THE ISSUE OF ONE TRUE CHURCH? - A Response to a Fellow Young Preacher
By Nana Yaw Aidoo
I read an article by a young preacher entitled "The Issue of One True Church." What an interesting title for an article. This young man saw the "need" to write this article because he was reproved for writing in a previous article, such words as these; "Others also belong to a group who say they are the only ones recognized by God and so are the only ones going to Heaven - Pharisee."
This brother begs to differ in view of the fact that so many of us in the Lord's church take the position that there is only one true church, which the Lord will save. We grant him the right to differ though it's a problem in its own right. Yet it was pointed out to this young man that using the word "Pharisee" to describe all who hold this view, is derogatory to all of our older preachers who have preached and continue to preach that the Lord built only one church which He will save. It was in a sequel of sorts that this young man wrote the article entitled, "The Issue of One True Church." An article in which he was able to come across as believing the one true church and not believing it at the same time.
In this article, he began by defining the word "church." As he went ahead he wrote; "We see the New Testament church having several descriptive names. When I choose one, should I look at others in contempt? (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 20:28, etc)." Brethren, I never heard a single preacher in my life look at the other descriptive names "in contempt." Where is the proof that our beloved older preachers or the young ones or anyone in the Lord's church holds the other descriptive names "in contempt?" What is really taught is that, "In order to be built according to the Divine Pattern, the Church of God upon earth must be called by a name designated by the God of Heaven and found upon the pages of His word." (The New Testament Church by Roy E. Cogdill; pp.66). Does this sound like the other descriptive names are held in contempt?
I have in my possession, a lecture entitled "The Church of the Bible," which took place at the church of Christ, Knust/Bohyen. Under the heading "Scriptural Names of the Church," nine (9) different names are listed as "Scriptural names." So much for people who have chosen one name and "look at the others in contempt." Like Dr. Dave Miller aptly noted, "As one takes Bible in hand and reads about the church of the New Testament, the terminology used to refer to Christ's church become readily apparent. Churches of Christ endeavor to conform themselves to this scriptural terminology. They attempt to confine themselves to the names and designations that have been given by Christ through the Holy Spirit. Even the name "churches of Christ" (Romans 16:16) is the result of this intention to "call Bible things by Bible names," as well as to "speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent." (What the Bible says about the Church of Christ; pp.31).
This young man further asked; "I'm (sic) I the only one going to Heaven because others do not bear my Church's name but bear other Scriptural names." He calls the Lord's church "my Church" but that is besides the point. What are those other scriptural names? Let this young man tell us all what those other scriptural names are. And even if a church wears a "Scriptural name," is that the only test of fellowship? The Bible clearly teaches that we are to be in fellowship only with those who are in fellowship with God. And the one who is in fellowship with God is the one who walks in the light of the scriptures (1 John 1:5-7), which of necessity includes having a scriptural name. Should we as churches of Christ extend the right hand of fellowship to denominations like "Church of God," in view of their well noted unscriptural practices?
The brother asked again; "Do we consider others bearing other Scriptural names and having the same practices as brethren?" We ask, what are those other churches?
Ultimately, and unsurprisingly, this brother went the way of most digressives in trying to use Romans 14 as a blanket that covers every known and notable error. The tactic of most digressives is that they brand matters of faith as matters of opinion and then make Romans 14, their "city of refuge." But not this brother. He actually said; "Even in matters of faith, Paul said the one whose faith is weak should be accepted and not to quarrel over disputable matters, Romans 14:1." (emp. added - Aidoo).
Now brethren, where in the entirety of the text does the apostle deal with matters of faith? He clearly is dealing with matters of opinion on an individual bases. Also, he is talking about weak brethren and not disorderly brethren. When that same test was applied on a congregational basis, with the Galatian churches having incorporated the keeping of "holydays" into their practices, the apostle wrote; "But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you..." (Gal.4:9-10).
Clearly, Romans 14 is dealing with matters that are of indifference to God and specifically the chewing of meat and keeping of days individually. If I decide to make Thursdays my day of fasting and prayer as an individual, it is of indifference to God. Romans 14 does not deal with matters of faith and it certainly does not teach that "even in matters of faith...the one whose faith is weak should be accepted..." We are to accept those who are weak in faith only when the issue concerns matters of indifference to God. Issues like having women preachers, choirs and using the instrument in worship are not matters of indifference to God. Who is the one whose faith is weak? The church that plays the instrument and utilizes choirs and solos in its worship? The church that has a Christmas and an Easter convention? Is that the one who is weak in faith?
Concerning matters of faith the Bible is absolutely clear that "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds" (2 John 9-11).
This young man says many things that are not worth mulling over but he ends with these words; "Even in vivid issues on (sic) faith where my brother errs, I'm to admonish him but don't have the right to determine his eternal fate." He thinks those in denominations are his "brothers" but once again that is besides the point. No one determines anyone's eternal fate. We simply point out to others that their course of action would lead to eternal damnation. It is called righteous judgement (John 7:24). Judgement that is in accordance with God's word. Paul and Barnabas told the unbelieving Jews; "...since you reject it (the word - Aidoo), and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles" (Acts 13:46). I have no doubt in my mind that this young brother, if he were around, would have told Paul and Barnabas; "Don't you both know that 'even in vivid issues of faith,' we're to admonish and not determine the eternal fate of the one in error?" But no, Paul and Barnabas did not determine anything. The Jews judged themselves unworthy of eternal life. What Paul and Barnabas did was simply point it out to them.
Likewise, when we tell others that denominationalism is carnal (1 Cor.1:10-13; 3:3-4) and that no one involved in carnality will be in heaven, we are simply telling them their course of action is soul damning, something this young brother and preacher thinks it is wrong to do. We ought to go sit at his feet and receive lectures on how to admonish those in error.
It is my ardent prayer that this young brother would realize where the path he has begun to walk leads and make a concious effort to turn back to the old paths (Jer.6:16), which is the only way that is right and cannot be wrong.
God bless us all in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.