Regaining Our Certainty in Churches of Christ

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We used to be a certain bunch. We were certain about pretty much everything. We were certain about our doctrine. We were certain about our identity. We had things locked down tight to a fault. Part of this had to do with a backwards hermeneutic that was self-perpetuating of our pre-determined conclusions that always guaranteed we had scripture behind our conclusions (while it was really in some instances our conclusion in front of scripture).

As many churches of Christ have become more grace oriented we have lost some of that certainty. Some of the certainty we lost needed to be lost. We needed to lose our exclusivity as the remnant that was the only truly right and pleasing group that could truly call themselves Christians. Other parts of our certainty were lost unnecessarily. There were more factors involved in the loss of certainty than just becoming grace oriented. A few of those factors involved a shift overall to a post-modern culture were certainty at large was discounted and deconstructed. A second was a change in our hermeneutic that took more into account than CENI was able to account for and that allowed for needed nuance in our interpretation in an attempt to get back to original meaning or authorial intent of the text…something CENI didn’t take into account.

I think it is important to regain our certainty in some areas and not be shy about it. Here are a few things that I would include on that list.

  • Jesus is the way to salvation.
  • The fact that as Christians we are indeed saved
  • God is real. God is active and involved in the world he created.
  • Scripture is the inspired word of God and has authority for our life and faith
  • Baptism should be a core part of our disciple-making process just as Jesus instructed
  • Assembling as a congregation and with a congregation is an essential part of our faith and spiritual development
  • Communion should be the central piece of our worship rather than the sermon
  • The Lord will return and bring redemption and restoration to his creation

The list could go on quite some time…at least it should because there are still many things we should be certain of as Christians. But if we are uncertain about things we need to study and pray and ask God for clarity and wisdom on these things. Without certainty we lack a foundation and I am convinced that it drastically reduces our effectiveness in outreach and evangelism because who wants to share a message they aren’t certain about much less share it with conviction? This doesn’t mean we end up locking in on every conceivable thing as scripture doesn’t speak to every conceivable thing but we should have a baseline of conviction…our non-negotiables that we hold with absolute certainty.

5 Responses

  1. Hello, as many fellow baptists seem to, I don’t think of baptism or communion for that matter, as sacraments and so important as those who see them that way do; I’m way more grace oriented than this even if it took time and crises. God bless!

  2. “The fact that as Christians we are indeed saved” should be a basic part of our teaching but I still hear it taught that we are saved IF we continue to walk in the light and repent of every sin, putting the responsibility for salvation on us rather than on the blood of Jesus. In response to OSAS we have gone to the other extreme and teach “saved today but who knows about tomorrow?”

    The LS should be central in our worship assemblies but woe to the brother who takes too much time in speaking before the tiny pieces of bread and tiny cups are passed around.

  3. Certainty is not guaranteed by simply “flipping from legalism to grace”. Certainty is a blessing from the Christ like willingness to be as merciful toward others, even more so, as we are toward ourselves. A people that does not fear this becomes, for the community, the trusted healers who know who they are.

  4. Matt, sorry I have been tied up in other things since my previous emails, but I think your present posting is right on the nail. Especially:-
    • Jesus is the ONLY way to salvation [1 Timothy 2: 5].
    This is really important in an age where various denominational bodies seem to think that they can deviate from the teachings of the Lord and His Apostles, and still be acceptable to God. Grace is for repentance from violations of the spirit of God’s law [Matthew 22: 35-40]: it was so in the years when the Lord and His Apostles preached, and the result of not repenting was the circa AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem [“70 septennia are determined for your people and your holy city”; Luke 20: 41-44]. Given the warnings in Revelation about the perceivable unfolding of events in latter times, why would any sane person think, in an age where ‘anything goes’ as long as it’s pc, that God will turn a blind eye. Evidence of the seriousness of His intent is still being uncovered today (e.g. the excavation of Sodom & Gomorrah in the Plain of the Jordan). He is God: His words will not return to Him unfulfilled [Isaiah 55: 11], and His words stand eternally [Matthew 24: 35].
    •The Lord will return and bring redemption and restoration to His creation [2 Peter 3: 7-9].
    It would appear that this isn’t going to happen in completion until the time of the Judgement. So it looks like Christians before this time are going to have to ‘dig in’ till relieved, though one hopes this doesn’t preclude tactical support.

    A big worry that I have – part of that “loss of certainty” – is that in the selection of which books to include in the canon, the wise men who did the choosing, chose those that were meaningful in their age. They relegated to the trash-can at least one which, from the letters of Peter and Jude, was on the disciples’ reading list. How then can we tell others that we have the complete revelation from God re humanity if part of His work, known in the time of the Apostles, and used by them in explaining God’s revealed purpose, is excluded from available Bibles? (Bibles which some of our preachers are p;ounding as being the complete revealed knowledge of God, rather than the essential revealed knowledge for our salvation [John 20: 30-31].)

  5. I also think we need to focus on • Jesus is the ONLY way to salvation [1 Timothy 2: 5].
    In many coC we rely on baptism to save us, instead of getting us into the savior.
    We need to get away from the points of salvation and speak of the point of salvation…Jesus.
    But having said that we also need to emphasize “our walk” with Christ in life.
    Our surety is secure from God’s side…the promise is secure.
    But we and only can keep ourselves from God and reaching the promise and this isn’t by going to assembly and contributing to the coffers and singing a few songs and listening to a sermon and hearing two prayers, but living a life (24/7) towards Christ giving to others, singing to God, reading and praying ourselves to God.

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