The Church of God's Choice
by Tim Haile
Have you ever heard the religious admonition telling people to "join the church of their choice?" Is this a biblical admonition? Those who have heard sermons by men like Billy Graham have certainly heard this suggestion made. Of course, with most of these men, including Graham, this would have been, at the very least, their second mistake. One mistake was already made when listeners were promised that their sins would be forgiven solely on the basis of "faith alone." According to the scriptures, in order for faith to save, it must be linked to the other conditions of grace. Faith must be coupled with "doing the will of the Father" (Matthew 7:21) and obeying Christ (Heb. 5:9); It must be coupled with "repentance" (Acts 19:18-19; 20:21); It must be coupled with "confession" (Romans 10:9-10); It must be coupled with "baptism" (Mark 16:16); and it must be coupled with a "walk" (2 Cor. 5:7) and a "life" (Gal. 3:11) that strongly reflect that faith.
The inspired writer James said mere "faith alone" will not save us (Jas. 2:24). He even argued that this is the kind of faith possessed by the devils (Jas. 2:19), and they certainly will not be saved (Rev. 20:10). "Faith alone" was also the kind of faith held by the cowardly rulers in John 12:42-43 who "believed on Christ but would not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the Synagogue; For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." The doctrine of "salvation by faith alone" is completely anti-biblical. All honest Bible students will reject it.
May I "join the church of my choice?"
Let us suppose that a person is taught right concerning the Gospel's conditions of forgiveness, so that he believes its facts and obeys its commands. May that person now simply "join the church of his choice?" God's answer is no, he may not!
1. The idea that one may "join the church of his choice" is based upon the false assumption that there is an equality of rightness between all churches.
Do the promoters of such a doctrine really believe what they are saying? Would it be okay for a Christian to "join" the church of Satan? Should we recommend that people "join" a church like the Unification church founded by the late cult leader, Jim Jones? I wonder what the 900 murdered members of that church would think about the doctrine that says, "just join the church of your choice?" What about the hundreds of other occult churches, would it be good to "join" one of them? Do you see the problem with this doctrine? It dangerously ignores the doctrinal and moral defects of many churches and establishes a false equality between these and others.
Some Churches Are Just Wrong!
Obviously, this is a difficult concept for many religious people to accept, but whole churches can be wrong in their beliefs and practices. Of the seven churches of Asia addressed in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, only two were right (Smyrna & Philadelphia). The other five were facing the prospect of having their "candlestick" (lampstand) removed by God (Rev. 2:5), unless they repented (Rev. 2:5, 16, 21-22; 3:3, 19). This lampstand figuratively represented the church's identity before God (Rev. 1:20), so that the removal of the lampstand represented the removal of the church itself. Churches harboring sinful practices were told to "repent" in order to avoid this fate. Paul told the Corinthian church that their tolerance of a fellow member's adultery would have a backlash against them. Their tolerant attitude towards sin translated into their own acceptance of that sin. The end result was that "a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough" (1 Cor. 5:1-7). If repentance were not forthcoming, the Corinthian church would have faced the same fate as the Ephesian church!
Would it be in harmony with the above passages and principles for us to encourage Christians to "join" the "unrepentant" and "sinful" church of their choice? Many churches have given up the battle against sins like adultery, fornication, homosexuality, abortion, drinking, dancing and gambling. Should we include these churches when advising people to "join the church of their choice?" I think not.
2. The idea that one may "join the church of his choice" suggests equality between human churches and the church built by our Lord and Savior!
To the Christian, it is revolting to even consider comparing man-made churches to the church for which our Lord suffered, bled and died. God, the Son shed His blood for His church (Acts 20:28). He built that church (Matt. 16:18), and He purchased it with His own blood. Jesus' blood was not shed for humanly designed churches, nor did His blood ever purchase such.
The establishment of our Lord's church revealed and exalted the "manifold wisdom of God" (Eph. 3:10-11). The "join the church of your choice" concept exalts mere human wisdom, telling us that human planning is as good as divine planning. However, the Bible says human wisdom pales in comparison to divine wisdom. In fact, "The wisdom of the world is foolishness to God" (1 Cor. 3:19; 2:20). God's thoughts and ways are incomprehensibly "higher" than man's thoughts and ways (Isa. 55:8-9). It is terribly insulting to our Lord's matchless intelligence for men to compare the works of their own hands to the magnificent works of omniscient God.
Which Church Should I Join?
Upon his arrival to Jerusalem, the Apostle Paul "attempted to join himself to the disciples..." (Acts 9:26). God Himself takes care of the "adding" when it comes to membership in the universal church (Acts 2:47), however, as the approved apostolic example of Acts 9:26 teaches, we are personally obligated to seek out and join a faithful local church. This should be a church that "holds forth the word of life," and makes its appeal to that word in all matters of "doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness" (Phil. 2:16; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). It should be a church that worships faithfully by "continuing steadfastly" in the apostle's doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayers and simple, non-instrumental, vocal music to God (Acts 2:42; Eph. 5:19). That church should be organized with elders, who lead and feed the flock that is "among them" (1 Pet. 5:1-4), deacons, who serve that flock (1 Tim. 3:8-13), a preacher, who "speaks as the oracles of God," speaking this truth "in love" (1 Pet. 4:11; Eph. 4:15; 2 Tim. 4:2). This church will have members who are saints (Phil. 1:1). They follow the elder's lead (Heb. 13:7,17), "each one doing his share," and causing "growth in the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:16).
Where Can One Find Such a Church?
Let me assure you that churches, such as the one described above, do exist, but one must look for them. A short parable, in Matthew 13, emphasizes this process of searching for and finding the right way. Before the merchant was able to find the "pearl of great price" he had to "search" for it (Matt. 13:45-46). The same is true with the church of God's choice. In order to find it, a person must search for it. He must weed through the many human churches that are built to honor either some man or woman's name or favorite doctrine, and he must find the church, which strives in all things, to honor Jesus Christ. By finding such a church, he discovers a beautiful pearl. As the parable states, such a person is willing to make sacrifices in order to acquire such a possession. He is willing to sell all that he has in order to obtain this priceless object.
Along with having the above characteristics, true churches are composed of conscientious members who, though they may not be sinlessly perfect, yet they do absolutely abhor sin (Rom. 12:9). Such people "walk in the light" by "practicing righteousness," they do not practice sin (1 Jn. 1:7; 3:7,9). They realize that sin is "exceedingly terrible" (Rom. 7:13) and if unforgiven, will ultimately lead to eternal damnation (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, when the child of God sins, his godly sorrow will move him to quickly repent and pray for forgiveness (2 Cor. 7:10; 1 Jn. 1:9; Acts 8:22). His fellowship with God is so very important to him that his first priority is to "seek" God's kingdom and "His righteousness" (Matt. 6:33). This is his primary objective in life. All other things are merely incidental to this goal.
Are you a member of the church of God's choice? If not, we hope you will become one. We hope you carefully examine the above passages and reflect upon your condition before God. Contact us if we can help you in your search.
7693 Russellville Rd.
Bowling Green, KY. 42101
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