“devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”-I Timothy 4:13
A woman named Lena posted this question on my YouTube channel1 this week, “What churches teach the importance of Baptist [sic] in salvation?” From the context, you can tell she meant baptism. It’s a good question but one based on a misunderstanding of authority in Christ’s church. This may seem like a nit-picking statement, but “The church” doesn’t teach anything! Your common sense radar may flicker at that kind of a sentence, but hear me out because this is at the heart of many a divisive issue in the church of God.
We all have probably fallen into the trap of saying: “Our church,” “The church,” or even “Churches of Christ” teach a certain thing. It is undeniable preachers, elders, and teachers teach specific doctrines. It is also true churches “teach” by what they do or do not practice. How many visitors are “taught” when a church has no musical instruments visible during worship? But the teaching someone receives from a local church does not belong to or proceed from the church.
What a church teaches (or at least should teach), comes from the word of God and the word of God alone. Martin Luther started a revolution with the Latin phrase Sola Scriptura in the 1500’s. The difference is the origin and authority of what is taught by members of a local church.
Local Churches: It is accurate to say all Christians belong to one, universal church of God. All baptized believers from Pentecost until the Lord returns are part of this, “kingdom of his beloved Son,”-Colossians 1:13. But the universal church has no earthly organization, headquarters, or way of making doctrinal decisions to bind on every local church or Christian. This leaves us with no organization larger than the local church. Churches are collections of people and it is people who teach (Romans 12:7; Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 1:28). However, it is not up to any local church to decide what the will of God is.
Origin Of Teaching: We often take for granted the idea stated in the maxim, “Do not add to or take away from the word of God.” But it displays the truth a local church is not the source of anything taught by the members. Paul and Barnabas taught, “the word of the Lord,”-Acts 15:35, and Paul spent two years in Corinth, “teaching the word of God”-Acts 18:11. Anything taught in the church must come from God, through Christ, and be inspired by the Spirit, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”-II Timothy 3:16.
Authority Of Teaching: The Bible has God’s stamp of approval (Hebrews 2:3-4). The Bible alone has the authority to determine the teaching of God. The root of the problem stems from the misguided idea a human being can decide what the teaching of “a church” or “the church” should be! In the third, fourth, and fifth centuries after the church was established, men began to make decisions about doctrine and attempted to bind them on all Christians. This idea of “the teaching of the church” is really “the teaching of men.” It is sinful to elevate what comes from the mind of man to the level of the mind of God (Isaiah 55:9). In fact, Jesus himself condemned, “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”-Mark 7:7.
So “what does the church teach?” Individual members of local churches teach what was received with authority from men through whom God worked miracles and was written down in the 27-books of what we call the New Testament. If a teaching does not originate from the Bible, it can not be said to be the word of God, and no individual, collection of churches, or pretender to the throne of Christ has the authority to declare it must be taught.
Lena’s question has an answer (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-7). And since the word of God never mentions an annual celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, you will not find an Easter celebration here today. But cheer up, we celebrate the empty tomb during every week containing a Lord’s day. See you next Sunday! He will still be risen!!
1 “Preacherman Sage” on YouTube. Home of the Three Minute Gospel (TMG).