Gospel Gazette Online

Vol. 12 No. 6 June 2010

Page 16

Questions and Answers

Send your religious questions to rushmore@gospelgazette.com

Obeying the Gospel

Louis Rushmore, Editor

Louis Rushmore

Question, how does a NON-Christian “obey” the gospel? i.e. people need to have believed and received that Lord to be your Savior. ~ Helyn

That we mortals need to “obey the Gospel” is certain from especially two passages in the New Testament. “…the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17; see also Romans 10:16). Add to this that Jesus Christ is the author of salvation to them who obey Him; “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9). Jesus said, “He that rejects me, and receives not my words, hath one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

A person obeys the Gospel and obeys Jesus Christ when he obeys the Christian faith (the Gospel). “…for obedience to the faith among all nations…” (Romans 1:5). “But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26).

In the New Testament, addresses to non-Christians, instructing them how to become Christians, include obeying these commands: have faith or believe, repent and be baptized (immersed, Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12). Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved…” (Mark 16:16). Jesus preached, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). The apostle Peter presented this invitation to become Christians in the first recorded Gospel sermons, “…Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38). One example of conversion to Christianity in the first century includes a verbal acknowledgement or confession that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 8:37).

From the foregoing passages and these that follow, it is obvious to sincere Bible believers that the New Testament, divinely inspired plan of salvation whereby one becomes a Christian occurs at the point of immersion in water (baptism) for the remission of sins. “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). “There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). Preceding baptism, one must turn exclusively to the New Testament for instruction about salvation in our time (Romans 10:17), develop a Bible-based faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (John 8:24), repent of past sins (Acts 17:30) and be willing to acknowledge or confess that faith in Christ (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:9-10). Manmade doctrines and churches are useless and condemned by our Lord. “And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. …Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted” (Matthew 15:9, 13).

No Longer a Church of Christ

I guess I always wonder how do you know what things are considered doctrine and when a congregation is no longer the Lords church. Since we are always growing and learning (the members of the church, including the preacher) my concern lies in not knowing what we are doing is completely right in the worship services. ~ Kia Hinton

Obviously, as history records, some congregations of the New Testament church deviated from the Gospel, and persisted to deviate from the Gospel, until gradually the Catholic Church developed. At some point, even long before the Catholic Church fully developed, congregations of the churches of Christ ceased to be faithful congregations of the Lord’s church, or eventually bore few of the distinguishing marks of the church Jesus died to establish. This was nothing new as the Judaism that God authored demonstrated manmade corruptions by the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, for which He said, “And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. …Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted” (Matthew 15:9, 13).

Departures from primitive Christianity had begun already before the close of the first century.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5)

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-7).

Much of the New Testament was penned to correct doctrinal deviations from divine instruction (e.g., 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, etc.). Yet, the church at Corinth despite its doctrinal departures was still the “church of God,” and its members were still “saints” or Christians (1 Corinthians 1:2) when the apostle Paul wrote epistles to them. Had the Corinthian church responded rebelliously rather than penitently to 1 Corinthians, it might have been correctly viewed as no longer a congregation of the churches of Christ. However, in spite of serious doctrinal errors, the congregation to which the apostle penned 1 Corinthians was considered still a church of the Lord.

Similarly, Jesus Christ warned several churches of Asia in Revelation 2-3 that they were in danger of no longer being recognized as one of His congregations. Jesus cautioned that unless they repented, He would remove their candlesticks or His approval of them. Yet, faithful Christians persisted in these unfaithful congregations at the time the apostle John penned our Lord’s warnings to those churches. The congregations were told to repent, rather than faithful Christians being told to flee those churches.

Implied in the warning was that at some future time were those churches not penitent, they would no longer be congregations of the churches of Christ. In that event, faithful Christians, realizing they were unable to restore the congregation to purity, would be unable to remain with assemblies that Jesus refused to fellowship any longer.

Therefore, a measure of human or personal judgment determines when a faithful Christian can no longer conscientiously remain with a congregation that persists in doctrinal error. We should not be hastier than Jesus Christ Himself respecting the abandonment of churches, and neither should we be more tolerant of errant churches of Christ than our Lord is.

Each of us needs to do our best to travel the straight and narrow pathway that leads to heaven (Matthew 7:13-14). “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13).

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