With this article, this author hopes to compose and publish a few consecutive articles regarding our prayer for the future of the Lord’s church using facts from its history. As suggested by history scholars, “If we don’t know our history, we’re bound to repeat it.” There is no intent to rehash the past, but rather to learn from it that the diligence of God’s children might increase, and from that diligence make our calling and election sure. (2 Peter 1:10) Admittedly, the desire for such a series arises from recent reading and study of the history of the Lord’s church within the twentieth century. Purposely, names of preachers and even publications are withheld. It seems more appropriate for this series to review the “attitudes” of the past and the results as well as the “desires” of brethren for the furtherance of the gospel and consequently, the furtherance of the Lord’s church as souls obey the gospel. All comments (pro or con) and questions should be directed to the author. MJD
History – part 1
History is a product of daily activity. It cannot be changed once the activity, via word or deed (Colossians 3:17) is completed. While mankind may attempt to change the facts of history, facts remain facts and indelibly carved into the pages of reality by those who heard and saw. As Peter said when charged to end his speaking of Jesus (which was new to the magistrates of Jerusalem), “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) Honesty becomes the chief criteria of factual history, in that honesty will not distort the facts of words or deeds. As witnesses to any event will have their perspective of what they saw and heard, careful and honest gathering of that information will bring about the completeness of the activity to its perfect conclusion: much the same as piecing together a 100o piece jig-saw puzzle. Therefore, the old song taught to children saying, “Watch your eyes, your lips, your hands, your feet what they do” becomes wise advice to not only youth but to seasoned adults as we walk through the valley of life. What you say and do becomes history … history that God sees in the making! (Hebrews 4:12)
Since its beginning (Acts 2), the Lord’s church has faced difficult challenges against its integrity. We must carefully note the difference between failures of the Christians and failures of the Lord’s church. Of the former, there are examples of individuals (Demas, Hymeaeus, Alexander, Philetus, et al) and even local works (Ephesus, Revelation 2:4 for one) whose faith faltered, and whose souls were eternally endangered. Unless these repented of their sins, we know the consequences of their errors: 2 Thessalonians 1:7 – 9. We cannot change that history; it is recorded in the sacred record that we might learn from such reality!
Of the latter, we learn from Daniel 2:44 the kingdom of God will never be destroyed. Further validity of his prophecy comes from the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself, the head of the body the church (Colossians 1:18). He said, “…upon this rock (i.e., the reality that He is indeed the Son of God) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) Additionally, we learn Jesus will present this same kingdom (i.e., the church) to God the Father in the last day (1 Corinthians 15: 24 – 28). Thus, it should be apparent that it is not the Lord’s CHURCH that changes, but rather members within its composition (1 Peter 2: 1 – 10; Ephesians 2:11 – 22).
While many may claim the old “the people are the church and the church is the people” argument, the same realize precisely what I’ve shown: viz. each individual is responsible for their own salvation (Philippians 2:12). It is not the CHURCH that will be cast into eternal damnation for sinful words and deeds, it is the LOST SOUL (Matthew 25:31 – 46). Therefore, the discipline of the soul (Hebrews 12: 1 – 13) requires personal diligence (ibid. verses 12 – 13) in both what is said and what is done! History records it accurately!
History also shows us the preciseness of conflicts that deter one from truth and righteousness. Two elements appear as the prominent culprits of division: the first is doctrinal, the second is personality. Jesus said, “My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:16 -17) Paul, by inspiration, warned we can neither teach nor accept any other doctrine (Galatians 1:6 – 12). Therefore, we rightly conclude that when division comes over “doctrinal issues” it is because some soul (or souls) are more inclined to their own way of thinking than to God’s Word! Who causes the “conflict” in such cases? Regarding “personalities”, Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Peter, by inspiration, expounded on this truth when he said, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:” (see 1 Peter 2:21 – 25). Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) and more meticulously reiterated the statement at Colossians 3: 1- 17. When “personality” conflicts arise, Christ Jesus is absent within one or the other (or both) of the expressed attitudes. Thus, who creates the problem: the one displaying the personality of Christ (aka. “life” – C0l. 3:1-4; Gal. 2:20), or the personality displaying the person of mankind? History does not error!
History reveals both DOCTRINAL and PERSONALITY conflicts could have been avoided had the disputants calmly, reverently, and diligently come to focus on God’s Word instead of the desires of mankind, regardless of how well-intended! (See Matthew 18: 15 – 20). No one will ever “improve” the Lord’s church; for nothing God has fashioned can be improved! (Genesis 1:31; Ephesians 3:8 – 12 regarding the church). Therefore, the DOCTRINE of the Lord’s church is unchangeable (John 12:44 – 50). As for PERSONALITIES, yes, they can change and must! Compliance with God’s Word is not optional! History records daily how well we individuals have learned that lesson!