|Volume 2||May 15, 2003||Issue 7|
So How Does the Word Tell Us To Do Things?
Many people, including one of the authors of this publication spent a number of years in a denomination simply accepting what someone else said was the Truth. After beginning a personal study of the Scripture, it didn't take long to see that the so called scholars of that denomination were not even close to understanding what was clearly stated in the Word. Individual study quickly proved that the denomination was wrong wrong on numerous counts, some of which were extremely obvious with very little study. It became clear that the "scholars" either had been delusional or they simply closed their mind to error and followed the "denominational line" that had been in existence for hundreds of years.
The lesson this author learned as a result of so many years of just accepting the teaching of that denomination was twofold. First one should never depend on anyone else to explain to him/her what the Bible says. The Word itself makes it very clear that we are responsible for our own salvation (Phil 2:12). If at our time of judgement we are found guilty and fail to be given a place in heaven, we will not be able to say, "but the church always taught me that..." or "but the elders said that...." It is the Scriptural obligation of each of us to understand the Word and be ready to give an account of ourself to God (Rom. 14:12).
The second lesson learned by this author as a result of many years in a denomination was that one should also never close his/her mind to changing whatever has been comfortable or accepted for many years. There's always that chance that it has been wrong. Each of us must continually study the Bible with an open heart and mind and be ready to change if the Word leads us to do so. The great philosopher Aristotle once stated:
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
When we become unwilling to even listen to or read any information that is not already in agreement with our current thinking, we are in serious danger of everlasting damnation. There is no longer opportunity for us to evaluate and monitor our own beliefs. We close roads that God may choose to use to influence us away from error. We must always be willing to measure new information against His Word and discern whether or not it is Truth or error. It is for this reason that we must be so very familiar with the Word. We never know when God or Satan may be trying to influence us. It is only knowledge of His Word that will determine for us whether it is indeed God or whether it is Satan. Without a thorough knowledge of the Word we have no "plumb line" to keep us straight. We become prime targets for Satan to easily "slant" our belief and begin to permanently lead us astray.
In the last issue of Diligence we discussed several barriers to unity that might exist in the church. We have seen that the Bible is our only source for sound doctrine and that there can be no God approved unity unless all of us accept the Bible as our final authority. We said in that previous issue that we must do it the way the Word says to do it. It is our responsibility to study the accounts and directives that God has provided for us in His Word and learn what that is.
So where do we start if we want to do it the way the Word says to do it? Well first, we must become a Christian in the same way they did in the examples we have in the Bible. So exactly how was that?
They heard. See John 6:44-45; I Cor 1:18-21 and the verse shown here.
"14How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 17So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:14 and 17 NKJV)
They believed. See Heb. 11:6; Mark 16:16 and the verses shown here.
"I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." (John 8:24 NIV)
"...his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized." (Acts 18:8 NIV)
They repented of their sins. See Luke 13:3-5; Acts 2:38 and the verses shown here.
"In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30 NIV)
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out,...." (Acts 3:19 KJV)
They confessed faith in Jesus. See Matt 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10 and the verse below.
"And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, ...and he baptized him." (Acts 8:36-38 KJV)
They were immersed in water for the remission of their sins. See Mark 16:16; I Peter 3:21; Acts 8:38 and the verses below.
"And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16 KJV)
"Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. (Romans 6:3-6 NIV)
"...they...said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles,...what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:37-38 KJV)
Obedience to the Gospel made them children of God. See Acts 2:41 and 47 and the verse below.
"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27 NIV)
There is no alternative way spoken of in the Scriptures for an individual to become a child of God other than through these acts. That's the way they did it then and that's the way we must do it now.
Second, we must worship God in the manner prescribed in the Bible. There are several elements specifically mentioned in the Scriptures that the early Christians did when they assembled together. The first of those elements we will list here is singing. We read in Eph 5:19 and Matt 26:30 that singing was something they did when they gathered together. We see absolutely no evidence however that there were musical instruments, choirs, solos, cantatas, or any form of "music" other than a cappella singing when they came together and worshiped God.
Another element we find mentioned in the Scriptures is teaching (Acts 2:42). Acts 20:7-12 clearly states that they gathered on the first day of the week and that teaching took place during that time. The Scriptures tell us that the whole counsel of God was proclaimed by the teacher (Acts 20:26-27).
Giving is the third element we will list that is mentioned in the Scriptures that was a part of worship. That too, was done on the first day of the week (I Cor:16:2; II Cor 9:6-7). There is no indication anywhere in the Bible that there were special fund raisers of any kind practiced by the early Christians no bingos, no pie suppers, no festivals, no craft sales, no nothing except free will offerings.
The fourth thing we see that was a part of the worship of the early Christians is the Lord's Supper (Acts 29:7; I Cor 11:17-34; Matt 26:26-29; Acts 2:41-42). Each member of the Lord's church is to partake of the bread and the fruit of the vine each first day of the week in remembrance of Christ's death burial and resurrection.
The Scriptures are also clear that the early Christians included prayer as a part of their assemblies together. See Acts 12:5 and the following verse.
"And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:42 KJV)
So we too, just as they did, should include each of these elements when we assemble on the first day of the week as a group of Christians and worship God. That's the way they did it then and that's the way we must do it now.
Obviously, "performing" these elements in a mechanical sort of way would not be pleasing to God because He tells us that:
"God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24 NIV)
To "...worship in spirit..." means that one must worship in a sincere manner and from one's heart. To worship "...in truth" means that our worship must be according to and as directed by His Word. God will not accept deviation from that Word. We see the importance that God places on obedience in numerous Old Testament accounts (Leviticus 10:1-2; Numbers 20:7-12; II Samuel 6:5-7).
In addition to relying on the authority of the Bible to guide us in the things we have already mentioned, we must also live a daily Christian life and remain faithful to Him.
"Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev 2:10 NIV)
"All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matt 10:22 NIV)
"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (I Cor 15:58 NIV)
Unity can only be had when we all submit to a book, chapter, and verse mentality. Introducing anything into the Body of Christ that is not a part of His Word causes division within that Body. The Bible has harsh words for those who do that.
"Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Romans 16:17-20 NKJV)