, and was thereafter immersed "for the remission of sins" and did those things from the heart is in the church of Christ even if his/her membership thereafter is in some denomination. That person is a Christian and saved at the point of such obedience. However, as the Bible clearly teaches we must as Christians follow God's commandments and walk in truth. Can that be done in a denomination? I know of no denomination that does not use instrumental music in worship but even secular history itself tells you it was no part of first century Christian worship. There is no command for it, no example of it, and no authority for it in the New Testament. It is another manmade doctrine which prevents worshipping in truth (John 4:24). Is worshipping in error just as good as worshipping in truth with God? "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24 NKJV) Does the word "must" mean anything? Does it mean a man is free to worship as he pleases? Does the word "truth" have any importance or does it mean freedom of choice? I know we have problems in the church and I have known it for a long, long time. Our teaching and preaching often leaves a lot to be desired. In many ways we are tradition bound in matters of indifference preferring to live in the mid twentieth century rather than the twenty first century. Check the copyright dates on the songs we sing if you think otherwise. About the only accommodation I have seen the church make to modern times is acceptance of Power Point in the presentation of sermons. But many, not all but many, of our problems are mild compared to those in the first century churches of Christ described in the Bible and which we have gone over in this article. [It is not mine to judge things like whether or not a church is dead or lukewarm, etc. God only can judge those things. I am only talking about problems one can observe outwardly without attempting to look into the hearts--a thing we are prohibited from doing.]

If one is unhappy with the church of Christ he/she must ask themselves what is the alternative? If you step out of the church of Christ into denominationalism then by your support and participation and your funds you encourage the false doctrine they teach that (1) you don't need to be baptized for the remission of sins for Peter did not know what he was talking about on the Day of Pentecost. (2) You become a supporter of the idea that truth doesn't matter--you can be saved anywhere in any denomination (they do generally all teach that) even if they are all in disagreement on doctrine. You become a proponent then of the idea that error is thus as good as truth. If one can be saved in error then truth simply no longer matters. (3) You accept the idea that how one worships is a matter of personal choice. You become one who is willing to cross the words "must" and "truth" out of the John 4:24 passage quoted two paragraphs above. There was a time in Jesus' ministry where many of his disciples left him because of his teaching. Jesus then said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" (John 6:67 NKJV) Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68 NKJV) I feel much that way about the Lord's church. Sure there are problems but where does one go for it is the body of Christ of which he is the Savior? Why would I step out of that body into a body created by man of which Christ is not the Savior? Why would I do that? Why would you do that? Does it make sense to do it? Is it reasonable?