INTRO: Good Morning. This lesson was given a little while ago in the evening and was requested to be repeated in at some time in the morning.
In our lessons we have had encouragement to teach people, and that is good. In reality talking to people can be difficult because there are walls built up in their minds. Over the years I have heard something either as a statement or question I thought a bit odd, and I’ve ignored that statement, but ran into it again this year as expressed in a book I was reading so I started to give it some thought. I suspect there's a good chance that you have either heard this question said to you or more likely you've just seen it in the eyes of people you have talked to. It seems to be a pretty common idea that people have when they find out that you are a member of a local church of Christ. “Isn't it true that the church of Christ believes that they are the only ones going to heaven?”
How do you answer that question? It seems simple enough on the face of it, but after some consideration about how we might answer this when we are trying to teach about Christ, I found it's a really difficult question to give a simple answer to. It's something that no matter how you approach it there is likely to be some misunderstanding between what they mean by church of Christ and what you mean by church of Christ. I might give an answer that's right, based on one definition and completely wrong based on another.
Even though it's a pretty complicated thing to tackle, we have to successfully answer this question because it is a roadblock in the minds of some people and it can block our chance to teach them the truth. We need to think about how we can get past this obstacle.
To illustrate how difficult this matter can be let me ask you this; if someone asks you “is it true that the church of Christ believes they're the only ones going to heaven” and if they're talking about the one true church of Christ, that is, the church that belongs to Christ, the Kingdom, what's the answer? YES.
Only people who are part of the one body of Christ are going to heaven. If they mean “is it true that only members of the Chardon 128 Maple Avenue church of Christ are going to heaven”, what's the answer? NO. There are saved people everywhere.
It's one of those really interesting things where you really cannot answer the question unless you come back with a question. I know people hate it when you answer a question with a question, but this is one of those times. “What do you mean when you say the church of Christ believes?” “More precisely who are you talking about?”
I strongly suspect that what they usually mean is neither the One church of Christ nor the Chardon 128 Maple Avenue church of Christ. Usually what folks mean is what we call denominationalism. They mean, “you know, you church of Christ denomination folks. You guys all think that everyone else is lost.”
Ultimately before we can get anyone to see the truth of what the Bible says about salvation, we need to show them that there is no such thing as a church of Christ denomination. Now we might think well that's a really easy thing to do, just say a couple things and that'll be over with.
Do you know how old denominationalism in religion is? It has been around a very long time. Various denominations had been developing in Europe long before this country was discovered. The Baptist denomination shows up on these shores and is established in 1638. Denominationalism was here before this country was established. No American has ever been born without seeing denominations all over the place. In many dictionaries today the first definition of “denomination” is related to religion. The Cambridge Dictionary says; “a religious group whose beliefs differ in some ways from other groups in the same religion”. Another definition is; “Denomination is defined as the act of categorizing or making a category, particularly of a religion.”
Since a denomination is defined as a category of something there is plenty of room for misunderstanding. Category of what? How much variance is needed to call something a category? How much difference before a collection is a category of a category of something?
The idea of telling someone we're undenominational is very confusing. That's not something we're born in this country with the ability to decipher by the very nature of it.
We have literally thousands of denominations. I believe there are members of churches of Christ who are also unclear about what it means to be undenominational.
Why is that? I strongly suspect it is partly because we were born into a denominational country with that way of thinking, and possibly into a denominational family, we may have grown up in a denominational church. It is really hard to grasp religion without categorization.
Let’s pick a place to begin and see if we can get a view of how this works. I don’t want to start with the group called “everyone” as far as religion goes since that would include those who believe in something and those who believe in nothing. Let’s instead take a look at how a person making that statement or asking that question might view us.
Here is what denominationalism looks like and then we'll entertain our question again.
I want you to imagine that there's this box. This rectangle represents where the saved people are. Everybody who's outside, and we know who they are, the really bad folks, they're not going to heaven but everybody in the rectangle is going to heaven.
In our country the only real hurdle you have to cross in order to be saved—is believe in Jesus. If you believe, now this is American thinking, if you believe in Jesus you leave this area outside and you get to be in the rectangle of salvation, bordered by the blood of Jesus. This is the way our nation thinks. When you talk to your neighbor that's where they're coming from. They think everybody who believes in Jesus is saved.
Once you decide you believe in Jesus you need to pick a church, but they don't mean the one church. They're already in that. They don't mean a local church. They mean a denomination. You need to decide what kind of a believer you want to be. I mean you're a believer and you're in, but what kind of a believer are you?
That is, do you want to be a Baptist believer because they have some really interesting rules and regulations some you like some you don’t. Do you want to be a Catholic believer? Because they allow some things that Baptists don't but there are some things they don't. Do you want to be a Methodist believer? Which category of believers do you want to be? It doesn't matter which you choose because they are all in the rectangle.
See that idea? Here we are then over here in the church of Christ box. I don't know why anybody would ever choose to be that because we teach very exclusive things about the necessity of baptism, the absolute omission of instrumental music, the Lord's Supper each week, the need to worship, the need to serve, and the need to learn from the scriptures. Oh that last one is tough. I mean I don't know why anybody would but some people do. You need to choose which box to be in.
Then once you've chosen your box, and it doesn't really matter which one. Then you choose which local church. the circles are; you want to go to, the 128 Maple Ave, you want to go to Mentor, or you get to go over to this church, or that church. You just pick one but they're all going to kind of look the same. Right?
There are plenty of other churches around Chardon. You can go to the Morning Star Friends down on Rt. 44, or New Testament Baptist, or Word of Faith, or St Mary’s, or Peace Lutheran.
This is the way the world sees the church—purely denomination. The idea that you guys over here in the corner are teaching that you must be baptized to be saved, well we don't believe that. The very idea that you would teach that we are wrong with God is pure idiocy. I mean look at the rectangle. Why would you ever teach that any of the rest of us are wrong with God when we're all in the box together? Just because our path looks a little different we all have the same goal.
Unless we can explain to someone what's wrong with this picture just forget about ever telling them that they need to change what they believe or they need to change how they've been baptized or they need to change the way they worship because denominational thinking doesn't need to entertain any of those questions. Why would I need to think about that? It doesn't matter which box you choose.
What then do we need to do? I think it's kind of an interesting journey. If we have any hope of talking to our friends and family about changing their beliefs about Jesus we have to deconstruct denominationalism in their minds. Otherwise they're never really going to care. Although interestingly enough there are some people who would kick these two boxes out. We all kind of make our decisions on who gets to be in the big rectangle right? Unfortunately this large box thinking from all these people puts quite a bit of pressure back on this little corner box and can even influence some here.
I. Not God’s Will: Here's what we want to do. Here is one of the first arguments we need to make. We start by showing that denominationalism is just dead wrong. It is not a biblical idea. It is not God's plan. If we're in a church of Christ denomination, we're wrong. If we’re in a Baptist denomination we're wrong. What it is saying is “we have agreed to be doctrinally different and accept that we're all in it together”. The concept of having separate groups with separate beliefs that look like one another but intentionally have differences, is completely, absolutely in violation of what the Bible teaches. If that's who we are, we are wrong.
A. I want to look at three things here. The first is that division has never been God's plan. I can just imagine saying; Jesus here's what we want to do with your church. What we want to do is to decide that everybody who calls on your name is saved no matter what, and then they get to decide what they want to believe. If they want to believe in baptism that's fine, or if not, that's fine. If they want to believe in women leadership that's fine, or if not, that's fine we'll just create a subset box, a denomination for similar beliefs. By the way there are not just eight of them, more like 20,000 of them.
1. Isn’t that wonderful, there's a flavor for everyone. Oh, and Jesus we're all going to teach a little something different about you, but we're all going to do it in your name.
2. What would the son of God have said to that? Let me ask you to open your Bibles with me to John 17. I would like to look at some common passages we have all read. This is where it all begins we have to throw out denominationalism for us and everybody else.
3. In John Chapter 17 I want you to see in verse 20 Jesus’ beautiful prayer just before He went to the garden and was ultimately crucified. John 17:20-21 – “20. "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21. "that they all may be one,... as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” Can you imagine Jesus and the Father having all kinds of different doctrinal beliefs? Just seeing things totally differently and deciding to just have like maybe a left heaven and a right heaven you know? When you go to heaven if you like what the Father has to say about things, you can be on this side and if you if you like what the Son has to say—no way! They are completely in unity on what they say and teach and God said that's how I want you to be as well.
4. Lets look at that, in first Corinthians chapter 1 we find the congregation in Corinth started to became divided, they started kind of saying well we favored this guy's teaching, some others said that guy’s teaching. This may sound familiar if you know anything about denominationalism. We favor this guy's teaching, we favor this fella's angle. The very idea of segregating was utterly rejected in; I Corinthians 1:10 – “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
5. What would the Apostle Paul think of Chardon Ohio today? What would he think of it? How many people are meeting in Jesus name in Chardon today? About 26—26 groups. Okay well how many different beliefs are there? About 26—26 differing sets of ideas on this or that. He would say so you do not all agree? Oh no, we do not agree. Then you are divided? Oh, yeah we are big time divided. What would He say about that? That cannot happen. That cannot be. That is not the way it should be. You need to find a way to agree and you need to find a way to bring those divisions together.
6. Think about this. The idea of separate beliefs in the one body is completely foreign to the word of God. Ephesians 4 please. In Ephesians Chapter 4 it talks about walking correctly, verse 1, it talks about having the right attitude - of humility and gentleness verse 2. Let’s look at verse 3. Ephesians 4:3 – “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Yes we want to be patient no doubt about it, but we also have to be diligent to preserve, to keep, the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace and then you know what comes after that. Does it say; “There are many bodies with different organizational heads and charters” NO! It says “4. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5. one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6. one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
7. Ask a denominational person how many different faiths are there. Oh many, many different faiths. I mean they're all about Jesus but they all have totally different angles and ideas and authority behind them. That is not what God taught. Maybe we need to say let's just throw out denominationalism completely. Let's get rid of it because this idea of division is not God's will.
B. Not Biblical: Second, then I wonder is there somewhere in scripture, anywhere any time, where people believed and taught different doctrinal things and yet they did so in unity with one another. That never takes place. I've just shown you a few verses here that you know very well.
1. Let's look at Ephesians since we're right there. In Ephesians Chapter 1 and you're probably familiar with this, when the New Testament talks about the church it is only talked about in two senses. Are you aware of that? The church as it pertains to Christ is only discussed in two ways. Therefore we should only talk about it, biblically speaking, in those two ways. One way is Ephesians 1:22-23 – “22. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23. which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” That is the one church, the whole rectangle. There is the one body of Christ under His protection and saved by Him. Everybody who's in that body is saved, everybody who is outside of that body is lost. If you're asking me about the church, are you asking me about the one body? Because that's a Bible idea.
2. When you're talking about the church you might be talking about the one body or look at Acts 14 you might be talking about local collections of people in the one body working and worshipping together. In Acts chapter 14 we call them local churches in Acts 14:20-23 - “20. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. 21. And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22. strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.'' 23. So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”
3. That's not talking about a denomination of churches; it is talking about a local 128 Maple Ave. church. Folks, that's the only two ways the church is talked about in the whole Bible, the New Testament.
4. It's either the one body or its local people who are members of the one body.
• There is never a mention of a separate square with a separate name.
• There is never a mention of divided ideas.
• There is never a mention of a denominational church of any kind at all.
C. Doctrines Matter To God: Third, do you know why all that is? Do you know why that division cannot exist in the church? Do you know why denominationalism is utterly rejected? Because denominationalism was created out of; “what do we do with different doctrines”? How do we handle that? I believe baptism is essential and you don't. We'd better find separate places to worship, right? We need to call them different things to keep it straight.
1. Here's the problem with that. Doctrines that are taught matter to God. I think we will start in Matthew. When Jesus was preaching the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew Chapter 7, at the end of that sermon He talked about how people would say Lord, Lord and profess their belief in Him. What did He say in the story that He told next. He said; Let me tell you there will be two kinds of believers. I'm going to tell you now—two kinds. There will be believers who do what I say and there will be believers who do not do what I say. Those who do what I say are mine and those who do not do what I say have their home built on the sand. They built their home on very fortified sand by the way. Lot of wasted effort shoring up their foundations which are not scriptural. There can't be different actions in the name of Jesus, only that which He has taught,
2. Did He not say that in Matthew Chapter 28? In Matthew Chapter 28 and Verse 18 you know this so well Jesus came up and spoke to them saying “18. Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, (Watch this very closely) baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20. "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.''
3. Let me tell you why this is so important, we're going somewhere with this that I hope you'll be able to use. When you're having a conversation with a denominational person, when you run into some disagreement on what you both believe, chances are they, if given time, they will go to their denomination, and they will ask their preacher; “what do we believe?”. Please no one come ask me that. I've had people ask, “What do we believe?” What are you talking about?
4. We are not some subset with some special collection of beliefs. That's the way denominationalism thinks. We are just people who do what the Bible says.
• We do what Jesus taught.
• We do what the disciples said.
• We don't run to some board.
• We don't go to some creed book.
• There's no “we” in that sense.
• There's just Jesus and His Word and His will.
5. We know that in Galatians 1:6-9 it says; “6. I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7. which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” It said people will come with a different doctrine, you reject them. There can't be multiple doctrines. Did I say that clearly? There can't be multiple doctrines under the one Jesus.
6. Revelation 22 ends with these fateful words Revelation 22:18-19 – “18. For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19. and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Do not add to nor take away. He's talking about the Book of Revelation there, but it would apply to all revelation of the Holy Spirit. Don't do more than it says don't do less.
7. You go ask someone who's in a local Chardon denomination. Do you guys think you're doing a few things that are a little bit more than what the Bible says? Well yeah, but that's what we do. That’s who we are. Stop right there. There's no we, there's no you, there's no denomination, there's no subset! That's totally non biblical. There's just; what does the Bible say.
II. Strip Away The Confusion: Before we can make progress in teaching what the truth is the best thing that could happen is for you and one of your friends who worships at some church in the area to sit down and say let's do this first. Let's go back to this and let's start stripping it of things that don't belong so we can have a real conversation here. People have been doing this for the last 2000 years in small numbers. In the last 200 years there was a notable group of folks that did that in this country and in this very area. They made this effort. That's the key.
A. You’ve got to strip all stuff that doesn't belong so you can have a real conversation. The first thing you want to do is clear out all the names.
• I'm not a Church of Christer.
• You're not a Baptist.
• You’re not a Mormon.
• You're not a Methodist.
• Let’s just strip all those names.
1. That idea of subsets and names is all non-bible stuff anyway. We only call ourselves the church of Christ because we're a group of people trying to belong to Christ, but we're not married to that name. Some people are. We can be called the church of the Chardonians in God and Christ. How you like that? First Thessalonians one. Quit being married to the names. When you're married to the name then you're married to the “we” of it and that is not what is needed.
2. Get rid of the names and since we're no longer of this or that let's go ahead and get rid of all the lines too let's decide that we don't believe in lines. What I mean is; in Christ, we don't believe in your belief system or in my belief system and get to pick which categories we keep. We're finished with categorical stuff.
3. We're going to say you know what I think? We're going to re-evaluate that. We're not just going to say that everybody who believes in Jesus is saved. We’re actually going to go back and take another look at that. That's real progress.
4. In our thinking we need to get rid of all these circles. We’re going to get rid of that. There's no I'm a blue circle Christian, I’m a red circle Christian. No. Forget it. Forget the names, forget the lines. Forget the circles. Just go back to where there is a rectangle. Everybody who is outside of it is lost. Everybody who is inside of it is saved. You know what we call that blue rectangle we call that the one body of Jesus Christ. We call that His church, His Kingdom.
5. If you think you can push the point just a little bit and nobody will explode, you can go ahead and say; you may as well call it the church of Christ because that's the only reason we use that name. I know we probably should leave the names out, but what we're saying is it's not really a name at all. All we're saying is there is this one body and everybody who's in it is saved and it is our determination that we just want to make sure we're in that.
B. So then the question, this would be great if you had somebody ask you this question: How do we get in that? Great question. I would say, I think we're done for today. That was just way too much progress because that's where you have to get. The question is; “How do we get in there?” OK.
1. You know we're not going to ask some church—no such thing anyway. We're not going to go to some convention that meets once a year—no such thing anyway biblically speaking. We're not going to go look at some book written in 1983--doesn't do a lick of good.
2. What we are going to do is just go open the Bible. By the way folks have been doing that for a very long time as well.
3. How do you get in there, and here's what we're going to find out. We're going to find out and I'll skip to Matthew 16. Sure enough in Matthew 16 we see Jesus only built one church. Verse 18. We just need to make sure we're in it and that’s all. Forget the names. Just be in it.
4. Then we look at Matthew Chapter 28 and see we need to make sure we're doing what Jesus said. Verses 18-20. Then we open our Bibles to Acts chapter two. How often have you gone to Acts chapter two? Oh boy. Not another church of Christer headed to Acts chapter two. That's the last thing I need. Hang on a minute. I'm not what you just called me. There's no such thing as that. I'm not of this. You're not of that. I'm not trying to build some argument for a square on the board, I just want to find out, biblically speaking, scripturally revealed, on the very first day, day uno, how people went from here to there. Lost to saved. I just want to know how they got there. That's all I'm asking.
5. We go to Acts two and you already know what we find. We find in verse 36 that you must believe that Jesus is Lord and Christ. No doubt about it. You've got to believe that but that is not all that we must do. That’s a threshold that America has sort of created as it's all you've got to do to get in the box. Not a biblical idea because; the very next verse they came to Peter and the Apostles and they were pierced to the heart they were sorry for their sins against the Lord. They said what shall we do? and you know what Peter said. Peter said repent. Ah.
6. In order to get in the box I have to turn from the sins in my life and in verse 38 be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of my sins. Well, our church doesn't teach forgiveness of your sins. You need to leave that church, because whatever it is, whatever its lines are made of, it’s not this.
C. The one body of Christ is a body that we enter by believing (Verse 36) who Jesus is, being sorry for our sin, (Verse 37) and requesting salvation, repenting of our sins (verse 38) and being baptized for the forgiveness of our sins to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Verse 41 says; Those who had received his word were baptized and that day there were added about 3000 souls and then in verse 42; and they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine or as Revelation 2:10 says; just be faithful. What does that mean? Just Keep worshipping, keep reading, and keep learning.
1. Wait, learn what? Just what the Bible says. That's it? That's it. Well, what do I need to learn? I mean I’ve done all this and now what kind of stuff do I need to be reading. Is it what we are about? What's our position on drinking for example? Love that kind of question, hate that kind of question. What do you mean our position on drinking? Well, I got to decide which box I want to be in because that box over there allows social drinking. There are no boxes, no smaller boxes, no wine boxes. There is just—what does the Bible say.
• What does the Bible say about sobriety?
• What does the Bible say about life?
• What does it say about how we represent ourselves?
• What does it say about wine?
D. Isn't that awesome? I just have this vision and it is a little bit overly optimistic perhaps, for all of our religious friends worshipping in denominationalism, that there is a way, and how many in the churches in Chardon that could use this, that there is a way we could just flip the switch, and the light would come on; “Oh you're saying that all we have to do is just what the Bible says and forget about all this other stuff, this segregation, division business and we can all come together?” I just have a feeling that's good news. I mean its great news. Everything that the Lord doesn't want goes away.
E. Let me bring the question back in. Does the church of Christ believe they're the only ones going to heaven? What you want is for the person you're studying with to say well if you mean that church, yeah. So you're talking about the body of saved? Absolutely! We need to get them to see that.
I want to end the lesson here though I am certain there is more to examine.
I want to bring the circles back in. Now there are no red circles, no blue circles, though there might be some different size circles. That are these? They are local churches. They are local churches that follow the Bible. You have lost the element of multiple choice, which Americans dearly love. You mean I don’t get to pick what I want? I don't get variety, I have only one choice? All we're doing is what the Bible said and so you lose a lot of variety. What you also lose is division. You do always get a choice with God, but it is usually a binary choice.
You pick a local church but all you have to concern yourself with, and this is awesome, all you have to be sure of is that the local church is doing what the Bible says! It's not about do they match up with the things I want to believe. By the way we just call these local churches of Christ.
We could change it if you want. We could say Chardon church which belongs to Christ if you like that better. Or Chardon church of Christ in God by Biblical Teaching if you're the wordy type.
We're not a thing, we're not a subset, we're not a group. We're just a local collection of people who have done what the Bible says and just want to keep doing that. We don't want to answer to some council and we don't want to be monitored by some city on another continent.
We just want to do what the Bible says--so I'll give you some verses here.
Acts chapter 14 talks about how they set up elders in every church.
Well our church doesn't have elders like that, our church has a pastor. Where do you get that idea? Well, that's what our church does. There is no our church there is no denomination.
There's just what the Bible says. Look and you will find that you set up elders in every church, just go to First Timothy three and you find out their qualifications and you get everything you need to build congregations that look like what God wants.
People really need to do is forget about what you call yourself or what your parents call themselves. Forget about the name on the building.
All you need to do is find the one true church taught by the Bible and you need to enter it in the Bible way and then you need to find a local group of people doing what the Bible says.
There is nothing of more significance in our lives than when the son of God returns in the sky.
All that's going to matter, not what we’ve called ourselves, not what is on the building, not what we have decided to believe, because all of that will go away. The only thing that will matter is am I in His body. That's all that's going to matter. Am I a part of His church?
Folks, the Bible is the only way to know that. It is absolute knowledge on the subject.
If you want to be a Christian the way the Bible teaches, if you want to be a part of a congregation that does so to the best of our ability, you need to make a decision in that direction.
Today's the day for you to do that, or if you have turned from being a child of Christ, it is the day to return. The invitation is open for you to do so now as we stand and sing.
Invitation song: ???
Reference sermon: David SchmidtPrint
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