Posts Tagged ‘Church of Christ’

I am a Conservative

Yes, I am biblically conservative, and happy to say so.

I know conservatives are vilified as intolerant, inflexible and old-fashioned, but there are reasons that I wish to be identified with them.

Why do I hold to traditions that are hundreds of years old? I have studied the bases of these traditions and find them to be solidly built on the foundation of God’s Word. These hallmarks of the churches of Christ, so much maligned in recent times, are dear to me for I find that they were instituted by my Lord and Savior. It is to him I must be true and it is his message and mission that I must uphold.

That is not to say that nothing can ever change in the church and its activities. Different types of songs, different styles of preaching, different types of meeting places, etc., have all been used without any abuse to the doctrine of Christ.

But at the same time, there are certain tenets that are absolute and unchangeable because the Lord has stated them and so they must stand. We read the scriptures with an eye open for any instruction that would provide a definitive statement regarding our salvation or our practice of Christian living as individuals and as congregations.

So, for example, we are inflexible in regard to the fact that our music is by singing, but we have many different types of songs that we do sing, from very old to very new styles. As another example, we are intolerant of teachers that change the biblical definition of salvation yet we welcome preachers that bring a fresh approach in how to present “the old story.” For example number three: as long as the church is meeting together to the glory of God, the meeting can be held in many differing styles of buildings be they borrowed, rented, leased, or purchased, large or small, traditional or modern, portable, etc.

There are many differences that truly don’t matter at all. But we cannot change where the Lord has specified the what or the how. Because of that, I am a conservative.

He Wants to Build What?

You are likely familiar with the quote from Jesus: “on this rock I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:18) and, of course, we all know what a church is. But what if you were in that group, nearly 2000 years ago, that first heard Jesus say it? What would you have thought he meant? What expectations would he have raised? Hearing Jesus’ promise through the ears of his first hearers gives us a new and helpful perspective.

As I said, we all know what a church is. We hear the word church and think of the white steepled building we pass on the freeway and the stained glass adorned brick building downtown. Not that we are focused on the building. We are focused on the people that meet there, their creed, and their religious affiliation. That is what the word means to us in our society.

But, just as Jesus certainly was not talking about building a physical structure, neither was he speaking of some sect or denomination as we think of church today. When Jesus said “church” his disciples did not think of a religious group that meets down the road. That’s our interpretation. Their interpretation would have been based on their experience of the word. In the Greek and Hebrew languages, it stresses the idea of a group called together for some specific purpose. You can look at Acts 19 where the same word is used of the Ephesian townspeople assembling, both as an angry mob and as a legal forum (vs. 32, 39, 41). The word in these instances is translated “assembly” rather than “church” because this was certainly not a church!

So Jesus’ phrase, “I will build my church,” is synonymous with “I will call together an assembly.” And that fits the religious background of the Jews. The prophets had often spoken of the time to come when God would make a great assembly. Frequently the Lord mentioned gathering Israelites back from captivity (e.g., Isaiah 11:11-12). He also spoke of gathering “yet others to him” (Isaiah 56:8) and making a people for himself where there once was “not my people” (Hosea 1:10, cf. Romans 9:25-26 and 1 Peter 2:9-10). So the Jews were expecting a Messiah that would gather people from all nations into the house of the Lord (Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:2).

That gives me a different way to look at the word church. Yes, I know that it still has the meaning of a religious institution or even a religious meeting place to those of the society around us. But I also know that Jesus and his apostles who carried his message to the world were trying to build a very special entity: a gathering of all who love God and accept their place as his people in submission to him. Jesus built one gathering for one people who will disregard all worldly barriers to fellowship and harmony.