“For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God” (Heb. 3:4).
The existence of God can be proven by many infallible things. When we think about the coming up and the going down (as we speak of it,) of the sun it is magnificent in the eyes of all. It is so precise that thousands of years into the future men of science can tell us the exact moment that it will occur at any spot on the earth. Reflecting upon the manner in which the earth is watered is truly a feat beyond what any human being could have ever imagined, as the Sun pulls the moisture from the oceans to be gathered in the clouds that are blown back over the earth to fall in the raindrop, slip to the creeks and rivers to return to the oceans where the process begins anew. These and millions of other things can attest the designs of God; however, there is something that outstrips them all—the church of Christ.
The Apostolic Writer in the passage before us asserts a maxim that no man can deny—every building had a builder. This brings clearly to the mind what is referred to as the law of causation; every effect must have an adequate cause. This is a bridge that every skeptic, infidel and atheist must cross as the law of cause and effect eliminates the possibility of chance. Every building must have a builder, every product a producer, every plan a designer. How silly would you think me, if I told you that my house just dropped out of the sky? In essence that is what the evolutionist wish you and me to believe—the world just dropped out of the sky. Where the sky came from for it to drop out of is itself an unexplained and unexplainable ridiculous theory. Back to the subject at hand the Church of Christ had a builder.
What is meant by the phrase Church of Christ? I am not speaking of some denomination, nor am I talking about every denomination encompassed together that might lay claim to being the Church of Christ. I am speaking of the church Jesus promised His disciples He would build. “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18). I speak of the church that existed on the first Pentecost after Jesus resurrected from the dead, “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47). I refer to the church that Saul of Tarsus (after conversion Paul) said, “I persecuted the church of God and wasted it;” (Gal. 1:13). I mean the church that we read that “Christ is the head of the church: and is the Saviour of the body.” Furthermore, that “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:23 & 25). I am contemplating the church that is “the house of God…the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (I Tim. 3:15). I point you to “the church which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” I note the church being the body is one, “there is one body.” (Eph. 1:22-23 & 4:4). Other points of clarification will be made as we proceed.
GOD’S DESIGN IS SEEN IN THE CONDITIONS NECESSARY TO ENTER THE CHURCH
Becoming a member of the church is not something that another can decide for us—not parents, children or grandchildren. It is a decision that requires total commitment and is a lifelong endeavor, therefore requires serious consideration. There are separate and distinct steps that must be taken which blend together as a component. There is no such thing as partial membership in the church. Shall we notice these steps as revealed in scripture?
1st one must believe in God and His Son Jesus Christ. What one believes is a guideline for his actions hereafter. When Joseph was sold into Egyptian bondage by his brethren, they concocted a story to tell their father about the lad’s disappearance. They dipped Joseph’s coat of many colors in the blood of a kid and sent it to their father asking if this was his coat? Recognizing it he concluded that a beast had devoured him. Whereupon he said “I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning.” Thus his father wept for his son (Gen 37:35). He reacted as though his son had died, because he believed it so. His belief became a guideline for Jacob. So is it with you and me. What we believe determines our actions.
If we learn anything from this it is to carefully consider the source of our information before we believe it or have confidence in it. Many people in religious things believe anything that some preacher especially if he is well known or some church because they claim to be following the Lord’s will. Well, could a source be more trusted than ones own sons as in Jacob’s case? I think maybe he had sufficient reason to doubt them from their former actions and feeling toward Joseph. At the very least he should have investigated more than he did.
When it comes to our believing in God or Christ the only positive source of our information is the Word of God. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17). That rules out feelings, dreams and vision. That puts a black mark on prayer books and church manuals. That disallows faith in church hierarchy, councils, conventions and synods. The scriptures tell us that we are all lost because we are sinners (Rom. 3:23), that God loved us and sent His Son Jesus to the earth to save us (Jn. 3:16). This stated in the Word of God produces belief in our hearts without which we cannot, we simply cannot please God. “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6). It should be obvious to the person of common sense and repugnant to the thinking person for an atheist to be a member of the church (although there may be found some that profess Christianity for a variety of reasons). The Word states, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” (Ps. 14:1).
2nd, once one believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God he sorrows for his sins repenting of them. Learning that we “were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from the vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” (I Pet. 1:18-21). What is left for a person at this point but to repent? To repent is to change one’s mind with the resolve to change one’s life. Knowing the great price that was paid for redemption a repudiation for sin cannot be avoided for anyone who respects the gift of God’s Son. The Apostle put it like this, “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4).
The New Testament clearly teaches that one desiring to be a member of the body of Christ (the church) must repent. On Pentecost as Peter preached the first Gospel sermon after Jesus arose, those hearing him asked what they must do. In response Peter demanded “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” The people who obeyed the commandments of Peter were added to or became members of the church. When Paul addressed the people of Athens on Mars Hill he told them, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” Following the example of their Master all disciples preached repentance. Jesus had said, “Except ye repent ye shall all…perish.” (Acts 2:38, 41, 47, & 17:30; Lk. 13:3).
Repentance involves a resolve in the heart to turn from evil and all things that are contrary to the Bible system and any attitude that is contrary to Biblical revelation. If a person fails to do this what help is his religion to his every day life? It should be obvious to all that repentance is essential to church membership. Repentance strikes a blow to infant church membership as such cannot repent. Of all the things God has commanded men, repentance is one of if not the most difficult to do. When one truly repents then whatever God asks of him from that point will be obeyed without question. But, if one fails to repent every commandment of God is difficult and a small war takes places within the heart. As disciples, we must follow the will of Christ and go into all the world and preach the Gospel reminding all the people that it behoved Christ to suffer, and rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name.” (Mk. 16:15, Lk. 24:46-47).
3rd, the belief one holds in his heart must be stated or confessed before others. Jesus showed to all the importance of confessing Him. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Mt. 10:32-33). The Apostle John strongly emphasizes the necessity of acknowledging Jesus’ transcending to this earth, “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.” (I Jn. 4:2-3, see Jn. 1:1-3 & 14). When some come along and deny that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh (as the self designated Jehovah Witnesses) does not change the reality. However, we know—KNOW—they are not of God.
Answering Jesus’ question as to who He was (is) Peter stated, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt. 16:16). As Philip explained that the prophet was speaking of Jesus they approached water whereupon the Ethiopian Treasurer inquired about being baptized. Philip acknowledged that this was possible “If thou believest with all thine heart.” (Acts 8:36). None can doubt that Philip had followed the instruction of the Lord in commissioning the disciples to preach the Gospel as he had done necessitating that, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mk. 16:16). How did Philip know he believed? The nobleman said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:37). Paul spoke of this glorious confession in the book of Romans (10:9-10). “That if thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Timothy was commended because he confessed the good confession. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou are called and has professed a good profession before many witnesses.” (I Tim. 6:12). The last phrase is translated “didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses.” (ASV).
Furthermore, the Apostle said that Jesus witnessed the confession, “Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession.” (ASV, Vs. 13). While in the face of danger Jesus did not fail to confess the truth of being the Son of God, as in all things He was the personification of His teaching (see Mt. 10:32-32, above). This demonstrates the fallacy of some that declare that the confession is not necessary to the saving of the soul. How can one possibly bear fruit for the Lord by keeping faith a deep dark secret? Our relationship to Christ must be overt, open and vocal if we are a light unto the world. Logically as well as scripturally, the confession of Christ cannot be left unspoken.
When the good confession is made it becomes the basis, mainstay and goal of one’s life. In the days of the Apostles and for some centuries later disciples of Christ were asked to deny that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but to their own peril many would not deny the Lord. Sometimes I am asked the question “would you acknowledge Jesus or refuse to save your life.” I very much dislike such a question because there is no way I can know such a thing until the test comes. I do know what Jesus said about the matter, “whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Mt. 10:33). My faith like others is often tottery to say the least. I just hope we will be strong when the day of testing arrives. (I shall pick up here with the next issue—Lord willing).
Barney Owens 1703
Many a person may have become wise had they not assumed they already were