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L. A. CHURCH OF CHRIST STUDENT ANSWERED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, January 28, 2001

 

"This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he
hath sent" (John 6:29).                                                

Thomas and Alexander Campbell came to America from Northern Ireland in the early nineteenth century. These men rejected the teachings of Baptists and Presbyterians. They were excommunicated by the Baptists in 1830 and formed their own group, which they called the Disciples of Christ. Later, the Churches of Christ broke away from the Disciples of Christ. These groups are often called Campbellites.
In 1979, a man named "Kip" McKean capitalized on the Jesus Movement in colleges by starting a movement in Lexington, Massachusetts. It later became known as the Boston Church of Christ. In 1990, McKean moved to Los Angeles and started the L.A. Church of Christ. He and his group have subsequently been excommunicated by the main body of the Church of Christ. Although their website claims that they have 12,000 members in the Los Angeles area, the true figure is less than 1,000 according to experts on the movement.
The L. A. Church of Christ cannot be considered a mainstream Christian group. Three of its teachings put it outside of orthodox Protestantism:
    1. They believe that they are the only real Christians. All others are lost. A famous Church of Christ slogan reads, "Christians only and the only Christians." This belief puts them in the category of a cult.
    2. They are complete Pelagian heretics on the nature of man. Pelagius was an Irish monk (AD 354-420) who denied original sin and its result: total depravity. He also taught that justifying grace is through human works, rather than a free gift (cf. J. D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort, Who’s Who in Christian History, Tyndale House, 1992, p. 546). The L. A. Church of Christ teaches an almost exact duplication of the Pelagian heresy.
    3. They believe that the Blood of Christ is "contacted" through baptism (i.e. sacramentalism) and that Christ’s Blood only atones for those sins committed before baptism.
Although they would vigorously deny it, Church of Christ teachings on salvation are very close to those of the Roman Catholic Church: (1) they say they are the only true church; (2) they say that justification comes through human effort (i.e. works); (3) they believe that baptism brings a person into "contact" with Jesus’ Blood (sacramentalism); (4) they deny total depravity (cf. Ephesians 2:1, 5; Ephesians 4:18-19).
Actually, Pelagianism has infiltrated much of Protestantism since the days of Alexander Campbell. Pelagianism came into the churches largely through the ministry of Charles G. Finney. As a result, many thousands of evangelicals now believe that man is not totally depraved and that salvation can be earned if you are good enough. It may seem that the L. A. Church of Christ is presenting the "narrow" way to salvation, but they are actually presenting the broad way to damnation, the way followed by most evangelicals and Catholics in our time. Jesus said:
"Enter ye in at the strait (small) gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait (small) is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).

The broad way is believed by nearly everyone I talk to. They say you get saved by "repenting." They mean giving up some sins and starting to be good. That’s what nearly everyone believes. It’s the religion of the natural man. It is the bloodless religion of Cain and Finney. The narrow way is the old way, rejected by Alexander Campbell when he was properly and correctly excommunicated by the Baptists back in 1830.

The Bible teaches that there is only one work that a person must do to be saved:
"This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29).

There are two ideas of salvation present in the world – and only two. All religions, in one way or the other, come under these two categories:

      1. Salvation by quitting sins and living better.
      2. Salvation by believing in Jesus.

I say that the L. A. Church of Christ is just as wrong as the Roman Catholics and Pentecostalists and evangelicals who say you get saved by quitting some sins, living a cleaner life, and saying a prayer. I say the L. A. Church of Christ is no better and no different from others in their man-made theory of salvation!

Now let’s look at these two ideas about salvation and compare them with what the Bible says.

 

 

I. Salvation by "repenting" – the broad way that the world believes.

 

A young university student phoned our church the other night. Someone had given him our number. This student is a member of the L. A. Church of Christ. As Dr. Cagan was talking to him, I said, "Let’s hear his testimony." So, Dr. Cagan asked him how he got "saved."
The young man said, "I’m changed inside." Dr. Cagan said, "What do you mean?" He said, "I changed my outlook and the way I live." Dr. Cagan said, "Did you do anything else to get saved?" He said, "Yes, I got baptized." Dr. Cagan said, "So, you have to change the way you think and live and then get baptized to be saved, right?" He said, "Yes, that’s right."
BUT THAT IS WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! Tell somebody I said so. Leave it on the tape and put it on the Internet! THAT IS NOT THE WAY TO GET SAVED!
The young man quoted his Church of Christ proof text:
"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38).

But he does not know what the Greek word for "repent" means. So, he takes the Roman Catholic view that it means "changing your outlook and the way you live." And he equates baptism to forgiveness of sins, which is really another Roman Catholic doctrine.

But those who use Acts 2:38 to prove baptismal salvation do not look two verses further, to Acts 2:40. It says:
"And with many other words did he testify and exhort"       
     (Acts 2:40).

So, the words in Acts 2:38 were not all that Peter said by any means. He doubtlessly went on to explain what repentance really is and why a person should be baptized after they get saved.

Then the young man referred to Romans 6:1-4. He said this refers to baptism in his church, the Church of Christ. But he is wrong. The clear words of the verses themselves show that he is wrong. The verses say nothing about being baptized into the Church of Christ. They don’t even speak of being baptized in water at all! Notice verse 3, "Know ye not, that so many as us as were baptized into Jesus Christ…" So, these verses speak of being baptized into Jesus Christ, not in water! This is the inward immersion in Christ that occurs when a person is united with Christ at conversion. Water baptism is only the outward expression of this inward baptism, "into Christ." If a person is not baptized "into Christ" by the Holy Spirit, water baptism does him no good at all.
"For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body…"
          (I Corinthians 12:13).
As that young college student spoke to Dr. Cagan, he said:
You change your mind                                   
   You change your outlook                                    
      You live a better life                                   
           You get baptized.                                    

You! You! You! Not one word about what Jesus does! It’s all what you do! This is from Satan! It is not the gospel of Christ!

Here is the gospel of Christ:
"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"            
       (I Timothy 1:15).

Jesus saves you. You don’t save yourself. No! You do not save yourself by changing your mind and getting baptized! No! No! A thousand times – no!

"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"
       (I Timothy 1:15).
"He shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).

"He shall save his people from their sins." You don’t save yourself by some good work – baptism, living a better life. No, no, "He shall save his people from their sins."

Now, what is your job? Your job is to believe on Him.
"This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he (God) hath sent" (John 6:29).
When a depraved sinner believes on Jesus he is saved. Notice that it says
"This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29).

The Greek word is correctly translated "on" in the KJV. The modern translations all miss this subtlety in the English language. Only the KJV captures the idea of the Greek word "eis." It means "on;" "indicating the point reached or entered" (Strong).

"This is the work of God, that ye believe on (and into) him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29).
In other words, believing things about Jesus will not save you. Instead, you must believe on Jesus. You believe on Him, meaning that your belief is actually upon Him; in Heaven, at the right hand of God. You must believe upon Him.  Your belief must actually rest on the resurrected Christ in Heaven.
Now, the Disciples of Christ and their offshoot, the Church of Christ, do not believe in what I just said. Instead, they believe what they call "the gospel plan." This so-called "gospel plan" has five points.
      1. Hearing
      2. Believing (i.e. believing the facts of the gospel).
      3. Repenting (i.e. obeying).
      4. Confessing
      5. Being baptized.

Now, it is at points two and three that they come into conflict with classical Protestantism. The Bible does not teach that salvation comes by believing the facts of the gospel. The demons believe the facts of the gospel, but they are not saved.

"The devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19).

So, it is not believing the "fact" that God exists or that Christ died and rose that saves you. It is not salvation by believing in facts. It is salvation by believing in a person – not facts but a person. You must believe into and rest on Jesus Christ, Himself – alive in Heaven!

"This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29).

So, we see from the Bible that the Church of Christ idea of being saved by believing the facts, obeying God, and being baptized is salvation by works. They believe in salvation by you doing several things (believing doctrine, obeying God, getting baptized). But the Bible teaches that there is only one work that God will accept.

"This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29).

All other beliefs, "repentances," and baptisms are rejected by God Himself as means of salvation.


 

 

II. Now, secondly, the Bible teaches salvation by believing in Jesus – this is the
     narrow way that few find.

"Because strait (small) is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14).

The small gate and the narrow way are references to salvation only by believing in Jesus. Salvation comes in no other way!

"This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29).
Now, Church of Christ people take it for granted that it is too easy to get saved simply by believing in Jesus. They say you have to do more than that. But they say that because they don’t realize that human beings can’t do any more than that. When you reject what the Bible teaches about man’s total depravity, you don’t understand that ungodly sinners are not capable of doing anything to save themselves!
The Bible teaches that lost people are "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).
"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:18).

My experience of forty-three years in the ministry bears this out: every human being is totally lost and totally unable to do a single thing to save himself.

Now turn with me to Romans chapter four, verse five:
"But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Romans 4:5).
That makes it all pretty clear, doesn’t it?
"To him that worketh not." That means no human work, such as obeying God or getting baptized, has anything to do with getting saved.
"To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly." That refers to Jesus. When an ungodly sinner believes on Jesus, that sinner is justified. He is saved!
The moment a sinner believes,                         
And trusts in his crucified God,
His pardon at once he receives,
Redemption in full through His blood.            
        ("The Moment a Sinner Believes" by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).
Yes, the Bible teaches that ungodly people are saved by believing "on him that justifieth the ungodly" (Romans 4:5).
"This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29).
The only work that God will accept is belief in Jesus. Will you believe on Jesus? No – not just facts and Bible verses! No – that won’t save you. No – not confession or prayer – that won’t save you.
"This is the work of God, that ye believe on (Jesus)"
      (John 6:29).

Nothing else can save you! Only Jesus can save you! "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31).

Now look at Romans, chapter five, verse eight:
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Christ did not die to pay for the sins of good people. He did not die to pay for the sins of those who obey God. No! No! "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Now look at verse nine:
"Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Romans 5:9).

You can be justified by His Blood. Justified means we are counted as righteous and just by God. When you believe on Jesus, His Blood washes all your sins away and God then sees you as a clean person. You then have been made clean in God’s sight by the Blood of Christ.

What must you do to be clean in God’s eyes? You must do just one thing:
"This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29).
Now turn to I John, chapter one, verse seven:
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1:7).

Look carefully at the end of verse seven. Take a pen or pencil and underline it in your Bible:

"The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin"
      (I John 1:7).
How much sin is cleansed by baptism? NONE!
How much sin is cleansed by obeying God? NONE!
How much sin is cleansed by confessing? NONE!
How much sin is cleansed by believing the facts of the gospel? NONE!
"The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin"
    (I John 1:7).
And what do you need to do to get Jesus’ Blood to cleanse your sins? The answer is simple:
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"
    (Acts 16:31).
"This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29).

Scripture Read Before Sermon: Romans 4:5; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 2:8-9.

Solo by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "Not What These Hands Have Done"
                                                        by Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)/
                                                       "Saved by the Blood" 
                                                        by S. H. Henderson (19th century).

 

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."

THE OUTLINE OF

L. A. CHURCH OF CHRIST STUDENT ANSWERED

 

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

"This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he
hath sent" (John 6:29). Matthew 7:13-14                        

       

    1. Salvation by "repenting" – the broad way that the world believes,
      Acts 2:38; Acts 2:40; I Corinthians 12:13; I Timothy 1:15;
      Matthew 1:21; James 2:19.
    2. Salvation by believing in Jesus – the narrow way that few find,
      Matthew 7:14; Ephesians 4:18; Romans 4:5; Romans 5:8,9; I John 1:7. Acts 16:31.