30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM

Clarksville church of Christ

January 21, 2001

Speaker: Richie Thetford

"Why I Am A Member of the church of Christ"

Good morning and welcome once again to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, located at 407 W. Hwy 131 in Clarksville. Thank you for turning your radio on and dialing in to this broadcast this morning. Your presence is the reason for this broadcast each and every Sunday morning. I want to continue to encourage each one of you to have a deep desire for the truth of God's Word and study it diligently. Be sure to check everything that I say with God's Book. This also goes for others who are public speakers and teachers. Be sure that what you accept is founded upon a "thus sayeth the Lord;" that you can find book, chapter and verse for all that you believe in the name of religion.

Turning to 1 Peter 3:15, we read, "but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear." Here the apostle Peter states that each one should be ready and willing to give an answer to anyone who would ask of us as to why we are what we are in religion today. In our study this morning, I want to let you why I am a member of the church of Christ.

Remember last week I asked the question "is your religion yours or someone else's?" This morning, I want to ask you, do you know why you are what you are religiously, or, why are you a member of whichever church you may happen to be a member of? There have been many reasons given as to why people are what they are religiously. It's a popular church; It's a friendly church; My parents are or were members of that church; I married a wife or husband who was a member of that church; They have the finest building in town; They have the largest membership in town; and on an on we might go as to reasons why people are what they are religiously. Again, I ask, why are you what you are religiously? Why are you a member of the church where you attend? Can you give an answer? Do you truly know why? Or, do you just attend without any real conviction? Have you ever given serious consideration to this vital question?

I simply ask of you that you consider the following reasons for being a member of the Lord's church, the church of Christ. I want to tell you why I am a member of the church of Christ, and I can only speak for myself. I ask you to consider my reasons and then, please, if you find fault with them, then please let me hear from you.

But, first, let us consider some preliminary thoughts. The inspired apostle Paul states, "Give diligence (K.J.--study) to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). You and I are to "study, give diligence" to rightly divide the truth of God's Word. We must be interested in what God's Word says relative to the important question we are studying this morning, as well as every other subject which we might consider.

Can we go to the Old Testament for our answer? The answer to that question is an emphatic "NO." Paul says that the Law of Moses was a "schoolmaster or tutor" to bring us to Christ, but now that Christ is come we are no longer under the schoolmaster or tutor". You can read this in Galatians 3:23-25. So when anyone goes to the Old Testament for what they practice today in religion, they are going to the wrong authority. In Colosians 2:14, we learn that the bond written in ordinances, that is the old law, was blotted out and nailed to the cross of Christ Jesus. In Ephesians 2:14-17, we learn that Christ abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that is the law of Moses. It was removed, nailed to the cross; blotted out; abolished. The Law of Moses and its Ten commandments are no longer binding upon mankind. Christ removed them when He gave His new Law. Paul says that those who would seek to be justified by that old system, or law, are fallen away from the grace of Christ, Galatians 5:4. All of these verses teach us very clearly that we, you and I, are no longer amiable, no longer under that old covenant from Sinai, the Law given through the prophet Moses. It was removed when Christ died on the cross.
We are now under a New Covenant, the Living covenant of Christ Jesus. Please turn with me in your Bible to the New Testament book of Hebrews, chapter 6, and lets read verses 6-13: "But now hath he obtained a ministry the more excellent, by so much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then would no place have been sought for a second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, That I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, In the day that I took them by the hand to lead them forth out of the land of Egypt; For they continued not in my covenant, And I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, And on their heart also will I write them; And I will be to them a God, And they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his fellow-citizen, And every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: For all shall know me, From the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And their sins will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old." Hebrews 9:15-17 also speaks of this new covenant under which we now live.

For one to go back to the Old Testament or the Law of Moses for authority in religion today is a failure to rightly divide the word of truth. Can we use the Old Testament in our study and teaching? Of course! Those events serve as examples and/or warnings. Paul says they were written for our learning (Romans 15:4). But, to determine what should be done in religion today, we must come to the New law, the new covenant of Christ Jesus.

I wish also to point out that we learn from God's Word in one of three methods. First, it may be by specific command. Jehovah speaks by command. If He commands, then we must obey. Secondly, we learn by approved examples. If the early disciples under the direction of the inspired apostles did something, then it must have heaven's approval, thus God approved of it. Thirdly, we may learn by necessary inference. From the things which transpired, it is necessarily inferred that something else followed. These are the three methods whereby we learn of what Jehovah approves. Either by direct command, by approved example, or by necessary inference.

I also want to make another important point here. The silence of God's word must also be respected. By that I mean, when God has not spoken, man has no right to step up and say, "Well, I think that this or that would be O.K. How do you know? Has God told you so? No, "But I think it will be all right." That, my friends, is presumptuous sin. If you can do one thing because it feels all right, then your neighbor can do something else because it feels all right; and his neighbor can do something else because they thinks it is all right. And on and on we go, with no limit as to what can be done. We would become a law unto ourselves. This is exactly why there is so much confusion in the religious world today. Everybody doing what they think is all right, without opening the Book of God and finding authority for what they are practicing.

I now return to the proposition with which I began this morning. Why I am a member of the church of Christ. Here are my reasons.

First: It is scriptural in name. I turn to Romans 16:16 and I read, "all the churches of Christ salute you." It does not take the wisdom of Solomon to understand that if you have "churches" of Christ, that there must be a "church of Christ." The plural demands the singular. If I say I have some apples, you well know that I have at least one apple. For Paul to say that the "churches of Christ" (plural) send their salutations, it must follow that there was at least one "church of Christ" that sent its salutation. You do not have to be an Einstein or a rocket scientist to understand that. In fact, you would have to have help to misunderstand it.

In Matthew 16:18, our Lord said, "Upon this rock," that is, the confession which Peter had just made that Jesus was the Christ the Son of the Living God, "I will build my church." Did you hear what Jesus said, "MY church." Note, He did not say "churches." It is His church. It is Christ's church. It is the church of Christ.

Question. Can you find the name of the church to which you belong in God's Word? My friends, do not just shrug it aside and say it makes no difference what name you wear. Husbands, do you feel that it makes a difference which name your wife wears. Why do you think Christ would look any differently about you wearing some name other than His. If you are a part of the bride of Christ, His church, would you be content to wear someone else's name, perhaps, John's; or Luther's; or other? So, I ask you again, Can you find the name of the church to which you belong in God's Word? Many are willing to wear names not found in God's Word. Names foreign to the Bible.

Secondly, I am a member of the church of Christ because it is scriptural in Organization. God's arrangement is for each congregation of His people to have elders over each local church. In Acts 14:23, I read, "And when they had appointed for them elders in every church."Did you hear that? Elders in every, in each, church. In Acts 20:28, we read, "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood." The terms bishop and elder refer to the same office. The words are used interchangeably in the scriptures. I realize that some congregations do not have men who are qualified to be elders. They should be working to meet those qualities as listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Also, there are to be deacons in each congregation. Paul lists the requirements of the deacons when he lists the qualities of the elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

I stated that the church of Christ was scriptural in organization. There is no arrangement whereby churches can function together in some kind of association or amalgamation. Each church in the New Testament was independent of all other congregations. Each congregation was autonomous. Each congregation takes care of its own business. There is no tie between congregations. The Clarksville church of Christ belongs to no association or convention. There is no one who directs the affairs of the Clarksville church of Christ, except the members who comprise the Clarksville congregation of God's people. Is that true of the religious body with which you are affiliated? Does it belong to an association? Does it belong to some convention? Does it send delegates to determine what it is to believe and practice? If so, have you ever looked into the Book of God to find a command, or an example of such? What is our authority for what is being done? Is it God's Word or some convention of men?

The Clarksville church of Christ is scriptural in its worship. By that I mean, all things which we do in our worship can be found in the Book of God. There are basically five items or avenues of worship participated in as we worship our God. First we engage in prayers. 1 Thessalonians 5:17, states, "pray without ceasing." Paul told Timothy,"I desire therefore that the men pray in every place" (1 Timothy 2:8). There are numerous examples in the book of Acts of the early disciples praying often. These prayers are not offered as a public display or show, because Jesus condemned prayers that were mere public displays, done to be seen of men (Matthew 6:5-8). The prayers which you will hear at the Clarksville church of Christ are not prayers written by someone else to be repeated over and over; but, they are the expression of a heartfelt need by the one leading the prayer. They do not come from some manual or discipline. Neither will you hear babblings and discoherent sounds, expressions which are not understood by those in the assembly. Paul says that if his prayer was not understood it would benefit no one (1 Corinthians 14:15-18).

A second item of worship engaged in at the Clarksville church of Christ is that of congregational singing. Ephesians 5:19, reads,"speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." Then in Colossians 3:16, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God." You will notice that in each of the passages, the congregation took part in singing. My friends, you can begin with Matthew and continue through Revelation and you will not find authority for New Testament Christians to play upon mechanical instruments of music in their worship unto Jehovah. Remember, we discussed the silence of the scriptures where I pointed out that man has no right to infringe upon the silence of God's Word. Where God has not spoken, we have no right to speak. Also, I pointed out that our authority is not the Old Testament with its animal sacrifices and Temple worship. To go back to the Old Testament for authority shows me that one can not find authority in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.

Also, at the Clarksville church of Christ you will not find a choir or special groups who perform. There are no solos, trios, or groups presenting their special renditions. God's house is not the place for performances or entertainments. Please reread the passages I referred to earlier and you will find that each member of God's family is commanded to sing, expressing the feelings of the heart as together we worship Jehovah. Does the church where you worship use mechanical instruments in its worship? Have you ever asked for the authority for this practice? If not, why not? Shall you shrug your shoulders and ignore the need for authority in all things done in the name of religion?

The third item or avenue of worship at the Clarksville church of Christ is that upon the first day of each week the members lay by in store of their material blessings. The apostle Paul commanded, "But this I say, He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Let each man do according as he hath purposed in his heart; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). As to the day of the week that the contributions were taken, we read from 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, "now concerning the collection for the saints, as I gave order to the churches of Galatia, so also do ye. Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come."

God's family is financially supported by the free will offerings of its membership. There is simply no place for pie suppers, raffles, bingo parties, or begging campaigns among those who respect the authority of God's Word. Churches are not to be engaged in secular projects to raise money. There are many denominations across the country who engage in secular business; some operate baseball parks; some operate wineries and breweries; some own business properties, and on and on we might go. None of these things are within the scope of divine authority. The Lord's way of raising money for His work is by individual members of the local congregation laying by or giving into a common treasury each Lord's Day. So, you will not find the Clarksville church of Christ begging you for your money, nor engaged in secular business. We do not even ask you to support this radio program, because we feel it is the work of the Clarksville congregation and we will finance it.

The money contributed is likewise to be used in proper efforts. I shall say more about this when I discuss the work of the local congregation at a later time. Does the church where you attend use secular business to raise their money? Does it take up contributions on other days of the week besides Sunday? Have you ever asked why?

A fourth item or avenue of our worship is the partaking of the Lord's Supper each first day of each week. In Acts 20:7, we read, "And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow." Here we see the saints in Troas partaking of the Supper upon the first day of the week, that's Sunday to us. Thus, just as often as Sunday comes around God's people at the Clarksville church of Christ observe the memorial feast of the Lord's crucifixion. Each member partakes of the unleavened bread which represents the body of Christ. Each member partakes of the fruit of the vine which represents the blood which was given for our salvation. This is in harmony with the words of our Savior, as spoken in Matthew 26-29, "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it; and he gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, All of you drink of it; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins. But I say unto you, I shall not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." Thus, when the Lord's Day or Sunday comes around, the Clarksville church of Christ observes the Lord's Supper. Does the church to which you belong partake of the Lord's supper each Sunday? If not, why not? Have you ever asked why you do not have the privilege to partake on His feast each Lord's Day? Or, perhaps, the supper is observed on some other day of the week. If so, where is the authority for that practice? Have you ever asked? If not, why not?

The church at Corinth had some problems concerning the Lord's Supper. They had made a common feast out of it and the apostle Paul seeks to correct the abuse. He tells them that they have houses to eat and to drink in and if they are hungry, let them go home to eat. Listen to him, "But in giving you this charge, I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also factions among you, that they that are approved may be made manifest among you. When therefore ye assemble yourselves together, it is not possible to eat the Lord's supper; for in your eating each one taketh before other his own supper; and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What, have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and put them to shall that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you? In this I praise ye not" ( 1 Corinthians 11:17-22). Then he concludes the subject in verse 34, with these words, "If any man is hungry, let him eat at home." I shall say more about the social gospel in a future lesson.

The fifth item or avenue of worship engaged in at the Clarksville church of Christ is that of teaching God's word. Reading from Acts 2,"And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breading of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). In the passage referred to in Acts 20, we learned that Paul continued his speech until midnight (Acts 20:7). As you read through the chapters of Acts, you will find many sermons presented, much teaching taking place at various times and in various places.

Thus, when saints come together, the word of God is discussed; sometimes in classes and sometimes from the pulpit. The Clarksville church of Christ has classes for all ages on Sunday mornings at 9:30 A.M. Since children are not able to understand and learn from an adult study, they go into a class with competent teachers to study on their own level. The same is true with our Junior high and High school students. Then there is a study in the adult class. We are currently engaged in a study of the New Testament book of Hebrews in one of the adult classes and the other adult class is engaged in a study of the History and Geography of the Bible. Then after Bible class we meet in the auditorium to worship our God.

Also, on Wednesday evenings at 7:30 p.m., there are classes offered for each age group. We also engage in songs and prayers in all of these services. The first Wednesday evening service of each month is spent in worship by songs. You have a cordial invitation to attend any or all of these services. You will be our honored guest. You will not be embarrassed, but treated with respect and honor. You will see children of God worshiping their God in spirit and in truth, as they offer their worship to their Heavenly Father, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

This is Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"