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Question #256

Aren't your views on worship divisive?

Upon review of your very thorough and thought-provoking website, I am curious as to why no individual member of your brotherhood is named as author of any of the lessons.

In any event, I am a member of a church of Christ which is struggling to bring Jesus to this fallen, modern world. Worship is central to this task. How is it then that I should not employ every means at my disposal, within the bounds of clear and acceptable scriptural practice, to carry out this great commission?

I believe that Jesus died to save me from the fires of hell, not to establish an order of worship which, in truth, is not anywhere in the New Testament formally and firmly set forth. Does not the traditional church of Christ "doctrine" concerning worship, loosely and inconsistently based upon the translation and interpretation of ancient human language, work to divide rather than unite? Such is contradictory to the Bible's teachings. As Paul says in Ephesians 4, "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." We are commanded by Jesus that "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." Jesus himself is "...the way, the truth, and the life..." It is strikingly more clear from any translation of the Bible that the way of God is that of unity among those who believe in his son. That being said, what good does it do to insist on perpetuating arguments based on human conclusions which fragment the body of believers in the one, true and living God and frustrate the Spirit's work among and through us?

I very much appreciate your fervor and faith and commend you for your efforts in preparing your website. You should, however, strive to refrain from alienating those who would love and follow Christ by judging and condemning them over the disputable matters of worship.

The Answer:

I am thankful that you find our website helpful. No one can argue with your stated aim of employing every means at your disposal, within the bounds of clear and acceptable scriptural practice, to carry out the great commission. That is certainly one of the greatest tasks of the body of Christ. From your statement (it is not really a question) it seems, however, that your practice is quite different from your statement. While you speak of “acceptable scriptural practice,” you do not say to whom it is to be acceptable. One could infer from your statement that you are governed by what is acceptable to you and to those you say that you are trying to reach. You don’t say where you think Thy Word Is Truth has gone astray from the Truth. In fact, you don’t even say that it has. You simply suggest that there are those who would love and follow Jesus if they could do it their way. Apparently you are willing to sacrifice the Truth in order to reach them. Having done so, have you really reached them with the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth? Most likely, the teaching to which you object is instrumental music in the worship of God. Strangely, you make no attempt to justify your position that this Truth is not clearly taught in scripture. You offer nothing but your opinion. Let me say as kindly as I know how, but as forthrightly as it needs to be said, that your opinion unsupported by scripture carries no weight.

Moreover, it is not those who hold to the apostolic teaching and practice that are divisive. There is no dispute that the apostolic church (the church of the New Testament) did not use mechanical instruments of music in worship. Its introduction was a change of apostolic practice. Logic places the burden of proof to justify change on the change agent. The only argument that you have offered is that if that Truth were surrendered you think you could reach more people. How far are you willing to go with that principle? When someone argues that there is more than one God, are you willing to surrender that Truth to reach more people? When someone argues that Jesus is not the only way to God, are you willing to surrender that truth to reach more people? If you would not do so, then have you not accepted the fact that the principle you espouse is false?

You quote Ephesians 4, and a good passage it is. It says that there is one body and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, on God and Father of all. If you change the faith thus having at least two (the original and the changed), can not all of the “ones” be changed? If not, why not? The only reason you could possibly give and cling to a changed faith is that you don’t want to. That leaves you with no logical argument against those who want more than one God and one Lord.

The only other answer that you could give is that the manner in which God desires to be worshipped is not a part of the one faith. But you don’t believe that, I am certain. That leaves you to argue more narrowly that it is only instrumental music that is not a part of the faith. Why don’t you try to support that proposition and write again with your argument? Somehow, I suspect that you have tried, recognized that you have failed, and thus are left with only your opinion. Frankly, that is where all of those who use mechanical instruments in worship find themselves. They have tried to justify their use for generations and have failed for as long as they have tried. The bottom line is that, liking their use, they elevate their “likes” above the will of God. Such should never be, even when you think that the matter is a trivial one. Uzzah thought it was a trivial thing to touch the ark; God did not agree and Uzzah died. Nadab and Abihu thought it was a trivial thing to offer “strange fire” upon the altar of God; God did not agree and they died. Are you willing to risk your eternal soul by changing what God desires in worship because you think it is trivial? What if once more God does not agree?

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)