SHARPER THAN A SWORD

SERMONS

Hebrews 4:12-13 "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."

All articles are written using the NKJV, unless otherwise noted! All articles are written by David Hicks, unless specified otherwise.

"The Peace of Christ"

Part 7

Making Peace with Churches

Introduction

1. Previously, we have seen that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, offers….

a. Peace with God, through justification and reconciliation.
b. Peace with mankind, through abolishing barriers.
c. Peace with oneself, one that surpasses understanding and guards our heart.
d. Peace with families, when family members fulfill their duties to one another.
e. Peace with brethren, working and worshiping together in love and unity.

 

2. Jesus also offers peace with churches….

a. Where churches can co-exist in peace and harmony.
b. Presenting a picture of unity in the eyes of the world.

[Of course, such is generally not the case today. This is why we need the peace of Christ, not just in our individual lives but in our churches….]

 

I. THE NEED FOR PEACE WITH CHURCHES.
A. The Denominational Mess Today…..

1. According to one reckoning, there are 33, 820 denominations today – World

Christian Encyclopedia (2000).

2. By definition, a denomination is “A religious organization uniting in a single legal and administrative body a number of local congregations.” – Webster.

3. Two or more congregations under a single administrative and legal hierarchy create a denomination.

4. Example of denominational hierarchies:

a. Churches under a single pope or archbishop.
b. Churches united by a synod, council, or convention.
c. Churches subject to the oversight of other “sponsoring” churches.

-- The number of denominations continues to grow rapidly.

 

B. The Sin of Denominationalism…..

1. It is unscriptural -

a. There is no Biblical basis for local churches being divided into denominational bodies.
b. No denomination can go to the Bible and say, “See that passage? There is our church (denomination)!”

2. It is anti-scriptural -

a. It is contrary to Jesus' prayer for unity John 17:20-23.
b. It is condemned by Paul – 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:3-4.
c. It opposes the work of Christ on the cross – Ephesians 2:14-16.

3. It harms the cause of Christ -

a. Jesus believed unity to be “the final apologetic”.

John 17:21 “ 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.”

b. Religious division has been a stumbling block to many unbelievers.
c. Denominationalism has led to the rise of many cults (Mormons, JWs. Etc.).

-- No true disciple of Christ can sanction denominationalism in any form.

 

[The religious confusion today does not come from God: “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33. On the contrary!]

 

II. Jesus Offers True Peace for Churches -
A. By His Own Example….

1. Consider the religious climate of Jesus' day (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc…).

a. What kind of Israelite was Jesus while living under the Law of Moses?
b. He was simply a faithful Israelite, just as the Law of Moses intended.

2. Suppose Jesus came today, to show us how to live under the New Covenant

a. What “kind” of Christian would He be (Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, etc.)?
b. Would He not simply be a Christian? – Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16.

-- Jesus would be a Christian, nothing more, nothing less!

 

B. By His Apostles' Doctrine…

1. Early Christians were governed by the apostles' doctrine.

a. From the very beginning of the church – Acts 2:42.
b. Which they respected as the Word of God.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”

1 Corinthians 14:37 “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.”

2. The apostles' taught a simple form of congregational organization.

a. When fully developed , a church would have elders – Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5.
b. Elders were also known as bishops and pastors – Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5:1-2.
c. They had to meet stringent qualifications – 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9.
d. There was always a plurality in each congregation – Acts 20:17; 21:18.
e. They were assisted by deacons, also qualified – Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-13.

3. Important to note is the limited oversight of elders.

a. Their oversight was limited to those “among” them – Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-2.
b. They had no oversight of Christians in other congregations.
c. The only authority above the local congregation was Christ and His apostles.

4. This resulted in independent, autonomous congregations.

a. No hierarchy above the local congregation.
b. No single bishop over several churches, no synod, and no council or convention.
c. No sponsoring church where elders of one church oversees the work of another.

-- By His apostles' doctrine, Jesus offered peace from denominational division.

 

[Through His own example and His apostles' doctrine, Jesus offers true peace for churches. Let's summarize the nature of….]

 

III. The Peace with Churches That Jesus Offers.
A. Prevents Hierarchal Control…

1. By uninspired men (unlike the apostles of Christ).

2. By unqualified men (where are the qualifications for such authority?).

3. By unspiritual men (for denominationalism is indicatory of carnality).

1 Corinthians 3:3-4 “for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? [4] For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not carnal?”

--The Lord desires that each church be overseen only by its own elders.

 

B. Hinders The Spread Of Error……

1. False doctrine accepted by the hierarchy quickly spreads to churches under them.

2. Where congregations are autonomous, error spreads much more slowly.

-- Can we not see the Lord's wisdom in designing independent churches?

 

C. Presents A Much Better Picture…..

1. Autonomy does not prevent the rise of error.

2. But where congregations are independent, the error is not apparent.

3. It is when denominations are formed over doctrinal differences that division

becomes visible to the outside world.

--We may not all agree, but we hinder the cause of Christ by “airing our dirty laundry”.

 

Conclusion

1. In a world of religious division, let us not forget.

a. Jesus prayed for unity among believers, that the world might believe - John 17:20-23.
b. God is the author of peace, not confusion, in all the churches – 1 Corinthians 14:33.

2. If we want to promote the cause of Christ, let us….

a. As individuals, follow the personal example of Christ (free of sectarianism).
b. As congregations, follow the apostolic doctrine regarding church organization.

 

Only then can we hope to have even a semblance of peace among churches of Christ….

 

Romans 16:16

“Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you.”