Replanting a Denomination: Two More of Hank’s Questions

Hank has a knack for asking worthwhile questions — questions that I’m sure other readers are also asking. To make sure his questions and my responses are seen by all the readers, I post my responses here.

Hank asks,

I guess it was because although I believe that we ought to “contend for the faith once delivered,” at the same time, I admit that to do so is not as easy as so many pretend that it is.

In other words, while I believe that there is a line somewhere wherein a person will be lost because of what he believes, teaches, and/or practices…only God knows precisely where said line is. My point is that we need to do our best to make sure we don’t cross it. (Because it CAN in fact be crossed). I do not pretend to have the answers regarding where the line exactly is drawn. (As so many of our conservative brethren pretend like they know).

I believe that we are expected to do our best to believe and practice and teach the “truth” to the best of our ability and that ultimately…God will judge.

Does that make sense bro?

Absolutely. I would only note two quibbles.

First, “faith” means faith, not a system of doctrines and inferences.

(Jude 1:3)  Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

Jude is speaking of the faith that saves, not acts or worship or the role of women, as those are teachings but not “faith.” Compare v. 4 —

(Jude 1:4)  For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

To “contend for the faith” is the opposite of to “deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

Therefore, when we dispute over how to correctly worship, we are not disputing about faith and so we are not disputing about a salvation issue.

Second, I agree that we can’t precisely define the line where someone passes from saved to loved in practice. I think God gives us very thorough guidance in theory. It’s when someone denies that Jesus Christ is our only Sovereign and Lord — that is, we deny Jesus as Messiah or as Lord — that is, we deny the faith or rebel against the Lordship of Jesus.

But I can’t perfectly see your heart. You may be pretending to be a Christian but actually in deep rebellion. You may be caught in a sin that threatens to destroy you but yet struggling mightily against it out of love for Jesus.

Just so, when someone comes to me seeking baptism, I can ask about her faith and penitence, but I can’t know for certain what her heart really is. Therefore, in either case, we decline to make judgments that are outside our abilities.

But while I must be reluctant to judge my brother or sister as damned, I can often tell when he is in spiritual trouble. I can see signs of spiritual warfare — and when that happens, I need to do what I can to help. I can’t presume he is damned and beyond our reach nor can I presume that he can make it on his own. I need to reach out and help however I can.

Hank next asks,

My question is coming from a practicality standpoint. You see, if and when people have differing convictions pertaining to whether or not a certain role for a woman is sinful…how can it be played out in a harmonius way? Suppose (for argument sake), that it is in fact sinful for a woman to lead the “openning prayer” on Sunday morning. Although the offender may in fact be forgiven of such (as well as those who allowed her to lead it) — what about the others who are convinced that the entire situation is against the will of God and therefore an act of sin (however “honest” it may be on the part of the offenders)? Would they not be compelled to at least remove themselves from situation (perhaps only after attempting to show where and why they believe it is sinful)? Or, do you suggest that those who believe the practice is against the will of God simply “take part” and/or “go along with” the (in their minds) sinful act for the sake of “unity”? And if so, where would the line be (if at all)? Suppose a new member wants to pray to dead saints? At what point do you believe one should feel obligated to oppose and try to stop whatever it is they believe to be sinful?

This is really important. Yes, we certainly shouldn’t participate in anything we consider sin. That would be sin — obviously.

However, sitting next to someone in church does not condone that person’s sin. Attending service with a sinner merely recognizes that God saves sinners. We’re all sinners.

For example, if the elders of the church bring in a piano for worship, someone who considers worship with an instrument sinful cannot worship in that service. But if the elders offer both an instrumental and a non-instrumental service, that person can participate in the non-instrumental service and not sin by “condoning” the elders’ decision to use instruments in a different service.

There is simply no scriptural basis for arguing that we condone someone’s sin by being a part of his congregation, worshiping with him, or being overseen by the sinning elder. It’s just not true. Indeed, if that were true, who could be in church with us, worship with us, or be our elders? Perfect people only? Only people that we agree with us on every point of doctrine?

Indeed, the notion of “condoning” sin by worshiping with someone makes us all de facto elders. The scriptures charge the elders with making doctrinal decisions (Titus 1:9). And yet if I must leave every time I disagree with a decision the elders make, then they aren’t my elders because I can’t submit to their authority. I’m my own elder. I become an autonomous individual judging everyone else, which profounding undercuts the authority and duties of the elders.

My wife grew up in a small church in mission area. In a good year, it had 35 members. One time many years ago, we visited and noticed that their numbers had doubled! When we asked how they did it, well, it turns out that the nearest congregation — 45 miles away — had split because the elders had allowed a couple to place membership even though they had been divorced and remarried. The preacher led an exodus of half the congregation, splitting the church, because he disagreed with the men charged by God with overseeing him. They were meeting 45 miles from home until they could arrange for their own space. A church of, say, 75 had split in two.

Of course, had the elders not allowed that couple to place membership, the other half of the congregation would have left!

It’s simply contrary to all reason and the plain text of the scriptures to suppose that God charges me with sin for every decision the elders make I disagree with. No, the elders answer for their own mistakes — and the church must not try to overrule the elders by threatening to leave everytime they disagree with a decision. That’s a recipe for anarchy and, indeed, rebellion against the elders.

I’m not saying there are no circumstances that justify leaving a church — just that leaving to avoid condoning the elders’ decision is very wrong. You don’t condone their decision by staying, and therefore you can’t leave to avoid condoning their decision.

Rather, this is what the Bible actually says,

(1 Cor 3:16-17)  Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

Each “you” is plural. Paul is writing in the context of division within a congregation. He promises destruction to those who destroy a congregation.

Again, of course, you can’t actually participate in anything you consider sinful and be free from sin. It doesn’t work like that. But neither do you have to agree with every doctrinal position of the elders or the Bible class teachers or the preacher.

Please clarify what you mean in suggesting one should lovingly “oppose the view”? BTW, I ask this because the scenario is very real and I want to do what is right. I want to “show mercy” (knowing how much I require myself) but at the same time, I don’t want to “go along with” people who are teaching as true what I believe to be in direct conflict with the scriptures. Especially when the untrue teaching, IMHO, makes God to appear unjust.

It’s very hard to answer this one in the abstract. Love is a practical virtue. What it requires depends very much on the particular situation.

In the example I gave above, those who disagreed with the elders’ decision should certainly have met with the elders and expressed their views. They should have studied and prayed with the elders — with an open mind, prepared to be instructed by the elders.

In the case of the preacher, he should not have led a rebellion against the congregation’s leadership. If he couldn’t in good conscience support the elders, he should have resigned and gone elsewhere. Ministers have to be loyal to their elderships, and if they can’t, they should quietly leave. But long before they leave, they should study the scriptures with the elders and try to reach common ground. Our system is that the ministers are overseen by the elders.

As a rule, the elders get to decide what is taught in their congregation. I’m well aware that some elderships make foolish, ungodly decisions, but so do preachers and church members. The system I read about in the New Testament gives the elders final say. It’s not a perfect system, but that’s because it’s run by imperfect men. But what other choice is there?

Let me toss in one more thought. Elders should not develop the mindset that they are the oracles of God. They should be humble enough to listen to others and so be open to persuasion. Elders should be in conversation with each other, the minister, their classes, and the rest of the church regarding God’s will. Some try to carry the burden of deciding doctrine all by themselves, which is to presume that God only gives wisdom and discernment to an elder, which is just not true.

And the elders should be willing to talk to other churches, to thought-leaders within the Churches, and keep up with the literature — not just Church of Christ literature. They must always be learning about God’s word. To act otherwise would be sheer presumption. And, sadly, we have a lot of presumptious elders.

I don’t think I’ve by any means exhausted the topic, but hopefully this clarifies what I said somewhat.

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80 Responses

  1. Jay your story of the church split makes me sad. =(

  2. jay. You are great for simplifiing answers to different question.

    On the role of wemon. Where can a women pray and propesy with her head covered. Before baptism is she alowed to make an audible confesion before the assembly? And if she is to remain silent can she sing or is singing a different catagory than speaking. As allways I cherish your answers. You have a keen mind and can simpify comple sermons by Moser.

    Cheers to all

    Bob

  3. There is simply no scriptural basis for arguing that we condone someone’s sin by being a part of his congregation, worshiping with him, or being overseen by the sinning elder. It’s just not true

    Amen. In fact, there is a scriptural basis for rejecting that notion:

    Rom 14:3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.
    Rom 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
    Rom 14:5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
    Rom 14:6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

    So, we are commanded to accept people whose belief and practice differs from our own, even though we believe they practice in error.

  4. “I don’t think I’ve by any means exhausted the topic, but hopefully this clarifies what I said somewhat.” — Jay

    Thanks Jay. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time and having the desire clarify some of that. I agree (I think) with virtually everything you have written above. You have proven yourself fair and willing to honestly consider the thoughts of others and I wish more would do likewise.

    However (and at the risk of appearing as though I need to have the last word), I would like to add the following to just a few of the things you’ve said.

    1) You wrote:
    Jude is speaking of the faith that saves, not acts or worship or the role of women, as those are teachings but not “faith.”

    (I will concede as much)

    2) You then added:
    Therefore, when we dispute over how to correctly worship, we are not disputing about faith and so we are not disputing about a salvation issue.”

    (I am not 100% sure about this one though because of what you said next. With which I agree.)

    3) You said:
    This is really important. Yes, we certainly shouldn’t participate in anything we consider sin. That would be sin — obviously. However, sitting next to someone in church does not condone that person’s sin. Attending service with a sinner merely recognizes that God saves sinners. We’re all sinners.
    For example, if the elders of the church bring in a piano for worship, someone who considers worship with an instrument sinful cannot worship in that service.

    And this is where “the rubber hits the road.” Because we both know that there are an untold number of things which certain people consider sinful in worship. We both here agree that when a church (its leadership) allows for a thing to be practiced which some brethren believe to be sinful…those certain brethren would not only have the right, but the obligation to speak out and/or leave. They should speak and act as a Christian when they do….but they cannot be expected to be a part of anything they consider sinful.

    While your point about Joe not being guilty of and/or for the “sin” of Larry sitting next to him. Or of the elders deciding on something with which he disagrees

    But, when one truly believes he is sinning by beincg around a practice which he is convinced to be sin…he has to do something. My frustration Jay is with those who are prone to call such a person — unloving, judgmental, legalistic, trying to be saved by works, against untiy, divisive, self-serving, etc., etc., etc…

    Which is why I believe the that God, in his wisdom, has made it where each church is responsible for itself and not the church down the street (or in the other house). Imagine Jay, if you were not only a shepherd/decision maker for your church, but for mine and all of them in between as well?

    Thanks again brother, may God bless you. And thank you for this forum wherein guys like me can express ourselves and have opportunity to be sharpened.

  5. We are not perfect people and certainly not perfect Christians – so we pray for discernment and judgement. So many time when we don’t know what to do – we ultimately end up choosing ‘our way’ in name of Jesus.

    God’s teaching on unity is clear and we forsake it when we insist on our way of interpreting the scripture as the only acceptable way. Love covers a multitude of sin – only we often times, don’t let it.

    My suggestion: If the issue you are concerned with – in any way – dilutes the blood of Jesus Christ (i.e., the waters of baptism) as the thing that saves – then it is worth your time and prayers, even to the point of division.

    If it falls short of a salvation concern (i.e., instrumental music) – Let love reign – allow others the opportunity to grow by humbly discussing, joining them as you both seek to discern God’s message.

    I do realize that many CoCers see many things as salvation issues. Only God can tear down the walls of legalism that Satan has built in our minds – just as he tore down the walls of Jericho – it wasn’t the obedience of the Israelite army that tore that wall down – but God only. May he honor the fervent prayers of the righteous as we too walk in that same obedience.

  6. Hank wrote:

    We both here agree that when a church (its leadership) allows for a thing to be practiced which some brethren believe to be sinful…those certain brethren would not only have the right, but the obligation to speak out and/or leave.

    I can’t speak for Jay, but I strongly object to that statement. There is no possible way that what another person does can violate MY conscience. Rather than being obligated to leave, I think Romans 14 says I am obligated NOT to leave over the kind of matters we’re discussing.

  7. Some one said the following: “If the issue you are concerned with – in any way – dilutes the blood of Jesus Christ (i.e., the waters of baptism) as the thing that saves ….”

    WOW!

  8. Tammy

    The first ecounter Joshua experience while surveying Jerico was the angel Micheal. Joshua said are you a friend or foe?
    The angel told him to take off his shoes and to be listen This not your battle, it is God’s. You are to do Exactley what I tell you to do. This same scenario is played out with Gideon and others.

    As then, we are now completly dependant on God through the Holy Spirit . There is no way we can be righteous, obey or even love without his guidance.

    Yopu are right, only the blood of Christ can save us. All other issues pale in comparisom.

    Thank you Tammy. You have prophisied and may God give you the cousasge to keep doing it. Was your head covered…Just kidding

    Bob

  9. Hi Tammy,

    I would like to understand what you are saying. You wrote:

    “If it falls short of a salvation concern (i.e., instrumental music) – Let love reign – allow others the opportunity to grow by humbly discussing, joining them as you both seek to discern God’s message.
    I do realize that many CoCers see many things as salvation issues.”

    Tammy, please know that I am not here arguing what is and/or is not a “salvation issue.” The issue is simply “sin.” What I am arguing is that Christians should do their very best to not sin. And if they believe something is sinful, and then they do it anyways…..well, then they are guilty of sinning. The Bible clearly teaches that. And so what I am arguing here is that we should not seek to encourage people to sin. If someone believes that to worship God with an instrument is sinful, for him it would be.

    Even if (for argument sake) it was not a “salvation issue,” it would still be sinful. And yet you suggest:

    “If it falls short of a salvation concern (i.e., instrumental music) – Let love reign – allow others the opportunity to grow by humbly discussing, joining them as you both seek to discern God’s message.”

    What do you mean? Do you honestly believe that people who are convinced that to worship God with an instrument is sinful….that they should “join them” (join those who they believe are sinning)?

    Tammy (just to be clear), do you actually believe that Christians should take part in practices which would in fact be sinful (for them) to take part in?

    Even if the particular sin may not be a “salvation issue”?

    I simply do not. Nor do I believe that anyone who is honestly seeking to avoid sin should be considered “legalistic.”

  10. Bob wrote:

    “….only the blood of Christ can save us. All other issues pale in comparisom.”

    While it is true that “only the blood of Christ can save us,” we should still all do our best to aviod sin. And we shouldn’t criticize those who try not to.

    (nor should we make up a bunch of false accusations about them without being willing to explain or apolgize)

  11. General conservative approach: non-agreement = division
    This LEADS to the insanity of a believer who can’t agree with anyone so he takes “communion” by himself every Sunday (true story)

    General progressive approach: non-agreement = acceptance and toleration
    This LEADS to the heresy of accepting nearly everyone and Truth is diluted. Reminder: God’s Truth is Truth and can be known. Agreeing to disagree is a copout. Romans 14 is NOT about agreeing to disagree. Paul knew the truth (v14) but encouraged those who were stronger to love those who were weaker. He didn’t say, “Let’s just agree to disagree. Maybe I’m right, maybe you’re right.”

    IMHO
    The Spirit’s approach: Agreement on issues and doctrines isn’t the test of fellowship. Paul says, “Circumcision is nothing. Uncircumcision is nothing. What counts is a new creation.”
    ONLY REAL CHRISTIANS (i.e. New Creations) demonstrate the life of Christ. One should fellowship only with those that exhibit the qualities of one who is born again.

    The test of fellowship is not based on beliefs. That is NOT the line. The line is whether you do or do not demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit’s REAL FRUIT CANNOT BE IMITATED. A pagan cannot experience or produce the qualities that define God Himself: love. Love can be mimicked but someone who is born again can tell the difference between God-breathed love and the counterfeit. 1 John is the rosetta stone of fellowship. John lists is great detail who is and is not a Christian. The lines He draws are the only lines there are.

    Of course, how can we really know what the fruit of someone’s life is if we only see the back of each other’s heads a few times a week. Fellowship only makes sense within the environment of DEEP relationships as in Acts 2 and 3. Outside of that context, it is all apples and oranges and a bad guessing game.

    When the test of fellowship is whether someone genuinely, day in and day out, demonstrates Christ, you’d be amazed how much agreement there ends up being on various teachings. The Spirit is not Schizophrenic. If He is IN a believer, His thoughts become the believers thoughts (1 Cor 2). The Spirit is the best interpreter of His own words in Scripture. LEARN TO WALK BY THE SPIRIT with others who are doing the same and you’ll find that there is much more agreement than disagreement. Paul rebuked the believers in Corinth for acting like “mere humans.” Their sectarianism was one of the evidences of their humanness. Humans divide. But Partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1) walk in harmony and unity.

    Who will you be: a mere human or a partaker of the divine nature?

  12. Hank

    Col.3:16-18 and Eph. 5:18-20 do not condemn instumental music.

    Forgive me for offending you the other day, I did not intend to do so but I did and I am sorry. I tried to point out that there are so many different splits if the coC that one congregations worship style is view by other congregations as sin. IM, one cup, KJ bible, Communion table in the back, clapping, holding up hands, singing contemp songs, singing during communion,. praise teams just to mention a few. Todd Deavers book lists many more.

    Anyway, I am truley sorry you were offended, I am probably too aggresive in my style. It cames from being a manager of thousands of people in my career, when goals need to be met in a tight time frame.

    Cheers

    Bob

  13. Bob,

    It’s not at all that you were being “too aggressive” in your style that offended me. It was in saying/writing specific things about me which you simply made up and/or merely assumed…which were nevertheless, untrue.

    I guess the spirit changed his mind about letting you apologize 🙂

    It’s cool though,

    Hank

  14. Agreeing to disagree is a copout.

    No. That is exactly what Romans 14 teaches us to do. Paul could have cleared up any disagreement on the question of observing special days in his instruction to the churchin Rome, but he didn’t. Instead he taught them to accept one another despite the disagreement. Accepting one another was apparently a more important principle than the question about special days. Accepting those who disagree on such topics is not a suggestion, but a command. Those who disobey that command sin.

  15. Alan, do you concur that even in Romans 14:14 Paul says clearly, and all of them heard it:

    “I KNOW and am CONVINCED IN THE LORD JESUS that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”

    Paul states the TRUTH, the God-breathed truth of the matter. He wasn’t saying that Truth could not be known. He was saying it was known. But the weak still had a problem with it and he wanted the stronger to love the weak enough to forego what the strong one’s liberty allowed.

    In some of the examples listed here, that would mean that a piano should NOT be used during worship because even though the stronger know the truth (that Father LOVES music from a humble heart), they should not bring a piano in, out of love for the weaker who think it is wrong.

    But please don’t ignore the rest of my previous post over details on Romans 14. New creations and not wranglings over doctrines should be the real test of fellowship.

  16. Pilgrim,

    Paul did clear up the disagreement on clean and unclean food. However, he did not clear up the question on observing special days, though it would have been easy to do so. But if Paul had cleared up every possible disagreement, this would have been an incredibly long letter. Instead he told them how to handle disagreements that he had not cleared up. His clear message was to accept one another without passing judgment on such things.

    I agree with your comments on the piano, in a congregation where some would see it as sin. That’s also taught in Romans 14. And I agree with your point that fellowship is not to be defined based on perfect doctrinal agreement.

  17. Hank

    The Spirit told we wer being too arguementive and going nowhere so it was time to stop.

    Maybe we are both blind to the issues.

    My point is what you consider sinfull practices by others, IM , infant baptism and many other issues, some others in the coC consider multicups in communion, NIV bibles in pews, a located preacher and your Sumday School as sinfull .

    Bob

  18. I still say agreeing to disagree is a copout versus going HIGHER and growing. I believe agreement is possible if we will walk close to Jesus through the Spirit. But agreement itself is not the goal, but closeness to Jesus and each other, one heart and one mind.

    Paul was alive during a unique transition from the Law to Faith. Food practices and holy days related to the Mosaic law (and pagan religions practiced by the Gentiles) were still being observed by the weak. These things weren’t wrong per se. They were part of the Law. And only the weak still observed them. Paul in Galatians speaks to the holy day issue and says, “I fear I have wasted my time on you.” It was time for them to grow up and become mature and lay aside the old covenant.

    But during the transition, Paul wants them all, weak and strong, to practice the royal law of love by regarding others more than their opinions.

    But issues that aren’t opinions, and of course, there is the rub, there should be unity.

    My point is that reaching that unity isn’t a matter of breaking out our greek lexicon and doing a word study. There is a higher way to approach Truth that is birthed out of Life and not knowledge. “The LIFE became the Light of men.”

    “The tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. They day you eat of that tree, you will surely die…” What in the world does that mean? I don’t know for sure, but I want to eat from the Tree of Life…

    Why would I believe anything Calvin said? Besides being a theologian (whatever that means), he was a liar and a murderer. Why should you believe anything I say? For all you know, I’m posting to this blog while surfing immoral filth. Truth is not just biblical facts. It is birthed from and in those who are walking with Jesus. Jesus is alive and HE IS THE TREE OF LIFE.

    John 5:39,40
    You search the Scriptures because you think that IN THEM you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to COME TO ME so that you may have life.

  19. “My point is what you consider sinfull practices by others, IM , infant baptism and many other issues, some others in the coC consider multicups in communion, NIV bibles in pews, a located preacher and your Sumday School as sinfull.” –Bob

    What about it?

    For example, if a brother is infact convinced that the use of multiple communion cups is against the will of God and therefore an act of sin…would you encourage him to violate his conscience and use them anyway?

    We might try to explain the reasoning behind why we believe his is mistaken, but ultimately, the brother shouldn’t do (or be asked to do) something he believs to be sinful. Nor would simply believing as he does automatically make him divisive, unloving, legalistic, pharisaical, attempting to be saved by works, judgmental, or anything else like that. He shouldn’t automaticlly be accused by anyone as the reason for the decreasing numbers of the Chruches of Christ in America in 2010.

    It may very well be the case that he is simply mistaken and to be commended for trying to serve God to the best of his ability.

    OTOH (and in my opinion), the brother should not write books and/or go on tour attacking brethren who choose to use multiple cups. He should concentrate on his own church family and let God be the judge of outsiders. In other words, I don’t think that either “side” should take it upon themselves to convince our entire “movement” to believe and/or practice and/or allow and/or prohibit the rest of the church at large to see it the way they do.

    Can anyone say autonomy?

  20. By the way, when Paul charged the Christians to allow the people to eat and/or not eat certain meat, to observe and/or not observe certain days, to drink and/or not drink wine….he was not charging the churches to all do and/or not do those things together as a church. He was talking about individual Christians on their own.

    In each and every church, there are likely individuls who believe and practice different things at home on their own. What might be cool with one family may very well be considered wrong by another (halloween, beer, lotto, etc.). But they should be never asked to do things as a church that to some would be considered against the will of God and sin.

    Again, each church is autonomous (should be at least).

  21. Legalism isn’t about being mean and judgmental. It is about approaching God on the basis of law. Should there be one cup or multiple? By asking the question, you assume that the New Covenant is like the Old Covenant. It is not. Matthew-Revelation is not the new Torah. In Exodus and Leviticus, God goes into ENORMOUS depth about the Sabbath. What you can and can’t do. So even in Jesus day, because the Law was in effect, there were disagreements. There are those who try to keep the law perfectly and even put in safety nets just so they won’t accidentally break the law. Then there are those who say, “How far can I go and still be considered obeying the law?” So there are those who PUSH the inner bounds of the law (conservatives) and those who push the outer bounds (liberals). But can you see that the whole approach is flawed?

    The New Covenant is not an updated Mosaic law. It just isn’t.

    But C of C treats it that way.

    Take musical instruments. Some say Ephesians 5:19 excludes it. Some say Psalms 150 applauds it. Then the retort is, “Well Psalm 150 is the Old Covenant and Ephesians 5:19 is in the New Covenant.”

    So the verse plucking begins to feel an awful lot like quoting LEGAL code. I’m not arguing the issue. I’m arguing the approach. The reason people freak out about whether to use KJV or not is because they view the New Testament like a book of rules. If I tried to change around Leviticus, yes, I’d be in big trouble with God. That was His ordained code.

    But the New Covenant isn’t even written. Did you believe that? It isn’t a code. It exists one place. On the hearts of those who have been born again.

    Matthew through Revelation is a history and a help for those in the New Covenant. It helps us understand what the covenant written on our hearts means. But it isn’t code. And if it isn’t code, then it cannot and should not be approached as code.

    Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Quoted in Hebrews as fulfilled in the New Covenant)
    “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, NOT LIKE the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law WITHIN them and ON their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

    2 Cor. 3:2,3
    “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, NOT ON TABLETS OF STONE (an allusion to the law of Moses) but on tablets of human hearts.”

    Galatians 5:18
    But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

    The reason there are such titles as conservative and liberal is because we have viewed the NT as code and it is not.

    The good news is that Jesus Himself, the WORD INCARNATE, lives in our hearts by faith. THE WORD lives IN YOU. The ramifications are mind-blowing.

  22. With my apologies to those who are sick of me by now (I have a job but am at home one last day after surgery), I have another observation:

    Over the years, I have experienced very little friction over the things we’ve been discussing here (if any at all), within any of the churches of which I have been a member. The friction and division and name calling seems to primarily come about when one church takes it upon themselves to get into the affairs of another.

    I mean, if your church (your congregation) needs to change — then change already. But, if my church (congregation) wants to stay the way we are — then leave us alone already. Why must we talk about ourselves (our churches/congregations) as if we stand and fall together. When, according to the Bible, we will be all judged as individuals within individual congregations?

    I think we should encourage each other to concentrate on serving the Lord and our neighbors through the channel of our own seperate, unique, and individual congregations.

    And yes, we should worry about the lost and the unchurched more than we do the saved and “the other guy’s church.”

    And I have never had a hard time finding a church in which I can serve God comfortably and with good elders who watch out and care for me. My only need is (and has been), to really serve God more….

  23. Calvin was a liar and a murderer?

    And, Hank, I think alcohol is a good example. I think my brothers and sisters who believe it sinful to have a beer are mistaken. I’m certain of it. But I would never suggest we fill the communion cups with wine, even though I am very sure of my being correct in this matter and would prefer to use wine.

    But if the elders did decide we were going to start using wine during communion, I wouldn’t expect all of my fellow church members to just go along. I also wouldn’t expect them to leave the church and start a new congregation down the street. I would hope for loving conversation and study. And if everyone still did not agree, I would expect one of two things: 1) the elders to go back to grape juice during communion or 2) the trays to be filled with distinctly marked cups of juice AND wine, so that each member could choose for themselves.

    Actually, what a beautiful display of unity, even in the absence of uniformity… the body of Christ united in celebrating Christ, even as they disagree on exactly how that celebration should look.

  24. “Legalism isn’t about being mean and judgmental. It is about approaching God on the basis of law. Should there be one cup or multiple? By asking the question, you assume that the New Covenant is like the Old Covenant.”

    Pilgrim, I have to disagree with you. I like your definition of legalism as approaching God on the basis of law. But asking the question, “Should there be one cup or multiple?” does not assume that we approach God through law. It assumes there is a right and wrong.

    “Should I have sex before or after marriage?” Am I being legalistic?

    “Should I punch this guy in the face or politely ask him not to speak with that kind of language in front of my daughter?” Legalistic?

    There is a right and wrong, and we are wise to seek to know and understand that. Legalism is not seeking to know what is good or bad, right or wrong, sinful or pleasing to God. Legalism is attempting to find salvation in doing the right and not the wrong.

  25. The royal law of love:

    Romans 13:8   Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and IF there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    I never suggested that there wasn’t right or wrong. But counting cups is a levitical approach to God.

    Please, really consider the implications of Jeremiah 31. Is there or is there not a new written code like Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy?

    Paul says we are not under law, but under the Spirit. The Spirit does not condone me punching my neighbor or have sex before marriage (or idolize sex in marriage)…

    Galatians 5 lists the Fruit of the Spirit and concludes: “against such things there is no law.”

    Does that make sense that cups and punching neighbors are two radically different issues?

  26. Many people are under the mistaken impression that a different way of salvation existed in the Hebrew Scriptures. The argument usually goes as – under the Mosaic law salvation was obtained by obedience to the law; whereas today, under the New Covenant, salvation is by grace through faith.

    This concept is completely erroneous. There has never been any method of salvation except grace through faith. Long before the law of Moses was given, the Patriarchs were saved by the grace of God through faith that He would save them, just as people continue to be saved.

    In the Hebrew Scriptures believer’s received Christ as their Savior. Means of Christ revealed was through inanimate revelation, that is, through things in nature like the burning bush, the Rock, the Sheki-nah Glory, or through the typology of the furniture in the Tabernacle. The Mercy Seat, the hilasterion, was the place of propitiation in the Holy of Holies. The offerings were witnessing by ritual. The burnt offerings taught propitiation, with emphasis on the word of Christ, the Lamb of God. The meal and fruit offerings revealed the Person of Christ on the cross. The peace offering taught about the barrier between God and man being removed.

    Performing obedience to the law never eternally saves anyone, first, because man can’t obey the law perfectly, and second, because man’s sacrifices are insufficient to atone human sins. Performing rituals as an effort toward justification, man falls short of grace, we do things as expression of devotion, but they are not efforts of justification before God.

  27. I do agree that violence and counting cups are radically different. And I believe we are to live by the Spirit, as we’ve been released from the law. But when I live by the Spirit, one of the surest signs that I am in Christ is my life of obedience. Obedience to what? Well, some sort of mark that God has set for what true life should look like. And I only find that true life when in him, and he in me.

    And there does exist right and wrong today that is not an issue of wronging your neighbor. (struggling to think of a good example….) What about the qualifications of elders? Is it within God’s will or against God’s will to select someone to shepherd a congregation who does not know how to manage his family. There is a choice there that honors God and his wishes and a choice that does not. I call it sin when we ask a man to shepherd us who is not qualified to do so. [For the record, I also call it sin when we ask a man to shepherd who clearly is not gifted in that way, but rather is an intelligent businessman. Talk about running the church like a corporation….]

    However, if I believe my church is the only one that knows God because of our biblical model of “leadership,” then I am being legalistic. If I suggest having shepherds who don’t meet the qualifications given is a damning offense, or unforgivable, that is legalism.

    What about worrying, being anxious? Jesus says not to worry, but to trust God in all things. I believe worry is, at its core, a sin — it misses the mark God has set, and I’m failing to life as God intended it. Seeking to understand the difference between worry and concern, though, or between anxiety and responsibility, is not legalism. Believing my ability to never worry will get me to heaven… that’s legalism.

  28. Anon, I totally understand what you are saying and agree in a big picture sense. But God did say under the Old Covenant, “Follow these commands and you’ll live. Don’t follow them and you will die.” The old covenant was living BY the law, and Paul said that law was a tutor UNTIL Christ. The law was given to show our DEEP need for Him… not just His forgiveness (justification) but His Life IN US (sanctification and glorification). A change in HOW to live did happen. A BIG change. And I’m suggesting that too many have missed the full implications of that change.

  29. Anon,

    I agree with you there wholeheartedly. Many do miss the fact that ANYONE who has EVER been saved have ONLY been saved “by grace through faith” just like us today.

    And Jamesbrett, what an excellent example when you wrote:

    ” And if everyone still did not agree, I would expect one of two things: 1) the elders to go back to grape juice during communion or 2) the trays to be filled with distinctly marked cups of juice AND wine, so that each member could choose for themselves.”

    #2 would indeed be “a beautiful display of unity, even in the absence of uniformity.” I would be hard pressed to find a more perfect example!

    Too bad there are no such things as invisible worship bands that would only be seen and heard by them that approve. Or women preachers/song leaders who appear as if men unto them that oppose the use of women in such roles? 🙂

    This stuff is hard. But, a whole lot easier when we limit our attention to our own individual congregations rather than to ours, AS WELL AS the ones out in Africa!

    Hank

  30. This stuff is hard. But, a whole lot easier when we limit our attention to our own individual congregations rather than to ours, AS WELL AS the ones out in Africa!

    Amen! And because it is hard, folks should extend grace and understanding to the elders who have the hard and often thankless task of “dividing the baby.”

  31. I’m TOTALLY in agreement that a life in the Spirit is a life of obedience. All I’m suggesting is that whoever doesn’t agree with Paul on the qualifications of elders probably has some other issues that are obvious in His life. See, we begin to get in the realm of theory. But real world… the only real divisions between believers can be boiled down to a couple of scenarios: trying to approach issues like worship and structure from a code mindset. That will always result in either schisms (conservative) or watering down of truth (liberal). The other point of division comes from, as James says, “lusts that war in our own hearts.” And sometimes these lusts are couched as doctrinal. A preacher loses his son to suicide. Suddenly, that preacher no longer believes hell is eternal. Where did that false doctrine come from? Well it came from his own selfish desire to not want his son to go to hell. I’m not saying all suicide is a ticket to hell. I’m only saying that many false doctrines are birthed from men protecting themselves from the moral realities that God has established.

    Eternal security? If I really love God, why does the issue even come up? God knows those who love him but are struggling and those who are rebellious. He knows the difference. We don’t have to invent a doctrine to placate to those want to ride lukewarmness.

    Why the big deal about instrumental worship? Because in the Old Covenant, God was SUPER DUPER serious about following the code. In building the tabernacle, God says, “DO IT ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN.” So today, you can understand why someone would fear damnation if they got it wrong. BUT THERE IS NO NEW CODE TO GET WRONG. The Tabernacle was a spiritual shadow that was fulfilled in Christ and the Church. Is God any less serious about obedience today. No way. He is the same forever. But rather than looking for verses and treating the NT like a new Torah, why don’t I just ask Him, “Father, do you enjoy me worshiping you with musical instruments?” In the New Covenant, we are allowed to ask that question. We should. That is why the veil was ripped in two, so that we could come in and experience His presence and glory in the Most Holy Place. And the scriptures and other resources can help us HEAR what His Spirit is saying. And I can work through it with other saints who I see are TRULY bearing the Fruit of the Spirit in their lives. If they are bearing real fruit, I can trust their discernment.

    I think God loves music. GOD SAID that David was a man after God’s own Heart and he played the harp and other instruments as marked in the Psalms. David loved God if anyone has ever loved Him. But was it the instruments or the love from David’s heart? Without the love, the instrument would be noise in God’s ears. But with the love… God’s heart is melted. Does he suddenly not like music, music he invented? Either God loves music or God hates music He loves it, when offered from a pure heart.

    But that is just one issue. But I didn’t get there by verse plucking. I got there because I walk and talk with God myself. I know when I’ve grieved His Spirit and when I’ve made His heart glad. He is alive and makes Himself known. But no man is an island. If Oral Roberts says “God says I need $8 mil,” I say that is a bunch of hogwash. And if Oral had faithful brothers around him, they would have said the same thing.

    Hearing God is a shared adventure. But arriving at truth isn’t a jot and tittle affair. It is a relationship.

    Jeremiah 31 says the new covenant is internally written. That is huge. Embrace it. Don’t argue it.

  32. It’s actually really nice not dealing with the problems that end up being discussed on these blogs.. There are still problems here in Tanzania, mind you — just not the same problems. Here is one from just yesterday:

    — “What do I do when there is a man who is clearly living against what Jesus would want? There’s this guy who calls himself a Christian, but he has three wives…”

  33. Imagine teaching a nonChristian about sin and repentance. You come to Mark 7:21 and mention murder in passing. That crestfallen look comes across the student’s face. He says, “That will be hard. I’m very proud of my shrunken head collection..”

    True story.

  34. That is such a great case in point of a situation that should not be addressed legally. But God has an answer for you and for him. The Spirit has a will that can be known in THAT situation. Wisdom and love can be exercised and a Godly solution found. Are there some verses to consider. For sure. But if you stop there, you might just destroy the lives of those women and any offspring or you might absolve a man who needs to repent. I will be praying for you.

  35. Pilgrim, I think you’re misunderstanding me. I agree with you that “corporate worship” isn’t about a code and doing things just the right way. I (personally) also believe those that are concerned with instruments misunderstand what God truly desires.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that there exist many followers of Christ who believe with all their heart — after much study and prayer and asking preachers’ and friends’ opinions and reading books and doing all they know to do — that worshiping with instruments is sinful. I’m not even saying if they believe in their conscience it is sin, that it is. I don’t think worship with instruments is sinful — for them or me. But these people exist, and some of us are in churches with them. So we must seek to find a Christian way to coexist.

    And their attempt (as poor as you might think it is) at seeking to know God’s will is their best attempt at doing what is pleasing to him. So I will try to honor that and treat them with respect, as my brothers and sisters in Christ. I will try to show them a better way. I will pray for them. But I won’t disregard their service to God because they don’t see as clearly as I do.

  36. Pilgrim, thank you for your prayers, but I didn’t answer him. And won’t.

  37. Agreed totally. We are in a similar transition as Paul had in his day.

    BUT, even for those who hold a more liberal view, what I’m suggesting is that we got here (ALL OF US) by approaching the Bible incorrectly. And moving forward, if we don’t adjust that thinking, we will indefinitely have schisms and/or watered down ecumenucalism (or however you spell it).

    There is higher ground we can all move towards.

    I was an ultra conservative C of C. I wrote papers against musical instruments in worship. I refused to clap in worship, lest I be adding to the melody (or rhythm) of the heart. But I was also sin racked. Fornication, anger, laziness.

    And when I really discovered that New Covenant Christianity wasn’t a legal relationship between me and God, but a loving, heart relationship between me and God and His people, then everything changed. The lust, the laziness, the self-centeredness. And I also realized the issues went away too and least how I approached them did… instruments, women’s role, leadership issues… because Acts isn’t leviticus and SHOULD NOT be read that way. When it is read that way, problems WILL ALWAYS result. And chief among those problems is a separation based on beliefs versus light and darkness, life and death.

    Now get some sleep.

  38. I wrote:
    And chief among those problems is a separation based on beliefs versus light and darkness, life and death.

    But in addition to separation and division based on beliefs, there is also the problem of uniting based on beliefs or uniting based on a toleration of beliefs.

    The real question… back to my post earlier about Calvin… the real question is:

    WHO ARE YOU?

    WHO AM I?

    I don’t really care what you believe, if your life SMELLS BAD IN THE SPIRIT, then you are not my brother.

    In my C of C growing up, an elders son was married and had 3 children. But he and his wife didn’t get along (it should never have gotten to this point in a healthy church)…

    Anyway, he slowly ignored her. She felt alone. Abandoned. In her loneliness, she commit adultery.

    He divorced her, on “biblical” grounds. He stayed and was the song leader. She was essentially disfellowshipped.

    I don’t care what “grounds” he used to divorce her, that was WRONG WRONG. But what could anyone say?

    That is what happens when code wins the day.

    Code sometimes causes the conservatives to divide. Code also causes the more liberal to embrace, in the name of toleration, those who have no right to wear His name.

    Follow the living Jesus, not solely the written word.

    It may sound heretical, but it is the inheritance of the Saints.

  39. This has been a lively exchange with some good ideas.

    There seems to be a general consensus that love would demand that those who accept IM should not insist on having it when there are others in the church who believe that to have it would be sin. In general, I agree with this consensus.

    However, how far do we take this principle of veto by objection?

    When the Jews insisted that Titus be circumcised, Paul refused to give in, even for an hour (Galatians 2:1-5). At what point do we not allow one who claims the high ground of strength and maturity, but exhibits a woeful lack of appreciation of “the truth of the gospel, to veto the judgment of the majority of the congregation?

    Is it when they make it a salvation issue? If so, then I foresee many congregational splits. Is it when the political strength of the ones desiring change is great enough to force the change? I think that would lead to the same result.

    My question is, when does the principle of Galatians 2 trump the principle of Romans 14?

    Jerry

  40. But God did say under the Old Covenant, “Follow these commands and you’ll live. Don’t follow them and you will die.” -pilgrim

    Are you saying people in the Hebrew Scriptures didn’t have ETERNAL LIFE when they didn’t live up to God’s standards perfectly??

  41. You know what I would say:

    When before God and His Spirit it is determined that it is that level of importance.

    In the IM issue (and this is based on attendance based “services” which are no where in the Bible… but unfortunately a reality today nonetheless).

    If the reason to add IM is to pump up and vitalize what feels like boring or stale worship… IMHO, that reason or any less reason stinks.

    But if someone says, “I wrote this song for Jesus on my guitar, does anyone mind if I share it.” IMHO, that is a sweet fragrant offering to Jesus and if someone has an issue with it, they can just not sing.

  42. Anon,

    That is not what I’m saying at all. I believe there were some, like Korah, who were rebellious and are therefore accursed.

    But Moses himself was disobedient but clearly is saved, standing with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

    All I’m saying was there mode of life was to be BY THE LAW. And ours is BY FAITH THROUGH THE SPIRIT.

  43. Jay,

    This has gotten crazy bro. How do you control it all?

    I hope you get a lot of money for keeping order here….

    🙂

  44. One small description of what I mean when I say living by the law versus by the Spirit.

    If I, a born again believer who is seated with Christ in Heavenly realms, and in fact Christ Himself lives in me…

    If I were to refrain from lusting after an immodestly dressed female, is it because:

    a) the Bible says “do not lust”

    or

    b) I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and I love my neighbor as myself and because sinless Jesus lives in me and HE HIMSELF has no interest in lusting after her, I have learned to follow His inclinations within me, both to WILL AND TO DO.

    If 30-yr-old Michael Jordan lived inside you, would you live by rules or live by the life inside you to play basketball?

    A description of the game and its rules would help you understand this being who has come to live inside of you. But your understanding of the game and your skills in the game are radically different then if you are just you trying to apply basketball principles. Those kind of principles, Paul calls weak and miserable (ever feel that?)

    But Christ in you, the hope of Glory… THAT is a gamechanger.

    Not just power to live “by the law” but a LIFE that frees us from the law altogether. A LIFE above the law.

    An apple tree doesn’t bear apples because it SHOULD.

    An apple tree bears apples because that is the KIND of tree it is.

    If the SEED of God has REALLY come into our hearts, we will bear SPIRITUAL FRUIT apart from the principles.

    And back to the issue at hand… lines of fellowship:
    I am in an orchard (the church) of apple trees. If there is a tree there that doesn’t produce apples, most likely, he isn’t an apple tree. He might need some pruning, some watering of the Word… but if he’s a genuine apple tree, the fruit will be obvious.

    And if the fruit is consistently bad (not apples), then Father asks us to remove that tree from the orchard (1 Cor 5).

    But FRUIT is the issue. Proof of Life. I don’t care what opinions a tree has or doesn’t have about the farmer’s almanac, if he is isn’t bearing apples, He’s no brother of mine.

  45. What do you find crazy Hank? I’d be interested to know what you’re thinking about some of the Spirit discussion?

  46. FAITH THROUGH THE SPIRIT.

    Anon, now this is the reality of where we are today. Without such faith we become inundated with Biblical obstacles. Good thoughts!

    I might add that the Spirit is not locked within the laws or liberty of scriptures but is unleashed into the future to bring people of past and present into the mystery of Gods salvation.

  47. Bob Harry,

    As you know, these are big ol’ hairy questions. I did a comprehensive series a while back on the question: http://oneinjesus.info/index-under-construction/theology-church-of-christ-issues/buried-talents-studies-in-the-role-of-women/

    The short answer is foundin 1 Cor 12. If God gives someone a gift, he’s authorized him or her to use it —

    (1 Cor 12:21) The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

  48. Hank wrote,

    Because we both know that there are an untold number of things which certain people consider sinful in worship. We both here agree that when a church (its leadership) allows for a thing to be practiced which some brethren believe to be sinful…those certain brethren would not only have the right, but the obligation to speak out and/or leave. They should speak and act as a Christian when they do….but they cannot be expected to be a part of anything they consider sinful.

    I’m not sure whether we are on the same page.

    If the elders have two services, one which has instrumental music and one which does not, someone who considers instrumental music a sin is under no obligation to leave. They should certainly express their views to the elders — lovingly and without rebellion or threats. They shouldn’t threaten to withhold contributions or to leave. Power plays would be quite wrong. Rather, they should ask for prayerful study — not as a delaying tactic but to learn.

    We in the Churches of Christ have developed a culture that says: if you disagree, you are the final judge and you must act on your own beliefs. Therefore, when people get upset over an eldership’s decision, they get mad and leave, thereby losing the opportunity to learn and losing the opportunity to persuade. We think being wrong damns and so we refuse to admit we might be wrong.

    On the other hand, as we learn in Rom 14, we don’t DO something we think is wrong. If I think it’s wrong to clap to the music, I don’t clap to the music even though the rest of the church claps. But that doesn’t mean I leave.

    I am speaking of things that are disputable matters, that is, things where we can disagree and yet consider each other saved. Faith, penitence, and justification by faith are different.

  49. pilgrim,

    I entirely agree that the goal is a loving community, and a loving community will, over time, grow closer in their understanding of the scriptures. God gives unity. Love allows us to live it. It’s not unity that produces love.

    And a loving community will study together, rather than studying at home and getting mad when someone disagrees with my conclusions.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  50. Hank,

    I a church wants to be a cappella, I quite okay with it. My church is a cappella. But if a church declares all using instruments damned, it’s time to speak up because they are running the risk of being guilty of the Galatian heresy — seeking justification other than by faith. If I love them, I’ll speak up.

    Moreover, if I see that their doctrine is driving their children away from Jesus, defeating God’s mission, and dividing God’s body, I think I need to speak up. Again, the motivation is love. Why should I let people suffer and lose their children because of a delusion?

  51. jamesbrett,

    I would draw a distinction between two kinds of commands: Those commands that are founded on the perfect law of love, and those commands that aren’t really commands. (Moral law and positive law.)

    Those who have issues of conscience over positive law should remain in fellowship. It’s like eating meat or celebrating holy days.

    But when we are talking about moral commands, most of the time, we really ought to be able to reach consensus, because the loving thing is usually clear. (No one seriously disputes whether violence is the appropriate response to rude language.)

    The one area where we get confused nowadays deals with sex, as many don’t see premarital sex, for example, as unloving. I address the question here: http://oneinjesus.info/2007/07/01/interpreting-the-bible-returning-to-eden/

    On the other hand, we’re going to disagree at times even over moral questions. We could make quite a long list of genuinely difficult questions. Therefore, tolerance and love remain the watchword.

    Is there a right and wrong? Yes. Will we always agree? No.

    Does that justify intentional sin? Of course, not. Does it mean we don’t teach? Of course, not. We study and pray and talk with each other for all we’re worth, make the best decisions we can, and count on grace.

  52. Hi Jay, Two things:

    1) You wrote — “If the elders have two services, one which has instrumental music and one which does not, someone who considers instrumental music a sin is under no obligation to leave.”

    My rsponse — Fair enough. But, if they choose to have one and with instruments, or if they have two with both having instruments, then someone who considered it wrong would indeed be under obligation to leave. Or else, stay and be guilty of sin…

    2) You wrote — “If a church wants to be a cappella, I’m quite okay with it. My church is a cappella. But if a church declares all using instruments damned, it’s time to speak up because they are running the risk of being guilty of the Galatian heresy — seeking justification other than by faith. If I love them, I’ll speak up.

    My response — I never even suggested that a church ought to declare that “all using instruments be damned.” I have only said that if if they (a church) “declares” it to be a violation of God’s will (in their studied conclusion), then they ought to not use them themselves.

    And if a church has concluded as much (that the use of instruments would be against the will of God), then they shouldn’t be “spoken against” at all. For, they would only be doing what they believed to be the will of God.

    Surely, you do not believe that every church who honestly believes that using instruments is wrong is automatically “running the risk of being guilty of the Galatian heresy — seeking justification other than by faith”?

    To be fair, you are using stronger language than I. Again, I never suggsted declaring “whoever disagrees be damned.” Rather, I have only been saying that whoever disagrees has the right to do what they themselves believe to be pleasing to God. But, nobody should be encouraged to do what they believe to be sin.

  53. Hank,

    I don’t disagree. I just want to reiterate that there’s a huge difference between declaring that instruments are wrong and that instruments damn.

    I’ve not accused you of taking that position. I’m just trying to lay down some foundational principles.

    Many of the CoC presume that because instruments are wrong, they damn. Not true. That’s where we went wrong.

  54. Fair enough. And they shouldn’t jump to such conclusions. But, if they believe them to be wrong….they for sure shouldn’t use them themselves. And, they do have the right (even the obligation) to teach that they (the use of instruments), are wrong.

    Even if the use of them does not damn…

  55. Hank,

    I quite agree.

  56. Hank (or anyone), just wondering which would more difficult on your conscience?

    Worshiping with a piano or worshiping with a greedy brother?

    I assume, but could be wrong, that you tend toward non-instrumental. If I’m wrong, let’s say some other “worship” related sin.

    I’m not trying to peg you as a non-instrumentalist as much as I’m trying to say that there is an APOSTOLIC BIBLICAL command to have NOTHING to do with a non-repentant greedy or idolatrous brother (1 Cor 5), but no such command in regard to the nature of worship. And yet, at least in my past experience, we tolerate the moral sin and divide over the doctrinal issues. Over half of my C of C youth group (back when I was a youth) was sexually active. “Making out” and worse on Saturday night. Breaking bread together on Sunday morning. These were baptized “believers”. Until we get THOSE issues fixed, I’m not sure that pianos or women’s role is that high on God’s priority fix it list for us.

    It is so easy to draw lines about styles of worship, women’s role, etc. but not many are willing to obey God’s heart in regard to moral sin. I think it is because we all feel so guilty about our own moral issues and yet so sure about format and style of worship doctrines.

    Maybe your autonomous congregation is different. Maybe your Christian youth and traveling business men and romance-novel-reading women are all walking in purity. But if they are not, trust me when I say: Moral sin breaks Father’s heart 100-fold more than worshiping with instruments does.

  57. “But when we are talking about moral commands, most of the time, we really ought to be able to reach consensus, because the loving thing is usually clear. (No one seriously disputes whether violence is the appropriate response to rude language.)
    The one area where we get confused nowadays deals with sex….”

    I agree, Jay, that we OUGHT to be able to reach consensus. I also agree the the loving thing is usually clear (to some of us). The problem is that in a postmodern world, it’s becoming less and less clear. And will continue to do so.

    I would also argue that sex is not the ONE area where we find problems in understanding and agreeing on moral law. We could take any list of the sinful nature’s acts from the New Testament, and find several moral laws on which we have disagreements or have already accepted as right living, calling it by another name.

    ie. Discord and dissensions becomes “contending for the faith” and is accepted; selfish ambition becomes providing for my family or good work ethic, and is accepted; jealousy and envy become justice, because i only want what’s fair; etc. I’m not suggesting these are good arguments. I would also say it seems clear to me what is sin here. But it doesn’t seem to be so for everyone in our churches. And increasingly this will be the problem.

    As for no one arguing violence as a correct response to rude language, that is probably true. But violence in response to someone breaking in my house (even unarmed) is definitely up for discussion in our circles. As is violence to prevent detestable and sinful acts such as abortion (in some circles).

    What’s odd to me is that in one congregation, you may have some members who are racist and defend it by saying “God created us different, so it’s not right to inte-rmarry” and others who believe the truth in that matter; some who are “just war” and others who are pacificts; some who live simple lives and others who explain away their greed. And all of these will stay together in one church, respecting (for the most part) one another’s misunderstandings and misuses of scripture, and understanding that not all issues are as clear as we’d like them to be.

    But let a woman ask for prayers herself, or let the youth group clap after a baptism, and there’s no unity and togetherness.

    So I see a distinction between moral and positive law. And agree it exists. I just don’t see how it really serves as a determining factor of whether or not to stay in community and fellowship.

  58. All I’m saying was there mode of life was to be BY THE LAW. And ours is BY FAITH THROUGH THE SPIRIT. -pilgrim

    So you are saying the Holy Spirit wasn’t at work in the Hebrew Scriptures?? God’s people were not guided or lead by His Spirit?? People during that dispensation didn’t live by faith even though they trusted the Messiah to come save them from their sins?? You really think God’s people didn’t live by faith through the Spirit….Seriously!!!?

  59. “They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

    I think he means that changing the grace of our God into a license for immorality is denying Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Its not like he’s saying “You can turn our God’s grace into a license for immorality. Or you can deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. But you can’t do both.” He means that to do the first is equivalent to doing the second. To deny the faith that was once delivered to the saints, therefore, does not have to be denying that Jesus died for our sins, but can be instead producing a system of fail only that sets aside morality and thus makes ” the grace of our God into a license for immorality.” In your vigor against ceremonialism don’t turn the grace of our God into a license for immorality. To deny the morality of Jesus is to deny him as Lord.

  60. It is clear that most denominations have denied Jesus as Lord by setting aside morality as totally irrelevant.

  61. “Hank (or anyone), just wondering which would more difficult on your conscience?

    Worshiping with a piano or worshiping with a greedy brother?” — Pilgrim

    Hmm…

    Well, the worst would have to be “worshiping with a piano” WHILE a “greedy brother” was playing it 🙂

  62. Hank,

    Well that is at least 3 direct questions I have asked you that you’ve evaded an answer. Not that you owe me anything. Just a curious observation. I don’t post here to feed my ego. I long to see Jesus have His Bride prepared, without spot or wrinkle, and I truly want the best for you in that inheritance. You seem to have some sincere questions and I’m (as we all here) are trying to help untangle the knot we have all gotten ourselves in.

  63. Anon and everyone,

    God Himself says:

    Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Quoted in Hebrews as fulfilled in the New Covenant)
    “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, NOT LIKE the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law WITHIN them and ON their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

    AND

    Ezekiel 36:26-27
    “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a NEW spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and CAUSE you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

    God says, “NOT LIKE THE COVENANT I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS.”

    Growing up in the C of C, these GLOWINGLY POWERFUL scriptures were NEVER taught.

    2 Corinthians 3:7-18
    But if the covenant that PRODUCED death—carved in LETTERS ON STONE TABLETS–came with glory, so that the Israelites could not keep their eyes fixed on the face of Moses because of the glory of his face (a glory which was made ineffective), HOW MUCH MORE GLORIOUS will the ministry of the SPIRIT be? For if there was glory in the ministry that produced CONDEMNATION, how much more does the ministry that PRODUCES RIGHTEOUSNESS excel in glory! For indeed, what had been glorious now has no glory because of the TREMENDOUSLY GREATER GLORY of what replaced it. For if what was made ineffective came with glory, HOW MUCH MORE has what remains come in glory! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we behave with great boldness, and not like Moses who used to put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from staring at the result of the glory that was made ineffective. But THEIR MINDS WERE CLOSED. For TO THIS VERY DAY, the same veil remains when they hear the old covenant read. It has not been removed because ONLY IN CHRIST is it taken away. But until this very day whenever Moses is read, A VEIL LIES OVER THEIR MINDS, but when one TURNS TO THE LORD, the veil is removed. Now the Lord IS THE SPIRIT, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is FREEDOM. And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being TRANSFORMED (in greek, “transfigured”, Just like Jesus on the mount) INTO THE SAME IMAGE from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

    I lose my breath reading that passage even though I’ve KNOWN it now for 20 years… because it is so RIPE with the full inheritance that Father means for His Children.

    He doesn’t want to JUST FORGIVE us (and THAT is awesome itself) but it is HIS WILL that we be METAMORPHOSED into the same image as His Son. The same image. Ephesians 4 says the same thing.

    But we have settled for a bowl of Esau’s porridge and forfeited our BIRTHRIGHT.

    I dare any leader of any congregation to seriously consider praying and fasting over those verses and CONSIDER the tremendous implications. Don’t be like the 10 spies who saw the giants and thought the land was unconquerable. THIS IS THE CANAAN Jesus has prepared for His People… to be the exact representation of Himself ON THIS PLANET. Be like Joshua and Caleb and take that land. BEG HIM for a REVELATION to your heart. Jesus said to Peter, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven!” We all need THAT revelation. A veil lies over our minds and we desperately need FATHER HIMSELF to show us.

    From Ephesians 1
    “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him, –since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened–so that you may KNOW what is the hope of his calling, what is the WEALTH of his GLORIOUS inheritance in the saints, and what is the INCOMPARABLE greatness of his POWER TOWARD US who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense strength.”

    Peace, and may Jesus receive the reward of His suffering.

  64. pilgirm

    Great presentation. I have taught the same scripture and the class was dumbstruck, like this isall so new. 2 C0r 3 is one of the scripture Jeff Childers quotes in his book about the transforming power of the spirit.

    The coC needs to teach over and over all the many NT and OT scriptures about the Spirit.

    Thank you

    Bob

  65. Thanks Bob. But know this, a sword will pierce your side as well.

    Because for CHANGE to really happen, it must be applied. Part of the “great commission” is “teach them to OBEY all that I have commanded.” I have already articulated that there is NO NEW CODE… meaning the New Covenant isn’t written per se. But as I’ve also said, obedience is a big deal. Having “sermons” and “classes” and “studies” without walking with each other DAILY (Heb 3:13) will prove fruitless. We must HELP EACH OTHER OBEY JESUS, WHO IS THE SPIRIT. No amount of classes ABOUT the Holy Spirit will ever help long term without an Acts 2 and 3 CONTEXT to live it out in and to help each other in. Is the Holy Spirit REALLY authoring Sunday services EVERY Sunday at 10am. That’s what the living God is authoring. I testify that it isn’t. It’s easier. It fits into our schedules. But the Spirit is grieved. And we have MIXTURE and LEAVEN. Get the leaven out of the batch says the Lord.

    Spirit-led life is VITAL—life and death vital—for:
    – the individual believer and how he or she leads their own life
    – the nature and practice and expression of a local church
    – gifted leadership and how they choose to lead

    Without those things working in harmony, we will miss the FULLNESS that God means for His HOUSE. Saved. Sure. But as through the flames. And the work will burn up.

    But some won’t be saved, because they are the casualties of flesh-driven religion versus Spirit-infused faith and life and love and community.

    God give us all the courage to overthrow the broken foundation of the restoration movement and truly start over.

  66. Some think that the Holy Spirit was a stranger in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Power and Essence of Almighty God, has always existed.

    Judges 13:24-25 “ The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the LORD blessed him, And the Spirit of the LORD began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.”

    Judges 15:14 “When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting against him. Then the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him; and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands.”

    1 Chronicles 12:18 “Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, chief of the captains, and he said: “We are yours, O David; We are on your side, O son of Jesse! Peace, peace to you, And peace to your helpers! For your God helps you.” So David received them, and made them captains of the troop.’

    2 Chronicles 20:14 “Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly.”

    Nehemiah 9:20 “You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, And did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, And gave them water for their thirst.”

    Psalm 3:3 “But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.”

    Psalm 16:8 “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”

    Psalm 18:2 “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

    Psalm 71:16 “I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.”

    Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

    Psalm 138:7 “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand
    against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me.”

    Psalm 139:7-10 “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.”

    Nahum 1:7 “The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.”

    Haggai 2:4-5 “Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the LORD; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!”

    Romans 4:2-8 “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.”

    Romans 4:13-14 “For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect.”

  67. Pilgrim

    Thanx. You hit the nail on the head.
    Bob

  68. In total sincerity, I’m wondering what your point is? Old Covenant is over and obsolete. And It is VERY clear that the NEW one is LIGHT YEARS better.

    My main point, for the sake of Jesus and the Bride He deserves, is…

    Does 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 describe our EXPERIENCE both personally and as local churches?

    And if not, WHY NOT?

    I don’t see how anyone would want to take another step forward until they knew the answer to that question and BEGGED Father to make it a reality today.

    REAL CHRISTIANITY works. It is functional. God ordained that those in it would be a NEW RACE. But statistically speaking, most denominational Christians are no different than their pagan neighbors and co-workers except that we cuss a little less and attend services a little more and try to reach out on occasion and help the poor.

    He has given us the tools to be COMPLETELY different… In our priorities, in our relationships, in our raising of our children, in our handling of money, in our treatment of enemies, in how we interact with the internet, etc. What can be done for us if we neglect such a great salvation… not just from the penalty of sin, but from its power?

  69. My last post was addressed to “Anon.”

    And thanks Bob. By “A sword will pierce your own heart”, all I meant was that, just like Jesus, it takes embracing a cross to get to where we need to go. A student is not above his teacher and real change will cost us our lives. Men will hate you for declaring to them the saving truth. For kingdoms and paradigms to change, power structures that are in place will need to be challenged and that kind of challenge got Jesus murdered. Up for that? I hope so. Who is equal to such a task? Jehovah Jireh… God provides.

  70. pilgrim

    The second word in Romans 1 is “dulos” or slave. We are a slave to Christ. He went into Satans market and purchased us, gave us freedom and a helper to console us. He not only is our provider, but he contiually cleases us by his precious blood. But what a horrible price he paid.

    My only responce is one of gratitude. I wish, like the samaritan leper, I could fall on my knees a shout praises to him in person. But I can not yet. But what I can do is tell others of the unbelivable gift Christ has for them. Eternal Life. Even Peter Marshall said he was reticent to describe heaven because we don’t have an adequate model to descibe it.

    I worship him daily and on Sunday I do my best to please him with my poor expression of praise.

    Love you all

    Bob

  71. Some wrongly think that the Hebrew Scriptures are obsolete.

    The new covenant renders the first covenant obsolete. A covenant is an agreement or promise; commandments are laws.

    Christ was not yet made manifest. God revealed Him to the Jewish people teaching them about Him through sacrifices. Since Christ, the true Sacrificial Lamb of God, has come and spilled His blood to atone our sins, the justice of God was satisfied when He bore our sins on the cross.

    The Mosaic covenant is never declared in Scripture to be everlasting. The other covenants that God made with Israel — the Abrahamic, Davidic, and Land covenants — are all declared to be everlasting” (Genesis 17:7; 2 Samuel 23:5; and Psalm 105:8-11).

  72. Great. I hope you are a true Israelite in whom there is no guile.

    But does 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 describe your EXPERIENCE both personally and the church you are part of?

    And if not, WHY NOT?

    I would hate for any of us to sidestep our personal application of truth.

  73. The church I attend studies the Bible as a whole as we see the whole Bible to be Holy. We study His word together and help each other as it applies to each of us individually, we look to God and to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we take this exciting journey that no one would want to miss.

  74. Anon

    Right you are. The whole bible is relvant. All of the old testament commands and covenants are relevant. The entire OT is a scheme of our redemtion and speak of shadows of Christ that is to come. In Jeremiah and Isaiah i have put a cross by passages that prophesy Christ.and there are many. The early
    church had only the old testament for years before all the letters in the new were put together.

    We could preach salvation to the lost by by saying….He is here.

    Praise God for his Word promised and now alive.

    Bob

  75. You might even argue that the spirit was present when God breathed life into Adam (breath/spirit were basically synonymous); however the revelation of the nature of the Holy Spirit as part of a triune God and a sign of our salvation sent down from heaven was new in the New Testament, though what that means exactly seems to still be up for debate. I don’t envy preachers when they try to explain the nature of the trinity.

  76. “Some wrongly think that the Hebrew Scriptures are obsolete.” (anonymous)

    Better get your altar of earth ready to make a sacrifice on tomorrow. Oh wait, Deuteronomy made that part of Exodus obsolete. Better get ready to offer your sacrifice in the Jerusalem temple. Oh wait, there isn’t one.

  77. rey, As Jay said on another post, you come across as angry, in a lot of your comments, is there something that has offended you?

  78. Its an optical illusion.

  79. Anon

    I admire your insight to the scripture. All scripture is God breathed. Before you can begine to understand the Math through Rev, one must understand the Old Testament and Jewish Tradition.

    One could conbert the unsaved just by the old testament. They did if for many years after Christ was raised. The day of Pentecost was an example, most of Acts examples and the church of Rome.

    Thank you for your deep insight.

    Bob

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