by Kenneth E. Thomas
There can be no exception to this rule. The apostle Paul writing by divine inspiration also used this fact to prove man's accountability before God when he wrote-"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7).
Any teaching which results in making folks something other than, or in addition to, "Christians" is not the pure seed of the kingdom of Christ don't you see? If a person should go to the seed store and purchase some seed with the understanding that it was a particular type seed, when they planted the seed they could be assured that the plant it would produce would be identical to the parent plant from which the seed was harvested! There are no exceptions to this rule in the material realm. If when the seeds came up there was a variety of plants all different, one would know immediately that someone had knowingly or unknowingly mixed the seeds. I do not call into question the sincerity of folks who have taken another name than the name "Christian" religiously. I just know that they have accepted some other teaching (seed) other than the pure word of God to have become something else. Pure gospel seed will not produce a crop of "ist", "tist", and "dist." That is an utter impossibility because of God's nature, and of His laws which are consistent in both the spiritual and natural realms of life!
God is not the author of confusion affirmed the apostle Paul in (1 Cor. 14:33). The many religious names divide would be followers of Christ and tend to thwart the prayer of Christ for unity among "believers" as well as the apostles' teaching (John 17:17-21; 1 Cor. 1:10-12; Rom. 16:16-18; 2 John 9-11). Taking the passages just cited in order, let us see what they teach. Can one claim to be a believer in Christ and disregard what He said here? You know the answer to that. He even asked some folks "But why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say" (Luke 6:46). "Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth....neither pray I for these (the apostles ket) alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; That they all may be ONE (Emp. mine ket); 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" (caps mine ket).
"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. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name (by the authority of ket) Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name."Can't you see the seriousness of wearing divisive names from just the two contexts of passages we have already read together? Surely one not blinded by tradition and or prejudice can!
Our next reference actually says among other things what I have as the heading above:
"Salute one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them (identify or call their name ket) which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned (in the first century ad ket); and avoid them. For they that are such serve NOT OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (unlearned ket).Do these passages carry any weight at all to you dear reader? They are indeed powerful to me!
Those who promote divisions by teaching that there is "nothing in a name" as do our Protestant friends, and who promote the idea of "join the church of your choice" on the religious scene are those guilty of doing exactly what Christ prayed should not be, and what His inspired apostles condemned as signs of carnality, not of spirituality (see 1 Cor. 3:1-9)! The next few passages we have cited above say as plainly as it is possible for something to be said that those who go beyond the doctrine of Christ or His teachings, "hath not God", that one cannot miss what is here revealed. Not only that, these passages show that to encourage and not speak out against error is to make one just as guilty as those who propagate it.
"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine (teaching ket)of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed: For he that biddeth him Godspeed is partaker of his evil deeds."It is sometimes claimed that all John was condemning was those who rejected Jesus as the divine Son of God who came in the flesh. No, that isn't all that these passages mean. It isn't only talking about the doctrine about the deity of Christ. No, it is the teachings as given by Christ. It is like Jesus' statement "beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Jesus plainly told His disciples that he meant the "teachings of those folks" (Matthew 16:6-12). Doctrines which originate with uninspired men when believed and practiced will negate one's attempts to worship God acceptably. Jesus also said this in (Matt. 15:1-9).
In the beginning of New Testament religion, the religion of Jesus Christ, one was either a Christian by virtue of accepting Jesus as divine and obeying the gospel commands, or one was yet in the kingdom of darkness, Satan's rule. Since "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). All are in need of God's Savior-for the "wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). Jesus is man's only hope of reconciliation unto God (John 14:6; Romans 5:6-11). Reconciliation unto God is only in the "one body" (the church ket) which Jesus purchased with His own precious blood on Calvary's tree (Eph. 2:10-17; Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). The terms of coming into this relationship made possible by the love, mercy, and grace of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, are so plain that they cannot be missed if one will just read for one's self from the New Testament, and not allow some Protestant or Catholic to confuse the issue.
See if you can understand the following: "And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:15-16). To whom did Jesus promise salvation? The believer who is baptized. He did not say "he that believeth is saved and should then be baptized." No, not at all. That is what our Protestant preachers and friends say and it isn't in the Bible don't you see? Read also the following "great commission" passages (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-49). You may also read what Jesus said to Nicodemus in (John 3:3-5). One would do well to see also the parallel between Jesus' statement to this ruler of the Jews and what Paul by inspiration wrote as to how and when God saves one by the "washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:3-5). Most of our religious neighbors condense John 3:3-5 and take out the water. The "new birth" is of two elements, the "water and the Spirit." We believe both. The teachings of the Holy Spirit command the believers to repent, confess faith in Jesus, and to be immersed into His death and into the one body bought by His blood. One isn't a Christian until and unless one has done so (Acts 2:22-38, 41, 47; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-6; Acts 17:30-31; Luke 13:3; Romans 10:9-10; Acts 8:26-39; Gal. 3:26-29; Col. 1:13-14). I do wish space would permit the writing out of all Scriptural references, but it is not possible just here.
Look again at Paul's writings in (1 Cor. 1:10-12; 3:1-9). Not only does this context teach the error of wearing divisive human names rather than or even in addition to, the name of Christ. It teaches that one cannot wear the name of Christ or "Christian" who hasn't been baptized by His authority! See? What is baptism by Christ's authority? It isn't into some man's name or some organization's name! Baptism by Christ's authority is not of one who "claims salvation by faith only" or at the point of acceptance of Jesus as the Christ. No, not at all. Baptism by Christ authority is into the "name of Christ" (1 Cor. 1:13). It is "for the remission of alien sins" (Acts 2:38). Compare (Acts 2:38) with (Matthew 26:28) and it is plain to see that one is to be baptized (immersed ket) for the exact same reason that Jesus shed His blood! Why did Jesus die? Was it because men were saved already? You know better of course. Then why do folks say one is saved and later baptized if we are to be baptized for the same reason Jesus shed His precious blood? Their creeds say that is their position. It is as false as it can be! Saul of Tarsus was a believing, confessing, penitent, praying, fasting individual and still had every alien sin held against him until the preacher inspired of the Holy Spirit gave him his instructions as to how to be forgiven. Since only the blood of Jesus can "wash away sins" (Revelation 1:5; Romans 5:9), and since Saul was told to ".. arise and be baptized...and wash away thy sins..."(Acts 22:16), we know that sins aren't forgiven before or without baptism.
Not only so, but one must know why and do it for the Bible purpose for baptism to be valid according to (Romans 6:16-18). Not only is one to be baptized into the "name of Christ," one is to be "baptized into the church of Christ" as we noticed in (Eph. 2:11-16). Compare that with (Acts 2:44,47; Col. 1:13-14; 1 Cor. 12:13). Every person who was washed in the blood of Jesus in the first century AD by obeying the gospel, took the family name Christian as a proper name (Acts 11:26; Acts 4:10-12; Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 4:16; Acts 26:28; 1 Cor. 1:10-12).
It would have actually been impossible for one to have become anything but simply and only a Christian in the beginning. Has the Bible changed? Will it make one who believes and follows it something other than just a Christian today? No, No, a thousand times, No! The Bible only will still make a Christian only! Not only that, it will make the only Christians! If by some fluke one did obey the simple gospel plan of salvation and everything else was right in his spiritual life except he wears some name religiously other than or in addition to, "Christian," that alone would be sufficient to place that person into digression from the faith once delivered and in need of disassociating one's self from those who wear unscriptural man-made names in religion. If one is unwilling to do this and dies in that state one will die an apostate and separated from the Lord Jesus. Why do I write so boldly about this point? Because one must "abide in the doctrine of Christ" to have God, and one cannot do this while wearing a name unauthorized by Christ in the doctrine of Christ! See (John 12:48; Revelation 22:18-19; Gal. 1:6-11).
Some great men in the past attempted to lead others out of religious errors with which they were familiar. Some of these men's search for the truth has blessed others of us now living. I appreciate men of conviction even though their understanding was not totally true on every point. Martin Luther is one such man. He died believing the ungodly doctrine of "salvation by faith only." He also died believing that children are born black with sin, two doctrines still generally held by Protestants today with rare exceptions. He was as wrong as wrong can be on both of those doctrines and so are you if you believe either of them. See (1 Jno. 3:4; Jas. 1:13-15; Matt. 18:1-4; 19:14; Jas. 1:18-25; 2:14-26). I hope you will read those passages for this article isn't being written to develop those two themes. We are speaking of the name one must wear to honor Christ.
Many Bible students will immediately recognize the names of these two "great men." Now I write a quote from "The Life of Luther, by Stork, pg. 289.
"I pray you to leave my name alone, and call not yourselves Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine. I have not been crucified for anyone. St. Paul would not let any call themselves after Paul, nor of Peter, but of Christ. How then, does it befit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of God? Cease my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions: away with all; and let us call ourselves only Christians after Him from whom our doctrine comes."Charles Spurgeon was a Baptist preacher who by the way would not allow an instrument of music to be used in the tabernacle where he preached for years in London, England. He did not teach what the Baptist preachers of this community and around the world teach today. Following is one example.
"I say of the Baptist name, let it perish, but let Christ's name last forever. I look forward with pleasure, to the day when there will not be a Baptist living. I hope they will soon be gone. I hope the Baptist name will soon perish; but let Christ's name endure forever."(Spurgeon Memorial Library, Vol. 1, pg. 168).
In order to become a Methodist and a member of the Methodist church one must accept some of what the Bible teaches to be sure. In addition to that however, one must also accept some of those things that are peculiar to Methodism. One cannot take only the Bible and become a Methodist. Why? Seed reproduces only after its kind as we have pointed out, and New Testament seed produced only a "Christian." Of course Christians are also "children" "sons and daughters" "disciples" "priests" "brethren" etc. but those aren't proper nouns or names. Those show the family relationship and the Christian is all of those.
To become a Baptist and a member of the Baptist church one must do likewise as above. The Bible only will never make one a Baptist and consequently when one does so, he/she has accepted something in addition to the Bible's instruction and is guilty of adding to the confusion and division that exists here in this community and around the world. Add any name you choose to the two above, and they too, are condemned as additions to the word and will of Christ and constitute those who "abide not in the doctrine of Christ.." (2 John 9-10).
This is serious business of which I write. Your soul's salvation is under consideration. I don't care if Shakespeare did say "a rose by any other name is just as sweet." I think it was Shakespeare. That may be true of roses, but not in the spiritual realm (Col. 3:17).
One cannot pronounce the name Christian without honoring his namesake, Christ. He is to be given the preeminence in "all things" (Col. 1:18). He is the "head of His church and the Savior of the body" (Eph. 1:22-23; Eph. 5:22-25). He has been given a name which is above every other name both in heaven and on the earth (Phil. 2:5-11). He is before all things, and by Him all things consist (are held together) (Col. 1:13-18). Paul said "unto Him (the Father) be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end A-men." From time to time someone with whom I am discussing the word of God will say, "Well I am a Christian first, and a Baptist or Methodist or whatever denomination they are a member of by choice." Then my friend I don't know where you ever got the idea that God gives men such choices. We can make choices alright in our free society but that isn't to say that God will honor such choices! No, no, we must choose to follow what His choice is in everything including the name(s) we wear religiously. Can't you see that? When is one a Christian?
Below are some cases of conversion as found in the Acts of the apostles. Each of them follow the same divine pattern as expressed by Jesus when he gave His apostles the "great commission."(Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45-49). See for yourselves if you are sufficiently interested in where your soul will reside forever and ever and ever.
1. On the birthday of Christ's church (Acts 2:22-47).
2. The people of Samaria (Acts 8:5-13).
3. The treasurer of a queen (Acts 8:26-39).
4. Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-6; 22:16).
5. Cornelius the first Gentile (Acts 10:47,48).
6. Lydia (Acts 16:14-15).
7. The Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:30-33).
Conversions to Christ always followed the same logical divine pattern. They were taught the gospel of Christ which is God's power to save mankind (John 6:44-45; Rom. 10:8-17; Mark 16:15; John 10:16). The believers had to repent of sin and error after learning the truth of the gospel (Acts 2:38; Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30-31; 2 Pet. 3:9). They then confessed with the mouth their faith prior to immersion into Christ (Acts 8:37; Rom. 10:10; Matt. 10:32-33). The final act of the "new birth" of the water and of the Spirit was baptism into Christ and into the one body for the remission of sins. This one thus "born again" into the family of God (1 Tim. 3:14-15), took the family name, "Christian" and became subject to the family inheritance, eternal life if faithful unto death (John 14:1-6; Revelation 14:15; 22:14; Matt. 7:13-28; Revelation 2:10; Col. 1:20-24; Heb. 10:24-39).
What about you? Do you have the right through the grace of God to wear the "worthy name" that some blaspheme? If not contact some of us who are simply Christians and have no denominational affiliations and allow us the blessed privilege of assisting you in "obeying the gospel" (2 Thess. 1:6-10; 1 Pet. 1:22-25). Written with a burning desire to see souls saved and Jesus, His Father and ours glorified (Matt. 5:13-16; Eph. 3:20-21). God is glorified only when men submit to His will in everything. I want to end this study with a quote from a prominent man's statement of how it was in the first century before the introduction of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism into the world. How it was then, is how it still is today with Christ's approval you see. The altering or subtracting from, as well as adding to the word of Christ, is condemned in no uncertain terms by inspiration (Gal. 1:6-11; 2 Jno. 9-11; Rev. 22:18-19; 1 Cor. 4:6; 1 Pet. 4:11). All divine truth has been "one time for all time" revealed see (Jude 3; John 16:12-13; Jas. 1:25).
"It is most likely that in the Apostolic age when there was but "one Lord, one faith, and one baptism," and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership. In that sense, "baptism was the door into the church." Now, it is different; and while the churches are desirous of receiving members, they are wary and cautious that they do not receive unworthy persons. The churches therefore have candidates come before them, make their statement, give their "experience," and then their reception is decided by a vote of the members. And while they cannot become members without baptism, yet it is the vote of the body which admits them to its fellowship on receiving baptism."What a fatal admission to denominationalism! To admit to the fact of the Bible's teaching (which by the way has not changed, ket), and to say "now it is different!" My brethren and I have asked our Baptist friends (and properly so), "who made it different? Does this difference meet with the Lord's approval?" As we have shown already in this article repeatedly, any different teaching and practice is called "not abiding in the teaching of Christ.." (2 Jno. 9-10). Those who go beyond this teaching (and they have, admittedly), Scriptures says "hath not God!"
You do not have to remain in denominationalism whether it be Roman Catholicism or Protestantism. No, you can step out and stand upon the truth of Jesus Christ and become a free man or woman subject to no man, only to the authority of Jesus Christ (Col. 3:17; Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22-23; Matt. 28:18). If you believe with all of your heart that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God who died for your sins, was buried, resurrected and exalted to God's right hand, where He now rules and reigns, then repent, confess Him as your Lord and be immersed into His death and into the one body, the church while time and opportunity are yours. You will never regret taking these Scriptural steps that you may stand by faith and be saved by grace through the blood of Jesus Christ. For many the sacrifices will be many and the price high but worth every sacrifice and all the costs and then some (Luke 18:28-30). So in closing, let me say again as lovingly and as kindly as I know how. "The Bible only will still make you a Christian only." If you are something in addition to, or besides just that, you have followed something other than the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and you can have no assurance that Christ is pleased with your service.