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Churches Of Christ/Condemned to Hell by other Christians

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Question
Hello,
My husband and I are former COC members (me my whole life and he converted as an adult). After the ridiculous amount of judgment and condemnation by the churches we attend stating "we are the one true church and anyone other than COC is not saved" we could not in good conscience worship there anymore. We now attend a Christian church that is not on my family's approved COC list because it is not called COC. Their reasons are because we don't go to the "right church" and that our church teachings are false. Even though my husband and I have clearly taken the scriptural necessary steps to be saved (and have been baptized). Our church believes in baptism (but that it is not what saves), we take communion every week but because we use instruments and there is a "praise team", and maybe twice a year our preachers wife teaches a lesson that we are not going to be saved and that they are trying to "win us back" because we have "fallen away" from the one true church. I have repeatedly asked for the scriptural proof that proves we are not saved by our "works" of worship. I am in a heavy debate with one of my family members but from reading your other posts can see you are a man of grace and so curious as to your opinion since all of the COC's we have attended over the years have felt the same as what I am describing. How do I combat this form of bullying? Oh and they will admit there are a lot of COC's in error too just not theirs. And keep in mind their reasons for unacceptable worship are matters of opinion. We have no exact form of worship (do we sing 4 songs or 6) and why is church only an hour, why not preach till midnight like Paul did. They admit we take certain liberties on stuff cause we have to but they admitted their liberties are more acceptable than mine? So instruments are WRONG but them using a tiny cup and a sip of grape juice is ok, even though the bible is clear they had a meal. How do I even answer that kind of foolish and dangerous speech? All I think about are the pharisees. And i recognize the differences of opinions and I dont think they are salvation issues. The bible is clear God is not pleased with divisions- how can this be acceptable to him. Keep telling them quit trying to save me but they keep saying they just want to see me in heaven, once again leaving it to my WORKS that will or will not get me there. The funny thing is, I will never return to this type of judgmental people so what they think they are doing is right it is turning more and more people away. I have a non-christian friend of mine who is appalled at what they are doing to me. And that is what the world sees. Do you think my friend or any other non believer wants any part of that? Who would? I have told them to start saving the lost and to stop concentrating on saving the saved. It's so frustrating and I feel like I am at a loss especially since one of these people is my own mother."

Answer
Hi Erica,

Your story makes me very sad but for several reasons. The first reason is because I hate to see a family torn apart especially over religious differences. I am not sure how you expected me to respond. So much depends on a person's attitude. Even if a family member has good intentions and tries to get you to return to the church of Christ out of love and concern for you, they can come across as "bullying" either by their choice of words and tone of voice or by your attitude toward them.  

It is not my place to give gracious answers or to tell anyone they can do whatever they want and God doesn't care. My goal and purpose here is to help people better understand God's Word and to help them live their lives knowing they are in a right relationship with God. All anyone can do is teach what they know to be true. Those who receive any teaching have the responsibility to test what they are taught to see if it is really true. I worry because I do not know if there is a right way to approach you. It seems your mind is already made up that everyone in the COC is just closed-minded, judgmental modern Pharisees...and the irony is that in thinking these things about members of the church of Christ you are yourself being very judgmental.

It is frustrating to me that so many try to say that it is wrong to judge and they quote Jesus when they say this too. Judge not lest you be judged - but they leave off the rest of what Jesus said - for in the manner in which you judge, you will be judged also. Jesus is not saying do not judge at all. That would be unrealistic. We all make judgments every day. We can't avoid it. What He is saying is to be careful in how you judge and by what standard...because the same standard will be applied to you. We are commanded to seek and save the lost and therefore it is important for us to determine who is lost. Even you make a judgment as to who is saved and who is lost. You believe you are not among the lost even though you and your husband chose to leave the church of Christ and join a denomination. Do you believe that as long as you are part of a church that claims to be Christian then you and all others who claim to be Christian are among the saved? That requires judgment.

I don't know how your family is approaching you when they seek to get you to come back to the "COC" as you put it. Maybe their approach and choice of words is not good or even wrong. But I firmly believe they truly love you and they believe you and your husband are in danger of ending up in Hell unless you return to the "COC"...regardless of whether or not they are correct, they believe it and they truly seek to help you out of their love and concern for you.

But I am concerned for you myself. You were "raised" in a "church of Christ" but it is clear to me you never fully understood what we are about or that you have a deep understanding of God's Word (I mean no disrespect - it just seems clear by your attitude and things you wrote)The sad fact is that most members of the church of Christ do not know our history or what our purpose is, nor do they really understand many of the basic principles of Christianity. You stated that God is not pleased with divisions and that is true. God does not want divisions but as you know there are many "denominations" all teaching different things and none are truly united for if they were they would have the same church name, worship mostly the same way, teach mostly the same things, etc.

When I read the New Testament I see that there was only ONE church established meaning they were all united...all the local churches. The letters Paul wrote (which make up the majority of our New Testament) were written mostly to local churches - the church in Corinth, the church in Galatia, etc. Paul was seeking to correct error within those local churches and provide guidance that all local churches could unite on. But there were not many denominations or versions of Christians who organized in different ways and worshiped in different ways. The apostles and those the apostles authorized established local churches according to a pattern given them by God through the Holy Spirit.

The "COC" as you call us began not to be just another denomination, but to try and restore the church as described in the New Testament and get everyone to unite on God's Word alone. We chose the name "church of Christ" not to begin a new denomination, but because it describes who we belong to and it is also found in Romans 16:16. We strongly believe God doesn't like divisions and so we seek to get everyone to unite with us. Yes there are flaws in every church. No one person is perfect and so this means that there is no perfect church that gets everything right all the time. But that doesn't mean that the pattern is flawed that is in the New Testament. The word of God is perfect, flawless. We as humans sometimes get parts of it wrong but the goal should be to follow God's Word as best we can...not because we believe in a "works" based salvation but because it shows our love and dedication to and trust in God. We are in a covenant relationship with God when we become Christians and Paul relates it to a marriage. Our goal in marriage should be to please our spouse and stay true to our covenant as best we can and this is done to show our love and devotion to our spouse. The same is true in our Christian relationship with God. If we are not motivated by our love for God then nothing we do really matters.

I don't really have the time and space to share everything I would like to share with you that I believe is vital in helping you truly understand all that you need to learn. But I will say that the Bible should be studied carefully and we learn 3 ways...by direct commands, approved examples, and necessary inference. Most everyone easily accepts the first two ways but many struggle with understanding and accepting "necessary inference". This was not made up by anyone...we can even see examples of Jesus using necessary inference in scripture. I will share with you one example of Jesus using it.

Matthew 22:32
32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

Jesus made the necessary inference that because the passage He quoted from the Old Testament used the words "I am" rather than "I was" this means even though Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been dead many years, they were not truly dead but were and are living...just not on earth in human form. You can see that NECESSARY INFERENCE actually is something used by Jesus and we too can use it when we study God's Word - any inference must be NECESSARY - meaning something said leads us to a conclusion that is completely logical. We are seeking to let God's Word guide us and not trying to use God's Word to sustain our personal opinions.

Another example of necessary inference is seen in reading about Noah and the building of the Ark. God told Noah to build it out of gopher wood. We do not know today what kind of wood gopher wood is but Noah knew and because gopher wood was specified, no other type of wood was acceptable for him to use. Now sometimes things are stated that are authoritative  but general in nature while other things are specific in nature.

Specific authority limits to what is specified, while general authority provides a broad area of options to choose from in how we will fulfill the work God has given us to do. The specific command for Noah to use gopher wood automatically eliminated all other types of wood he could use to build the ark, but the general command to "build" authorizes the use of any non-sinful expedients that are needed to fulfill the command (hammer, nails, saws, etc.).

This helps us to determine more accurately how to understand and live by God's Word. This is not "legalistic" because our focus and drive is on pleasing God and showing our love and our trust in His word and His promises. We strive to let God's Word be our only guide. We seek to get everyone to unite on God's Word and not have divisions. There will always be flaws in individuals as well as in local churches, but we should strive to be that ONE church.

Jesus said...

Matthew 7:13,14
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  14 Because[a] narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."

He also said...

Matthew 7:21-23
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

It seems clear to me that although yes we have the full measure of God's grace in the New Covenant, the way that leads to eternal life is a narrow and difficult way...few will find it. This is God's design. He wants all to come to Him and be saved, but even though salvation is not based on works of merit, the way is narrow and difficult.

In regard to worship, it is not difficult to determine what is acceptable worship in the Christian covenant. How many songs we sing and how we do our "Lord's Supper" or communion are part of those non-sinful expedients I explained earlier, but to add musical instruments and praise teams would be sinful additions. Sing is specified. That eliminates all other types of music. In regard to the Lord's Supper, the focus is on partaking of the "fruit of the vine" which represents Christ's blood and the unleavened bread which represents Christ's body. How we distribute these items are non-sinful expedients. It is not logical to try and serve a full meal to a group of 500 or 1000 or any large number of Christians worshiping together. No denomination I know of makes the Lord's Supper an actual meal. In fact Paul stated that if you want a meal to go home and eat but the Lord's Supper is NOT a meal. It is to remind us of Christ's sacrifice for us. (I Cor.11:27-34)

I would like to add more to the music topic. History verifies we are correct in our belief and teaching and practice of A'Capella music. That Latin word literally means - in the style of the chapel or church. For over 700 years there was no historic evidence of a musical instrument being used in "Christian" worship. When it was first introduced the Pope kicked it out of the Catholic church and it wasn't embraced and accepted in the Catholic church until around 1000 AD. So it took 1000 years for musical instruments to be used regularly in Catholic worship. Every founder of a denomination was against using musical instruments in worship - Martin Luther wanted singing only. So did John Calvin and John Wesley. This is not "opinion" it is choosing to either do things God's way by doing what was specified in the New Testament or doing things our way.

In regard to baptism, I want to clarify that this is not a matter of opinion either as to when one becomes "saved". The scripture is quite clear that you become saved in water baptism (I Peter 3:21 is just one passage that makes this clear). Water baptism is not a work we do. It is something we submit to...we must allow someone to immerse us...give up our will and die to our old selves to be raised a new person...a Christian. The power is not in the water but in Christ's blood when it meets with our submitting to God's Will.

There is much more I would like to share with you but I feel I have already written more than you might care to read. I write everything here out of love and concern for you. I do not think I am better than anyone so please don't feel like I consider myself superior to you in any way. I am not...every one of us is flawed and we all sin and fall short. But Christ's blood makes us perfect so long as we walk in the light (I John 1:7). We must strive to be obedient to God's Word best we can. God knows if we are doing our best or not and no we don't earn salvation...but we show our devotion by seeking to do everything God's Way. God knows our hearts and knows our motivations and it is not my place or anyone else's place to determine who goes to Heaven or Hell. God decides that alone. All we can do is determine based on God's Word who needs the gospel taught to them. We must seek to help anyone who is practicing error or who believes error.

I am praying for you and truly hope my words are accepted knowing they were written out of love and concern. God bless you and guide you always.

In Christian Love, Joe Norman  

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Joe Norman

Expertise

I can answer questions regarding acceptable worship, organization of the church, or any apsect of the Christian life. I am the son of a preacher and have studied the Bible from cover to cover since I was 12 years old. I am strong in my research skills and do not follow teachings of men. Many will label me as conservative and some might label me as liberal, but I just seek to be biblical. I understand proper exegesis and hermeneutics and apply them. My desire is to share my knowledge of God's Word with others. Please always keep in mind that none of us who are listed as experts here are divinely inspired and therefore it is possible to get incorrect answers from any one of us. Study the Scriptures and decide for yourself if what is taught is true.

Experience

I am the 4th generation in my family to be a faithful member of the church of Christ. I was raised by a preacher and have studied the Bible everyday since I was twelve. I am 45 yrs old now. I am not a "scholar", but I am very familiar with the scriptures.

Organizations
member of the church of Christ, served as a Deacon for a few years at LakeShore church of Christ in Waco, Tx. I currently live in the North Dallas area and am still very active within the church of Christ teaching, leading Bible Studies, and songleading as well. I am also actively involved in online ministry. I hope to open my own webpage eventually.

Education/Credentials
School of hard knocks

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