Free In Christ

Finding Freedom in the Churches of Christ

Archive for March 2010

From The Archives: Live In Truth, Not In Command

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[This post is from March 10, 2009 and I think that it is one of my better posts.  This is an idea that I keep coming back to again and again in my walk with God.  He does not want me to just keep commands but to learn and to grow to be more and more like Jesus.]

We should beware of commands and I don’t mean being watchful about disobeying them. I mean we should beware of obeying them. It is not always wise to obey a command. Especially if it is a command made for someone else. Every command in the New Testament was written to a person who had one thing in common. He/She wasn’t you. Not a single command in the New Testament was written to you.

Am I saying that we are not to obey the commands in the New Testament? Yes, I am!!!

We are not to obey commands because they are not for us. The New Testament says that we are no longer under law but under grace. We are not to obey commands.

So, if we are not supposed to obey commands, then why are their so many in the New Testament? This really has a simple answer: because they are based on truths that are to be followed. You see, a command is a way of telling someone to do something so that a principle will be lived out.

Let me explain. When a child is growing up, the parents give the child many commands. “Don’t touch the hot toaster” or “don’t cross the street” or “don’t swim after eating”. These commands are expressions of a single principle; the safety of the child. The parents just want the child to be safe. After a time of obeying these commands and growing up, the child knows for himself not to touch a hot toaster because he will get burned; he does not do this to obey a command. This child can also cross the street because he has been warned by the command (which is its purpose) to be careful in traffic. This child can also decide when to go swimming because he knows the purpose of the command.

This child stops obeying commands at a certain age and so did the children of God. In the Old Testament (under the Law of Moses) the children of God needed to be under commands so that they could learn the right way to love God and their neighbor. In the New Testament (under grace) the children of God operate as mature children who are not in need of commands. Paul told us that the Law was a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. When the children of God were small and immature they needed commands but not anymore. The children of God under the New Covenant are not in need of commands, we have Truth. In Christ we are free from the Law.

We should not read the Bible in the legal way that we have become accustomed to. We should learn the truth from it and live in the truth, not in the command. Let me give you an example.

In Ephesians 5, Paul tells the church in Ephesus to sing. We have taken this (and other commands to sing from Paul) as binding on the local congregation to have a time of singing on a regular basis. I do not oppose a time of singing for the congregation, but this is not what the verse is supposed to teach. You see, this command was given to the Ephesians because of the wickedness in their culture. Notice, before this verse, that the text says “do not get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit”. This is the reason for the command. It is given so that the Christians will have an alternative to the wicked activities of their society.

The truth of this verse is that Christians should create alternative activities to counteract the wickedness of their cultures. It does not have to be singing (although it could be). It should be a holy activity that glorifies God and this truth should not be ignored. We cannot participate in the evil activities of the culture and should create holy ones as replacement. If we think this verse is about congregational singing, we have missed the whole point. We should live in the truth, not the command.

We do this with many commands. We obey the command and we ignore the purpose. The reason we do this is because we are afraid that God will punish us if we don’t. This is the kind of fear that should be driven out by love. Think of it this way: wouldn’t it be better to get the point of God’s commands rather than simply obey them. You see, sometimes a command that met a purpose in the biblical times no longer does today. Sometimes the command has to be changed because it no longer serves the purpose it did back then. We must live in the truth, not the command. If you think about this point when reading scripture, it just may bring many things to light. I won’t bring them all out here, but this could be so revolutionary that it changes the way we read the entire Bible. It would be a change for the better that would give the Church the tools it needs to be God’s Church in this age and to fulfill His mission to seek and save that which is lost in our world today.

Live in the truth, not the command.

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Written by freeinchrist

March 30, 2010 at 8:00 am

Another Great Reason To Drink Coffee

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Mug

I have found yet another great reason to drink coffee.

Yes, this is a real product and you can get it (and may other Alexander Campbell related products) at:

http://www.outrageouscampbellite.com/index.html

This is actually a good site that contains writings from Alexander Campbell to encourage people to continue his ideas into our current day.  I have read many of Campbell’s writings and think that many in the church of Christ would do well to go read them.  So many of us don’t seem to know where a lot of our ideas came from or how they have changed over time.

Written by freeinchrist

March 28, 2010 at 8:00 am

Could We Fellowship The Ethiopian Eunuch?

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This is a great post from Dell Kimberly from last year that should get many thinking about how we view fellowship in the church of Christ.  Enjoy.

Could We Fellowship The Ethiopian Eunuch Today?

Written by freeinchrist

March 26, 2010 at 8:00 am

Free In Christ: Something Greater Than Law

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Business SchoolIn this chapter, Cecil Hook basically lays out what many have called “The Sabbath Principle”.

Jesus often broke the Sabbath to show that a command should be obeyed only if the reason for the command remains in tact.  Keeping a command for its own sake is not what God wants.  I made this same point in the book series “Roles” where I talked about how we should stop obeying Paul on the role of women because our reason for restricting women is different than his was.

Cecil puts it this way:

Jesus explained, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” The
law was made for the good of man. Man was not made to fit arbitrary laws. If, in a
specific instance, our efforts to keep a law hinder or prevent the principles of justice,
mercy, faith, or love, then the higher principle must take precedence. The principle is
greater than the law intended to promote it.
Some may think that Hook is beating a dead horse this being the fourth chapter in the book that specifically deals with following the principle of the law instead of the command, but it is highly important that he do this.  One of the biggest problems in the church of Christ is that we think that we have to obey a command just because it is written in the New Testament.  This is not what we were supposed to do.  Cecil doesn’t talk as much about being led by the Spirit (instead of the Scriptures) as I think is necessary but his points are still very good.
Cecil goes on to explain how “the Sabbath Principle” should be applied to contemporary issues like abortion, “pulling the plug”, and divorce and his solutions show that love should be the ultimate concern in all of these.

Written by freeinchrist

March 24, 2010 at 8:00 am

What Would You Do Next?

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Austin Mennonite Church Fellowship PicnicImagine that you were standing there during Peter’s sermon in Acts 2.  He was telling you about how this Jesus was the Messiah that you had been waiting for your entire life and was using your Bible to prove it.  You were considering the words that he was saying (and the miracle that caused you to check it out) and you realized that it all made sense.  Peter was right; Jesus was the Messiah!!!

What should you do now?  The answer comes back “Repent and be baptized…” and you decide that you will.  You come forward and are baptized.

So, what would you do next?

You then start an organization and invite people to join it.  Later on, you would take the writings of the men who gave the sermon and use them to talk to people about what you think they should do and how you think they should live.  Then you would write some songs and make the people sing them.  You could also serve the people a cracker and some grape juice because the Apostles said something about eating things like this with Jesus and on and on and on……

WAIT!!!!!!!!  This isn’t very likely what you would do if you were at that first sermon on the day of Pentecost and it isn’t what those first Christians did either.  I think that it is more likely that it would look like this:

You would come up out of the water and be rejoicing like crazy.  For the rest of the day you would want to just soak up the atmosphere and maybe help with some of the baptisms.  You would probably run around and try to find other people to hear what these guys were preaching and (if you lived close enough) would probably run home to get your family and friends down there to hear it.  That first day would be one of the greatest of your entire life.

After that, you would try to hear these men teach as much as you could around your hectic work schedule and try to put into practice what they were teaching  in your daily life.  As you listened to their teachings, you would meet others who believed in this Jesus and were trying to follow Him.  As time went on these people would become like family to you because of your common identity in Jesus and the relationships that you had built with them.  They would become your friends and you would be with them as much as possible and share your lives together.  These would be the people that you hang out with on Saturday night and shoot fireworks with on the fourth of July (ok, so I broke the Jewish context a little).  These are the people who throw you a baby shower and bake you a cake on your birthday.

At some point (as all friends do) you would eat dinner at your friends’ house.  After listening to the Apostles, you would know that Christians have some special things they do when they eat together that Jesus did when He ate with them. You would take some bread and pass it around to remember Christ’s body and pass around a glass of wine to remember Christ’s blood.  You would remember these because they are what made your table fellowship possible and the celebration that you share with these friends.

You would do this your whole life.  You would grow with these people.  You would encourage them when they need it, hug them when they need it, pray with them, cry with them, laugh with them, and even kick their butt when they needed it.  You would be a real family in Christ.

This is what the Bible calls Church.  Don’t settle for anything less.

Written by freeinchrist

March 22, 2010 at 8:00 am

From The Archives: Is Acts 2:42 A Pattern For The Church?

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[This post if from January 29, 2009.  I think it is very relevant to the things we have been discussing on this blog.  I still very much believe that fellowship is the pattern of the Church and our local assemblies are not the point]

Many people in the history of the church have looked to Acts 2:42 (to the end of the chapter) as a pattern for the church but none of them saw deep enough to see what “pattern” might actually be there. People read this passage and think that their duty as Christians is to devote themselves to:

1. The apostles teaching

2. Fellowship

3. Breaking of bread

4. Prayer

They say that these four things must be done by the church and that these should be the main purposes of the assembly. Some in my heritage of churches of Christ have actually attempted to model their worship services after this supposed “pattern” thinking that it would make their worship services Scriptural. Trying to take Luke’s description of the first Christians and develop it into a pattern for the church is a big mistake if viewed through the eyes of legalism.

Should we take this description of the first Christians and try to emulate it?

In a way, I think so. But not in the way you think.

First of all, “teaching” and “fellowship” are not two different things in this narrative as we have often thought. It should be “they dedicated themselves to the Apostles teaching and fellowship” (as it is in the English Standard Version and others). It is saying that they dedicated themselves to the Apostles teaching AND the Apostle’s fellowship. This means that they followed the Apostles in a similar way to how the Apostles had followed Jesus in His ministry. They were under His guidance and these new Christians were under the Apostles guidance and spent much time with them living the life that Jesus had taught them all to live.

Secondly, the debate about the meaning of breaking of bread is really quite unnecessary. Many claim it refers to the Lord’s Supper and others think it refers to a fellowship meal. In the early church their was so little difference between these two that no variance in terms would be needed. The Lord’s Supper was done in the context of a fellowship meal, so no distinction need be made. The “breaking of bread” and the Lord’s Supper are one and the same.

Lastly, the “prayers” should not be translated “prayer” as it is in many translations. The Greek is clearly plural. The reason the “prayer” translation is often used is because some Christians have a tough time figuring out what “the prayers” were. I think I can answer that and I will below.

The verses to the end of the chapter describe in more detail the things stated in v.42. It works like this:

Apostles teaching & fellowship

– Great signs and wonders done through the Apostles

– They were together and had all things in common

– They sold their possessions and gave to any who had need.

Breaking of bread

– Met in homes to break bread (possibly daily)

Prayers

– Met in the temple courts daily

Some may be confused by me relating their meeting in the temple courts with “the prayers” but you shouldn’t be if you continue reading into Acts 3. Where are Peter and John going? To the 3 o’clock prayer service at the temple. Yes, these were “the prayers” they were continually dedicated to. This is the only meaning of “the prayers” that makes any sense in the narrative. Reading the ESV in this passage can clear a lot of this up.

So in what way does this narrative contain a pattern for the church?

It does this by showing the fellowship that we are supposed to have outside of the rigid religious system that we have trapped ourselves in. Fellowship is supposed to be the foundation of the church and how church is done. The teaching was done in the context of fellowship. The breaking of bread was done in the context of fellowship. Even the things they did as a matter of being Jewish (the prayers and even synagogue attendance) were done in the context of fellowship. We (as Gentile Christians) have no need or opportunity to participate is some of these practice (the temple was destroyed and we are not under the Law of Moses and never were), but we do have the same need for fellowship that they had. You see, fellowship is the true pattern of the church and everything we do should flow from it

They had free fellowship with one another, teaching one another in the context of life. Breaking bread with one another, praising God, and giving thanks for all the Father had given to them. We should be doing the same.

Written by freeinchrist

March 20, 2010 at 8:00 am

Free In Christ: What Is The Law of Christ

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Cecil Hook continues his book “Free In Christ” by asking:  What is the law of Christ?  This is a very important question because we know that whatever the law of Christ is, we should be following it.

In this chapter, Cecil asks four questions.  The first one is:  Could one be saved by works of the law?

Any Christian with any knowledge of Scripture would say that nobody could be saved by keeping the Law of Moses. This is why we needed Christ.  But what about law in general?  Can it save?  Cecil answers this way:

The law had a weakness: it could bring death, but not life. It made nothing perfect (Heb 7:18f). It promised life but proved to be death (Rom 7:10) because a person was required to keep all the law or be cursed (Gal. 3:10f), and none could keep it all. So all had the sentence of death.  That same weakness prevents any law from saving. Law has no power to save. John assures us that all of us sin (1 John 1:8f). James adds, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). If we keep 99% of the law but fail in the remaining one percent, what happens? We are back to zero! So it is all by grace! If one is to be saved, it must be totally by grace. One cannot be saved partly by law keeping and partly by grace. If grace saves only to the extent that one is able to keep law, then none can be saved. If one could keep all the law, he would need no grace. Our traditional exhortation to the one who fails to keep all the law is “Try harder!” While giving lip-service to grace, we frustrate disciples by urging that they must attain it by keeping all the law — or making a passing score, whatever that may be.  The claim of justification by law keeping was “another gospel” of Galatians 1:6-9. Any effort to be justified by legal means is a falling away from grace (Gal 5:4). Grace is not a quality of law.
The second question is:  What is the nature of our relationship with God?
The Spirit makes us new creatures in Christ. “But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which
held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit” (Rom. 7:6). This new relationship is accomplished through the new birth (John 3:3f), by which we are all sons of God through faith (Gal 3:26f), and in which our life becomes hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). It is not a legal relationship, but a spiritual one.
This could not be any more true.  We follow the Spirit and not a written code.
The third question:  What is the New Covenant Rule of Action?
It is love which God in His grace infuses into our hearts. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). “We love, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God initiates the principle of loving action, writing His law upon our hearts.
The principle (rule of action) that we live by is the love that Christ pours into our hearts through His Spirit.  We are led by the Spirit to love God and others.  This is what God wants from us and this is it.  A written code cannot accomplish this because it could never be exhaustive enough to include every loving action to both God and people.  When we love God and people we have done EVERYTHING that God wants us to do.
The last question:  What is the law of Christ?
It is not the New Testament,  it is LOVE.
This is what I have been trying to say all along.  Thanks Cecil.

Written by freeinchrist

March 19, 2010 at 8:00 am