Longview church of Christ
HomeAbout UsContact UsEvents and NewsWhat to Expect

A Matter of Authority

I've heard this sort of thing for years now. The church of Christ has never properly taught about grace, that is, until recently. We've neglected the Godhead, especially the Holy Spirit, as it has never been truly studied, that is, until recently. Our songs haven't fully explored Biblical themes and concepts, that is, until recently. Such thoughts can be introduced with, "In my experience...where I grew up...the preachers I heard..." And from one's personal experience the conclusion is this must be the way it is for everybody. Years ago, it became popular for some to say the church has never preached on true grace. Well, if I take my experience as the standard, the church has always preached on grace, as I heard many, many lessons on grace growing up in the Lord's church. We sang about grace. We gave thanks to God for His undeserved grace. I suppose the point I'm trying to make is, while it may be true that some congregations avoided grace, or love, or mercy, or other Biblical topics, it doesn't mean every congregation avoided them. We must be careful taking our personal experiences and making them universal truths for the kingdom of God. Many times, it becomes a vehicle to talk about these things in ways contrary to what Scripture teaches.

Another saying that is often used is how we are stuck in “church of Christ tradition.” It is true Scripture uses the term tradition, both positively or negatively. The word itself (παράδοσις) means to deliver in teaching; a tradition, doctrine or injunction delivered or communicated from one to another, whether divine or human. The tradition of the Pharisees, or elders, were esteemed, but were not inspired. They had been handed down by human agency, not by the word of God, not by the inspired prophets. As such, they came to supplant the will of God for the commands of men (Matt. 15:1-3). The tradition of God is vastly different, being inspired by God. It speaks of teaching or doctrine being delivered by God to be obeyed (2 Thess. 2:13-15). While there are human traditions we can practice today (number of songs sung in an assembly, having a Scripture reading, observing the Lord’s Supper before or after the message proclaimed), these do not violate the will of God. There are those who would claim our belief in what Scripture teaches and commands are merely human traditions, when instead they have been delivered, handed down by God by His inspired word (2 Pet. 1:20-21). Matters such as a cappella singing, taking the Lord’s Supper only on the first day of the week, the role of submission for women in the leadership of the church, fellowship withheld by those who teach error, are not human traditions but established by command, example, and practice seen in the church of Scripture. We must differentiate between human opinions and that which is divinely revealed. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

We could just as easily say today, there are not enough lessons on things like why we don't use instrumental music, that faith and works are not mutually exclusive, that immersion is essential for salvation, as well as other basic truths that we seem to be neglecting. For example, I know of several congregations, understanding the nature of people's religious experiences and beliefs these days, have seen the need to speak to them before simply accepting them in, as they have not been immersed for the forgiveness of sin. This has become important because some congregations no longer deem immersion necessary, saying you can be saved without having been immersed. How could this happen? It is the greatest tragedy to not teach others how to truly be saved, to be added by the Lord to His church, as not doing so can condemn souls eternally. We need to teach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). We should speak of the love of God and the judgment of God. We should speak of His grace and the need of obedience. We should speak of the love and the discipline of God. We should acknowledge that our personal experiences growing up may or may not be the way it was everywhere else, but that no matter what has gone before, we all will seek to know and abide in the whole counsel of God.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”

Robert Johnson