MAKING THE CHURCH A STILTED
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.