Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Sermon Thursday – The Nature of the Church

This week, we continue our series on “Fundamentals of the Faith.”  This week’s topic: What is the Nature of the Church?

Introduction:

Want to be confused? Read these quotes:

“The church is a purely human institution created by man to control the minds of people.”
“The church is a divinely given institution created by God to bring people back to Him.”
“The church is a divinely given institution created by God when His first plan goofed up.”
“The church is comprised of every denomination that claims to believe in Jesus.”
“The church is comprised of some denominations, but only those who believe Jesus is eternal.”
“The church IS a denomination.”
“The church is comprised of those who come to God in faithful obedience to His commands.”
“The church is something you can join (choose the church of your choice).”
“The church is something you have to be voted into.”
“The church is something that God puts you in.”

Confused yet?

All these things are said by people about the church. Most of them are things said by various denominations about the church. All you have to do is look across the religious landscape of our country to see that there is a lot of confusion about the nature of the church.

But we’re not interested in what people say about the church; we should only be interested in what the Bible says about the church.

What does the Bible says about the nature of the church?
Who created the church and why?
Who is in the church?
How do they get into the church?

These are the questions we will examine from the Bible today.

Who created the church, and why?

Matthew 18:16 – Jesus said, “I will build my church.”  It is absolutely true that there are some churches that were created by man—many of them for the purpose of getting rich (like the Mormons). But the church of the Bible was created by Jesus Christ, at the direction of God the Father.

Daniel 2:44 – In the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom (the church) which shall never be destroyed.  The church of the Bible—the ONLY true church—was created by Jesus Christ, and was in existence beginning in Acts 2.

Acts 2:47 – And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.  We covered this in the last lesson, but just to repeat it, the church of the Bible was created by God through Jesus Christ.  This is why Scriptures refer to it as the church of God as well as the church of Christ.

But WHY was it created?

To fulfill prophecy.

Isaiah 2:1-4, Joel 2:28-32, and Daniel 2:44 were all fulfilled when the church was established in Acts 2.

Joel 2:28-32 was quoted by Peter, and he specifically said that the things which were taking place on Pentecost were fulfilling that prophecy (Acts 2:16).

Isaiah 2:1-4 said that in the last days of Jerusalem, God’s kingdom would be established and His law would go forth from Jerusalem.

On Pentecost, 40 years before Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, God’s kingdom (the church) was established in Jerusalem, and the new law of God went forth from there.

Daniel 2:44 prophesied that the kingdom would be set up in the days of the kings of the Roman Empire—which is exactly the time that the church was set up.

To replace the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people.

Read the parable of the householder in Matthew 21:33-43.  Jesus said that the kingdom would be taken away from the Jewish nation and given to a nation that was bringing forth the fruits of the kingdom (21:43).

To the Christians, Peter wrote “You are a chosen generation, a holy nation, a royal priesthood” (I Peter 2:9).  Christians are the nation of God that brings forth the fruit of the kingdom—and they do that by spreading the word of God (Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 8:11).

Acts 4:12 – Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.  This was spoken to Jews – and they were told that salvation only comes through Christ.  The Jews were basically told that being a Jew meant nothing anymore, because salvation is only through Jesus Christ.

God made the final rejection of the Jews permanent when He sent the Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.  It has been physically impossible to follow the Law of Moses since that date.  There’s no temple to worship in.  There’s no altar to offer sacrifices.  There’s no priesthood—let alone a Jewish high priest.  There’s no genealogical records—no one could even prove that they are from the tribe of Levi.

The church is God’s only chosen people.

To proclaim God’s word, and to reveal the great wisdom of God.

Ephesians 3:10-11 – To the intent that now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jude 3 – contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. The faith, the wisdom of God, the PLAN of God which He purposed in Jesus Christ has been fulfilled in the establishment of the church.  And it the responsibility of the church to make that message known to the world (II Timothy 2:2, Mark 16:15-16).

Why is it important that we understand why the church was created? Because the Scriptures say that it was in God’s plan…

  • In the 500’s BC (when Daniel prophesied).
  • In the 700’s BC (When Isaiah prophesied).
  • In the 800’s BC (When Joel prophesied).
  • Before the creation of the world (Ephesians 3:10-11 – the “eternal purpose of God which was purposed in Christ Jesus,” the “Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world” – Revelation 13:8).

Yet a very prominent teaching in some denominations is that Jesus came to set up an earthly kingdom, but somehow God goofed and had to quickly come up with an emergency back-up plan because Jesus got rejected.  They teach that the church was put in as a temporary measure until God is ready to send Jesus back to try again.

So, which one is right? Man or the Bible?

What is the church?

The word “church” is used different ways today.  Is it the building (there’s my church…)?  Is it the worship service (“going to church”)?  Is it one specific denomination (the Catholic Church…)?

What does the Bible say?

The word “church” is used in two ways to describe God’s people.

The universal church, comprised of every saved person everywhere in the world.  Ephesians 5:23 – “Christ is the head of the church.”  This refers to all Christians everywhere, not just a certain group of them.  And it doesn’t refer to anyone who isn’t a Christian.

The local group of Christians, comprised of those who meet together in one certain location.  To Philemon our dearly beloved and fellow-laborer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church that meets in thy house” (Philemon 1-2).  Paul wrote “to the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2).

Who is in the church?

Truthfully, this is quite plain from the Scriptures.

Acts 2:47 – and the Lord added to the church daily, those who were being saved.  The church is composed of the people who have been saved.

Acts 20:28 – …the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  The church is composed of the people who have been bought with the blood of Christ (another way of saying “the people who have been saved”).

The church is made up ONLY of saved people, but just as important to remember, EVERY saved person is in the church.

There are no saved people outside of the church.

People who claim to be saved, but say they’re not part of the church are actually saying they aren’t really saved.

How does one become a member of the church of the Bible?

There’s lots of different ways to become members of man-made churches.  But we’re not interested in man-made churches; we’re interested only in the church of the Bible.

As we’ve seen, one becomes a member of the church of the Bible by being saved.  When you are saved, God adds you to His one true church (Acts 2:47).

So, the question that we really need to ask is this: How can I be saved?   And when we answer the question, “How can I be saved?” then we have the answer to “how do I become a member of the church of the Bible?”

In order to be saved, there has to be a Savior.  That Savior is Jesus Christ, and He has already done His part in dying on the cross so that we can attain forgiveness of our sins.

In order to be saved, we have to hear about his offer of salvation.  If you’re drowning, and you don’t know about the life-preserver that has been thrown out, you’re going to die.  But when you hear about that life preserver, you can start trying to find it.  You can’t be saved by Jesus Christ without first hearing about Him (which is made clear in Acts 2:22-24).

In order to be saved, we have to believe in Jesus Christ, and that He died and was raised up (Romans 1:16, 10:9).

In order to be saved, we have to repent of our sins (Acts 3:19).

In order to be saved, we have to confess Jesus Christ (Romans 10:10).

In order to be saved, we have to be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).

After, and only after we do those things, we are saved, and God adds us to the church—His church.

There are some denominations who say that being saved isn’t good enough to be part of their church—they have to vote on you, whether or not they want you as part of their church.  Any church that does that is not the church of the Bible.

When you are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ through baptism, you are a part of the church of the Bible, the church that belongs to Christ. Period. There are no extra steps.

The church is the spiritual body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23), the chosen people of God who have been saved by the blood of His dear Son (Acts 20:28).

Have you been saved?

Salvation is easy, and it is within your reach.

 

–Bradley Cobb

Make it Personal Through Prayer

Yesterday, it was suggested that the first step in making your relationship with Jesus more personal was to study the Scriptures.  Today comes step two: making your relationship personal through prayer.

Studying is great for accumulating knowledge and building understanding, but it isn’t enough.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5).

If we want to continue getting wisdom (the ability to apply knowledge personally), we must pray to God and ask for it!

Why, though?  Isn’t studying the Bible enough?

The answer to that question is NO.

Please understand, I am not saying that God will give us some knowledge that is not found in scripture, but he will give us better understanding and wisdom on how that knowledge applies to us.  The most intelligent person on the planet is still not even on the same playing field as God is.  God knows and understands infinitely more than us.  For like the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9).

Praying for wisdom goes hand-in-hand with studying God’s word.  The more you know about Jesus, the more personal your relationship will become with Him.  The more you understand about Jesus—His motives, His teachings, His life—the closer you will grow to Him.

While praying for wisdom is all well and good, there are more reasons to make it personal through prayer.  We are to be in constant contact with God.  Pray without Ceasing. (I Thessalonians 5:17).

Going through difficulties with someone makes the relationship closer.

When you have a problem with something, who do you turn to?  Who do you tell it to?  A friend, right?  Whether it is your spouse or a friend you’ve known for a while, telling someone your troubles, problems, and concerns always seems to make things better.  This is especially when you have someone who understands what you’re going through.

Why are so many people willing to tell their troubles to a friend, but not to God?

Shouldn’t God be the first one we turn to with our problems and cares?  After all, he’s the only one who can actually do anything for every problem we have!

Constant contact makes for a closer relationship.

Imagine you met someone one time fifteen years ago, and then never heard from them again.  Then out of the blue one day, that person came up to you and said, “Remember me?  I’m John, your really close friend!”  Odds are pretty good that you would not agree with his assessment of your friendship.  After all, a friend—a really good friend—is one who you get to know, and who you talk to on a regular basis.

The same thing is true with God.  The more you talk to him (and listen to what he says to you through his word), the better friend you will have.  As the old saying goes, “To have a friend, you must first be a friend.”

Are you willing to say to God, “I’m sorry for not keeping in touch better”?  Why not start today to build up that relationship with Him.  Be in constant conversation with God.

–Bradley Cobb

Make it Personal Through Study

We would all love for our relationship with Jesus to be more personal.  By this, I mean that we really want to feel a closeness to Christ.  We want to truly feel the friendship of Jesus and know that we too are friends to Him.  But how do we do that?

First, make your relationship with Jesus personal through study.

From childhood, you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (II Tim 3:15)

The scriptures can make us wise.  I’ve often heard wisdom described as the ability to apply knowledge to ourselves and others.  Obviously, if you want a personal relationship with Jesus, the first thing you have to do is have knowledge of Him.

How are we to even know who Christ is if we do not study the scriptures?  If you take away the Bible and any reference to the Bible, you are left with very little knowledge about Jesus Christ. Study of the Scriptures is the first step in having a truly personal relationship with Jesus.

But where did scripture come from?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Tim 3:16-17)

Now we see that all scripture came from God!  And in studying it, we me be complete, and fully ready and able to accomplish all the good that can be done!

Study  to show yourself approved to God, a workman that doesn’t need to be ashamed, properly dividing the word of truth. (II Tim 2:15).

All these verses show the benefit of studying God’s Word.  But how does that make it personal?  After all, many people study the Bible like they study for a history test.  They memorize the main names, places, and events and can rattle them off without much problem, but they still don’t understand the reasons for them.  Yes, they know Jesus was born and died on the cross, but do they know why?

When you study the Bible and look beyond just the people, places, and events you can start to see what you need to learn from it.  For example: Jesus died on the cross as a perfect sacrifice for us.  Sin came into the world, and those who sinned deserved death.  God, in his grace, allowed animal sacrifices to be used in place of the sinners.  Then Jesus came to earth and allowed himself to be the ultimate sacrifice, and in doing so, ended all need for animal sacrifices, as well as paying the debt that we owed–that being our own lives because of our sin.  That’s pretty important.

What kind of person would go before the judge and say “Judge, I know this man has been sentenced to death for what he’s done, but I would like to take the death sentence in his place”?

Only a true, personal friend!

In reading and studying about Jesus and His death on the cross, we can see that He’s ready and willing to be a true personal friend to us.  In fact, Jesus declared His friendship to each one of us almost 2,000 years ago when He said, “No man has greater love than this: that he would lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13)

Are we ready to make the same commitment to him?

-Bradley Cobb

Make It Personal

Have you ever heard religious people talk about making Jesus their personal Lord and Savior?  We all know that when you become a Christian, Jesus becomes our Savior and our Lord.  But why do they stress the word “personal”?  Is there something we’re missing here?  Let’s take a look at that today.

How can you tell if it’s personal?

Have you ever had someone say something that aggravated you?  Perhaps they insulted your favorite football team.  Perhaps they contradict you on politics.  Perhaps they spoke ill of your family.  Perhaps they even insulted you.  How did that make you feel?  Mad? Upset?  Why would that be?  It’s because those things are all personal to us.  Our family means a lot to us.  To some, college football is their life and to insult their team is to insult them.  If someone insults you, does it not hurt?  Is there something that gets you bent out of shape?  You know those things are personal.

Do you feel the same way when someone uses the Lord’s name in vain?  Or when someone speaks of the earth being here for billions of years (contrary to the Biblical record)?  Does it really bother you when people twist the Word of God around and lie about what it teaches?

If someone trashing you football team bothers you more than someone trashing the Bible, then something is wrong.   Your relationship with Christ is not personal.

Do you have a friend that you would always stand up for?  Perhaps someone you’ve known for a long time and would do anything for?  If someone called them stupid, or went so far as to even hit them, would you stand up for this friend?  Christ should be your best friend.  If you are not willing to stand up for Christ as He’s insulted, you do not have a personal relationship with Him.

You know the words of the song:

There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, No not one, No not one!
There’s not an hour that he is not near us, No not one, No not one!
Jesus knows all about our struggles, he will guide till the day is done!

That’s personal!  We need to make sure our relationship with Christ is personal.

But how?

That is what we will cover over the next few days.

–Bradley Cobb

Sermon Thursday – The Establishment of the Church

Today, we continue our series on “Fundamentals of the Faith.”  Today’s topic is the establishment of the church.  Enjoy!

Introduction:

Everyone knows what the church is! Well, not exactly. Just like baptism (which we discussed in the last lesson), there is a lot of confusion about the church. This is even true about people who are parts of the many different churches that exist!

What kind of confusion, you may ask?

There is confusion about who founded the church (was it Moses? John the Baptist? Jesus? Peter? Joseph Smith? Alexander Campbell? Or one of the many other people since Bible times?)

There is confusion about when the church was founded (was it in the Old Testament? Did Jesus found it while He was on earth? Was it founded when Jerusalem was destroyed? Pentecost perhaps?)

There is confusion about where the church was established (Jerusalem? Rome? Mt. Sinai? England?)

And those questions all deal just with the “founding” of the church. With all these questions and disagreements, can we know the answers?  We can if we stop listening to what people say and let the Bible speak for itself.  Today, we will look at these questions and be able to come to a Bible-based conclusion, free from all opinions.

But before we do that, we have one thing that we must look at.  The church is the kingdom that was promised in the Old Testament. This is a subject of debate among some people, but the Bible is actually quite plain on it.  Some argue that the kingdom won’t exist until Jesus comes again, but we will prove that theory false with a few plain statements from the Bible.

First, look at Matthew 16:16-19.  And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus answered and said unto Him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven…”

Notice that Jesus told Peter, “I will build my CHURCH,” and “I will give you the keys to the KINGDOM of heaven.”  Jesus was using the two words (church and kingdom) interchangibly. But, lest someone objects, let’s go a bit further.

Keys are for opening things (like doors) so that someone can enter. Peter was given the keys to the kingdom, so that means Jesus expected Peter to be able to open the door to the kingdom.  If the church isn’t the same as the kingdom, then Peter never got to use those keys—because he’s been dead almost 2,000 years.

It’s also worth noting that Jesus said Peter would do this while Peter was still alive—on earth.  “Whatever THOU (Peter) shall bind ON EARTH…”  Without any doubt, Jesus’ kingdom existed on earth while Peter was still alive.

The kingdom is the church—and we’ll see that even clearer as we go through the lesson.

Who founded the church of the Bible?

There are many different religious groups, all with different founders—can we know which one is right?  If we look to the Bible, we can.

Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.”  We will look at “the days of these kings” a bit later, but right now I want you to concentrate on the words “the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom.”   Who set up, built, or founded this kingdom? God did.

Matthew 16:18 – “I [Jesus] will build my church…”  Who did Jesus say would build the church? Himself.  Whose church did He say it was? His church.

This seems so simple that it ought to be obvious, but the fact is there are a lot of religious groups who claim to be the church (or part of the church) who claim different founders than Jesus Christ.  Joseph Smith is the founder of the Mormons.  Charles Taze Russell is the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Ellen G. White is the founder of the Seventh-Day Adventists.  John Wesley is the founder of the Methodists.  John Calvin is the founder of the Presbyterians.      Martin Luther is the founder of the Lutherans.

The Baptist Church claims that their founder is John the Baptist.  But if you read Matthew, you’ll see that John the Baptist was dead in chapter 14. And in chapter 16, Jesus said “I will build my church.”  This is in future tense, as in the church isn’t built yet, but it will be built. If John had founded the church, then one of two things must be true:  (1) John’s church isn’t Jesus’ church (because Jesus hadn’t built his yet). Or (2) Jesus was lying about the building of the church still being in the future.  Neither one of these options match with the Bible.  The fact is, John never established a church—Jesus did.

There is only ONE church in the Bible, and it didn’t come until after John the Baptist was already dead.

When was the church of the Bible founded?

Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.”  When Daniel said this, he had been explaining the meaning of a dream that the king of Babylon had.   It was of a big statue with a head of gold, chest of silver, belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay. He said that the head represented Babylon (2:37-38). He said that the chest of silver was another kingdom that would come after them (Which, historically was the Persian Empire) (2:39).  And a third kingdom was represented by the belly and thighs of brass (historically, this is Alexander the Great and the Greek Empire). Then a fourth kingdom that would rule the world and break them like iron (historically, the next world empire was Rome) (2:40).\

And then Daniel says “in the days of THESE kings, God will set up a kingdom.”  So, based on Daniel’s prophecy, the kingdom (church) would be set up during the days of the Roman Empire.

Just for historical reference, the Roman Empire began around 100 BC (or thereabouts), and fell in the year 476.  The church—God’s kingdom—had to have been set up before that date.

Matthew 3:1-2 – In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  If something is “at hand” that means that it is near—very close.  In the days of John the Baptist (which was during the time of the Roman Empire), the kingdom was very near—but it hadn’t come yet.

Matthew 4:17 – From that time, Jesus began to preach and to say “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  This was said during Jesus’ life on earth—the kingdom was very close, but it hadn’t come yet.

Matthew 16:18 – “I will build my church…”  This is close to the end of Jesus’ life, and the church still hadn’t come.  Well, we’re seeing that it hasn’t been built yet at these points, but when did it actually begin to exist?

Acts 2:47 – “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”  This is on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus died.  This is when Peter started preaching (Acts 2:14)—giving people access to the church (using the “keys of the kingdom”).  According to this verse, the church existed at this point.  After all, you can’t be added to something that doesn’t exist.

Some people still say, “well, the church existed, but the kingdom still hasn’t come yet.”  Let’s let the Bible speak to answer this objection.

Colossians 1:13 – “[God] has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.”      This is spoken in the past tense, describing something that has already happened.  God had already transported people INTO the kingdom of his dear Son.  You can’t be put into something if it doesn’t already exist.  The kingdom existed already when that was written.

Revelation 1:9 – “I, John, am your companion…in the kingdom.”  John said he was in the kingdom—and he died over 1900 years ago.   The kingdom had to already exist for him to be in it.

The church was established after Jesus died, and people began entering it on the Day of Pentecost (which was during the days of the Roman Empire).

Where was the church of the Bible established?

Isaiah 2:1-3 – “Concerning the last days of Judah and Jerusalem – and it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it…for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

According to this prophecy about the kingdom of God, where would it be established? Jerusalem.

Acts 1:4 – [Jesus] commanded them [the apostles] that they should not depart from Jerusalem.

Acts 2:5 – And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men out of every nation under heaven.

Acts 2:14 – Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted his voice and said, “Ye men of Judea and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem…”

This is the chapter we looked at earlier where we saw the church was established.  Where were they? IN JERUSALEM.

Any church that was established somewhere other than Jerusalem cannot be the church of the Bible.

Conclusion:

Any church that was founded by someone other than Jesus Christ is not the church of the Bible.

Any church that was founded after the day of Pentecost is not the church of the Bible.

Any church that was founded somewhere other than Jerusalem is not the church of the Bible.

I could spend a lot of time going through the various churches and when/where they were established and by whom, but the important thing to ask is “Am I a part of the church talked about in the Bible?”

The church talked about in the Bible was founded by Jesus Christ, and follows the laws given by Him.  If you want to be part of the church talked about in the Bible, then you have to do the things that the people in the Bible were told to do in order to be a part of it.  Hear about Jesus (Acts 2:22-24).   Believe (Acts 8:37).  Repent (Acts 3:19). Confess (Acts 8:37).  Be baptized (Acts 22:16).

When you do what they did, you will be added to the same church that they were added to, for God’s church will never end, never be destroyed.

The way into the church has never changed!  Come join the church of the Bible today!

-Bradley Cobb

Sermon Thursday – What is Baptism?

Thanks for joining us.  For the next several weeks on Sermon Thursday, we will be looking at things that we’re calling The Fundamentals of the Faith.  These are things that each Christian needs to know and understand so they can then help to teach others.  This week, we deal with the question, What is baptism? Enjoy!

Introduction:

Everyone knows what baptism means!  Some folks might say that, but they’d be wrong.  Instead, baptism is one of the things—religiously speaking—that is the most misunderstood by people.

Its substance is misunderstood. Some say it is baptism in water, others say it is only baptism in the Holy Spirit, others say both, and still others say it is just being baptized in the word of God.

Its mode (how it is to be done) is misunderstood.  Some say sprinkling, some say pouring, some say immersion, some say it is completely mental.

Its subjects (who is supposed to be baptized) are misunderstood. Some say babies, others say believers only, others say adults only, some say Jews-only, others say I can get baptized in your place for you.

Its meaning is misunderstood. Some say it is an outward sign of an inward grace, others say it is to add you to a denomination after you’re saved, still others say that it is an act of obedience which in turn saves you.

With all this confusion about almost every aspect of baptism, can we really know what baptism means?  Yes we can, by looking at the Scriptures.  Let’s empty our minds of everything we think we know about baptism, and let the Scriptures speak for themselves.

The substance of baptism (what one is to be baptized in).

Baptism is first mentioned in the book of Matthew, chapter three, when John the baptizer comes on the scene.

The Scriptures state that John baptized them in Jordan (Matthew 3:6).  This is the Jordan River.  John himself clearly stated that he baptized with water (Matthew 3:11).   When Jesus was baptized by John, He came “up immediately out of the water” (Matthew 3:16).

It is true that a baptism of the Holy Spirit is also mentioned, but that is one that would be performed by Jesus Christ—and Him only (Matthew 3:11).  So, we’ve got two different kinds of baptism mentioned in this chapter.  Are they both still valid today? And how can we know?

Ephesians 4:4-6 (which was written at least 25 years after Jesus died) says there is “one Lord, one faith, ONE baptism.” So, by the time that book was written, there was only one valid baptism.  So, which one is it?

Acts 8:35-36 (which took place after Jesus died) says that Philip began to preach Jesus to this man.  And after hearing Jesus preached to him, the man (a eunuch) said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”  Based on what he had been taught by Philip (who had been sent by God), the only baptism that was important to him was baptism in water.

I Peter 3:20-21 (written around the same time as Ephesians) says, “eight souls were saved by water, this corresponds to baptism which now saves you, too” (SENT).   The only baptism which matters is baptism in water.

OK, it involves water, but is it sprinkling? Pouring? Being fully submerged under water?

The Mode of baptism (how baptism is to be done).

Just calling something baptism doesn’t make it baptism.  Calling a rose a skunk doesn’t make it a skunk.  The word baptism has a meaning.  But, just to be sure, let’s look at how baptism in water is described in the Bible.

Acts 8:38-39And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.

Did you see what I saw there? Baptism requires going into the water and coming out of the water. That’s interesting.

John 3:23John was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there.

So, baptism requires much water. That’s noteworthy to remember.

Romans 6:3-4Don’t you know that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore, we are buried with Him in baptism into death

Interesting. Baptism is described as a burial.

Put these things together:

  1. Baptism requires much water.
  2. Baptism requires going into the water and coming out of the water.
  3. Baptism requires a burial in water.

Just using what the Bible says, we can know that baptism is…

  1. NOT sprinkling water on someone (this doesn’t require much water, going into the water, nor is it a burial in water).
  2. NOT pouring water on someone (this doesn’t require much water, going into the water and coming out of the water, nor is it a burial in water).
  3. Baptism IS being completely submerged, immersed in water.  This requires much water, requires going into and coming out of the water, and it is a burial in water.

The Subjects of baptism (who can be baptized).

Ok, we’ve figured out completely from the Bible that baptism must be in water, and that it is being immersed, completely submerged in water and being brought back up; but who is eligible to be baptized?

Again, let’s not guess or use man’s opinion; let’s just look at what the Bible has to say about it.

Mark 16:16He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.

This verse makes it pretty clear that the person being baptized must be capable of believing (in Jesus Christ).

Acts 2:38repent and be baptized, every one of you.

This makes it pretty clear that whoever is baptized has to be capable of repenting (that is, realizing their sins and turning away from them).

Now I want you to consider something with me.

Babies are incapable of believing in Jesus Christ, and they don’t have the mental capacity to even understand what sin is.   Babies are not candidates for baptism at all, ever.

What about small children?  They are not old enough to comprehend their own sin, nor mature enough to understand what baptism is.

So, according to the Bible, who is eligible for baptism?

If you believe in Jesus Christ, and are willing to repent of your sins (and mature enough to understand what that means), then you are eligible for baptism.  Some people reach that point of maturity earlier than others. If you are an adult, you have reached that point. Teenagers—you want to be treated like an adult? Then you’ve reached that age as well.

The Bible teaches baptism is a burial in water, and the only ones it applies to are those who are old enough to believe in Christ and repent of their sins.

But what is the purpose of baptism?

The Meaning (purpose) of baptism.

I think we can all agree that if the Bible tells us baptism has a specific meaning or purpose, then that should end the discussion.

So, let’s let the Bible speak about the purpose of baptism.

Acts 2:38 – Baptism is “for the remission of sins.”  The word “remission” means “forgiveness.”  So, baptism is for forgiveness of sins.

Does that mean “because sins have already been forgiven” or does it mean “so that your sins can be forgiven”?

That’s a great question, and easily answered.  That verse says that two things (and both of them are commanded) are “for forgiveness of sins”—REPENTANCE and baptism.   Acts 8:22 says “Repent, therefore, of this, your wickedness, and pray to God, if perhaps the thought of your heart might be forgiven.

There’s no getting around it: God will not forgive sin without someone repenting first. So, when Acts 2:38 says repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, it has to mean so that your sins will be forgiven—because God will not forgive someone’s sins unless they repent first.

So, baptism is in order to have your sins forgiven.

Acts 22:16 – Baptism washes away your sins.

A very devout man was praying hard for three days, and God sent another man to him.  This man that God sent said, “why are you waiting, get up and be baptized, washing away your sins.”

Baptism is in order to have your sins washed away.

Mark 16:16 – baptism is for salvation.  He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.  That’s pretty plain.

I Peter 3:21baptism does also now save you.  There’s not really much comment needed there.  The Bible plainly states that baptism saves you.

The only conclusion that you can make from these verses is that you have to be baptized if you want to be saved.  There are many other passages we could go to which show this just as clearly.

What About You?

Now, perhaps is the time to ask the most important question—do YOU need to be baptized?

Perhaps you’ll say “I was baptized when I was a baby.” If a baby is baptized, then all that happened was that the baby got wet—because the baby had no sins to wash away in the first place. That baptism doesn’t match what’s in the Bible, and so it wasn’t really baptism.

Maybe you’ll say, “I was baptized when I was younger.” To that, I simply ask this: why were you baptized?  If you were baptized because you believed in Jesus and you knew you needed to be baptized in order to have your sins forgiven, then that is great!  However, many younger people are baptized because their friends were baptized and they didn’t want to feel left out.   Many younger people are baptized because they feel like it is expected of them.  Many younger people are baptized without really understanding why they were doing it.

If any of these describe you, then were you really baptized like the Bible says to be baptized?

Maybe you’ll say, “I was baptized in the Baptist Church” or some other religious group.  I have no doubt that you did it with the best of intentions.  In fact, I praise you for wanting to follow God’s will.  However, I have to ask you this: were you baptized for the reasons that the Bible gives?

  1. Were you baptized so that your sins could be washed away?
  2. Were you baptized for the purpose of being saved?
  3. Or did you believe you were saved before you were baptized?

You see, while these religious groups have many things that are praiseworthy, a lot of them say that baptism doesn’t save you.

But the Bible says it does.

They say that baptism is so you can be part of the Baptist Church or the Methodist Church or whatever church AFTER you’re saved.

The Bible says that baptism is what saves you—only one of them can be right.

So, the question that you have to honestly, sincerely ask yourself is this: If I was baptized for the wrong reasons, where does that leave me?

I don’t know about you, but that is not a predicament I’d want to be in.   The Bible speaks of a group of men who had been baptized, and thought their baptism was just fine.  However, they discovered that their baptism wasn’t the right baptism.  They were then baptized properly, having their sins forgiven.  You can read about them in Acts 19.

Conclusion:

My friends, don’t let there be any doubt about your salvation.  Don’t let there be any doubt about whether you were baptized for the right reasons. Right now, take care of it by coming to God, believing in Jesus Christ, leaving your sins behind, and being baptized according to the Scriptures. When you do that, you don’t have to ever doubt it.

Some of you might be thinking, “I’m not sure if I need to be baptized properly or not.”   To you, I say this: do it. Do it to be sure.

It could be that your baptism was proper in the first place, and you will just be getting wet—but you will have a pure, confident conscious.  But it could also be that you had good reason to doubt—and this would save your soul.   Please, come be baptized now!

Bible Q&A – Was Jesus Created?

Some people came to my door and said that since Jesus is the “Son of God,” that means He can’t be God. They said that Jesus was the first being created by God. Was Jesus created?—F.F., Arkansas.

Thank you for the question. What you described sounds like a group who call themselves “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” But before we answer the question, something must be made extremely clear:

Right and wrong is determined by what the Bible says. Just because a certain religious group teaches something doesn’t automatically mean it’s right, but it also doesn’t automatically mean it’s wrong, either.

Let’s start with your question, Was Jesus created? Then we’ll move on to the issue about the “Son of God.”

In Micah 5:2, there is a prophecy about Jesus being born in Bethlehem (fulfilled in Matthew 2:5-6). But that’s not the only thing in that verse. Jesus is also described as the one “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” According to this Old Testament passage, the Messiah (the Christ) would be one who has existed “from everlasting,” that is, forever. If someone is from everlasting, that means He couldn’t have been created.

But let’s go further and look at how ridiculous this claim of a “created Jesus” is. The Bible makes it crystal-clear that everything that was created was created by Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3). The Scriptures say that there is nothing created except for that which was created by Jesus. Now, taking this crystal-clear Bible knowledge with us, let’s use some common sense. The only way—according to the Bible—that Jesus was created is if Jesus created Himself out of thin air before He existed.

The Bible makes it clear that Jesus was not created. He is eternal, and is the one who created everything—no exceptions!

But let’s also take a look at the “Son of God” argument.

One of the ways the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” try to bring up the topic of Jesus is by saying that He’s the Son of God, and then make the comment, “Isn’t that interesting that he’s called the Son of God.” When you ask, “What do you mean?” they start saying that since Jesus is the Son of God, that means Jesus can’t be God.

The same Bible says that Jesus is the “son of man.” According to the Jehovah’s Witness argument, that would mean that Jesus can’t be man, either, since he’s the son of man. If we take their argument to its logical conclusion, Jesus isn’t deity, and was never human either. Both of those stances violate several Scriptures.

The son of a human is a human—by his very nature. The Son of God, therefore, is God—by His very nature.

Jesus Christ is deity (by His very nature), and Jesus is also human (by being the Son of man). He is eternal. Jesus was not created. He is the one who created everything.

-Bradley Cobb

Bible Q&A – Are Babies Born in Sin?

I heard someone on the radio talk about people having a “sinful nature,” and as proof that we are all born sinners, he quoted Psalm 51:5 from the NIV. Are we really born sinners?—D. from Illinois.

Thanks for the question. This is one that has bothered people for many years. In fact, this one doctrine has led to all sorts of other doctrines and practices which are foreign to the Bible.

Before we go any further, let’s look at the passage, quoted in the NIV (since that was what the man referenced). This version of the Bible has David saying, “Surely I was sinful at birth; sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” When you read that passage by itself (which is questionably translated), it can sure make you think that we are all “born in sin.” But we need to look at the rest of the Bible first, then we’ll come back to this passage.

In order to understand where people are coming from when they say that we are all “born in sin,” we need to figure out how they came to that conclusion. They claim that all people are born sinful, condemned to hell from the time they were conceived (some say from the moment of birth) because of the sin of Adam. They claim that we all hell-bound sinners from birth because we bear the guilt of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. This is why Catholics and Lutherans “baptize” (actually sprinkle) babies—to supposedly cleanse them of the sin of Adam.

But do we really bear the sins of Adam?

Let’s think this through for a moment. If every human is born sinful because of the sin of Adam, then that applies to everyone who has ever been born, starting with Adam and Eve’s first child. That would apply to every person under the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament.

But this doctrine is 100% denied in the Old Testament. The prophet Ezekiel, while speaking words directly from God, said, “the soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). And look at what else God says through this prophet: “The son will not bear the sin of the father, nor will the father bear the sin of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). God makes it incredibly clear that we do not “inherit” sin from any ancestors.

King David was incredibly upset, because his brand-new baby was incredibly sick. Then the baby ended up dying at just 7 days old. But, when the baby died, King David said these words: “Now he is dead…can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). David, a prophet of God (Acts 2:29-30), said that he would be reunited with his son. Since David was a man after God’s own heart, and fully expected to go to heaven, that means he also fully expected his infant sin to be in heaven as well. This is because babies aren’t born in sin.

But suppose someone won’t accept these Old Testament examples as evidence. What then?

How about the New Testament, which clearly states that we will be judged on what we do, and not on what someone else does? All people will be judged, according to their works (Revelation 20:12-13, 2 Corinthians 5:10).

But let’s consider one more thing: if all babies are born sinful, bearing the guilt of Adam’s sin, then no one can be saved!

Whoa! Wait a minute! What do you mean by that???

If all babies are born in sin, born sinful, then that means Jesus Christ was a sinner from birth. That means Jesus wasn’t the sinless and perfect sacrifice. And if Jesus isn’t the sinless and perfect sacrifice then (1) His death on the cross couldn’t take away sin, and (2) the New Testament contains lie after lie when it says that Jesus “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21, I Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15).

So, which one are you going to believe: the Bible, which says Jesus never knew sin, or the people who claim all babies (which must include Jesus) are born in sin?

As for me and my house, we’ll believe the Bible.

But what about Psalm 51:5?

Yes, that’s where this question started, so let’s paint the picture. David has sinned, having committed adultery with Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan has confronted him and said, “You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). David’s realization that he has sinned completely overwhelms him. And in that state, he writes Psalm 51.

He says, “blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me [that is, it’s all around me, it’s everywhere I look]. Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me…purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:1-7).

David is poetically saying that all he can see is his sin. It’s like he’s always sinning. He’s such a horrible sinner, it’s like he’s done nothing but sinning. It’s like he’s been sinning since he was born. His sin is overwhelming him, and he’s begging for God’s forgiveness. He’s not saying, “I was a hell-bound sinner the instant I was conceived.” He’s saying, “I’m such a horrible sinner, it feels like that’s all I’ve done my entire life.”

And he’s not that different from us. Haven’t you ever said, thought, or heard the words, “I can’t do anything right”? Or perhaps, “All I ever do is mess up”? That’s how David was feeling when he wrote Psalm 51.

So, to answer the original question: No, we are not born sinners. We do not get our sin from someone else. We are born precious and free from sin. We become sinners when we ourselves disobey God’s law.

For further reading on this topic, check Luke 18:16 and Romans 7:7-9.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Sermon Thursday – Jesus the Healer

Introduction:

  1. There’s a little boy who is paralyzed. His family is poor, and they can’t afford to take him to the specialists who might be able to do something to help him. They’re listening to the radio one day in their barely-running junker of a car, and they hear something that gives them hope. An anonymous donor is willing to pay for treatments for one person. The only catch is that you have to be the first person to call in to the radio station. The family swerves to the side of the road into a gas station parking lot, and the father runs to the payphone to call the toll-free number. But he’s too late. Someone already got through first. All their hope, which for a moment was through the roof—for a moment they had no worries at all because they saw that glimmer of hope—all that hope came crashing down on them.
  2. There’s a man, unable to walk, struck with a disease that’s left him helpless for 38 years. He’s been brought to a place where the rumor is he can be healed. But the catch is that only one person per day can be healed—and it’s on a first come, first served basis. With no one to help him, his hope is gone. He hears the call to come for healing, but he has no way of going, and someone always gets there first.
  3. But there’s another man. This man walks up and says, “Are you wanting to be healed?” You can imagine this poor man getting angry—I’m laying here by the healing place. I can barely move. Of course I’m wanting to be healed! That’s how a lot of folks would respond. But this man was so depressed, so hopeless, that he couldn’t even get angry. “Sir, I have no one to help me, and another one gets there before me every time.”
  4. Could this new man be the one I’ve been waiting for? Could this new man be the one to help me get to the healing place first? Is it possible that there’s really hope for me? Can I possibly be healed? This poor man is hesitant to allow any hope in his heart—after all, it’s been 38 years that he’s suffered with this horrible disease. But maybe?
  5. Read John 5:1-9

He recognized his condition.

You’re probably thinking, Of course he recognized his condition. He was crippled!  He lives with this debilitating disease every day for thirty-eight years. He can’t escape it. It’s always right there in front of him. His limitations. His disease. His inability to be like everyone else.  He has no family—at least, no family that cares enough to try to help him. You can hear the heartbreak in his voice as he tells Jesus, “I have no one…”

But every day, you can find him sitting at the place where people say you can be healed. You find him there, hoping, wishing, probably begging for someone to help him.  He knows that he’s broken. He knows that he’s not what he wants to be.

There’s no healing without first recognizing your condition.  A woman goes to the doctor. After running some tests, the doctor is overwhelmed. “Have you been feeling OK?” he asks the woman. “Well, I’ve been having some headaches, and there’s been some blurriness in my vision, but I’m sure it’s nothing.” The doctor sits down, shaking, and says, “You’ve got cancer on your brain.” “What? That’s not possible!” “It’s spread to the point that there’s nothing that can be done. If you’d have come in earlier, when you first started having the headaches, we might have been able to take care of it. But now, it’s too late. At most, I think you’ve got a month to live.”

If this woman had recognized her condition—recognized that she had a need, then healing was possible. But since she kept putting it off, ignoring it, it was too late. Even when the doctor told her of the condition, she refused to believe it.

There’s no spiritual healing without first recognizing your condition.  The number one reason why people aren’t being saved, being brought into Christ through baptism, is that they don’t realize they’re lost! They don’t recognize their condition. They don’t realize that they are sick and dying. They think they’re doing A-OK.

Jesus says, “Those who are whole don’t need a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12). The thing is, everybody is sick—whether they realize it or not.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 6:23), and the wages for sin is death (Romans 3:23). Everyone is sin-sick. Everyone is dying from sin. And everyone needs the doctor, the healer, the physician—Jesus Christ.

Until someone recognizes their sin-sick condition, they’ll never be healed—because they’ll never look for healing. People who think they’re just fine don’t have a reason to look for healing.  What’s your condition?

He looked for healing.

Granted, he’s looking for it in the wrong place, but at least he’s looking He is a man who knows he’s got problems, and he’s trying to fix them. We ought to admire that. He has failed for 38 years to fix the problem, but he keeps trying. I wish more people were like that.

He hears that there’s some special healing power in the pool of Bethesda, and he makes sure he’s there. Whether the healing powers were real, or whether they were just a rumor, the point is, the man is looking for healing, and willing to go wherever he needs to try to get it.

Even Jesus recognized that this man was looking for the cure to his disease. Jesus asked him, “Are you wanting to be made whole?” (John 5:6). The man knows he’s broken. He knows he’s not well. And he’s not content to stay that way. He’s looking for a way to be fixed—to be healed.

There’s no healing without looking for it.  William Clairemore is sitting at his desk, writing a letter. He is incredibly depressed. He’s got a flesh-eating disease that has gradually destroyed his leg, and it is slowly creeping up towards his chest. He’s stopped going out in public. He refuses any visitors. The only one who ever sees him is his wife, and even then it’s only long enough for him to take the plate of food that she’s prepared before he shuts the door. There’s no one that can help me. What’s the point? There’s no hope.

If William would make up his mind to look for help—to look for healing, he would find that his disease is treatable. But instead, he sits. Alone. Depressed. Fully aware of his sickness, but refusing to look for a cure. And then he dies.

There’s no spiritual healing without looking for it.  There’s no such thing as accidental forgiveness. You aren’t going to be going along in life one day and God just accidentally forgives you.

God offers forgiveness to anyone who’s willing to take it. It’s like a free clinic that heals your sin-sickness—and there is a 100% success rate. The thing is, God isn’t a door-to-door doctor. He doesn’t come knock on your door and say, “Hey, I’m here to forgive you.” You have to go to Him.

If you want to know about the healing that’s available, where to get it, and how to get it, you’ve got to read the Bible. You’ve got to read it with an open mind and an open heart. In the pages of this book the cure can be found. In the pages of this book, you can learn about the healing that will save you from dying.

But if you’re not willing to look for it, you can’t be saved. “Seek and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7).

Jesus gives the healing.

The man has been looking for healing in the wrong places. But we can’t be too harsh on him. After all, he isn’t the only one thinking that this was the way to be healed. There’s blind folks, and crippled folks, maimed folks, folks who are every bit as broken as he is.  But if he wasn’t there—if he wasn’t looking for healing, he never would have met Jesus.

Jesus asks him, “Are you wanting to be healed?” And the man’s answer expresses Yes! I long to be healed. I am so broken, and I struggle. I want to be made whole again. But I don’t see any way to do it. I need help.

Jesus saith unto him, “Rise. Take up your bed, and walk.” And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked. (John 5:8-9).

Jesus is the way that this broken man is healed.

There is no spiritual healing without Jesus. Jesus Christ of Nazareth…Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).  Jesus is called the Savior because He is the only one who has the power to save—the power to heal. “The great Physician now is near, the sympathizing Jesus.”

Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are laboring, and who are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my burden on you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

The gift of God is eternal life through His Son (Romans 6:23).

Conclusion:

  1. John is dying. Years of smoking invited cancer to make its home in his lungs. Then one night, he’s reading on the internet and comes across this webpage advertising a “heal-yourself-at-home” product. His interest is piqued, and he keeps reading. As he reads, he sees a testimonial from Wilma of Akron, OH who says that after just two weeks of being on this program, her lung cancer is gone! So John excitedly enters his debit card information and anxiously awaits the package. When he opens it, he finds a professional-looking book and a bottle of special powder. He mixes up the powder just like the instructions say, and takes some before every meal. As the days go by, he says to his wife that he thinks this new product is working. His lungs don’t seem to feel as heavy as before. By the end of three weeks, he’s convinced that his cancer is in full remission, if not gone completely. At the end of the fifth week, John dies as the lung cancer wins. You see, the powder didn’t do anything. He had convinced himself that he was healed, and all the while, he was still dying—the disease was still there.
  2. Jason is looking for healing from sin. He knows he’s lost. He feels the immense weight of guilt and shame of his sins. He desperately wants to be made free. His friend tells him, “Jesus is the only one who can take away your sins. Let’s bow down together and ask Jesus to come into your heart.” And Jason does. He gets up, convinced he’s free, convinced that he’s been healed. But he’s still dying. The disease of sin is still there, because he bought into a fake cure.
  3. Jesus wants you to be healed. He gave up His own life so that you can be healed. But Jesus doesn’t come to you. You have to come to Him. Where is He? Well, He’s up the steps:
    1. Step 1: believe in Him (John 3:16).
    2. Step 2: leave behind the things that were making you sick in the first place—repent (Acts 17:30).
    3. Step 3: acknowledge Him as the only one who can save you—Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Romans 10:9-10).
    4. Step 4: bury your old, dying self into the watery grave of baptism—be buried with Christ, and rise up a brand-new creature—one that has been healed! (Romans 6:3-4).
  4. There is healing—you don’t have to be broken anymore.
  5. But what if I get sick again? What if that sin-sickness comes back? Go back to the doctor. Go to God in prayer, confessing that you let yourself get sick again, and He will heal you (I John 1:9).

Is the Church a Denomination?

James Bales wrote a tract with the above title many years ago (my copy is so brittle that is didn’t survive the scanning process).  We present it here for your enjoyment and consideration.

Is the Church a Denomination?

We are faced with religious divi­sion and the denominational conception of Christianity. These various denominations did not always exist. Secular history records their origin and they are not mentioned in the New Testament. They exist in spite of the New Testament, for Christ prayed for unity which would be based on His Word (John 17:20). Yet when people today discover that you are a Christian they ask you to what denomination you belong. They cannot conceive of one who is just a Christian without being some particular brand of a Christian. This is in contrast to the fact that in the days of Paul if one said that he was a Christian no one would then ask him, What denomination do you represent.

I. Denominationalism: Its Meaning, Cause, Curse, Naming and Cure

The Meaning of Denominational­ism.

Denominationalism as it exists among professed Christians is the organization of professed Christians into different religious bodies. These bodies do not claim to be the whole church, but only a part of it. It means that people regard the church as something which is divided, with various groups with different faiths and practices in many instances. Denominationalism conceives Christianity as divided into sects.

The Causes of Denominationalism.

First, the party, self-centered, spirit which attempts to build up a certain group instead of the church as a whole. These look away from the Bible and walk more or less by their own wisdom. Second, mis-interpretations of the scriptures which are pressed and bound on others to the point of divisions. Third, a division over personalities. People form groups around certain individuals (Acts 20:30). Some in Paul’s day tried to form parties around various preachers and Paul condemned that condition (I Corinthians 1:1042). Fourth, some do err and form denominations because they are ignorant of the Scriptures and of the power of God. Fifth, others build a sect on one passage of the Scripture, or one doc­trine, to the neglect of other passages and doctrines. Sixth, at the root of all denominationalism is sin in one form or another. Once a denomina­tion is formed it is perpetuated by the ignorance of its adherents of Bible teaching, by pride and by the party spirit. Children often take the religion of their parents without even once comparing what their denomination teaches with what the Bible teaches.

The Curse of Denominationalism.

First, it opposes the prayer of Christ for unity (John 17:20). Second, it is a cause of infidelity and brings reproach on Christ for people discredit the Bible by saying that it cannot be right and teach so many conflicting doctrines. However, the conflict is in the ignorance of the people and not in the Bible. Jesus prayed for a visible unity on earth that the world might believe (John 17:20). Third, such division is condemned by Paul (1 Cor. 1:10-12). Fourth, It is a mark of carnality (1 Cor. 3:1-4; Gal. J :19’21). Fifth, it consumes time and money because of the duplica­tion of work. Sixth, it hinders world evangelism because each tries to build up his own sect rather than convert the world.

The Source of Denominational Names,

First, names of persons. Second, names of countries. Third, names of ordinances. Fourth, names drawn from forms of church govern­ment. Fifth, some are named from a certain doctrine which they stress.

The Cure for Denominationalism.

First, the proper respect for Christ and for the word by which we are to be judged (John 12:48; Acts 17: 30). Second, a sincere effort to speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent where it is silent (1 Pet. 4:11). Third, a study of the New Testament to determine what constitutes the church. Fourth, a study of our own faith and practices in the light of the New Testament with the willingness to change wherein we fail to abide by the New Testament. Fifth, love and forbearance which do not press and bind differences of opinion (Rom. 14).

II. Is The Church of Christ A Denomination?

The Meaning of the Term “church.”

The Greeks used the term to design­ate an assembly called out by the magistrate, or by legitimate author­ity. In the Gospels, Christ said that I will build my church (Matt. 16: 18). The term is used, when speaking of His church, with reference first to individual congregations (Acts 8:1; 9:22, 26; Rom. 16:1, 4, 5; Gal. 1:2) and second the whole body of believers or Christians (Matt 16:18; Eph. 1:22; 5:10; Heb. 12:23). (Samuel W. Barnum, Smith’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the Bi­ble, 1868, p. 175).

The unbelieving Jews referred to it as the sect of the Nazarene and as the sect which was everywhere spok­en against (Acts 24:5; 28:22). They believed it was a division which had been cut off from the Jewish faith or church. However, that which they regarded as heresy (Acts 24:14), and as everywhere spoken against, constituted God’s church and God’s only church in this dispensation. The church, it is true, was named and cut off, separated, from all other reli­gious bodies. However, it was not a denomination in the modern sense of the term which defines a denomina­tion as a religious organization con­taining a part of the saved; a group which constitutes a part of the church instead of the whole church. What the Jews called a sect was in reality the church.

The church is the body of Christ (Col. 1:18, 24; Eph. 1:22, 23). The saved are in Christ’s body, in His church, and they got there by being baptized into Christ (Eph. 5:23 Rom. 6:1-4; Gal. 3:27; Acts 2:40, 41, 47; John 3:5). They are born into it (John 3:5). The church of Christ is not a part, it is the whole. It has done nothing to break itself off from those who are Christians and Christians only. It is not a denomination because: First, it is the body of Christ, composed of the saved, and there are no saved people outside of it. One cannot be a Christian with­out being a member of Christ’s church. Second, it was founded by Christ’s apostles and it is the only church founded by them. Third, it is characterized by the names which are set forth in the New Testament. Fourth, it does not preach a denominational message. Fifth, its head is Christ. Sixth, its creed is His word. Seventh, its wor­ship is in spirit and in truth. Eighth, it is entered by the new birth (John 3:5). Ninth, it is both undemoninational and anti-denominational.

There are those who deny that it is possible to be only a Christian. They assert that one must be denom­inational Christian. However, the disciples of Christ in Paul’s day were Christians only and we today can be Christians only by following God’s word. The seed, which is God’s word, when planted by itself in a heart, produces a Christian only (Luke 8:11). It takes something more or less than the Word of God to make something else.

It is true that some Christians have wandered into denominations. All who have been born of water and the Spirit have been added to the church by God Himself (Acts 2:38-47). However, those who have wandered into denominationalism ought to forsake it and be just Christians. They ought to come out of Babylon (Rev. 18:4).

It is true that members of the body of Christ often fail to live perfect lives. Thus at times they may adopt a denominational attitude and fail to respect both the voice and the silence of the Scripture. However, such shortcomings do not mean that de­nominationalism is approved or that the goal and message of the church of Christ is wrong. It means that in­dividual Christians fall short and that they ought to try to do better.

Friend, why not be a Christian and a Christian only? This is possi­ble, desirable, necessary and scriptural.