|Volume 17 Number 11 November 2015||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
In 1772, John Fawcett penned the words to the Christian hymn, “Blest Be the Tie that Binds.” The first stanza reads, “Blest be the tie that binds, Our hearts in Christian love; The fellowship of kindred minds, Is like to that above.” All of the words in the spiritual song are appropriate, but we want to dwell for a few paragraphs on the ideas put forth in the first stanza.
We begin by posing a question. Since the churches of Christ (i.e., the church of God, 1 Corinthians 1:2; the New Testament church) have neither earthly headquarters nor centralized church government, just what are the ties that bind together individual Christians and the congregations of which they are members? What binds together into a worldwide fellowship barefoot Christians wearing cultural costumes that date back thousands of years with finely dressed Christians in contemporary western garb on the distant shores of other continents?
First, Christians everywhere voluntarily bow down (Romans 14:11) humbly in obedience (Hebrews 5:8-9) to Jesus Christ. He has “all authority…in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Further, our Lord is the Head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23) and Head of the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18). Christians of every nation (Matthew 28:19; Revelation 5:9), of every complexion and from diverse cultures scattered all over the world are bound together in one universal church under Jesus Christ Who is the Head of that church, which He built as He promised that He would (Matthew 16:18-19).
Secondly, Christians throughout the world are bound together by their common loyalty to a single, divinely given creed – the New Testament. The New Testament has replaced the Old Testament (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14; Romans 7:6-7; 2 Corinthians 3:11). Also known as the Gospel, it must not be altered or replaced with anything else (Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18-19). The New Testament is the system of faith that has been delivered once and for all (Jude 3). It is completely sufficient for mankind’s every need (2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible generally and the New Testament specifically binds together Christians no matter where they may live on planet earth.
Third, Christians are bound together by acting out in their own lives the same divinely authored plan of salvation. Though the religious community abounds in contradictory schemes for redemption, only the Holy Spirit-inspired plan of salvation possesses the needed efficiency to actually result in the removal of sins and the proper cleansing of one’s conscience (1 Peter 3:21). Study of the New Testament (2 Timothy 2:15) produces faith in honest hearts (Romans 10:17); faith that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, Messiah or Savior is essential to salvation (John 8:24). He who would be saved must also repent of his sins (Acts 17:30). In addition, a penitent soul must acknowledge what he has believed about Jesus (Romans 10:9-10). Next, one must be immersed in water (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12) for the remission (Acts 2:38) or the washing away of his sins (Acts 22:16). Christians all over the world are united in the body of the saved, the church, to which Jesus Christ added them when they obeyed the Gospel (Acts 2:47; Romans 6:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).
Fourth, Christians across the planet are united because of their common relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Notice 1 John 1:3 which reads, “that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (NKJV). Everyone who enjoys spiritual fellowship with our Heavenly Father and the other members of the Godhead also has Christian fellowship with every other faithful Christian who likewise has spiritual fellowship with the Godhead. Christians throughout the world have Christian fellowship because we each also have fellowship with God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Fifth, every Christian is bound to every other Christian because we are the adopted sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father (Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). All Christians are spiritual siblings! Jesus Christ is the natural Son and big brother to each child of God.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:14-17)
Genuine Christians are bound to one another as brothers and sisters in the family of God.
“Blest Be the Tie that Binds.” Even without an earthly, ecclesiastical hierarchy, Christians are bound together as well as are congregations of the Lord’s church into a universal, worldwide brotherhood that includes the saved from the Pentecost in Acts 2 onward for as long as this world will continue. Some of the ways in which we are bound together include humble obedience and allegiance to Jesus Christ, a common regard for the authority of the New Testament, the implementation of the divine plan of salvation in our lives, a fellowship with the Godhead and with every other person who sustains that fellowship with the Godhead and because we have been adopted into the family of God. Blest be the ties that bind Christians together!