|Vol. 16 No. 8 August 2014||
I recently received a phone call from a woman who was very distraught over things being taught and practiced where she worships. Taking of the Lord’s Supper any day of the week, instrumental music being advocated and other issues are being promoted as acceptable. In the course of conversation, she mentioned how, when discussing whether these changes were scriptural or not, the response she received was, “We don’t want to limit Christ.”
To say you don’t want to limit Christ sounds noble, but the fact of the matter is quite different when we alter the pattern found in Scripture. Scripture is indeed our pattern. As an inspired apostle, Paul reminded Timothy, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). He reminded the brethren in Rome, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17). That this pattern was the standard applicable to all congregations is seen in his words to the church at Corinth. “That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:17).
Following the pattern revealed in Scripture is not limiting Christ, but following Christ. Jesus told His apostles, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). We know Scripture is Christ’s Word (Romans 10:17), and Jesus said, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (John 12:48). If all authority belongs to Christ, then it is both valid and essential to ask the question for all our practices as His church, “Where’s the authority?” When we follow the teaching of Scripture, we are not limiting Christ, but Christ is limiting us as to what is acceptable worship and service. Jesus did indeed say, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). This is why Paul wanted the Philippians to hold fast to the Word of life, that in judgment, his efforts on their behalf would not have been in vain (Philippians 2:16).
When Jesus spoke of the Gospel being preached by Peter and the apostles, He said, “Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Neither Peter, nor the rest of the apostles, or anyone else, has the authority to change what the Lord has established in His infinite wisdom. We have neither authority to loose what He has bound, nor the authority to bind what He has loosed. He is Head of the body, the church (Ephesians 1:22-23), and we are to be slaves of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:1). To receive the rich blessings He has to offer, we must yield ourselves to Him and allow Him through the authority of His Word to guide us in His will, for He alone has the words of eternal life (John 6:68).
I suppose anyone can say anything when it comes to the faith and our practice of it, but our question must always be, “Where is the authority?” Humanity doesn’t have the right or privilege to determine doctrine, but our Lord does. We must always be sure what we believe and what we practice is true to the pattern of Scripture. Our goal isn’t to appease people, but to please God. “Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).
Mark N. Posey
On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first man in history to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Within 2 months, John Landy broke the record by 1.4 seconds. On August 7, 1954, the two met together for a historic race. As they moved into the last lap, Landy held the lead. It looked as if he would win, but as he neared the finish he was haunted by the question, “Where is Bannister?” As he turned to look, Bannister took the lead. Landy later told a Time magazine reporter, “If I hadn’t looked back, I would have won!” The Christian life is compared to an athlete competing in a race. Christians must forget those things that are behind and reach forward to what’s ahead (Philippians 3:12-13). We can’t make spiritual progress by looking back; we must run the race that is set before us! Notice things necessary for running the race successfully.
In any sporting event, the crowd plays a major role in the level of enthusiasm and encouragement. While running the Christian race, we are blessed with “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews12:1). The list of faithful followers of God in Hebrews 11 make up an arena of redeemed who have already finished the race and now, by example, cheer on the runners. Encouraging and exhorting one another is a worthy task (Romans 14:19; Hebrews 3:13; 10:24-25).
While running the Christian race, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). He is the “captain of our salvation” (Hebrews 2:10) and the coach of our Christian race. He is our example (1 Peter 2:22) and guide (1 Corinthians 11:1). His words will judge us on the final day (John 12:48), and He is the only way to heaven (John 14:6). Things going on around us and within us could cause us to fall, but if we concentrate on the up-lifted Savior, He will draw us unto Himself (John 12:32). Jesus is our Forerunner (Hebrews 6:20).
The Christian race is not a competitive race; it is a cooperative one. Christians are running alongside each other. Such is the significance of the phrase in Hebrews 12:1, “let us run… the race.” When a Christian falls, Paul said, “ye which are spiritual, restore such an one” (Galatians 6:1); James said, “he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death” (James 5:20), and Jude said, “and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 23).
The path we travel makes all the difference in our destination. Jesus spoke of the “broad” and “narrow” paths (Matthew 7:13-14). Swift travel means very little if our landing is off. We serve either “sin unto death, or obedience unto righteousness” (Romans 6:16). We must travel the “path of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3), the only right path. Paul told Timothy that he had “finished his course” (2 Timothy 4:7). We all have a path to travel, a course to run. Like Jesus (John 19:30), Paul finished his work and anticipated an eternal reward (2 Timothy 4:8).
The reward for finishing the Christian race in not a corruptible crown, but an incorruptible one (1 Corinthians 9:25). Jesus and James called it a “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10; James 1:12); Paul called it a “crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:8), and Peter said it is a “crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4). Jesus wore a crown of thorns (Matthew 25:29) so we could wear a “crown of rejoicing” (1 Thessalonians 2:19). Let us “press toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “So run, that ye may obtain.” Jesus is at the finish line of the Christian race, waiting to reward us with the crown of eternal life. Let us confidently run this race (1 Corinthians 9:26) and strive to be “worthy of the vocation wherewith ye have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).