How many times have you listened to someone tell exactly what some group of people believe based on what they had heard one person who was a member of that group. It didn’t matter that the person may have been ill informed, a novice in the group or just some cantankerous old goat that the group puts up with only because of a feeling of grace toward them. It really doesn’t matter what the group is they all suffer the same use of irresponsible conclusions. Not long ago I heard a friend take off on different Baptist churches and told what they believed on a multiplicity of matters. When asked where he had gotten his information his response was that his brother-in-law grew up going to the Baptist church and he knew all about even though he hadn’t attended church there in over 20 years. I’ve heard people tell of what the Catholic church believes who have never a single time been to a Catholic church or studied with anyone that was really knowledgable about them. Today I received a lengthy article about what the churches of Christ believe. The man claimed inside information. While I’ve certainly met some people who believe everyone of the things he mentioned in his articles but it is generally because of a misunderstanding of what is actually taught or it comes from some far out teacher or preacher that has been rejected by most of the members of the churches of Christ.
What is so amazing to me when someone takes off on one of these kinds of articles that they indict the church for not believing in the grace of God while at the very moment they are demonstrating a total lack of grace in what they are writing. Any person who believes the Bible at all believes that we are saved by the grace of God almighty. Without grace Christ would not have paid the price for our sins on the cross. Through grace the most ungodly of sinners can be completely made new. But the notion that grace means that nothing is required of us in living for God is a perversion of the Word of God. Even the most well known Scripture on grace says, “By grace you are saved through faith” It immediately moves ahead to say that we are created in Christ for good works that God has before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10) Paul hadn’t moved away from the discussion of grace when he made this statement. He went from this to talk about the grace God has shown by tearing down the middle wall between Jews and Gentiles that he might reconcile both to God in one body by the cross having slain the enmity by doing this. In Titus 2:11-14 Paul said “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lust but that we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.”
I had the privilege of growing up in a devout spiritually minded home in which my dad was a preacher for the Freewill Baptist church. He had helped to start the church that our family attended throughout my growing up. At sixteen years of age I began dating a girl who was a member of the churches of Christ and we were married when we were eighteen and have been married now for almost 48 years. After studying with an elderly preacher where Linda worshiped and with her brother-in-law I decided to be baptized again to become a member of the church of Christ. The thing that moved me then was the point that there was no creed but Christ and no standard of faith and practice besides the Bible. I began preaching three months after we were married and have been preaching ever since. After about a year of preaching I went to Freed-Hardeman College for the next three years.
Through all those years I’ve made it my mission to study the Bible intently and to follow it to the best of my ability. I’ve preached the Bible as I understand it all through those years and have seldom had a problem with people getting angry or rejecting me as a gospel preacher because I didn’t follow some party line. The idea of the Priesthood of the believers means that we are all to go to the Bible to study and learn the right way to live and think. I don’t believe there has ever been a time when all those who follow Christ all agreed on everything. Personally I’ve changed my own mind on many different subjects through the years and never for a moment thought it jeopardized my place in the church of Christ. I just want to be a Christian sold out to Jesus Christ to follow Him and His will in every way I can. I want to have his heart, his mind and his attitude. It is only through Jesus that I can be saved or anyone else. It isn’t in my power or my desire to judge anyone else’s relationship with God. I would ask that I be treated the same by others who disagree with what I believe on some matters. Do I believe some people are wrong in what they think the Bible says? Of Course I do but I don’t believe the fact someone sees something in a different way that I do means they are dishonest, rebellious or to be rejected by God. I believe that the more we are devoted to following God’s word the closer we will all get and the more we try to follow the ideas of men the further we will get from each other and God.
In the church of Christ there is no human creed. It does draw people who want to follow the Bible completely. But judgmental attitudes aren’t the private property of any particular group of people. Being judgmental is wrong whoever has it. Sectarian beliefs are wrong whoever has them. And grace isn’t just something that we receive from God it is a quality we are to grow in ourselves regularly (2 Peter 3:18).