In This Issue...
People Change, Times Change,
But The Lord's Church Will Never Change!
This article is written for members of the Lord's
church so they may see how the "Unity In Diversity"
philosophy moved into one congregation in North
Carolina and how the "Change Agents" behaved during
THE SEQUENCE OF CHANGE
Our family worshipped at a
congregation in Durham, North
Carolina from May of 1983 until December of 1996. During this
time, I served as a deacon for 3 years and as an elder for 6 years.
Many times during those thirteen years, even while I served as an
elder, our family compromised our faith for the matter of unity in
the church. We were wrong! During 1996, the elders made it
impossible for us to continue worshipping with the church family
that we loved and continue to love. The Scriptures tell us to
worship in both spirit and truth (John 4:24). The elders
maintained the spirit, but they failed to follow the truth that has
been given to all.
In April of 1993, I resigned as
an elder due to extensive
business travel. About the same time, one of the other more
conservative elders, moved to Texas, and one of the most liberal
brothers of the congregation joined the already liberal contingent
of existing elders. The Sunday that I resigned as an elder, and
the day the new elder was appointed, I commented to my wife on the
way home from church, "I wonder if we will be able to worship there
three years from today." Three years and three months later, we
had no choice but to leave.
During the first quarter of 1996,
the elders and the
elder/minister, began making subtle changes to the worship
services. These changes included: changing bulletin weekly,
changing the order of worship constantly, adding responsive
readings between the minister and the congregation, occasionally
deleting closing prayers on occasion and at times not offering an
invitation. Some of the faithful members expressed their concerns
to the elders about these changes but it had no effect. The elders
even provided one family the names of congregations in the area
where they might be able to attend in greater comfort.
During the second quarter the
elder/minister and some of his
supporters, attended the Pepperdine lectures in California. They
returned with great enthusiasm to aggressively continue the change
process in the coming months. Suggestions were made that we should
equip certain members of the congregation with microphones to
enhance the singing. Women were given new roles as "ministry
leaders," since only males could be called "deacons." Women began
co-teaching with men in the adult Bible classes.
In the fourth quarter of 1996,
the elders presented a thirteen
week series in Sunday morning Bible classes entitled "God's Eternal
Kingdom" for the teens and adults. The sermons on Sunday mornings
supported the lessons that were taught by the elders. The elders
stated that the purpose of their lessons were to encourage everyone
to examine their faith and to determine were they were spiritually.
That is exactly what occurred. Christians who wanted to believe in
diversity of the scriptures were pleased, Christians who were not
well grounded in the scriptures were confused, and Christians who
knew the scriptures had to leave because the congregation no longer
represented the church Jesus established. Many meetings were held
with the elders during the closing months of 1996, but nothing
could be done to convince them of the error they were teaching and
of the souls they were leading astray.
THE EFFECTS OF CHANGE
These and other changes are
introduced subtlety by the "change
agents" and many times in the beginning, you will only feel a small
uncomfortable prick as each change occurs. After you get used to
the pricks, the changes won't seem so bad. You can rationalize that
these are just small things and it really doesn't make any
difference, or you can feel guilty for believing the elders are
teaching error. If you go to the leadership with your concerns,
they will tell you not to be concerned, because they know what is
best for your soul. And then, all of a sudden, you look around
and the church that you loved, the church that Christ built, no
longer exists in your congregation. Your heart will ache like you
have never ached before. Then it is too late to recover. As you
try to battle these changes you will be called a Pharisee, a
legalist, a sectarian, and be labeled as judgmental. Being called
names by these "agents of change" is immaterial compared to loosing
A list of changes instituted by
the elders in 1996 are shown
below. Not all of these changes are unscriptural. However, when the
change process begins, changes are made for the sake of change to
soften the bigger blows to come. The changes align with the "Unity
In Diversity" philosophy and illustrates the types of changes that
"change agents" will try to introduce.
CHANGES BLESSED BY THE ELDERS IN WORSHIP SERVICES
were conducted between the
minister and the congregation. The minister read a passage of
scripture and the congregation responded with the next passage of
scripture that followed.
were held for the congregation to
recommit their time, talent and money. The elders and deacons
recommitted their services to the congregation and the congregation
signed commitment forms as to what activities they would be
involved in during the coming year. The elders also intended to let
the children participate in the worship services. Each child was
to bring a drawing to the front during worship and tell the elders
what they had drawn to illustrate what they could do for the
congregation in the coming year.
Changes in bulletin
format were made to resemble
denominational bulletins. Bulletins were gathered from
denominational churches in the area to see what they thought were
pleasing to the masses.
were commonly used as themes for
The number of sermons
decreased by changing the Sunday
evening worship to Bible classes, and then replacing Wednesday
evening Bible classes with "Helping Hand" projects. Helping Hand
Projects included: making sleeping bags for the homeless, visiting
the sick and shut-in, grading World Correspondence Courses, chorus
practice, and children working on play practices. All of these are
worthy projects, however, the children and adults were not getting
fed with sound Bible study.
The number of sermons
decreased by having more praise
services. Praise services included: singing songs, reading
passages of scriptures assigned by the minister, and by offering
multiple prayers during the service. Often, no invitation would be
offered in these services.
CHANGES BLESSED BY THE ELDERS OUTSIDE OF WORSHIP
The role of the deacons
was changed to prevent them
meeting together as a group to make decisions about the physical
needs of the church. Each deacon reported to a specific elder, who
had meetings with his deacons and "ministry leaders." Ministry
leaders are women who serve in the same capacity as deacons, but
without the title of deacons.
Women were allowed to
co-teach and teach adult mixed
gender Bible classes.
Small group ministries
were formed to allow members
to meet in their homes during the week instead of attending
mid-week Bible study at the church. This allows each group to have
more flexibility in their worship.
The church "Chorus"
performed at a local Baptist church
on a Sunday evening in a Christmas concert.
The elders met with
Christian Churches to determine ways
to fellowship together. (1997)
CHANGES IN TEACHING BLESSED BY THE ELDERS
The elders taught that the
only absolutes to salvation are
"Jesus is Lord" and "Baptism." However, when the elders
asked if "baptism for remission of sins" is the only gateway to
heaven, they responded that it would be too judgmental to reach
that conclusion. At least one elder stated that a person who
believes they are saved by grace in the Baptist church, and then
baptized, should be accepted as a brother in Christ. Not to accept
this person's baptism would be judgmental.
One of the deacons, who is in the
School of Religion at a local
university, taught that the kingdom and the church are not
same. He said the kingdom has not come yet, because
knee has not bowed. Two elders sat in the class while he taught
the class without refuting his teachings.
The same deacon also taught that
the church of Christ was
established during the restoration period, and not on the day of
The same deacon has taught that
the book of Jonah is a
fable. He said it was used to teach the will of God, but
story and others did not actually happen.
The congregation was told that
taking the Lord's supper
is an individual decision and that it is not an absolute
salvation. One elder taught a class on the Lord's supper and gave
the following alternatives for taking the Lord's supper.
Take the Lord's supper on Thursday
evening since that is
when the Lord established the supper in the first place.
No conclusion was offered after reviewing these four
alternatives! The bell rang. The class was over! That was it!
Take the Lord's supper once a year since the Jews took a
meal on Passover.
Take the Lord's supper each Sunday. He stated, "The Lord's
supper will be offered here each week, if you choose to take
Don't take the Lord's supper at all. He stated, "There is
more scripture to support foot washing than there is for the
The same elder who made the
statements above, also stated that
"Instrumental music is OK, we just don't use it."
The elders taught that it is an
individual decision to
attend (forsake) the assembly since this is not an
The elder/minister, stated that
a person must have training
in New Hermeneutics to thoroughly understand the scriptures.
ELDERS DENIAL OF KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT
THE "UNITY IN DIVERSITY" PHILOSOPHY
All the elders, except for the
elder/minister, stated that they
neither had knowledge of the "Unity in Diversity" movement, nor
were they familiar with the concept of "Change Agents" in the
church. The elder/minister said he was only "vaguely aware" of
The following facts are presented
for each person to draw their
own conclusion, as to whether the elders, could have had knowledge
of the "Unity in Diversity" in 1996, and particularly could the
elder/minster be only "vaguely aware" of the "Change Agent"
concept. Please consider all of the facts together before you draw
Fact 1 . Rubel
Shelly and Randy Harris were the
authors for most of the supplementary reading material that was
laid out for the congregation to read during the "God's Eternal
Kingdom," series presented by the elders in 1996. The material
came primarily from the book, "The Second Incarnation." The elders
stated that they had not read the material that had been laid out
for the congregation by the elder/minister.
Fact 2. Rubel
Shelly and Mike Cope are co-Editors of
the publication known as Wineskins and Leonard Allen is
feature editor in Wineskins. (This shows Mr. Shelly's
the Wineskins Magazine and shows the elder/minister's
the magazine when considering the following facts.)
Fact 3. In one
class handout prepared by the
elder/minister for the elder's classes in 1996 entitled, "One Body,
Many Members and Many Talents," he refers to Wineskins
and Image as "left wing" and promoting exclusivity and
the denigration of diversity.
Fact 4. The
only magazines in the church library with
display labels are Wineskins, Image and Leaven
magazines. Other publications are packaged together with no labels
showing the contents to the public. By the way, "Seek The Old
Paths" is not included in this package.
Fact 5. Rubel
Shelly, and Mike Cope refer to
themselves as "Change Agents" in their Wineskins
and proclaim in the Wineskins purpose statement that,
"Wineskins is essentially a magazine devoted to
reform and renewal of the church of God.
Fact 6. Rubel
Shelly, Mike Cope, Randy Harris, and the
elder/minister were all speakers at the 1996 Heartland Workshop in
Fact 7. Rubel
Shelly, Mike Cope, Randy Harris, and the
elder/minister were all presenters at the Pepperdine Lectures in
1996. Following these lectures, changes increased in both number
Fact 8. Paul
Watson (the elder/minister) and Dean Smith are co-editors of a
magazine called Leaven. Dean Smith is the minister of
a congregation in San Antonio, Texas. This congregation now has
women leading prayer, serving the Lord's supper, reading scripture,
and serving as deacons in that congregation.
Fact 9. Rubel
Shelly, Mike Cope, Randy Harris and
Leonard Allen have all written feature articles for Leaven
Magazine in which the elder/minister is a co-editor.
After reviewing the facts
presented above, and the changes that
occurred, it is difficult to understand how the elders had "no
knowledge" of "change agents" in the church and that the
elder/minister was only "vaguely aware" of these concepts. If the
elders are telling the truth that they had no knowledge of the
"Unity in Diversity" philosophy, then they are ignorant of the
false teachings that has been presented to the flock and the flock
is being devoured. If the elders are not telling the truth, they
are liars and they shall not inherit the kingdom of God. In either
case, the facts seem to be overwhelming that the elder/minister
knew more than he admitted to the other elders and to the
My family and I are now members
of a new congregation in Durham,
North Carolina, known as the Durham Church of Christ. The
congregation was formed on January 2, 1997, with 31 people in
attendance and has grown steadily in six months to 55 in
attendance. We have had two baptisms and one restoration. We have
also had over a hundred different visitors since our conception.
We are a faithful congregation of the Lord's people who love the
Lord and will continue fighting the evil one from throwing his evil
darts against the church. Please keep us in your prayers as we
strive to do the His work.
Return to Table of Contents
THE BIBLE Versus
"CHANGE AGENTS" #1
Garland M. Robinson
We invite you to focus your
attention on the front page article
by brother Jerry Pence. It is a heart rending commentary on what
happens when brethren cease loving the Truth and are content to
believe the lies of the Devil. He outlines several points which
serve as "warning signs" of the vast and sweeping movement now
current among us. If these things are happening where you worship,
then beware! So many are swept up into this insidious program of
"change." The calls and correspondence we receive from all across
the nation verify just how deeply these things are entrenched in
congregations. If you worship at such a place, we encourage you to
fight it with the Truth (1 Tim. 6:12)! Don't stand still and let
Satan have his way. Love the Truth, nothing but the Truth and
uphold it with all your being. It is the only means of salvation
(John 8:32; 1 Cor. 1:18; Rom. 1:16).
Found below is the beginning of
a series of articles on the
current "Change Agents" conspiracy and deadly movement among us
It certainly is no news to you to
know that we are living in an
age of change. More changes have taken place in the last 50-75
years than perhaps any time in history. Many of you have been
witness of the change from horse and buggy days to space flight.
So many of these things have provided welcomed changes in human
comforts, technology, medicine and travel.
All changes, however, are not
good. There are things that
should not change and must not change. Anything
that changes from the right to the wrong is an improper change. We
cannot change things just for the sake of change! We must
"...continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not
moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have
and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven..."
There is a vast and widespread
movement in the brotherhood
across our land and the world to change the church and everything
we know about the church. Many claim they are tired of the "old
ways" we have always known to be true. Promoters of these changes
insist that the church must change if it is to remain relevant to
society and appealing to the public.
"Change Agents" are the words
that have been applied to those
who have set as their course to change the church. When their hand
is called on their desiring to change the church they often back up
and say we have taken them out of context. They say, "No, that's
not what I mean." They often try to relate it to changes in method
such as in the order of the services -- whether we partake of the
Lord's supper before the preaching or afterwards -- whether we take
up the collection before the Lord's supper or afterwards -- whether
we have Bible classes before worship or after. This is simply a
diversionary tactic to get us away from their real agenda.
One of the most frightening
things about this movement is that
many of these brethren actually think they are doing right. On the
other hand, I'm convinced that many are doing what they are doing
for popularity, prestige, power and/or money. Isaiah said in the
long ago, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put
bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter" (5:20)!
The changes being promoted by so
many from all over come as a
result of men and women doing what they want instead of having a
real interest in what God wants. It is as it was in the days of
Judges 21:25: "...every man did that which was right in his
Let's proceed by examining some
things the "change agents" seek
A NEW HERMENEUTIC
Change agents seek to
change the way we view and understand
the Bible. They have devised a "new hermeneutic." The
hermeneutic is the word that describes the study of the process of
how we interpret and understand the Bible. A "new hermeneutic,"
therefore, implies there is an "old hermeneutic." The old
hermeneutic is the way we have always understood the Bible. We
have long understood, and rightly so, that the Bible authorizes in
one or more of three ways: Direct statement (command), Approved
example (account of action), Implication (that which the Bible
implies to be true).
A direct statement or
command is simply that which the
Bible explicitly states. Jesus made a clear and direct statement
when he said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be
saved...." (Mark 16:16). Therefore, we learn water baptism
essential for salvation.
An approved example
is an account of action performed
by Christians and/or congregations which meets with God's approval.
The church at Troas met on the first day of the week to partake of
the Lord's supper (Acts 20:7). Therefore, we partake of the Lord's
supper each Lord's day.
is that which the Bible implies to be
true. In Matthew 19:9, Jesus said, "And I say unto you,
Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication,
and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth
her which is put away doth commit adultery." No where does
Bible explicitly say that those who have put away their mate for
fornication and marry again are not living in adultery, but such is
implied in this verse. We therefore learn that those who have put
away their spouse because of their fornication and marry again are
lawful and acceptable marriages (provided the one they marry is
also eligible to be married).
All that we say and do must be
authorized in one or more of
these three ways. "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do
all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the
Father by him" (Col. 3:17).
The "new hermeneutic" is a
deliberate effort to discard the old
and set forth a new way of looking at the Bible. In layman's
terms, the best definition I could give of this so-called new
hermeneutic is this: "The Bible really doesn't mean what
says!" They say we must take a fresh look at Scripture
allow for a broader approach of viewing things. This new
philosophy desires to relegate the Bible to everyone's own
interpretation. What the Bible means to you may not be what it
means to me or someone else. Each one is free to interpret the
Bible according to their own culture and human experience.
According to this new doctrine, there is no set standard of
authority. Every man becomes a law unto himself.
This philosophy is far reaching
and encompasses the very fabric
of our society. It is not limited simply to the church and
religion in general. It has rooted itself in the political, social
and educational realms around us. It has become the buzz of the
Some have styled this movement as
is an old philosophy which denies anything miraculous. It denies
the miracles of Jesus and the apostles. Post-modernism is the
liberalistic philosophy that says the only thing for sure one can
know is that no one can know anything for sure. Now, does that
make any sense to you? I don't know how you can get any more
idiotic than that! That's about as stupid as saying a dog walks
with his ears instead of his legs. If no one can know anything for
sure, then how do they know that? Are they sure about that? How
can they be sure no one can know anything for sure?
The only thing one cannot do
under this teaching is to say that
"some one" or "some thing" is wrong. It is a doctrine which says
"anything goes." It's alright to have convictions, they say, but
do not demand that others live by your convictions. There is no
absolute standard of authority under post-modernism. Don't be
exclusive. You can't say there is one right way and all other ways
are wrong! You must be open to new ideas and let others express
their beliefs. Never, no never, say that anyone is wrong in their
It is easily understood that if
one's view of the Bible as the
absolute blueprint for how we are to live and obey God is changed,
then, all other changes they seek to make will naturally follow.
Their attack, therefore, must be centered around the Bible. If
they cannot get you away from the Bible, they must change the way
you view and understand the Bible. This is vital to their very
existence! If you keep turning to the Scriptures to answer their
changes and innovations, they can't handle it because the Truth
always refutes error.
Note these clear and precise
passages which command us to remain
steadfast in the faith, resting upon God's Word. "Watch ye,
stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be
(1 Cor. 16:13). "Stand fast therefore
liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled
again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal. 5:1). "Only let
your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that
whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your
affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit,
mind striving together for the faith of the gospel"
(Phil. 1:27). "Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and
longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord,
my dearly beloved" (Phil. 4:1). "For now we live, if ye
stand fast in the Lord" (1 Thess. 3:8).
"Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions
which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle"
Next month, we'll look at another
area of attack -- the Biblical
limits of fellowship.
Return to Table of Contents
The Kingdom of God and the Church
One of the glorious names or
designations that God has given to
the church is the kingdom of God. As with any name that God gives,
this designation reveals some characteristics about the church. A
kingdom is the dominion over which a king rules. Thus, the kingdom
of God is the dominion over which God rules. For a kingdom to
exist, there are certain criteria that must be met. First, there
must be a king, and in the kingdom of Christ and
Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Acts 17:7; 1
Tim. 6:15; Rev. 1:5; 17:14). Second, there must be
and within the kingdom of God, the spiritual territory is
the hearts of men (Luke 17:20,21; John 18:36). Third, there must be
laws to rule over the kingdom which in the
God's dear Son is the New Testament (Rom. 8:2; Gal. 6:2; James
1:25). Fourth, there must be subjects or citizens
the kingdom, and in God's kingdom, Christians are the subjects
(Eph. 2:19; Col. 1:13). Finally, there must be privileges
afforded to the citizens of the kingdom, and so citizens
Christ's kingdom "receive manifold more in this present time,
and in the world to come life everlasting" (Luke 18:30).
Within the New Testament, the
term kingdom is used in a variety
of ways. It is used of the "kingdoms of the world"
4:8; Luke 4:5) which are the various political systems of men.
Also, it is used of Satan's kingdom. Jesus, when
accused of casting out devils by Beelzebub said, "Every
kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every
city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan
cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his
kingdom stand?" Finally, the majority of the times that this
expression is used is with reference to the kingdom of
Interestingly, the term "kingdom of God" is also used in
variety of ways.
First, the term "the kingdom of
God" is used of Israel.
In Matthew 21:33-40, Jesus told the parable of the
which He likened God to a householder that leased his land to
husbandmen and sent servants to receive the fruit of his land. But
when his servants came, they beat one, killed another, and stoned
another. So, he sent other servants and they did the same. Finally,
the householder sent his son and they slew him. Obviously, the
servants of the parable represented the prophets of old, the son
represented the Son of God, and the husbandmen represented Israel
who had rejected the prophets and God's only Begotten Son.
Therefore Jesus said, "The kingdom of God shall be taken from
you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof"
(Matt. 21:43). When Moses gathered the children of Israel at Mount
Sinai, he said, "And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests,
and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). Now, Israel would no longer
have the privileged blessing of being God's kingdom but the kingdom
would be given to those who would bring forth the fruits of
trusting obedience to Christ.
Second, the term "the kingdom of
God" is used of the
church. While in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus said,
thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church;
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And
give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven:
whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and
whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
In this passage, Jesus used the terms "my church" and "the
kingdom of heaven" interchangeably. He promised to build His church
while giving Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven (i.e. the
terms of admission).
In the Gospel accounts, the
kingdom was yet in the future. John
the baptizer, Jesus, the twelve, and the seventy preached
"Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2;
4:17; 10:7; Luke 10:9). Jesus taught the disciples to pray,
"Thy kingdom come" (Matt. 6:10). When instituting the Lord's
supper, Jesus said, "I will not any more eat thereof, until it
be fulfilled in the kingdom of God...I will not drink of the fruit
of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come" (Luke
22:16,18). Further, Joseph of Arimathaea "waited for the
kingdom of God" (Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50-51). And finally,
Jesus taught that there would be some who heard Him preach and
teach that would "not taste of death, til they have seen the
kingdom of God come with power" (Mark 9:1; Matt. 16:28; Luke
Beginning in the book of Acts,
the kingdom or church was a
reality. Philip, the evangelist, preached "the things
concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ"
to the Samaritans and "they were baptized, both men and women"
(Acts 8:12). Paul writing to the church in Colossae said that
Christ had "delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath
translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:13).
Please notice the tense in this passage. They were (past
tense) delivered and translated. Further, Paul said that the
Christians in Thessalonica were "called" (past tense)
unto or into "his kingdom and glory" (1 Thess. 2:12).
Hebrews 12:28 says, "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which
cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God
acceptably with reverence and godly fear." Again notice the
tense. This is present active. As the Gospel was being proclaimed,
even in the midst of the various trials that they were undergoing,
many were being added to the church. Thus, they were
"receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved." Finally, John,
the apostle of love, was "in the kingdom and patience of Jesus
Christ" (Rev. 1:9).
The fact that the church and the
kingdom of God is one and the
same is further seen in a brief comparison of them.
Both have the same terms
of entrance -- baptism (John 3:3-5; Acts 2:47; Titus 3:5).
Both have the same head
-- Jesus Christ (Col. 1:18; 1 Tim. 6:15).
Both have the same laws
-- "the perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25).
Both have the same
subjects -- Christians (Eph. 2:19; Acts 11:26).
Both have the same seed
-- the word of God (Luke 8:11; 1 Peter 1:22-25).
Furthermore, the church came with
power as Jesus prophesied
concerning the kingdom (Acts 2:2-4; Mark 9:1). And, the church was
established in the days of the Roman Empire as Daniel prophesied
concerning the kingdom that "the God of heaven shall set up"
(Acts 2:5; Daniel 2:44). Too, the church came in the lifetime
of those to whom Jesus taught as Jesus promised concerning the
kingdom (Acts 2:14; Mark 9:1). To the honest and sincere student of
the Bible, there could be no doubt that the church and the kingdom
are one and the same.
Third, the term "kingdom of God"
is used of the "heavenly
kingdom." When Jesus entered into Capernaum, a centurion
the Lord to heal his servant who was sick at home with the palsy.
After the centurion's display of faith, Jesus commended him on his
great faith and rebuked the lame faith of Israel saying,
"Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in
Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and
west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the
kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast
out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of
teeth" (Matt. 8:10-12; See also Luke 13:28-29). Here, the
"kingdom of heaven" has clear reference to the heavenly kingdom for
it is contrasted to the "outer darkness" of hell. Also, notice the
use of "children of the kingdom" which, again, refers to Israel.
Later in describing the last day, Jesus made clear mention of the
heavenly kingdom when Matthew records, "Then shall the King
say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the
world" (Matt. 25:34). A final passage to illustrate this use
is when Paul said, "And the Lord shall deliver me from every
evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom
be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (2 Tim. 4:18).
In these later two uses of the
term "kingdom of God," we find
that the term has both an earthly and a heavenly application.
Interestingly, sometimes in scripture, both uses are found
together. For example, in the parable of the leaven (Matt. 13:33-
43) Jesus said that the good seed are the children of the kingdom
- an obvious earthly application (v.38). Later in the explanation
of the parable, He says, that "the righteous shine forth as
the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (v.43) which is a
clear reference to the heavenly kingdom. Paul does the same in the
great resurrection chapter. In 1 Corinthians 15:24, he writes,
"Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the
kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all
rule and all authority and power." Since the kingdom would be
delivered up, it had to exist before the end of time. This kingdom
is the church in its earthly state. Later in the chapter, Paul
wrote, "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot
inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit
incorruption." Since "flesh and blood" has part in the
here on earth, then this must refer to the heavenly kingdom which
fits the context well.
A special note of consideration
ought to be made concerning the
phrase "the kingdom of heaven." This phrase is uniquely used by
Matthew thirty-three times. "The kingdom of heaven" refers to the
place of God rather than God Himself. In the same way, we often
refer to Washington D.C. as representative of the United States.
Washington D.C. is the capitol -- the place of authority.
Similarly, heaven is the place of authority (Matt. 21:23-27). It is
the realm from which Christ exercises His authority as King over
His kingdom. A close examination of the gospel accounts reveals
that the terms "the kingdom of heaven" and "the kingdom of God" are
used in the same way -- sometimes of the kingdom in its earthly
abode and sometimes in its heavenly estate. Mark 1:14-15 is Mark's
account of the preaching of Jesus. In this text, Mark records that
Jesus came "preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and
saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand:
repent ye, and believe the gospel." In Matthew's account, he
records, that "Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for
the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17). Other
passages establish the same. (A couple of other examples are:
Matthew 5:3 paralleled with Luke 6:20 and Matthew 19:14 paralleled
with Mark 10:14 and Luke 18:16.)
The heavenly kingdom consists of
both Israel and the church. It
is composed of the redeemed of all ages. Only those who are
faithful unto God in whatever covenant they may live under will be
a part of this marvelous heavenly kingdom. Jesus said, "Not
every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the
kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is
in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). In these last times, only those who
are obedient to the gospel of Christ, whom God has added to the
church, and who are citizens of the kingdom will have entrance into
the heavenly kingdom (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
Return to Table of Contents
DO MEMBERS OF THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST NEED
TO HAVE "UNITY MEETINGS" AMONG THEMSELVES?
The blessed Lord prayed, in part:
"Neither pray I for these
alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their
word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I
in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may
believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:20-21). In these
words, Jesus expressed the desire that His followers might have
oneness, even as He and the Heavenly Father had oneness.
If unity is the desire of Christ,
division among those who seek
to be His followers is contrary to His desire, and, therefore, an
evil and a condition which exists that, to say the least, is not
pleasing to the Heavenly Father.
Division among those that have
faith in Christ is an indication
of difference of doctrine or practice. When division exists, one
or all parties may be in error in that respect; but only one could
be right, for those in the right would be alike in that respect.
They might be wrong and differ, but would not be divided and right.
"Can two walk together,
except they be agreed" (Amos
3:3)? "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we
have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his
Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). We may have
fellowship with our neighbors and not walk in the light, but those
that walk in the light have fellowship. "Thy word is a lamp
unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105).
members of the church of Christ cease to walk in this light,
division is the result, be it a division with respect to the fellow
man or division with respect to the New Testament church, or both.
There may be a unity among men without the light, but in the light
is unity only. Submission and obedience to God's word cannot
produce division among those that walk in the light of it.
Division is the result of
disobedience that somewhere has
entered in among the many good people that look to Christ for their
redemption. Those that are of the party or parties that have
allowed false doctrine to divide them from others are perpetuating
division that is contrary to the prayer of Jesus; yet some have
publicly rejoiced in the existence of such division, so that a
person might become a member of the church of Christ that teaches
his own particular doctrine.
Also, division may be good or
evil, viewed as to whether the
division results in a separation from evil toward God's desire or
a separation from God's desire toward evil. Joshua declared in his
last address: "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD,
choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your
fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the
gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but (as for me and my
house), we will serve the LORD" (Josh. 24:12). If there was
to be a division or divisions, Joshua was determined to be on the
side of the Lord only. In rebellion to God's constituted
authority, Korah, in the days of Moses, led in a division among
God's people (Num. 16). It does not appear that Korah was
intending to follow after strange gods, but he was not willing to
walk in the way commanded by the Lord through Moses.
The signification of the word
"church" is "called out." We may
correctly use the term with reference to the world, as being called
out of it. "Love not the world, neither the things that are
in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is
not in him" (1 John 2:15). Jesus said: "Suppose ye that
I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather
division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house
divided, three against two, and two against three. The father
shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father;
the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the
mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the
daughter in law against her mother in law" (Luke 12:51-53).
Following Christ may result in division among friends and family.
In the beginning of the church
"the multitude of them that
believed were of one heart and of one soul" (Acts 4:32).
pleaded like-mindedness "one toward another according to
Christ Jesus: that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God"
(Rom. 15:5-6). But he foretold of a time when "of your
own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away
disciples after them" (Acts 20:30).
Looking back from now to that
time, we see by the light of
history that divisions have occurred among those who profess the
desire to follow in the teachings of the apostles. Since the time
of Paul's warning, some leaders in the church have become
intoxicated on their own teaching and their own authority, walking
somewhat in their own footsteps. They have caused many divisions
and have caused many to follow in those divisions to their soul's
Some of our own brethren have
remarked: "Well, we are trying to
go to the same place." True, but the conflicting doctrines cannot
be ignored as if of no consequence. Can we hope that the Lord will
graciously overlook this fact? Is it not with a feeling of sadness
and with the thought that things in the church are not as they
should be, knowing that there exists division? Paul said this
should not be: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of
our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that
there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined
together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor.
I feel at times there needs to be
"unity meetings" among the
members of the church of Christ -- for we are as divided as any
religious group of people. There is no justification before God or
man for the many divisions which exist in the Lord's church. But
if all would accept what the apostles taught, all of us would be
All of us (I pray it is all of
us) desire unity among the
members of the church of Christ. But we cannot accept the right
hand of fellowship from those who "add to and subtract from" God's
inspired word. Nor can the hand of fellowship be extended to those
who will not "speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where
the Bible is silent."
Inspiration says that if we walk
in the New Testament light, we
have fellowship one with another. When we do so, we will have
unity in the churches of Christ!
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