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Question #5

Isn't it more important to be spiritual than scriptural?

"I often hear the church of Christ brethren state that we must be scriptural. I do not see the word “scriptural” use anywhere in the bible. I do, however, see the word “spiritual” used quite often. Why do you state that we must be scriptural, and seldom if ever, instruct that we must be spiritual? Being scriptural is NOT the same as being spiritual!"

The Answer:

First, your premise that the church of Christ does not often speak of being “spiritual” is incorrect. Second, your premise that “scriptural” and “spiritual” are totally separate and different is incorrect. One cannot be “scriptural” without being “spiritual”; one cannot be “spiritual” without being “scriptural.”

What does it mean to be “scriptural”? It means no more or no less than to have one's faith and practice conform to scripture. The fact that the word “scriptural” is not found in scripture does not mean that the concept is not there. It is found in such language as “keeping Christ’s words” by which we shall be judged (John 12:48). Being “scriptural” is the same as obeying the scripture. In the American Standard Version “obey” is found 21 times in the New Testament (53 times in both Testaments), “obeyed” is found 5 times (33 total), “obeyeth” is found 2 times (3 total), “obedience” is found 16 times (17 total), and “obedient” is found 7 times (11 total). The bottom line is that one cannot be the friend of Christ unless he does the things that Christ has commanded, i.e., follows or obeys the scripture. John 15:14. You cannot truthfully claim to love Christ unless you keep (obey or follow) his commands. John 14:15. That is the same as having one's faith and practice conform to scripture. Put another way, it is “being scriptural.”

Certainly you believe this as well. While we may disagree on what the commands are and require, anyone who believes that the commands of Christ found in scripture (given either personally or through the inspired writings) do not need to be followed has done away with Christ. The result is either universal salvation or universal damnation. Absent scripture, and a faith and practice that conforms to scripture, there is no logical basis to treat any person differently from any other.

Your real complaint is most likely what you perceive to be a failure to emphasize “spirituality.” Unfortunately you failed to define what you mean by that term. If by that term you mean some emotional experience that is “better felt than told” and that is contrary to the teaching and guidance of scripture, you do not understand what it means to be spiritual. If by being spiritual you mean walking according to the Spirit’s teaching and guidance in scripture, a great emphasis is placed on “spirituality.” Having the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11) is being “spiritual.” But notice that immediately after that language Paul said, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12). Obedience (“being scriptural”) was urged based upon the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ was to do the will of God. Hebrews 10:7.

Clearly there can be do doubt – a person cannot be “spiritual” without being “scriptural”; a person cannot be “scriptural” without being “spiritual.” A person cannot be guided by an emotional experience unrelated to scripture and be either “scriptural” or “spiritual,” no matter what he calls it.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)