EPHESIANS 3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11* According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
These passages reveal:
(1) The church as revealed in the Bible reflects the wisdom of God. Therefore the church that Jesus founded (Matthew 16:18), the church that submits to Jesus Christ as its Head (Ephesians 5:23-24) is far from being an embarrassment to God. If the church manifests the wisdom of God, then there are a lot of things "right" with the church.
(2) The church revealed in the Bible is part of God's eternal plan. Therefore, it wasn't the object of last minute planning. God had the church in His mind from eternity. He had eons to plan its work, worship, purpose, terms of entrance and exit, organizational structure, and what it would teach and practice. Therefore, the only "flaws" that the church has will be those caused by human failure to obey God's instructions. One writer said, 'Paul did not say that the wisdom of God is seen in our imperfect human activity in the church...our absurd stupidity is made known when we disregard any aspect of his plan, challenge his authority in the church, or question his revelation of truth.' (Ephesians. Caldwell p. 122)
(3) Hence the church today will only manifest the wisdom of God when the church is standing on the side of God's wisdom, i.e. following His Word. Or, in other words, things are "right" with the church only when the church is obeying the commands of its Head, Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46; 1 Corinthians 14:37; Galatians 1:6-12; 2 Tim. 4:2-4).
I. Right Where We Want To Be:
What really started me thinking about this lesson was something that F.Lagard Smith said in his book the 'Cultural Church'. In speaking to what we would view as brethren in danger of going off the deep end, the above writer said, 'While we are tempted to downplay the significance of baptism, the denominational world is once again beginning to baptize! While we are somewhat embarrassed by our lack of any formal organization, the most vibrant churches in the land are those locally-autonomous "community churches" which don't even have the extensive "brotherhood" ties that we have. While we are starting to experiment with "high church styles" and production numbers in worship, others are exploring the idea of simple gatherings without the need of formalistic ceremony or a professional clergy.
And just when we are about to give up on traditional methods of Bible study, Evangelical churches from shore to shore are starting to dig back into "book, chapter, and verse."' (p. 216) And we could add more:
(1) Are we tempted to down play the Biblical roles of men and women? Many growing denominations aren't! They stress male headship and stay at home moms (read some of the material published by Focus on the Family.)
(2) Are we tempted to compromise the Creation account? Many growing evangelical churches aren't. In fact, they show no tolerance for any compromise of Genesis. They strongly oppose any attempt to harmonize evolutionary theory with creation.The idea that the "days" of Genesis were millions of years long isn't tolerated in many growing denominations (just read some of the material or listen to some of the tapes from Creationist Seminars that growing denominations hold.)
(3) Are we embarrassed that we believe the Bible is the verbally inspired, uncorrupted and inerrant Word of God? Some of the best books written on the inspiration of the Scriptures, some of the best arguments made, have been made by conservative denominational writers (read some of the books that Josh McDowell has written.)
(4) Are we upset when our preacher tackles some of the "modern" topics of the times? Abortion, suicide, euthanasia, feminism, social drinking, immodest clothing, R-rated movies, etc..Well then take the time to attend a home schooling seminar held at your local evangelical church. You will find it packed with people. And you will find that the subject matter at times makes your preacher look kind of liberal and soft on some issues.
My point is brethren: While a certain element in the church was wanting to become like the human denominations around us (1 Samuel 8:5). While we had professed Christians pushing for more conformity to what society views as acceptable (Romans 12:1-2; 1 John 2:15; 2 Timothy 4:3-4), a large segment of the denominational world is wanting to become more like us! As long as we are holding to the Word of God, we are right where we need to be. While everything is right with the church as planned in the Bible, I wanted to remind us of some specific areas in which we are on the right track.
II. The Correct Plan of Salvation Is Taught:
Unlike many denominations, the church of Christ doesn't allow people to believe they are saved, when they are not. We don't teach that one is saved by faith only, because the Bible doesn't teach that (James 2:26; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8; 1 Peter 3:21). We teach that one needs to be baptized to be saved, because that is what Jesus and the apostles taught (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). What is right about the church of Christ, is that is it places the salvation of the individual on a higher priority than being "popular" or attracting a large crowd. I like the church of Christ because it is straight-forward in its teaching, everything is on the level, out in the open, and it will tell you what you need to hear, instead of what you may selfishly want to believe (2 Timothy 4:2; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Galatians 4:16).
III. God's Point of View Is Taught:
I like the church of Christ because it says:
(1) Our own human opinions are worthless and so are yours. We are all fallible human beings (Romans 3:23). We are incapable by our own intuitions, gut-feelings, emotions, and unaided human wisdom to properly discover the truth (Proverbs 16:25; Jeremiah 10:23; 1 Corinthians 2:9). So let's be honest enough to admit that we all need to follow God's Word. You are blind without the Bible and so am I.
(2) Therefore, the only view that this church will teach is God's view (1 Timothy 3:15 but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.).
IV. God's Point of View Is The Standard:
What is right about the church is Christ is that is says, if you obey the will of God, then your part of our family. We don't draw lines of fellowship over race, ethnic background, social or economic status, who you are related to, what you may have done in the past or how you were raised. The only lines of fellowship we ever draw will be when you decide to stop following God (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Thessalonians. 3:6,14). And that is completely fair! Think about it. When a person decides to stop listening to Jesus Christ, then by what sort of logic can we still consider them to be a follower of Christ, i.e. a Christian? The church of Christ is fair. The only Christian that we have a right to withdraw from is the individual who violates the will of God and refuses to admit it or change. In addition, the only person that we can refuse to extend our fellowship to, is the person who refuses to become a Christian or the Christian who refuses to live the Christian life.
V. It Teaches There Is One Body:
The church of Christ is absolutely right for speaking against human denominations. For the Bible teaches that there is only one body (Ephesians 4:4). And this one body is the church (Ephesians 1: 22 and he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.). And this one body isn't composed of denominations, but of individual Christians (Romans 12:5). And if God wanted Jews and Gentiles in the same body (Ephesians 2:16), then God expects everyone who claims to follow Christ to do what is necessary to enter into this one body (1 Cor. 12:13) The church of Christ is right. Jesus Christ died for this one body (Acts 20:28), which means that the church belongs to Christ, and that means human beings, even professed believers don't have the right to make their own "brand" of Christianity. I like the church of Christ because it rightly rebukes the denominational world for perverting, compromising and watering down the teachings of Christ to accommodate the wishes of mere men (Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Timothy 4:2-4). Jesus prayed for unity among His followers (John 17:21), and the Holy Spirit has revealed that such unity is based on the right attitudes and the right doctrine (Ephesians 4:1-6). And church that belongs to Christ says, 'that is where we will stand.'
VI. It Teaches God's Moral Standard:
I like the church of Christ, because it treats people with respect. It fully expects every member to live a life that strives for moral purity (Ephesians 5:1-3; Galatians 5:19-23; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 2 Corinthians 7:1). It preaches that the sinner must repent, even of the most addictive sins (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
The church of Christ is right for refusing to teach that:
(1) Ethics are situational.
(2) It is unreasonable to expect the young to abstain from sexual temptation.
(3) People involved in addictive sins are born inherently predisposed for such things, therefore they are helpless to change and hence not accountable for their moral flaws.
(4) The world is so evil and so filled with temptation that God's standard for personal ethics are unworkable today.
(5) If a person was raised in a bad environment, it will be impossible for them to succeed. Therefore, we must lower God's standards for such people. As I said above, the church of Christ treats people with respect. It says, you are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), your not a helpless creature of your circumstances or prior upbringing (1 Peter 1:18). You have tremendous potential for good and evil and you have the freewill (Eph. 4:28-5:6) to decide what type of life you will live. Your not hopeless, neither are you genetically inferior. God commands everyone to repent (Acts 17:30), and that means you can change too!
The church of Christ treats young people with respect. It refuses to allow the young to think of themselves as simply bodies of flesh at the mercy of their hormones (Ecclesiates. 12:1; Psalm 119:9; Titus 2:6).
Barclay cites an ancient speech which echoes the sentiment of our generation. 'In his speech Pro Caelio Cicero pleads: "If there is anyone who thinks that young men should be absolutely forbidden the love of courtesans, he is indeed extremely severe..he is at variance not only with the license of what our own age allows but also with the customs and concessions of our ancestors. When indeed was this not done? When did anyone ever find fault with it?' (Ephesians pp. 161-162) In modern language: "Boys will be boys, abstinence is unreasonable, the temptation is too strong, everybody does it, you must allow the young to sow their wild oats, for the young of every generation have, IT'S TRADITION!"
VII. Refuses To Accommodate:
The church of Christ is right for refusing to line up with political correctness, feminism, evolution, homosexuality, and all other man-made theories. I like the church of Christ because it continues to be interested in only one type of individual, i.e. the good and honest heart (Luke 8:15). It refuses to accommodate the wishes of the wayside hearer (Luke 8:12) i.e. you can be saved without obeying Christ, everyone is on the same road to heaven, just as long as you are sincere, it doesn't matter what you believe. It doesn't bow to the demands of the rocky soil hearer (Luke 8:13), i.e. a religion of convenience. It doesn't cater to the thorny soil (Luke 8:14), i.e. serve God and attend when you can find the time in your busy schedule. The church is only interested in the person with a honest and good heart, but it realizes that such a person will be satisfied and content with what God has said.
by Mark Dunagan/ 3-26-95/ Beaverton church of Christ