Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 26, 1967

Nit-Picking About Words

Floyd D. Chappelear

When asked, "How can I join the church of Christ?", what should one give as an answer? Should the one asking the question be answered with the customary rejoinder (You cannot join the church of Christ, you must be added to it by the Lord Himself.), an answer which may well confuse or antagonize the individual, or, should we be careful to avoid the habit of striving about words, to no profit," (2 Ti. 2:14) and answer the man thusly, "You must submit yourself to the law of God. When you have done this the Lord will add you to his church."

Let us carefully examine the second answer to see if it harmonizes with the teaching of the Lord. We will also make an attempt to see if it accurately describes the scriptural process by which one becomes a member of the body of Christ.

In the book of Acts (Chapter 5:36) we read of a man named Theudas, to whom about four hundred men had joined themselves. What, of necessity, led up to this federation of men? Of what did this federation consist? This federation consisted of men seeking to align themselves with Theudas and who were willing to obey him. The scriptures teach, "As many as obeyed him, were dispersed, and came to naught." Had these four hundred refused to submit themselves to the rule of Theudas, he would not have added them to his number. Note carefully what was just said. These four hundred men submitted themselves to the rule of Theudas; in so doing, they joined themselves to him. Nevertheless, he still had to add them to his band. Had he refused to recognize them they could not have joined themselves to him. He did the adding, they did the joining.

For your further consideration, the same thing can be said in relationship to Judas of Galilee and those who joined themselves to him. (Acts 5:37)

Let us now consider the question of "joining" a human denomination. When one "joins" such an organization, what, exactly, does he do? Simply this, he must be willing to submit himself to the tenets of that particular group. When he does this, the receiving group has the privilege of adding him to their membership or refusing him membership. Suppose they receive him into the fellowship, what has taken place? Has he joined them, or, have they added him? We can readily see that both a joining and an adding have taken place. Confusion sometimes rears its head because we fail to see than an action must necessarily take place on the part of both parties. To have a successful union you must have an effort taking place by both sides.

Such is the case with the Lord's church. When one seeks to "join" the body of Christ what must he do? He must submit himself to the laws of God (Believe, repent, confess and be baptized); when he has done this the Lord "adds" him to the church. Certainly he cannot join without the Lord adding him, but neither does the Lord add him without his making an effort to align himself with the Lord. The one facet is the work of an individual, the other the work of the Lord. Both are needed, both the human and the divine.

When a person asks the question, "How can I join the church of Christ," and you answer him thusly, "You must submit yourself to the law of God. When you have done this the Lord will add you to his church (Acts 2:47)", you have satisfactorily answered the question while not misrepresenting the scriptural process involved. Another worthwhile feature of such an answer is that you have neither confused nor antagonized your hearer.

Furthermore, you did not "strive about words, to no profit." You have not "nit-picked" at his terminology. Think on these things.