(Editor's Note: Originally published
in The EXAMINER March 1992, Vol. 7, No. 2, page 21. The
EXAMINER was published from January 1986 through November
1993, by Truth & Freedom Ministry, Chattanooga, TN, Charles
A. Holt, editor.)
CAN I BE "JUST" A CHRISTIAN?
With so much religious confusion in the world today the title question seems to be a good one to ponder. I feel sure that most of us have wondered about this one time or another.
If I am not a member of some church, am I safe?
Can I have the hope that is in Christ Jesus?
Will His blood cover my sins?
Will I be clothed in His righteousness?
This of course, assuming I have responded to the gospel call. There are those that would say without hesitation that there is no hope unless one is a member of some local church; and many would narrow it down even more by requiring membership in "my church", or the one of which "I" am a member.
So, in my search for the one true church there is a great possibility that I might become so confused (as much of the world probably is), that I might choose not to join any of them. In such a dilemma can I be "just" a Christian? That is, without being a member of any religious organization?
I believe that I can, and that is where I stand today.
It is not that I am against being with other Christians. Not at all. I love to be with other Christians and to talk about those things that are so precious to all of us. But the problem comes when other Christians, in sincerity, require me to embrace some doctrine that is against my conscience. A doctrine which, in my opinion, has no foundation in scripture, or differs with my understanding of the scripture. If I do not yield to that doctrine, even though it may have nothing to do with my justification, I will be considered a false teacher or heretic. I am not allowed to express my view under the threat of being "disfellowshipped". My choice is to sit quietly by in submission or else remove myself from that group. In such a case, after I have left, would I still be a Christian?
While not embracing the doctrine of any religious organization, can I still follow Jesus and be just a Christian?
I think I can. It is sad that it has come to this.
In the first century this was not a problem.
Because there was not even one "church" to join, let alone three hundred or so. They did not have to seek out and join the "one true church". Such was foreign to them. What ever they became a member of when they obeyed the gospel, was not their doing, it was the Lord's doing (Acts 2:47). (CAUTION; don't read Acts 2:47 from the King James version).
In the beginning no man was given authority over another. They were to serve rather than be served (Matthew 20:20-28).
They met together, ate together, sang to each other, ate the Lord's supper together, provoked each other to love and good works, admonished one another, helped each other, they were subject to each other. And they remained that way until some men began to teach things that were wrong and "drew away disciples after them" (Acts 20:29ff). What we have today is a result of that which started in Paul's lifetime. Some men usurped authority over other men, not sparing the flock, leading them astray. The progression of this false concept through the centuries has resulted in other terms, descriptive terms, being added to "Christian" to declare what "kind" of a Christian a person might be. So much so that for me to say "I am JUST a Christian" would cause some people to wonder; what kind of nut is this? People are looking for me to be some KIND of a Christian, such as a Baptist or Methodist or Catholic or church of Christ or some other "church" name. I stated above that there was no church in the first century. You might believe to the contrary. Since that is another subject, my plea is for you to make an objective study of the question for yourself. Does the word "church" properly translate the Greek word "ecclesia"? That is the major question for which you must find an answer. When you see "church", do you see the same thing that the people of the first century saw when they saw "ecclesia"? You must study it out for your self through diligent study. I think you will find this has been a problem for centuries and that some translators have done a number on us, while others have tried to correct the problem. You will notice the King James translators inserted the word "church" in Acts 2:47 even though the Greek "ecclesia" isn't even there. I wonder why they would do that. I have used the word "Christian"; Can I be "just" a Christian? I do not mean to leave the impression that Christian is the only term that Gods' people were known by. There were many. But they all pointed to "who" they belonged and not to "what they belonged. They belonged to Christ and their identifying terms pointed to that. They were His body, His disciples, believer in Him, Christians, just to name a few. So, I feel comfortable being "just" a Christian. I regret that I have to say it that way to get the point across. I would rather say, "I am a Christian", and let that be it, but because of the mind-set of men and women today, that isn't descriptive enough. In either case someone is bound to ask a question; "well, what do you mean"? or "what kind of Christian are you?" Well, I am just a Christian. Someone may ask, "is there any advantage in being "just" a Christian"? Think about it. I now can truly say, "I am free in Christ". My mind is no longer tethered by doctrines that make a denomination what it is. I am no longer in that prison. The fence has been removed. I am on the open range so to speak. My knowledge has been greatly enlarged because I can now study and ponder subjects that were off limits before. It is amazing just what is kept from us in the name of propagating some organization. I think I have more responsibility now than before. I am totally responsible for myself and must act thus. My service to God is everyday as I go about my daily life, not just three times a week at some specified place. In understanding more about Gods grace, mercy, and righteousness (the righteousness that is from God) I feel a closeness to Him that I never felt before. I feel I have been greatly blessed in becoming "just" a Christian. Please don't get me wrong. I am not saying I am the only Christian or that people such as I are the only Christians. I believe that where God has a child, I have a brother or sister. We may not agree on every point of doctrine but that does not change our relationship, as we both have the same Father, and I'm going to love you anyway. It is just as in our earthly family ... I may not agree with my sibling but that does not change our relationship.
God's family is unique and we
may not know who they all are. Is what we see in the world today,
that which Jesus was praying for in John 17? Are we "one" as
He and the Father are "one"? Do all these sign boards in front
of our buildings of worship say to the world, "we are one"?
Think about it.
© Copyright 1997, Charles Baugh