Three Great Objectives
Introduction. This morning I would like for us to talk about three objectives that those of us who work and worship together here should always try to maintain.
• Today, these things are considered old fashioned by some, but they are nonetheless, just as much noble objectives today as they were for Christians in the past.
• If we will do these things we can have greater confidence that we are well pleasing to God, and serve as better examples to the world of the simple Christian faith that is taught in the Bible.
I. Simply Christians.
The roots of human tradition often go very deep. This is seen in the way we talk about matters of faith. E.g. If someone were to ask you what “religion” you are, if you were to say - “I’m a Christian” you might get a little bit of a frustrated look and then hear something like this...
• “What kind of Christian?” or
• “Yes, but what church are you a member of?” which is really just a way of saying - “what denomination are you a member of?”
What if a person refused to follow this way of viewing things and insisted (without qualification) on that first answer - “I’m a Christian.” Two things will happen...
1. You will confuse those who view things based on religious traditions.
2. You will use exactly the kind of language that the Bible uses to describes God’s people in Jesus Christ.
A. Disciples (i.e. followers) of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).
B. Disciples called Christians (Acts 11:26; I Peter 4:15,16).
The Bible knows nothing of the human designations which men have come up with - Catholic, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Mormon, Anglican, Episcopalian, Seventh Day Adventist. If Christians in the New Testament didn’t need these why should we?
• Not only do they come from men, but they divide people.
C. Salvation is in the name of Christ (Acts 4:8-12).
II. Bible Names for Bible Things.
Much of this problem comes from the terms we choose to use. Bible names for God’s people vs. human names. This happens in other things as well.
• Acts of worship - Lent, Ash Wednesday, The Rosary, Confirmation, sacraments, workshops, revivals, AWANAS, promise keepers, etc.
• Religious leadership - Priests & Laity (All Christians are priests - I Peter 2:4-5, 9), Pastors (Not simply a preacher but same as the leaders called bishops or elders - I Peter 5:1,2), Pope, Cardinal, Diosese, Synod, etc.
• Teachings - Consubstantiation (Jesus w. bread), Transubstantiation (Jesus becomes the bread), homousianism (no distinction between Father & Son), sacraments, venial vs. mortal sins.
The Bible does warn about arguing about words... II Timothy 2:14-16 Note: “words to no profit” - “vain babblings” vs. “rightly dividing the word of truth.” How can we do this? - By using Bible names for Bible things.
A. Speak as the oracles of God (I Peter 4:10,11).
B. Sound words (II Timothy 1:13).
If we use the same words for worship, or leadership, or teaching that the Bible does we can be sure that we use “sound words”
III. No Creeds but the Bible.
This problem of words and language becomes even more of a problem when the differences that people have in their understanding of the Bible (or failure to apply the Bible) becomes crystalized in some human standard that takes on a life of its own. E.g. “Tradition of the Elders” Matthew 15:1-3 Note: In their very emphasis they were more concerned with their human tradition than with Scripture.
Our world is filled with this kind of thing. When someone joins a denomination there may be some catechism or handbook that they must accept or they can’t be a part of that group.
History has produced scores of documents known as “Creeds” (Lat. credo - “I believe”). These documents have taken on a life of their own and often become the standard of faith for a religious group.
A. The Doctrine of Christ (II John 9,10). Here only the “teaching of Christ” is the standard.
B. The Apostles’ Doctrine (Acts 2:36-42). Note: Matthew 28:20 the apostles were to teach what Christ taught.
C. The Bible is what is profitable for doctrine (II Timothy 3:16,17).
D. The Bible is what can make one wise for salvation (II Timothy 3:14,15).
If we will hold to the Bible alone, we don’t need any creed or catechism or church manual. We should put no human document between people as a standard of faith or as a test of fellowship.
• Recent years have seen some trends among brethren in this area that we must watch carefully. False doctrines on the Deity of Christ and Divorce remarriage led some to produce a statement of beliefs that was circulated and used by many churches as a standard to determine issues of fellowship. Note: We must stand for truth. We must correct and rebuke error. But we don’t accomplish this by the creation of a human document that takes on a life of its own.
• There are many things that Christians write that seek to turn people’s hearts to the Bible.
• It may be necessary for brethren or elders to put questions in writing, or inquire about the Scriptural soundness of someone’s view (Note: We discussed such when I came here - I didn’t sign some creedal statement or have to approve of a human document).
• It is just as wrong for us to do that in response to false doctrines of our day as it was for men to do that in the days of the Nicean Creed.