MAKING THE CHURCH A STILTED STATUE

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EFFORTS at "restoring" the church of the New Testament can be very much like that of the work of a sculptor. This will happen unless we tap into the essence of real New Testament Christianity, having imbibed of its spirit, and are imbued with its vigor. Otherwise, we may have chiseled out an imposing statue that looks like the real thing, but it is only stone; a work of man. There is no life.

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 Denominational names are wrong, and give not God the glory (I Corinthians 1:10-13,29-31; 3:3-5,21-23; Colossians 1:18). In manís zeal to "restore" the church, it is called "Church of Christ" (and it is his church). But this can become artificial as this expression is used in a stilted and wooden manner. Instead of freely talking about the church of Christ, Christís church, the Lordís church, the church of God, Godís church, etc., it in essence has become the "Church of Christ Church." (Christian as in "Christian Church" meets the same fate). A sculptured work of man has taken place. In our opposing denominationalism, let us not "denominationalize" the church.

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 In manís zeal at "restoration," how one is saved from sin must be "Scripturally" dealt with. This can be easily understood. We come up with the "steps of salvation" (faith, repentance, confession, and baptism), as if man could go up each wooden, stilted step mechanically one at a time as he enters into salvation. Make no mistake about this, all of these things are part of Godís plan, but by an inordinate emphasis on the "steps" many have been converted to the "steps" instead of to Christ. They have had to do this thing all over, and give themselves to Christ, instead of to a plan of salvation. Our lost condition, commitment to Christ, and discipleship need to get the emphasis as well as the so-called "steps." In fact, the faith, repentance, and confession are overlapping as one is baptized into Christ for the remission of sins.

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 We are told there are five acts of worship as an outlined form is arbitrarily and masterfully laid out before us, and certainly the Lordís supper, prayer, singing, giving and Bible study are involved in worship. But the form will not suffice if the heart is not in it. Yes, worship is engaged in specifically as the church assembles, but worship is also a way of life (Romans 12:1,2ócheck out the meaning of "service"; James 1:25-27ócheck out the meaning of "religion"). If worship in the larger context of the way we live is not right, worship in the public assembly can never be right regardless of the form in may take. Paul spoke of some, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away" (II Timothy 3:5). The Lord Jesus said, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).

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 As we contend for the right doctrine, it is more than form that we are talking about. It is more than issues. Doctrine cannot be separated from the big picture. We cannot say, "God is love" without it being doctrine. Doctrine is not only about the church, baptism and the Lordís supper, it is about holiness, godly living and love. Read I Timothy 1:3-10. "Now the end [goal] of the commandment is charity [love] out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned." Ungodliness here is spoken of as being "contrary to sound doctrine." Doctrine is not just something to wrangle about, but eternal truths to be lived, shared and enjoyed for what they are in a context of love. Contending for the faith involves more than being contentious. The Bible has a higher purpose than that of being used as a sectarian instrument with which to hit brethren over the head.

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 Instead of being on a mission to "restore" the church, our energies would probably be better spent on being sure that we have been restored to the church. The church has been here all of the time. The gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 3:21). We do not need an artificially sculptured body that is more physical than spiritual, drawing attention to men. The church is the byproduct of preaching the gospel of Christ. It is the spiritual body of Christ, not a stilted work of man, but it is about life. We invite men to accept this Christ, and "automatically" be added to the one church already started in the first century (Acts 2:38-47; I Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 2:15; Ephesians 4:1-6). Thereby we experience and thereafter we enjoy the fruit of simple undenominational New Testament Christianity. Denominationalism and sectarianism alike are contrary to the teachings of Christ. Let us not make the church a sculptured work of man.

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