RAMSEY ROAD CHURCH OF CHRIST
Nothing more, nothing less and nothing else!
One in Christ
Jesus prayed, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” [John 17:20-21].
In spite of Jesus’ fervent prayer for His followers to be unified, shortly after His death Christians were dividing over race, doctrine, and even the apostle or evangelist who taught them about Jesus [Acts 6:1; Acts 11:2-3, 15:1-29; 1Cor:10-13]. These divisions have expanded to the point that, in the U.S. alone, there are now over 300 separately named groups claiming Christ. Clearly, the divisions that afflict Christianity are not of God; they are of Satan. And what are the tools Satan uses?
One of the most obvious tools of Satan is the hierarchical organization. In the New Testament and history, we see Christians joined together as local congregations, also called churches, each separate and with its own leaders. Within 100 years, a hierarchy developed among local leaders, with one leader elevated above the others. Within 200 years, these elevated leaders began meeting together regionally to rule on matters of doctrine and practice. Within 300 years, a full-fledged, multi-level hierarchy developed and ruled from the top. Eventually, this organization fractured, fractured again, and continued fracturing until we have over 300 identifiable groups naming Christ. The hierarchical organization is a tool of Satan by dividing believers into organizational structures not found in the Bible.The only Bible-authorized organization is the local church, and each local church is directly under the headship of Christ – Colossians 1:18.
Hierarchical organizations must have distinct names by which they can be distinguished from each other. Otherwise, how is one to know its separate identity? In criticizing the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” [1Cor. 1:12-13]. Various descriptors for Jesus’ followers are found in the New Testament letters, but none of them was ever used divisively. Examples are: "All the churches of Christ greet you” [Rom. 16:16]; "the church of God" [1Cor. 1:2]; "the body of Christ" [1Cor.12:27]; "the household of faith" [Gal. 6:10]; and "the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch" [Acts 11:26]. Such phrases are not proper names; Jesus never gave a specific name to his followers, either as individuals or as groups. It is wrong for us to do so today, since such names become a focal point for division.
Even a casual look at the last two millennia reveals a sordid history of confused, conflicting, and divisive doctrines. One of the first was the attempt of Christians of Jewish background to force circumcision and the laws of Moses on Gentile Christians [Acts 15:1-29 and much of Galatians and Colossians]. A doctrine called Gnosticism was the background for the first letter of John, in which he referred to Gnostics as the Anti-Christ. Many other doctrines, contrary to God’s Word, have developed over the years. The various sects have generally written their specific doctrines as “creeds,” “catechisms,” “manuals,” etc., to which members may show more loyalty than to the Bible. Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work [2Timothy 3:16-17]. The Scriptures are all we need. Anything else either has too little or too much and is a foundation Satan uses to divide us as believers. Jesus Christ is our only source of authority [Heb. 1:1-3, Matt 28:18], not creed books, or catechisms, or even the dictates of a church.
Nothing illustrates the problem of sectarian doctrines better than confusion on the Biblical question, “What Must I Do To Be Saved?”
Paul told Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” [1Timothy 1:15]. That being the case, the question “What must I do to be saved?” is most fundamental. Various sects give different answers. Jesus, shortly before He ascended to heaven, instructed His disciples to make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit [Matt. 28:19]. The Book of Acts shows how the disciples understood this and how they carried it out.
In Acts 16, we see Paul in Philippi, where he upset some locals and was thrown in prison, guarded by a heathen soldier. At about midnight, after a miracle, the guard asked Paul what he must do to be saved. Paul answered that he should “believe in the Lord Jesus” [Acts 16:16-33]. Belief in Jesus is the essential starting point to salvation. But is it the end?
In Acts 2, Peter preached to an assemblage of Jews and accused them of being responsible for crucifying Jesus, the one person God had made both Lord and Christ. They were “pierced to the heart” and asked, “What shall we do?” Peter responded to these who now believed in Jesus that they should “repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” [Acts 2:36-38]. To repent is to recognize one’s error and turn away from it. Repentance is the next step on the way.
In Acts 22, Paul recounts his path from being a persecutor of Christians to a follower of Christ. He had been traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus to imprison Christians when Jesus appeared to him in a blinding vision. Now blind, believing in Jesus, and repentant of persecuting Christians, Paul asked, “What shall I do, Lord?” and was told to go into Damascus. In Damascus, a Christian named Ananias restored Paul’s sight and said, “And now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins [Acts 22:3-16].
Baptism [Greek for ‘immersion,’ also in reference to a ship ‘sinking at sea’] is symbolic of death, burial, and resurrection. Paul described it as follows: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection [Rom. 6:3-5]. Baptism is the step in which we come in contact with the blood of Jesus and our sins are washed away.
RESTORING NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY
We have seen that Jesus prayed for His followers to be one, as He and the Father are one, so that the world would believe in Him. We have seen that those who profess Christ have fragmented in almost countless ways over unscriptural organizations, names, and doctrines. The result throughout the world has been less belief in Jesus and confusion - which is what Satan wants. What is the solution? Is it reforming existing sects? Reforming existing sects has been tried over and over, generally resulting in creation of additional sects. It just hasn’t worked.
What is needed:
- RESTORE the spirit and practice of pure Christianity, as found in the New Testament.
- ABANDON unscriptural hierarchical organizations that divide us and restore the Biblical organization of the church.
- ABANDON unscriptural names that divide us and go back to being “just Christians.”
- ABANDON unscriptural doctrines that divide us and go back to just the Bible.
It is possible to do these things. All it takes is believers in Christ to
“walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)
We at Ramsey Road church of Christ strive to be
Nothing more, nothing less and nothing else!
so that the world may believe in Jesus.
We invite you to study the Bible with us
and worship God in spirit and truth!
The church meets at
4215 E. Ramsey Road
Sierra Vista, AZ 85650
10 AM Bible Study
11 AM Worship
**Free Bible Study available by email or in person.**
email us at [email protected] ramseyroadchurchofchrist.org