Errors of the church of Christ (31) – Baptism (2)

5. Moser argues about baptism similarly as he does about repentance: “If baptism is a condition of salvation which is given on the condition of faith in Christ, it too must be related to faith, and so related that its meaning will not oppose the meaning of faith. Now as confession is faith expressed by words, baptism is faith expressed by deed….This view of baptism sanctioned by scripture lifts baptism from a meaningless act of legalism to the high plane of salvation by faith in Christ.” (See Moser.) What do you think?

RT – I will not take exception to these words, but to say that “faith” is also a deed (John 6:29).

6. Regarding Acts 10:44-48, were Cornelius and the other Gentiles (who had heard the gospel, had received the empowering Baptism in the Holy Spirit, and had spoken in tongues and praised God) children of the devil before they were baptized? Or were they children of God filled with the Holy Spirit and later got baptized? Doesn’t the fact that they spoke in tongues prior to baptism prove that they were children of God and thus saved before they were baptized? Doesn’t Peter in Acts 10:43 make it clear that it was the faith that produced remission of sins, and that water baptism came later as a symbol of their new life in Christ?

RT – Does the fact that a donkey spoke by the power of God say anything about the spiritual standing of that donkey? Does the fact that Balaam was a prophet speak anything to his favorable standing before the Lord? The case of Cornelius is clearly an exception to the pattern (a word you hate) that God set forth. That which Peter said in Acts 2:38 – is it true? If it is, how does it relate to 10:44-48? Which one is the norm? Cornelius was told that he would be given words to hear in order to be saved (10:4-5, 22; 11:14). What words did Peter speak in order that he might learn of Jesus? Did he hear those words? Why did Peter command him to be baptized?

7. Doesn’t Peter make it clear in Acts 10:48 that this experience was the same way the apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost? Is there any record in the Bible that the apostles received water baptism?

RT – No, there is no explicit recording of such, unless we make an inference from Acts 1:22. Let me turn to question in your direction and ask you: Were they baptized? If so, why?

8. Doesn’t 1 Corinthians 12:13 show that baptism by the Holy Spirit is what places us in the body of Christ?

RT – That verse can be understood in one of two ways; neither way is troublesome.

9. Your motto is, “Where the Bible speaks we speak; where the Bible is silent we are silent.” But don’t you break that rule all the time? For example, you say, “He that is baptized not shall be damned.” But that phrase does not appear in the Bible, does it? What does appear in the Bible is, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” So haven’t you twisted Scripture?

RT – I laughed when I read this. In fact, you twisted the words of what you think some say about the verse in order to perpetuate your straw man.


10, What do you think about Carl Ketcherside’s charge (please read chapter 9, Christians in Babylon) that, “To demand that one of God’s children be forced to submit to re-baptism at the hands of one of ‘our preachers’ in order to be in ‘our fellowship’ is sectarianism pure and simple…Such Church-of-Christ-isms like all other ‘isms’ are an insult to the persons and dignity of the Holy Spirit by whom we ‘are all baptized into one body.'”

RT – What Carl had to say is simply an opinion – nothing more. 


Errors of the church of Christ (30) – Baptism

“Being raised in the Church of Christ, I began a lifelong devotion to the Word of God. But there was an incident that began to shake my faith in the Church of Christ. When I was in college, a boy I knew was killed in a car accident on his way to being baptized. He had gone through an extensive process of learning the Christian faith at my church, had professed his deep and abiding faith in Christ, and had fulfilled every requirement to being a Christian—except being baptized. Most of my friends in the church believed that because he had not been baptized that this boy was in hell for eternity. This event started me questioning the teachings of the Church of Christ. In time, I studied my way out of this sect.”     —-Edward

Please see our article 101 Reason Why Water Baptism is Not Necessary to be Saved before proceeding. We also highly recommend this article Moser on Baptism for those who want to think deeply about the Bible.

1. Are we saved by water or by Christ’s blood?

RT – We are saved by the blood of Christ.

2. Next, if you are a Church of Christ person with an open mind, we ask you to read Leroy Garrett’s article about “one baptism”— chapter 37, One Baptism. Among many other points in this article, Garrett says, “We as immersionists must rid ourselves of the ungracious notion that those who do not baptize the way we do have rebellious and disobedient hearts. They can be mistaken without being degenerate. And they can be mistaken and still be Christians who are pleasing God, just as we can still be Christians when we are mistaken.” What is the difference, according to Garrett, in the etymology of a word and the meaning of a word?

RT – I do not know what Garrett said, but I can give a dictionary definition. As a noun it consists of the process of immersion, submersion, and emergence (from bapto, to dip) (Vines, pp. 98-99). That is the meaning of the word. In Scripture one is baptized in order to wash away sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), in order to be buried with Christ and resurrected with Him as well (Romans 6:3-7; Colossians 2:12), in order to enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5), and in order to be saved (1 Peter 3:21). If one is baptized apart from what Scripture says they have not been baptized.

The purpose of this section is not necessarily to try to show that the view of the Church of Christ—baptismal regenerational of mature believers by immersion—is wrong, but rather to attempt to show that such a view should not by itself be used to as a hatchet to separate from other Christian groups. CC theologian Everett Ferguson in his book instructs against such practice (page 403): “Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:13-17 protests against any view of baptism which would make it a badge of distinction among Christians instead of a unifying act.”

RT –Yes, that is what he said, but it is evident you have not read him very well if you think he minimizes the subject of baptism in New Testament theology.

3. Ferguson also warns (page 195): “Baptism provides an objective assurance of having received God’s promised salvation in Christ. That may lead to the subtle temptation to trust in baptism for salvation instead of trusting in God, his act in Christ, and his word of promise.” As it seems that many within the CC have yielded to this temptation, it is asked, is your faith in Christ or in baptism (chapter 13, Sectarian Baptism)? What is the difference, according to Hook, in baptism for remission of sins and baptism to receive the Holy Spirit?

RT – Yes, that is what he said also. You should, however, included the remarks he made in the next paragraph with regard to those who put other things into a misplaced column, such as faith or experience, or doctrinal correctness, etc. a faithful Christian will always, and without exception, says his (her) faith is in Christ.

4. First, just a point of logic. Physical life, we’re sure you will agree, begins at conception rather than at birth. Similarly, we argue along with Cecil Hook that spiritual life begins with faith and not at baptism (chapter 27 beginning on page 98, When Life Begins). In the rest of this section we will attempt to prove this biblically. Comment?

RT – Spiritual life begins where the Lord says it does. Any analogy used to mitigate this is a false analogy. Biblical baptism is not to be understood or applied apart from what the Scripture says. Those baptized into Christ will be because of their faith (Mark 16:16).



Errors of the church of Christ (29) – Abraham’s Justification

5. In James 2:14 in the Greek there is a modifying adjective in front of “faith” which is left out in the King James translation, but is translated in other versions as “the” or “that” or “such.” So James is asking here, “Can such a faith save? Or, “Can that faith save?” Notice also that James does not deny that faith justifies; he simply says, “and not by faith only.” So James acknowledges that it is indeed faith that justifies. Most theologians down through the ages have insisted that the way to reconcile the biblical message of faith and works is to explain that works describe a true saving faith but do not save unto themselves?

6. James gives us the clues we need. First of all, James makes it clear how futile it is to think that we can be saved by our works. He insists that even one single sin on our part is equivalent to breaking the entire law (James 2:10)! Then in verse 14 he asks an explanatory question whether a dead faith can save us? (Can that faith or such a faith save us?) Of course he means, no it cannot. Then in verse 18 he says that a living saving faith is shown by our works. So James is not saying that we are saved by works, rather our obedience is evidence of a legitimate faith.

So, there is, then, a simple way to reconcile faith and works in a way that is faithful to Scripture without making Scripture contradict itself. We are saved by a living faith—that is, one which expresses itself in obedience. Note that this is very different from saying that we are saved by faith plus works or any such construction. We are saved by grace through faith, not of works can we boast.

RT – Okay, you and your “most theologians” remark is to be set aside. Let us consider the context. “Faith is to be understood how? I suggest one’s “subjective” faith, one’s response of the heart to the Lord’s will. It is used that way in 2:14, 17. In 2:18-20 “faith” is used in conjunction with “works” and the two are tied together. “Works” in this particular portion of the chapter is dealing with the good one may do toward another. In 2:21-24 “faith”, “works”, and “Abraham” are all tied together. The Scripture plainly teaches that Abraham was justified by works. The word “justified” means what? Two Greek dictionaries define the word “to declare righteous, justify” (Mounce, p. 374; Vines. P. 625). This notion of “forensic” and “vindication” (as some like to insert here, thus making a distinction) James says nothing about. It forthrightly declares that Abraham was justified by works! 

7. C. K. Moser gives several biblical examples of how it is faith that saves, regardless of whether or not that faith is expressed in some sort of action. He cites the stories of Jesus healing the blind in John 9 and Matthew 9. In one case, the blind man did something—washed in the pool of Siloam. In the other case, nothing was done other than what Jesus did. Moser asks, “Were these blind men cured upon different principles? In both cases the blind received sight upon the principle of faith in Christ. In one case faith expressed by overt acts, in the other case it was not. After all it is faith that the Lord wants….Faith expressed remains faith.” (See Moser.) Comment?

RT – If the recipient did not respond to what Jesus said that person would have to do, then that which was promised would not be granted. Jesus told the man to go to the pool and wash; if he did not go would he gain his sight? To ask is to answer. With regard to the account in Matthew 9:27-31 we learn that there was a response to what Jesus asked, and in this response it was the Lord’s doing that brought sight to the eyes. In both contexts we learn the following: Jesus called for a response, and in both contexts a response was given. Second, the accentuation is upon Jesus and less so upon those with whom Jesus interacted. Third, the matter pertains to physical healing.

8. What about repentance—isn’t that a work? Please see this link: Repentance. What is the relationship between repentance and salvation? What was Peter calling his hearers to do relative to repentance in Acts 2:38? Was this an action or a change of mind? Moser continues, “But salvation is by faith. Repentance, then, must in some way relate to faith. And it must relate to faith in such a way as not to oppose it.” We argue that repentance is merely the flip side of faith. If you turn to Jesus you will by definition turn from your life of sin and selfishness. You will automatically repudiate your fleshly nature.  This is the deep meaning of repentance. So, repentance is technically not a work per se. It is part of surrendering to Jesus that occurs at the point of a living faith. After we are saved by faith, we begin to show outward confirming acts such as confession and good works because of our gratitude for what God has done for us. Confession is faith expressed in words (Romans 10:9). Again, it is the faith that saves, not any expression of it. Comment?

RT – If a person is called upon to repent (Acts 2:38), that particular person is called upon to do something. If faith is a work (John 6:29), there is no possible way that repentance can’t be. You try to distinguish between an action and a change of mind, but if faith is a work – which is an “action” of the heart, then repentance is the same. Moreover, the New Testament does not say or even intimate that repentance is the different side to faith – not once! You said, “If you turn to Jesus you will by definition turn from your life of sin and selfishness. You will automatically repudiate your fleshly nature.” If this is not an action, nothing is.

9. What about baptism? Isn’t it a work? Just as repentance is technically not a “work” of man, baptism is technically, according to Titus 3:4-7, not a work of man either! Baptism is a work of God! This leads us into the next section. But before that, one last word. If we are wrong in this, our error is putting too high a view on God and his work (and too low a view on our own work). If the Church of Christ is wrong on justification, your error is putting too low a view on Jesus (and too high a view on man’s work)! Comment?

RT – It’s is good to see that you recognize that baptism is not a work of man, but it is a work of God. 


Errors of the church of Christ (28) – Faith, Works, Justification

The Relationship of Faith and Works in Justification

The Church of Christ is under the impression that evangelicals have no part for works in the salvation formula. This is incorrect. The evangelical understanding is that grace = salvation + works. Though the Church of Christ does not use such formulas, their interpretation is either grace + works = salvation (semi-Pelagian), or works = salvation + grace (full-Palagian). Note: The = sign in these formulas means “leads to” or “results in.”

We have attempted above to show above that the Church of Christ hermeneutic of legalistic patternism is flawed. So how should the Bible be interpreted? Because this is so crucial, we repeat. First and foremost the Bible must be interpreted in such a way as not to be contradictory. If the Bible is contradictory, it cannot be God’s word. Let us examine a statement made to us by a Church of Christ preacher regarding justification (how we are saved): “I completely teach, believe, and agree with this idea: No person who has ever lived, is living, or will live, can in and of himself do something by which he earns, merits, deserves, or is given salvation. Every person, however, who hears and does what God has said to do in the way that God has said to do it will be saved by the grace of God through the blood of Christ.”

1. Is it not clear that this statement—which is typical of how CC folks state justification—is contradictory? If grace is a free gift (Rom 5:15, 16, 18Rom 6:23), if it is unmerited favor—then God does not require ANY work in order to be saved. As Paul says in Rom 11:6, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

RT – This is pitiful! You assert that something is contradictory, but you did not demonstrate what is contradictory about it. O, you made an effort, but the effort you made bites you in the backside and you don’t even see it. You said, “then God does not require ANY work in order to be saved,” while Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). Now that is a contradiction! You can’t get around it because you said “God does not require any work…” (and you emphasized the word any). If God does not require any work, then that means work that includes God. Just pitiful!  

2. St. Paul clarifies what the Church of Christ is risking in its hermeneutic. He states, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose (Gal 2:20).” This is serious. By its legalistic patternism hermeneutic, the Church of Christ is nullifying the grace of God! It is giving too much credit for sinful man and too little credit to God and Christ’s finished work on the cross. As put by C. K. Moser, “If man must still work for salvation we have in Christ an atonement that does not atone!” See Moser.

3. We fully understand how difficult the concept—that our salvation is completely by Christ’s work and none of our own—is. This is incomprehensible for our Church of Christ brothers and so too for Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Jews, and every other religion. Yet the Bible insists over and over again that we are saved by faith and specifically not by our works (Romans chapters 1-9, Galatians chapters 1-3, Ephesians chapter 2, Titus chapter 3, etc). In fact, we count over 100 instances in the New Testament when it is stated that we are saved by grace rather than works. Yet the Bible commands us to obey! So how do we reconcile faith and works?

4. We have asked the CC why they keep coming back to James 2 in an attempt to show that salvation is through works, and the answer has been, because others “keep denying what it clearly teaches.” This answer implies that, in spite of insisting elsewhere that we are not saved by works, that in fact the CC really believes after all that we are. Is James contradicting the rest of the Bible? Perhaps we just can’t get it, but it seems clear to us that James himself is teaching that works are merely evidence of a true saving faith—that is, explanatory of the kind of faith that saves us?

RT – Your words are becoming boring. All you do is assert this or that, read what other men say, fail to show where something is wrong, and then put it forth like you are on the pontiff stand. In Galatians 2, what is the context of the word “works”, or does it matter? You bet it matters! Context is crucial to a proper understanding, and you have not been very good at including it in your essay. The straw man you have built with this effort of yours makes you feel good about the challenge you have set forth, but this has not turned out to be much of a challenge at all. Remarks on James 2 will be in the next post.


Errors of the church of Christ (27)

In this series of posts I have been incorporating the entirety of words from a particular website; this includes all misspellings and other foibles. The intent was (is) not for embarrassment, but to keep it as complete as I can. This has a down side; much of the material is not worth reading. Be that as it may, I appreciate you reading it and enduring the length. RT

Christians throughout the ages have pointed out that Christianity is uniquely different from all other religions and cults because salvation is through faith and not through works. Can you see that the view of salvation through works puts the CC in close company with false religions and cults? While we are not saying the the Church of Christ is a cult, we cannot help pointing out the similarities between the Church of Christ and Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons: They were founded at about the same time (early 1800’s) in reaction to Reformed theology. The refusal to read “apostate” literature. (If the Church of Christ reader has refused to read the links we have provided in this article, our point is proven.) God’s grace through Christ’s finished work on the cross only makes up the small portion left out by my man’s own meritorious works toward salvation. (See Christian Grace vs. Mormon Grace. See also Mormon document Grace vs. Works. Note how craftily this Mormon document quotes the Bible as well as Christian thinkers.) Their group restored the true faith. (See Mormon document Restoration of the Gospel.) Their group is the only one saved.

RT – The paragraph is a non-sequitur – you laying out these assertions and trying to draw a conclusion is completely false. There is no other point, as I interpret these words, than to align a group with another group and say, “See! Note the similarities; they are from the same stock.” Whatever is to be said about the Mormons will stand or fall on its own. Whatever is to be said about the Lord’s church will, likewise, do the same.

19. Isn’t salvation not of him who willeth, nor him that runneth, but of God that calleth (Romans 9:11) and of God that showeth mercy (Romans 9:16without regard to human will or exertion? Don’t we become sons of God by the power of God and not by the will of man (John 1:12-13)? Does anyone really seek after God on his own (Romans 3:9-28)? Don’t these verses clarify that it is the work of God, not of man, that saves us?

RT – Your underlined phrase is found where in Scripture? If it is not found, then you are guilty of adding to the Word – something the Lord is against. It is the work (power) of God that saves (Romans 1:16), but it is the response of man to that invite that the Lord requires of man (John 6:28-29).

20. Are we dead in our sins, or just merely sick (Ephesians 2:5)? Can a dead man respond? Aren’t we therefore made alive by the work of Christ alone, just as Larazus was raised from the dead?

RT – Since you mishandle the Scripture like you do, I doubt you took note of what Paul said in Ephesians 1:13. Yes, man is dead in sin, but that means, exclusively, that he cannot raise himself up from his “deadness” toward righteousness (John 1:12-13) because there is nothing within him that has that power. There has to be a life-giving power that comes from outside man, and that power is in the word of God (Romans 1:16; 1 Peter 1:22-23).

21. Just as our physical birth is not something we earn nor have any control over, isn’t our spiritual birth likewise something we do not earn nor have any control over (1 Peter 1:3-5)?

RT – No “control over” – what is that supposed to mean? There no earning (a word you are so fond of), but there is such a thing as obedience. The word is used twice in the very chapter you referenced!

22. Is CC theology similar to that of Pelagius, who who in the 4th century taught that man by his own powers, without the imputation of the Holy Spirit, can turn himself to God, believe the Gospel, be obedient from the heart to God’s Law—and thus merit forgiveness of sins and eternal life? Wasn’t this theology declared a heresy even by the Catholic Church—which places a high importance on obedience—because it is contrary to Holy Scripture, being the same works righteousness theology as the Galatian heresy and the Pharasaic heresy?

RT – Can’t say anything about Pelagius, but I can say what the Scriptures teach. Acts 8:12; 18:8 – will you deny it? It’s a strange thing to me, but I did not see the word “merit” in either passage. Your insertion of this word is just another example of your determination to follow the teachings of man.

23. Here is a single question that may quicky determine whether the CC is in fact legalistic: If it would bring more people to your church to hear the gospel, would you allow instrumental music?

RT – The question demonstrates more about you than it does faithful Christians. People of conviction don’t compromise with error; people who fail to have biblical knowledge will incorporate such man-made innovations.

24. We suggest reading an article by John Marks Hicks of David Lipscomb University: Legalism. Then, if you are a CC member, would you consider taking this Legalism Questionnaire?

RT – After you define “legalism” and it is an accepted definition, then consideration might be given to it. In this whole treatise of yours, however, you have not once defined the term. Thus, it’s not likely you even know what it means. 


Errors of the church of Christ (26) – Legalism

13. This brings up another point. In the New Testament, there is a difference between commands  to non-believers and to believers. Non-believers are told to repent and believe (for example Acts 20:20-21). We argue that all other commands in the Bible, including baptism (!), are to people who are already Christians. Check out what Robert Morey says about this and then let us know what you think. Each of these video clips is about 9 minutes in length:

Morey on Obedience 9-14

Morey on Obedience 10-14

Morey on Obedience 11-14

RT – Let me encourage you, then, to set forth your argument. I look forward to your effort. In the meantime, let me ask you about what Peter said to those in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. Did Peter require any of those to whom he spoke that they needed to believe his message before they could repent? If so, where does Peter so require it (what verse or verses)? You’ll have to do better than asserting Acts 20:20-21; from this, what do you want me (or others) to make of it? I look forward to you pressing me on this.

14. What specific work is required for salvation (John 6:27-29)? Faith, right?

RT – Sure, but I think you may not like what the Lord said; He said it is a work and you have said, plenty of times, that there is nothing a person can do to be saved, but we have here at least one work that the Lord required. Hmm. Moreover, should we look at Acts 2:38, or how about John 3:5, just to name a couple of others?

15. Are we reconciled to God by what we do or by what God did to present us holy in his sight (Col 1:21-22)?

RT – So, I am to understand that man has no obligation from God to give a single response, right? If that is correct, then Jesus was wrong (John 6:27-29)! Yet, if you say a person must respond in faith, then there is something a person must do. I guess that answers a part of your question.

16. How does the CC respond to those who may accuse them of following the letter-of-the-law and not the spirit-of-the-law? For example, the Bible says we should care for widows and orphans (the letter of the law), and were astounded to hear a CC person tell us that charity should thus be limited to these groups. But Jesus gives the example of caring for the outcast and others who need help (example, the Good Samaritan) and commands us to be merciful (Mat 5:7). Is the CC attitude legalistic in this regard too, adding insult to injury to the Christian faith?

RT – You do too much listening to people, rather than reading the Lord’s Book. That which the Lord said in His Book, a faithful Christian will do.

17. The CC has been known to define legalism as either (a) “putting human tradition above God’s commandments,” or (b) “taking one commandment out of context and twist it to make it contradict another.” Haven’t we already shown that Church of Christ theology in fact is guilty of both definitions?

RT – Whoever defines “legalism” as you have described is the one to whom you need to address your question. The “straw man” you have built concerning “church of Christ theology”, I imagine, makes you feel good concerning your ability to destroy.

18. Is not faith very much alive before good works are performed, and not because of good works? Christians in the historic orthodox faith thus believe that we are saved by grace through faith and strongly agree that a faith without works is dead; that is, a true saving faith will be accompanied by works. Christians also believe that faith before it has a chance to work is a saving faith—for example, the thief on the cross. The CC would have others believe that faith is dead until one rises out of the water. Thus someone on his way to be baptized could not be one whose faith is working by love. Isn’t this view therefore legalistic and contrary to Scripture?

RT – A biblical “faith” is described in Hebrews 11:1 and Romans 4:16-22. I can’t improve upon what Scripture teaches. Faith is a work of God, just like all commands of God are a work of God. You can relegate God’s command, if you so desire, to something non-essential, but no faithful Christian will do such. 


Errors of the church of Christ (25) – Sequence, Law, and Cecil Hook

6. The CC seems to make a distinction between the “law of God” and the “law of Christ,” as if there were two law systems operating in the Bible. But isn’t it correct that the Bible teaches that “the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7)? And isn’t the law of Christ described as perfect (James 1:25)? What law is then perfect—both the “law of God” and the “law of Christ,” because they are one and the same!

RT – Nothing I can add to this, but one thing: Are you sure you want to accentuate the word “law”? After all, you have been repelled by that word throughout this treatise.

7. What source does Jesus quote when he declares, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”? Isn’t it Leviticus 19:18? Aren’t all Ten Commandments repeated or alluded to in the New Testament? What is the context of the law of Christ in Galatians 6? Isn’t it bearing others’ burdens with the glory only in the cross of Christ?

RT – The Ten Commandments are mentioned in one way or another in the New Testament, but what is it you are trying to say by this? Do you desire to maintain that the Ten Commandments are for us under the new covenant to obey? **** Based on a previous remark of yours, I find it interesting that you are interested in the context of Galatians 6. That the “cross of Christ” is connected with the life and death of Jesus is a given, but just exactly what do you think that “cross of Christ” entails? A “law” by its very nature is a standard by which another will be judged. That standard can either be compromised or obeyed. What in the “cross of Christ” tells us to bear one another’s burdens? Are verses 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 in the law of Christ (or, the cross of Christ)?  

Please bear with us on some further thoughts on the Law of Christ. As Cecil Hook points out (chapter 7 beginning on page 20, Repentance Before Faith), an incorrect interpretation of this turns Jesus into a diabolical creature if we think of him giving us a law and then saving us from our transgressions of that law. It would be like someone pushing you down into a well, then throwing you a rope. Besides making Jesus into a nasty character, this idea is not biblical. John 3:17 says that “God sent his son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved by him.” So, whatever Paul means by the law of Christ, it is not meant to be something that condemns us! It must therefore mean that the law of Christ is a phrase that merely emphasizes or  gives certainty to what Paul preaches continuously in the New Testament—that we are saved by faith in Jesus. This fact (belief in Jesus for salvation), then, is so certain that it becomes a law, like a law of logic, or a law of physics—something given us by God rather than a set of commands to be obeyed.

RT – Cecil Hook is no one’s authority. If you desire to have him teach you, that is your prerogative; I won’t. If there is a God-ordained “law” of any sort it is man’s obligation to comply with that God-ordained standard, and this you know is true. Thus, regardless of what Hook says (or any other), the Lord said what He did, and for man to not obey that which has its origin in heaven is deadly. Moreover, Hook (and you, evidently) failed to understand how “law” is applied in eternal things. A standard of right has been set forth by God. When man fails to meet that standard of right conduct – which is God’s law – then it is not God who thrusts the man down the well, but the actions of man that put himself there. Consequently, when the rope is let down for man to grab hold of, it is the Lord’s mercy that prompts it. Jesus did not come to condemn (John 3:17), but in His coming He did come to instruct (Titus 2:11-12). If man lives by that instruction, then he has reached for the rope Jesus let down into the well – a well that we were residing in when he came (and still are in if we refuse to obey). Perhaps you ought to look at John 3:18-21 to get a better and clearer picture. Only someone with your theological persuasion would and could say: “So, whatever Paul means by the law of Christ, it is not meant to be something that condemns us! It must therefore mean that the law of Christ is a phrase that merely emphasizes or gives certainty to what Paul preaches continuously in the New Testament—that we are saved by faith in Jesus.”


8. We have heard Church of Christ people say that when Paul speaks of not being saved by “law” he is only saying he is not saved by the “Law of Moses.” But please look at Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5 again. Here Paul does not use the term law or law of Moses. He uses the term “works.” And please consider Romans 13:10 in Young’s Literal Translation: “Love therefore is the fulness of law.” Note that in the Greek there is no “the” in front of “law,” making law a general term and not just a reference to Old Testament law. Isn’t Paul making a general case that we are not saved by works of any kind?

RT –Yes, it is the case that man is not saved by works, and it is the case that Ephesians 2 is not addressing the Law of Moses. You will note, however, in 2:8 that Paul gives clarity to what we are to understand. The ESV reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” Paul’s point is that no man is saved by his own doing; to say it differently, there is nothing that originates in man that he can do to be saved – this would be a work (or, the works) of man. Man’s salvation is a gift from God, as salvation has originated in God. That is the point, the only point!  The point in Ephesians is the same in Titus.

9. Note Galatians 3:21, again in Young’s Literal Translation. Doesn’t Paul make it clear that no law can give life? And Galatians 3:25: doesn’t Paul further clarify that we are not under any law (“guardian”)?

RT – Here you fail to notice the context. Galatians 3 is speaking of the Law of Moses, and it is THAT to which he addresses his remarks. The context makes this abundantly clear going back into even chapter 2. The Law of Moses, by its very nature (or God’s design) was not intended to save anyone (Acts 13:39); however, under the old covenant, one could not be in good standing (or, saved) with the Lord without having obeyed His will in regards to the law.

10. Do you think that only those laws that are repeated in the New Testament from the Old Testament are valid? Where is such principle of interpretation found in the Bible? We think that the better method of interpretation is that there are some laws that are cancelled or their importance neutralized in the New Testament (specifically the Jewish ceremonial and civil laws); the rest remain in effect (the moral laws).

RT – With regard to your two questions, the only proper way to answer is to allow the passage under consideration to make clear what is in view – this is known as context. I am not sure who “we” is, but if this is what you think is the better method then perhaps the question ought to be turned around on you: What principle of interpretation warrants a delineation of laws when the context speaks nothing about such a distinction? For instance, where does the New Testament delineate between moral and civil law?  

11. Is there any new law in the New Testament, or only new forgiveness and the fulfillment of the shadows of this forgiveness found in the Old Testament? (Here are all the scriptures in the New Testament about a “new covenant” or “new law”: Mt 26:28Lk 22:20, 1 Cor 11:25, 2 Cor 3:6Heb 8:8-13Heb 9:15Heb 12:24Gal 6:2James 2:8-13. Do you notice a theme?)

RT – Your question is not clear to me, so I will answer as best I can. When Jesus came to the earth He came to fulfill the Scriptures (Matthew 5:17-18). When He spoke to those who were opposed to Him, He inquired as to their effort in searching the Scripture, and it was those that testified to Him (John 5:39-40). After He was raised from the dead, when He gave His commission to His chosen apostles, He said that all things written were fulfilled by Him (Luke 24:44). Paul said on two occasions that the Law of Moses, being fulfilled, was nailed to the cross (Ephesians 2:14-16 and Colossians 2:14-15).

12. Cecil Hook in the preceding reference link also suggests that the CC formula HEAR/BELIEVE/REPENT/CONFESS/BE BAPTIZED may be flawed, at least in the order given. Hook points out that the 3 times in Scripture that belief and repentence are coupled together in the Bible, repentance actually precedes belief! How can that be? Read his explanation. Clue: It has to do with the New Testament view of the purpose of the law.

RT – Is this the best that can be done? Peter told the Pentecostian crowd to repent and be baptized; he told those in Jerusalem to repent and turn again; Philip preached to the Samaritans, and when the locals heard they believed and were baptized; when Philip helped the man of Ethiopia understand the Scripture, he preached Jesus unto him. The eunuch saw water and asked about being baptized; when Paul was in Corinth, the Corinthians heard Paul, believed his message, and were baptized. In all this, all you have to call into question is what Cecil Hook said about the sequence??? 


Errors of the church of Christ (24) – Country Club and Liberals

1. CC members have told us that they choose to “emphasize obedience” in faith and practice. Why would one choose to emphasize anything? Do some passages of Scripture have more authority than others? Is the message of the Bible slanted by arbitrarily emphasizing obedience over grace, when there are over 100 passages in the New Testament that emphasize grace or faith or election as the means to salvation? (If you would like to see a comprehensive list, you may email us at

RT – Interesting question you ask – especially when you emphasize the very words in this little paragraph. Whether someone emphasizes this or that may be up for some criticism; the point, however, is if the New Testament teaches it no man is to alter that teaching.

2. Are we obedient in order to be saved or because we are saved? Doesn’t the Bible teach that people are obedient because God has already saved them (2 Cor 9:8James 2:261 Jn 2:291 Jn 3:91 Jn 4:71 Jn 5:18)? Take a new look at Ephesians 1:3-10. Next please watch this 9 minute video clip: Morey on Salvation 14-14

RT – How do you read Hebrews 5:8-9?

3. Did God choose us before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless? Or did He choose us because were are first holy and blameless? Further, did God choose us, or did we choose God?

RT- The answer to your first question: Ephesians 1:4-14. Your third question is answered in the same passage.

4. Perhaps a more poignant question is—Are you now free (Gal 5:1)? Or do feel like you are in bondage? Is your burden easy or light (chapter 25, What God Requires)? What does God really require? While liberals think the Christian faith is a country club, does CC doctrine make it seem like a prison?

RT – All those in Christ are free from the bondage of sin, as Galatians 5 teaches. Your fourth question is answered in John 3:16; Acts 2:38. Perhaps as you make Christianity a “country-club” atmosphere, we would encourage you to stay within the confines of the Lord’s teachings as revealed in the New Testament. If you call this a prison, then it is clear you are a liberal.

5. Is the message of the New Testament simply that one legal system replaced another? Please see these links from those within your own tradition and offer your comment on them: chapter 3, Law of Christ,  and chapter 22, Butting the Brethren. Are these men possibly correct that legalism is indeed the “fatal error” of CC theology?

RT – The answer to your question is found in Galatians 3:19-29. On the other hand, as I have answered earlier: who has the authority to establish a divine law? Is that divine law an inherent system that is contrary (or against) to man? If it is contrary to man, what proper authority can negate that which is against man? Having identified that proper authority, that which they (the proper authority) set forth as the proper negating action that opposes man, is it now a new system or law that is not to be controverted? 


Errors of the church of Christ (23) – Justification (5)

The Galatian Heresy

“I was trying to convert others to a body of truth or system of doctrine more than to Christ. Often addessing those who already believed in Jesus, I sought to convince them of a code of law which I thought they had failed to recognize and understand. But I was the one who needed more insight. Jesus rebuked me along with others like me in his day: ‘You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they they bear witness of me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.’ John 5:39”    —-Cecil Hook, Church of Christ preacher, from his book Free to Change.

J. Gresham Machen explained that, “Paul as well as the Judaizers believed that the keeping of the law of God, in its deepest import, is inseparably connected with faith. The difference concerned only the logical…order of three steps. Paul said that a man (1) first believes on Christ, (2) then is justified before God, (3) then immediately proceeds to keep God’s law. The Judaizers said that a man (1) believes on Christ and (2) keeps the law of God the best he can, and then (3) is justified.” So, correctly understood, sanctification follows justification as growth follows birth. (From Christian Reconstruction by Gary North and Gary DeMar.)

Here is where we think the Church of Christ misinterprets the Bible on a very important point. As phrased by North/DeMar, “A Judaizer is someone who believes that salvation is by grace through faith plus keeping the law….But no one can be saved by keeping the law. This is the Bible’s point when Romans 6:14 says that the Christian is not under the law. This is far different from saying that the Christian is not obligated to obey the law as a standard of righteousness. Prior to regeneration, a person is unable to keep the law and is condemned for his ‘lawlessness.’ After a person comes to Christ the curse of the law is lifted.” So it seems that the Church of Christ makes the same mistake as the Judaizers!

North/DeMar continue: “This question needs to be answered in a no/yes fashion. No! Christians are not sanctified by the law if one means that the law is added to faith to save someone (the Judaizing heresy). ‘I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly‘ (Galatians 2:21). If there is anything that man can do to merit or retain his salvation, then there is room for boasting. The Bible says that rebellious sinners do not even add faith; it too is a ‘gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8)….‘We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law’ (Romans 3:21-28).”

RT – Again your theology has come more from man than Scripture. Moreover, what Scripture you have included in this current point of consideration is mishandled. I will demonstrate. **** The remarks by Cecil Hook as used by you are, it appears, to be understood as evidence that Christians have it wrong in their teaching. The only one in this regard that has (or had) it wrong was Cecil Hook. Anyone who fails to understand that one needs to be converted to Christ and His way is the one who needs to relearn Christ. **** With regard to Machen’s remarks – he is NOT the authority that a Christian adheres to. No matter how correct he might be, still, he is not the one to whom another turns to understand things spiritual and eternal (2 Peter 1:3). Moreover, where is North/DeMar in Scripture? **** What “law” is Paul speaking about in Romans 6? The same law he spoke about in chapter 5, of course. What law was that? The same one he referred to in chapters 3 and 4. That law was the Law of Moses. This is the very point of the struggle that one reads of in Acts 13:39 and 15:10. Your use of Galatians 2:21 is, once again, a failure to recognize the context. What is Paul’s point in his remark? The immediate context starts in 2:11; Paul confronted Peter with regard to Peter’s own struggle in the use of the law in relation to gentile association. Paul takes this point and develops the thought with regard to a purpose of the law (2:16-17), and how he (others) have been crucified with Christ and no longer lives under the authority of the Law of Moses. That’s the point! To miss it is to miss much. **** Since a man cannot “merit” his salvation, is there anything a man can do to “retain” his salvation? What did Paul say in Philippians 2:12? What did John say in 2 John 8? What did Peter say in 2 Peter 1:10? **** Your reference to Romans 3:21-28 is fine if one properly understands the context; what is that context? The context is a contrast between the systems of justification as revealed in the Law of Moses and the one revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul made abundantly clear, however, that the Law of Moses could not save, for it was never designed to save. 


Errors of the church of Christ (22) – Justification (4)

12. If a Christian can sin so as to lose one’s salvation, just what sin or sins will place him in such danger? Is it possible to know at what point one has committed such a sin and become lost again? Please be specific and give clear Bible references.

RT – Hebrews 10:26-31

13. To reiterate, the CC view on justification is contradictory. The first law of logic—The Law of Non-Contradiction—says that two distinctly different or opposite things cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. So, how is it reconcilable to say that we are saved by a free gift (Romans 5:15-176:23) from God (grace) and at the same time imply that the gift is not free—that we are saved by our works after all? This method of interpretation makes the Bible contradict itself at every turn. Grace does not mean grace; a free gift is not free. Man is not hopelessly sinful; but then again he is. Christ is necessary; but then he isnt’t. The law does not save; but yes it does (and only a Church of Christ preacher can interpret all the details of which works save and which ones don’t). This hermeneutic leaves the Bible in hopeless shambles. Is not this exactly what Paul is arguing in Romans 11:6 and Galatians 2:9?

RT – The problem is not logic, but your use and understanding of words. The word “grace” means in the English dictionary “unmerited divine assistance” and in the Greek dictionary it has several uses (cf. Vines, pp. 509-511), and one of those uses is in Titus 2:11 where we learn that the grace of God instructs us to do something (I suspect you will deny this, however). The option is ours: we will use the word as used in the Greek dictionary or the English dictionary – which will it be? Of course, to the thoughtful person, there is no incompatibility in Understanding the word as used in both dictionaries. The English defines a word as is currently used; the New Testament Greek dictionary defines the word as it was used during that time. Let us consider the passages you referenced. Romans 5:15-17 is in the broader context of Paul’s point to those who would attempt to be justified by the Law of Moses. There is a contrast in systems: the Law of Moses served its purpose, and now the grace of Christ is to serve its purpose (cf. Galatians 3:24-27). Paul’s specific point is that through Adam came death, but through Christ came life. One chooses to participate in one or the other of the “systems of justification”, but only one system of righteousness can justify. This point is a culminating point of Paul (Romans 6:21-23). Thus, God’s grace is to all freely, but God’s grace must be received. The last half of your paragraph is easily dismissed, and I beg of you to offer something more substantive than silly assertions. I am up for the challenge.

14. Let us ask this question of biblical logic: Is grace necessary for salvation? If you say yes, then does it not follow that NOTHING one can do will be sufficient to save us? Thus, no matter how hard you labor to earn God’s favor, there is still something missing, namely God’s grace? If you say no, how do you deal with the over 100 passages in the New Testament that insists that we are saved by grace? A young Church of Christ preacher emailed us that “We do not need the righteousness of Christ to be saved.” This statement should horrify any Christian. How dare you minimize the finished work of of our Lord?!

RT – Yes, grace is necessary for salvation. No, you have asserted that “grace” requires no response of the human heart and action, but you have not demonstrated it from Scripture. As soon as you affirm that the human heart must respond, you have given up your point. Moreover, if “NOTHING” is to have its intended force, then this includes even the human heart. Logic is not the problem; it’s your use of words.

15. In fact, doesn’t God despise the idea of works righteousness (Mat 23)? We may be very wrong, as we often are. But those of us who look at the CC from the outside see such statements regarding justification as inherently contradictory and legalistic. It seems to us that the hermeneutic error that the CC makes is to make biblical statements about justification additive rather than reconciled. So, instead of making conflicting statements about, on the one hand, how we are saved by grace and elsewhere saying that we must be obedient to be saved—a contradictory construction—a better and non-contradictory construction would be to say that we are saved by grace through a type of faith which leads one to conform his life to the will of God. Does the Bible contradict itself? If so, it cannot be the Word of God. The distinction here may be subtle, but crucial.

RT – This remark is terribly unfortunate: “So, instead of making conflicting statements about, on the one hand, how we are saved by grace and elsewhere saying that we must be obedient to be saved—a contradictory construction—a better and non-contradictory construction would be to say that we are saved by grace through a type of faith which leads one to conform his life to the will of God.” ***** FIRST, you have asserted that there is something contradictory in the statement you have attributed to Christians – but you have not shown this to be the case. How is “grace” contradictory to “obedient to be saved”? There is nothing in the meaning of the words to make this demonstration so it is up to you to demonstrate this to be the case. SECOND, where in the world does any part of the Bible teach what you think ought to be said by a Christian? Do you really believe there is warrant to saying that one is saved by “a type of faith” which leads to a confirmation that his life is lived to (in accordance with) the will of God? There is no such biblical teaching and, to so suggest, make YOU the one who is, to borrow your word, “additive”! 


Errors of the church of Christ (21) – Justification (3)

7. After reading this, what do you now think about the concept of imputed righteousness?

RT – The Bible does not use the phrase.

8. We cannot help but wonder whether the CC fails to appreciate the depth of our sin. The Bible says that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jer 17:9). It also says that “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (Jas 2:10Mat 5:48). So, if you believe the Bible, your heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. And assuming that you acknowledge at least some sin, you are guilty of breaking the whole law. Right? Thus, if you are guilty of breaking the whole law, are you really pleasing to God?

RT – The heart left to its own way of thinking – which is the context of Jeremiah 17 – is deceitful and self-serving. Did you pay any attention to it when you referenced the verse? You look at it in relation to 17:10. What about Matthew 5:48 – did you even look at it? The passage clearly teaches us to be like the Father. How does one go about doing this? They are able to do this as they apply 1 John 5:3. Do you find fault with this? Paul says the same thing in Ephesians 5:1. With regard to James 2:10, to what is James referring? The context is abundantly clear that James is speaking of the Law of Moses and the failure of some to meet its standard (James 2:8-13). Thus, you have misapplied the Scriptures to comport with your theological ideas.

9. In fact, since each one of us is guilty of breaking the whole law, aren’t we therefore guilty under the law and deserving of hell no matter how hard we try to keep the law? How can one possibly say that he is pleasing to God?! What seems most ironic is that in spite of its insistence on New Testament commands, the CC seems to have missed the New Testament purpose of the law—which is to show us our own sin Rom 3:20. If you have, in fact, missed the deeper penetrating spirit of the law rather than the external letter of the law, isn’t it fair to say that God is not pleased?!

RT – If you want to keep the Law of Moses, since that is the context of the passages you referenced, then it is your right to do so – but you will be lost eternally because of it. How can one possibly say he is pleasing to God? You will forgive me in this bit of incredulity when I ask if you have ever used a concordance.  If you have, have you ever looked up the word “pleasing” in it? If you have not, please take a moment and look at 1 John 3:22 and Colossians 1:10. When you do you’ll have the answer to your question. Your reference to Romans 3:20 pertains to the Law of Moses; I have already seen, however, that the problem of not understanding the purposes of the Law of Moses is in you.

10. There are other examples of how CC theology seems to us to contradict itself. Here is what one CC teacher says: “The church of Christ does not teach salvation by works. We teach salvation by the grace of God, which is given to those whom God says will receive it: specifically, those who humbly submit to his will.” When we asked, doesn’t the Bible make it clear that it is one’s inward character that is important (Titus 1:15), this same person responded: “Yes, and the inward character will result in humble obedience, which God requires in order for one to be saved.”

RT – You find fault with this?

11. We reviewed an audio tape of a lesson from the same Church of Christ gentleman. In explaining Ephesians 2:8-9 he said that “Well, this passage must mean that there are some works that do not save,” implying that there are some works that do. But in other contexts this man said, “This of course does not mean that works can earn salvation.” Isn’t there a contradiction in these two apparently different statements? What then is a straight forward answer to how one is saved?

RT- Ephesians 2:8-9 pertains to works that originate with man. There is no work that originates with man to save him. He must respond to the Lord’s work in that humble obedience mentioned in the previous paragraph that you seem to be unsettled about. Works that originate with man eliminates God’s opportunity to turn us into His workmanship – because man wants to do this on his own terms. Again, I will ask: Is man saved by the works of man or the works of God? This is not a difficult question, and should be easy for you to answer. 


Errors of the church of Christ (20) – Justification (2)

1. What is meant by obedience within the CC seems to be different in the CC than in other parts of Christianity. How about reading this essay by Cecil Hook: (chapter 25, What God Requires) and then tell others as specifically as you can exactly what we must do to be saved? (We do not think you can possibly comply with this request.) What are the essentials for a Christian in order to be saved (chapter 13 beginning on page 44, Essentials)? Please consider this essay by Hook. Is Hook correct that God requires different things for different people?

RT – Again, no reading of Cecil Hook will be done, nor is it needed. He is just a man, and no man is of any authority when it comes to a “thus saith the Lord.” What is meant by obedience, you ask? Any English dictionary will give an adequate definition. From Deuteronomy 8:1, one can easily and properly understand the nature of obedience. What does one have to do to be saved? You think it can’t be answered adequately? I suppose, then, that Acts 2:38 and 16:31-33 are inadequate answers to you.

2. Has obedience been so stressed so that the Church of Christ has crossed the line into legalism and fallen into the trap of the Pharisees? Does the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Lk 18:9-14) apply as Garrett suggests (chapter 34, Weightier Matters)? The word legalism is derived from the word law. Since you believe that the Mosaic Law has been replaced by a new law code (the Law of Christ), doesn’t that make you legalists by definition?

RT – You get close to telling us what legalism is, but that is all you do – get close. If one is to obey God, did that one who obeyed God obey a proper authority that rendered a proper, spiritual, and eternal law? If so, in that obedience, is that legalism? If you think this you are further removed from a proper understanding of Scripture than I earlier realized. Was the apostle John a legalist when he said what he did in 1 John 5:3? Is there “obedience” in that verse? Since there is a law of Christ (Galatians 6:2; James 1:25), is it acceptable to you to not obey because you don’t want to fall into the “trap” of what you call “legalism”?

3. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).” What is the context of this command? Isn’t it love? Have you subtly abstracted the law of God from its original context? Is your motivation for keeping Christ’s commandments the law for its own sake and the supposed results that you get from law-keeping? Or is your motivation a deep and abiding love for Jesus! Has your insistence on carefully and mechanically keeping the law robbed the essence of the New Testament of its love, joy, and life (chapter 26 beginning on page 91, Sickness)!

RT – Are you kidding me? Are you actually attempting to accuse a person of separating one’s obedience from the motivation? You will find no faithful Christian who does this. Your straw man is again set up for you to thrust your saber through – only, again, you missed! From your third question to the remainder of the paragraph is completely dismissed because of your supposed idea with regard to Christians and their motivation. If one does not have as a “base of operations” Matthew 22:34-40, he has nothing at all.

4. Jesus warned the scribes and Pharisees: Woe to you! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law—justice and mercy (Matthew 23:23). If works are so important, why not emphasize the ones that Jesus emphasized—namely justice and mercy, as well as evangelism (the Great Commandment and the Great Commission)? If you will “know them by their fruit,” why not be known by these things rather than the things the CC is known for such as like a cappella singing, church attendance, separatism, water gospel, etc.? What message do you seek to send to non-Christians? Doesn’t Jesus want us to be known as those who have a radical motivation to mercy and love?

RT – This impugning paragraph can be summarily dismissed because you received your information from those who have gone beyond Scripture and are desperate for ecumenical attention. Moreover, and unfortunately, you seem to desire to prioritize the words of Jesus, and no faithful Christian will attempt to do so, but he (she) will seeks to love and obey Him in all regards.

5. Have you added legislation to God’s law and treated it as if it were from God? If so this is a perilous danger! Have you added regulations that seek to bind the conscience? Have you added prohibitions against card playing, lipstick, dancing, wine, etc. as external tests? Where are such prohibitions in the Bible? Have you moved subtly from Godly morality into moralism? If so, as theologican R. C. Sproul explains, THIS IS A DEADLY VIOLATION OF THE GOSPEL. (Regarding wine in particular, see How Should a Christian Think about Alcohol?).

RT – Your series of questions needs some evidence for the asking; otherwise they are dismissed. Regardless of the accuracy or inaccuracy of your assertions, it is interesting to know that you have come to regard R.C. Sproul as you source of authority.

6. The Church of Christ’s view on justification seems confused and contradictory to us. It always seems to end up with obedience as the way one is justified. When we asked a dear CC friend—who is an elder in a Church of Christ—how he knows that he is saved, he responded, “Because I have been pleasing to God.” Can one really be pleasing to God? Is there anyone who is righteous: Mk 10:18Rom 3:10-11, 1 Jn 1:8-10? Isn’t our justification imputed by the righteousness of Christ rather than from ourselves? As put by C. K. Moser, “If man pleads his own works, he ignores the blood of Christ. Whoever does that will most certainly be ignored by God. No insult could be greater to God than to ignore the gift of ‘His only begotten Son.’ Hence Paul wrote again and again, “Not of works.’ See Eph 2:8-9Tit 3:5Rom 4.” See Moser.

RT – In order to neutralize the answer given to you, you ask a question? You need to do better than this. Once again, you make reference to the writings of man. I dare say that I have well learned where you have gotten your theology. You reference various passages and then ask another question with regard to our righteousness not being of ourselves. This is true, and no one I know has said anything to the contrary. Our justification is the result of the Lord’s will having been accomplished on the cross of Calvary. He calls upon us to come to Him (Matthew 11:28-30), and those who do will respond to His love just as He called upon the apostles to preach it in Acts 2:36-39. Is this wrong? If so, please tell us why. 


Errors of the church of Christ (19) – Justification

Justification: How We Are Saved

Works Righteousness and Legalism versus Imputed Righteousness

“I’ve tried my entire life to keep all the rules and was so deadened staring at a mean, vindictive God who handed out more rules for ‘comfort’.”                                 —-a Church of Christ sister in Phoenix

First, some comments about this topic, then the questions.  The CC seems to think that other professing Christians are lax in obedience. That may be so. A true saving faith must be a living faith (James 2). There is little room in the Christian faith for “easy-believism” which could be defined as turning one’s back on clearly understood biblical instruction. Certainly, the believer should seek to conform his life to the will of God as best as he understands it.

Faith implies faithfulness. The New Testament speaks often of such concepts as the obedience of faith. The protestant reformers put it this way: Salvation is through faith alone, but not through a faith that is alone. So, we stand with you in attempting to overcome the shallow view of easy-believism in Christianity.

RT – A few remarks that are appropriate to these sentiments. Where in the New Testament is it ever recorded that a person is justified by faith alone. Identify only one passage if there is one. I know more of this sentiment of yours will be along this line, but this is the question that needs to be addressed.

As we will point out below, we get conflicting opinions from Church of Christ folks that visit our website. Some insist that we are saved only by grace and then go on to explain that our obedience is required to earn God’s grace. Others flatly say that we do not even need the righteousness of Christ at all to be saved. So we conclude that the Church of Christ misunderstands the biblical concept of justification.

Justification is the process by which God declares us righteous even though we are not! Put another way, justification is the authoritative declaration that a person’s status is changed. As theologian Sinclair Ferguson says in his short but powerful book The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction, “God does not justify us because of what we are or what we have done. The whole point of Paul’s argument in Romans 1:18-3:20 is to demonstrate the sheer impossibility of such an event. Rather than justification, it is divine wrath which man has merited.”

Ferguson continues: “The only basis for justification which the New Testament recognises is the work of Christ….The love of God is the source of our justification, but the death of Christ is its grounds. We ‘have now been justified by his blood’ (Romans 5:9); the result of his obedient life and death is our justification (Romans 5:18); just as he was delivered over to death for our sins he was raised for our justification (Roman 4:25)….and ‘through the obedience of the one man (Christ) the many will be made righteous’ (Romans 5:19)….He [Jesus] came voluntarily under the curse of God, in order to set us at liberty from it (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21Galatians 3:13-14).”

Ferguson further reminds us that even the Old Testament saints were not justified by works of the law: “The law was introduced 430 years after Abraham had received God’s promise and was justified by faith! In fact, the Law was ‘added’ (Galatians 3:19), it ‘came in by the side door’ Romans 5:20), and was given in order to make men see how necessary dependence on the promise of justification is!”

Indeed, Ferguson clarifies that indeed it is not even because of faith that we are justified—faith being merely the instrument or the channel (Romans 4:16;Ephesians 2:8-9). We are saved by grace. The conclusion must be that if a man is justified by grace, it is impossible that he be justified by works of any kind. Just as Abraham was not justified by any work of the Law, neither are we today justified by any “Law of Christ” which is a set of rules that replaces the Old Covenant.

RT – Since there is no “church of Christ” position, only a Bible position, I will now address your remarks. Ferguson’s remarks are fine (except for the “side door” remark), but he is the wrong authority that you reference. Your commentary remarks following the author you quote are terribly mistaken. First, how does Paul use the word “works” in Romans 3? Second, if what you said is accurate with regard to what you have attributed to Ferguson that it is not even because of faith that we are justified, then this flies directly in the face of (and against) the Holy Spirit (Habakkuk 2:4; Ephesians 2:8) – strange that you would include the passage after such a remark. Third, justified by “works of any kind”? Evidently, Jesus was mistaken, wasn’t He (John 6:29)? However, two paragraphs below my remarks have you negating what you just affirmed!

In trying to explain the impossibility of adding works to grace for justification, it is argued that those accepting Church of Christ theology are not doing ENOUGH to satisfy God! How so? Tim Keller in his book The Reason for God explains how a legalist he knows came to understand the problem. He says that a certain young woman began attending his church who grew up in a church that taught that God accepts us only if we are good enough. She said that the new message of the true gospel was scary. When asked why, she responded: “If I was saved by my good works then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with ‘rights’—I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if I am a sinner saved by sheer grace—then there’s nothing he cannot ask of me.”

Yes, works are necessary for salvation; but not our works—rather the work of Christ! While our works are a test of our spiritual hearing, they are the result of our salvation not a cause of it. We will spend the rest of this section attempting to demonstrate this.

“The passage that convinced me that we in the Church of Christ were thinking wrongly towards the New Testement was the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14). It was the tax collector who was justified rather the pharisee (who was doing everything perfectly)!”         —-Monty

RT – Since “works are necessary for salvation” and those works can’t be our own, but the Lord’s, is the command of God for man to believe a work of man or a work of God (Hebrews 11:6)? 


Errors of the church of Christ (18) – Hermeneutics 3 (or Patternism)

11. And a bit more on the notion of “Patternism,” that is, the idea that we MUST follow the pattern of the disciples as found in the book of Acts. Where in the Bible is this command found? Cecil Hook demonstrates that the proof text of Heb 8:5 is misplaced (chapter 20 beginning on page 56, Pattern). We would be interested in your comments on this reference and also from Al Maxey: Patternism.

Church of Christ folks love debates. Here is a great one, a debate on patternism: Maxey vs. Broking.

RT – You ask a question with the word “must”, and in this question you imply that it is not all that important whether we follow the examples of the apostles in the early church. There is no command found. Perhaps the closest would be 1 Corinthians 4:17. I ought to ask you a series of questions: since the apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit, that which they did, were they misguided in their actions? If they were not, is there any propriety in following that example? If there is, why would one not desire to do so? Hebrews 8:5 is misplaced? Once again, I am not interested in what another author might say – when it is you that writes this treatise; I am interested, however, in your attempt to make a particular case. You agree with Cecil Hook that Hebrews 8:5 is misplaced? If so, please state why and how it has come to be this way. When you answer we can go from there.

 12. Do you really think that you are following the New Testament pattern? Well, let’s just do a little check. Are you following all of these New Testament patterns? Or are you arbitrarily assigning reasons why some should not be followed?

Do you allow speaking in tongues? (1 Cor 14:39)

Do all who believe have all things in common? Do you sell your possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. (Acts 2:44-45)

Do you greet one another with a holy kiss. (Rom 16:161 Cor 16:202 Cor 13:121 Thes 5:261 Peter 5:14)

Does every wife who prays or prophecies do so with her head covered covered? (1 Cor 11:5)

Do you wash one another’s feet. (John 13:14, et. al.) See Pedilavium.

Do you have Deaconesses (Romans 16:1)

Do you annoint with oil, lay on hands, etc, etc.?

Do you in every place lift holy hands when you pray (1 Tim 2:8)?

RT – “Do you allow”? It is not and never has been “do you allow”? A faithful Christian will always seek to know what the Scriptures teach (Acts 17:11). Moreover, whatever failing(s) there might be on the part of an individual or a church means nothing with regard to the truthfulness (or not) of a position that is being argued. Secondly, you assert that Christians arbitrarily assign reasons why some teachings should not be followed. This is a straw man that you hope to dismantle with little effort disguised in a question (or series of questions). Thirdly, these questions posed by you are not honestly designed to receive a biblical answer, but an answer that comports with what you want to accept/believe, and that is that there is something wrong with a “pattern.” These questions are to be dealt with individually and in a more thorough way than in this manner in which I am addressing your treatise.

13. On the other hand, do you show patterns that are not in Scripture, such as weddings, funerals, election of elders, business meetings, thrice weekly meetings at church, and so forth? Are elders given authority to ordain scruples and standards and to withdraw from those who do not comply? If so, isn’t this contrary to the warning of Jesus, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you… ” (Mat 20:25-26). See chapter 23 beginning on page 81, Route to Heaven.

RT – Christians are capable of making a distinction between traditional practices and scriptural teachings.

14. What about methods of carrying on church business and of selecting of elders—are such laid out in the Bible (chapter 22, Organization, and chapter 23,Autonomous)? Are accepted practices really from the word of God, or are they traditions of men?

RT – Paul told Titus to ordain elders in every city (Titus 1:5). If a man desires to be a bishop (1 Timothy 3:1-7) there are certain things that have to be met – the Holy Spirit does not give an exception like many man-made churches do. When Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch they got the congregation of the Lord’s people involved in the appointment of elders (Acts 14:23). Do you have a better “tradition” than this?

15. Edward Fudge argues that Hebrews 8:1-6 is not suggesting that Christians keep patterns, but in fact the writer of Hebrews is making a contrast with the Christian order (Fudge on Patternism). Indeed, Fudge further argues that patternism is a tradition of men rather than the word of God. Please offer your rebuttal.

RT – I do not know exactly what Edward Fudge said, except only as you declare. Assuming I understand you correctly when he asserts that some brethren argue for this so-called “patternism” (that you impugn so often) based on Hebrews 8, I suppose I would ask: what argument is being made on this passage with regard to a pattern? It is true that the Holy Spirit contrasts the differences in the covenants. That said we must not minimize the words and principle of 8:5.

16. The Church of Christ also teaches that tradition is to be avoided based on Mat 15:2-6 and Mk 7:3-13. But doesn’t the Bible itself teach that there are verbal traditions to which one must hold (2 Thes 2:15)? If it is not okay to use tradition in the Christian faith, how do we even know who wrote the first book of the New Testament? While the Bible contains all truth, is all truth in the Bible? Isn’t it reasonable to think that there are as many ways to honor God as his infinite nature would imply?

RT – No! The “tradition” of that passage is the very word that Paul spoke to the church at Thessalonica, and that is the word of God (3:6)! Your second question is pitiful! Can you not make a distinction between the truth of God as revealed in Scripture and tradition as discussed by man? The latter is never to be inserted as something that pertains to righteousness. Understanding the historical tradition of the biblical writers is not that which pertains to righteousness.  Your third question is no; on the other hand, all things that pertain to life and godliness is found exclusively in Scripture (2 Peter 1:3; Jude 3). Do you deny this?  Your fourth question might be able to be answered in the affirmative, but one can know for certain how to do so as revealed in Scripture (1 John 5:13). Those who go beyond can’t know for certain.

17. We would again suggest that you read Cecil Hook’s comments in chapter 33 beginning on page 113, Hermeneutic. Is our sufficiency in a written code in the New Testament, or rather in the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6)? Do we have eternal life via the Scriptures or simply in Jesus (John 5:39)?

RT – Why the delineation? Can you know anything with regard to salvation outside the Scripture? If you say yes, how would you come to know that? If you say Jesus, how would you come to know anything about Jesus? The New Testament, that you speak of in an unfortunate way as a “written code” is that which God gave us to understand Him, His son, and His way. What did Paul say about God having revealed through Paul His will (Ephesians 3:1-7)?

18. How does one answer the following charge made by Bob Ross in his book Campbellism; It’s Histories and Heresies: “Campbellism is salvation by works because it requires one to obey—in order to be saved—a ‘gospel plan’ that in order requires (a) faith, repentance, good confession, baptism, remission of sins, and the Holy Spirit—thus requires a sacramental ordinance, and (b) requires the assistance of another person [“priest”] and thus the obedience of the one assisting.” Is this construct a tradition of man rather a commandment of God?

RT – Bob Ross is no authority for any Christian. Moreover, I do not know what “Campbellism” is. (1) Is this a true or false statement: “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved;” Since it is an independent clause of Mark 16:16, it stands on its own. Is it true or false? (2) When Peter declared to those on Pentecost to “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Did he speak the truth? If he did, did he require someone to obey something that God commanded him to teach? 


Errors of the Church of Christ (17) – Hermeneutics (2)

5. Isn’t the Bible silent on many things which Churches of Christ do or use: church buildings, “placing membership,” plan of salvation, shaped notes, four-part harmony, audio and visual equipment, “five acts of worship,” worship leaders, located preachers, youth director, campus ministers, pitch pipes, tuning forks, Sunday school, greeters, ushers, collection plate, invitations song, church budget, pledge cards, “laying contributions at the elders’ feet,” prohibitions against helping community organizations, song leader, grape juice, auditorium, etc? Nothing wrong with these, for sure. But they are indeed traditions, no?

RT- Yes, the Bible is silent on many things. In things that pertain to God, however, Christians are to teach and do only that which the Lord wants taught and done. For instance, the idea of a church building violates which of these two things? Moreover, the audio and video equipment violates which of these two things? Yes, they are traditional with some. Rather than seek to learn what can’t be done or used, why not seek to learn what the Lord wants done with regard to teaching and doing?

6. Cecil Hook documents in his books Free to Change (chapter 33 beginning on page 113, Hermeneutic) and Free as Sons (chapter 20 beginning on page 56,Pattern) that: “Let’s Face It: None of us is willing to follow those three rules consistently. We accept what seems to fit our understanding, and we reject or overlook teachings of the same classification that do not fit our mental picture.” How about taking a minute to read the articles on these links. So we ask, is the pattern you seek in church not there after all? Is Hook correct that patternism is evidence of legalism? Does such patternism subtract from the focus on Christ?

RT – Since I have already dealt with the idea of “pattern”, and that you also follow a pattern, I will dismiss the question. “Patternism” is legalistic in accordance with what standard? Moreover, you need to define what you mean by the use of the word/term “legalism” when you ask this question. Does following a pattern subtract from a proper focus on Christ? Will chaos help one focus?

7. What is the vital factor which God sees to be known by him? Is it loving God (1 Cor 8:2-3 f) or the code of rules that you suppose to be the law of Christ?  If patternism is so important, why do you limit your patterns to the book of Acts? Why not follow the pattern of Jesus, who consistently tended to the weak, sick, and needy?

RT – This first question is terribly flawed. Are YOU going to prioritize what is vital and what is not? Is 1 Corinthians 8:2-3 more important than 1 John 5:3? Perhaps you can and will explain the comprehensives answer of our Lord to a religious leader as spoken by Him in Matthew 22:37-38. Those faithful to the Lord’s teachings do not limit the teaching to the book of Acts only; the entirety of the New Testament is used.

8. What is the core message of the Bible? Is it, as Abilene Christian and Pepperdine professor Thomas Olbricht insists that it is: the “mighty acts of God” and “God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit?” Or is it rather “commands, examples, and necessary inferences?” Should it not be the faith, hope, and love realized in the lives of believers through the power and grace of God?

RT – Does the New Testament speak of a “core message”? Everything starts with obedience to the two great commands mentioned in Matthew 22; following that, all God’s laws are built on this foundation (which is Christ). To speak of something being more important than something else – when the same Author gave both (and all) is quite misguided. Perhaps it might be better if we just teach what the New Testament says and not try to prioritize anything the Lord said – unless He has done so.

9. These formulas bring up a long list of questions that we might ask, especially regarding necessary inferences. It seems that what is a necessary inference varies even among CC folks. But suffice it to wonder whether a “necessary” inference becomes any doctrine or practice that someone in the Church of Christ deems necessary (or whether the formula is a necessary tool to exclude many other Christians and Christian practices). Since these formulas are not specific commands in the New Testament and since “necessary” seems to be merely an interpretation, shouldn’t others necessarily infer that these formulas themselves are traditions of men rather than the word of God? See Al Maxey’s comments on Necessary Inference.

RT – Assuming you know something about the study of logic, I will give a definition of inference: when something is inferred it is implied. To deny this is to deny logic. “The forming of a conclusion from premises by either inductive or deductive methods; the conclusion itself” (Gordon Clark, p. 136). “…we may say that reasoning or inference occurs whenever we assert something to be true on the ground that something else is true” (Boyd Henry Bode, p. 2). Thus, all correct inferences are necessary.  It has been said many times that those who turn against logic have done so because logic has turned against them!

10. Are examples and incidental details in the Bible binding? How does one answer the issues raised by Mr. Hook’s explanation on this: chapter 2, Law and Principle? Is it the detail or the purpose that is important, such as at the Lord’s Table? Is it correct to assume that breaking bread on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7f) is binding? Remembering that the Jewish day was from sundown to sundown, and since this gathering in Acts 20:7 was at night, it had to be on what we know as Saturday night. Is the CC’s insistence on a Sunday Communion therefore breaking this New Testament example? Since that was the only such instance in the New Testament, how can one be certain to the point of law that this was not an isolated example? How can you even be certain that this was Communion rather than a fellowship meal? Would Jesus pronounce a woe on such sacred cows?

RT – There is an old adage that has much merit: if we do what they did we will get what they got. Restated: if we follow the examples and patterns of the apostles and those who lived in the first century under their tutelage, then that which they received we will receive as well. Question to you: Is this false? Let me address Acts 20:7. The first thing to note is how the various translations render the verse. The NKJV, NET, NIV, ESV, and NASV all read “on the first day of the week.” Thus, your “Saturday night” attempt to negate a proper hermeneutical approach is dismissed. Second, since the early Christians came together on the first day of the week to break bread and then to hear Paul preach, here is a good pattern for us as well. Concerning whether “communion” is in view or not, let us reason together on this a bit. Did the disciples come together to eat a “fellowship” (or potluck) meal, is that how you read this? What did Paul say to the Corinthians when they gather together (1 Corinthians 11:18, 20)? The Corinthians gathered together for impure reasons when they should have gathered together for a singular reason (11:23-26). Isolated example? Is communion to be an isolated example, and not a weekly one? Communion a sacred cow?! Interesting association you make, and one that is rather unfortunate.