What We Believe (Q&A)

LORD’S SUPPER

Question: “Why does your church eat the Lord’s Supper every Sunday?”

One of the two major differences in worship between our church and most other religious groups is that we eat the Lord’s Supper every Sunday (the other major difference is that we don’t worship God with musical instruments).

The reason we do this is because we’re determined to try and please God by precisely following the teaching of the New Testament. We’re convinced that one of the things God has shown us in the New Testament is how He wants us to worship Him.

Actually, though, if you read through the New Testament, you won’t find an explicit command from God which says, “Every Sunday you shall eat the Lord’s Supper.” You will, however, discover that the earliest churches clearly met on the first day of every week to eat this simple, spiritual “meal.”

The clearest indication that they met on Sunday to eat the Lord’s Supper is this statement that Luke makes in Acts 20:7: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them . . .” It seems pretty clear from the way Luke says it that this church had a regular gathering on the first day of the week, and that the primary purpose of this gathering was “to break bread” (i.e., eat the Lord’s Supper).

Another passage which clearly shows that the early church gathered every Sunday and ate the Lord’s Supper is 1 Corinthians 11:20-21, 33. In these verses Paul rebukes the Christians of one congregation by saying, “when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk” (v. 20-21). The purpose of their meeting together should have been to eat the Lord’s Supper together — but they weren’t doing that properly. So, after rebuking them, Paul then instructs them, “So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another” (v. 33).

How does this passage show that they ate the Lord’s Supper — or were supposed to be eating it — every Sunday? After all, nothing is said in these verses about when they were meeting together — it just says that they were meeting together. Well, when we flip over a few chapters to 1 Corinthians 16, we discover how often this church was meeting together. In verse 2 of that chapter Paul gives this church the following instruction: “On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come.”

When you put the information from these two passages together, the logical conclusion was that this congregation of Corinthian Christians was meeting together every first day of the week — that is, every Sunday (1 Corinthians 16:2) — for the primary purpose of eating the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20-21, 33).

Let me say one thing quickly about 1 Corinthians 16:2 if you happen to be reading from the King James Version of the Bible. In the King James you’ll notice that the verse doesn’t say “every week” or “each week;” it just says “Upon the first day of the week.” Experts in the Greek language — the language which the New Testament was originally written in — tell us, however, that the words Paul actually used in this verse means “every” week or “each” week. That’s why you’ll see “every week” or “each week” in more recent translations like the NIV (New International Version) or the NASB (New American Standard Bible).

Since there is, then, pretty clear examples in the New Testament which show that the earliest congregations of God’s people met together every Lord’s Day to eat the Lord’s Supper, we’re convinced that we should follow their precedent. After all, they lived under the direct oversight of the twelve apostles of our Lord. So, every Lord’s Day, and only every Lord’s Day, we meet together to eat the Lord’s Supper. Also, I might add, if you go back and read the writings of the earliest Christians who lived after the time of the apostles, you’ll discover that the church continued this weekly eating of the Lord’s Supper for at least two centuries.

If I had to sum up my conclusion about this, I’d probably say it like George R. Beasley-Murray says it. Dr. Beasley-Murray is an internationally known British Bible scholar and, interestingly enough, a member of the Baptist church. I say “interestingly enough” because he has some rather “un-Baptist” view of things (at least they would be considered “un-Baptist” by most Baptists in the United States). When he was once asked in an interview his views concerning the Lord’s Supper, he said, “My own views as a young preacher speedily led me to the conviction that the primitive New Testament pattern of the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper was there and that there was every reason to follow it.” Isn’t that refreshing? — we eat the Lord’s Supper each Lord’s Day just because that’s the example we find in Scripture.

So, what would I say to those who refuse to follow the New Testament precedent for eating the Lord’s Supper every Sunday? I would have to say, as kindly as possible, that there is no Biblical warrant for any other practice. Therefore, I’d tell them that it’s impossible to know whether or not God will be offended by any other practice. And since we can’t know for certain whether or not God will be offended by any other practice, I’d tell them — again, as kindly as I could — that, as one well-respected preacher said, “It is a wise, safe course to do it as the early Christians did, not annually, not semi-annually, not quarterly, not monthly, but on each Lord’s Day.”

 

SALVATION

Question: “I want to be saved. What do I have to do?”

People with sensitive hearts have been asking that very same question for centuries (Acts 2:38; Acts 16:30; Luke 10:25), and it certainly isn’t an overstatement to say that it’s the most important question that anyone could ever ask.

So, what’s the answer? The answer I’m going to offer assumes that you believe the Bible is God’s word — it’s the very speech of God Himself — He is its ultimate author. Now, assuming you believe that, I would suggest that you get your Bible and look up and read very carefully all the passages I’m going to refer you to. I believe these passages will answer your question in full.

I stress “answer your question in full” because I’m concerned that an incomplete, and therefore inaccurate, answer is often given to the question, “what must I do to be saved?” I don’t for a minute, however, think that anyone is out there intentionally trying to pass on wrong answers to important spiritual questions. I’m just convinced that many sincere, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving people have been unintentionally given inaccurate information about a few things, and they in turn have unintentionally passed along that same inaccurate information to others.

Now, let’s answer the question, “what do I have to do in order to be saved?”

Some well-meaning people will say that your salvation is 100% unconditional. In other words, they will say that you don’t have to do anything to be saved. As you read your New Testament, however, you will discover that there are clearly spelled-out conditions for salvation.

So, what are these conditions? “Show me the verse where I can find them,” you may be asking. Actually there isn’t a single New Testament passage which includes the entire list of conditions necessary for salvation. To discover all the conditions for salvation we must look at everything that the New Testament has to say about the way of salvation. Looking at everything the Bible has to say about any matter in order to fully understand that matter is a basic rule for understanding the Bible. It’s part of “Fundamentals of Bible Study 101” if you will. Let me illustrate what I mean.

Here’s a question for you. To which of Jesus’ parents did an angel announce the impending birth of Jesus? Was it Mary or Joseph? Matthew says “Joseph” (Matthew 1:20-21). Luke, on the other hand, says “Mary” (Luke 1:26-33). So, who was it? Both, of course. Matthew simply records the occasion it was announced to Joseph, while Luke records only the announcement to Mary. We get the full picture only by combining and comparing those two historical records.

Here’s another one for you. One of Jesus’ most famous miracles was when He cast some demons into a herd of pigs which then ran down a steep bank into the Sea of Galilee and drowned. Did Jesus cast those demons out of one man or two that day? If you look in Matthew’s record he says, “two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs” (Matthew 8:28). Mark, however, says “a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him (Mark 5:2; Luke also mentions only one demon-possessed man in his account of this event, Luke 8:27). So, who is right? Matthew or Mark and Luke? Actually, Matthew, Mark, and Luke are all three right. There were obviously two men, as Matthew reports, but one of the two was probably the “spokesman” for the two, and so, Mark and Luke just focused on him as they reported the incident. Again, we get the full picture of what happened only when we combine and compare all the historical records.

Let me give you one more. Can you name the women who came to the tomb of Jesus on Sunday after His crucifixion? If you look in Matthew 28:1 you will discover that it was “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.” But, if you take a look at what Mark has to say, you will find “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome” (Mark 16:1). But wait, Luke’s list is still a little different. He says it was “Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them” (Luke 24:10). And let’s not forget John. He reports only Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb early that Sunday morning (John 20:1). So, who’s right? Again, you have to pull all the information from all the records together to get the most complete picture. Doing this, we know that it was Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, Joanna, and probably a few other unnamed women who visited Jesus’ tomb the Sunday after He died on cross.

When it comes to the question of “what must I do to be saved?” we have to do the very same thing. We have to combine and compare all that the New Testament has to say about the matter to get the full and complete picture of what we must do. When we do this, what we find is that there are four conditions we must meet to initially receive the salvation that God offers to us. We must:

  • Believe in our hearts that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to earth and paid for our sins by being executed on a cross, buried in a tomb, and brought back to life (Mark 16:16; John 8:24; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-10).
  • Confess our faith in Christ as Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 10:32)
  • Repent of our sins — which means we have to change our attitudes toward sin. We must begin to hate sin and try to rid our lives of it (Luke 13:3,5; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 20:21)
  • Be baptized [which means a “burial or immersion”] in water into Christ (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-6; 1 Peter 3:21)

We’ve just given you several passages to look up, but we don’t want you to think that these are the only passages which identify conditions we must meet to initially receive salvation. There are plenty of others, but they identify no conditions other than the ones mentioned above. If you would like a real challenge you may want to read through the New Testament yourself and as you come across each passage which seems to identify a condition(s) for salvation write that reference under the appropriate category.

Take a look now at 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9. Here the apostle Paul tells us that Jesus is coming back, and one of things that will happen when He returns is that He will be “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” He goes on to say that “these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord . . .”

Salvation from eternal destruction is clearly given to us when we “obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” In other words, Jesus’ saving blood is applied to us when we “obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (we must never forget for a moment that it is Jesus’ blood that cleanses us from our sins and saves us (Romans 5:9)). That expression — “obey the gospel” — is an expression to describe a person’s meeting the conditions of salvation that God’s has established. When we “obey the gospel” — meet the conditions God has established for salvation — God applies the benefits of Christ’s work on the cross to us, and He saves us.

Now let me leave you with a few questions that I want you to think about. Have you obeyed the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? Do you believe that Jesus is the Savior who shed His blood for you? Have you confessed your absolute conviction that Jesus is Savior and Lord? Have you committed yourself to trying to rid your life of sin? Have you been baptized into Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins?”

I know that there are many questions that people have on their heart about this matter of being saved which I haven’t answered here. If you are one of those people and would like to talk with someone about those matters, someone at Lebanon Road would be glad to sit down with you at your convenience and discuss them with you; just give us a call.

 

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

Question: “Why doesn’t your church use musical instruments in worship?”

When most people visit an assembly of the church of Christ for the first time, they quickly realize that things are a bit different when their ears are bombarded with the unfamiliar sound of just voices singing praises to God.

Not a single musical instrument is seen or heard — not a piano, not an organ, not a guitar, not a drum, not a synthesizer, not so much as a tambourine or hand bell. This practice of acapella-only singing is so unusual in the eyes of most guests that the first question many of them ask is something like, “Why don’t you have a piano?”

I guess if I had to answer that question in a couple of sentences — which is almost impossible to do — I’d say, “We’re just trying to worship God strictly according to the instructions we find in the New Testament, and in the New Testament there’s no command to praise God with instruments, nor are there any examples of anyone doing so in the churches of the New Testament. Therefore, we feel it’s right to leave instruments out.” There are plenty of commands in the New Testament to sing praises (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16-17), and plenty of examples of Christians in the New Testaments doing so (Acts 16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:15, 26), but when it comes to musical instruments, they are hauntingly absent from the pages of the New Testament.

By the way, you may be interested to know that the practice of acapella singing really isn’t as “odd” as you might think. Historically, instruments generally weren’t used in Christian worship for about the first 800 to 1,000 years of Christianity. You probably didn’t know this, but the word acapella is an Italian word that literally means “as in the chapel.” This shows that historically the music in “chapels” — that is, in Christian places of worship — was purely vocal.

If you’d like a more thorough explanation of why we don’t use instruments to worship God, author Dan Chambers wrote an excellent little book entitled “Where’s the Piano?” It’s only about 40 pages in length, so it shouldn’t take more than an hour to read the whole thing. And unlike some books that try to answer Bible questions, this one is very easy-to-read and understand, and I might add, it explores the question in an occasionally humorous way.

The book costs $5.00 in select Christian bookstores, but you can order one from us at our cost of $3.00 (we’ll also pay the postage to send it to you). If you’d like one, just contact us and ask for “Where’s the Piano?” Be sure to include your mailing address so we can get one sent out to you right away.

 

WORSHIP

Question: “What can I expect if I visit one of your services?

If you join us for our Sunday morning worship, the first thing you’ll see is one of the men of our church get up and “make announcements.” It’s probably not that different than what you would experience in most other churches. He welcomes everyone and then informs the congregation of upcoming activities and lets us know who needs or has requested our prayers. This usually takes no more than five minutes.

For roughly the next hour or so there’ll be singing, prayers, Scripture reading, Bible teaching, a free-will financial contribution will be taken up, and we’ll partake of the Lord’s Supper. Let me tell you briefly about each one of these activities so you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect. We’ll start with singing.

The musical side of our worship services is quite different from most religious groups in a couple of ways. For one thing, most religious groups utilize, to some extent, things like soloists, quartets, and choirs. When you visit our services, however, you’ll see none of these. Instead, our singing is exclusively “congregational.” That is, the whole congregation actively participates in the song service. One of our men will get up, announce a song selection to the church from a song book, and then lead us in that selection. There are plenty of song books in the seats so that all who want to sing praises to God with us may do so.

Another thing that you’ll notice about the musical side of our services that is different than what you’ll see in most other churches is that we sing without musical instruments — our musical praise is all vocal, it’s acapella.

Now let me say something briefly about the other activities you’ll see in our services. At different times during the service you’ll see a few men get up, stand in front of the congregation, and pray. These men are voicing the concerns of the whole congregation. Just as prayer was a central part of periods of worship in the churches of the New Testament (Acts 2:42; Acts 4:24-31; Acts 12:5; 1 Corinthians 14:14-15; 1 Timothy 2:1-2), it is also a central part of our gatherings.

We also have a public Scripture reading and a Bible lesson (that is, preaching) at each service. Just as praying and singing we’re important features of the assemblies of New Testament churches, so was delivering and receiving the word of God (1 Timothy 4:12; Colossians 4:16; Acts 20:7). Hearing the word of the Lord makes us aware of God’s presence in the assembly, and it is largely through hearing and understanding God’s word that we are blessed by the worship service.

The other two activities that you’ll see in our services if you visit on a Sunday morning are a financial collection being taken up, and the Lord’s Supper being eaten. As you read through the New Testament, one of the things you’ll notice and be impressed by is that so many of the earliest Christians were constantly willing and ready to give (Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:32-37; Acts 6:1-7; 2 Corinthians 8:1-6). That same readiness and willingness to give should be a constant feature of our lives (Romans 12:13; James 2:14-17). Sometimes giving is done privately, but sometimes it’s done as an activity of the whole church. You can see it as an activity of the whole church in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2.

Following that example, each Lord’s day, at the end of our Sunday morning services, we pass plates around for those who would like to make a financial contribution. This money is used for many things including, but not limited to, paying for local efforts to preach and teach the Bible to adults and children, preaching the message of Jesus in other countries, and helping the needy.

Of course, one thing we’d like to make very clear to our visitors is that we don’t for a minute expect you to make a contribution to the work that we do. If you would like to make a contribution, that’s fine; but I guarantee you that you will not be asked, and please don’t feel obligated. So, if a collection plate comes past you, don’t feel one bit reluctant or one bit guilty about just passing it on to the next person without putting anything in it.

Finally, let me say a word or two about the Lord’s Supper. I saved this for last, but ironically, we consider it to be the central reason that we come together on Sunday. At some point in our service, several men will gather at the front of the auditorium (that’s the sanctuary to some of you) and they will begin to pass out plates of thin, unleavened bread. This bread symbolizes the body of Jesus that was broken on the cross for our sins (Matthew 26:26; Luke 22:19). After a prayer of thanks for the sacrifice of Christ, these plates will be passed throughout the congregation. Feel free to participate if you would like by breaking off a small piece of the bread and eating it. Just pass the plate to the next person after you’ve taken some of the bread.

After everyone has eaten from the bread, the men who passed the bread plates will return to the front of the auditorium and begin to pass out trays which contain many small cups of grape juice. This juice symbolizes the blood of Christ which was shed for our sins (Matthew 26:27-29). A prayer of thanks will also be given for Christ before this is passed throughout the congregation. Again, feel free to participate if you would like by taking one of the small cups when the tray comes to you, drinking it, placing it back in the tray, and then passing the tray to the next person. Of course, if you’d rather not participate in the Lord’s Supper, that’s fine too. Just take the tray and pass it on to the next person when it comes your way.

When it comes to eating the Lord’s Supper, this is another area where there’s a difference between our services and most other religious groups. We are different in that we eat it every Sunday. And, like singing praise without musical instruments, our reason centers on our determination to strictly follow the New Testament pattern.

Although there’s no explicit command in New Testament that we must eat it every Sunday, we do find a couple of examples in the New Testament which suggest that churches during the apostle’s time ate this memorial meal every first day of every week, or Sunday.

Well, that’s pretty much it. As you can see, our services don’t resemble the complicated productions that you’ll find in a lot of churches. In our quest to please God (2 Corinthians 5:9; Ephesians 5:8-10; Colossians 1:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2), we’ve searched the Scriptures for a picture of how He wants us to worship Him; and what we have found is a picture of worship that’s very simple.

BIBLICAL INSPIRATION

Question: “What do you as a church believe about the Bible?”

Simply put, we believe that the Bible is God’s book. We’re absolutely convinced that its 66 separate “books” were literally communicated to us by God Himself, and therefore, are accurate and trustworthy in every detail.

Naturally, though, we don’t deny that it was actually red-blooded human beings who put the ink on the paper to produce the original 66 documents. It’s just that we’re convinced that the God of the Bible supervised these writers in some way to ensure that they wrote the exact words that He wanted written. The term most people use when referring to this supernatural supervision of the Bible writers is “inspiration.”

What has led us to the conclusion that the Bible is inspired — that it’s God’s personal message to us? The answer begins with the Bible’s own claim that it came from God. Thousands of times the Bible writers claim that God was speaking through them.

Moses, for instance, wrote in Exodus 20:1, “And God spoke all these words . . .” Jeremiah said, “This is what the Lord God Almighty says . . .” (Jeremiah 5:14). And Isaiah said, “The Lord spoke to me . . . He said . . .” (Isaiah 8:11). When Matthew referred to a prophecy of Isaiah’s, he said that it was “what the Lord had said through the prophet” (Matthew 1:22). Paul made this statement to the Corinthian Christians: “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord) . . .” (1 Corinthians 7:10). And Peter exhorted his readers to remember the command given “by our Lord and Savior through your apostles” (2 Peter 3:2).

Of course the Bible’s classic claim of inspiration is 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is inspired by God.” The English words “inspired by God” are actually a translation of a single Greek word (the New Testament was originally written in Greek) that literally means “breathed out by God” or “God breathed.” Scripture was breathed out by God. It originated with Him.

To be even more precise, it was God the Spirit, or as we usually say, the Holy Spirit, who supervised the production of the Scriptures. Countless passages confirm this. Passages like Acts 1:16 which says “The Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David” the fate of Judas. And passages like 2 Samuel 23:2 where David recognized that “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue.” Passages like Nehemiah 9:30 and Acts 28:25 which acknowledge that the Holy Spirit was the source of the messages spoken by Nehemiah and Isaiah. And passages like Revelation 1:10 where John said that he was “in the Spirit” when he wrote.

But it’s in 2 Peter 1:20-21 that we find the Holy Spirit’s role in the production of Scripture most clearly expressed. There Peter announced, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” In other words, Scripture didn’t originate with human beings. It wasn’t just a product of several men’s own thinking and investigation. Instead, these men were “moved” — more literally, “carried along” — by the Holy Spirit.

We know, however, that just because the Bible claims to be God’s Word doesn’t make it true. Any book can make that claim, and, as a matter of fact, several do. So, the next question many of us have asked is: “Is there any evidence which sufficiently supports the Bible’s claim to have come from God?” And we’ve found the answer to that question to be a resounding “yes.” And, I might add, we’ve found that there’s plenty of this evidence too. If you’re interested in hearing more about the evidence which supports the Bible’s claim to be God’s book, just contact us, tell us you’d like information on “the evidences of inspiration” and we’ll be glad to mail you the information at no cost to you.

Finally, since the Bible is God’s personal message to us, we also believe that it is the final and absolute authority for our beliefs and practices — a belief that our Master, Jesus, was unswervingly committed to Himself.

For Jesus, matters of faith or doctrine were established by an appeal to the written word. As far as Jesus was concerned, an appeal to Scripture was all that was needed to end any debate. For instance, when the chief priests and scribes became indignant because children in the temple crowd were exalting Jesus as the Son of David — the Messiah — they asked him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” His response to them was, “Yes; have you never read,” and then He quoted Scripture to prove that their praises were very appropriate (Matthew 21:15-16). And in Matthew 22:31-32 Jesus said to the Sadducees, “Have you not read that which was spoken to you by God,” and then He quoted Scripture to prove that there is life after death. As far as Jesus was concerned, God said it, and that is that.

And how could anyone forget how Jesus, when He was confronted by Satan after forty days of fasting, responded to each of Satan’s tests with an “It is written” and then a quotation from Scripture (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). To Jesus, “it is written,” and that settles it. And so, as fully surrendered followers of Christ, to us, “it is written,” and that settles it as well.