In Romans 15:7, the Spirit directed Paul to write, "Accept one another, as Christ accepted you, to the glory of God." It is interesting how so many different sects get around this passage and adamantly teach the rejection of all who are not in agreement with their creedal understanding of how incidentals may be used to comply with certain commands. They quote the pattern of Hebrews 8:5, the strange fire of Numbers 26:61, and the example of Uzzah putting his hand on the ark to emphasize the danger of not doing everything "their" way. They use the very letters, of unity and acceptance that Paul wrote, to promote disharmony, rejection, and division. They caution their followers to "flee the unfruitful works of darkness", which, of course, refers to any who do not subscribe to their particular party creed.
To reject brethren who do not agree with us on incidentals is arrogance of the rankest sort. It is in open defiance of Ephesians 4:3, which admonishes us to, "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace". It is a haughty spirit that teaches for doctrine the commandments of men. It is an evil spirit, and Jesus condemns it in Matthew 15:7-9. It is an evil spirit that brands brethren as false teachers who do not agree with their party line.
John, by the Spirit, in I John 4, gave a simple formula for testing teachers: "Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus the Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not of God". But from the pulpits of the schisms referred to, paid pulpit ministers are staunchly advocating additional tests. Their tests demand agreement with their conclusions on several "issues" in addition to John's test. These pulpiteers have so pounded their tests into the minds of their followers that it is difficult to find even two Church of Christ members who are willing to "fellowship" one another. I am informed that when Japan was defeated the Japanese were ready to accept "our" God. The call went out for a million Bibles and a thousand missionaries, but we were so busy fighting among ourselves that the order was not filled. I suspect that this story is true. And I suspect that Satan, that great deceiver, loves to see us fighting, especially when it hinders the Gospel from being preached.
A shameful tale is being circulated that a Methodist and two members of the Church of Christ were marooned on an island. The Methodist built a church and called it the "Island Methodist Church". The two Church of Christ members built two churches: "The Northside Church of Christ", and the "Southside Church of Christ". Church of Christ pulpiteers have so bombarded their followers with their tests that it is common to hear one Church of Christ member brand another as a false teacher. This is to the shame of God. Before we brand a brother as a false teacher we should compare his life to the false-hearted false teachers described in the Bible. Just because a brother does not agree with me on whether or not communion cups should have handles does not give me the right to brand him as a false teacher. Romans 15:7 says to "accept one another to the glory of God", and it didn't stop at that point. It goes on to say, "as Christ accepted you". Can we set aside this Christian principle without serious consequences? Can we announce that a baptized believer is false and lost without serious consequences? Can we teach for doctrine the commandments (conclusions) of men without serious consequences? Can we reject any member of God's family? Can we deny that a Child of God is our brother or sister without provoking the wrath of God?
What is the problem? What causes brethren to have no tolerance for anyone who does not totally agree with them? The problem, as I see it, is not whether the corporate church should use cups with handles. The problem is not whether the corporate church should have classes for instruction in righteousness. The problem is not whether the corporate church should support orphanages or other benevolent institutions. The problem is not whether the corporate church should use instruments in its corporate "worship services". The problem is not whether the corporate church should own a building and hire a pulpit minister. The problem is not whether the corporate church should use fermented wine, multiple cups, or whether its members should kneel while praying, or whether its members should march to the front and place their contribution "at the apostles' feet" on the Lord's table. No, these are not the problems we need to address. The problem that we need to address is whether or not there should be a "corporate church". There is no scriptural evidence of such a corporate entity. There is no scriptural example of an earthly institution that had entity separate and apart from its members. The Greek word, "ecclesia", is a people word. When Paul used it he was referring to people in every instance. He never used it to denote an entity. If you take the Jones family out of Dallas there is nothing of the Jones family left. But if you take all of the Christians out of Dallas you still have left the various denominated churches. Their entities are still there. In the eyes of the law the entity (church) is a person. It can sue and be sued. A corporate church is an entity. This legal jargon is not of God. It is of man. It is from man's wisdom.
So, what is wrong with joining a church? There is no scriptural example of any Christian ever "joining" (placing his membership in) a church, giving to a church, belonging to a church, or going to a church. We do have examples of Christians (the ecclesia) having their membership in heaven. We have examples of the Christians giving. And we do have examples of the Christians going. It was people (Christians) who did things, and not some denominated, corporate entity. There is no such creature in the Bible. If you have placed your trust for spiritual guidance in a denominated, corporate entity, whether it be the Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, the Church of Christ, or the Church of Reverend Moon, you need to get out of "it". Disassociate yourself from "it"! "It" is not of God.
There are Christians in many communities who are simply meeting in homes to admonish one another to love and good works, and to eat the Lord's Supper. They are not members of any denominated church. They are simply "Christians". They are experiencing the marvelous growth that accompanies Bible study not shackled by a party creed. Write THE EXAMINER for names and addresses of interested Christians in your vicinity. Some are willing to drive great distances. Give it a try! It will surprise you what the Lord has done.
EDITOR'S NOTE: If you are ever in the Helotes, TX area, the Griffins would be pleased if you would stop by for a brief visit; especially on Sunday for their meeting together. Call ahead and get directions. They are precious people who love their brothers and sisters in Christ as well as all other people.