|Volume 23 Number 9 September 2021
With keen interest, I observed on social media recently the statement, “Nobody is ever too lost to be saved.” How true! Yet, Christians generally are not as accepting as they ought to be toward some people who have repented of their sins. In a sense, God looks at all sins similarly in as much as any sin for which a sinner does not repent will cause him or her to be lost eternally (Romans 3:10, 23). Even a sin less obnoxious to human sensitivities – like telling a lie – can keep a soul out of Heaven (Revelation 21:8). Note that Jesus Christ classified liars alongside of murderers, the sexually immoral, practitioners of witchcraft and idol worshippers. However, God hates some sins more than He despises other sins, and He refers to them as abominations (Proverbs 6:16-19); lying is in this list, too.
Nevertheless, it is not the telling of a lie on which we want to focus our attention presently. Instead, let’s notice from Scripture some penitent souls whose former sins, which if they were the sins of people today, that church members would be reluctant to forget, though God chooses to forget sins for which contrite souls repent (Isaiah 43:25; Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12; 10:17).
First, consider 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, which reads:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites [male prostitutes], nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards [intoxicated ones], nor revilers [verbally or physically abusive persons], nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (NKJV)
Not only our children, but others outside our families are candidates for conversion by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only people like us in race, economics, academics and education are suitable persons to whom we need to take God’s Word. Not only so-called good, moral people need God’s forgiveness (and forgiveness by Christians) when they repent, but so do prostitutes, homosexuals, drunkards, the drug addicted “and such like” (Galatians 5:19-21 KJV), when they obey the Gospel (Romans 6:17).
Despite the Corinthian Christians having been fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, male prostitutes, thieves, covetous, drunks, abusive people and extortioners, through their obedience of the Gospel, they were washed in the blood of Christ, sanctified and justified. Those precious penitent souls had some horrific backgrounds prior to becoming Christians. Yet, they comprised “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2 NKJV). The Godhead accepted them (1 Corinthians 6:11) on the basis of their Gospel obedience, and we, today, need to accept as brethren anyone and everyone who renders obedience to the Gospel. As mortals, we are not in a position to act as though we are omniscient and pass judgment (James 4:11) on a person’s sincerity or the genuineness of his or her Gospel obedience. Anything that God has chosen to forget is not something that we ought to remember against another; prudence, though, might well lead the church to refrain from appointing a brother to be the congregational treasurer since he embezzled the Lord’s money previously when he was the treasurer formerly.
Secondly, consider passages that show the apostle Paul in his earlier days, when he was better known as Saul of Tarsus (Acts 7:58; 9:11), was a murderer (Acts 9:1; 22:4) in his zealous persecution of Christians. Others he dragged from their homes to prison (Acts 8:3). Can you imagine the reluctance of Christians to accept Paul as a brother in Christ, as well as to forgive him for the rough treatment, imprisonment and death of their Christian families and friends?
And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. (Acts 9:26-28)
Barnabas and the apostles accepted the converted former persecutor, but other Christians “attempted to kill him” (Acts 9:29).
It is no wonder, then, that Saul – the apostle Paul – worked for the Lord more efficiently among the Gentiles rather than among the Jews and Jewish Christians.
But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. (Galatians 2:7-9)
Not only so, but the apostle Paul became as zealous a promoter of Christianity as he had been before an opponent of it. “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). The apostle Paul’s ministry included penning more epistles than any other divinely guided writer of the New Testament. All Christians today are indebted to the apostle Paul, though he had been a murderer and a persecutor of the Lord’s church.
Therefore, from the two biblical scenarios above, we can discern that the vilest of sinners can obey the Gospel of Christ. In so doing, God will forgive them and forget their sins. Hence, Christians, too, ought to forgive those who obey the Gospel and not hold their former sinful lives against them. Even people whose sinful pasts are the most revolting to us, once converted, may prove to be champions of the Christian faith. In a sense, in God’s eyes, every accountable soul has by his or her sin been repulsive to Him (Isaiah 59:1-2). Happily, we have a God who is willing to forgive us of our sins and to forget them. May every Christian imitate God by forgiving and forgetting the sins of everyone who obeys the Gospel of Christ.
The Church of Christ Is All About…
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
All kinds of ideas are put forth when the subject of the church comes up in religious circles. Some view the church as a “social club,” while others view it like a grocery store – you pick the one that just feels right and where you can get the most for your money. Sadly, some fail to even consider the church from the Bible or consider the church in light of God’s design and demands. Because of this, the church is often looked at as nonessential, unimportant or optional. However, when one views the church through the eye of inspiration, one can see what the church of Christ is all about.
Firstly, the church of Christ is all about liberation. Please do not misunderstand; it is God alone Who pardons and liberates mankind from his sin. The church does not save, but rather the church is where the saved are placed and reside. Scripture abounds with this fact. When Paul wrote to the shepherds of Ephesus, he reminded them that the church was “purchased” with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28; cf., 1 Peter 1:18-19). Christ liberated mankind when He “gave Himself up” (Ephesians 5:25). The essentiality of the church is clearly seen in her purchase price! One cannot truly be liberated unless Christ liberates him or her and places one’s saved soul in the church where Christ is Head of the body (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18), where Christ is King of the kingdom (1 Timothy 6:15; Colossians 1:13) and where Christ is the Groom married to His beloved bride (Ephesians 5:22-32). Thus, we are not liberated by the church but rather liberated by Christ and placed into His church. If I am liberated, then I am in His church; if I truly am in His church, then I have been liberated from sin. The church of Christ is all about liberation!
Secondly, the church of Christ is all about connection. One of the most wonderful and most difficult truths about the church is that it is made up of connections between people that normally may have had no connections with each other. That is wonderful because every personality, background and unique individual adds to the make-up of the body. This is most difficult because personality, background and individuals can separate and divide folks. Thus, it behooves each individual in the Lord’s church to strive to love one another with a tender heart (Ephesians 4:32), to diligently work to see each other’s perspective (Matthew 7:12) and to be patient with each other as we all grow and develop at different levels and in various stages. Another awesome thing about the connections in the church is that we all have a divine standard for dealing with disagreements (Matthew 18:15-20). No family is without disagreements and disputes, but a true family never quits on any of its members. The church of Christ in the first century was made up of all different backgrounds and personalities, and yet, it was written by the inspired historian, “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42); “And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart” (Acts 2:46). We must understand that even in these connections there were problems that arose (Acts 6:1-6; Acts 8:1ff, et al.), but those problems were handled properly, and unity resulted. In the world, connections are severed daily because the world has no real idea about relationships and connections. However, thanks be to God and His Word because the church of Christ is all about connections!
Thirdly, the church of Christ is all about expansion. God’s plan for the church was never to be stagnant or self-absorbed! The divine marching orders from the beginning were to go, teach, baptize and teach some more (Matthew 28:18-20). This expansion plan was so great that God demanded the whole world be our mission field (Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47). It is easy for humans to fall into the keeping house mentality, and sadly some brethren in various places do just that. The church that truly belongs to Jesus is outwardly not inwardly focused! The church is soul obsessed and not self-obsessed. It is not as much focused on programs as it is focused on people! I am always so encouraged when I read and study the book of Acts and see the growth the church of Christ experienced even amid a sin-filled, problematic society. Their main goal was to tell the narrative that changed their lives forevermore. The church of Christ is all about expansion!
It is a blessed and a wonderful privilege to be a member of the church that Jesus bought with His lifeblood! While no congregation or individual is perfect in the church, we serve and laud a perfect Savior. We have been liberated from sin, and we have been brought together in the body to go and tell everyone what Jesus has done. From before the dawn of time, the church of Christ was in God’s mind (Ephesians 3:10-11). Let us rejoice exceedingly that you and I are members of the church of Christ, the unshakable kingdom of our dear King (Hebrews 12:28)!