Jun 04

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It is said, you can read most anything these days! Have you ever wondered how others, those not members of the churches of Christ, describe the churches of Christ? You can read some most interesting things if you are willing to wade through the many things people write, until you find something worth reading. Some of their observations reveal that they have really given time and thought to what they write; while other things only reveal a total lack of understanding on the part of the writer.
The first thing I would like to do is express thanks for the words which our writer, under review, started his article with: “Church of Christ members are among the most sincere students of the Bible. They are attempting to bring the church back to a pure biblical faith and obedient practice. This is most refreshing! They are a beacon of light in their effort to restore biblical Christianity. We, as evangelicals, unite with them on the view that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.” These words should cause those not members of the Lord’s church to take an honest look at us!
Second, let me identify who is writing, he identifies himself as an “evangelical,” when he writes the above: “we, as evangelicals.” Let us here take what he writes. First, “We should note that Church of Christ people are not monolithic in their views.” Let me say, “the churches of Christ” of which Paul wrote in the first century (Rom. 16:16) believed in one body. For Paul wrote: “There is one body” (Eph. 4:4), then, he identifies the “one body: “the church, Which is his body” (Eph. 1:22-23). Paul without any doubt is writing of the church which Jesus said: “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). Here we need to see the church as it is written of upon the pages of the New Testament. There are three views of the church in the New Testament: 1) the monolithic church, the perfect church designed by God; 2) we see those who have obeyed the gospel, the church, trying to live up into that perfect design and we see their failures at times in their efforts; and 3) we see those in the church who do their best to change the church designed by God to fit human desires. It is safe to say, the second group believed in the monolithic church, but their efforts might cause an outsider to write these “people are not monolithic in their view” as they are looking more at their failures than their efforts!
On a second point, the writer’s point is that “the churches of Christ” are divided in what they believe and practice; therefore, they “are not monolithic in their views!” Let us address this point here! When Paul wrote the local church at Corinth, it was very divided! They were so divided, they were calling themselves by different terms; Paul wrote to them: “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? …” (1 Cor. 1:12-13). Today there are some former churches of Christ who have changed their identity; as they are now known as a “Community Church,” and some appear to just use the words “the church;” these fall more within the words of John than anything else: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 John 2:19). So, in reality, the writer to whom we refer should not count these as among “the churches of Christ!” Nevertheless, as the writer views the churches of Christ today and compares them with “the churches of Christ” found upon the pages of the New Testament, he and we, should realize that we are looking at the same thing! We are seeing: the efforts on the part of honest people who have obeyed the gospel of Christ, who are making efforts to be the perfect church designed by God, but who realize their failures and these failures are seen by all! Yet, the charge that we do not believe in being monolithic is false!
Now, turning our attention to “the faith” which is monolithic! First, let it be understood, you cannot have division without having different faiths; people believing different things! The inspired writers of the New Testament wrote of a monolithic faith; Paul in fact wrote, there is “one faith” (Eph. 4:5) and Jude wrote: I “exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). This is a once for all time delivered faith! Yet, there were some within “the churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16) in the first century who desired, as some do today, to change this “one faith!” Paul wrote of the result as they had come among the churches of Galatia: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7). The problem, as seen in Paul’s words, when you change “the faith,” “the gospel,” you remove its saving power! However, just as we see written upon the pages of the New Testament, the efforts of those who had obeyed the gospel and did their best to live up into the perfect design of God for the church, so it is with the “one faith!” We see those who were willing to give their lives for the purity of “the faith” on the one hand, but on the other hand, we also see those who were determined to change it!
What does this mean to “the churches of Christ” today? It means we are much like what we read about in the New Testament! We can become discouraged, or we can stand with the faithful of the ages! Where do you stand?

Frank R. Williams

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