Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 10, 1958
NUMBER 10, PAGE 9-11b

Can One Be Only A Christian?

Ernest A. Finley, Wichita Falls, Texas

If a man were dissatisfied with the condition of religious division which exists in the world today and were to desire to have fellowship with no denomination or sect, but to be simply a Christian, a member of the church which the Lord built, would it be possible for him to do so ?

Division Contrary To The Lord's Will

Suppose a man were to correctly reason that the division which exists today is displeasing to the Lord and that he desired to have no part in it (I Cor. 1:10; Jno. 17:20, 21). Could he free himself from these entanglements and serve the Father simply as a child of God?

Denominationalism Confusing

No doubt there are many in the world today who have had these very thoughts. But when one begins to look about upon the maze of religious confusion and conflicting doctrines, it is quite possible that he may despair of the task of ever coming to know pure and simple New Testament Christianity. Some have concluded that there is no religious body which bears the stamp of divine approval and thus have settled down in indifference. Some have erroneously concluded that since almost all religious bodies contain some truth that all are right, so they drift on, compromising, without firm convictions, or else unite with some church which they know teaches doctrines which are in conflict with divine truth.

Some have considered the situation of divided sects and have suggested a course of action which involves them in an almost impossible task. They say they will worship and study with all churches and when they have found the right one that they will affiliate with it. But it is probable that time would fail before the individual would be able to thoroughly consider the doctrines origin, practices and organization of all or many denominations and discern which is right, if indeed any of them be. But instead of spending time considering the doctrines of men, endeavoring to weed out the false or unscriptural teaching is there not a better course to follow?

The Lord Can Supply The Answer

Yes, friends, I am confident that there is a better way than this. There is a course that we can follow in which we can turn away from the whole troublesome tangle of religious confusion, human theorizing and doctrines of men. We can go straight to Him who assures us that He is "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jno. 14:6). He alone is right, true, and infallible. All men, who teach in conflict with Him, are in error.

Seek And Ye Shall Find

Rather than endeavor to weed out all the doctrines that are false and all the religious bodies which exist without divine authority, why not go to the Word of God seeking to know the truth and learn of the church which we read about in the Bible. The Word assures us that we can know the truth if we will do so (Jno. 7:17). We must approach the Word of God with honesty. We must handle it aright. We must not wrest or pervert it. We must interpret it in harmony with all divine truth.

Scholarship An Essential?

Some would minimize the effectiveness of such a suggestion by saying, "Oh, but I am not educated. I fear that I do not have the educational background or wisdom tounderstand the truth." "Indeed," they say, "are there not many wise and learned men who differ upon that which is set forth in the word?" But this problem, for its proper solution does not resolve itself to the scholarship or education of the man but more with the attitude of humility and trust. The individual should know that he is seeking after the will of the Master who assures us that He will not let us perish if we seek to know His will with the right attitude of heart. He says, "Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you." He says, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Jesus invites all to learn of Him.

Whence Came The Confusion?

Some contend that the division that exists today is the result of the individual's endeavoring to learn the truth for himself without the aid of a professional religionist. They suggest that the error that is now being taught throughout the world is the result of the common man's having erred, being insufficiently wise to discern the truth for himself without assistance from a "learned theologian." But this is not true. The division came when men blindly followed religious leaders or teachers without looking, thinking or studying for themselves to see whether the theologians were in harmony with truth. It is a known fact that when men put prejudice, human conceptions and human theology aside and search the scriptures in all honesty, that they often read themselves into a knowledge of the truth. But too many are afraid to let the Bible guide their thinking. They are afraid that they might have to change their views or their religion. They had rather see what Brother "So-and-So" thinks about it than to see what the Lord thought about it. We Must Accept All Truth.

Almost every religious theory has some truth in it, but too often the support of a sect or denomination limits the individual's right to see and know and accept truth. The man or woman who is resolved to follow Christ has a right to all truth. He does not have to dodge any of it. He does not have to "read anything in" that does not belong. We do not have to assume an attitude of infallibility in order to grant that the Bible is infallible. Though we are human, the Bible is right and God is right and if we are going to be right with God we must line up with Him and hold a straight course in the Word of God. If we take this attitude, we do not have any "ax to grind," no position to "force," nothing to "harmonize" or "explain away.' We will not have to formulate any human theories or support any human creed. We will not have to fight for any sect or man-made religious body or denomination.

We need sorely to realize that we need nothing but the God-given truth. Paul said, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy or vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him." In view of the many warnings which the Bible gives against being deceived by false teaching, it is ridiculous that man should suggest that any course that he honestly follows in life will lead to glory. God said, "There is a way that seemeth right to man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." Thus, we must not only be honest, but we must be right in the sight of God. The individual A is resolved to be content with less than the whole God given truth, while hiding behind a cloak of honesty and sincerity is not honest at all, and God knows it. Anybody who willingly refuses to see the truth need not try to convince God that he is honest.

A Christian After The New Testament Order

But how can I become a Christian after the New Testament order? A thought that is worthy of consideration is that if an individual ever becomes a Christian, that it will be after the New Testament order.

The only infallible certain way to answer this 'question is to study your New Testament. Note where the cases of conversion are recorded and study each case carefully. There are several evident suggestions that we wish to make relative to these cases of conversion. First, when they were converted, they were children of God, their sins were taken away, and they became simply Christians, nothing more, nothing less. Is that not correct? Furthermore, when they had complied with God's law of pardon, they were in the Lord's church. Since no sects or denominations such as we have today existed then, they could not have been added to them.

A study and summary of these cases will show that they involved the matter of believing in Christ. This is the thing which led to their salvation, but it did not lead to their salvation until it led them to repent of their wickedness, confess faith in Christ as the Son of God and be baptized unto the remission of their sins. There is no possible room for doubt that in each case of conversion they believed, repented, and were baptized. If that is what each one of them did, then it must have been God's ordained plan for their salvation. This is how people in the beginning of the New Testament period became simply Christians. This is how they became members of the Lord's church. They believed in Christ, trusted and obeyed, and he added them to His body.

These people were not voted into the church. They did not suggest that they were already saved, so they wanted to join the church. The scriptures tell us that when they were obedient to Christ that the Lord added them to the church. "And the Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved." This is how they became Christians.

The Church Defined

The church of which they became members had no earthly headquarters. Its headquarters are in heaven. It had no earthly head. Its head, Christ, is in Heaven. It had no human-inspired manual or discipline formulated by a conference or council. Its manual was the Word of God alone, inspired by the Spirit, made known by man moving under the power of the Spirit.

That church had no mission organization other than the local congregation (I Tim. 3:15). That church had no mechanical instruments of music to mar the purity of the worship which Christ made known in His will (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19).

That church buried men in baptism and raised them to walk in newness of life, not granting, as some suppose today, that sprinkling or pouring are just as good (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12).

That church assembled every first day of the week to break bread, to keep the dying request of the Lord that we "show forth the Lord's death till he come" (I Cor. 11:26; Acts 20:7).

The church baptized those who believed on Christ and repented of their sins. They baptized "unto the remission of your sins" (Acts 2:38). They did not doubt nor deny the necessity of doing those things which Christ had commanded (Mk. 16:16). They went everywhere preaching the Word, showing men that they must believe in Christ, renounce all sin, and be baptized into Christ. They taught that all who were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death (Rom. 6:3).

The early church taught that we have not yet laid hold on eternal life, but that we must press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13, 14). They taught that we must guard against the sin which doth so easily beset us (Heb. 12:1, 2), buffeting our bodies daily that we may keep them in subjection and that we not be rejected by the Lord (I Cor. 9:27).

Inspired men spoke of that church as "the church of the Lord," "church of God," and "churches of Christ" (Acts 20:28 ASRV; I Cor. 1:1,2; Rom. 16:16).

They believed and taught that God has promised to save only those that compose the church, the kingdom of Christ, the body of Christ. "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body" Eph. 5:23). As is suggested in the verse just quoted, they did not suggest that Peter was either the head or the foundation of the church. They taught that Christ is the head and the foundation. "For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 3:11).

These early disciples highly regarded the name Christian and said, "Do not they blaspheme the honorable name by which ye are called?" (Jas. 2:27). Peter spoke of the great privilege that is ours in wearing the name of Christ alone. "For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer, or as a meddler in other men's matters; but if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name" (I Pet. 4:16). By wearing the name of His Son, we glorify the Father. When we can give Him glory by doing this, why should we refuse to wear this name?

The Church Purchased, Redeemed And Purified

The Word of God informs us that Christ shed his blood to purchase the church (Acts 20:28), that he gave himself for us "that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works (Tit. 2:14). The Lord intends for His church to be free from sin. His followers are to emulate His example, "who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth."

The Seed Still Being Sown

The Word of God, which is the seed of the kingdom, which was sown in the hearts of men at the beginning of this gospel period, still lives today. Seed brings forth after its kind. The sowing of the seed now will make Christians. The sowing of the seed made men members of the Lord's body, the church. It will do the same today.

The Word, which is God's power unto salvation is able to make you wise unto salvation. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, tells us that the "Word of his grace is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified." We encourage you to study your Bible. Learn all you can about the Lord's church. Learn what it takes to become a member of it. And learn how to live in that church so that you may be counted among the faithful in that great day. May the Lord bless you in your earnest search for truth.