Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 6, 1955

Christianity Is A Religion For Individuals

H. B. Frank, Jr., Ennis, Texas

We learn from Col. 3:17 that "whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" and that "unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever." Eph. 3:21. With these two Scriptures in mind the charge is hurled in the form of questions:

"How can God receive the glory in the church when I as an individual do a benevolent deed? The recipient knows that I did it and the church had no part in it, financially or even in overseeing it. The church is not even mentioned. How can the recipient void his mind of praising me and direct his praise and thanksgiving to God, that God may receive the glory in the church? If the church sends a basket of food to a needy family; and it is received with the acknowledgement that 'this is from the church of Christ,' doesn't the recipient thank the church? And doesn't word get around that the church did a benevolent work? And isn't glory then directed "unto him" "in the church"? Compare the effect of an individual Christian taking a basket of food to the same needy family. The recipient recognizes this good work as coming from me. I am praised and thanked. In which case does God receive the most glory, when the church sends the food or when I as an individual take a basket?"

One Might Push The Same Line Of Reasoning Further:

"Wouldn't God receive more glory if the church were to do most of the benevolent work as a unit? The individual should refrain from doing such deeds on his own and see that the church gets the good work done. Wouldn't God receive more glory if the elders asked members of the church to see that all such good works be accomplished with the church as the 'known sponsor?"

To Continue Such Reasoning:

"Who will deny that God receives more glory when the church has a home and cares for orphans continually than when a Christian home raises an adopted child? Isn't it true then that God receives more glory "in the church" when the church as a unit does a benevolent work than when an individual does such a work?

In dealing with this problem we will notice first how the actions of an individual Christian effect the local church of which he is a member and also how they affect the glory to God. An individual brings unto Him glory "in the church" by acting in his individual capacity as a Christian. Our lives, our deeds and words, affect the church and thus the glory which should be unto Him in the church. Whether our actions be good or bad, the church and God's glory are affected. For instance, what has been the result to the church and God's glory when a brother or sister publicly sinned? A brother gets drunk and what does the community think of the church? The reflection is upon the church. The reverse is also true. For instance, when a sister unselfishly, day and night cares for a mother on her death bed and the dying mother's children, the community takes notice that she is a Christian and the church of which she is a member We recognize that the world has an unbalanced sense of perception when it magnifies evil and tends to minimize the good. But if the good sister has the reputation (to God, character) of a godly and benevolent life in the community, she will always let her "light shine before men" who will see her "good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Mt. 5:16.

The answer to this problem and the heart of the timber has just been suggested. It is that Christianity is a religion for individuals. The very purpose of Christ's coming to the earth was to redeem sinners. Though plural (sinners), the soul of each sinner (singular) is purified only by his (sing.) obedience to the truth I. Pet. 1:22. And though the Lord calls those, He has saved, the church, a group (pl.) who have been called out, (each (sing.) is called out only after the individual's own spirit has been begotten again by the word of God I. Pet. 1:23, they are redeemed individuals (redeemed by the blood of Christ only after each individual (sing.) avails himself of the propitiatory power of His saving blood.) It is the individual Jesus Christ converts and saves.

Further, to do all "in his name" is to do all by His authority. Then the only question is "Has Christ commanded it?" Authority in the new covenant is all that is necessary to comply with this Scripture. More glory to God comes as we obey this authority. As we study the New Testament, on whom is the predominant number of commands and exhortations placed, on the church as a sponsoring unit or the individual Christian? Whose character is edified by a good work, the church as the sponsoring unit or the individual Christian? Who is working out its own salvation, the church as a whole in a cooperative method or each individual Christian? Whose spirit is to be conformed to the Son's the church as a whole or each individual Christian? Who shall stand before the Lord in the day of Judgment, the Ennis church of Christ as a whole or each Christian who lives and works in Ennis? What do the Scriptures emphasize? The individual Christian!

To Summarize:

1. God places the emphasis on individuals.

2. God receives glory when men see the individual's good works. Mt. 5:16.

3. God receives glory "in the church" when men see the individual's good works continually before them and recognize their church membership.

4. God receives glory "in the church" when men see the individual Christian's good works and know that becoming a Christian and a member of the church occur simultaneously.

5. The church is seldom commanded (as in I. Cor. 16:1-3) as a sponsoring group to do benevolent work.

6. To do deeds in His name is by His authority, as commanded in the New Testament; and the vast majority of such commands are to individuals as such and not to one who as a member of the church must perform in the name of the local church under the elders' directions.

7. Judgment will be "single file." "So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God." Rom. 14:12. "Behold, I come quickly and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is." Rev. 22:12. Cf. 25:31-46.

Let's place the emphasis back where God placed it — on the individual Christian and not on organized efforts.