Recently, we were made aware of a Website (www.biblebelievers.com) which contains a document with the ambitious title, "Common Sense Questions A 'Church of Christ' Preacher Cannot Clearly Answer." Its author is "Pastor" David Martin of the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Bartlett, Tennessee.
His low opinion of the Lord's church and of our preachers and elders is made evident from the outset. If he possessed any respect whatsoever, he would not have used "Church of Christ" as an adjective, thus implying that we are a denomination and that we believe in denominationalism as he does. He also uses intentionally the epithet Campbellite, by which we have never referred to ourselves. It is a term of derision which the enemies of the cross of Christ use, thinking that, if they call us names, it will somehow diminish the Truth (which it fails to do). Martin knows that we study the Word of God--not Campbell; in fact, it is doubtful that even 10% of the members of the body of Christ know what Campbell taught concerning any particular subject.
Martin regards himself highly; he boasts of his tract:
This is one of the most controversial articles on the church of Christ you will find anywhere. No church of Christ preacher can satisfactorily answer any [note: ANY gws] of the questions posed by Pastor Martin.We have one question for him before we answer his thirteen to us: When he was ordained a "pastor" in 1986, did he meet all of the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9? Such would preclude his knowing how the New Testament defines pastor.
Prior to the thirteen questions, Martin seeks to prejudice the reader by calling us "a most deceptive and dangerous cult" and comparing us with "the Mormon and Roman Catholic churches." He does not like the idea that we believe we are "the one, true and restored church of Jesus Christ." Well, then, by implication he is admitting that the Solid Rock Baptist Church is not "the one, true and restored church of Jesus Christ." So why does anyone attend there? He has admitted he belongs to a man-made religious organization--not the church established by Christ.
The Roman Catholic Church has changed its teaching over the centuries, departing from New Testament doctrine on salvation, worship, and church structure. The Mormons have additional revelation people must know in order to be saved (to which no one had access for 1800 years). We are like neither of these groups; our philosophy is to abide by what the New Testament teaches and to present that to others. We have not changed the faith (Jude 3), nor do we have additional revelations (whether in the form of one man speaking ex cathedra or of several men adding multiple and contradicting revelations to the Bible). Our plea is for all men to study the Word of God and follow it.
Martin's complaint about the one true church may be founded upon a really dangerous concept that no one can know the Truth. Yet Jesus said that we could--if we continue in His Word (John 8:31-32). How intelligent is it to tell someone: "I'm a member of the Solid Rock Baptist Church; we're not the true church you read about in the New Testament"? That would be truthful.
Martin's solution to anyone who has come in contact with our "dangerous" doctrines is to ask his thirteen questions--"then get your King James Bible out, open it up, and ask the Holy Spirit to show you the TRUTH (John 16:13)." How can anyone trust this man? He does not know the first thing about understanding the Scriptures. Any one who thinks he makes sense should read John 16:12-13. Jesus is promising the apostles (not all Christians) that they will be guided into all truth when the Holy Spirit comes upon them (which occurred on the day of Pentecost). Everyone else receives the Truth by reading what the apostles wrote. Why would the Holy Spirit inspire the Word to be recorded and then have to interpret it for us, also? The apostles recorded "all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3); when we read what they wrote, we can understand it (Eph. 3:1-4). God is fully capable of communicating effectively with His creation.
After making several "cutesy" comments, Martin begins with his questions. Not one of them shows any original thought; the reader has probably heard them all before. They have been asked and answered hundreds of times--often in public debates. Martin, however, thinks he has provided insurmountable problems for "Campbellites." He is as wrong as he is rude.
1. "Where was the New Testament church before1800 (some questions are paraphrased due to space limitations)?" "What happened to the church and where was the truth it was responsible for preaching before God restored it?" Prior to 1800 the New Testament church existed in various locales, beginning in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. The church underwent persecution several times during its first three hundred years. After that, it developed into the apostate church which is now called Roman Catholicism. Martin may have heard that this body persecuted and put to death those who disagreed with her. Thus, records are rare and spotty. We do have evidence of brethren meeting in various locations in the 1600s. We have never claimed to come into existence in the 1800s. Truth was always in the Word of God--several manuscripts of which have survived, which shows that most people probably had access to the Truth.
2. "If a 'Church of Christ' elder refuses to baptize me, will I be lost until I can find one who will?" Mr. Martin demonstrates that he is clueless on this point. Where did he get the idea that we teach that only elders can baptize someone? Unfortunately, he failed to document anything he writes. [Does not the Pensacola Bible Institute (from which he graduated in 1984) teach its students to document their claims?] The fact is that elders, preachers, deacons, and members have all baptized those who are ready. If a Christian is not handy, then a total stranger (even an atheist) will do. The one doing the baptizing is not important; rather it is the one who knows he needs to be baptized.
This question has a second part:
Do I need Jesus AND a Campbellite "preacher" in order to be saved? If I do, then Jesus Christ is not the only Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) and the Holy Spirit is not the only Administrator (1 Cor. 12:13) of salvation--the "Church of Christ" preacher is necessary to salvation for he is performing a saving act on me when he baptizes me! Is this not blasphemy against Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost?No. All this diatribe consists of is emotion, mixed with smoke and poor logic. Has Martin not read that it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save men (1 Cor. 1:21)? What? Is a mediator needed? Was Peter a mediator on the day of Pentecost? Was Philip a mediator when he baptized the eunuch? Was Ananias a mediator when he told Saul to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins (Acts 22:16)? This charge is fatuous. Jesus is the only Mediator because only He can save; only His blood can wash away sins (Rev. 1:5). But God chose to put the Gospel into earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7). We do not save; we bring people to Christ so that He can save them. This question is so absurd that it really deserves no response.
3. "If the water pipes broke and the baptistry [sic] was bone dry, would my salvation have to wait until the plumber showed up?" Haha. Martin should turn his attempt at humor back on himself. If the spokes on the eunuch's chariot had broken apart, would he have had to wait for a wheel repairman before obtaining salvation? If Naaman had been wounded in the leg by a bandit, would his leprosy not have been removed just because he could not get to the Jordan River? Any time God attaches a condition to something, then that condition must be met. Fortunately, there are other bodies of water besides the one in the church building.
4. "If my sins are forgiven when I am baptized in water, and it is possible for me to 'lose my salvation' and go to hell after being baptized, then wouldn't my best chance of going to heaven be to drown in the baptistry [sic]?!!" If people are saved at the moment they recite the sinner's prayer (or whatever Martin has them do), wouldn't the best chance of their going to heaven be to be struck by lightning at that moment?!!
5. "If as a Christian I can fall and 'lose my salvation,' is it possible to regain it? If so, how? If God 'takes away' my salvation, doesn't that make Him an 'Indian giver'? How could I know for sure that I was saved or lost?" Obviously, Martin has been studying John Calvin far more than he has been perusing the Sacred Volume. Apparently, he thinks salvation cannot be lost, yet practically every book in the New Testament teaches precisely that. He might be careful about calling God an Indian giver, for it is He who writes a person's name in the book of life--and blots it out.
Some things that God does are conditional. For example, in 1 Samuel 2:30 God tells Eli:
"Therefore the Lord God of Israel says: 'I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever'; but now the Lord says: 'Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.'"Does David Martin want to accuse the Almighty of being an "Indian giver"? The man ought to be ashamed that, in his irrational and emotional determination to discredit the church of Christ, he is willing to accuse Deity. Those who obey the Gospel have salvation, but if, like Eli's house, they dishonor God, God can take that salvation away from them.
Moses understood this principle. As he prayed for the nation of Israel, he said:
"Yet now, if you will, forgive their sin--but if not, I pray, blot me out of the book you have written." And the Lord said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book" (Ex. 32:32-33).Likewise Jesus told the apostle John to write to the church at Sardis:
"He who overcomes shall be clothed with white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels" (Rev. 3:5).There exists a Book of Life. Paul said that the names of his fellow laborers were written in it (Phil. 4:3). Some names are never written in it (Rev. 13:8; 17:8). Those individuals will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). Those whose names are in the Lamb's Book of Life get to enter the eternal city (Rev. 21:27). So, some people's names never get into that Book, but the names of others do. But of those whose names are therein recorded, some will be blotted out. Moses knew that; Jesus knew that. One of the final verses of the New Testament proclaims this fact:
And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Rev. 22:19).In other words, it is not true that once a person's name is written in the Book of Life, it must remain there; it may be blotted out (erased, expunged). "Once written, always written," is just as erroneous as "once saved, always saved." God is not an "Indian giver": we choose to become saved, and we can choose to give up our salvation, also. God pleads with us to become Christians (Matt. 11:28-30) and to remain faithful (Rev. 2:10), but the decision always rests with us.
Numerous other passages substantiate the point that those who have been saved can sin so as to be lost. Paul taught that he would be lost unless he was able to bring his body into subjection (1 Cor. 9:27). He also taught that any brother who would bind portions of the law of Moses upon Christians (circumcision, e.g.) was estranged from Christ and fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4). It is impossible for a person to be estranged from someone (Christ) with whom he was not familiar in the first place. One cannot fall from grace if he was never saved.
Paul delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan; how is that possible unless they were first in the kingdom of Christ (1 Tim. 1:20)? If they had never departed from the kingdom of darkness (Col. 1:13-14), then Paul could not have sent them back. James says that if a Christian wanders from the truth, his soul will face death (James 5:19-20).
If continued faithfulness is not important to maintaining salvation, then why is the book of Hebrews replete with exhortations against falling away (Heb. 2:1-4; 3:12-4:2;10:23-39)? It is entirely possible that some will draw back to perdition (Heb. 10:39). We are encouraged by past examples of faithfulness (Heb. 11) and particularly by the example of Jesus (Heb. 12:1-3). Christians must not "refuse Him who speaks"; we shall not escape, for "our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:25-29).
John speaks of seeing a brother sin. One kind of sin does not lead to death; another type does (1 John 5:16-17). The observing brother is not asked to pray about the sin leading to death. Some who become Christians are determined to commit certain sins no matter what. They will not ever repent of them; thus, they are lost.
Can one who has lost salvation regain it? Yes, but he must humble himself, repent of the sin (quit practicing it), and pray for forgiveness. This was Peter's prescription for Simon the magician in Acts 8:20:22.
Can we know that we are saved or lost? Yes, it is not that difficult. Are we living faithfully and walking in the light (1 John 1:7), or have we returned to the darkness, from which we were delivered? We know that we are imperfect; we know that we continually fall short of what God ideally wants us to be. But surely we can determine for ourselves whether we are doing the best we can to walk with God or whether we are walking in our own stubborn way. Do we persist in some immorality? Then, we are lost. Do we care nothing for the worship and work of the church? Then our salvation stands in jeopardy. The seven letters to the churches in Revelation (chapters 2-3) serve as an excellent guide as to what Jesus thinks about salvation. We can be confident of, not uncertain about, our salvation. The Word is given to us for just that reason--to communicate to us the right attitudes and the right actions.
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "SCRIPTURAL ANSWERS TO 'COMMON SENSE' QUESTIONS (PART 1) (05/19/02)"