PREACHING THE CHURCH
On December 4 of last year I sent out an edition of “Hugh’s News & Views” titled “Bible Facts About The Church Of Christ.” Afterwards, one of my readers sent me the following comment. I believe it speaks for itself. The person wrote: "I grew [up] hearing lessons like this in nearly every gospel meeting, but we have stopped preaching these Biblical truths, by and large. We have one or maybe two generations in the church today that have not heard them. Is it any wonder that we are losing our young people? I wonder how many Bible departments of our Christian schools even have a course on the NT church any more. Thanks for reminding us of these essential fundamental facts."
In recent years it has become increasingly popular for preachers to preach about the home, family life, and other contemporary concerns and issues. This is all well and good. Divorce is a great problem in our society, and we need to do everything we can to combat it and to strengthen our homes. Many social and moral issues challenge us that need to be addressed from a biblical perspective. But by failure to preach the distinctive Bible truths about the church we have many members who are, in effect, divorcing Christ and committing spiritual adultery by leaving the beautiful bride of Christ (His church) to be joined to the churches of men. When will we preachers (and elders) become as concerned about spiritual divorce as we are about physical divorce?
The church is essential. Christ established His church (Matthew 16:18). He purchased it with His blood (Acts 20:28). He is the foundation of the church (I Corinthians 3:11), the head of the church (Colossians 1:18), and the Savior of the church, which is His spiritual body (Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:23). There is only one body (Ephesians 4:4), hence, only one church. All of those saved from sin are added to the church (Acts 2:47) which is the same as being translated “into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13). All who are members of the body (church) of Christ are also citizens of the kingdom of Christ (Matthew 16:18-19).
The apostles and evangelists of the New Testament era preached the church. “But when they believed Philip as he preached the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12). When Paul drew his beautiful comparison between the marriage relationship of husband and wife with the relationship of Christ and His church he said, “… but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). Preachers today need to speak concerning Christ and the church! One cannot faithfully preach Christ and not preach His church. Christ is the head, the church is His body. To separate the two is disastrous. Separate your head from your body and see what happens!
There was a time when we could talk about the church of Christ and understand that in so doing we were speaking of the church of God, the church of the Lord, the body of Christ, the kingdom of Christ, the family of God, that very church set forth on the pages of the New Testament. We could talk about gospel preachers, Christian colleges, and gospel papers. We could speak of fellow Christians or fellow members of the church. We did not use “Church of Christ” in a denominational sense as a modifier and leave the impression that the church was a denomination.
But for several decades now distinctive preaching about the church and its undenominational nature has been lacking. We now have elders, deacons, preachers, teachers, members, Bible professors, and editors who do not grasp the point that we are not a denomination. They say they do, but their speech betrays their lack of understanding. In fact, some seem to resent the fact that we are not a denomination and are bent on viewing and speaking of the church in denominational terms. They love to speak of it as “our heritage,” “our tradition,” “our tributary,” “our tribe,” “our fellowship,” “our little corner of the kingdom,” and other such denominationally-oriented expressions. They are ashamed of the undenominational nature of the church and seek to present it as “just another denomination.” They seem to be embarrassed by what the New Testament teaches about the singularity (oneness) of the church. They are embarrassed about what the word of God says about the eternal destiny of family members and friends who have never obeyed the gospel of Christ, or those who once were faithful members of the Lord’s church, but have left it to join a denomination. The broadmindedness of some far exceeds what the Scriptures actually allow. Yet, those of us who insist on a biblical view of the church and a scriptural terminology in referring to the church are the ones who are now criticized for the stand we take on these matters.
It is time—past time—to again preach Christ AND the church! It is time—past time—to set forth the biblical truths concerning the one blood-bought institution of the New Testament, the precious church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28)! As indicated below, I will be honored to speak five times this coming weekend (D.V.) on the distinctiveness and identify of the church of the New Testament. I would urge all gospel preachers to make such a regular part of their preaching program.