Speaking Sound Doctrine

The Work Of The Church

I.                   Introduction

A.    The Sovereignty Of Christ

1.       Headship of the church

Jehovah God planned the church from before the beginning of time.  The Holy Spirit of God instituted the church of God with power on the day of Pentecost after Christ's resurrection, 50 days after the Passover.  Moreover, Jesus Christ the Son of God purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 2:1-43): the supreme demonstration of God's love for His creation.

Ephesians 3:8-12  To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

Ephesians 5:25-27  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

Acts 20:28  Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

If God alone planned the church, purchased it, and instituted it, then He is its sole designer, owner, builder, and head.

Ephesians 1:22-23  And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 4:15, 16  …but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Therefore, only God is in the position to determine and reveal what is the purpose of His church, who are its members, how it is to function, and by whose name it is called.

2.       Subjection of the church

As Christ is the head of the church, then the church is to be in subjection to Him.  It is unreasonable for the hands and feet of the body to not do what the head tells them to do, as if they have minds of their own.  To illustrate, we consider a man seriously sick and dysfunctional who has no control of his hands and feet.

Matthew 28:18-20  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

Ephesians 5:22-24  Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

Colossians 1:18  And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

3.       The folly of insubordination

For us to act contrary to supreme authority of Jesus Christ is foolishness.  Consider if someone today plans to establish a manufacturing company and invests his own money and effort, determining to make and sell cupcakes.  We understand that he alone has the right to decide what will be the name of his company, the recipes for his cupcakes, the qualifications required of his employees, the selling price of his products, and his hours of store operation.  Intuitively, no employee has the right without the owner's consent to change anything, because it is not his company.  Even if he dares to change just one thing, it is deemed insubordination and non-conformance: action worthy of employee dismissal.  If one would want to change the recipes, change the product form, or change the selling price, he would need to start his own company, wherein he would have control over these things.  However, in doing so, he could not legitimately claim that it is the same company as the original, regardless of what name he gives his new company.

As easy as this is to understand, these principles are completely lost in application in every other religious institution today, even though they might claim allegiance to Jehovah God.  These institutions have actually changed their head; they follow the teaching of some man who is a reformer or inventor of new doctrine.  They often change the institution's name to honor the originator or reflect some principle of their new doctrine.  Terms of membership are changed, as well as the structure and organization of these bodies.  Moreover, as will be the focus of this study, they change the mission, purpose, and function of the church.  Even though they might still claim to be a part of the Lord's church, if they change just one thing, Jesus Christ is no longer the controller.  It is no longer the Lord's church but man's by hostile take-over.  We need to understand that God is angry with such rebellion, but this is the operating principle of denominationalism today.  Looking to scripture, the rebellion of Korah and the resulting consequences are recorded as an example for our instruction. 

Numbers 16:

3 [Korah and all his company] gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, "You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them.  Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?" …

30 [And Moses said:] "If the LORD creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the LORD." 31 Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. 33 So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly.

The Old Testament scriptures contain many more lessons about rebellion against God.

Leviticus 10:1-3  Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. 2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 3 And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.'" So Aaron held his peace.

Judges 17:6  In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

4.       The authenticity of the church

The nation of Israel wanted to be like the other nations around them.  This sounds familiar when we see sometimes efforts in churches of Christ today to be more like the denominations around them.  Being different from other churches ought to be something we embrace (Acts 17:18; 1 Peter 4:4; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

1 Samuel 8:6-8  [The elders] said to him, "Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways.  Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations."  But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us."  So Samuel prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. 8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day-- with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods-- so they are doing to you also."

All other churches not in compliance are imposters and are rejected by the Lord.

Mark 7:6-13  7 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

Acts 4:10-20  12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Galatians 1:3-19  9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

B.     Judgments And Traditions

There is a difference between doctrinal matters and judgmental matters in the church.  For example, consider these statements in Acts 15:

Acts 15:19-22  "…Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood…." 22 Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.

Note that when the apostles write that we are to abstain from fornication, it is a not a matter of judgment and opinion; it is an immutable matter of doctrine.  We have no liberty in the matter.  However, note that how the message is sent and who are the carriers are matters of judgment.  They choose Judas and Silas, but they could have just as well chosen others.

There is nothing inherently wrong about human, denominational traditions in the church, as long as they are only non-binding expediencies for generic, scriptural authority.  For example, the church may very well purchase a meeting house like denominations do, but it is an authorized expediency for assembling.  We may have many human traditions in the church, as long as they are merely authorized expediencies and are not bound as divine law.  For further examples, we may traditionally meet on Wednesday nights for Bible study or stand to sing a hymn after the assembly is exhorted to obey the gospel.  These things are authorized as expediencies, as long as we recognize that they are not binding.

C.     Authority Review

An examination of authority in religion is an essential precursor to this study.  Without understanding the interpretive rules and methods of hermeneutics and sound reasoning, a Bible student will not have the knowledge to rightly divide (literally, straightly cutting) the word of God.

2 Timothy 2:15  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

As this study progresses into examining the means and methods of executing the work of the church, we must particularly have a clear working knowledge of expediencies as presented in a study of authority.  A detailed investigation of authority is not the intent of this study, but the following brief review is offered.

1.       Our source of authority

      God's word alone is our source, not the words of men (2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21).

      The silence of scripture authorizes nothing (Hebrews 7:14).

      There is a difference between what God has ordained and what man has originated (Luke 20:4).

2.       Methods of establishing authority

      Direct recorded commands or statements (Luke 10:26-28).

      Necessary inferences driving forced conclusions (Mark 12:26, 27).

      Approved examples (Matthew 12:5).

3.       Recognizing specifics and generics

      Specific terminology is limiting; it excludes and restricts.  All things of a different type or kind are automatically omitted.

      Generic terminology is loosing; it includes and allows.  All things of like type or kind are automatically permitted.

      There is a difference between that which is pertinent and relevant in a description and that which is coincidental and inconsequential.

4.       Rules of expediencies

Expediencies are convenient, optional, and discretionary means, methods, tools, or aids for executing a generic command.

      For a thing to be expedient, it must not add, subtract, or substitute anything (1 Corinthians 4:6, 1 Samuel 15:15).

      For a thing to be expedient, it must not be specified or essential; expediencies pertain only to generics (Genesis 6:14; Exodus 12:5).

      For a thing to be expedient, it must edify or build up, never tear down (1 Corinthians 14:26).

      For a thing to be expedient, it must not offend a weak brother (1 Corinthians 8:7-13; 10:23-33).

      For a thing to be expedient, it must be lawful (1 Chronicles 13:7-10; 15:2; Matthew 23:28).

5.       Figurative language

Scriptural terminology is to be interpreted literally if possible.  If the language of scripture is figurative, it should be a forced conclusion on the basis of fixed rules of interpretation (2 Timothy 1:13).

      Rule of context: figurative if demanded by the immediate context.

      Rule of impossibility: figurative if the literal imposes an impossible situation.

      Rule of contradiction: figurative if the literal contradicts clear teaching in other passages.

      Rule of absurdity: figurative if the literal meaning is nonsense.

      Rule of revelation: figurative when the writer reveals that it is.

6.       Sound reasoning

There are sound ways of reasoning in the scriptures, and there are perverted ways (2 Peter 2:9-20).  Truthful conclusions can only follow reasoning based on both truthful premises and valid inferences.  Fallacies in reasoning must be recognized in order to be avoided.

      Fallacy of authority: the words of respected men are assumed to be true.

      Fallacy of force: the words of powerful men are assumed to be true to avoid penalty.

      Fallacy of pity: a statement is assumed to be true to avoid unfavorable consequences.

      Fallacy of emotion: a statement is assumed to be true based on our feelings.

      Fallacy of ignorance: a statement is assumed true because it cannot be proven false.

      Fallacy of ambiguity: a statement is assumed true based on substitute word meanings.

D.    Doctrinal Purity

1.       Set Aside Self-will And Preconceptions

The Bible alone will be our guide in this study.  As we begin, we must put aside all our preconceived impressions of the church.  The variety church denominations around us have taken their work into many different missions and functions not revealed in scripture as divinely appointed for the church.  Even in the church bearing the name of Christ alone, the unauthorized activities of human tradition sometimes creep in, which we might readily and unwittingly accept as God-ordained due our cultural familiarity with typical denominational practices.  Moreover, when unauthorized practices are challenged in churches today, people will often attempt to defend them by saying nothing more than, "I don't see anything wrong with it."  Authority for actions in the church ought to be based on something more than this.  We should be able to produce from scripture a direct statement, approved example, or necessary inference that authorizes every activity in the church.

Colossians 3:17  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Ephesians 4:17-19  This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

2.       Renounce the commandments of men

We need to take an open and fresh look at scripture and renounce the contrary writings and teachings of preachers, elders, and colleges, no matter who they are (Acts 4:19; 5:29).  If we cannot find in scripture the authority for the church to be involved in some function, we need to stop doing it.

1 Timothy 4:1, 2  Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.

1 Timothy 6:3-5  If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.  From such withdraw yourself.

2 Timothy 4:1-4  I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Titus 1:14  …not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.

3.       The burden of proof

Bear in mind that the responsibility to show the authority to perform a thing in the church rests upon those who would intend to do it.  It is not the duty of others to prove that there is no authority for it.

1 Peter 3:15  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.

The question is not over what God expressly forbids but over what He expressly ordains.

Let us move forward by next looking in scripture at some grounding principles for the church.

Questions And Thoughts For Review: Introduction

1.    When did God plan the church?  What was the purchase price of the church?

2.    Why is the church to be in subjection to Christ?

3.    When Korah and his company perished for their rebellion (Numbers 16), did the remaining congregation of the Israelites learn the lesson of submission?  How many altogether perished before the matter was settled?

4.    What reason did the elders of the nation of Israel give Samuel when they asked him to appoint a king over them?  How does this sometimes relate to unwholesome attitudes in the Lord's church today?

5.    What is our sole source of authority in the church?

6.    State the three basic methods by which authority is established from scripture.

7.    Explain the fundamental difference between specific and generic terminology.  What is an expediency, and how does an expediency apply relative to specific and generic cases?  List three rules of expediencies and be prepared to explain them from scripture.

8.    List two formal fallacies of reasoning and give examples.

9.    Are all human traditions in the church unlawful?  If not, explain the difference between lawful and unlawful human traditions in the church.

10.  If a brother suggests a certain activity for the church and then asks what would be wrong with doing it, with is the fundamental fallacy with this process?


Some material in this study is derived or directly quoted from the following texts, which are suggested for further study and additional information:

      (BDB) "Revised Whittaker's Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon," 1906, 1997, Logos Research Systems, Inc.

      (JHT) "A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament," Joseph Henry Thayer, 1979, Zondervan Publishing House

      "Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament: Based On Semantic Domains," Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, 1989, New York: United Bible Societies

      "Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament,", Timothy and Barbara Friberg, 1994

      (WEV) "Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words," W. E. Vine, 1966, Flemming H. Revell Co.

      "A Manual Grammar Of The Greek New Testament," 1927, 1955, Dana and Mantey, Macmillan Co.

      LXX Septuaginta (LXT) (Old Greek Jewish Scriptures) edited by Alfred Rahlfs, 1935, the German Bible Society

      "New Testament Words," William Barclay, SCM Press Ltd., 1964

      (TBA) "The Bible Almanac," Packer, Tenney, White, Jr., 1980, Thomas Nelson Publishers

      (OED) Online Etymology Dictionary, http://www.etymonline.com

      "The Bible in English: Its History and Influence," 2003, David Daniell

      "Walking By Faith," Roy E. Cogdill, 1957, 1967, The Gospel Guardian Company

      "Old Issues Do Not Fade Away – A Study In Centralization Of Churches And Institutionalism," Gene Frost, 1975, 1976, Gospel Anchor

      (M-W) The Merriam-Webster American English Dictionary Online, 2012

      Wikipedia: web-based free-content encyclopedia, 2012


Bible translations referenced in this work include:

KJV:      King James Version (1611)

ASV:     American Standard Version (1901)

NKJ:     New King James Version (1982)

NAU:    New American Standard Bible (1995)

YLT:      Young's Literal Translation (1862, 1898)

TNT:     Tyndale New Testament (1534)

Bible quotations in this work are from the NKJ unless otherwise indicated.  Anglicized equivalents of Greek and Hebrew words appear in all upper case characters with the approximate pronunciation following in braces.


Copyright 2012, Speaking Sound Doctrine