2016 is our year of talking about what unites us as Christians. Talking about what divides us is the “low hanging fruit” of theological conversation, meaning, it is easier to pick the fruit from the low branches of the tree than to do the hard work of getting out a ladder and climbing up to see what is in the rest of the tree. If you climb the tree all the way up you will find that there are many uniting elements to the Christian faith that we should lean into.
My goal is for this issue of Wineskins to be a ladder for us to see further up the tree in discussing the Holy Spirit. The fruit at the top of the tree turns out to be the fruit of the Spirit. What does that mean for us and how can a common understanding of the Spirit and the Spirit’s work help us be more unified in our faith and identity?
The truth is, the Holy Spirit doesn’t need our perfect understanding in order to do His work. The Spirit will do it in spite of our imperfections. That doesn’t mean we cannot seek to understand and grow in grace and knowledge and we study these things together. What is more, the Holy Spirit doesn’t need us to think we are united to still unite us. I believe the Holy Spirit has as much grace in how He operates than does the Father and the Son.
The Holy Spirit isn’t waiting on us (those who are “in Christ”) to “get it right” before the Spirit does what the Spirit does.
Thank God for that or else we would all be in a mess!
As Paul conceptualized his faith in Christ and what it means to be a disciple of Christ one of the primary uniters of his theology was the Holy Spirit. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, young or old, slave or free, male or female…in Christ everyone shares a commonality by the Holy Spirit. God gives the Spirit liberally to all of His children. He doesn’t give more of the Spirit to the rich than the poor or the free than the slave. Roman citizens don’t get any more of it than a Judean peasant nor does Caesar (would he have converted) than Paul himself. In this regard the Holy Spirit is the great equalizer in the Christian community.
Because the Spirit is given equally to all of those God chooses to give Him to that also means that the Holy Spirit is the great unifier of the Christian community because the Holy Spirit distinguishes those who are “of Christ” from those who are “of the world.” Paul makes that distinction in Ephesians 2 where he says that outside of Christ people follow the “spirit who is at work in those who are disobedient” (2:2) but that in Christ we have access to the Father and are built up to be a temple where God dwells by His Holy Spirit (2:18, 22).
When we lack a good theology of the Holy Spirit we will lack unity. What is even more ironic is that the subject of the Holy Spirit has been one of the great dividing lines in Christianity as a whole as well as the Restoration Movement where people of differing views take such a strong stance that people are judged as “in” or “out” of the community of faith based on their doctrine of the Holy Spirit. There is a sad irony in play there when the very thing that is sent to unite us is used to divide us. In the words of Paul, “may it never be!”
This month we will be discussing the Holy Spirit in Churches of Christ. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
|Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son (2 John 9).|
Thrust statement: The one who denies that Jesus has not come in the flesh is not of God.
Scripture readings: ; 1 John 2:22-23; 1 John 4:1-3
What did John mean by the “teaching of Christ” in this short letter “to the chosen lady and her children” (2 John 1)? Does the “teaching of Christ” in 2 John 9 condemn instrumental music in the so-called corporate worship service? Does this verse denounce the use of a plurality of cups in the distribution of the fruit of the vine in the observance of the Lord’s supper? Does one break the rules found in 2 John 9 for participation in teaching children on Sunday in a Sunday school classroom? Does one transgress 2 John 9 if one uses wine instead of grape juice in the communion? Does one overstep 2 John 9 if one “breaks” the bread instead of “pinching” the bread? If one practices “hand clapping” in the assembly, does one violate the “teaching of Christ” in 2 John 9? Can one sing a “solo” in the congregation and not disobey the “teaching of Christ” in 2 John 9? These are questions that need answering!
Almost every split (approximately twenty-five) within the Churches of Christ cites this particular Scripture to uphold their doctrinal purity and to justify their separation from other believers who do not always see “eye to eye” with the so-called infallible interpreters. If one does not condemn instrumental music in the so-called worship assembly, then, 2 John 9 is cited to justify the “meat cleaver” action against any who would dare disagree with the party cry. If one seeks to have fellowship with those who employ instrumental music in their worship service, then, 2 John 9 is applied, even though they themselves may not use the instrument.
Since there is much controversy over the phrase “doctrine of Christ” (didach`/ tou` Cristou`) in John’s second epistle, it is incumbent upon all Christians to seek to ascertain the meaning employed by the author. Just what did John mean by this particular expression? The purpose of this exposition is to discover the intent of the writer in order that Christians might unite rather than divide over so many trivial positions. To arrive at a correct understanding of how John utilizes this phrase, it is necessary to examine the Greek genitive. Should one interpret “doctrine of Christ” as the “teaching of Christ” (subjective genitive–didach`/ tou` Cristou`) or “teaching about Christ” (objective genitive–didach`/ tou` Cristou`)? The context will have to decide! The immediate surroundings generally serve to exhibit the writer’s own definition. The subjective genitive is the most widely advanced belief among the Churches of Christ as well as other denominations. Each division within the Churches of Christ claims this particular Scripture (2 John 9) as its own. It just so happens, according to each faction, that the “doctrine of Christ” represents one’s own brand of orthodoxy. To disagree with a particular fellowship is tantamount to not abiding in the “doctrine of Christ.”
Imperfection in knowledge
It is imperative that one understands “doctrine of Christ” (didach`/ tou` Cristou`) in 2 John 9 in order to promote unity for which Christ prayed (John 17). First, if one interprets “doctrine of Christ” as the teachings of Jesus concerning a worship service (subjective genitive–didach`/ tou` Cristou`), which is the common interpretation of 2 John 9, then for one to disagree with the status quo of a particular group is in essence to disagree with the “doctrine of Christ.” This point of view equates one’s own particular interpretation of the Scriptures concerning church organization and the so-called social worship service as on equal footing with the Word of God itself. When this happens, then, this mishandling of the Word leads to some exegetical problems. For example, no one, not even you, has flawless knowledge of God’s written revelation. Paul deals with this “know-it-all” attitude in the Corinthian letter. Christians, according to Paul, can be mistaken about some doctrinal issues and still abide in the “doctrine of Christ.” Imperfection in knowledge, “in-and-of-itself,” does not mean that one is not abiding in the “doctrine of Christ.”
Listen to the words of Paul as he sets forth this concept of imperfection in knowledge: “We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God (1 Corinthians 8:1-3). Did you catch this phrase? “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know”? What does this Scripture mean? Is Paul advancing the concept that “blemish” in knowledge is tantamount to damnation? Is he advancing the notion that “deformity” in knowledge is the same as not abiding in the “doctrine of Christ”?
How does one reconcile the following statement of Paul (Romans 14:1) to the common (subjective genitive) interpretation of 2 John 9? One would do well if he or she would listen to Paul as he discusses toleration for the weak in understanding: “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters” (Romans 14:1). Is this spirit of toleration the same attitude that many Christians practice in dealing with differences in the Christian community? Do you advance the same sprit of mercifulness for imperfection in knowledge that Paul admonished the Romans to adhere to? Again, every believer should give careful attention to the Holy Spirit’s words: “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). Do you read this as, “Each one should be fully convinced according to my own mind”? Have you substituted “my” for “his”?
Holiness of Life
A second alternative to the “doctrine of Christ” (subjective genitive) is the teachings of Jesus Messiah to his disciples. For example, the Sermon on the Mount is an illustration of the teachings of Jesus. Yet, this understanding of the phrase cannot be understood in an absolute sense. For instance, how many Christians abide in the “teachings of Christ” in an absolute sense? The wording of 2 John 9 does not allow for departure: “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God.” Yet, John clearly states that no man is without sin: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). There are no mitigating circumstances for John. Anyone who does not abide in the “doctrine of Christ” does not have God. Surely John is not writing about sinless perfection in one’s life. John, earlier, had rebuked individuals who maintained that they had no sin (1 John 1:10). God forbid that any Christian should be guilty of the sin of “perfectionism.” No one has perfect knowledge; no one lives a perfect life. Everyone is striving unto perfection is both zones.
Subjective Genitive: Noun in the Genitive Produces the Action
What is meant by subjective genitive? The subjective genitive occurs when the noun in the genitive produces the action. To illustrate this principle, it is helpful to review another well-known passage in the Pauline corpus: “If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love (ajgavph tou` Cristou`) compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died (2 Corinthians 5:13-14). The context clearly indicates that the noun in the genitive (Christ) means the love that Christ has for us, not our love for Christ. The context shows that the phrase (Christ’s love) refers to the love which Christ has for us. That is to say, Jesus is the one doing the loving. The noun (Christ– Cristou`) in the genitive produced the action. It is not the case that determines the point, but the context.
One more illustration is in order to clearly demonstrate the use of the subjective genitive. Paul employs the subjective genitive when he writes about Jesus’ preaching: “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ (o; khvrugma jIhsou` Cristou`)” (Romans 16:25). Jesus produced the preaching. In other words, the preaching was not about (objective genitive) Jesus, but rather the proclamation of the good news by Jesus Messiah (jIhsou` Cristou`) Himself.
Objective Genitive: Noun in the Genitive Receives the Action
What is meant by the objective genitive? The objective genitive receives the action of the noun. The subjective genitive produces; the objective genitive receives. An example of the objective genitive is found in Jesus’ rebuke of the religious authorities: “I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit (pneuvmato” blasfhmiva) will not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31). The noun “Spirit” did not produce the action (“blasphemy”) against Himself, but rather He received the action. Again, it is the context that determines the meaning, not the case in-and-of-itself.
As stated above, many sincere Christians rely upon 2 John 9 to justify their separation from other believers on the basis that they are not continuing in the “doctrine of Christ.” But they have not weighed the context very carefully to determine whether the noun in the genitive produced the action or received the action. In other words, did the genitive (Christ) produce the action (teaching produced by Christ), or is the genitive the receiver of the action (teaching about Christ having come in the flesh)? In seeking a correct answer to the problem of interpretation in 2 John 9, it is necessary to draw attention to the fact that no man has a right to foist into his expositions of Scripture his own dogmatic speculations, or the interpretation of others, and then insist that these conclusions are an essential part of divine revelation. Many Christians misapply this Scripture to uphold their sectarian attitude toward those who do not conform to their particular brand of orthodoxy concerning a so-called worship service. If one approaches the Scriptures with his or her pre-conceived impressions and is anxious to put one’s own sense upon the text which coincides with one’s own sentiments rather than the thoughts of the author, then one will never be able to arrive at a correct understanding of the passage in question.
SCHOLARSHIP: OBJECTIVE GENITIVE
There are many eminent scholars who understand the genitive “of Christ” in 2 John 9 as objective genitive, not subjective genitive. Thus the phrase, as interpreted by many scholars, means “doctrine about the person of Christ” rather than the “teachings of Christ.” The following commentaries illustrate the objective genitive in their interpretation of the context of 2 John 9:
Rudolph Bultmann, who was Professor of New Testament and Early History of the University of Marburg, wrote:
tou` Cristou` (tou christou, “of Christ”) may be taken as a subjective genitive; it is more probable, however, that “of Christ” is an objective genitive, since the author hangs everything on his Christology, i.e., on the doctrine about Christ, as v. 7 shows. Judgment is passed on the disciple of the heretical doctrine by the phrase, qeo;n oujk e[cei (Theon ouk echei, “does not have God”; this corresponds to 1 Jn 2:23, where it is said of “the one denying the Son,” oujde; to;n patevra e[cei (oude ton patera echei, “he does not have the Father”). That means: he stands outside the fellowship of God. (transliteration is mine—RDB)
Dr. David Smith’s comments on this verse (2 John 9) also capture the very heart of John’s concern over Gnostic rejection of Jesus having come in the flesh:
th`/ didach`/ tou` Cristou` (Te didache tou christou, “doctrine of Christ”). The teaching which recognizes Jesus as the Christ (1 Jn. 4:1-2), i. e., the Messiah, the Savior.
Also, Kenneth S. Wuest, instructor in New Testament Greek at Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, expresses his agreement with David Smith:
“Doctrine” is didache, “teaching,” namely, that which is taught. Smith says that it is the teaching which recognizes Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior. We have a genitive of reference, “teaching with reference to Christ. . . .” The person therefore, who goes beyond the teaching of the incarnation of the Son in human flesh, thus denying the incarnation does not possess God in a saving relationship.
Leon Morris, Principal of Ridley College, Melbourne, and Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, paraphrases:
So if a man does not bring this doctrine (i.e., the doctrine that Christ is God incarnate) he is not to be received.
Another scholarly witness in favor of the objective genitive is George Johnston, Principal of United Theological College and Professor of New Testament Studies at McGill Univ., Montreal. He, too, leaves no doubt that the “doctrine of Christ” must refer to the incarnation:
“The doctrine of Christ” must refer to the point in dispute at 7 and in 1 John; so the genitive is objective.
Lehman Strauss also interprets 2 John 9 as objective genitive:
Twice in this one verse we read the phrase “the doctrine of Christ.” The word doctrine (Greek, didache) means “teaching.” John is not referring here merely to those doctrines which Christ taught, but rather teaching with reference to Christ, teaching which recognizes Jesus as the Messiah and Saviour. . . . In view here [2 John 10-11] are the false teachers who come with false teachings. They do not believe nor teach the true doctrine, namely, that Christ is God manifest in flesh. These teachers are not Christians at all. They are not true witnesses of Jehovah; they are actually the devil’s witnesses.
Donald Burdick, in keeping with his comments on 1 John 2: 24, explains:
John contrasts the one who goes beyond and the one who remains “in the doctrine of Christ” in verse 9. This doctrine is not teaching which comes from Christ; instead it is the teaching concerning Christ’s incarnation which John has already pointed out in verse 7.
- M. Blaiklock
In concluding the objective genitive scholarship, one more scholar is in order to again set forth the context of 2 John 9. Blaiklock is perfectly correct, as it appears from the context, when he says:
A Jesus any less than God in flesh appearing cannot be a Saviour. Any doctrine which takes away form Christ’s full deity is no doctrine at all. It is antichristian, destructive, ruinous. . . . The “teaching of Christ” is the teaching which stresses the fact that Christ was God’s revelation of Himself, the full and final message to man. Any other version of Christ, any distortion of the record, loses not only the Christ John had known but loses God too. Christ was the way to the Father. Lose one and the other is lost. Such warning is timeless.
Even though several eminent scholars have been quoted here, it should be remarked that a nose count is not really worth anything except to illustrate the popularity or respectability of a view. Often one author accepts a plausible-sounding view presented by others without really making a thorough study of the matter. No one person has the opportunity to study every issue with complete thoroughness. Ultimately, only the context matters, not what various people think. In fairness to those who espouse the subjective genitive (teachings of Christ), it is necessary to also cite scholars of equal scholarship that postulate that the doctrine of Christ is the teaching by Christ, not the teaching about Christ.
SCHOLARSHIP: SUBJECTIVE GENITIVE
John R. W. Stott
The subjective concept is fully worked out by Stott in his excellent commentary on the epistle of John. He disagrees with Smith, as cited above, that the genitive be interpreted as objective genitive and not as a subjective genitive:
At first sight this phrase, literally ‘doctrine of the Christ’ (NEB), might be taken as meaning ‘the teaching which recognizes Jesus as the Christ’ (Smith), and this would suit the context well. But the ‘usage of the N. T.’ (Westcott, Brooke) requires that the genitive be interpreted not as objective, ‘the teaching about Christ’, but as subjective, ‘Christ’s teaching’. This no doubt includes what Christ continued to teach through the apostles (cf. Acts i. 1; Col. Iii. 16; Heb. Ii. 3). Such authoritative apostolic doctrine is equivalent to what in his First Epistle John called ‘what you heard from the beginning’ (ii. 24, RSV; cf. Ii. 7, iii. 11; Jn. Viii. 31; 2 Tim. Iii. 14 and 2 Jn. 5, 6).
Another scholar objects to the objective genitive in his commentary on the Johannine epistles:
The misleading views of the deceivers had little to do with docetism: their refusal, as the elder makes plain, consisted of abandoning the teaching of Christ (didache tou Christou). RSV and NEB, but not GNB, JB, and NIV, translate didache by doctrine, which in modern usage inevitably suggest a formulated christology and implies an objective genitive (teaching about Christ). But the genitive could equally be subjective (teaching given by Christ), referring to Christ’s teaching about love both by his words and his actions.
- T. Robertson
Robertson also advances the idea that the “doctrine of Christ” is the teaching about Christ:
Not the teaching about Christ, but that of Christ which is the standard of Christian teaching as the walk of Christ is the standard for the Christian’s walk (I John 2:6).
Marvin R. Vincent
Vincent, also a reputable scholar, postulates the “doctrine of Christ” as subjective genitive:
Not the teaching concerning Christ, but the teaching of Christ Himself and of His apostles. See Heb. Ii. 3. So according to New Testament usage. See John xviii. 19; Acts ii. 12; Apoc. Ii. 14, 15.
CHURCHES OF CHRIST: SUBJECTIVE GENITIVE
Many within the Churches of Christ apply a very unique interpretation to 2 John 9. Generally, the “doctrine of Christ” is associated with a particular brand of orthodoxy. Almost all major divisions within the Churches of Christ cite this verse as their verse. The “doctrine of Christ” is associated with one-cup, non-Sunday school, instrumental music, divorce and remarriage, wine, grape juice, bread breaking, bread pinching, orphan homes, Bible colleges, etc. Seldom do the journals (Church of Christ) on 2 John 9 ever refer to the “doctrine of Christ” as “loving one another” or adhering to the teachings of Christ as expounded on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5—7). A few citations from some of the Church of Christ journals or lectureships should illustrate this utilization of 2 John 9. To illustrate, it is necessary to cite a few examples to set forth the presupposition.
- Noel Meredith
In The Sixth Annual Denton Lectures (November 8-12, 1987), Noel Meredith delivered a lecture on “False Teachers and How to Deal with Them (2 John 7-13).” In this lecture he identifies, among other things, the employment of instrumental music in the so-called assembly as tantamount to not abiding in the “doctrine of Christ.” He writes,
The kind of sin under consideration (verse 9) here is one in which one is progressing beyond the doctrine of Christ; he does not abide in the doctrine of Christ. When division arose in the church over the use of instrumental music in worship, those who used it styled themselves as “progressives” and they stigmatized those who adhered to the original mode of worship—singing God’s praise unaccompanied (Eph. 5:19)—as “non-progressives.” There is a very definite fitness in these terms. Instrumental music was not commanded by Christ, no apostle ever sanctioned it, no New Testament writer ever authorized it, and no apostolic church ever practiced it. To use instrumental music in worship is indeed to be “progressive”—to ‘progress” beyond the things which are written.
- A. Smith
Smith, one-cup and non-Sunday school, complains of a visit to one of the “brotherhood meeting houses” in which “brothers and sisters in Christ put on a concert.” He complained that one would see the same thing if one attended “the Stamps Quartet, Statesman Quartet, Imperials and etc. (sic), with showmanship, rousing applause, hollering and other gestures.” He goes on to say that this did not occur during a “Worship Service,” but he continues, “If you can use the church buildings for such carryings on, what would be wrong in our using our buildings for a ‘Ladies Lectureship.’ ‘A Style Show,’ or ‘A Political Rally?’ How does he justify condemnation of the “Sunday afternoon” singing? Listen to his proof text:
Unless someone shows me I am wrong. I cannot bid “God speed” to such for I would be guilty of endorsing that which I believe is a dangerous practice. (II John 9-11), and that would make me a partaker in their evil deeds. As I have heard brother Lynwood Smith say, several times: “ I am Church of Christ to the core, and I hope that it shows in every area of my walk for the Lord.” Nobody likes good signing better than I do, but let us please respect God’s Word, the church, our brethren and ourselves and use it to glory and praise God.
One wonders how praising God in song can be classified as “evil deeds.” To sing in a quartet is a “dangerous practice,” according to Smith. Is 2 John 9 the Scripture that condemns quartet singing in a church building? Is this what John is saying?
Carl M. Johnson
Johnson, another one-cup and non-Sunday believer, calls attention to unity meetings that Ketcherside and others conducted. He erroneously states that “Ketcherside argued that there are no doctrines other than the teachings concerning the person of Christ (that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah) that are serious enough to justify a break in fellowship among believers.” Since Ketcherside sought to recapture the spirit of unity for which Jesus prayed, Johnson justifies his separation from Ketcherside through his citation of 2 John 9:
The Apostle John warns, “Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). In an effort to harmonize his own position with John’s words, Ketcherside argued that the expression “doctrine of Christ” does not refer to all that Jesus taught personally and through His apostles, but it refers to teaching about the nature, or the deity of Christ only. By limiting the meaning of “doctrine of Christ” in 2 John to teaching about the deity of Christ, Ketcherside and his supporters could extend open fellowship to all “sincere believers” regardless of their doctrine and practice.
Johnson assumes that John is talking about what Johnson believes. But is this the case? What is the context for 2 John 9?
INSTRUCTIVE PARALLEL OF 1 JOHN 2:22-23 AND 2 JOHN 9
When one is in doubt about the correct interpretation of a passage of Scripture that is obscure in the mind of the interpreter, then, one should search for parallel constructions to assist one in correctly handling the Word of Truth. Illumination is often found when one compares Scripture with Scripture. A cardinal rule of explanation is that the obscure should be interpreted in the light of the clear, never the reverse. The interpreter is bound to consider how the subject lay in the mind of the author and to point out the exact ideas and sentiments intended. To illustrate the above principles of exposition, one should place 1 John 2:22-23 in parallel columns with 2 John 9. First John 2:22-23 is an instructive parallel to 2 John 9.
|1 John 2:22-23||2 John 9|
|Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son.||Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ|
|No one who denies the Son has the Father;||does not have God;|
|whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.||whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.|
These two citations constitute a real parallel, that is to say, a parallel of ideas. The Word of God is an organic unity of which all parts are mutually related and are subservient to the whole of God’s revelation. The Bible is its own best interpreter. From the parallel passages, one can sense that 2 John 9 is a restatement of 1 John 2:22-23. The denial that Jesus is the Christ is nothing more or less than a denial of God. To make 2 John 9 apply to instrumental music, individual communion cups, Sunday school, handclapping, raising hands, taking money out of the church treasury to assist individuals who are not Christians, etc. is to tear this Scripture out of its context.
If one is to interpret “doctrine of Christ” (KJV) or “teaching of Christ” (NIV) correctly, one must look to the context and to its background. It is apparent, from the context, that John wrote to combat the errors of Gnosticism. The Gnostics were denying the incarnation. They insisted that Christ never had a flesh-and-blood, physical, human body. They also taught that spirit alone is good and matter alone is utterly evil. Given that point of view, then, any real incarnation is impossible.
John’s concern with Gnosticism is especially seen in the following verses:
|2 John 7||1 John 4:1-3|
|Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.||Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.|
The Gnostics, who denied Christ having come in the flesh, were not to be received by Christians: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work” (2 John 10-11). Earlier, as cited above, John warns: “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 7). These two Scriptures shed light on verse 9: “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ (didach`/ tou` Cristou`) does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”
A correct interpretation of 2 John 9 does not advocate looseness in adhering to the teachings of Christ as advanced in the Sermon on the Mount. Both epistles of John address holiness as characteristic of every believer. The teachings that Jesus commanded in the great commission relate to the Sermon on the Mount and are summed up in this command: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” The “teaching of Christ” in 2 John 9 does not refer to the Sermon on the mount, but rather, to the teaching about Christ’s humanity. Christians should not tear 2 John 9 out of its context, and, then, employ this passage as a meat cleaver to hack to death all those who disagree with their party cry for orthodoxy, which originates out of their own “interpretive community.”
 All Scripture citations are from the NIV, unless stated otherwise.
 For a classic example of this mindset, see Ray Dutton, “To: The Elders of the Landmark church of Christ” in Seibles Road Church of Christ (November 3, 1996): 1-3, where, in his condemnation of Buddy Bell, pulpit minister for the Landmark Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL, he says (p. 3):
The apostle John told us exactly how we are to handle false teachers who come to us with their apostasies: Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (11 Jn. 9-11).
On page 3, of this same article, he writes: “When I asked Buddy if he believed solos, choirs, and quartets were scriptural in worship, he did not even hesitate with his answer. He told me in no uncertain terms that he believed that the practice of using solos, choirs, and quartets was in his words. “very scriptural.” One may obtain a copy of this article by writing to the Seibles Road Church of Christ, 541 Seibles Road, Montgomery, AL 36116.
 See C. S. Smith, “Special Music” in Old Paths Advocate LXVV, no. 3 (March 1996): 4-5, where he writes:
Unless someone shows me I am wrong. I cannot bid “God speed” to such for I would be guilty of endorsing that which I believe is a dangerous practice. (11 John 9-11), and that would make me a partaker in their evil deeds. As I have heard brother Lynwood Smith say, several times: “I am Church of Christ to the core, and I hope that it shows in every area of my walk for the Lord.” Nobody likes good singing better than I do, but let us please respect God’s Word, the church, our brethren and ourselves and use it to glorify and praise God.
 Within the Churches of Christ, generally, the “doctrine of Christ” centers around one’s concept of the “five acts” of worship. In other words, five rituals performed in a precise manner are imperative for one to abide in the “doctrine of Christ.” If one employs instrumental music in worship, then one is not abiding in the “doctrine of Christ.” If one employs Sunday school in the teaching of children and adults, then one is not abiding in the “doctrine of Christ.” If one utilizes individual cups in the communion, then one is not abiding in the “doctrine of Christ.” If one takes money out of the church treasure to assist individuals who are not Christians, then one is not abiding in the “doctrine of Christ.” The list is almost without measure.
 This second alternative is not under consideration from the context—even though John addresses ethical behavior in this second epistle. The context for “doctrine of Christ” appears to have reference to the confession that Jesus had come in the flesh.
 John addresses the teachings of Jesus in his Gospel and Revelation, as well as his epistles. No one denies that one can be in fellowship with God and, at the same time, flagrantly flaunt the teachings of Christ in his or her daily life. See 2 John 4-6 in which he deals with loving one another as Jesus commanded. See also 1 John 2: 3-6. “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did,” writes John (v. 6). It is worthy of notice that even the scholars that advance the subjective genitive, still do not advance the notion of absolute perfection in holiness, on the part of man, as prerequisite to fellowship with God. When they speak of subjective genitive, their writings indicate that they have in mind the teachings of Jesus as found in the Sermon on the Mount, not rules and regulations to govern five acts to be performed on Sunday morning
Yesterday, 1/27/2016, while building this blog, I visited “One in Jesus” Jay Guin’s site to help me gather a list for my Blogroll. As I was reading through the names, one jumped out at me. The name: ‘Kevin Pendergrass’. My first thought was: this must be a different Kevin. Last I recall he was totally opposed to the progressive church of Christ. In fact, he had been in my area on Johnny’s Robertson’s show. Just a few months back I even watched his 2012 debate “against” music in worship. I quickly jumped to Kevin’s site to see if it was the same Kevin and to my surprise it was. I encourage others to visit his site. Below is an article from Kevin, on music. Enjoy.
Not too long ago, I posted a study explaining why I no longer believe that Christians should bind a frequency when it comes to taking the Lord’s Supper. This study can be viewed by clicking here. Similar to my change on that topic, I no longer believe that Christians should bind vocal music in worship as being the only kind of music acceptable to God in worship. In 2012, I had a public debate on the subject of music in Christian worship. In the debate, I affirmed that vocal music was the only type of music authorized in New Testament worship. I have since changed my position. I believe that it is only fair for me to explain why I changed my position. I have changed because of my study in the Word of God and I am thankful to be able to share those studies with you.
OBJECTIVE STUDY AND THE PROBLEM WITH RHETORIC
In order to enter this study, I ask that you leave rhetoric and proxy thinking at the door. Rhetoric is language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often regarded as lacking in meaningful content. For example, I have heard preachers say comments like, “every argument that has ever been presented in favor of instrumental music in worship has already been defeated and nothing new has been brought to the table for 150 years.” That may sound really impressive, but what does it prove? Sadly, I have used statements similar. I even used one similar in my own debate. And, lo and behold, I later realized that I had missed some things along the way! The problem with rhetoric is that either side can use it…and at the end of the day, it proves nothing. For example, someone else could just as easily say, “every argument that has ever been presented against instrumental music in worship has already been defeated and nothing new has been brought to the table for 150 years.” This type of reasoning does nothing to advance the cause of truth. Therefore, please be careful of this style of argumentation because it proves nothing.
I have read dozens of books, articles and debates on the topic of instruments in worship. I even had a debate on this topic myself when I opposed instruments. Some were actually converted to the belief of “vocal music only” because of my debate! However, I have now changed my view because of my own study on this topic. I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I did and I was very biased in my previous way of studying. Please do not allow anyone to do your thinking, including myself (Phil. 2:12). I do not want you to accept what I am saying just because I am saying it. I also do not want you to reject what I am saying just because I am saying it. I ask that you please do your own thinking. The idea of “proxy thinking” is when you allow someone to do your thinking for you. The Church of Christ is often times accused of this and sadly, I have been guilty of this as well. However, I realized that if I was going to study objectively, I must allow the Bible to dictate truth…no matter where it leads. I ask that you do the same.
A PLEA FOR UNITY
One central point that I emphasize in my study on the frequency of the Lord’s Supper is that I do not believe it should be made an issue of fellowship either way. In other words (regardless if you agree with my conclusion or not), this shouldn’t affect our fellowship with one another (Rom. 14:10-13). I believe that we can disagree on this issue without causing division or strife. Vocal music is biblical and one can go to heaven without ever using an instrument. I also believe that one can go to heaven if they do use a mechanical instrument in worship as I will demonstrate in this study. While striving to be sensitive to the conscience of other Christians, we must also strive to remain honest to the text. We cannot allow emotions or the traditions of men to reign supreme. At the end of the day, the Bible must be our standard in ascertaining truth (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3).
INCONSISTENCIES REGARDING WORSHIP MUSIC
There are some in the Churches of Christ who have no problem using instruments in worship songs as long as they are not used in “corporate worship.” Some will condemn their neighbor on Sunday morning for using mechanical instruments in worship, yet they themselves have no problem listening to worship songs with instruments on Sunday afternoon. There are some brethren who condemn worship choirs only to turn around and have a choir sing worship songs at a funeral or have a Church of Christ college choir sing at their church. I think that this belief stems from a lack of proper understanding of the context of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. These passages are by no means limited to the assembly or even in direct reference to the assembly (although I do believe they can have application to the assembly). God did not give different regulations and restrictions for worship songs when sung inside the assembly versus outside the assembly (see: Acts 16:25; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:15; Ja. 5:13; etc.). I say all of that to say that perhaps we have been blinded by our own plank (Mt. 7:1-5; Rom. 2:1-5).
While I believe that pointing out the inconsistencies above is important, I want to make it clear that I am not making this an argument to justify instruments in New Testament worship. This study is not about how inconsistent the Churches of Christ are and have been on the issue of music in worship. The attention and focus in this study will be on one crucial question, “Does the Bible sanction the use of mechanical instruments in New Testament worship?”
WHAT LAW IS BEING VIOLATED?
In order to know if God sanctions a practice, we need to first see if there is a law against it. Paul writes in Romans 4:15, “Where there is no law, there is no sin.” Paul is stating a universal principle. 1 John 3:4 specifically teaches that sin is violation of the law. Sin was brought into this world through a violation of law (Gen. 3:1-7). The Bible repeatedly teaches that there has to be a law violated in order for sin to occur. Since the Bible teaches that authority or approval for a practice is intrinsically granted in the absence of a law, those who believe that it is a sin to use instruments in worship are obligated to provide the New Testament law that they feel is being violated.
Since Jesus has all authority (Mt. 28:18), this means that neither I nor you have the authority to make laws that God never made. We need to be careful that we do not bind our own beliefs and make laws where God “gave no such commandment” (Acts 15:24). If mechanical instruments in worship are sinful, it is because either God directly gave a law against their use or because God gave a specific law which would exclude their use. I will explain why I believe there is no law (thus no sin) regarding the use of instruments in New Testament worship.
REGULATION OF INSTRUMENTS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
John Price wrote a book entitled, Old Light on New Worship. Price argues that God has always regulated the type of music He wants in worship. Price writes about music in the Tabernacle and the Temple. His basic conclusion is that God did regulate instruments under the Old Testament to be used in worship and that only the Levites were authorized to play instruments. He reasons that if God wanted instruments in New Testament worship, then He would have said so, just as He did in the Old Testament.
While it is certainly not in the scope of this short study to address everything Price wrote, I do believe his fundamental conclusion has no basis. First, Christians live under and are amenable to the New Covenant (Heb. 7-10; Eph. 2:14-18; etc.). Regardless if instruments were condoned, commanded or condemned in the Old Testament, I must turn to the New Testament to find my instruction as a Christian. The Old Testament is not our authority, the New Testament is. Second, David is recorded all throughout the Psalms as praising and worshipping God with an instrument multiple times. David was not a Levite. He was from Judah (2 Sam. 2:4). To argue that only Levites worshipped God with instruments is inaccurate. Third, the example of Miriam shows us that instruments were an acceptable way to praise God before Tabernacle or Temple worship (Ex. 15:20). Instrumental praise pre-dated the Law of Moses and was acceptable to the Lord. Miriam was not in sin for worshiping with instruments because God had given Miriam no law on the matter.
I do however agree with Price that God accepted instruments of worship in the Old Testament. Before the Law of Moses, instrumental praise was used and accepted by God. During the Law of Moses, instrumental praise was used and accepted by God. But as I stated before, we are concerned (or at least should be concerned) with what our instructions are as Christians. Did God ever give regulations and restrictions to singing and instruments in the New Testament? Or, similar to the example of Miriam, has He given no law?
GOD HAS GIVEN NO DIRECT LAW AGAINST THE USE OF INSTRUMENTS IN NEW TESTAMENT WORSHIP
One can read their New Testament as many times as they would like and they will never find any type of proclamation against instruments in worship. In fact, there is not even a hint of any kind of negative connotation to instruments in worship. John’s vision symbolically presents instrumental worship to God in a positive light (Rev. 5:8; 14:2; 15:2). Realizing that this is symbolic, I do not want to overstate the point. However, I do find it interesting that the times that instrumental praise is seen in the New Testament, it is only spoken of positively and never negatively.
It is agreed upon by all Bible students that God never gave a direct law against the use of instruments in New Testament worship. Even the most conservative members of the Churches of Christ will concede this point. However, God does not have to directly condemn something in order for there to be a law against it. Certainly that is one way to show that a practice is wrong, but there is also another way. When God is specific about what He wants, He doesn’t have to give an exhaustive list of what He doesn’t want. Sometimes this is called the law of specificity or the law of exclusion.
To demonstrate this point, I always used an example that I called the, “Subway example.” If I went to Subway for lunch and ordered a sandwich and specified the kind of meat, cheese and vegetables I wanted, I wouldn’t have to tell the worker every kind of meat, cheese and vegetable that I didn’t want. We would call this common sense. It would be foolish to expect God to state explicitly everything He didn’t want. The Bible would be an endless book if God operated this way. When God specifies what we need to do, we need to do it without adding to or taking away. I have always agreed with this principle and still agree with it. So, why have I changed my mind about binding vocal music? As I will demonstrate below, I have changed because I do not believe that God ever specified vocal music to the exclusion of instrumental music as I once did.
SING VS. SING ONLY
How many sermons have you heard that teach we are saved by faith, but not faith only? This makes a very valid point. Faith doesn’t mean faith only. But, have we added to the word of God by teaching that “sing” means “sing only?” There is no language where the word “sing” intrinsically means “sing only” to the exclusion of instruments. If the word “sing” automatically excludes instruments, then why must it always be qualified with the word “only?” The reason is because “sing” doesn’t intrinsically exclude instruments. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the Greek words used for sing in the New Testament (“psallo,” “ado” and “humneo”) ever excluded instruments. None of the words used in the New Testament for “sing” ever meant “sing only” or “sing to the exclusion of instruments.” These are not specific words that exclude instruments. Those believing that these words exclude instruments would be obligated to provide the evidence.
In fact, the Greek word “psallo” used in the New Testament is a word that permits instruments. There are five occurrences of the Greek word “psallo” in the New Testament (Eph, 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:15 twice; Ja. 5:13; Rom. 15:9). In the Greek Old Testament, the word “psallo” is a word which can include instruments (1 Sam. 16:16; 1 Sam. 16:17; 1 Sam. 16:18; 1 Sam. 16:23; 1 Sam. 18:10; 1 Sam. 19:9; 2 Kings 3:15; Psa. 33:3; etc.). It is important to note that while the word “psallo” can include instruments, it doesn’t necessitate them. This can be seen by the way it is translated in the Greek Old Testament (Judges 5:3; 1 Sam. 16:16; 1 Sam. 16:17; 1 Sam. 16:18; 1 Sam. 16:23; 1 Sam. 18:10; 1 Sam. 19:9; 2 Sam. 22:50; 2 Kings 3:15; Psa. 7:17; Psa. 9:2; Psa. 9:11; Psa. 18:49; Psa. 21:13; Psa. 27:6; Psa. 30:4; Psa. 30:12; Psa. 33:2; Psa. 33:3; Psa. 47:6; Psa. 47:6; Psa. 47:7; Psa. 57:7; Psa. 57:9; Psa. 59:17; Psa. 61:8; Psa. 66:2; Psa. 66:4; Psa. 68:25; Psa. 68:32; Psa. 69:12; Psa. 71:22; Psa. 71:23; Psa. 75:9; Psa. 92:1; Psa. 98:4; Psa. 98:5; Psa. 104:33; Psa. 105:2; Psa. 108:1; Psa. 108:3; Psa. 135:3; Psa. 138:1; Psa. 144:9; Psa. 146:2; Psa. 147:7; Psa. 149:3).
I studied every occurrence of the word “psallo” in the Greek Old Testament and above you will find an exhaustive list of every time the word “psallo” occurs. It is important to note that the word “psallo” itself never excluded instruments. Furthermore, examples of those living close to the time of Jesus such as Josephus and other Hellenistic Jews can be cited to show that they used the word “psallo” in such a way as to be able to include instruments (Corbitt, Danny. Missing More Than Music, p. 28).
If Paul wanted to exclude and forbid instruments from worship, why would He have used a word that was inclusive to instruments? Neither the Greeks nor the Hellenistic Jews would have understood the word “psallo” to exclude instruments. The Greek word “psallo” didn’t exclude instruments in the Greek Old Testament and the Greek word “psallo” didn’t exclude instruments in the first century. Therefore, there is absolutely no basis for anyone to objectively argue that the word “psallo” (which never excluded instruments) somehow excludes instruments the five times it is used in the New Testament. God certainly knows how to make something clear when He is being specific and exclusive. Since none of the words used for “sing” in the New Testament means “sing only,” God could have still excluded instruments with these words by adding the word “only” to “sing” if He wanted to. The word translated “only” is used some 47 times in the New Testament (http://biblehub.com/greek/3441.htm). If God wanted to make “sing” mean “sing only,” He certainly could have. Yet, He never did.
Interestingly enough, this poses an important question. Who is actually adding to the Word of God? Is it those who believe instruments are authorized or is it those who believe that we are only authorized to “sing only?” If God never gave a law condemning instruments in worship and if God never excluded their use in the New Testament, then, who has “gone beyond that which is written, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men” (1 Cor. 4:6; Mk. 7:7-9)?
DOES THIS MEAN THAT ALL CHRISTIANS MUST PLAY A MECHANICAL INSTRUMENT?
Since Christians are supposed to “psallo” and the word “psallo” never excluded instruments, does that mean that Christians are commanded to play a mechanical instrument? I used to use this argument when I believed that instruments were unauthorized in worship. In other words, I used to argue that if the word “psallo” didn’t exclude instruments, then that means that all Christians have to use instruments. However, this argument assumes that the word “psallo” is a word that demands a mechanical instrument and that is just not the case as can be seen by multiple passages (Psa. 7:17; Psa. 9:2; Psa. 9:11; Psa. 47:6; Psa. 47:6; Psa. 47:6; Psa. 47:6; Psa. 47:7; Psa. 57:7; Psa. 57:9; Psa. 59:17; Psa. 61:8; Psa. 66:2; Psa. 66:4; Psa. 66:4; Psa. 68:4; etc.). According to the Bible, you can “psallo” acceptably with or without a mechanical instrument. If God would have commanded Christians to play, we would expect to see words that necessitate playing (such as “kitharizo,” “auleo” or “kreko”). However, that is not what we find. Instead, we find that the word “psallo” is a word that authorizes instruments but doesn’t necessitate them.
Furthermore, the Greek word combination that Paul uses in Ephesians 5:19 is “ado” and “psallo.” These two words are paired together multiple times in the Greek Old Testament and they never exclude instruments nor do they necessitate instruments. The paring of “ado” and “psallo” can be praise without an instrument (Judges 5:3; Psa. 27:6; Psa. 68:4; etc.) or it can be praise with an instrument (Psa. 33:2-3; etc.). Therefore, one could acceptably “ado” and “psallo” to God with or without a mechanical instrument.
WHAT ABOUT MUSIC IN YOUR HEART?
In Ephesians 5:19, the Bible says that Christians are to sing and make melody in their heart (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Some argue that if the melody is to be made in the heart, then that would somehow exclude melody being made on a piano, a guitar or any other instrument. Some claim that the instrument that we are to pluck is the instrument of our heart strings, thus, excluding any mechanical instruments. This alleged argument holds no weight and should be dismissed for the following reasons.
The phrase “in your heart” in Ephesians 5:19 is an adverbial prepositional phrase which describes the manner of the action, not the method (Gen. 17:17; Josh. 14:7; Psa. 15:2; Prov. 3:5; Psa. 119:2; Lk. 2:19; Mt. 5:28; etc.). “Things done from the heart i.e. cordially or sincerely, truly” (Thayer, Joseph. Greek-English Lexicon, p. 325). Paul is teaching Christians that they need to worship and praise God sincerely. What makes any action “dead” or “in vain” (whether it be an instrument or vocal music) is the heart from which it proceeds (Mk. 7:7-9). “Whether with instrument or with voice or with both it is all for naught if the adoration is not in the heart” (Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 4, p. 405). The idea is that the praise needs to come from the heart in order to be acceptable (Mk. 12:30; Mt. 22:37-38).
The heart was an essential component with singing under the Old Law (Psa. 9:1; 57:7), which obviously didn’t exclude mechanical instruments (Psa. 57:7; Psa. 138:1; etc.). If they could use an instrument while singing in their heart, then that means that singing in your heart doesn’t exclude an instrument. Singing in the heart has never excluded mechanical instruments. The Bible teaches that it is possible to sing in your heart with the accompaniment of a mechanical instrument. Singing “in your heart” does not nor has it ever excluded a mechanical instrument.
It needs to also be noted that Ephesians 5:19 says that both the singing and the melody are to be done in the heart (see also: Colossians 3:16). If the phrase “in your heart” means inward and silent, then one is forced to conclude that the singing must also be inward and silent since it is to be done “in the heart.” Whatever “in the heart” means with one action in Ephesians 5:19, it must also mean with the other. Therefore, if this reasoning were to be taken to its logical conclusion, it would exclude vocal praise since the singing is to be done “in the heart.” Therefore, according to this type of reasoning, the only authorized kind of singing would be “mental singing.”
Furthermore, I believe we have to be careful to make sure we are consistent with any argument that we claim is an argument of “exclusion.” For example, James 5:13 says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.” Is this a law of exclusion? Is God being specific? Does this mean that if I am suffering, I can’t pray and go to the doctor? Does this mean that I can only sing a psalm when I am cheerful? What if I am not cheerful? What if I am sad? Am I authorized to sing a psalm then? These questions could be endless. We need to be careful that we do not overstate a point when speaking about “statements of exclusion.”
THE HISTORICAL ARGUMENT: MISREPRESENTING HISTORY
In my years of growing up in the Churches of Christ, it has been proclaimed that the early church didn’t use mechanical instruments because they were unauthorized. Claims have been made that instruments were not brought into Christian worship until the 5th or 6th century. This is a heavy, heavy claim that is absolutely false. Now, before we start, let me remind you that early church history is not our authority. But since it has been one of the leading arguments among members of the Churches of Christ as to the rejection of instruments in worship, I want to address the fact that many Churches of Christ have (unintentionally) misrepresented early church history on this matter.
I want to begin with one of the most famous quotes that some Churches of Christ have used. It is allegedly claimed by some that the following quote comes from Justin Martyr:
“The use of [instrumental] music was not received in the Christian churches, as it was among the Jews, in their infant state, but only the use of plain song. . . . Simply singing is not agreeable to children [the aforementioned Jews], but singing with lifeless instruments and with dancing and clapping is. On this account the use of this kind of instruments and of others agreeable to children is removed from the songs of the churches, and there is left remaining simply singing” (Justin Martyr? c.a. 139).
You will notice that there is no reference for this quote. The reason for this is because this quote is found nowhere in Justin’s writings. It has been long accepted by scholars and textual critics that this was not a quote from Justin Martyr. This was a “pseudo-Justinian” quote that came hundreds of years after Justin (McKinnon, James. Music in Early Christian Literature, p. 107; Ferguson, Everett. The Instrumental Music Issue, p. 95).
So, if this quote was not from Justin, then what did Justin Martyr have to say about music in Christian worship?
“As the Spirit urges those from all the earth who recognize this salutary mystery – i.e., the sufferings of Christ, through which he saved them – to sing (adontes) and play the harp (psallontes) continually” (Justin Martyr, c.a. 139. Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, 74. translated – Dr. Walter L. Straub: Wilbur Fields, The Glorious Church A Study of Ephesians, College Press: 1960, p. 211).
Other writings of Justin Martyr show that he understood that the Greek word “psallo” did not exclude playing because the phrase “David sung (εψαλλεν) them” in his Dialogue is the identical Greek phrase from the Septuagint in 1 Samuel 16:23 and 19:9 where David played an instrument before the Lord. (Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, 29; 1 Samuel 16:23; 19:9). Therefore, Justin Martyr (c.a. 139) didn’t condemn instruments in worship, he spoke positively about them!
Now let us move on to Clement of Alexandria (c.a. 190). He was also an early church writer. What did he have to say about instruments in the church?
“For the apostle adds again, ‘Teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your heart to God.’ And again, ‘Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and His Father.’ This is our thankful revelry. And even if you wish to sing and play to the harp or lyre, there is no blame.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 2, p. 249)
Clearly Clement saw no problem with using instruments in worship to God. Another individual used in the Churches of Christ whose information is often misapplied is Tertullian (c.a. 200). Tertullian writes:
“That immodesty of gesture and attire which so specially and peculiarly characterizes the stage are consecrated to them—the one deity wanton by her sex, the other by his drapery ; while its services of voice, and song, and lute, and pipe, belong to Apollos, and Muses, and Minervas, and Mercuries. You will hate, O Christian, the things whose authors must be the objects of your utter detestation” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, p. 84).
This quote is sometimes used to allegedly prove that Tertullian was against instruments in worship. However, this is not the context of Tertullian’s statement. Tertullian is not speaking about worship to God; he is talking about the theatre or the “Show.” He was speaking against going to shows that he believed were ungodly. Also, the lute and pipe was not the only thing that Tertullian mentioned. He also mentioned the voice and song. This quote has nothing do to with worship, much less instruments being sinful in worship. In fact, we have writings of Tertullian where he associates and includes instruments in “psalms and hymns” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, p. 468). Tertullian never condemned the use of instrumental music. He only condemned the abuse of such of those “who drank wine with drums and psalteries.” Tertullian believed that instruments could be included with singing to the Lord.
Ephraim Syrus (c.a. 306-373) said, “Let us praise that Voice whose glory is hymned with our lute, and His virtue with our harp. The Gentiles have assembled and have come to hear His strains” (Post Nicene Fathers, vol. 13, p. 227).
Jerome speaks of a “sister” who praises God with instruments (c.a. 347- 420):
“Oh! that you could see your sister and that it might be yours to hear the eloquence of her holy lips and to behold the mighty spirit which animates her diminutive frame. You might hear the whole contents of the old and new testaments come bubbling up out of her heart. Fasting is her sport, and prayer she makes her pastime. Like Miriam after the drowning Pharaoh she takes up her timbrel and sings to the virgin choir, ‘Let us sing to the Lord for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.’ She teaches her companions to be music girls but music girls for Christ, to be luteplayers but luteplayers for the Saviour” (Schaff & Wace, Nicene & Post Nicene Fathers, 1893, vol. 6, p. 107).
To my knowledge, there is absolutely no evidence of anyone, from the time of the early church through the first few centuries, that actually condemned instruments in worship. But, what about all of the quotes your preacher has used to show how the early church opposed mechanical instruments? Well, as we have noted, some of those “quotes” are not accurate or accurately applied (see also: http://theweatherlyreport.blogspot.com/2012_05_01_archive.html) . Even early quotes that are sometimes used to discourage instruments in worship do not prove that the early church condemned them. Furthermore, the quotes of writers who do actually condemn instruments in worship are much later quotes and do not begin until almost the 5th century and they also condemn even David’s use of instruments (Corbitt, Danny. Missing More than Music, p. 26).
Unfortunately, I was never given this information in the congregations I attended, the Bible classes I went to or the preaching school I graduated from. On the contrary, I was led to believe the exact opposite! Biased study seldom produces unbiased conclusions. That is why it is so important to be honest with the evidence. Please do not misunderstand me. I certainly believe that vocal singing (chanting to be exact) was the music of the time culturally of the early church, even though early Christians never condemned instruments in worship (and based upon the writings, some actually used and encouraged them). The reason for vocal chanting wasn’t an authority issue, but a cultural one. Danny Corbitt in his book Missing More Than Music explains this in-depth, citing multiple historical and cultural reasons and explanations for the churches music choice, and it has nothing to do with authority or sin (pp. 24-41).
A FEW THOUGHTS ON “COMMAND, EXAMPLE AND NECESSARY INFERENCE”
If you are a member of the Churches of Christ then you have probably heard the phrase, “command, example and necessary inference” or something very similar to it. Let me be the first to admit that I believed this for many years and even taught others to believe it. However, there are blatant and obvious problems with this idea. The problem is that this position assumes itself. In logic and debate, this is called begging the question. Begging the question is a logical fallacy that is committed when a proposition, which requires proof, is assumed without proof. I don’t believe that I should assume a fixed way on how to read and study the Bible before I even read and study it. I should conform my thinking to the Bible, not the Bible to my thinking. I should allow the context to dictate the meaning of the text.
The Bible never states that the exclusive way to study the Bible is by command, example and necessary inference. This method presupposes itself. Consider this for a moment: There is no command, example or necessary inference in the Bible for this method of studying the Bible; therefore, by its own admission, this method would be “unauthorized.” Some Churches of Christ are guilty of creating a doctrine outside of the Bible that they claim must be accepted in order to understand what is inside the Bible.
Furthermore, this method quickly becomes a subjective way to study the Bible. For example, which examples do we bind? Which examples must we follow and which examples may we follow? And, what is the objective way to gauge the difference? I have already covered this fallacy in my study on the frequency of the Lord’s Supper. Also, when it comes to “necessary inferences,” I must honestly ask the question, “Necessary to whom or what?” Once again, this becomes subjective, proving that this way of studying the Bible cannot be accurate. In reality, this type of Bible study could be called, “Command, Subjective Examples, and Necessary (when you want them to be) Inferences.” I do not say this to be rude, but to be realistic. When I was honest with myself, I could no longer accept a position that I realized was created by men and not God.
This has by no means been an exhaustive study of this issue, but should serve as sufficient information to get you started on the issue. There are many more arguments that could be produced. However, from Miriam and her tambourine, to David’s instrumental worship, to Paul’s use of “psallo” and psalms and to John’s heavenly vision (Rev. 5:8; 15:2); instrumental praise to God in and of itself has never been intrinsically sinful or unauthorized.
I pray that we can learn to live with each other’s differences, respect each other’s decisions and have unity and cease division on beliefs that God never makes issue out of. “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: As I love, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me and every tongue shall confess to God. So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” (Rom. 14:10-13).
– Kevin Pendergrass
Reflecting on “EIS” in Acts 2:38
On the web site of the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, Matt Slick, in an article titled “Baptism and Acts 2:38” observed, “Acts 2:38 is one of the more controversial verses in the Bible regarding baptism and whether or not it is the requirement for salvation.” Notice that he didn’t say “a requirement,” but “the requirement.” Down through the ages, many within Christendom have conferred upon water baptism the mantle of Sacrament, proclaiming thereby that it is the act through which God bestows forgiveness, justification, divine acceptance and eternal salvation. It is the precise point in time at which one is “born again,” becoming a child of God. In short, baptism SAVES you! It is the theology of “Baptismal Remission” and “Baptismal Regeneration.” I was raised up in a faith-heritage that largely embraced this view, and proclaimed it so vigorously that they came to be known throughout Christendom as “the church of Acts 2:38.” Baptism, along with a semi-sacramental perception of our tradition with respect to the Lord’s Supper and a cappella singing, became the marks of our Movement: it was what set us apart as “the one true church” from all the heathen and heretics all around us who were deceived and deluded into thinking they actually had a chance to go to heaven! We were taught that until they got into one of our buildings, they were headed for hell. They didn’t sing right, they didn’t commune right, and they didn’t baptize right. They were lost. End of story!
Yes, Acts 2:38 was the “proof text” proffered from virtually every pulpit by every preacher in Churches of Christ as I was growing up. And, I must admit, I pranced it out Sunday after Sunday in the early years of my own ministry, intent upon getting as many people “into the baptistery” as I could. After all, congregations weren’t “hiring” preachers who didn’t have a good “track record of baptisms.” I pridefully pitied all those “denominationalists” who simply couldn’t grasp the “simple truth” of Acts 2:38. Some, I figured, were just stupid; the rest were most likely servants of Satan sent to lead people farther away from the Lord. What arrogance!! What lunacy!! I long ago repented of such godlessness, and am thankful to see more and more within my faith-heritage doing the same. We are becoming a people transformed by the Spirit into a more Jesus-focused, grace-affirming part of the universal One Body of Christ. The sectarian walls we erected to isolate ourselves from others, excluding them from our midst, are coming down, and we are embracing other disciples of Christ as beloved brethren. Thank God for allowing me to live long enough to see this new day dawn!! And yet, although progress is being made, there are still those proclaiming a sectarian sacramentalism among us with respect to the nature and purpose of water baptism, and they are still using Acts 2:38 as one of their primary “proofs.”
“One controversial issue concerning salvation has been whether water baptism is necessary for the remission of sins. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have insisted that water baptism itself is the means of the remission of sins. Evangelical churches, with their roots in the Protestant Reformation, have taught that, though baptism is important as the sign and seal of justification by faith and as the sacrament of initiation into the visible church, it is not the means of remission of sins. Certain cults and even some descendants of Protestantism, however, have embraced the sacerdotal views of Romanism and Orthodoxy and taught that sins cannot be forgiven apart from baptism. … The most commonly cited biblical ‘support’ for the latter view is Acts 2:38. … On the surface, in English, it seems that Peter meant that the purpose of baptism was to effect the remission of sins, which explains why baptismal remissionists so readily appeal to this verse” [E. Calvin Beisner, “Does Acts 2:38 Teach Baptismal Remission?,” Christian Research Journal, vol. 28, no. 2]. Yes, “on the surface, in English,” the words of Peter do indeed seem to promote such a view, but deeper study and reflection show the matter to be a bit more complex than some would have us believe. In reality, “‘Acts 2:38 assuredly confronts the interpreter with weighty problems,’ says Professor Stonehouse, and the extent and diversity of the theological exegesis of the verse show how right he is” [Dr. F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts, p. 75]. Dr. A. T. Robertson, one of Christendom’s greatest NT Greek scholars, agreed, saying that this verse “is the subject of endless controversy as men look at it from the standpoint of sacramental or of evangelical theology” [Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword].
“Peter’s answer to the people’s anguished cry presents interpreters with a set of complex theological problems that are often looked upon only as grist for differing theological mills” [The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 283]. Unfortunately, this is absolutely correct. Disciples of Christ have fussed, fought, feuded and fragmented over Acts 2:38 for centuries! Vastly differing theologies have each embraced this passage as the validation of their view, resulting only in greater confusion than clarity. Much of this is a result of a failure to fully perceive both the grammar and structure of the passage as it appears in the Greek text, preferring instead to build a theology around the wording in English as handed down from the old King James Version. Additionally, by lifting a passage from its overall context, one can easily do damage to the original intent of the author, thus abusing the verse to further a tradition, rather than using it to further Truth. “Rarely is doctrine ever made from a single verse” [Matt Slick, “Baptism and Acts 2:38,” Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry]. One must examine carefully and prayerfully ALL of what the Bible says with respect to a topic, not just lift a handful of passages out of context to prove a personal or party perception or preference. Sadly, I fear we have done too much of the latter with respect to Acts 2:38.
The reality of God’s inspired revelation, and this is perceived throughout, is that we are saved by grace through faith, not by virtue of anything we have done or ever could do; rather, it is a gift of God because of His great love and mercy. If this is true, and I believe with all my heart that it is, then we must repent of proclaiming a performance-based and knowledge-based salvation!! Redemption is not to be found in getting religious rituals right; it is found in the redemptive act of our Redeemer!! Salvation is a GIFT, and it is received by FAITH. Yes, genuine faith will show itself in our daily lives in countless loving manifestations, but none of these evidentiary acts, in and of themselves, constitute the precise point of salvation (as some sacramentalists assert). Thus, passages like Acts 2:38 must be understood in view of the truth that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). With that foundational truth in mind, how are we to understand what Peter told the people in Jerusalem on that first Pentecost following our Lord’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension? Peter’s message in his sermon was essentially: Jesus is the Messiah … and you killed Him … Repent of this, and embrace Him! Dr. F. F. Bruce correctly points out that in Acts 2:38 “the call to repentance is Peter’s basic and primary demand” [Commentary on the Book of Acts, p. 75]. When we teach baptism as the primary demand of this verse we have missed Peter’s point. Peter’s purpose was to turn the hearts of his hearers to faith in Jesus as their Redeemer, who, by virtue of His shed blood, would cleanse them of their sins! This basic emphasis is especially seen in Peter’s sermon in Solomon’s Colonnade where he says nothing about baptism, but instead declares to the people, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19). “This shows that for Luke at least, and probably also for Peter, while baptism with water was the expected symbol for conversion, it was not an indispensable criterion for salvation” [The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 284]. Peter’s clear emphasis is repentance, which “is not a mere feeling; it has not the uncertainty of moods and sentiments. It is not a simple change in the weather of the soul. It is a distinct alteration of the focus of the intelligence; it carries with it a movement of the will; in short, it is a revolution in the very ground of the man’s being” [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 18, p. 66].
The “Baptismal Remissionists,” however, insist that the word “for” in Acts 2:38 proves otherwise! Yes, the people were to repent, but forgiveness of sins came at the point of baptism, they declare. After all, Peter said to be baptized “FOR the forgiveness of your sins.” Thus, sins are forgiven AT baptism! Right?! Again, “on the surface, in English,” this wording does seem to promote such a view … until one begins to look a bit deeper and to ask some vital questions. For example, what do the rest of the NT writings have to say about forgiveness of sins and how such forgiveness is acquired? Paul makes the case, in Romans 4, that Abraham’s transgressions were forgiven and his sins covered by faith, and that it was a gift of God’s grace prior to his circumcision. Was circumcision an outward rite to which this man was required by God to submit? Yes, it was. But, as Paul notes, his forgiveness and justification were not due to this outward act, but rather based upon his faith. Paul goes farther here and informs us that this principle is true for us under this new covenant. Forgiveness, justification, salvation are not based on our acts of faith, but upon faith itself. The various acts (of which baptism is one) are merely evidentiary in nature: they show faith (James 2). They are essential (no one is denying that fact), but they themselves are not redemptive (as some claim). Thus, baptism does not remit sins, but evidences one’s faith in and acceptance of the One who does!!
However, we are still faced with that little word “for” in Acts 2:38. Because of that word, some will vehemently assert that everything I have just said is “false teaching,” and thus “Al Maxey is a heretic who denies baptism.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Water baptism is an act commanded by our Lord. Thus, we must comply. I have baptized many people during the years of my ministry, and I anticipate baptizing a great many more. I preach and teach the importance of water baptism, and I practice it. What has changed for me, however, is my previous perception that water baptism is the specific act by which, and the precise point in time at which, one is forgiven, justified, redeemed, saved, etc. I will no longer proclaim baptism as a sacrament, but rather as a required manifestation of one’s faith. Forgiveness comes to those who turn from sin and in faith turn to the Lord. Such persons then demonstrate that inner faith and repentance by a number of visible acts that will occur throughout their lives (one of which is baptism). But, can one justify this view that forgiveness comes to those who by faith have turned to the Lord, or does the word “for” suggest it is baptism that brings the blessing? I believe one can make a strong case, from the structure and grammar of the Greek, for the former. And furthermore, if such an understanding of the text is at least a legitimate one textually and exegetically, then that fact would forever remove Acts 2:38 as a proof-text for baptismal remissionists. “A Bible verse proves a doctrine only if that doctrine is the only interpretation the grammar and word definitions permit. If there are other plausible interpretations, the verse might be used as evidence in a cumulative case for the doctrine, but its evidential value rises or falls in inverse proportion to the plausibility of the other options” [E. Calvin Beisner, “Does Acts 2:38 Teach Baptismal Remission?,” Christian Research Journal, vol. 28, no. 2]. So, let’s take off our sectarian spectacles and seek to view this passage with fresh spiritual sight.
First, we need to realize that the word “for” in Acts 2:38 is not the actual word used in the Greek text (more about that word later). Nevertheless, even the English word “for” has quite a wide variety of meaning and usage. In Webster’s New International Dictionary, for example, there are eleven definitions of the preposition “for” given, and baptismal remissionists have assumed that only one of those definitions can apply in this passage: that it denotes purpose, and signifies “in order to obtain.” Although other legitimate definitions of “for” make equal sense, they are nevertheless discarded. Why? Because they don’t support their theology! For example: “for” may also mean motive, thus signifying “because of.” Would this definition of “for” in Acts 2:38 make sense? Would it be consistent with NT teaching? Of course it would. So, why is one chosen dogmatically over the other? I think we all know the answer to that. Is this other usage of “for” found in the NT writings? Yes, it is. In Matt. 3:11, just to give one instance, we find John the Baptist saying, “I baptize you with water for repentance.” Okay, are they baptized “in order to obtain” repentance? That doesn’t make sense. But, being baptized “because of” their repentance makes sense (and, by the way, this is the Greek preposition “eis” here, just as it is in Acts 2:38). When words have a variety of meaning and usage, we must allow the context in which the word appears, as well as the overall teaching of Scripture, to dictate which usage best fits. And where several may fit, one dare NOT become dogmatic over his interpretive choice. “The plausibility of these alternative understandings of ‘for‘ reduces the evidential value of Acts 2:38 for the doctrine of baptismal remission of sins” [E. Calvin Beisner, “Does Acts 2:38 Teach Baptismal Remission?,” Christian Research Journal, vol. 28, no. 2].
The English word “for,” however, is just a translation of the Greek preposition “eis,” but, like the former, the latter also has a wide variety of meaning and usage, including the two mentioned above. “The illustrations of both usages are numerous in the NT and the Koine generally” [Dr. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword]. Therefore, there are times when the Greek preposition eis (which appears some 1774 times in the NT writings) refers to purpose, and there are times when it refers to motive (and times when it refers to something else entirely). Again, one must allow the context, as well as comparative study of NT teaching on the topic in question, to guide one’s understanding of the preposition in any given passage. Yes, baptism for/eis (purpose) the remission of sin is a valid rendering of the phrase, but is it a valid teaching in light of the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. I do not believe it is. On the other hand, baptism for/eis (motive) the remission of sin, which is also a valid understanding of the phrase (and is the view taken by such Greek scholars as A. T. Robertson and J. R. Mantey, just to name a couple), IS consistent with the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. We are washed clean of our sins by the precious blood of the Lamb, and we reflect the reality of that spiritual washing in the symbolic rite of baptism, which is a testimony and affirmation not only to ourselves, but also to others (much like our partaking of the elements of the Lord’s Supper, by which we participate emblematically with the reality itself). Thus, we are baptized because of our forgiveness, not in order to obtain forgiveness. The latter elevates a sacrament; the former elevates the Savior!!
Baptism in water is “the visible seal of that remission” of our sins [Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. “Water baptism is the external symbol by which those who believed the gospel, repented of their sins, and acknowledged Jesus as their Lord publicly bore witness to their new life” [The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 284]. Most Christians recognize that “there is nothing in baptism itself that can wash away sin. That can be done only by the pardoning mercy of God through the atonement of Christ” [Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. The renowned NT Greek scholar, Dr. A. T. Robertson, in his classic work “Word Pictures in the New Testament,” declared, “My view is decidedly against the idea that Peter, Paul, or anyone in the New Testament taught baptism as essential to the remission of sins or the means of securing such remission. So I understand Peter to be urging baptism on each of them who had already turned (repented) and for it to be done in the name of Jesus Christ on the basis of the forgiveness of sins which they had already received.” Dr. F. F. Bruce agrees, characterizing “baptism as the visible token of repentance” [Commentary on the Book of Acts, p. 77].
But, is there anything else in the text of Acts 2:38, either grammatically or structurally, that might perhaps bring additional light, and which might help us in our understanding of Peter’s intent? Well, as it so happens, yes there is. There is a very significant break in the passage structurally that is not carried over into the English. “There is a change of number from plural to singular and of person from second to third. This change marks a break in the thought here that the English translation does not preserve” [Dr. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword]. “In Peter’s command, the verb repent is second-person plural. The verb be baptized is third-person singular. In the phrase for the forgiveness of your sins, the word your is second-person plural again. Imagine the implications of ignoring this switch from second-person plural to third-person singular and back again!!” [E. Calvin Beisner, “Does Acts 2:38 Teach Baptismal Remission?,” Christian Research Journal, vol. 28, no. 2]. This interpretation views “for/eis” as signifying purpose more than motive, but it links it with repentance rather than baptism. In other words, Peter is telling the people that they need to turn away from their present course and turn toward the Lord in order that they might receive the forgiveness of their sins. Each one doing so was then to be baptized in the name of Jesus the Christ, the very one they had previously rejected, but were now declaring to be Lord and Savior. That act of faith (baptism) would affirm their faith and bear witness to their new allegiance! It is not the turning itself that forgives sins, but rather the One to whom they turn: Jesus!! HE washes clean those who in fullness of faith turn to Him. Such persons then evidence that faith throughout the remainder of their lives (one of the first evidentiary acts being baptism).
Dr. Beisner wrote, “In short, the most precise English translation of the relevant clauses, arranging them to reflect the switches in person and number of the verbs, would be, ‘You (plural) repent for the forgiveness of your (plural) sins, and let each one (singular) of you be baptized (singular).’ When I showed this translation to the late Dr. Julius Mantey, one of the foremost Greek grammarians of the twentieth century and the co-author of ‘A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament,’ he approved and even signed his name next to it in the margin of my Greek New Testament” [ibid]. Let me repeat this principle of biblical hermeneutics: “A Bible verse proves a doctrine only if that doctrine is the only interpretation the grammar and word definitions permit. If there are other plausible interpretations, the verse might be used as evidence in a cumulative case for the doctrine, but its evidential value rises or falls in inverse proportion to the plausibility of the other options” [ibid]. There are clearly a number of ways to understand Acts 2:38, each of which are grammatically legitimate, which fact demands we not become dogmatic with respect to our interpretations. I have my personal convictions as to what Peter sought to convey to the people of Jerusalem that day, and I believe they are textually and contextually and conceptually sound. However, I don’t pretend to be infallible in my insights (and I doubt seriously any of you are either), thus I pray we can continue to love and accept one another as brethren to the glory of our God, even when we honestly differ.
– Al Maxey
Where does it end? James A. Harding opined that no human since the time of Christ had understood the “design of baptism” when she/he submitted to it. Of course by design Harding meant more than Acts 2.38 … as our recent post makes clear. All that was biblically required was submissive faith in Jesus as the Messiah the Son of God. J.W. McGarvey argued, convincingly, that God requires simply faith and repentance for biblical baptism. Because baptism “belongs to God and not man.”
Some demand that a candidate must must know her baptism is specifically to obtain “the remission of sins” at the moment of immersion, though there is not a single text that makes such a demand, including Acts 2.38.
But once we start “adding to” God’s list of requirements necessary for baptism where does the “slippery slope” end??
Barry Grider, for example, wrote in the “Forest Hill News” (vol 27.9) of the Forest Hill Church of Christ on February 27, 2001 an article called “Scriptural Baptism.” If my memory serves correctly this is the home of Memphis School of Preaching. Grider makes some pretty hefty demands on the part of the candidate.
1) Must have the correct mode. That is it must be immersion under all circumstances.
2) It must be done for its one, and only one, scriptural purpose. “If someone is baptized for some reason other than the remission of sins, such a person has not been scripturally baptized.” My emphasis.
3) Baptism must be preceded by repentance. This is applied to folks divorced and remarried “unbiblically,”they are to be refused baptism if they don’t repent. “[A]n administrator of baptism should not baptize a person who refuses to repent” that is of their “adulterous relationship.”
4) The candidate must not only be baptized for one and only reason (remission of sins) this person must “understand the concept of the New Testament church.” “A few denominational churches baptize for the remission of sins, yet the individuals baptized are not added to the one true church.”
The Slippery Slope
I scratch my head folks! I see no such demands in the NT placed on any candidate. I hate to say it but it is sectarianism in the extreme but where does the slippery slope of adding unbiblical demands end?
There are many, not a single, biblical reasons to be baptized. And how many folks out there understood the “the concept of the New Testament church” at their baptism? I would say there is misunderstanding present in Barry’s own article on this very point … he declares that the church is the kingdom and this is not so. Once we have decided to cut ourselves off of anyone else new conditions have to be added to keep us “distinct” …
So where does the hedging end? How many conditions are there before a person can respond to the “grace” of God offered in his Son Jesus Christ? How many conditions before he or she can simply believe he is the promised Messiah and be baptized into his Name? The old King James Version was right about one thing. When the Ethiopian heard the message about “Jesus,” the only condition for his being baptized by Philip was “do you believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God” (Acts 8.37, KJV). That was the only condition, not a series of entrance exams to satisfy some sectarian agenda.
Legalism is a slippy slope. Once you find yourself on it you find yourself erecting more and more barriers that we ourselves do not even keep.