And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 21, Number
In this issue:
Invites you to
Friday, Saturday, Monday–Wednesday at 7:00 pm
Theme: Conquering Giants
Bring your Bible and join us for a period of Bible study
I-5 take Exit # 255 and go East 4.2 miles)
The Distinctive Christ
We tend to recognize things that have distinctive features or are distinct in their nature. Most religious people are aware of how remarkably different Jesus was when compared to the religious people of his day. His life, teaching and ministry were distinct from the current religious trends. ”The people were astonished at his teaching,” (Matthew 7:28-29) and recognized that it was clearly different than that of the contemporary religious teachers. His life was distinct from most religious teachers in that he did not obtain a degree from the famed seminaries of his day, but rather made his advent from the humble obscurity of the despised city of Nazareth, which caused many to stumble (John 1:45-46; 6:42). Yet, for the most part, ”the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:37). The mission of Christ was distinct in that he came primarily for a spiritual purpose (Luke 12:13-14; Mark 1:38) ”to seek and to save” those who were lost (Luke 19:9-10) regardless of their past, while his contemporaries were more concerned about the “social” aspects of their religion (Matthew 23:5-7).
The Distinctive Church “Of Christ”
Recognizing that the life “of Christ”, the doctrine “of Christ”, and mission “of Christ” were distinct from all other religious leaders of his day, we should not be surprised to find that the church “of Christ” would also be distinct from other churches that are not truly “of Christ.” Even the casual observer will notice that the church “of Christ” in the first century had a very distinct worship based on sincerity and truth (John 4:24; Ephesians 5:19; 1 Corinthians 14:15), a distinct message of salvation in Jesus Christ (1 John 5:11; Acts 4:12) and a distinct mission to be the ”pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) which ”is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).
Hide It Under A Bushel?
It seems today, that in an effort toward greater tolerance and unity in diversity, many are trying to do away with the distinctive features of Christ’s church in order to create a sort of ecumenical, generic church. Many ”churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16) are forfeiting their divinely designed distinctive features in order to blend in with denominationalism. The distinct worship, doctrine and mission of the church “of Christ” are being compromised in order to become the Mega-Churches of denominationalism.
Compromise or Magnify?
Jesus never compromised his distinctive features in order to be less offensive to the religious people of His day (Matthew 15:12-14) or to gain more followers ... should we? As a matter of fact, Jesus recognized that his distinct doctrine caused him to lose great numbers of people (John 6:53-66), yet he realized that His Father would ”draw” whomever he willed through the very same distinctive features that repelled others (John 6:44-45; Matthew 11:25-26). May we never be ashamed of the distinctive nature of our Lord Jesus (Mark 8:38), nor of His body the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). If we ever hope to truly be the Lord’s ”own special (peculiar / distinctive) people” (Titus 2:14), we will have to maintain the distinctive features that he has given us that set us apart from all other religious efforts that are not “of Christ” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
-Faithful Sayings, Olsen Park Church of Christ
There continues to be confusion over the relative positions of grace, faith and obedience in God’s scheme of redemption.
We hear it said that salvation is “by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.” There is no doubt that none would be saved without the grace of God (Rom. 3:23-24; Eph. 2:5). But, if salvation is by grace “alone,” would not all be saved, since God desires the salvation of all (1 Tim. 2:3-4)? Yet, all are not saved (Matt. 25:46). So, while “grace” describes God’s part in our redemption, grace is not “alone.” Man also has a part in his salvation.
The Bible teaches salvation is “through faith” and not through the works of the law (Rom. 3:20-26). Sinners cannot earn the right to be saved; we have committed sin, and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). Thus, Paul boldly affirmed, “Where is the boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith” (Rom. 3:27). No one merits or deserves salvation, which is available to all through “the law of faith,” not by the works of the Law of Moses (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:10-12). We are “sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” not “through the (works of the) law” (Gal. 3:26; see 2:16, 21; 3:10, 14).
Faith that is saves the soul is active – it is obedient to the will of God (Heb. 10:36-39). “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas. 2:18). James notes (concerning the nature of faith) that faith alone (faith that is “by itself”) does not save (see Jas. 2:14-26). “You see that a man is justified by works, and not be faith only” (Jas. 2:24). Our obedience (works of faith) express our faith in God to save us. Faith that does not obey God does not trust God and will not obtain salvation from God. God blesses obedience that is “by faith” (Heb. 11:6).
Salvation is “in Christ alone” – “in none other is there salvation” (Acts 4:12). But, how does the sinner get into Christ to be saved?
The answer is given in Galatians 3:26-27. After summarizing we are God’s children through faith in Christ and not through the works of the law, the apostle declared, “for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” One is not saved outside of Christ, and, baptism is “into Christ.” Therefore, to be saved “in Christ” one must be baptized “into Christ” to “put on Christ.” Baptism is the sinner’s faith at work, obeying the Lord’s command. Obedient faith does not earn salvation any more than Noah earned his salvation when he obeyed God by faith and built the ark (Mk. 16:16; Heb. 11:7; 1 Pet. 3:20-21). Obeying Christ’s command to be baptized is the action of a faith that trusts God will save by His grace. Obeying Christ is not earning salvation; it is the means by which we obtain God’s grace. Obedience is included in “through faith” – man’s part of the salvation equation, “by grace…through faith” (Eph. 2:8-9).
God’s grace offers salvation to everyone (Tit. 2:11-12). But, only sinners who believe Jesus is the Son of God, who repent of their sins, who confess their faith, and who are “baptized into Christ” actually “put on Christ” (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38, 41; Gal. 3:27). By God’s grace, Christ saves those who trust Him by obeying Him (Heb. 5:9).
-The Spirit’s Sword (July 27, 2008), edited
Assemble to worship, Hebrews 10:25
Gather to hear God’s word, Acts 10:33
Opportunity to grow in Christ, 1 Peter 2:1-2
Saving power of the gospel, Romans 1:16
Preach the word, 2 Timothy 4:2
Edify saints with the gospel, Acts 20:32
Look unto Jesus, Hebrews 12:1-2
Mind the things of the Spirit, Romans 8:5
Expose the works of darkness, Ephesians 5:11
Endure in faith, Hebrews 10:36-39
Take time to be holy, 1 Peter 1:13-17
Intercede with prayer, 1 Timothy 2:1-2
Now is the day of salvation, 2 Corinthians 6:2
Go teach all nations, Matthew 28:19
We welcome you to our gospel meeting, and we invite you to join us in Bible study as we learn God’s will for our lives (2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Cor. 13:5). A fundamental purpose of the lessons that have been planned is to hear God’s truth for our lives. Personal faith is produced, and salvation is received when we hear the Bible, believe it, and obey it (Rom. 10:17; Matt. 7:21; Heb. 5:8-9).
We welcome your Bible questions, and we will gladly study more of God’s word with you if you desire. We want to do God’s will, and we want that for you, too. By following God’s word in all we say and all we do, we can accomplish this goal (Jas. 1:21-25; Col. 3:17; Acts 4:12; Gal. 3:26-27). Thank you for visiting our gospel meeting!
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 09/14/2019
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA