. . . fully after the LORD I Kings 11:6 by Steve Flinchum
Just as surely as the Bible supports the definitions and distinctions presented in the preceeding pages, the Bible refutes the definitions man has invented in his efforts to prop up and justify a counterfiet "Christianity."
Common sense and sound reason, I believe, argue strongly and exclusively for the views presented here. Understanding the truth of the Bible being a matter of eternal life or death, it is a serious crime to editorialize it and ignore the rules of truthful interpretation. If God used real words that already had real meanings, and those words make sense with those meanings, we have no right to give them some new, mystical meaning. Mark Twain wrote:
Widespread acceptance of a belief does not make it true. False doctrine and false religion is dependent upon the principle which says, "If you tell a lie for a long enough time, people will start believing it." That principle has been proven to work well in religion, politics, and morality, but it does not change truth. God does not change the truth to keep up with the changing times. I copied the following good admonition from a calendar:
Most of what is taught today as Christian doctrine is radically inconsistent with the scriptures we have so far considered here. To be promoting a system of belief that is contradictory to that which Jesus taught is to be at war with God. Jesus said:
Jesus built His first congregation so as to be a pattern for all others that were to follow by procreation. For nearly two-thousand years now, men have thought that they can improve upon Jesus' pattern. How far can a congregation vary from the pattern and still be Jesus' kind of congregation?
An examination of the congregations written about in the New Testament shows that some were more like the pattern than were others. Compare the congregation at Ephesus with the one at Galatia. Certainly, the more alike a congregation is to the pattern, the better. It is tragic, but true, that an irregularity that is tolerated and left unchecked in one generation often is accepted as proper and normal in the next. When one congregation compares itself with another, which compared itself with another, which compared itself with another, etc., degeneration results in a congregation or religious system that is nothing at all like the pattern. In II Corinthians 10:12, Paul said:
I am not saying that a congregation must be perfect in order to be one of the Lord's, but perfection should be its goal. There are a few doctrinal distinctives that must be considered the absolute minimum requirements for being or continuing as one of the Lord's congregations.
First of all, a congregation must believe and teach that the Bible is the final authority for all faith and practice. Without the unchanging words of an unchanging God, there can be no worthwhile standard to go by. Any organization whose faith and practice is dictated by the changing whims of its members, a presbytry, a board, a council, a pope, or changing times and customs, is following a different God than the one of the Bible, regardless of what name is over the door.
It must be believed and taught that salvation is only by grace through faith in Christ, with even the faith being a gift of God by the Holy Spirit.
That rules out baptism, "praying through," or any other work of man, in the obtaining of salvation. To believe and teach otherwise is to believe in and teach of another salvation, which is no salvation.
Baptism plays no part in the obtaining of our salvation, but is instead, a figure or picture, to be administered after salvation.
Baptism is a means of preaching the gospel in a figure and was ordained by Jesus exclusively to His kind of congregation. Baptism is therefore an important part of the teaching and preaching of the Lord's congregations, and it is essential that it be done scripturally. The Bible, being the final authority for all faith and practice, demands that:
--Only those who have repented and profess salvation by grace through faith in Christ are fit subjects for baptism. (This precludes the baptism of infants, who are neither able to repent nor profess.)
--The only acceptable mode for baptism is immersion in water.
--Only the Lord's congregations have any authority to administer baptism.
--The purpose of baptism is not to obtain salvation, but to teach figuratively by picturing Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection (the gospel), and declaring our dying to sin and rising to walk in newness of life.
To pervert the preaching figure of baptism by disobeying any of these scriptural demands is to preach another gospel.
Jesus' order to His congregations to "teach all nations" to "observe all things" that He has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20), necessarily demands involvement in doctrinally sound mission work.
These doctrinal distinctives logically insist upon the believing and teaching of religious liberty and the universal priesthood of all saved believers.
The day that any congregation consciously and willfully abandons one of these distinctives is the day that that congregation can be pronounced spiritually dead. It is no longer one of the Lord's kind of congregations because it has quit its job. Jesus gave His congregations a commission, a job, not a pension. Many are deceived in this because the congregation usually continues to exist physically, and often, in man's eyes, may appear very prosperous. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, it was instant death, spiritually ("in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" Genesis 2:17), although, as we know, they continued to live physically for many years and even have and raise children.
There are some unhealthy lifestyles that cause spiritual disease and lead to the eventual spiritual death of a congregation. When a congregation is careless or compromising about the discipline and purity of its membership, the purity of the gospel it preaches, or its ecclesiastical separation, it will be a spiritually unhealthy congregation. When it continues in that condition without repentance and renewal, whether in ignorance or rebellion, that congregation also will soon be spiritually dead. It may still have some saved people in it, but they will have relinquished their Christ given power and authority as one of His congregations.
There can be no excuse for the degeneration of Jesus' congregations, especially today, when both the Old and the New Testaments are so commonly available, the ability to read is so attainable, and more historical information is accessible than ever before. You can bet that all that will stand in judgment against all who so carelessly handle and disregard truth.
We have the instruction of the New Testament as a pattern and mirror to examine and compare ourselves by. If a congregation is found to have more differences than likenesses, when compared with the New Testament pattern for Jesus' congregations, then we can confidently, with the authority of God's Word, say that it is different and not alike.
We have the record of the failures, and the ups and downs of Israel and Judah in the Old Testament, which "were our examples" (I Corinthians 10:6).
There can be no excuse for ignorance nor disregard for ecclesiastical history. We can be richly inspired and encouraged by the history of the Lord's congregations who have remained true down through the centuries. We can be strongly and sternly warned by the history of the many congregations who have fallen in death to paganism and compromise. It is extremely important that the Lord's congregations be aware of and have an appreciation for the rich heritage with which they have been entrusted. When the value and worth of something is not realized and appreciated, there is a strong and dangerous likelihood that the posessor will part with that thing far too easily. No doubt, many a precious family heirloom has been carelessly discarded or sold for a pitifully insignificant amount, because the heritor was ignorant of its value, origin, and the cost and sacrifice of its preservation. The most prominent and important lesson from the study of history is the continuous repetition of the sad stories of people being dispossessed of their most valuable assets. In history are the records of the loss of lands, of freedoms, of cultures, of natural resources, and religious heritage by people who failed to properly appreciate what they had until it was gone.
If the people had been aware of the true value, they would have been more zealous in defending and preserving those things. History would not have to repeat itself if we would listen the first time. The same observations are true concerning the history of the Lord's congregations and demonstrates the extreme importance and need that all members, both young and old, of every one of His congregations be taught and constantly reminded of their heritage. We can be greatly inspired and edified by the record of those who have earnestly contended for "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).
Historical knowledge may not be required for becoming or being one of Jesus' congregations, but it is definitely important for the continuing as one.
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(Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.)
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(Abraham Lincoln, 1837)
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