Cled E. Wallace
Toward the close of His personal ministry Jesus said: “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). He did so and years after its establishment Paul referred to it and its divine mission as being “according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:10-11). It is not an accident, an afterthought nor a substitute, but is identified with the kingdom of Old Testament prophecy. It was “at hand” in the days of John the Baptist and during Christ’s ministry on earth and had an established existence when Paul was preaching the Gospel. It is the “kingdom which cannot be moved” which took the place of shaken and fallen Judaism. Beyond any doubt we have a new kingdom, a new law and a new priesthood. It is a sickly hope that pines for an earthly kingdom and a revival of Judaism in view of what the kingdom of God is and the blessings it confers upon its citizens and the promises it holds out before them. We have our inheritance in heaven.
Faith Versus Flesh
In view of his purpose to build the church, or establish the kingdom, Jesus said: “And there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). But Judaism had to go first. So Paul said that Christ broke down “the middle wall of partition” between Jews and Gentiles by abolishing the Jewish law, that he might establish the church which is called the “one new man.” In this church, which is also called “one body,” Jews and Gentiles without distinction are reconciled to God (Eph. 2:11-16). This church of Christ is the new kingdom of Israel where faith counts for everything and blood-kin counts for nothing. “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7).
It is both strange and false, this idea that is freely advocated, that a man can be a true child of Abraham by faith, reckoned with the true Israel of God, an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ, and not even be a member of the church at all. Paul makes it clear that Christ established the church “that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross.” A man who contends that salvation is outside the church has the choice of an undesirable classification. He is either ignorant of New Testament teaching on the subject, or in rebellion against it. All Christians we read about in the New Testament were members of the church because they were Christians. They became members of the church at the same time and in the same way they became Christians. It follows quite naturally, then, that they were all members of the same body:
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free ; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-13).
Christians Versus Sectarians
Since the New Testament was written, differences have come up over matters not in the New Testament. An Ashdodish language has sprung up to describe conflicting parties and their principles, and so we have denominations and human creeds. Believing and doing what the New Testament teaches never did and never will make a man anything but a Christian. It takes something else to make a sectarian. These weeds of sectarianism did not grow up from the planting of the word of God. They came of another sowing. And we might do well to remember that Jesus said: “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:13).
Denominationalism, which is partyism in religion, is the outstanding religious crime of today. Its condemnation is established by the testimony of its own advocates. Each one of them will inform you that you can be saved and go to heaven without being a member of his particular denomination. They do not jointly, or separately, constitute the body of Christ, for the body of Christ consisted of all Christians before there was any such a thing as a denomination in existence. The sure way to go to heaven is to get into the body of Christ by obeying the gospel, stay in there by living as the New Testament directs, and stay out of the partisan affairs which everybody admits you do not have to belong to in order to be saved.
The Church Versus Choice
“O, but one church is just as good as another,” we are told so often it starts a yawn. How such a piece of pious inanity ever enjoyed the currency it has is beyond me! If I believed it, which I really think nobody does, my advice to inquirers would be brief. I’d tell them to flip a coin and choose according to heads or tails. It would be so much simpler than proving all things and holding fast to that which is good. My idea of a hard job would be to have less respect for popular religion than it has for the plain teaching of the New Testament.
It was popular for awhile to thank God for so many churches so that the whims of the individual could be satisfied in choosing what suited him. Each partisan brotherhood was supposed to emphasize some “truth” and the individual made his choice according to the “truth” he wanted emphasized. The whims of human weakness were exalted above the duty of obeying God. If a man were found who wanted to emphasize all the truth, he would have to join all the denominations or find himself cut off from some of the truth by a partisan fence. And this contradictory situation would not allow him to join even two. Who ever heard of a man being a member of two religious denominations at the same time? The whole thing was and is a farce, a travesty, to be ridiculed. A man who belongs to the body of Christ, the church of the New Testament has all the truth that anybody else has and all the truth that others do not have. The apostles’ doctrine, which is the creed of the true church, includes the entire will of God, and the membership of this church is not cut off from intimate fellowship with any of the people of God by sectarian adherence to partisan principles. Party lines will vanish and party organizations will dissolve when everybody stands firmly on the New Testament. It is the only perfect bond of union.
Popular religion with its disgraceful divisions is rapidly settling down to a sort of truce where fundamental and irreconcilable differences are politely ignored and smooth tongues cry “peace, peace, when there is no peace.” It is not the unity that Jesus prayed for and the body of Christ represents.
Many communities have been treated to so-called union revivals where denominations united to make “Christians” and divided again to make sectarians out of these same “Christians.” What advantage is there in being a sectarian? Whoever makes a sectarian out of a Christian has played a dirty trick on him. But whoever makes a Christian out of a sectarian has done a divine piece of work. The thing that makes a Christian is not Methodist doctrine, or Baptist doctrine or Presbyterian doctrine or any other partisan doctrine. The Gospel does this work most effectively. It was preached by the apostles before modern denominationalism ever existed. It is no compliment to “our denominations” to recognize the fact that a universal acceptance of the New Testament would destroy every one of them.