The Lord's Church...
How Can We Know?
By Patrick Donahue
It is true that we cannot control what "universal" church we are in, except to the extent that we obey the gospel correctly. If we do what God says to do to be saved (Mk 16:16, Acts 2:38), then God will add us to the right universal church (Acts 2:47). He will make sure of that; it need not be a concern of ours.
But it is our choice what local congregation we worship with. And it does matter to God which congregation we choose. First notice from I Cor 1:10 that religious division is sinful. Secondly, notice from II Jn vs.9-11 that it not only matters that we abide in the doctrine (teaching) of Christ, it also matters whether or not we bid God speed to (encourage) those who are not abiding in the doctrine of Christ.
To illustrate this principle, suppose four men decided to rob a bank. Suppose one of the men stayed in the car to be the get-away car driver, while the other three men actually went in with guns to rob the bank. When they catch these men, how many of the four will they convict of armed robbery? We all know that all four will be convicted of armed robbery even though one of the men never went into the bank, and did not even touch a gun. Why? Because, since he helped in the armed robbery, he becomes an "accomplice" to the crime. II Jn vs.9-11 teaches the same thing spiritually. Even if we don't commit a particular sin, if we encourage someone else in his sin, we become a "partaker of his evil deeds."
What kind of congregation should we worship with? Suppose the closest congregation to your house was a homosexual church. Now even though you are not a homosexual and have no plans to commit this heinous sin (Rom 1:26-27), do you think it would be right to be a regular member of this "gay" church? You say, of course not. By your admission you indicate that you understand the principle of encouraging those in sin and thereby becoming a partaker in their evil deeds. You understand that by placing your regular membership with this congregation, you are in effect saying to them that their perverted lifestyle is acceptable to God. You bid them God speed in their sin. This exampel illustrates that we do know that it matters what congregation we worship with, claims to the contrary notwithstanding.
Why should worshipping with a congregation that practices sprinkling for baptism be any different? Almost everyone knows that the Bible teaches that baptism should be an immersion (a burial, Rom 6:4), but most don't think it matters that much to God. But, haven't we learned from II Jn vs.9-11 that not only does God want us to do the right things as an individual Christian, but he also expects us to worship with a congregation that is faithful to his Word?
Most churches teach that a person is saved before he is baptized, that baptism comes after salvation. But Mk 16:16, I Pet 3:21, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, and Jn 3:16 teach just the opposite. They teach that a person must believe, repent, and be baptized to be saved from (forgiven of) their sins. Perhaps you can easily see that these five verses teach such, but you continue to worship with a congregation (perhaps a Baptist church) that teaches and practices the doctrine of salvation at the point of faith before water baptism. How can you conscienciously continue to regularly worship at such a congregation, knowing that II Jn vs.9-11 shows that you are partaking in these sins by encouraging such?
Another false doctrine that is prevalent, especially among Baptists, is the teaching that once a person becomes a Christian, he can never lose his salvation, that he cannot fall from grace. This doctrine is flatly contradicted by many verses, two of which are Gal 5:4 ("ye are fallen from grace") and II Pet 2:20-22. Do you worship with a congregation that teaches such? You need to get out.
Do you worship with a congregation that eats the Lord's supper only once a month or once a year instead of every week (on the first day of the week) like the disciples did in the first century (Acts 20:7)? If you do, you need to find a congregation that eats the Lord's supper weekly.
Does the preacher where you attend preach against divorce and remarriage (Mt 19:9), or are adulterers allowed free reign in the congregation, in full fellowship (I Cor 5:11)? If your congregation allows this, you are not at the right place. Don't be a "partaker of other men's sins" (I Tim 5:22).
What about woman preachers? My guess is that 95% percent of congregations in the United States allow women to preach or speak to the assembly, even though the prohibition against it (I Cor 14:34-35) is perhaps clearer than any other doctrine in the Bible. Again, you need to find a congregation that agrees with God on this question.
Many people think that as long as you believe in Jesus, you may worship at the "church of your choice." But, the Bible teaches that we must worship with the church of God's choice, a congregation still with a "candlestick" (Rev 2:5), a congregation faithful to God's word. Won't you make up your mind today to be faithful to God on every point as an individual, and to also find a congregation to worship with that practices the truth (Jn 8:31-32)?
[Editors Note: Thanks to Pat Donahue for the article! He may be reached at: Pat.Donahue@MSFC.NASA.GOV 4607 Old Railroad Bed Road, Harvest, AL 35749, (256) 721-0726.]
Email the Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
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