|Volume 21 Number 3 March 2019||
Brian R. Kenyon
Recently, while discussing whether handclapping is an authorized avenue of worship, the question was asked, “Is that a salvation issue?” Of course, the answer is yes! Worship as a “salvation issue” is confirmed beyond doubt by Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2) and by Jesus’ statement about the scribes and Pharisees: “in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8). If God has regulated worship, then He determines how He is to be worshiped. If God has not regulated worship, then anything goes! This question, however, does force some serious thought about the term “salvation issue.” This term is sometimes brought up by those studying questionable practices.
What Are Salvation Issues?
Basically, everything that God obligates people to do is a matter of salvation. For those who are not yet in Christ, God obligates them to believe in Jesus (John 8:24), repent of their sin (Acts 17:30), confess their faith in Jesus as the Son of God (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38). If accountable people outside of Christ do not do these things, they will be lost. God’s plan of redemption is a salvation issue! Those who have been baptized into Christ must “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), which includes worshiping God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24), putting off sin while cultivating the “new man” (Colossians 3:1-10) and continuing to be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). This, of course, does not mean those in Christ will be sinless (1 John 1:8-10), but it does mean they will strive to “observe all things that I [Jesus] have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Each of these obligations is a salvation issue (Matthew 7:21-23).
Are There Non-Salvation Issues?
If God’s obligations are salvation issues, then those things that God does not obligate are non-salvation issues [as long as something is neither a modification nor an addition to what God has authorized ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]. These fall into at least two categories: matters of indifference to God and matters of expediency. First, matters of indifference to God are such things as eating meat versus eating only vegetables or personally regarding one day above another (Romans 14:1-23; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13). As long as we do not sin in the process, God does not care whether we eat meat or vegetables (1 Timothy 4:3-4) or whether, for example, a couple sets apart their wedding anniversary as a special day of thanksgiving and prayer to God. Second, matters of expediency are those things that help carry out what God obligates (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23). For example, one local church may decide to use songbooks to help fulfill God’s obligation for us to sing in worship, while another may use PowerPoint to help fulfil that obligation. Either one of these expedients is fine because neither changes the obligation to sing (1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).
Can Non-Salvation Issues Become Salvation Issues?
Yes, concerning the categories mentioned above, matters of indifference to God and matters of expediency can be abused in such ways as to become sinful, thus making them salvation issues. Concerning both, when people bind one option as if it were the exclusive pattern from God, they sin (Romans 14:10-17). Concerning matters of indifference to God, if, for example, we eat meat in such a way that causes our brother to violate his conscience, “you thus sin against the brethren, and…you sin against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:12).
Although there is a sense in which salvation and non-salvation issues exist, basically everything is a salvation issue based on Colossians 3:17. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17)!
The Associated Churches of Christ
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Until someone inquired, I do not recall having heard of the term “Associated Churches of Christ.” Upon looking up the phrase on the Internet, I became aware of this phrase which has been appropriated by at least a couple of different religious groups to themselves—one group associated with the Disciples of Christ and one group associated with the Pentecostal movement. Neither of those represent the churches of Christ (Romans 16:16).
From the middle of the 19th century in the United States of America through the beginning of the 20th century, internal strife over the missionary society, adding instrumental music to Christian worship, open fellowship and other doctrines troubled the churches of Christ, often also known as the Christian Church. In 1905, the US government recognized a distinction between the churches of Christ and the Christian Church. The latter introduced and retained the missionary society and instrumental music in worship. In 1968, the Christian Church split into the Christian Church and the Disciples of Christ. They both retained instrumental music in worship, but the former gave up the missionary society. Both maintained additional denominational practices, such as the use of religious titles.
From the middle of the 19th century onward, the Christian Church and the Disciples of Christ continued to refer to themselves as the Church of Christ. The foundation stones of some older church buildings still have inscribed on them “Church of Christ,” though they may be occupied by the Christian Church, the Disciples of Christ or some other religious group.
One of the identifying characteristics of the church of the Bible is bearing a biblical descriptor or name: “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16), “church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2), “house of God” (1 Timothy 3:15). However, having a biblical name is not the only identifying characteristic of the church over which Jesus Christ is Head, for which He died and for which He will return someday to retrieve. Christian worship must be authorized, such as “singing” (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) and observance of the Lord’s Supper weekly on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Each congregation is independent and when fully organized served by elders, deacons, ministers, teachers and every member (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5).
Even churches of Christ can apostatize. The apostle Paul warned of a falling away (1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). Five of the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2-3 were rebuked by Jesus Christ for departures and failures; they were in danger of no longer being recognized as churches belonging to Jesus Christ.
Irrespective of what a religious group may call itself or what its practices may be, the church over which Jesus Christ is the Head is depicted upon the inspired pages of the Bible—especially in the New Testament. Each congregation belonging to our Lord is independent rather than governed by an international headquarters. The church that Jesus built (not a building) relies on God’s Word alone for its doctrine and practice.