Characteristics of the Christian Faith
By Walter Swain
God keep me from the divinity of Yes and No ... the Yea Nay Creeping Jesus, from supposing Up and Down to be the same thing as all experimentalists must suppose (William Blake 17571827, English poet).
The idea that each individual has the right to believe what he wants to believe, and no one should say anything is wrong is popular. Such teaching allows everything and nothing to be accepted. Each person has his own lifestyle. He does what he feels is proper and a person's own think-so is king.
The sad thing is that this way of thinking has crept into the Lord's church. As a result, the uniqueness and exclusiveness of the church is challenged. The denominations have always taught and practiced open membership, and acceptance of one another in spite of great differences of doctrine and practices. They have always said, "We are all going to the same place, just by different routes." Now we hear this in the Lord's body.
As with any other matter of faith, we must go to the scriptures to see what they teach, and then we must believe what they say. There are four distinct characteristics of the faith, which should characterize the church today.
The first of these is exclusiveness. The church is unique. It is one of a kind. Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation (John 14:6). There is no other name by which one can be saved (Acts 4: 12). The New Testament is the sole authority, and contains all the truth (John 14:26, 16:13; 2 Tim. 3:1617; Jude 3). There is only one way of salvation (faith, repentance, confession of Christ as God's Son, and baptism for the remission of sins-Mark 16:15,16; Acts 2:38, 22:16; Romans 10:10). If we worship God, there is a specific way in which it must be done (John 4:24).
Only those who teach and practice these things are the body of Christ. All others are outside of Christ (Gal. 1:610; 2 John 910;Jude 3; Rev. 22:1819).
Secondly, the church is to be expansive. The exclusive church is to be taken to every human on earth (Mark 16:1516; Matt. 28:1819). The book of Acts records an evangelistic explosion (Acts 6:7, 8:4, 9:31, 12:24, 14:27). Lost souls are won to Christ by teaching them the unique, unchanging gospel of Jesus Christ. The power to convert lost people is the gospel-not gimmicks, nor by changing to adapt to what their itching ears want to hear. Only when people hear the gospel, believe it, and obey it are they saved. When this occurs the church expands.
Thirdly, the work of the church is exhaustive. Jesus came to work (John 9:4). Evangelism, teaching, benevolence involve work. It is not easy to do it God's way. There are no shortcuts, no secret methods or means of expanding the unique work of God. We wear ourselves out in seeking to save every soul.
Finally, the work of the Lord is exhilarating. Christians are the happiest people on earth (Phil. 4:47). Joy is in doing it God's way, rather than adapting to man's way. It is not easy to go against the flow. God's way has always been unpopular with the world. There is no greater happiness than knowing we are pleasing God, and following his unique, exclusive way to eternal life. Obedience to God's law brings contentment and assurance.