|Vol. 16 No. 8 August 2014||
Can a Person Become a
Christian in a Denomination?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Someone asks, “Can a person become a Christian in a denomination?” The “church” about which one reads in the New Testament and denominations are the antithesis or opposite of each other. The Lord’s church came into existence nearly 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem (Acts 2), whereas denominations began hundreds to thousands of years later, first with the Catholic Church in Rome and then with a myriad of denominations that are still being established daily in cities throughout the world. That circumstance alone should be sufficient to discern that the church of the Bible and denominations are the reverse of each other, the former brought to pass by divine decree and the latter the product of manmade rebellion.
A person may be a denominational member when he or she learns the truth and obeys the Gospel, at which time the Lord adds him or her to His church (Acts 2:47). However, then, the newborn Christian is no longer a denominational person. There may be much yet to learn, and the new convert may need to alter several things in his or her life, but as a child of God (true Christian), he or she is no longer a Baptist, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, a Catholic, a Lutheran, an Adventist, a Disciple of Christ or Christian Church member, a Pentecostal or a Mormon.
There may be Christians in denominations, but if so, they are erring Christians, and the “latter end” will be worse for them than the beginning when they were already lost (2 Peter 2:20). Anyone who obeys the Gospel of Christ (e.g., Mark 16:16) and remains affiliated with a denominational church would be in that number.
Members of the churches of Christ need to acknowledge that someone may obey the Gospel of Christ, having come to that understanding without our help and having been immersed without our hands. The validity of one’s baptism does not depend on the validity of the baptizer’s baptism or his faithfulness to the Word of God – or else none of us has any assurance whatsoever of our own salvation. We lack the omniscience to know for sure that our fathers in the faith were faithful Christians, and even if we could know that, a knowable, unbroken line of succession of converts would be required all the way back 2,000 years ago to Jerusalem. Such a proposition would also nullify the seed principle of the Word of God (Luke 8:11).
Individuals coming to the churches of Christ from denominational pasts need to acknowledge that in most manmade churches that the Gospel plan of salvation is not taught. It is the most serious of personal missteps to take as a template what one now understands correctly about the biblical doctrine of salvation and apply it as a template overtop what one may have done in the past, which was not in accordance with what the New Testament teaches.
Some denominations may teach the Gospel plan of salvation (i.e., hearing God’s Word, Romans 10:17; believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior, John 8:24; repent of past sins, Luke 13:3; publicly acknowledging Jesus to be the Christ or Savior, Matthew 10:32-33; immersion in water for the remissions of sins, Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-5; faithfulness, Revelation 2:10; and repenting and prayer when Christians sin, Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9). However, they do so with the intention of adding the baptized believer to their respective denominations (e.g., Christian Church, Church of the Brethren, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, United Pentecostal), rather than simply adding one to the church of the Bible over which our Lord is the Head. The difference is readily seen by what these individuals typically call themselves (e.g., Pentecostals, Mormons, etc.).
God does not have Baptist Christians, Methodist Christians, Lutheran Christians, Presbyterian Christians, Mormon Christians, Pentecostal Christians, Adventist Christians and so on. The children of God today are simply Christians. Period! Not sectarian Christians! The point we want to make here is that even if a denomination does teach the plan of salvation, with all the additional denominational trappings tagging along, including placement by baptism into a denominational fellowship, there is sufficient reason to ponder the validity with God of that baptism, even when making a break from that denomination.
Remember, there was nearly perfect similarity between the baptism of John the Baptist and the baptism of the Great Commission. Every outward act between the two was identical. Most of the reasons for the two baptisms were the same. The only difference between them was John’s baptism looked forward to the cross and the Great Commission baptism looked backward to the cross of Christ (Matthew 3:8, 13-16; John 3:23; Mark 1:4; Acts 19:1-6). See my article at the following link for a more extensive discussion of this point. https://www.gospelgazette.com/gazette/2005/feb/page2.htm
The inquiry with which we began is brief, and it is not possible to know from that alone what the one who posed the question fully intended or what are the circumstances that gave rise to it. Therefore, we have attempted to answer the question thoroughly enough to address it in any case. Often when answering questions live or such as we have here, one’s response is applied to a context of which the one answering questions is not aware and in a way in which he would not himself make application. Please exercise caution to consider this question and answer within the scope of the brief question and the subsequent reply (i.e., don’t misuse it for a personal agenda).
Ongoing Miracles Today?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Hi Louis, Thanks so much for the GGO. I enjoy reading the articles every month. They are insightful. I did want to pose a question. I understand how & why miracles were used to confirm the God given authority of Jesus, the Apostles, and the New Testament. It seems to me that in today’s era people are performing miracles—particularly healing miracles and while I acknowledge that God can heal anyone at any time for any ailment they may have can the saints claim these miracles in God’s name given the time of using miracles as proof is done? The other thing that concerns me is should the saints be casting out demons from people? I don’t know too much about this myself but I do believe it was best left in Jesus’ hands. Your thoughts?
As the one posing the question acknowledged, miracles had as their purpose the confirmation of the Word of God and the validation of the presenters of new revelation (i.e., the New Testament), according to Mark 16:20. Once the New Testament was completed, around the end of the first century, miracles were slated to cease (1 Corinthians 13:8-13). Part of the list of miracles performed was casting out demons (Mark 16:17-18); demon possession was permitted by God during the time of miracles to demonstrate that Jesus Christ and His apostles had power from God over the spirit world, too. Hence, Jesus Christ showed during his earthly ministry that He had all power in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Therefore, with the cessation of miracles, demon possession also ceased as well.
There is a difference between miracles and the providence of God. Miracles exceeded natural means and usually were manifested to prove something; they were visible and obvious. On the other hand, the same power of God lies behind His providence, but it is not visible, obvious or meant to prove anything; what is discernible to mankind of the providence of God is according to natural law. Therefore, since humans lack omniscience and divine inspiration, they cannot certify with certainty any particular event as being the result of God’s providence over any other circumstance in agreement with natural law.
Immediate healing of an undeniable, visible medical condition (e.g., broken bones, raising the dead after three days, etc.) would require a genuine miracle. Healing of illnesses or injuries over a period of time with medical treatment relies, instead, on the providence of God and natural law, which God put in place. Prayer appeals to God’s providence for not miraculous healing of the ill, but for a good outcome through natural law. We know that Bible type miracles are not now occurring because the inspired Word of God says so and because human observation verifies that supernatural healing, walking on water, multiplying bread and fish, etc. are not now happening. The bigger factor, of course, is because God through the Bible teaches that miracles have ended, since they served the purpose for which they were given. Among the miracles that have ended, then, is the casting out of demons; true demon possession was temporary and no longer exists.
Dancing at Your Wedding
Louis Rushmore, Editor
A correspondent asks would it be alright for a Christian to dance at his or her wedding. There are a number of things that would be alright to take place between a husband and a wife that are not appropriate to take place in all places, for instance publicly. The type of dancing or behavior that the New Testament forbids is that of sensuality (“uncleanness,” Galatians 5:19), arousing sexual desire (“lasciviousness,” Galatians 5:19) and immoral behavior, usually associated with alcoholic drink (“reveling,” Galatians 5:21). Whereas a husband and his wife are expected by God to participate in sensuality, and it is their right to arouse each other in sexual desire (1 Corinthians 7:2-5), this is not something that God permits them to do publicly. What otherwise would be immoral behavior is not immoral between a husband and his wife (Hebrews 13:4), but again, this was never intended by God to be a matter of public display. Furthermore, dancing that results in or predictably could produce sensuality, sexual arousal and immoral behavior is definitely not something that either a husband or his wife ought to share with others. In addition, even if a husband and his wife dance exclusively with each other at their wedding, what implied stamp of approval are they proclaiming to all others present, irrespective of whether dance partners are married to each other? Likewise, on other occasions in public when a husband and a wife would dance together exclusively, what kind of an example would they be providing? Especially outside of a wedding, and yet often at weddings, public dances are usually attended in places where alcohol flows freely; is that the type of an environment in which a child of God should pursue intimate familiarity with one’s spouse?
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11-12 NKJV)
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles — when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. (1 Peter 4:1-4)