Acts 26

Tonight’s local hypercon TV show featured a message the host presented at a recent cofC-sponsored tent meeting in a nearby town.  In the beginning of his talk, the host asked his audience to go home and look up Acts 26:17-20.  Then he said,

“…you will hear the Apostle Paul say that you better get ready to do some work.  Everybody says that Paul said that it’s faith only, that’s not in the Bible.  No preacher in this town can show you the Scripture where it says “faith only”.  And I can show you where the Apostle Paul said that Jesus Christ told him to preach to the Gentiles that they better turn from darkness to light, and they better do works meet for repentance, in other works to show that you have repented… that is in the book and Jesus said it to Paul…

The interesting thing about this statement (especially with the “faith only” comments) is that the host says that works are required for salvation, and then he claims that Paul was somehow saying such a thing in this passage.  

t’aint so, McGee.

This passage isn’t dealing with how to be saved – as the host even said, “work meets repentance” means that after you’ve become a believer, you will do works that prove you are a believer.  Let’s look at it again.  

The Greek word translated by the KJV as “meet” is the Greek word ἄξιος (“axios”) which also translates like this: “befitting, congruous, corresponding to a thing” (look here for more info on this Greek word).  In other words, it isn’t saying that you have to work for your salvation, but that when you’ve turned from darkness to light, there should be work that proves your repentance.

Let’s look at that passage in a more understandable (more modern) translation:

“…that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.”  Acts 26:20b NKJV

That’s still a bit hard to understand.  Let’s look at another even more modern translation:

“that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance.” Acts 26:20b RSV

This is a point that our hypercon host and others who agree with his teaching seem to miss.  The work that the writer of Acts talks about here (as well as in James) is a work that happens because we’ve become followers of Christ – it’s not a work that we do to become a Christian.

This is one of the stunning misconceptions that our hypercon friends try to propagate – that we must work our way to heaven.  That we have the ability to work our way to heaven.  

Well, we don’t.  

I submit that our readers consider these verses with regard to the idea that we have much of anything to contribute to our salvation by way of works:

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” Romans 3:10  

“I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.” Isaiah 57:12  

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6  

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:27-28  

“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Romans 3:31


Regarding Tactics…

Watched a bit of the Robertson show tonight.  He spent quite a bit of time justifying his tactics of getting at his enemies (the preachers from other denominations) by ambushing with cameras, etc.  He justified this behavior by talking about the tactics employed by the children of Israel when they were spying out the land.   

This made me go “hmmm…”

Why?  Well, when we’ve discussed using musical instruments in worship on this blog, the hyperconservatives have come back repeatedly saying that there is no New Testament authority authorizing the use of musical instruments in worship, and that is why the “true church” would never use musical instruments.

My question – where is the New Testament authority for hyperconservative church of Christ people to use these tactics of ambushes, secret recording, etc?  Can anyone tell me a passage of New Testament scripture that has the apostles engaging in this sort of behavior?   

It seems that this is a pretty big double standard.  Further, it demonstrates how the hyperconservatives will violate their own principals if it helps them to justify themselves in their own minds.

Am I misreading this situation?  Anyone else care to comment?

It’s Back… Musical Instruments in Worship

I remember my first visit to a no musical instruments in worship church of Christ several years ago.  I was new to a certain city, and was visiting churches, looking for a church home.  This particular church of Christ looked nice enough.  On Sunday mornings there seemed to be plenty of cars in the parking lot.  So I decided to pay them a call.  

My first impressions were very favorable.  The sanctuary was air conditioned and brightly lit, the people were very open, warm, and welcoming, and I enjoyed participating in the singing during worship.  

But the service was just so… quiet.  I found myself to be terribly distracted by the silence during key moments of worship – Lord’s Supper, during the collection of offerings, etc.  

It’s not that I was used to a lot of noise, but instrumental music has always been a part of the worship experience for me, and so (for example), when the men collected the offerings and there was nothing but silence, it was very strange to me.  I realized that music (be it organ, piano, guitar) helped me with focusing my thoughts on God during times like the giving of offerings or the Lord’s Supper.  

It was the last time I’d visit an assembly with the name, “church of Christ” on sign outside for quite some time.

It’s not that I had any thoughts whatsoever that the people in that church were doing anything wrong by worshipping without instruments.  As Romans 14 admonishes us, if it is what God has led them to do, then I had no problem with it.  But I didn’t find their arguments against using instruments in worship (the “Law of Silence”) to be particularly compelling, it was not my conviction, and frankly, not my cup of tea.

But, since starting to watch our three local TV hyperconservatives, and subsequently starting this blog, I’ve been introduced to people who apparently think Romans 14 was written for other people.  They feel this incessant need (insecurity?) to condemn those who use instruments as part of worship.  And then they seem to be surprised when people respond strongly back.  

Here is an article I found recently about this issue, with my comments in red:

By Eusebio Tanicala

A Baptist author directs his diatribe against Churches of Christ preachers who believe that it is wrong to have instrumental music in Christian congregational worship. He calls our position as “Instrumental Insanity.”

It would be nice to have some context for this comment.  What exactly did this Baptist author write that qualified it as a “diatribe”?  Is the “insanity” he mentions connected to the fact that people don’t use instruments or that many condemn everyone else who does?

Many instrumental music practioners in congregational worship argue that the term “sing” in its modern meaning automatically calls for an instrumental accompaniment or at least the instrumental accompaniment is not prohibited. It is argued that “where there’s no expressed prohibition a thing or action is allowed.”

This is an incomplete argument.  It’s not just that “instrumental accompaniment is not prohibited” – but it is authorized in the Old Testament, and that authorization is never removed.  Never.  So, musical instruments were a part of past worship.

Not only that, but it’s bookended.  Musical instruments will be a part of future worship.  Thanks to the Apostle John for giving us Revelations 5:8,9; 14:2,3; 15:20 and 18:22.  

These Biblical truths negate Mr. Tanicala’s following argument, but let’s take a look.  Let me preface it by saying that this argument to come is what the hyperconservatives ALWAYS fall back on – that somehow allowing musical instruments in worship will lead to jell-o wrestling during prayer and hamburgers and french fries as a part of the Lord’s Supper, which is simply ridiculous.

The above axiom is a dangerous guide in interpreting the Bible. It opens the gate to virtually any kind of faith and practice in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. I suggest that we confront this axiom with this illustration.

Step number one: Let’s tell the mechanical instrument user: “Let’s follow your line of argument. You appeal that the modern meaning of ’sing’ calls for an instrumental accompaniment and anything that’s not expressly prohibited is allowed. Since instrumental accompaniment is not expressly prohibited, there’s freedom to use it.”

Step number two: “Churches believe in celebrating the Lord’s Supper. The modern meaning of ‘Supper’ in the Philippines includes serving a plate of rice for each individual, and participants in the Pinoy supper may be served chicken tinola soup, lechon kawali, chopsuey, sinigang na bangus, a glass of water, and softdrinks. These are not expressly prohibited in the New Testament, do you grant freedom to some who believe that the Lord’s Supper may include these food items? May I know your categorical answer please. #

Article found here.

All of this stems from the church of Christ hermeneutical creed, CENI (which stands for Command, Example, Necessary Inference).  The idea that if you don’t have a specific command for something, you mustn’t do it.   You can read more about CENI here.

Friends, if you assemble with a church of Christ that doesn’t use instruments in worship, then I support you fully.  If God has laid that conviction on you and your congregation to worship with just the voice, then go for it.  I love a cappella music, and used to be a part of a choir that sang largely in a capella style.  

But, understand this.  You cannot find any Scriptural justification for judging your brothers and sisters in Christ who choose to worship with instruments.  None.  You can bring up Nadab and Abihu, but it is not a correct understanding of what happened to those two men, nor is it a correct understanding of what most churches who use instruments do.   See this article to understand what I mean better.

What you are doing is in direct violation of Romans 14.  And I realize that a post like mine comes dangerously close to violating Romans 14 as well, but I am not trying to convince you to use instruments or to violate your conscience.  Rather, I am trying to get you to see that you have no grounds to stand in condemnation of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

I leave you with a passage that is becoming one of my favorites.  I’ve posted it before, and I’ll post it again.  

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.  One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.  The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.  Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand….

For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.  You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  It is written: 

‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, 
‘every knee will bow before me; 
every tongue will confess to God.’ “  

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Romans 14:1-4; 9-12 

For more good discussion on this subject, visit this website.

What Does Johnny Robertson Say – Part II

Watched “What Does the Bible Say?”, tonight, and feel like I need to respond, since words written on this blog were brought up.  

On his broadcast, hyperconservative church of Christ TV host Johnny Robertson showed a quote from Chris Knight lifted from this blog and inferred that he didn’t say that he was wanting to “defeat destroy” those who disagreed with him.  

Let me lay it all out for anyone who is interested, and I’ll let you, the reader, decide what the truth of the situation is.

This is what Mr. Robertson said on his broadcast:

Now actually what I said on the website [referring to this blog] is I put a Scripture that you might recognize, I doubt that Chris would… I actually was presenting 2 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 4…”

Then Mr. Robertson goes on to read that verse.  Mr. Robertson continues.

What I was actually referring to is that it is my job to actually pull down, to actually destroy, that’s the idea here – pulling down strongholds… that is, rendering them ineffective, bringing them down… I’m not going to go over there and get involved in a physical display…

Maybe that is what you were “actually referring to”, Mr. Robertson, but you did NOT put that passage of Scripture up until after you made the initial comment.  You put it up more than 24 hours after you made the initial comment.    

Here is what Mr. Robertson said [exact quote] on June 11, 2008 at 9:36 AM:

Here is what yu need to reckon nathan
we dont determine our actions by your reckoning
you are a false teacher and we see everything opposite of you

So dont think we care about your visionary comments

we are here to defeat destroy you and uplift truth

Jesus would call you a hypocrite for not assembling with baptist over baptism mode and organization
when it is all “methodology”

petty petty petty

You can find the whole conversation right here.

And you can see that Mr. Robertson didn’t mention 2 Corinthians 10.  It’s nowhere on that page.  In fact, the only time 2 Corinthians is mentioned at all, is when I quoted 2 Corinthians three posts down.

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”  (2 Corinthians 5:20)

The next day, Mr. Robertson did try and recover from this mind-blowing statement.  This is where he mentions 2 Corinthians 10, and you can see it here.  We discussed the situation again, and you can see that conversation here.

Does he apologize?  Does he say he regrets the way he spoke?  No.  He never shows Christlike humility and admits that he had been wrong.  He just tries to justify his behavior.  What does Scripture say about how Christians are supposed to behave when a mistake like this has been made? 

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  James 5:16

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:3-4

You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same.  Colossians 3:12-13

Tonight on his broadcast, Mr. Robertson made the point that he is not interested in a physical battle with those he opposes.  

Mr. Robertson, I really hope that this is true, and I have no reason to think that it is not.  I’ve heard from your acolytes that you are a very kind and generous man off the screen.  That’s great.  But you’ve never made this situation right.  Tonight, on your program, you could have, but you were still being defensive.

My offer to forget about this statement is still open.

And finally Mr. Robertson, you are welcome to use words written on this blog on your program, but if you do so, please be accurate in what you say.

Sunday, August 3 – Prayer Day for Johnny, Norm and James – Part II

As happened back at the beginning of June, recent events here have convicted me again to not allow this blog to degenerate because of the wild postings of a rambling man.  It is not what the blog is supposed to be, and it is not what I want it to become.

Here’s what I wrote back in June, and it’s being reapplied today, but updated:

When the people who represent the doctrine that this blog discusses are people who seem to revel in stirring things up and getting people riled up (regardless of what is motivating them to do this), then it is easy to find ourselves getting comfortably in a permanent defensive posture.  Johnny Robertson’s visit yesterday just underlines how easily that can happen.

I don’t want this blog to be a place that Johnny, Norm and/or James can give to their supporters and say, “Look at how I am being treated!  I must be doing something right if they are so upset at me!”  Rather, I want it to be a place where the three men would see the love of Christ exhibited.

I would ask my regular commenters to consider the following Scripture passages:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34).

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-28).

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse (Romans 12:14).

We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it (1 Corinthians 4:12).

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21).

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble (1 John 2:9-10).

Now, I am not saying that any certain people who have been posting here about the three TV hosts have been acting improperly.  However, I want this to be a place where Jesus’ name is honored, and I think one important way we honor Him is when we act like Him.

So, I invite you all to join me on Sunday, August 3 as I pray for Johnny Robertson, Norm Fields and James Oldfield, “faithful”, “TD” – and all hyperconservative church of Christ folks in general, but specifically the Martinsville church of Christ, the Danville church of Christ, and the Reidsville church of Christ.  Some suggested things we can pray for them:

1.  For the well-being of their families

2.  For their health  

3.  For Godly wisdom for those in leadership as they attempt to lead the churches where they teach and preach

4.  That Christ would dwell in their (and our) hearts through faith.  And that they (and we), “being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that [they] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:17-19

5.  That they would experience the true freedom found in being a follower of Christ.  “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free… If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:32, 36

Won’t you join me in praying for these men this Sunday?



Why Are You In A Church That’s Not In The Bible?

The title of this post is a question that hyperconservative churches of Christ (like the 3 TV hosts) love to ask.  The implication to their question is that they (the hypercons) are not just in a church that is in the Bible, but that they are in the only modern church that is in the Bible.  In other words, they are the only ones who are theologically correct (TC).  They are the only ones who are really Christians.  

Of all the arguments for tearing down the walls of denominationalism I’ve heard (and I’ve heard some good ones), this idea is to the Christian faith what New Coke was to soft drinks.

or the Yugo was to automaking.  

In other words, it’s a load of complete rubbish that deserves to become a distant memory in the minds of those who have heard of it.

Unity = Good

Understand that I am not arguing against unity.  Even a casual reading of the New Testament will yield to the reader that God desires for His children to be unified.  Here are just a couple of examples:

Jesus said, 

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20, 21, 23). 

Paul said,

“We were all baptised by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

Unity is a good thing.  But the proponents of the “where’s your church?” idea aren’t interested in unity.  They are interested in conformity – to their limited interpretations of Scripture.   

Conviction = Good

Understand, also, that I’m not arguing against having convictions.  I agree completely with the old expression that goes, “you have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything”.  Or, as Scripture says, “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” (1 Corinthians 2:15)   

The problem I have is this idea that the name of your church is enough to condemn or save you.  “Why are you in a church that’s not in the Bible?”  The hyperconservative asks.  Well, why are they in a church that’s not in the Bible?

Churches That Are In The Bible

The churches in the Bible were located in the modern countries of Israel, Turkey, Italy, etc – in other words, in countries that are near and around the Mediterranean Sea.  Did the person who asked this question pack up his or her things and move to this region?  No?  Then guess what – they aren’t in a church that is found in the New Testament.

In fact, you won’t even find the exact phrase “church of Christ” in the Bible at all!  I’m still waiting for someone to answer the challenge to find “church of Christ” in the Bible.  If they find it, I’ve got $1000 that I will give them.

But That’s Not What We Mean…

“But we mean why are you in a church that doesn’t act like the church in the Bible,” they might respond.

First, if you mean that, then why don’t you say that?

Second, my hypercon friends, I hate to tell you this, but you are also not in a church that acts like the church in the Bible.  Let’s look at three basic ways in which you join the rest of us by not acting like the church we find in the New Testament:

1.  The infamous holy kiss.  

Hyperconservative churches of Christ don’t do this.  Check here for more explanation.

2.  Women and Head Coverings.

1 Corinthians 11:5-6 says:

“But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.  For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered.”  

Hyperconservative churches of Christ don’t follow this.  At least not the ones in our area.

3.  Tongues and Prophecies.

Sorry, I couldn’t find a good picture.  We’ll just let Scripture speak for itself.

“Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues.” (1 Corinthians 14:39)

Hyperconservative churches of Christ forbid people from speaking in tongues.

So, gentlemen, I ask you… why are you in a church that is not in the Bible?

Wait!  Stop!  Let me give you the answer to that question.

The Answer 

It doesn’t matter whether or not you are in a denomination.  It doesn’t matter whether or not you can “find your church in the Bible”.  All followers of Christ are in Christ’s church and we are all called to be a part of something that transcends differences – that transcends denominations.  

The churches that existed in the first century, that Paul and the other NT writers were addressing, were all different.  They were dealing with different issues.  They lived in different cities with different cultures and values.  

Where did they find their unity?  In the words of the New Testament?  No, because they didn’t have the New Testament.  They had the words of the ones who taught them, the letters from various NT writers, what we call the Old Testament (if they were Jewish), and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Their unity was in the Gospel of Christ.

“…[S]tanding firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”  (Philippians 1:27)

This is at the heart of the New Testament – the Gospel of Christ.  What is the Gospel of Christ?  The hypercons would, by necessity, link baptism to the Gospel.  And while Baptism plays a part in the life of a Christian, baptism is not the Gospel (1 Cor 1:17).  

So, what is the Gospel? 

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”  Romans 5:8-10

Like the church of the first century, this is where we find unity.  We don’t conform to the teachings of a few hyperconservative church of Christ TV host/pastors, or Baptist pastors, or Lutheran pastors, or [fill in the blank] pastors… we conform to Jesus, and Jesus alone.  

And there – in that conformity and only in that conformity – will we be a part of the Lord’s church – a part of the worldwide churches of Christ as found in Scripture and through the last two thousand years.

No matter what the sign outside reads, or whether or not we are in a church that’s “not in the Bible”.

Romans 10:5-13

From my Scripture reading this morning.  What an encouraging passage of Scripture!

Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.”  But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 

But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [emphasis mine]  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [emphasis mine]

My prayer is that hypercon church of Christ people will carefully read these passages before standing in condemnation of other Christians who have believed these words and followed them.

Interesting Local cofC Blogging Development…

Visit local church of Christ TV host Norm Field’s blog here for an interesting development.  Norm has removed the URLs to Johnny Robertson’s and James Oldfield’s blogs (fellow hyperconservative church of Christ TV hosts) from his blog.  They used to be found on the side panel, but now they are gone.

I’m not surprised.  Norm is Mr. Blog, and it must have been frustrating for him to be linking to two blogs that have not been updated in over a year (in JR’s case) and in a few months (in JO’s case).

Way to be a good blogger, Mr. Fields!  We, your fellow bloggers, appreciate your consistency.

Spiritual Gifts

Do they exist today,

or were they only for a certain time and then ceased?


(This conversation was started on another place on this blog.  To get caught up, you can visit that place here.)

Eternal Security

Eternal Security, or Perseverance of the saints, maintains that none who are truly saved can be condemned for their sins or finally fall away from the faith. 


By the way – please avoid cutting and pasting arguments of other writers from other sites to prove your argument.  If you want to cut and paste a bit here and there, that is fine, just put the URL where you got the info.  You can also reference another URL, too, if you want us to go there to see what that writer says.  Thanks!