THE LIVING WORD TRANSCRIPT
Program Air Date - 12-12-04
LESSON TITLE: "FROM HEAVEN OR MEN: DENOMINATIONALISM"
Happy Holidays and welcome to the Living Word Program on this wondrous Lord's Day morning! Thank you for joining us today for God's Living Word. I hope everyone had a great week. And I hope you are ready to begin this new week with a day of service and offering to your God.
As always, it is our commitment through this program to proclaim the simple truth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ - which is confirmed for us in the Bible. I hope you all have your Bible's handy and I hope you are ready to worship God together as we sing praises to His name and study from His wondrous word. Now let's begin by talking to our Father in prayer!
We want to begin our songs of praise this morning by singing a hymn which magnifies our God for who He is and what He means to us! So, at this time won't you join in with the congregation as we together sing, "Christ We Do All Adore Thee."
(SONG # 1)
Well, another year is almost gone and here we are just a few weeks away from Christmas. What a wonderful season of the year it is to take advantage of time off from work and to enjoy special gatherings with family and friends. I hope everyone will make the most of this exciting occasion and I hope you will make lasting memories for years to come.
Are your kids as excited as mine? Yes, in just a few weeks old Santa is going to come down those chimneys, through those windows, or maybe you even leave the door open for him. No matter how the gifts get there, what excitement and joy there will be on the morning of December 25.
However, as we have such a good time during this wondrous season of the year, let's all remember that as Christians we celebrate the wonders of Christ every first day of the week. Let's not allow holidays such as this to become a religious crutch - causing us to somehow feel that if we can show God we love Him once a year He will be satisfied. The reality is, so many in the religious world who claim to Love God will go to services around the holidays to in some way pay a yearly due! However, through Biblical example, God commands us to gather every first day of the week. And in the New Testament we see that those who loved God regularly gathered to worship Him.
Furthermore, we all know that Scriptures are silent about when Christ was born. We do not find a command, hint or even suggestion in the Holy Bible that any such holiday called Christmas was ever instituted by our God. No man knows the day Christ was born in a manger in Bethlehem. Therefore, let's enjoy this season and those things which relate to it in a secular way, but let's take advantage as Christians to live everyday as a living sacrifice to God, because that is our required service before Him, Romans 12:1,2.
Finally, let me remind you of what Paul said in Galatians 4:16. There we read, "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Although we are all thankful for the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we must always remember to focus on that which makes Him our Lord and Savior - His Death! It is true that Jesus had to be born to die, but the fact is, whether He was born or not, without His suffering and cruel death on Calvary - we would not have the opportunity to be Children of God. So I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity to worship your God on this the Lord's Day. But not only today, but at every opportunity and every day - as you are able to serve the one who created you.
We are excited to have a new guest speaker with us today, his name is Ted Clark. Brother Clark is an experienced and fine gospel preacher who has lived in this area for many years. At the present time, brother Ted is one of the full time instructors at the Bible Institute of Missouri. We are glad to have him with us this day and we look forward to him leading us in our message at the appropriate time.
This morning we will continue our study entitle, "From Heaven Or Men." Our specific topic today will deal with "Denominationalism! So, please continue with us this morning, and after our next song together Brother Clark will return with our study from God's Word. Now back to our songs of praise. Our next hymn is called, "He Lives!"
(SONG # 2)
Speaker: Ted Clark
Good morning. I'm delighted to be with you this morning to study with you from God's Divine Word. We trust that everyone is well and that you have your Bibles in hand. We encourage you to jot down the scripture references that we'll be using and refer to them later if you need to do that. As brother Ray has mentioned, we encourage you to call in about any questions or write about any materials that you might be interested in and we'll be glad to help you in every way that we can.
Our subject this morning is the subject of "Denominationalism" and it is one that certainly ought to concern everyone of us. The dictionary definition of denomination is "a religious organization uniting local congregations in a single, legal and administrative body." But perhaps for our purposes a better definition would be one that is taken from The Concise Dictionary of Theology, which says, "The denomination is a group of believers or churches united on the basis of a common set of beliefs and practices." And of course, all you have to do is open your telephone book and begin looking and you can find a vast array of religious denominations which all profess their faith in Christ Jesus and which seek to love and serve the Lord in their own particular way. Many people think that's a very good thing, but our concern this morning as it is every morning with this radio program, or this television program, is to be concerned with what the scriptures say.
In John chapter 17 our Lord gave an extended prayer and in part of that prayer He was praying for His apostles. In John chapter 17 beginning with verse 20, He says, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who would believe on me through their word that they all may be one as you Father are in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us that the world may believe that you sent me and the glory which you gave me I have given them that they may be one just as we are one. You have sent me and loved them as you have loved me."
Jesus here is praying for unity among believers. Unfortunately, denominationalism does not express that kind of unity that our Lord Jesus Christ wanted. It's difficult for us sometimes to understand that Jesus prayed for us all to be one and the manner in which we might bring that about. But over in John chapter 12 beginning about verse 48, Jesus said, "He who rejects me and receives not my Word has one that judges him, the Word that I've spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day, for I have not spoken in my own authority, but the Father who sent me gave me a command of what I should say and what I should speak and I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore whatsoever I speak just as the Father has told me so I speak."
In regards to this matter of all being one in Christ Jesus, there must be a standard of authority by which we can determine what it means to be one. Just believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is not going to be sufficient for us to be one. James said that "even the demons believe and tremble." But certainly we recognize that they are not a part of the Lord's church.
In John chapter 12, this same chapter we just read from, in verse 42 it says, "Nevertheless even among the rulers, many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees, they did not confess Him less they be put out of the synagogue for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."
So just belief alone is not going to be a sufficient standard to determine that we are all united in Christ Jesus, but Christ's Word is the standard by which we judge those things.
The apostle Paul himself addressed this matter over in the book of 1 Corinthians when he wrote to the church in Corinth. He said, "Now I plead with you brethren by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you, but you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." Think about that. Is that possible? Is it possible that all the religious division in the world could be settled if we would all apply ourselves to the standard of God's Divine Word and all speak the same thing and work diligently to erradicate all the difficulties that are existent in a divided Christian system? Well of course some may say that it is hardly possible for us to be able to do that. But that would mean that Christ's prayer that we all might be one in Him was a futile prayer, and I don't believe that, and I don't think you really believe that. But there are hundreds of religious denominations and if we would all sit down and get away with the creed books and the catechisms and the manuals and the disciplines, all of these books that have been written by men, and just simply get back to the Bible and speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent, call Bible things by Bible names and do Bible things in Bible ways, there would be no division. We would all be joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. That's what our Lord is here calling for us to do.
The apostle Paul when he wrote to the church in Corinth addressed many of the problems that they were having and he turned then to the Word of God and told them to take his word as an apostle of Jesus Christ as an inspired apostle of Jesus Christ and apply that to their lives and what they were doing and all would be well.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 14 and verse 37, Paul said to those Christians there that were divided in their thinking and in their teaching, "If any man among you thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are the commandments of the Lord."
Well what is it that divides us? Well, if you would just pick up your telephone and begin calling you would find out that there are different plans of salvation that different denominations teach different ways for us to be saved and if you would ask, the next question you might ask would be: How do we worship God? And you would receive a variety of answers in regard to that. How do we worship God acceptably? And if you ask: How should we live our lives before God? What kind of a moral system or a moral code should we adopt? You would receive a number of other different answers. And really that's very sad because Christ never intended for that to be the case. He's always intended for us to all speak the same things and to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. That's why Paul was so hard on the church at Corinth because they were teaching things and doing things that fostered division instead of trying to answer the Lord's prayer and make that a reality that we all might be one in Christ.
Now getting back to what the Lord said in John chapter 17, He prayed that we might all be one in Him and that that unity would come about through the words of the apostles. It is impossible to think about a united church when we are going to make the standard as to whether or not we are right or wrong based on the words of men. We just simply cannot do that because you're never going to get agreement among people in regards to these matters. But if we go back to the Bible and accept nothing less than what the scriptures teach, then we have a standard which supposedly all could agree on because if we are all Christians, we all ought to agree that we would follow what the Lord's teaching is on these matters and that's found, of course, in His Divine Word and it's an all sufficient Word. We don't need the manuals and catechisms and disciplines and all of that sort of thing in supplementing the Word of God.
Paul said in 2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 16-17, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for teaching, for correction, for instruction, and righteousness, that the man of God might be perfect or complete, thoroughly or completely furnished unto all good works," and so there isn't anything more that we need than the scriptures, and if we would just apply the scriptures, we would solve the problem and make the Lord's prayer a reality.
Think with me for just a moment about the way the word "church" is used in the Bible. There are really only two ways the word "Church" is used in scripture. It is used in a universal sense talking about the universal church of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Matthew chapter 16 and verse 18, the apostle Peter had made the confession about Jesus Christ that He was the son of God and Jesus said, "And I also say unto you, Peter, that thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." That's the use of the word "Church" there in a universal sense.
Over in Ephesians chapter 1, verses 22-23 the apostle Paul wrote and said that "Christ is the head of the church which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all." And so in that sense, the word "church" is used universally talking about members of the body of Christ the world over.
The only other way the word "church" is used in scripture is to designate a local congregation. For example when Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he addressed them as "the church of God which is at Corinth." And then, that's 1 Corinthians chapter 1 and verse 2. And then in Galatians chapter 1 and verse 2, the apostle Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia. What he was writing about there was not different denominations in the country of Galatia, but different congregations throughout the region of Galatia. There were no different denominations and of course that's the way it ought to be today. They were joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment and we need to try everything that we can to imitate them and that.
In Ephesians chapter 4 beginning in verse 1, the apostle Paul said, "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling wherewith you are called in all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity, the spirit and the bond of peace..." "Endeavoring to keep the unit, the spirit and the bond of peace," Paul said. So they had the unity, the spirit, and Paul encouraged them to keep that and here's the way he said that would come about. He said, "There is one body..." and I already talked about the fact that Paul said that Christ is the head of the church which is His body, so literally there is one church. Now that does not set well with some people, but that's what the apostle Paul is here teaching. "There is one church, one body and one spirit just as you are called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in you all." If we could get to unity based on these seven ones in the book of Ephesians and really investigate them as to everything that is involved here, then we could make the Lord's Prayer that we might all be one in Him through the words of the apostle become a reality.
Brethren, friends, I sincerely believe that unity in Christ is possible and it's possible to eradicate denominationalism. That against which our Lord prayed. Our Lord prayed for unity and denominationalism is a breakdown, a division of the unity that Jesus said that we ought to have.
What is the answer again? Let us go back to the scripture. Let us gather together and begin discussing these things in earnest. If you believe that the scriptures are the inspired Word of God and they are all sufficient and that they are the absolute standard by which all things religious ought to be judged, then I guarantee you that you and I or you and Ray or other Christians connected with Kansas Expressway could sit down with you and open our Bibles and come to a common understanding of what the Word of God teaches. It is possible because the Lord prayed for unity. It is possible because Paul besought the Christians at Corinth to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment and I am convinced that Paul was not writing something that he did not believe or that our Lord was praying something that He did not really believe was possible. Back to the Bible. Let us indeed call Bible things by Bible names, do Bible things in Bible ways, have a thus sayeth the Lord for all that we teach in religion and all that we practice and if we do that then we can be certain that we are helping to make Christ's prayer a reality today.
If you have questions as we have said, we encourage you to write or to call or to stop by and visit the Kansas Expressway congregation. Thank you.
(SONG # 3 - "Peace Perfect Peace!")
What a wondrous time we have had together in participating in the things of God. I hope we all have been encouraged through our time spent together. Please remember, you are invited to join us every Sunday morning at 7:30, as we commit ourselves to this service of God.
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May we all understand the importance of being in the one true church which our Lord established. And may we never accept the ideas and divisions of man as a substitute for the real thing!