Monday, October 30, 2017
The apostle Paul wrote, “I was appointed a preacher” (1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11). I was appointed when the Wapanucka, Oklahoma church hired me in August 1957 to preach each Sunday morning. Over the past sixty years I have been asked multiple times if I preached “Church of Christ doctrine.” My answer has been, “No, I preach the word of God.” I certainly hope that has been true, but as inconsistent as mankind is, probably not!
Is it possible for any minister today to preach what Peter (Acts 2, 10), Stephen (Acts 7), Philip (Acts 8), or Paul (Acts 13ff) taught? What would keep a group of folks from teaching “the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42) as the first century assembly did? Would that doctrine or teaching include what is being preached in modern pulpits?
In today’s Christianity, each church has the Bible plus (+) it’s specific teaching that makes that person different from someone in another denomination. For example, the Methodist Discipline does not produce a Baptist. The Baptist Manual does not make one a Catholic. The Catholic Catechism does not create a Jehovah’s Witness. I’m sure you understand the point?! The question we need to ask is, “What did apostolic doctrine produce on the day of Pentecost and afterwards?” Although today’s churches preach some of the same things taught in the first century, our recognized differences separate us, just as “of Paul,” “of Apollos,” “of Cephas,” and “of Christ” did (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Although none of those four taught different gospels, “preacher love” created four divisive denominations. It still happens today! Most recognize that Paul is not praising them for that division. Paul reminded them that “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Guess who is the author of division?
Since all our present divisions or denominating were created years after the first century, Paul’s correction applies just as much to us as it did to the “church of God in Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Although time has softened our outlook on division, and since it has continued rather than curtailed, most have decided to live with it. No church has escaped the devil’s lie. A yesteryear radio evangelist often asked, “Are you listening?”
Is it possible to be added to the saved, as those on Pentecost were, and “devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer” (Acts 2:42) without our additions? If we taught exactly as they did and practiced what they engaged in, in the name of Jesus, wouldn’t we be what Peter told them to praise God in (1 Peter 4:16)? Most believe that their denomination or division doesn’t save them. If it will not save us, why do we allow it to divide us!
Denominating has become an accepted way of thinking. It is almost impossible to visualize the first century church outside our own denominational prejudices. We find it difficult to address one another as “Christian,” reverting to our denominational titles as if Peter wanted them used to praise God rather than what he wrote! We proudly tell the world that we are a Jehovah’s Witness, Adventist, Mormon, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Catholic, or Pentecostal. If asked, “Are you not a Christian?” the reply may be, “Oh! Yes, I am a Christian to.” Unconsciously we put “Christian” in second place! Yet, the name “Christian” isn’t what divides us! We are divided by what is not essential to our salvation!
Is it possible for all followers of Jesus to be “one” as he prayed (John 17:20-21)? What did one who was “of Paul” have to relinquish? Whatever made one “of Paul” or “of Apollos” had to be abandoned. Wouldn’t that be the case today?
The 120, which became the “about 3,000,” grew another 5,000 with all being added to “the saved” by the Lord (Acts 2:41; 47 ASV-NIV). This happened without a single denomination being created. Are our additions essential to make Yahweh’s addition complete? Wouldn’t God’s adversary be the one who is convincing us that Acts 2 is a Don Quixote adventure?
What doctrine was Peter preaching on Pentecost? Didn’t it produce the saved number who are later referred to as “the body of Christ”? Did Peter preach denominational doctrine or the good news of Jesus? Did Philip preach denominational doctrine to the eunuch? Did Peter preach it to the house of Cornelius? Did Paul and Silas preach such to the jailer and his family?
If one preaches what inspired men taught, to what body would God add them? What would they preach? What would be their doctrine? What would their practice be? Wouldn’t it be the Bible without the stuff that has been added since inspiration closed?
Hermeneutics are used by Satan to fool the disciple into believing his pattern is from the Lord. Comfort zone and “I like or don’t like,” are tools he enjoys working with. The denominationalism that began in Corinth has offspring that continue to bring confusion among Jesus followers today. We can either question our traditions and expose them for what they are, or we can use them as a comfortable blanket, wrapping ourselves with their indifference. Remember, Paul’s admonition is to the church in Jackson just as much as it was to “the church of God in Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2, 10-13)
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21).