Question:

Hi,

I was going through 'How do I deal with non-Christian friends?' Several questions went through my mind. How do we define 'Christian' friend? Because I have friends in the Lord's church who are there, because. well. that's where they were born. Then I have other friends who are Pentecostals and SDAs who, though we share different beliefs, we share the same morals. I hope I'm making sense to you. I actually enjoy the company of my SDA and Pentecostal friends more than I enjoy the company of those from the church of Christ because even when together the forms of entertainment we enjoy are really clean, if I may use that word. None of them drink, or smoke or have multiple boyfriends or girlfriends, go to clubs, etc. That's why now I end up confused about why you stress the presence of one 'physical' church of Christ.

I believe there is one church as stated in Ephesians 4, but I disagree with you that it's a physical church. I believe it to be a spiritual oneness. For example, suppose someone is born to a couple who are members of the Seventh Day Adventists. They teach him the SDA doctrine and he fully embraces it. It will be difficult if not impossible for him to change. Even if he has aptitude and longs to research, his first preference would be to ask what Ellen White says.

Then when Hebrew and Greek terms are introduced and their meanings deciphered, it becomes a matter of choosing what A or B says because only a few of you understand Greek and Hebrew. So when the argument turns to 'The original Greek is ... and it means ...' If he had been born to parents from the church of Christ, he would choose what Y says about the original Greek, but since he grew up in an Adventist environment, He will choose what X says.

Then I make the further observation that my friends who are not members of a church of Christ actually study the Bible more than my church of Christ friends, and we actually have more to discuss and teach one another. The problem comes to places where 'the original Greek or Hebrew reads ...' So if now our example above, the boy who studies the Bible more than a boy from the church of Christ is destined for Hell. The boy who from a church of Christ is just an obedient child, doesn't put a lot of effort in Bible study but just does what he grew up seeing his parents do is destined for Heaven. Doesn't that prove predestination?

At the moment I have two views which I believe are mutually exclusive, either the church of Christ does not physically exist but exists spiritually where God has His sheep, which are not currently in His fold but when they hear His voice they will come to His fold. Some are in the Roman Catholic church, the Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist, etc. or it's a case of predestination. I'm not talking about the TULIP but a case of predestination where let's take as an example a movie or a book. The main character gets to the train thinks about going on the train. Decides not to. We can say he freely chose not board the train, but he was predestined by the script, not to. Though in his mind, he chose freely. Then of course, are my SDA, and Pentecostal friends 'Christian ' friends. I know about baptism. I just hope I didn't jumble my words too much and you can pick out what I was trying to say.


Answer:

I find your message interesting because you start out with a false premise. You claim there is an emphasis on a physical church while there is nothing on this web site from which you can draw such a conclusion. Your wording doesn't match your argument. I believe you are wanting to claim that there should not be an emphasis on the churches of Christ, but then that leaves me wondering about the sincerity of your note since the answer you reference does not mention the church, only about the need to be a Christian. I conclude you were merely looking for a platform from which to launch your belief that there are saved people in all denominations.

What you are really claiming is that it doesn't matter what a person believes, so long as they are sincere, moral, and like to talk about their beliefs. The fact that a Jehovah Witness denies that Jesus is God doesn't bother you, even though the Bible says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:1, 14). The fact that a Roman Catholic believes Mary and other saints intervenes on prayers directed to them doesn't bother you, even though the Bible says, "For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6). You even state that it doesn't bother you that your Seventh Day Adventist friends believe the writings of a woman from the 1800's are equal to the Scriptures, even though Jude said, "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Each of these groups do not believe the same. Each believes that if you are not members of their group, that you won't make it to heaven.

The only way you can come to the conclusion that people who believe vastly different things can all be saved is to assume that most beliefs don't matter and that God is only concerned about certain key points. But that belief is false. God never states that men are allowed to ignore or change His teachings. "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. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-10). The idea that there can be a "spiritual oneness" without agreement is false. "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3).

I have no idea where you attend, but the idea that members of the church can be saved while living immoral lives, which is what you are claiming, is false (I Corinthians 6:9-10). You seem to be saying that your denominational friends are more moral than the young people you know at church. That is merely a sad statement of how poorly your congregation is following the teachings of Christ. It is not evidence that the teachings in the Bible are wrong when people don't follow them.

I find it amusing that you basically state that your denominational friends do not listen to reason. They will stick with the teachings of their denomination despite any contrary evidence. If they must, they will twist definitions and alter verses to match their beliefs, but they will not change. Then you turn around and claim that members of the church are wrong for standing by the Bible. If stubbornness is acceptable, why aren't you applying your standard evenly? Not that I believe that sticking to a doctrine simply because it is what I always thought is correct, but the insistence that a follower of Christ must stand by the words of Christ is both logical and necessary. "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia -- remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine" (I Timothy 1:3).

I'm sorry, but your argument about knowledge of the original language is very poor. First, a person can understand what the Bible states without needing to go to the original languages. However, we have people claiming that passages have been mistranslated, such as the Jehovah Witnesses' claim that John 1:1 doesn't state that Jesus was God but only a god. To answer this point requires going to the source. It isn't a matter of multiple right answers. The language has a single meaning and it can be proven. Jehovah Witnesses don't accept the truth but that is because they aren't interested in truth, they are interested in proving their teachings. "And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (II Thessalonians 2:11-12). But their denial does not mean an honest person cannot open Bibles and reference books and not come to the correct conclusion. It appears to me that you never have studied the Scriptures to this level of depth and, therefore, are talking from ignorance rather than from knowledge. "How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge" (Proverbs 1:22).

You claim that your denominational friends study the Bible more than members of the church you belong to, which by the way would include you. Yet, for all their study, they don't follow what the Bible says, except in part. Again, if you and members of your church are not engaged in Bible study, then that is a fault against you for not listening to God. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15). It doesn't mean that Christians are wrong for insisting on Bible study.

If you have come to the conclusion that being a member of a church that has "Church of Christ" on its sign will get you into heaven, then you are sadly mistaken and haven't learned much from your time in the church. "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (I Peter 4:17).

I know many moral people among the denominations, but moral living is just one part of being a Christian; it is not the whole of it. "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son" (II John 9).

"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).

Hello once again.

I'm so happy for your response. I really enjoy it when someone responds, although I apologize for not being clear in my first note. English is not my first language and I at times have trouble articulating my thoughts. I hope you can bear with me. I will try to number my questions so as to match my responses. I hope you will be direct in responding as well.

  1. You claim there is no emphasis on a 'physical' church on your wonderful web site. My question: Is there a physical church?
  2. I believe there is one true church. But I'm not of the belief that it's really 'physical.'
  3. It bothers me that a Jehovah's Witness doesn't believe that Jesus is God. It bothers me that a Roman Catholic believes that dead people can assist in prayer. It bothers me even more than Seventh Day Adventists believe in a 'prophet' who thought the world would end in 1844 and ended up changing the definition of world ends in 1844.
  4. Here is where I believe you lost me. You seem to have gotten the idea that I said that members of a church can be saved while living immoral lives. That is totally false. If I implied that, probably due to my difficulty in using English, I didn't mean to but I sure did not state anything of that sort. What I said was "'The boy who is from a church of Christ is just an obedient child, doesn't put a lot of effort in Bible study but just does what he grew up seeing his parents do." Take note of the word "obedient." There are some who live moral lives and follow what the preacher says without being like the Bereans of Acts 17:11 who search to see if what the preacher said was true even in the churches of Christ. My point then becomes, this moral individual who listens to the preacher is really no different from another moral individual who is in an SDA setup. Who also listens to the preacher and does likewise. They really follow traditions without much biblical knowledge, but it just so happens that the traditions they follow, coincide with biblical truth, but for others, the tradition they follow are different from biblical truths. I hope this time you got what I'm saying.
  5. My denominational friends actually listen to reason. You will find agreement in a majority of things. The major disagreements come from things like the use of the word "sabbath" in the original Hebrew meant "sabbaths" which is plural. hence in Colossians 2:16 refers not to weekly Sabbath. You know what I'm talking about.
  6. I quote in your response 'To answer this point requires going to the source.' The original source will be in Hebrew or Greek. In as much as I wish to go the original source, I can't. And when I look for references, two referees will give me different views, for example, the plurality of sabbaths.
  7. No, I don't believe the sign 'church of Christ' on a door will save you. I'm just having difficulty articulating my thoughts and I once again apologize for lack of proficiency in the English language. I just said that it wouldn't it be a matter of certain individuals being predestined to go to heaven by virtue of them being born in the church and following the traditions of the church (like most people do in denominations) except that for them, the traditions coincide with biblical teachings and for others it doesn't. I'm not referring to immoral people here.
  8. Would my SDA and Pentecostal friends be referred to as 'Christian' friends?

I hope you will bear with me for poor articulation. I'll keep trying to make you understand me. Thank you so much for your time. I greatly appreciate it.

When I answer questions, I can only go by what a person writes. I try to take into account language problems, but in this case I believe the problem is that you are not seeing where your beliefs lead.

The word "physical" means belonging to this physical universe. It is something that can be touched. The church, in the general sense, are all who are being saved by God. "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). The church can be also referred to in a specific sense as those Christians who are worshiping at a locale. "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours" (I Corinthians 1:2). In either case, the church is the people, not any physical building.

However, from your statements I took it that you believe that there are saved people in all denominations and it is that issue which I addressed.

I made the conclusion that you thought that members of the church of Christ think people are saved by being members of the church and not by their obedience to God because of the contrasts you made between your denominational friends and those you say you know in the church. You claimed that your denominational friends were more moral than people you knew in the church.

You say that the hypothetical boy in the church is obedient, but then you say he doesn't study. The two ideas are not compatible. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15). Yes, there are weak members in the church who are not fully obedient to the truth. However, that does not change what God said is needed to be saved. Partial obedience is still not doing all that Christ commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).

Your friends are willing for you to make your point, but it doesn't follow that they listen. I say this because after you make your point, they do not change. They are of the same persuasion before and after you talk to them.

Yes, I know about the argument regarding Sabbath versus Sabbaths. I also know that your friend's argument is based on a lack of knowledge regarding what the Bible says. See: What is the Sabbath of Colossians 2:14-16? You will note there is a long list of verses cited were the Greek uses the same phrasing to refer to the weekly Sabbath day. It doesn't take a scholar to understand then that the claim that the usage of "Sabbaths" in Colossians 2:16 is somehow different is false.

In most of the denominations, the members have not done what Christ required for a person to enter into the covenant with him and become a Christian. "Christian" means a follower of Christ and I try to reserve that word for those who actually try to follow Christ.