Jun 18

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Two charges are being made against the churches of Christ today by one we are calling “our writer” which we are have been studying in this series of articles. First he wrote: “For simplicity’s sake, we can divide the group into two factions. One group is the traditional faction. This group is sometimes referred to by outsiders as “ultraconservative” or “legalistic” or “legalistic patternists.” In article three, the words “tradition” and “conservative” were studied. In the first part of this third article we will study the last two words: “legalistic” and “patternists.” Notice, when these words are used, generally they are used negatively and to incite prejudice against the one referred to.
First, look at the word “legalistic” and what it means. Just to inject a little humor, would you, if standing before the Judge on the day of Judgment, prefer to be charged with being a “legalistic” or non-legalistic?” Once more we must go to the dictionary to get an answer to what the word means: strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence;” then, you can find: “Overly strict or rigid adherence to the law or to a religious or moral code.” Let us put this in light of a few statements of Jesus: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). And “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Then, the words of John: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3) and “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” (2 John 9). Do the words of Jesus and John point to “strict adherence and principle adherence to “the teaching of Christ?” However, it should be noticed that the dictionary throws in the adjectives “overly” and “rigid,” but these words are used to prejudice one against “adherence” and “principled” obedience to the “moral code” of Jesus! Keep in mind, it is “the teaching of Christ” that is our subject; as it is the law and the moral code! A little food for thought just here, just how would a person obey “the teaching of Christ” while being “overly strict or with rigid adherence?”
Now, let us turn our attention to the second charge: “A second minority group has moved away from legalism to a more orthodox position consistent with other Protestants. This second group emphasizes, like most other Christians, that salvation is by grace.” Here “our writer” is pointing out that within the churches of Christ today, we have two major groups, therefore, we are not “monolithic” in what we believe! Let it be known, that this second group is growing among us and is a present danger! It is most appealing to the young; many of whom have never heard the truth; while others have rejected the truth once taught them! In fact, it is said, if you have to use reason and logic to reach a conclusion, it is not necessary to one’s faith. Any good student of the Bible knows that Jesus used reason and logic to teach the truth! He taught by implication in Matthew chapter twenty-two, in answering the Sadducees about the resurrection. Here is what he said, quoting God: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:32). So, what is the unstated truth, that can only be reached by reasoning and logic? It is that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were alive as Jesus spoke, though they had been dead physically many years! This means there is life after physical death. However, let us get back to “our writer” and his charge. Is it necessary that you believe that there is life after physical death? If the Sadducee were to answer this question, it required that they use reasoning and logic in order to reach the correct conclusion!
He wrote: “A second minority group has moved away from legalism to a more orthodox position consistent with other Protestants. This second group emphasizes, like most other Christians, that salvation is by grace.” If you will read with care, you will notice that this second group within the churches of Christ are becoming more and more denominational, as they move toward “a more orthodox position consistent with other Protestants.” Sadly, “our writer” is correct in this charge! He has made a correct observation within the churches of Christ today! Second, he wrote, “This second group emphasizes, like most other Christians, that salvation is by grace.” My brethren, through the years, the charge has been made by some among us that the “old time” preachers did not preach on grace! What they did preach is that we are saved only by grace, but not by grace only! On the other hand, this “second group” desires to tell the lost “we are saved by grace” and leave it at this! There is not a denominational person who will disagree with such, but have you brought them any closer to being saved? How about reading to them Paul’s words to the elders of the church in Ephesus: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). Do you think, “the word of his grace,” would include, in order to be saved you must: believe the gospel, repent of your sins, confess that Jesus is Lord, be baptized unto the remission of your sins, and live faithfully until death? If not, you do not understand grace: “For by grace are ye saved through the faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
It is sad that some outside the churches of Christ see us better than we see ourselves! Yes, they are so wrong in their overall view of the churches of Christ, but able to identify a present danger among us, that so many of us fail to see at all. It is far past time that elders,who are charged “to feed the church of God” (Acts 20:28), open their eyes and see where the churches of Christ are going!

Frank R. Williams

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