One day last week I received by mail some questions from a lady who listens daily to this program, but wishes her name withheld. We shall comply with her wish and reply to her questions. I am glad to answer questions of such interest and importance as these. The sponsors of this broadcast have no objection to being criticized by name and their position critically examined, so long as we are correctly represented both by name and teaching. But some other people do not feel the same way about it.
The questions designate by name four groups of religious people of our day and of our city. Since I regard these people as excellent folk, I can answer the questions in a general way and use their names, yet not make personal attack upon any of them. In our halls of congress great debates are conducted and our lawmakers call by name and rebuke each other sharply. They even attack the office of president by name. This is as it should be. But a false standard of ethics in religion will not grant the same degree of frankness and investigation of the greatest issues that man ever face. We are very inconsistent here.
Before I consider the questions involving the four churches about which the lady asks, I shall notice her first question which is an implied criticism of this speaker and his brethren. But it is the kind of criticism we like. It brings a very important truth to view. We solicit questions which most sharply bring out objections to what we teach, or what people think we teach. Her first question is this
Do you really think that you are the only people to be saved? In answering let me say first that it really matters little what I think about any such question. The chief point is; what does the Bible teach on such a delicate point? But her question comes from a failure to grasp the possibility of a church today being strictly the New Testament kind in faith, name, teaching and practice. The question is based on the assumption that any church of necessity is just one more denomination. This is a mistake. We know of no denomination better than any other.
If the lady will allow me to change her question slightly, we shall leave myself and my brethren out of the question of being saved at all, and state the question this way: Do you really think that the Lord’s people, his church, whoever compose it, are the only ones to be saved? I want to state frankly that this is the only form the question can take to represent the position we maintain. I am sure we can agree in answering this question. The answer is. Yes, such people are the only ones to be saved. There are only two groups of people properly classified. They are the Lord’s and Satan’s. It is not our prerogative to state arbitrarily just who is in each group. But we do know what the Lord has said as to qualifications to be in each group. We agree that those who remain Satan’s will not be saved. How many times have I said in the fifty-four weeks I have been speaking on this broadcast, that regardless of who is and who is not a part of the Lord’s church, that church alone is right and it alone can go to heaven? Will someone name the person in the New Testament after Jesus died who was saved apart from the church of our Lord? Send me the name, or the place in the New Testament where I can read of him or her. Can you imagine the Lord suffering, dying and giving his blood to save the church (Acts 20:28), then saying, “Gentlemen, I have died to build and save a thing that may prove to be a pretty good arrangement, but you can go to heaven as well without it as in it?” Would you pay any costly price for anything as useless as men say the church is? What men? All men who say that salvation is found outside its realm. No, lady, we do not think that we are the only ones to be saved, as if we were the standard, but we know that only the church purchased by the blood of Christ has a single word of promise or assurance of salvation. If we are fortunate enough to be that church in fact, by reason of complying with the divine standard of faith and teaching, who objects? One chief purpose of this program is to plead with all who will hear that they accept the same opportunities and privileges we have and be Christians only. You know our slogan is The New Testament only makes Christians only. If we be nothing except as and what the Lord requires of all alike, and if others do the same, then we shall be united in the Lord’s church, and not some denomination. Others will not have to come to us or our way, nor we to them and their way. We each and all shall have gone to the Lord and his way. This makes friends and brethren of strangers and enemies. It makes all one in fact, religiously. This alone is the plea of churches of Christ. And this plea is being made by none others than churches of Christ. None others have any use for it. For this fact we are not responsible. The responsibility rests upon all who will not enter and abide by the only possible way of unity in the Lord.
Next, the lady wants to know the facts concerning the origin of the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Christian churches. Usually when such a question is raised or such churches are discussed, men go to the better histories of church and religious movements. It is possible that we could find about these churches some interesting things in that source of information. But the chances are that the lady asking the question does not have access to the histories we might produce. If not, then she has no way of knowing that we state them correctly. It is not fair to her to use evidence she could not check, thus giving her no chance to see that we misrepresent the truth, if we did.
But I take it that she has a Bible. This great and grand old Book is the most ancient, accurate and scholarly history of church affairs we have ever seen or heard of. If I should refer to it she can check on me in her own Bible and know where and when I am right or wrong. So, if she and you will read the 29th chapter of Matthew, (not 28th) and the second chapter of Jude and the fortieth chapter of Acts and the twentieth chapter of Romans, she and you will find all that the Bible says about the four churches she asks about all about their name, origin, doctrine and practice. Now, if any one—just any one—knows any other chapter in all the Bible mentioning such churches, just send me the references and I shall read them over this radio and quit my broadcasting as unqualified to answer a simple question with any proof whatsoever.
But the querist wants to know how I would go about to prove that these four churches are not New Testament churches. Really, the task of such proof is not mine. It is not my duty, at least on the radio, to prove that such are not right–except as I am obligated to prove what is right by the Bible. It is their task to prove that they are churches of the New Testament pattern. This they will not undertake to do, when anyone is present to examine their supposed proof. We are perfectly willing to prove that the New Testament church is such and such in name, doctrine, faith and practice. When I do that, we have proof that we are that divinely established church, if and only if that be our faith and practice, too. This is certain. We are willing to prove what we are and what the New Testament says all should be. We are not entering into the task, information and interesting as it might be, to prove what other folks are not. (Of course, this “apology” was to pave the way on the radio for some things to follow-FLP) It is not your task to prove that the moon is not made of Limburger cheese. If I say it is, it is my task to give the proof I claim to have. But many folks are not enough interested in being what the Bible requires to claim to have Bible authority for existence.
But since the lady is perfectly honest and sincere in that nice question, we shall not leave it just yet. Let us suppose that which we have no proof of at present. We shall suppose that they all four are New Testament churches. If they are, then it follows as certainly as night follows day that they are all alike in every basic and fundamental belief, name, doctrine and practice. If they are all New Testament churches, then either one of them is. This means that the Methodist church is. Then it follows that they are all in fact Methodist churches, for all being alike they must all be what one is. Not only so, but if all are churches of New Testament pattern, then the Baptist church is just that. And since all being the same thing are just alike, it follows that all the four churches she names are Baptist churches. And the same would go, of course, for the other two, also. Now, if you can refute my reasoning and prove that they are not all Methodist churches, you save me the assignment that they are not all New Testament churches. But I raise no issue at all with either of these fine folk. They would be the first to deny that they are in fact, in real church doctrine essentials, the other group. All Baptists deny that they are Methodists, and all Methodists that they are Presbyterian. They all three deny that they are Christian Churches in that denominational use of the term, as the Christian Church uses it to describe itself. And these denials in no wise reflect upon the character of the others unfavorably. Each group is as fine people as the others. It just happens to be true that they are neither the other and neither one is mentioned in the right place in the Bible to give the proof the lady seeks. I should not be held accountable for the Bible’s failure to mention them elsewhere than the chapters I have given. Unless you find and read those chapters you can’t read of those churches in the Bible. To make sure, I give them again. Matt. 29; Acts 40; Romans 20 and Jude 2.
The querist correctly says that they all use the same Bible I do. Yes, and they and we alike misuse that Bible when we or they try to make it authorize churches not once mentioned between its lids or in any book written by angel, man or demon during the first sixteen hundred years after Jesus died. For the failure of all history, inspired or secular, previous to the sixteenth century, to mention such churches is not my blunder. It is a fact of failure that neither I nor you nor they can refute.
But the Bible does describe the church which wears the title of the Lord, and all other groups of people know that that church contains the only possible ground of unity, not because we are members of it, or because others are not, who are not. But because God made a standard of truth long ago without asking us what it should be. I and we and you and they, all alike must come to and abide in that standard in all religious faith and practice. We are just bold enough to say without fear that any group of people, regardless of color or tongue, that wears no other names than those given by the Lord to his church, and believes and teaches and practices only what they did, as items of religious faith, such group is a New Testament church whether I or you agree with them or not. All others are of human origin, for such widely differing things cannot be alike in enough essentials to be even loosely regarded as the same kind.
The lady’s last question is, Is it true that the Catholic Church is the mother church? I answer, Yes, the mother of all churches like her. She is the grandmother of all who pattern after her in doctrine or practice. They may be Protestant in name or claim, but the “mother” is the author of all the modern practices and doctrines not of New Testament origin. She is the mother or grandmother of all churches starting this side the day of Pentecost. The Lord’s church existed first, however, and is in no way related to the church in question.