I conclude today thoughts begun Sept. 7 regarding important facts about church history.
On our summer trip to Ireland, Julie and I were shown two myths concerning the man known as St. Patrick, who was neither Catholic nor Irish. We were not expecting that news, but might have suspected it if we’d known he was born and died in the 5th century (400’s a.d.), before the Catholic church officially began.
Nor had we known Patrick (Welsh or English) was kidnapped, made a slave and transported to Ireland.
Today, the church suffers from two myths taught by 15th century reformers. First: One can be saved (from sin and hell) by faith alone. Second: One can receive the indwelling gift of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit by faith alone.
The Bible teaches neither of these. In fact, the only place in the Bible where the words “faith alone” are mentioned regarding our salvation is in James 2:24, where God reveals clearly that one CANNOT be saved (or justified) by faith alone.
Of course, the old false notion of the ability to be saved by works (earning our salvation) is still as false today as it always was.
In truth, salvation is a process. God’s Word reveals that several steps form a process by which one is saved. Faith does save us. Repentance also saves us. Confessing our faith in Jesus saves us. Baptism in water saves us. Hope saves us. Faithfulness until death saves us.
But none of these could save us if grace hadn’t made salvation possible before we ever lived! And not a single one of these steps can save us ALONE.
ALL these steps, working together, save us. Why can’t we just accept God’s Word on the matter, rather than make up baseless teachings that separate and divide?
Three hundred years after the Reformation, the Restoration Movement arose to RESTORE the church to what it was intended to be in the first century. A Presbyterian preacher wrote that he was disappointed with his denomination and wished that all Christians could simply call themselves Christians.
He was surprised to learn that Methodists, Baptists, Catholics and many others wished to set aside divisions and just be Christians.
Hundreds, then thousands, left denominations to simply become Christians. What a concept!
But God had said it, powerful words: “Now I exhort you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be ... in the same mind ... (but) there are quarrels among you. I mean this, that some of you are saying, “I follow Paul” or “I follow Apollos” or “I follow Peter” or “I follow Christ. Has Christ been divided? Was I, Paul, crucified for you?” (I Corinthians 1:10-13)
Those 18th and 19th century church leaders from many denominations were agreed that names like Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Nazarene, Catholic, Episcopal, etc., were names that divided followers of Christ. They pledged themselves to give up man-made names and simply call themselves Christians — and their churches Church of Christ or Christian Church.
What keeps us from doing this? Rules. Man loves his rules.
But rules divide us and names divide us. It goes against Jesus’ prayer for unity of all believers in John 17, does it not?
Isn’t it time to come out of the world’s divisiveness and be separate from the world while united in Christ?