«. g. ron W is T ng H hi IG et R om ut IS S b E L B I B E H T We pray this booklet will aid your study of the word of God, “which is able to save ...»
Many churches say one does not need to be a member in order to go to heaven. Any church of which one does not have to be a member, in order to go to heaven, is an unnecessary church. It is the wrong church, for the right church is composed of the saved (Acts 2:47). The church is the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13); and, when Christ comes again, He will deliver the kingdom up to God: “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father” (1 Corinthians 15:24).
The church of Christ in your community invites your earnest investigation. You should find it coincides with the church you read about in your Bible, the church that had its beginning on the day of Pentecost. It glorifies and honors Christ, its founder and head, by wearing His name. It recognizes the absolute authority of the law of Christ to direct its worship and work, being faithful to proclaim His terms of pardon and church membership.
ADDENDUM, OCTOBER 1986
This booklet was first published in 1954. In recent years, various religious groups have taken unto themselves the name “Church of Christ,” but have not yet adopted the method outlined by the inspired writers of the New Testament for church membership, the church being the Kingdom of God; nor have they conformed to the method of worship as set out therein. Then, too, some congregations have departed from the true pattern, but still wear the name. They are no longer the true church, which Jesus came to establish. “SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES.”
For emphasis, let it be stated again:
When one obeys the gospel, one gains the forgiveness of sins and becomes a member of the church of Christ.
But what about one’s life from this point? Many claim, “Once saved, always saved”—that it is impossible for a child of God to sin so as to be lost, or to “fall from grace.” This is known as the doctrine of “impossibility of apostasy,” taught by most religious groups. If this doctrine were true, there would be little need to stress the necessity of right living. But is this doctrine true?
1. The Bible warns against falling.
“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). God had a purpose for putting these words in the Bible. If it were impossible for a child of God to fall, this would be a meaningless,
useless, deceptive warning. The very time when the Christian is most likely to fall is when he “thinketh he standeth.” The apostle Paul thought he could fall, saying, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection:
lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27). How is it Paul thought he could fall, but some think they cannot?
2. The Bible tells of some who did fall.
“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:4, 5). This was the Lord’s message to the church at Ephesus. To the Christians in Galatia, Paul wrote: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Again, Paul noted: “Some are already turned aside after Satan” (1 Timothy 5:15). How is it that some fell then, but now one cannot?
3. The Bible describes the terrible state of the fallen. “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2 Peter 2:20-21). Does the Bible describe a state that is impossible to enter?
From these scriptures, one may see that a Christian can sin so as to be lost. The church of Christ must uphold and support the truth of the Bible, on this and all other matters of faith. The Bible does not teach eternal salvation regardless of how one has lived. There is no doctrine so deceptive and detrimental to the child of God as the one that says a person cannot so sin as to be lost. That doctrine had its origin in the Garden of Eden, when the serpent said, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4).
WHAT MUST A CHRISTIAN DO TO REMAIN SAVED?
The Bible teaches the Christian can be lost, but it also teaches him what to do to remain saved. The New Testament’s 21 books, Romans through Jude, were written to Christians to tell them what to do to remain saved.
Much of the book of Revelation gives similar instructions. We cannot consider all in this brief work, but we can consider a few outstanding things a Christian must do.
1. Be a Christian only.
It is important that the church glorify and honor Christ by wearing His name; it is, likewise, important that the individual wear the name of Christ. The God-given name for the child of God is “Christian.” “The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).
9 This is the name whereby we glorify God: “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:16). “Christian” is the name we wear, and a person must not wear any other name that would distinguish him differently from the rest of God’s children.
Division is a grievous sin in the sight of God. In Galatians 5:19, 20, it is condemned as a work of the flesh;
and “They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). To the Corinthian Christians, Paul said: “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3).
There is nothing that contributes so greatly to division as the wearing of different names. The denominational world is an example, with names such as Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, etc., emphasizing the differences existing between them. Each name declares, “I am different from you.” The division among the Christians at Corinth had its roots in the wearing of party names. Some said, “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:12). Paul condemned the wearing of divisive names. He asked: “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” Follow the logic! If Christ is divided, then wear your different name. If Paul was crucified for you, then wear the name of Paul. If you were baptized in the name of Paul, then it is right to be a Paulite.
But here is the truth: Christ is not divided; therefore, wear His name alone. We are baptized in the name of Christ, therefore, wear the name of Christ. Be a Christian only. The church of Christ condemns division because the Bible condemns it. We do not plead with people to become a particular kind of Christian, but to become Christians only. We will be lost by being more.
2. Be a fruitful Christian.
The necessity of bearing fruit for Christ is made clear in the words of our Lord: “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away” (John 15:2). In verse six of the same reading, He said: “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” This shows that the unfruitful Christian will be lost. But fruitage for the Lord and our final salvation can be assured by adding the Christian graces. “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue;
and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-11). But, if the Christian does not add these things in his life, he will be barren and unfruitful, thus, causing himself to be cut off.
3. Be a cautious Christian.
The Christian needs to be constantly awake to the dangers that threaten his soul.
He needs to watch himself. Paul exhorted Timothy: “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16). Again, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). The man who thinks he is above falling deceives himself. “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (Galatians 6:3). Hear this admonition: “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation” (James 5:12). Yes, the Christian needs to be cautious.
He needs to watch others. Paul warns: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
10 Peter told Christians: “There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, … And many shall follow their pernicious ways; … and through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Peter 2:1-3). It is the bitter truth that there are those in the world today who would merchandise in the souls of men. There are even those who would wrest the scriptures, twisting and perverting them, bringing the fall of the Christian. “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness” (2 Peter 3:17).
4. Be a faithful Christian.
“Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). It is possible to become unfaithful to the Lord, as did the Christians in the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:4-5). The Christian should be faithful to Christ in the discharge of his duty, in every place he might be found. He should be faithful to the church, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:25-26).
ARE THERE PROVISIONS FOR THE FALLEN CHRISTIAN?
God in His mercy has provided a second law of pardon for the erring Christian. This law is illustrated in the case of Simon the sorcerer. When this man heard Philip preach the gospel, he “believed” and “was baptized” (Acts 8:13). In so doing, he obeyed the gospel of Christ, for Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). But, after being saved, Simon sinned, attempting to purchase the gift of God with money (Acts 8:18-19).
These words reveal the true condition of the erring Christian and the cure for it: “But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me (Acts 8:2-24).
The unfaithful Christian must repent. The Lord commanded unfaithful Christians at Ephesus: “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:5).
The erring Christian must pray for forgiveness. Peter told Simon to repent and pray. Prayer is one of the great spiritual blessings that belong to those “in Christ.” In writing to the children of God, John said: “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
Confession of fault has a place also. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
If you had to stand before the judgment seat of Christ today, how would it go with you? What would the King say to you? Would it be, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”? (Matthew 25:34). Or, would it be, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”? (Matthew 25:41). If you are not a faithful Christian, you are in no condition to meet your Maker.
It is our prayer that the words in this booklet will cause you to think and obey the gospel of Christ.