“But My Church Teaches…”

Posted on March 29, 2014
Filed Under General, The Church | 1 Comment

Many Bible studies end in disagreement, with one participant declaring: “I see what you are saying, but my church teaches…” I have heard such declarations when it comes to obedience, roles in the church, work of the church, and many other topics. In such cases, the church is set forth as a source of authority. The problem is, no where in scripture is the church identified as such a source of authority. In reality, what any given church believes or practices does not establish truth. Instead, we must identify the proper source of truth, and as churches, if we desire to be faithful, follow that truth.

Jesus teaches…

Rather than seeking to find authority in the beliefs and practices of some church, we should realize that Jesus is the source of authority. After His crucifixion, and prior to His ascension, as Jesus was sending His disciples out to teach the gospel message, He said:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).

It is based on this authority that we must act. In the end, it does not matter what any church believes or practices if it is outside of the authority of Jesus Himself.

Some have adopted the idea that we must take what Jesus actually said (that which is printed in red in our Bibles) as important, and authoritative, but that all of the rest can be accepted or rejected at will. This has led to many ignoring the writings of the apostles and other inspired writers in the New Testament. Those writings, often, are considered to be optional instructions.

It is interesting to note that Jesus Himself told His disciples that there would be more instructions that would come later, revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. What would come later, through the revelation of the Holy Spirit was a part of what Jesus deemed to be “all truth.”

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you (John 16:12–15).

This happened, and after His ascension, the Holy Spirit was sent to the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, and they were able to preach the gospel message in its perfection to the Jews who were still gathered in Jerusalem for the Holy Days. Paul, who identified himself as “one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:8), wrote about the process by which he and the other inspired writers were taught the message, and penned it for believers of all time to know:

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory (Ephesians 3:1–13).

The Holy Spirit revealed the mind of God to these inspired men, who conveyed it to their audiences by writing it down, and by preaching it to them orally. The teaching these men did (either written or orally) bore the same weight of authority as the teaching the came directly from the mouth of Jesus! The message these men delivered by inspiration was the very same message that Jesus told His apostles would come through the Holy Spirit to them, which was a message delivered by His authority! When the message of the gospel is overlooked because “Jesus didn’t say it,” there is a problem! Rejecting any of the message of the New Testament is rejecting the message of Christ Himself. In fact, as Paul wrote to the Thessalonian brethren, he was able to praise them for regarding the message he delivered to them as the word of God:

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

It is these recorded scriptures that can ensure that we become what God wants us to be. Jesus demands that we follow His instructions, and when we do, we can become complete as Christians.

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked (1 John 2:3–6).

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

By following His instructions, keeping His commandments, we can be complete, and we can prepare ourselves for “very good work.” God’s word provides all the authority that we need for every faithful belief and practice. If the practices of a church are not in accordance with that authority, then its practices are contrary to the will of the Lord. Why would we want to continue in a church that operated outside of the authority of the Lord? After all, if it is not under His authority, then it is not His church!

The church obeys…

Once we realize that the Lord is the source of authority, and that authority is conveyed through His revealed word (spoken through Christ Himself, and penned by writers inspired of the Holy Spirit), then the rational conclusion is that the church must be obedient! It is not a source of authority (i.e., “My church says…”) but rather a body of believers that will conform themselves to every command given by the Lord in His holy scriptures!

Many of the New Testament epistles were written because local bodies had already started to depart from the word that had been revealed in the first century. The Corinthians were full of problems, addressed systematically by the apostle Paul in his first letter to them. They heeded his correction on many of those things, making it possible for Paul to praise their changes in his second letter. The Galatian brethren were rebuked because they were straying from the original message that had been delivered to them:

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6–9).

They had already received the truth, but they needed to be reminded. The truth had not changed! They had to conform themselves to the teaching that had been delivered. Paul told the Corinthians that he taught the same things in all the churches (1 Corinthians 4:17). God does not require something of one person (or group) and something different of others. The concept of denominationalism is foreign to God’s instructions! In fact, Paul condemned such division early in the existence of the church:

Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul (1 Corinthians 1:12–13)?

Such division was not acceptable in the first century and it is not acceptable now. The only way for us to avoid such division is for all to look to the word of God as authoritative, and to be obedient to it!

Rather than appealing to “my church” as an authority when a biblical question is under consideration, I need to appeal to the scriptures. It doesn’t matter what some church teaches. It doesn’t matter what some individual teaches. What matters is what God has said on the matter. If we can find the answer in scripture, then it doesn’t matter what “my church” believes.

After the answer is found in scripture, then it becomes of paramount importance what “my church” believes and practices. If the church that I am a member of is teaching and practicing anything contrary to scriptures, then I know it is not the Lord’s church! We should examine all practices against the scriptures, and be willing to commit ourselves to finding the truth, and conforming to it in every way!