Monday, August 9, 2010

Simply Christian

When we consider the Christian church today, what do you suppose is the conversation piece that tends to surround its members? I would wager when Christians meet, they tend to have this question on their mind: “What denomination are you?” Save for the intervention of the Holy Spirit to preserve the integrity and purity of the gospel, I personally believe denominational boundaries have caused considerable harm to the name of Christ and His professing children. The goal of this Post is not to deride denominations, but to urge a recollection of who genuine believers belong to.

If you insist on calling yourself Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, etc. so be it. But if we are in the presence of a brother or sister in Christ, drop the denomination and love one another. These boundaries we have erected are man-made; Jesus died to bring us into one body, the universal church. Local branches are manifestations of this one body, and no denomination has a monopoly on any such claim. We must strive to remember “For as many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus [not a particular denomination],” Galatians 3:27-28; see 2nd Corinthians 5:17.

A truly beneficial denominational break of historic magnitude occurred between Rome and the “Protestants.” These protestors, led by the likes of Martin Luther, were former Roman Catholics who recognized that Rome preached a gospel steeped in works, idolatry and man-made regulations that were extra-biblical and unbiblical (purgatory, prayers to Mary and the saints, the Eucharist, etc.) . Thus it was necessary to break from Rome. Note that I did not say everyone in her was apostate, or that when the Reformers broke with Rome, they did so without bringing some of her corrupt practices with them.

Are there Roman Catholics who have believed the true gospel and been saved? If they had opportunity to hear it, yes; which likely would not come from a Roman Catholic priest, since they do not accept Christ’s finished work on Cavalry and the fact that a believer need not (and cannot) contribute to their salvation. Faith is the key that grants life; faith in God’s Son who took our place and died our death. Faith in Jesus Christ saves; it saves forever and it saves completely. Anyone who preaches a gospel that does not place Jesus Christ at its center as the beginner, sustainer and finisher of our faith is teaching another gospel. It is all of grace (purely of God) or it is works (man’s partial or complete efforts); the two cannot mingle—God will not permit it, Romans 11:6.

Paul for his part condemned denominations when they reared their heads in the first century church. The Corinthians were bragging about who they “belonged” to: Paul or Apollos, Cephas or Jesus, 1st Corinthians 1:12. Paul rebuked them for this carnal attitude, reminding the Corinthians that he had only been sent to preach the gospel of Christ; not even to baptize, 1st Corinthians 1:17. This of itself is a powerful testimony that water baptism is not essential for salvation, or Paul spoke very out of place by belittling its efficacy.
To be Continued.

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