SHOULD WE APOLOGIZE?
(Note: On July 31, 2000, I completed a five year ministry with the Houston Park Church of Christ in Selma, AL—and 42 + years of full-time ministry—and moved to Gallatin, TN. Tom McLemore was chosen to follow me in Selma where he has continued for the past almost 21 years to do a good and faithful work with the Houston Park church. Tom is an able man, an excellent student of the Bible, and a most capable and insightful writer. The following article from his pen appeared in the May 2021 issue of the Houston Park church bulletin. I heartily commend it to all the readers of my “News & Views.” He addresses an extremely crucial matter).
It has been suggested recently that members of the churches of Christ should apologize to members of denominations. We should apologize, it is alleged, for proclaiming that the churches of Christ are the one and only true church and for stating that denominations are not. What shall we say to this?
First and foremost, we may raise the question of who the churches of Christ are. According to the New Testament, the churches of Christ are composed of those individuals who have come to be in Christ. The New Testament teaches that those who are in Christ are also members of his one body, the church (Ephesians 1:22, 23; 4:4; Colossians 1:18). His one body, the church, is no denomination!
Second, one may inquire as to how one comes to be in Christ. The teaching of the New Testament is that a penitent believer in Christ comes to be in Christ and thus to be in his one body, the church, by being baptized into him and into it (Galatians 3:26, 27; 1 Corinthians 12:13).
Third, one may consider whether coming to be in Christ makes one a member of any denomination that exists today. There is not one shred of evidence anywhere in the New Testament that this is the case. For one thing, neither denominations in general, nor any of these denominations in particular, receive any mention whatsoever in the New Testament. Let any member of any denomination consider the faith and practice of one’s denomination and find such a church described in the New Testament. It will never be found. In fact, the very idea of denominationalism is foreign to the teaching of the Scripture and flatly contradicts its teaching (1 Corinthians 1:10). Coming to be in Christ does not make one a member of any denomination whatsoever!
Rather, it seems to me that denominations are the ones who should apologize. Denominations should apologize to God for not rightly handling his sacred oracles. By their emphasizing some passages of God’s word and denying or ignoring others, they twist God’s revelation (2 Peter 3:16) and make it void (Matthew 15:6). Apologies to God are also in order for honoring him with their lips, when their heart is far from him. In vain do they worship him, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men (Matthew 15:8, 9).
They should apologize to Jesus Christ for working to prevent his dying prayer–that all who believe in him should be one on the basis of the Spirit-taught, apostolic word–from being realized (John 17:20, 21). Christ gave himself up for his church (Ephesians 5:25), but he was not crucified for denominations.
An apology on the part of denominations should be forthcoming to the Holy Spirit. He guided Christ’s chosen emissaries into all the truth (John 16:13), but denominations, by their adding to and taking from the divine revelation, have insinuated that the Spirit’s impartation contained errors, came up short, and is in need of amendment.
The denominations owe the apostles an apology. The apostles were faithful to their Master in their teaching disciples to observe all things whatsoever he had commanded them. Yet, denominations have persisted in refusing to devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching and practice (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 2:42). Paul asked, “Is Christ divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:13), and his question expects a negative answer. Yet, denominations are adamantly intent on giving it a positive answer before the world. Do they not owe the apostle Paul an apology?
It would be proper for denominations to apologize to members of the churches of Christ for denouncing, ridiculing, and opposing them when they simply have preached the whole counsel of God, upheld God’s holy word as the sole authority for Christian faith and practice, and proclaimed exclusively the way of salvation that the apostles announced in the name of Christ. Have churches of Christ then become the enemy of denominations by telling them the truth (Galatians 4:16)?
It may be granted that some members of the churches of Christ have manifested an unchristian attitude, have been self-righteous, and have been haughty and proud. Such individuals do, in fact, owe an apology to any member of a denomination to whom they have exhibited these dishonorable dispositions. But not for the simple truth contained in the New Testament or for the pure gospel which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16)!
The suggestion that has been made is an example of the spirit of our age infecting the church. Many in our society are attempting to relativize everything so that everyone may experience a positive attitude about themselves regardless of what they believe or do. In the final analysis, many will owe an apology to the truth itself, because they have renounced, suppressed, and sold the truth and have exchanged it for a lie. “We know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who do such things” (Romans 2:2).
Apologize for any mistakes, failures, inadequacies, and short-comings in being what the New Testament teaches the churches of Christ to be? ALWAYS! Apologize for being the church about which one reads in the New Testament? NEVER! Let it rather be said of us, without apology, that we have “renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’ conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2).
May 18, 2021