The Following Question Comes From Zach K.
I had a few questions I would like you to check out.
I’ve been watching your videos and I was listening about when you were talking about grace and works and that there are works of faith and works of merit. And, correct me if I am wrong, but the works of faith were those God commanded for salvation (Hear the gospel, Believe the Gospel, Repent, Confess, Be baptized…ect).
I also understand from your videos that baptism, for it to be valid, must be in the Church of Christ, and for the Church of Christ to be valid it must adhere to everything in the New Testament, for example, worshiping without musical instruments, taking communion on the right day of the week, working the way the NT says to work, being silent where the Bible is silent. And, it is to my understanding that these things may not be works of faith.
My question is, if my salvation depends on me being baptized correctly in the Church of Christ, which has the right authority, and the Church of Christ’s authority depends on its ability to adhere to the New Testament, doesn’t my salvation ultimately depend on my ability or, at the very least, the collective ability of the members of the Church to follow everything commanded in the New Testament to maintain its authority?
Thanks and I look forward to your response!
Thanks for your question! I will address it from the Bible, and the Bible alone.
I believe the videos you are referring to are: What We Believe About Works And Grace and What’s Wrong With Denominational Baptism.
Your understanding of “works of faith,” or at least your understanding of what I teach about “works of faith,” is too limited. While the works involved in obeying the plan of salvation are certainly included in “works of faith,” that is not all there is to it (1 Thess. 1:3; 2 Thess. 1:11). Preaching the gospel, worshipping according to the will of God, evangelism according to the will of God, benevolence according to the will of God, are also “works of faith.” Works of faith are those things we do in obedience to God because we believe He means what He says and His promises are true. Paul refers to it as “obedience to the faith” (Rom. 1:5; 16:26). James refers to it as “[showing] you my faith by my works” (James 2:18; cf. Gal. 5:6). They are the “good works” we are thoroughly equipped to do by the word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Regarding baptism, I don’t think I ever said that for it to be valid it must be done by a member of the church of Christ or in a church of Christ building, etc. Please see the post addressing this, especially in the comments, here – Who Baptized You.
The church of Christ is involved in a person’s baptism when you consider why a person is getting baptized and what happens when they are baptized. If a person has heard the word of God (Rom. 10:17) and believes what it teaches (Mark 16:16) then they will want to repent of their sins (Acts 2:38) and confess that they believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 8:37) so that they can be baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3-5). That is the why of baptism. Being “in Christ” cannot be separated from being in the church of Christ. The church is His body (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:24), so being baptized “into Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27) is the same thing as being baptized into His body (1 Cor. 12:13). Why does a person want to be baptized? Because they want to be “in Christ” which is the same thing as being in His body, which is the church.
You also see the church of Christ when you answer the question, What happens when a person is scripturally baptized? The same verses that show the why of baptism, also show what happens. Acts 2:47 states it very plainly. When those who readily received the word were baptized (Acts 2:41), they were “added.” Added to what? Acts 2:47 says they were added to the church! When a person is saved, which happens at the point of baptism (Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5), the Lord adds them to His church (cf. Col. 1:13; 1 Thess. 2:12). The saved are in the church and there are no saved outside the church!
I think this probably also answers your question regarding the validity of denominational baptism. Faith, belief, is a prerequisite of scriptural baptism. But faith or belief in what? Well, what were people taught before they were baptized in Acts? (Acts 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23; 28:31). How can a person be scripturally baptized when they don’t believe the truth, or haven’t learned the truth, about the kingdom of Christ? How could a person be added to the kingdom of Christ when they don’t understand the truth about that kingdom? Simply put, they can’t!
The Bible doesn’t say that a person must be baptized “in the church of Christ” but, rather, “into” the church of Christ. That doesn’t depend on any one local congregation or even on the person doing the baptizing, but on the faith of the one being baptized. If the validity of a person’s baptism depended on the faithfulness of any one local congregation of the church of Christ then your question would be valid. However, the premis of your question presupposes that I teach something that I don’t, that the Bible doesn’t teach. If you ever understood me to teach a person’s baptism relies on anyone other than that person and the Lord, then you understood me wrongly. What determines the proper authority being behind a person’s baptism is not the faithfulness of any one local congregation of the church of Christ. It is whether or not that person has been instructed in their baptism by the word of God.
I pray that this clarifies the biblical teaching on “salvation in the church of Christ”
Hey Norm! I was super excited to see you responded to my post. I really appreciate all your input and I’m definitely taking it to heart. After your response, I made since of some things but I’m still a little confused in some areas. I understand that if a person desiring, believing, confessing, repenting God and they are baptized that they are then counted into the (universal) Church of Christ and that being counted into His church cannot be separated from salvation. So if someone said that you must be in the (universal) Church of Christ to be saved I would say that is a no brainer. It would be contradictory to say that your saved and not counted in the church.
I guess a better question to ask would be why would you consider one congregation to not be a part of God’s church and maybe another to be. From what I understand if someone believes and is baptized they are counted in the “Church of Christ”, even if it’s not in a building marked as a church of Christ.
Something else I thought I would ask is that you said in your response that Faith, belief was a prerequisite to being baptized. Since Faith is a prerequisite to baptism, and there are verses to indicate we are included in Christ when we believe (Eph 1:13, Acts 10:43, Rom 3:22). Eph 1:13 seems to say we are sealed in Him we believe and if belief is a perquisite, would that point to salvation and being included in Christ at the point when someone believes? Thanks again and I look forward to your answer!
What determines whether a congregation is a congregation of the Lord’s church or not is whether they “look like” the church Jesus established. Here is a video that may help: Finding The True New Testament Church
I just want to make sure that you understood what I was saying about being baptized in a denomination. When you read the verses I gave you will see that people were being taught about the kingdom of Christ, which is the church of Christ (Matt. 16:18-19). When they believed and were baptized, what they believed was that they were being baptized into the body of Christ, His church and His kingdom. A person that doesn’t understand the difference between the Lord’s church and man-made churches cannot be scripturally baptized!
Regarding the verses you used referring to belief, those verses refer to belief as including obedience. True biblical faith cannot be separated from obedience. If a person truly believes then they will do what God says. If they don’t do what God says then they don’t truly believe. That is what James is talking about in James 2:14-26. He says that trying to separate belief from obedience is the kind of faith that demons have (James 2:19).
The children of Israel weren’t saved from the serpent bites when they believed (heard and understood) what Moses told them to do to be healed. They were saved when they did it! (Num. 21:8-9). Biblical faith is not a dead faith, without works. Biblical faith is a living, active, working, obedient faith.
Thanks again for your questions. I pray that this has been helpful to you in your study of God’s word. Please let me know if you have any other question about anything else on this web site or about your Bible study.
I have a few questions I hope will be answered: Do divisions exist a midst the churches of Christ? And, if so are they not then in sin by having division (1 Corinthians 1:10)? And if they be in sin are they not faltering as a New Testament Church?
Yes, there are divisions between congregations that claim to be the church of Christ. However, that division is the result of departing from the truth of God's word. The sin of divisiveness is never the fault of those who are following the word of God. Where division exists it is the result of one or more parties departing from the truth. The guilt of divisiveness is always to be laid at the feet of those who refuse to be in humble submission to the word of God.
Sadly, it is usually those who are resolved to stand in the truth and to not compromise the doctrine of Christ that get blamed for divisions. But who is to blame for division, the one upholding the truth or the one refusing to accept that truth? For example, the Bible says that Jesus is the only way to be saved (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12). However, Jews, Muslims and Hindus don't believe that. We are divided over that biblical truth. Who's fault is the division? Is it my fault because I am resolved to stand in the truth of God's word or is it the fault of the one who rejects that truth? It is no different with clear biblical doctrine on things like worship and salvation. The Bible says that the New Testament church worshipped on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; et. al.). I am resolved to stand in that truth and continue that New Testament practice. However, there are those who teach that the church must assemble for worship on Saturday, not Sunday. There is a division between us over the scripturally mandated day of assembly for the worship of the church. Whose fault is it? Is it my fault for doing what the Bible says? Or is it the fault of those who reject the clear teaching of the Bible? Obviously, it is the fault of those who reject the truth not the one who uncompromisingly hold to the truth.
With that said, there is another possibility for why divisions exist. It may be that divisions have arisen over matters of opinion. This should not happen. If the reason for the division is simply a matter of opinion or personal judgement then both parties in that division are guilty. That is why we say In Doctrine Unity – In Judgment Liberty. That is, we must be united in doctrine and we must allow liberty in matters of personal judgment or opinion. The problem with many is in distinguishing between doctrinal issues and judgment issues. Where the identity of the Lord's church is most definitely a doctrinal issue, what time they meet to worship on the Lord's day is a matter of judgement. While the conduct of worship is most definitely a doctrinal issue, the order of worship is a matter of judgement.
Those congregations claiming to be the church of Christ that have abandoned the truth of God's word are at fault for any divisions that exists. It is not the fault of congregations refusing to compromise the doctrine of Christ.
I pray this answers your question.
This does help to an extent. However, I see many congregations teaching several things over what seems to be small differences.
———- For an example, should we have a fellowship halls at our church? Or should women wear head coverings during the corporate worship of the church?
I believe another large discussion has been the keeping and operating of a church van or bus. These are all topics I have seen several difference arise out of the church of Christ. With this said, one may say that a fellowship hall is a sin, therefore, can the church of Christ with a fellowship hall be considered brethren? Or can they make heaven their home by deviating from what one church feels is not in line with God’s Word? If we must be faithful to the commands given, and stand in God’s Word to make heaven our eternal home could these baptized, loving, faithful Christians on either side of the noted arguments above go to heaven? ….
The kinds of issues you mentioned are matters of judgement. The head covering issue is specifically mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, and Paul specifically says that this is not something to be contentious over (1 Cor. 11:16). For a congregation to bind this as a matter of doctrine and make it a divisive issue means that they are binding their judgement on others, which is wrong. I had a debate with someone of a congregation like this. It was specifically on the issue of how the Lord's Supper is served. In that debate I made it absolutely clear that my problem with them wasn't that they use one cup but that they bind their judgment on everyone else. The doctrine of the Lord's Supper is that it is the memorial of the Lord's death with the bread being the memorial of his body and the juice being the memorial of his blood. The doctrine says it is to be observed in the first day of the week assembly. To add the type of container the juice is served in to the doctrine and make it a divisive issue is adding to the doctrine of the Lord's Supper and is wrong. I don't care if they use one cup or many cups as long as they use unleavened bread and grape juice on the first day of the week. However, they say that I am sinning because I don't do it the same way they do. They have made their judgement into a divisive issue. You can watch those videos here. Those who bind their judgement and make their judgment into divisive issues are certainly in danger of being lost.
So, are we to say that the local church of Christ having a fellowship hall built along with their building is a matter of judgment? In other words, it is at that local congregation’s discretion to erect such a building? Moreover, is it at the local church of Christ discretion as to whether they will employ the use of a church bus or van? If we say it is, where is the authority in God’s Word to conduct such a thing? Again, I hope the readers know that I am not seeking to debate, but to try and find light on this matter. Can we, apart from authority, build fellowship halls, employ church vans, or have church dinners and fellowship meals at the house of worship? Can we do that apart from divine ordinance or instruction (1 Peter 4:11). Where is the line decided in whether an act is left up to judgment or it is required to be fully backed by divine authority?
— These are each matters that churches of Christ all over have split over and some even discontinued fellowship because of either side trying to lay the pattern of the New Testament and not fellowship with one another.
Each individual congregation is autonomous under the headship of Christ. We know that early congregations met in various places, including homes. If having a kitchen or fellowship hall, as many call their kitchen and dining room, is a doctrinal issue then it would have been wrong for them to meet in homes that had kitchens and dining areas. According to many of the antis, it is doctrinally wrong to eat in the church building. However, if that is the case then local congregations could not meet in homes, community centers or any other rented or provided facility that had a kitchen and dining area in them.
The idea that the building used to facilitate the doctrinal command to assemble has any doctrinal significance at all is to go beyond the Scripture and bind one’s own judgment as doctrine. It would be making more of the building than it is, a building. The building is not the church!
If the leadership of a local congregation makes the decision that they will not eat in the building they use for the assembly of the church then that is perfectly within the realm of their autonomous judgment. However, when they start saying that any other autonomous congregation is sinning because they do choose to provide the congregation a place to have meals together and enjoy fellowshipping together, they are binding their judgment as doctrine and causing division over it. That is wrong! (1 Cor. 1:10; et. al.).
You ask for the scriptural authority to have a fellowship hall or church vans and the like. Such things are authorized by generic authority. Because we are commanded to assemble ourselves together (Acts 20:7; Heb. 10:25; et. al.), we have the generic authority to have building to facilitate obedience to that command. Because we are commanded to Go (Matt. 28:19-20), we have the generic authority to facilitate that command by the purchase of a van.
We know that the first century church had meals together when they assembled (Jude 12). Justin Martyr describes it in his writing as a regular weekly activity of the church. When they came together to worship on Sunday, they would enjoy a fellowship meal, or love feast together. If the congregation chooses to do this in the building where they meet for worship or to go somewhere else, it is entirely a matter of judgment and should never be made a doctrinal issue.
Here are some lessons I have posted on how to determine what is authorized by specific or generic authority: