Let Us Suppose

Let us do a little supposing. But this supposing is not fanciful, it is true to life. We are going to suppose that we are reading our Bible for the first time to find out what God's will for us is.

We would learn that Christ's church does not appear in the Old Testament. We would not find the church mentioned explicitly until we came to the 18th verse of the 16th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus says: "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."

Reading the rest of the New Testament we would learn that the church is a divine institution, purchased by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28). It is "the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). The manifold wisdom of God is to be made known by the church, and in the church God is to be glorified for evermore (Eph. 3:10,21).

Someone might ask: What church? Well, that is an easy question, for in the New Testament we read of one church only.

If I sent one of my boys to bring the cow from a field where there was one cow, and he said, what cow, I would know that he just didn't want to obey me!

Let us suppose that we are reading the Bible for the first time. We are reading it with an unprejudiced mind to find out what God has taught us. In addition to the things already mentioned, we would also learn that the church is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:20-23), that He is the Saviour of the body (Eph. 5:23).

If we continued our study we would learn how people became members of the church in New Testament times. We would learn that the seed of the kingdom is the word of God and that we must be born into God's family. This church we read about in the Bible is different than any other institution on earth. Jesus said we must be born again to enter it! "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again" (John 3:3), "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). (In Matthew 16:18,19 Jesus used the words church and kingdom synonymously.)

What we are supposing is true to life because some people have done this very thing. They have studied the Bible. They have found the New Testament pattern for the church. They have learned how to become a member of that church, and how to worship and serve God in the church.

Would this not be a wise thing for all of us to do? Let us suppose that a group of people who believe in Jesus would lay aside every humanism that has fastened itself to religion, and that they would be Christians, and Christians only.

This could be done, and it SHOULD be done. Everything in the religious world either comes from the Bible or it comes from man. Worship according to the teachings of men is not acceptable to God. Jesus said to certain religious people: "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" (Matthew 15:3). "Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men'" (Matthew 15:7-9). The Apostle John warned: "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9).

At various times and in various places people have determined to follow the Word of God as their sole authority in matters of religion.

About a hundred and fifty years ago there were people in Scotland, England, Canada and the United States who did this very thing. Although at first they were unknown to one another, they all came up with the same answers to the question: "What should we do to restore the New Testament pattern?"

Does it surprise you that they reached the same conclusions? Actually, it would be surprising if they did NOT come up with the same answer, and I will tell you why. Truth is always in harmony with truth. Two things that contradict may both be error, but they cannot both be truth.

Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). And He promised: "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31,32).

So this effort to restore New Testament Christianity came not through an ecclesiastical organization, but because men, tired of denominationalism, determined to go back to the pure fountain of pure Christianity, back to the Bible and back to Jesus Christ Himself, and the result has been that thousands of people have thus become members of the church of Christ.

If you sow wheat, you always reap wheat. You never in your life saw farmers sow wheat and get a barley crop. Gardeners, you never sowed carrots and reaped beets or turnips. No, every seed produces after its kind and Jesus said in Luke 8:11 that the seed of the kingdom is the word of God. When the word of God, the doctrine of Christ, was taught to people in New Testament times, it made them Christians only and only Christians. It made them members of the church of Christ. It is also true today that people will be members of the church of Christ when they go back to the Bible and follow the Bible alone.

Now this supposition that we have made, that we are studying the Bible in order to find out what God wants us to do, is not just for those who are highly educated. The word of God was written for simple people. When Jesus was here, the common people heard Him gladly (Mark 12:37). So don't let anyone tell you that you must have someone interpret the Bible for you. God has given the Bible to mankind. If someone says that he can interpret the Bible for you, listen to the Bible, rather than to him.

Peter said: "We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:19-21).

Never lose sight of the fact that while men may teach you the word of God -- and men must teach one another -- they do not have the right to interpret the Bible for you.

If people tell you, "Oh, the Bible says this, but it means something else," remember that God warns you in the Bible not to believe them. I am just naive enough to accept God at His word and to believe that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, but that men spoke from God.

God has spoken by Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1,2) and the common people heard Him gladly. If you will go to the word of God with an open mind to learn His will, you too can hear Him gladly and understand what He has to say.

So often people go to the Scriptures to prove their own doctrine or to prove some philosophy. That is not the purpose of the Word of God.

The purpose of the Bible is to teach you what God wants you to do, how God wants you to serve Him. We just can not know that without a revelation, so God gave us the Bible.

I want to tell about an individual who had an experience which illustrates the point we are making.

This man was an undertaker who lived in Michigan in the United States. As he went to the cemetery day after day, time after time, the question came to his mind: "What of the future?" The realization that some day he would be carried out, just as he had carried so many others to the silent city of the dead, caused him to wonder: "What then?"

So he began to ask of the various preachers who conducted the funerals what he should do in order to be pleasing to God. Because they belonged to various churches, he got various answers and the man was much perplexed.

One day when a friend was visiting him in his office he told him about his perplexity. His friend replied: "Why don't you read the Bible for yourself?"

This opened up a new avenue of thought. So he said to his friend, "I will tell you what I will do. If you will come here and read the Bible with me, I will do just that."

The friend couldn't very well refuse to take his own advice, so he said he would do that. They met in the man's home and day after day they read the Bible. At first they did not know the difference between the Old and the New Testament. They did not know that Jesus was the author of a new covenant, which simply means a new contract, that began with the cross. But they read right through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, until they came to Malachi. Then they started the New Testament and read Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and on through until they finished Revelation.

By then they had come to this conclusion: That they should belong to the church for which Jesus died and that in order to belong to that church, it was necessary for them to confess their faith and be baptized for the remission of sins.

They did not know that anyone in the world taught that, but having found that in the Book, and having a desire to be right with God, they went down to the river and upon a confession of their faith they baptized one another.

Now, I ask you, to what church did they belong? That, my friends, would not make them members of any denomination. They had received no denominational indoctrination, but they had obeyed the Lord Jesus Christ.

That made them members of the Lord's church. The history of one of those men I do not know, but the other man was an elder for many years in one of the churches in Detroit, Michigan.

Let us suppose that you obeyed the same message, what would you become?

A similar thing happened in India. Religious people who believed in Jesus determined through study of the Bible that their denominational practices were not in harmony with the Scriptures. So they rejected all doctrines and commandments of men. They were determined to be Christians only and only Christians.

Brethren in America who heard about this went to visit them and found them worshipping and serving God in exactly the same way they had worshipped and served Him for more than 100 years.

I could give more illustrations, but let us ponder this: If people in India could be Christians only by following the Bible, why could it not be done elsewhere?

Would it not be wise for men to forget all humanisms and go to God who saves the soul through Christ, and serve Him in the church for which Jesus died?

J. C. Bailey

Published in The Old Paths Archive (http://www.oldpaths.com)