EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a letter to the editor replying to an article that appeared in The Oklahoman, Aug. 11, 2007. In that article, a Methodist pastor, Andrew Tevington, answers a question and makes a number of incorrect assertions about churches of Christ.
Having been a minister for the “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16) for almost 40 years, I was intrigued by the article, “Church of Christ Guided By New Testament,” written by Mr. Andrew Tevington. But it occurred to me that it was a colossal blunder on your part to have a Methodist minister explain what he thought he knew about the church of Christ.
Mr. Tevington thought the church of Christ had its origin in America in the 18th or 19th century. I guess he never thought to check his sources. Churches of Christ were in England in the 1600s and in Germany in the 11th century, and they existed in the first century (Rom. 16:16).
Christ’s church had a glorious beginning on the day of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem in approximately 33 A.D. (Acts 1:4-2:27). The gospel was preached with power on that day and 3,000 souls obeyed the gospel by being baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38) and were added to the church of Christ by the Lord (Acts 2:41, 47). It is surprising that a man who refers to himself as a “pastor” in the United Methodist Church is not familiar with the Scriptures in these matters.
He is correct in stating that Barton W. Stone, Alexander Campbell, and a host of others withdrew from denominationalism, obeying the gospel and becoming simply Christians. They threw away all man-made creeds and sought to follow only the teaching of the New Testament. Isn’t that what God asks of all men in every age and in every place?
God’s word comes through His Son Jesus Christ (Acts 10:36). His word is inspired and furnishes us completely to every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Jesus said, “Thy word is truth…” (John 17:17) and that truth will set men free (John 8:32). That word is styled, “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17), every word of God is pure (Psa. 119:140; Prov. 30:5-6), and by that word every person living today will be judged (John 12:48)—not by a Book of Discipline or some other man-made creed.
Mr. Tevington also correctly points out that those men and women who sought to follow only the Bible were believers in Jesus Christ (John 8:24) and were in congregations called “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16). In light of the Scriptures, no one could possibly object to that practice. To do so would require one to be more wedded to an uninspired man like James O’Kelly, John or Charles Wesley, or Martin Luther, rather than to Jesus Christ.
Mr. Tevington correctly observes that churches of Christ—which still follow the inspired word of God—oppose missionary societies and other organizations that seek to replace the authority and autonomy of the local congregation. He also points out that divisions have occurred among churches of Christ, resulting in more man-made denominations such as The Disciples of Christ and the Independent Christian Church denominations. The apostles said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Disobedience to God generally results in division and those who stand solidly for truth must never compromise with error or false teachers and their ways. God’s word must always be the last word (Matt. 28:18; Heb. 1:1-2; John 17:17; Col. 3:17; Eph. 3:3-4; 2 Thess. 2:15; Jude 3; Gal. 1:8-9; John 12:48).
Mr. Tevington expressed surprise at the unity of faith and practice among churches of Christ when he wrote, “…each church of Christ decides for itself what it believes and teaches. Despite this autonomy, there is a surprising degree of similarity among churches in practice and doctrine.” First Corinthians 1:10 explains that “mystery” at which he expressed surprise: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
It’s simple. When everyone is following the same Bible authority and not subscribing to a man-made creed, catechism, or oracle, it is easy to be “in the same mind and in the same judgment.” There is no mystery here. It is simple obedience to God’s will expressed in the New Testament.
Mr. Tevington correctly represents faithful churches of Christ when he writes that the church of Christ, “typically prohibits the use of musical instruments in worship.” A question about instrumental music is what prompted the question he answered in the article. He is correct saying that faithful churches of Christ, “allow in church (sic) only those things that the New Testament specifically authorizes.” In this, he hit the proverbial nail right on its head. There is no authority for mechanical instruments of music to be used in worship to God. He thinks that authority is found only in Ephesians 5:19, but look at every other passage in the New Testament where music is mentioned and one will not find mechanical instruments in any of them. Here they are: Matthew 26:30; Acts 16:25; Romans 15:9; First Corinthians 14:15; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 2:12; James 5:13. Also consider Hebrews 13:15. Now, let us list every passage in the New Testament where mechanical instruments are used in worship to God: ___________________. Not a single one exists.
Tevington says instruments of music were not used, “in Christian churches until the 600s.” Have you ever wondered why they were not used until six centuries after the establishment of the church? Actually, they were not popular in worship until after the 1200s. In A.D. 139, Justin Martyr wrote, “The use of singing with instrumental music was not received in the Christian churches, as it was among the Jews in their infant state, but only the use of plain song.”
The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia says, “In the Greek church the organ never came into use. But after the eighth century, it became more and more common in the Latin Church; not, however, without opposition from the side of the monks.” In the 16th century, the eminent Roman Catholic scholar and theologian, Erasmus, wrote,
We have brought into our churches a certain operose and theatrical music… The church rings with the noise of trumpets, pipes and dulcimers; and human voices strive to bear their part with them. Men run to church as to a theatre, to have their ears tickled.
And John Wesley, founder of Mr. Tevington’s Methodism, was quoted by Adam Clarke as saying, “I have no opposition to the organ in our chapel, provided it is neither seen nor heard” (Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 684).
It is correctly pointed out that members of the church of Christ baptize persons “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38) when they seek such baptism of their own free will. We do not pour or sprinkle water on a baby against his will because that would avail nothing. To be saved, one must be baptized, but first one must hear and believe God’s word (Rom. 10:17; John 8:24; Heb. 11:6). A baby can neither understand God’s word nor believe it. Then one must repent of his sins (Acts 2:38; Luke 13:3-5; Acts 17:30). A baby is innocent and has no sins of which to repent. One must then confess the name of Christ (Matt. 10:32-33; Acts 8:37). Babies cannot make such a confession.
I chuckled a bit at Mr. Tevington’s statement that churches of Christ, “do, however, celebrate Holy Communion (sic) every week, using grape juice instead of wine.” Why would he think we had any desire to imbibe wine is beyond me. Surely, at some point in his studies, he must have come across the phrase, “fruit of the vine,” in Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25, and Luke 22:18. They all say, “fruit of the vine.” Where does he —or anyone else—think we can find Biblical authority for substituting alcoholic wine for the “fruit of the vine”— grape juice? The Bible clearly condemns imbibing strong drink of any kind in the pages of both the Old and New Testaments.
Another amusing statement is found in the final line of his article. He says, “Therefore, the congregations are led by male elders.” As they say in the common vernacular, “Duh!” First Timothy 3:2 declares that, “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife” (emph. JW). It appears that the elder (bishop) would have to be a male. How else could this qualification be met?
Titus 1:6 is also plain in this regard: “If any be blameless, the husband of one wife…” (emph. JW). The Holy Spirit did not want anyone to misunderstand this qualification. In the Greek, this is a “one-wife man” but not a one-wife woman! One would need two PhDs to misunderstand this qualification for an elder!
Finally, I set forth the following propositions to Mr. Tevington for public discussion:
“The Methodist Church is scriptural, according to Christ’s New Testament.” I will deny. Will Mr. Tevington affirm?
“The church of Christ is scriptural, according to Christ’s New Testament.” I will affirm. Will Mr. Tevington deny?
“Singing is authorized in worship to God in Christ’s New Testament.” I will affirm. Will Mr. Tevington deny?
“Mechanical instruments of music are authorized in worship to God in Christ’s New Testament.” I will deny. Will Mr. Tevington affirm?