Category Archives: church restoration

Hitchhiker’s Church History

Douglas Adams quotes to his readers from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe’s entry on Galactic Civilizations. According to the Guide civilization pass through three stages before their demise. The stages are: Survival, Inquiry, and Sophistication otherwise known as How, Why, and Where. Adams explains it in terms similar to this: Survival – “How are we going to get something to eat?” Inquiry – “Why do we need to eat?” Sophistication – “Where would you like to go out to eat?” Adams may be on to something.

Our society grows more and more sophisticated. We no longer worry if we are going to eat, nor do we care why we eat, our concern is what and where are we going to eat. We have so much, that we never need go hungry; so many choices that we cannot find satisfaction. We grow ungrateful and less dependent upon God. We look more and more to selfishly defend our egos and feed our swelling midriffs.

ipad 016Can the Church go through these stages of survival, inquiry, and sophistication? At one point the Church was struggling to survive. Persecution seemed to be getting the upper-hand, yet through Providence, the Church survived. Persecution slowed to a near halt. With realized survival the Church began to ask questions of “why.” “Why did Jesus have to die? Why do we worship the way we do? Why do we have elders over each congregation? Why can one elder not preside over a city, state, national, or universal church system? Why will some not follow the Church’s mandates?” Eventually the church flirted with the world growing into a sophisticated entity with absolute power. She stopped asking question of survival and inquiry and began solely to feed her growing waistline. The selling of Indulgences, accommodating Pagan worship styles, and the corrupt land grabbing of millennium past demonstrate this developmental stage.

Reformation attempted to change the established church to what men and women read in scripture. As reformation ideas grew common, persecution from the established church followed. These reformers asked, “How are we going to survive?” They did survive and began asking questions of “why.” “Why do these other reformers not agree with me?” These groups became established sects that began shifting to sophistication, establishing creeds and systematic doctrines.

Coexisting with these reformation groups were groups and individuals with a mindset of Restoration, longing for a return to the teachings of the New Testament. Restoration existed in Europe as early as the 1100-1200’s A.D. (some suggest even earlier: Traces of the Kingdom) and in America in the 1700 – 1800’s A.D. Early restorers faced persecution from the established churches and sects. They too must have wondered, “How can we survive?”

Those of us that are of the restoration mindset must continue to survive. We can and should ask questions of “why.” But we must ever fight to avoid becoming sophisticated, growing fat and lazy by only feeding ourselves. We must continue restoration in the lives of those outside of Christ. We must reconcile them to God through Christ (2 Cor 5:17-21). We cannot allow sophisticated creeds to develop, we must remain vigilant and diligent to demonstrate ourselves approved of God (2 Tim 2:15). We must fight faithfully, stick to the course, and finish the race (2 Tim 4:7-8). The day will come when we will rest from our efforts (Rev 14:13), but that Day is yet to come. For now we struggle against principalities and powers (Eph 6:12) for our survival.


Note: This originally appeared on my old blogspot blog in 2009.

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Why are they leaving? What can we do?

Yesterday we looked at four reasons that people are leaving churches. Now the question remains; What can churches do?

First churches must return to the basics. When the church at Ephesus became mis-focused after aDistractions few years, Jesus encourages them through the Apostle to “return to your first love.” This concept needs proclaiming from the roof tops of churches around our great nation and the world as a whole. We need to be like Paul who said, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). To the Philippians he declares that above all he desires to know Christ and the power of his resurrection (Phil 3:10). We need to return to proclaiming the message of Good News – the Gospel of Christ that is God’s power to save men (Rom 1:16, 5:1). Once we reach people with this wonderful, awe inspiring, love compelling, disciple making message of hope, then we can move on to loftier and meatier matters. Churches cannot abandon the simple Gospel message for any watered down more “palatable” message. Any thing less would be (is) disastrous.

Next we need to study up on and instruct congregations in the Bible; not modern self-help psychology; not sermonettes on how to avoid financial ruin, but messages that create a firm foundation for faith and hope. We must hear again and follow the teachings of and the teachings concerning Jesus as Christ and not build on the sand (Matt 7:24-27). This teaching begins with a confirmation of the Bible as God’s authentic inspired word and therefore reliable as a guide toward obedience. We need to re-establish faith in the inerrant nature of Scripture. I dare suggest that many in the pew do not know the history of the providential preservation of God’s word from it’s inspiration to the version you hold as you study. We need to demonstrate the relevance of the messages within the Sacred Text to our lives in the 21st Century. Details of life may change, but our nature remains the same. Specifics within the context of a narrative may not always be relevant, but the underlying lessons are still for our learning and instruction (Rom 15:4). We need to return to the pattern of living by the precepts of God in Christ.

We must also remember that Jesus told His immediate followers, and by extension all that belong to Him, that they and we are “in the world but not of the world” (John 17:14-16). We are to lead the world by our example and not follow the example of the world. Paul put it this way in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . .” When we will live a daily Christian life, the world will take notice and we will be the unique people we God calls us to be (1 Pet 2:9).

Finally, we need to refocus our worship. Too many churches and individual Christians look for a worship experience that moves them as individuals or small groups. Jesus told the woman of Samaria that God is Spirit and those that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). God is the focus of our worship. When I worship God, I am the last concern, you are next in line, and God is the central figure and the only member of the audience as we each individually participate in cooperate worship. Your edification and admonition are secondary byproducts of my worship and my encouragement is secondary to your worship. The focus is God and His pleasure. We must learn again to worship the Creator and not the created. I find that when you and I focus on God and Christ that I do gain. Notice the Hebrew writer’s emphasis in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We accomplish this when we gather together to “offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb 13:15).

What will the results of a shift toward a restoration of Biblical preaching, Christian living, and godly worship? Some will still leave, they left Jesus in John 6, and He asked the Twelve, if they would leave as well. They stayed. Some today will stay the course. No matter who leaves or stays, if we will do the above those who stay will be stronger for it.

– Scott

One reader on Facebook mentioned the importance of an atmosphere of love. Another reader wrote about cross-generational relationships. Those are posts for another day.

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Why People Leave Churches

I Quit!The question of why members are leaving churches is weighing heavy on my mind this morning. This is a discussion I have with church leaders on a regular basis.  I believe that there are four reasons why people leave churches. I also have four suggestions on how those of us in church leadership and as members of churches might combat this trend (I will post those tomorrow).

From my reading, from conversations, from my observations, and as a member of Generation X (a.k.a. The Baby Busters) who are part of the ones walking out and taking their children with them; I think there are at least four major reasons people leave:

    1. A Mis-Focus on Politics: Churches of all types began shifting their focus about 20 to 25 years ago away from Christ and toward Politics and the creation of an anti-cultural movement. I believe that this was an honest change in an attempt to “keep” the United States a “Christian” nation. Leaders in churches saw that culture was heading in an ungodly direction and began to shout warnings hoping to bring people to hold fast to Judeo-Christian morals. They took this approach out of the pulpit and church buildings to the steps of capitols and doors of legislators trying to beat the Devil at his game. The reasoning was that Christians could no longer be the silent majority letting the vocal minority influence local, state, and national policy. Those of my generation, even many of those who hold to high moral standards do not believe that churches should run government. The recent change in the national political environment may be evidence of this belief. When churches continue to promote candidates and try to push politics from the pulpits the younger sets begin to walk out the door. They are not wanting to be worldly, they want to be godly, and do not feel they are learning as much about God as they are about Washington D.C. Churches do need to teach morals and the truth about immorality, but not with a political tone. Paul, as far as we know, never wrote a letter condemning Caesar, but told the Romans to submit to governing authorities (Rom. 13).
    2. Failure to Teach Doctrine: At about the same time as the above shift in focus, so-called Mega Churches started appearing on the evangelical and fundamentalist landscape. These groups built large communities of adherents by reaching out to the “un-churched” with programs and ministries designed to fill their felt and desired needs. Again the idea was mostly from a pure motivation of trying to reach people for Christ. Many thought that if we reach the physical and emotional needs of the “un-churched” with love then we could reach their spiritual need for Christ. A mantra echoed in the halls of many churches, “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The problem is that many have not shifted from this emotional and physical outreach to teaching their converts about doctrine. I suggest that the average church goer does not know the major doctrines of the congregation they attend. There is a time for a baby to have only milk, but a child must have solid food to grow to adulthood (1 Cor 3:2; Heb 5:12). Many are leaving churches because they need a change in diet to help them grow to maturity.
    3. Cultural Shift in the Churches: A result of not growing individuals to mature adulthood as a child of God is that they do not learn to avoid the pitfalls of the world. By not teaching doctrine, churches fail to equip their members to be faithful to each other and to God. There are telling statistics concerning high rates of broken homes within Christianity, higher than non-Christian cultures and even atheistic homes. Churches have let the world get a foothold on their members. A friend and fellow preacher wrote recently about doing an experiment with his sons. He had his boys time how long he could hold a finger in water as it began to boil (I did not say he was bright did I?). When he finally pulled it out he noticed it was pink and on the verge of blistering. He stuck another finger in and realized the water was quite hot. His first finger did not notice the gradual change in the water temperature as abruptly as a finger left outside of the water. What did he learn? When we allow worldly culture in our homes via mass media and we slowly incorporate that culture into our lives and churches we lose people to the world. When we use popular programming to “bring people in” we are not offering anything different from the world. Mankind is smart enough to see our inconsistency.
    4. We Cannot Out Entertain the World: Many churches are losing members to various genres of entertainment. One local church leader complained to me that since the “mud-track” opened up on Sunday, he cannot compete,attendance began to dwindle. The congregation he leads has a rock band, uses dramatic performances, etc. to draw people in and to supposedly keep them there. Again we cannot beat the Devil at his game. He has more money and more experience in the entertainment department. I once heard Dan Chambers in a lectureship series say “Entertainment, not religion, is now the opiate of the people.” He is correct. {For more from Dan Chambers read “Showtime: Worship in the Age of Show Business” (Nashville:21st Century Christian), 1997.} If people want entertainment, they will find the best available.

– Scott



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Why Do We Fight Each Other?

Many years ago, even before men like Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, or any other American Restoration Movement leader said it; and even before the “Paulicans” in Britain and France circa A.D. 500-1200, there were men calling those who would follow Christ to follow only the Scriptures as their guide for life, congregational organization, and worship. Clement of Rome wrote to the Church in Corinth (A.D. 96) about some infighting they were having and quoted from Old Testament and from the letters of Paul emphasizing that inspired writing (including what would eventually make up most of what we call the New Testament) is the only authority. Can we still call for the same approach? Can we make our attempts at drawing near to God based simply on what He tells us. Can we for a moment forget tradition and paradigm? Will you help me “Go Back to the Bible?” Will you and I “search the Scriptures” for the validity or rejection of what everyone (including me) is saying?


Church Paintball Event – The only aim we should take at each other.

We are fighting each other. We fight over worship styles, calling one “Contemporary” and the other “Traditional.” We fight over the use or non-use of musical accompaniment to singing. We fight over leadership roles and service roles for men and women in the church. Church A does things one way and Church B does something completely different. Church A writes Church B off as “Liberal” since they have obviously “left the Faith.” Church B looks at Church A as “Traditional” since they have not progressed as to the spiritual level of “Freedom in Christ.” And BOTH congregations pull passages of scripture to defend their practices – sometimes they pull them out of context. When studying for ministry and preaching, we learned the danger of eisegesis over exegesis, but somewhere along the line, we forget those lessons and proof-text our preconceived or preferred ideas and practices. Once we form our opinions and go to the scriptures to defend ourselves, we have weapon against those who would dare to disagree or challenge us. Brothers and sisters, this is not the way we should be. We should discuss our differences, but with civility, no with love! Did not Jesus say, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Joh 13:35)? Did not John himself reiterate that point in his letters (1Jo 2:9-11; 3:10-12, 14-15; 4:7-12, 19-21)?

We are fighting because we forgot the concept of autonomy. Autonomy is not a word found in the Bible, but I believe the concept is. As Paul and others established congregations of disciples (Christians) they would later return or send others who would help each congregation set up a plurality of congregational leaders known as presbyters or elders. Through the apostles God gave these men the authority to oversee the congregation where they were leaders. Paul tells the elders of the congregation at Ephesus to “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (Act 20:28). Whereas the Apostles had authority over congregations as inspired men (remember the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15), I find no reason to believe that oversight of multiple congregations passed to others after the last apostle died. We have the right and responsibility to express our concerns, but not to oversee other assemblies or force them to comply with our paradigms or perceived doctrines. When we attempt to exercise control by manipulation, threats, accusations, etc. we are in danger of setting ourselves up as a regional “Bishop.” And in danger of repeating the mistakes of would be church leaders, Apostolic Fathers, and apologists of the Second and Third Centuries A.D. Can we authentically return to the New Testament as our guide for life, congregational leadership, and worship?

May I remind all parties of what James, the brother of our Lord said? “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel . . .” (Jam 4:1-2). We fight each other out of selfish desire. We want to be the one who is right. We want to be the one who controls what others say and do. We want recognition as a scholar or as a spiritual person. We want the world to see us as tolerant and open-minded. We want to stay unique from the world. We want to meet our wants and desires. (i.e. Brother C likes a-capella worship and Brother D desires musical accompaniment so “C” finds scripture to prove “D” wrong and “D” finds scripture to prove himself right. But neither wants to sit and have a loving open discussion, so they hurl scriptures and insults at each other like arrows from a bow, bullets from a rifle, or “smart” bombs with deadly accuracy.) That IS NOT brotherly love. We must return to our first love – Christ and learn to love each other again. Before we publicly take our brother to task, should we not remember the commands of our Savior, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Mat 18:15)? Instead of a public reprimand, take time for a personal email or better yet a visit. Remember Paul tells us, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Gal 6:1). Go in person, go in gentleness, go with a spirit of love and concern. We must not forget the simple rule that our Lord told His followers to live by, a rule we refer to as golden, that rule that says to think about how we want others to treat us and then treat people that way (Mat 7:12). Before we rake a brother or sister over the coals, we must take a deep look at ourselves and ask ourselves probing questions about our motivation for doing so. 

When we decide our motivation is pure, James gives us the process for peace. “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (Jam 4:11-12). Do not speak evil of each other. Do not call each other names. Do not accuse each other of being something they are not. Do not go back to Kindergarten and be a tattle-tale trying to get someone in trouble. Do not do it! Do not judge.  I know this is a misunderstood or at least misapplied word. Maybe a better word in our current culture is condemn.  Do not condemn.  You may disagree with someone, but since you are not inspired, you must let God sort somethings that are not specific in Scripture. We can let them know that we disagree with them and that we believe they are misleading others, and still refuse to condemn them to Hell for that belief. There may come a time when specific fellowship and cooperation can no longer occur because of different conclusions,but even then you can still love each other, albeit from a distance.

Currently, there are too many articles in print and online where we are devouring each other. There are too many mean-spirited comments on posts and blogs even when the original posts appears to result from love for the Church Christ died for and for the lost that the Gospel calls.

The blogs, posts, and comments that prompted this article are breaking my heart.  I am hurt, when I see people fighting instead of honest dialogue. I cry when I see fellowships, congregations, and families torn apart because we treat each other selfishly and not out of love. I weep when I think of how the accuser is laughing in delight when he sees the influence we have for Christ destroyed by our actions. Please join me in prayer for forgiveness for the times I act out or speak out of selfishness not considering others before myself, for forgiveness for the harm such a self-centered mentality causes the Christ’s Church, and as I pray that we meet to study together the will of God to continually search out how we can best be His people in a modern world. 

This article does not look at the specific issues, others are already covering the issues and with better scholarship than I might have. So now as we move along to read the studies and conclusions of other sinners in need and relying on the Grace of God, may we each keep our eyes on God’s will and not our own. May we each learn to live Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, ” . . . nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Mat 26:39b). May we set aside old traditions and new paradigms and sincerely follow the teachings of the God-breathed Text all while patiently allowing others the freedom to learn and grow at their own pace (1Th 5:14) until we all reach the goal of perfect Christ-likeness (Phi 3:13, 1Co 13:12; 2Co 3:18; 1Jo 3:2) when He reveals Himself from Heaven to claim His own.

– Scott


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God’s Concept of the Church

Last night – Wednesday – in our Bible class time, I shared a lesson that I have marked in all my Bibles, even in Olive Tree on my iPad.  This lesson is “God’s Concept of the Church.”  It is a good lesson for a personal Bible Study or a one on one study.  I wanted to share it with you.  So I have it in three forms:

  1. An Outline
  2. A YouTube Video with a musical score
  3. A Haiku Deck presentation


God’s Concept of the Church

God Has a Select People of His Own

  • 1 Peter 2:9
  • The Bible calls the people:

◦        His Kingdom – Matt 16:18

◦        His Flock – Acts 20:28

◦        His Body – Eph 1:22-23

◦        His Church – Eph 1:22-23

◦        If Body = Church Then Body of Christ = Church of Christ

◦        His Bride – Eph 5:32

◦        His Household – 1 Tim 3:15

These terms are singular

  • The Church is singular – Eph 5:23
  • The Church is not just a group of Good people – Matt 7:21-23

◦        Can be good / religious and not saved – Rom 10:1

◦        Can be very religious and very wrong – Acts 17:22, 30

◦        Not about keeping the Old Law but about following Christ – Gal 5:4

God says how one can belong to this group – 1 Pet 2:10

  • Faith – Jn 8:24
  • Repentance – Acts 3:19
  • Confession – Rom 10:9-10
  • Calling on the name of the Lord  – Acts 22:16;  1 Pet 3:20-21

The Way God planned from the beginning of Christ’s Church – Acts 2:14-39.

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Thirteen Questions and Answers

Thirteen Questions:

Someone designed these questions to trap members of the Lord’s Church to second guess their allegiance to the church as the Body of Christ.  The author of the questions challenges “Campbellite” preachers and elders to not talk around them but answer them directly.  These questions are online and I first saw them about 5 years ago.  I accepted the challenge a few years ago in sermon form and now submit them here in blog form.

1. According to the history of the “Church of Christ,” God used certain men to “restore” the New Testament Church in the early 1800’s. Where was the true New Testament church before then? Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18). What happened to the church and where was the truth it was responsible for preaching before God restored it?

Answer: The Church existed, simply not in a mainstream setting.  The Restoration Movement was and is a continuing effort to restore people and groups to the NT Church.

2. If a “Church of Christ” elder refuses to baptize me, will I be lost until I can find one who will? Do I need Jesus AND a Campbellite “preacher” in order to be saved? If I do, then Jesus Christ is not the only Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) and the Holy Spirit is not the only Administrator (1 Cor. 12:13) of salvation – the “Church of Christ” preacher is necessary to salvation for he is performing a saving act on me when he baptizes me! Is this not blasphemy against Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost?

Answer: No one that I know of teaches that A “Church of Christ” preacher has to do the immersion.  The act is of God and involves God and the one being immersed.  The person doing the immersing is of little consequence.

3. If the water pipes broke and the baptistry was bone dry, would my salvation have to wait until the plumber showed up? If I were to die before then, would I go to hell? If obedience to water baptism is the means of forgiveness of sins, then I would.

Answer: A bathtub, pool, pond, stream, river, ocean, tank, and anything that can hold water is sufficient this question is “choking on a gnat.”

4. If my past sins are forgiven when I am baptized in water, and it is possible for me to “lose my salvation” and go to hell after being baptized, then wouldn’t my best chance of going to heaven be to drown in the baptistry?!! before I had a chance to sin so as to be lost again? If I wanted to be absolutely sure of heaven, isn’t that my best opportunity?

Answer: Time and space does not permit a complete answer, but let just say that if one will “walk in the light” he can be certain of salvation — 1 Jn 5:13.

5. If as a Christian I can sin so as to “lose my salvation,” just what sin or sins will place me in such danger? Is it possible to know at what point one has committed such a sin, and become lost again? Please be specific and give clear Bible references.

Answer: Any sin I refuse to let go of (repent of).  Mistakes are forgiven, but to die in open rebellion is dangerous.

6. If as a Christian I can fall and “lose my salvation,” is it possible to regain it? If so, how?If God “takes away” my salvation, doesn’t that make Him an “Indian giver”? How could I ever know for sure that I was saved or lost?

Answer: Yes it is possible to “regain” salvation, simply return to God — a prayer of repentance is what Simon the sorcerer had Peter pray.  Paul told the Corinthians to welcome the one who had repented that they had rightfully shunned.  God continues to offer salvation and wants all to be in heaven with Him, but by allowing us freedom of choice, we can (and some do) choose to leave Him. He is not an Indian giver, we are wishy-washy.

7. After becoming a Christian, are there any sins that will put me beyond the “point of no return” so that I cannot regain salvation? What sin or sins will put me in such jeopardy, so that, after becoming a Christian, I would be doomed to hellwithout any recourse? Please be specific and give me clear Bible references.

Answer: Yes — any sin I openly rebel in.  In other words, if I flaunt my sin in God’s face saying in my actions, “I don’t care if God disapproves of my choice, I am going to do it anyway.”  This does not include such things as accidental (unintentional) stumbling on my part.

8. If I committed some sin -whether in thought, word, or deed, one minute before a fatal car crash – would I go to hell if I did not have time to repent of it? And, please, don’t just say that it’s up to God without giving me a specific Bible reference.

Answer: No.  As long as we are not given to sin (rebelious).  God imputes righteousness to us because of our active faith.  This question shows a misunderstanding of what the Bible truly teaches.

9. Why does the “Church of Christ” insist that their name is scriptural when it cannot be found anywhere in the Bible? The church is referred to as the “church of God” eight (8) times in the Bible, but never is it called the “church of Christ.” The verse they use is Romans 16:16, but it doesn’t say “church of Christ.” Where does the Bible call the church the “church of Christ”?

Answer:  Any name found in the Bible is a Biblical name including church of God.  Again this question rings of ignorance of what is taught.  Rom 16:16 says churches of Christ in the plural sense, so a single congregation is a church of Christ.  If one would prefer the word assembly or congregation is as accurate as “church” so names may vary from location to location.

10. If the “Church of Christ” claims to worship God only as “authorized” by scripture because they sing only (and do not use instrumental music), then where do they get the “authority” to use hymnals, pitchpipes, pews, and indoor baptistries in their worship services? If the answer is that they are “aids to worship,” where does the Bible allow for that? Where is your required authorization? If a pitchpipe can be an “aid to worship” for the song service in the “Church of Christ,” then why can’t a piano be an “aid to worship” for Baptists who may need more help in singing?

Answer: Again this question begs for an argument.  The same place we get Authorization for buildings — expediency.  An organ, piano, band, etc. are not aids to vocal singing or to furnish ability to accomplish another part of worship as baptistery and pews.  I hope we are wrong on the instrumental issue, but I would rather get to heaven and have God say, “You could have had a band!” rather than hear Him say, “I said SING!”  A pitchpipe only sounds a beginning note — if you use a piano to sound the opening chord and then it was silent — so the congregation could sing vocally — I would not object.  The Bible gives authorization to sing, to immerse, and to assemble for worship.  Hymnals let us sing, a pitchpipe sounds a beginning note for on to sing, a pew provides a place to sit (a chair or window seat would do) as we assemble, a baptistery provides a place for immersion, a piano (or orchestra) does not sing.

(Note:  I answer the next three LONG questions with one answer.)

11. The “Church of Christ” teaches that a sinner is forgiven of sin when he is baptized in water by a Campbellite elder. Where does the Bible teach that water baptism is required in order to have one’s sins forgiven? Every time the phrase “for the remission of sins” occurs it is speaking of the fact that sins have been forgiven previously! The Bible plainly teaches that the forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon repentance of sin and faith in Christ – never upon water baptism! (Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 20:21; Romans 1:16; Romans 4:5; Where does the Bible teach that forgiveness of sin is linked with water baptism? When Christ made the statement in Matthew 26:28, “for the remission of sins,” it had to be because they had been forgiven all through the Old Testament! Christ shed His blood because God forgave repentant and believing sinners for thousands of years before the Son of God came to “take away” sins and to redeem us and pay the sin-debt with His own precious blood. How can one say that “for the remission of sins” means ‘in order to obtain’ in light of the fact that God never uses the phrase in that sense? In the Old Testament God forgave sin on the basis of a blood sacrifice (Heb. 9:22) – the Old Testament saints had their sins remitted (i.e., forgiven) but they were not redeemed until Christ came and shed His blood at Calvary. Their sins were covered (Romans 4:7; Psalm 32:1), but the sinner was not cleared of his guilt (Exodus 34:7) until the Cross (Heb.10:4). Before Calvary, the sins of believers were pardoned, but they were not paid for (i.e., redeemed) until the crucifixion (see Romans 3:25 and Heb. 9:12-15). When Jesus said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), all sin – past, present and future – was paid for, and the plan of salvation was completed, so that ‘whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins’ (Acts 10:43). In Acts 2:38, the people were baptized because their sins were forgiven (at Calvary when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,”) and they received the blessing of forgiveness when they repented of their sin of rejecting Christ and accepted Him as their Saviour and Lord. Friend, heaven or hell depends on what you believe about this.

12. If salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done, and baptism is a work of “righteousness,” then how can water baptism be a part of salvation? (Titus 3:5; Matt. 3:16) In the Bible, we are SAVED BY GRACE, and grace does not involve human effort or merit – grace is grace and work is work! (Just read Ephesians 2:8,9 and Romans 11:6.)

13. The “Church of Christ” teaches that “obeying the Gospel” includes being baptized in water in order to be saved. If this is true, then how is it that the converts of Acts 10 were saved by faith before and without water baptism? The Bible says in Acts 5:32 thatonly those who obey God may receive the Holy Ghost – so what did those in Acts 10 do to obey and receive the Holy Ghost and be saved? In the light of Acts 10:34-48, Acts 11:14-18, and Acts 15:7-11, how can anyone honestly believe that water baptism is necessary to salvation? Simon Peter said their hearts were “purified by faith” (Acts 15:9) and that we are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ like they were (Acts 15:11); that is, before and without water baptism! We know that unsaved people do not receive or have the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; Romans 8:9). We know that the Holy Spirit is given only to those who have believed on Christ (John 7:39). We know that the Holy Spirit seals the believing sinner the moment he puts his faith and trust in Christ as Savior, before he is ever baptized in water (Ephesians 1:12,13). How does the warped theolgy of Campbellism explain away these clear passages of Scripture without “muddying the waters” of truth and drowning its members in eternal damnation?

Answer 11-13: This is a disagreement over a term.  First the Church of Christ does not teach.  We try to let the Bible speak and we look to the Bible for answers to questions as individual Christians and independent congregations of God’s people.  There is no written standard for the churches of Christ outside the Bible.  Compare Acts 3:19 above with Acts 2:38 and you will find they teach the same thing — forgiveness of sin, based on penitent converts.  Forgiveness is only through the blood of Christ (Eph 1:7).  All spiritual blessings are in Christ (1:3).  The gospel is the only means to salvation (Rom 1:16). The gospel that saved the Corinthians and Romans is the same that saves us (1 Cor 15:1-5 / Rom 6:17-18).  This Gospel is the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ.  Paul teaches that the Christians in Rome had obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine — the earlier verses show how they obeyed the DBR — (Rom 6:3-6).  Paul says we are children of God by FAITH in Christ Jesus, and that we are in Christ when we put on Christ — we put on Christ when we get in Christ and by FAITH that is when we are baptized INTO Christ (Gal 3:26-27).  As a BAPTIST preacher recently told me, “any claim of faith that does not submit to immersion is not faith.”  That is my point exactly!  Salvation is not by man’s works.  God works and His work saves man, all that God asks of us is that we come to Him on Terms — that is not a work.  In Scripture baptism is never called a work (faith is – 1 Thes 1:3 and repentance is said to work – 2 Cor 7:10) There is a difference between working to EARN salvation and obeying what God commands.  A child does not earn a parent’s love by doing what the parent says; we do not earn salvation by doing what God commands.  We obtain it the way He says to obtain salvation.  Cornelius and his house received the Spirit, but that does not in that passage or in any references to that event equate salvation.  That reception of miraculous manifestation was to confirm to those with Peter and those to whom Peter would report, that God accepted the Gentiles and wanted them to be included.  If faith and prayer is all that is needed, why was Peter sent by God?  God heard Cornelius and knew he was a believer.  Why send Peter if a prayer of faith saved?

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Three weeks ago, Andrew (age 12) and I changed the oil on my truck as well as the fuel filter.  There is a trick to changing the filter so that you do not spray fuel over yourself and your son.  That trick to relieve the pressure is in the “repair manual” I keep in the garage.  But I could not find my manual.  The last time I used it was for a brake job. I knew where it was supposed to be, but it was not there.  I had lost my instruction book, I even wondered if I had thrown it away or if it was in the “yard sale” pile.  I spent more time looking for that book than I did on the fuel filter, which I changed anyway and did not relieve the pressure properly.  I despise losing things.

When I was about my son’s age, my parents took us to that Wonderful World in Orlando.  My older and younger brothers went one direction with Mom while Dad and I went a different way.  When Dad and I finished our ride, we were to meet the other three at a certain shaded area.  We arrived early and I convinced Dad to let me go to the restroom around the corner.  Making my way back to Dad, I came to realize I was on the other side of the Park — I was in Frontier Land headed toward Liberty Square instead of Adventure Land.  Once I realized I was lost and calmed down, I decided I had made a wrong turn at the water fountain.  I ran back to where I went wrong, and ran to the meeting spot.  Mom and my younger brother were there waiting nervously.  Dad and my older brother had gone to look for me.  This was decades before cell phones and family service radios, we had to wait for them to get back before we could go on.

I share these two events to introduce you to two similar events in the Old Testament:

1. Josiah in 2 Kngs 22:13, “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” When the workers discovered the lost book of God, the king knew they had to return to following that law. 

2. Hosea 14:1-2, “Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take with you words and return to the LORD; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips.” Like Israel, when I was lost, I had to return.  I had to admit I was wrong in the direction I was going and turn around to find my father.

Lost? Find the Book, and come home. 

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