Oct 30

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Every generation questions those who have gone before them, and how they ascertained authority. In America, it started with those who were seeking the church they read about upon the pages of the New Testament; as there was much division in the denominational world; just as there is today! It needs to be clear in our minds, that in the denominational world, there is never a question of ascertaining New Testament authority for what the church of the New Testament has authority to do. The denominational world makes their own rules and bylaws to suit themselves! Just look at the names of many, too many to name, that appear on the signs of their buildings. Not one of them would put on the sign in front of their building, “The church of the New Testament meets here.”
Huldrych Zwingli (January 1484 – October 1531) of whom you hear little, preached reform in the Roman Catholic Church in Switzerland as early as 1519 A.D; while Martin Luther (November 1483–February 1546) who you have heard much, preached reform in Germany. Luther was convinced that the words of Christ had to be interpreted literally as to the Lord’s Supper, meaning that Christ was somehow physically present in the bread and the wine. This is called the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Zwingli believed, Christ’s words were to be understood symbolically as the verb form “is” means that the bread and the wine “symbolize” or “represent” the body and blood of Jesus! Thus, the two disagreed on what was authorized in the New Testament for the church. Luther’s view may be expressed as follows: he excluded those things which were expressly forbidden by Holy Scripture, this is the normative view; Zwingli on the other hand: only accepted that which was explicitly stated by the Word, this is the regulative principle. Thus, the debate between Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli. They met in 1529 to debate the issue of the Lord’s Supper but could not reach agreement on what Luther believed in. To Zwingli, the cornerstone of theology is the Bible. He appealed to scripture constantly in his writings. He placed its authority above other sources! I have often expressed the view, that if the church did something under the oversight of the apostles of Christ, then the church today may do the same thing! Thus, the debate then and now! Somethings never change, they are just dressed in new robs of the same kind.
One hand, it is most surprising, that this debate is still going on within the churches of Christ today. It has been said many times, “That if we do not know the mistakes made in the past, we are doomed to repeat them;” and so it is! This is the case within many local congregations of the Lord’s people! It was back in the late 1970’s that I first heard of a congregation of the Lord’s people, taking the Lord’s Supper on a Friday night. Then, it was learned that the “Lord’s Supper” was taken as part of a wedding. If we were following Martin Luther’s view of the authority of Christ, as related in the New Testament, there is nothing wrong with either of these two acts, as the New Testament does not expressly “forbid” such action! Then, look at baptism. Where in the New Testament did the apostles of Christ expressly “forbid” sprinkling for baptism? One might say, it is forbidden in the Greek word translated “baptism,” which is “baptizo,” and means: “to immerse, to submerge, to cleanse by dipping or submerging” (Thayer) and Strong gives this: “to make whelmed (that is, fully wet).” Thus, when I have baptized people, I look to make sure the whole body is under water! I want no hand sticking above the water! Paul gives this: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). This is one of the most striking views of what baptism is, as “we are buried,” The word “buried,” means: “to bury together with, in this, with Christ. Was Jesus “buried,” or was he just sprinkled with a little dirt? Well, this is all good but where in the New Testament does it “forbid” sprinkling? Nowhere! Let us not forget the words, “like as Christ was raised up from the dead … even so we also should walk in newness of life!”
If we take one step “out of the teaching of Christ,” it is one step too many. As John wrote: “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” (1 John 9). There is no fellowship with God or Christ, outside “the teaching of Christ!”

Frank R. Williams

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