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Thursday, August 5, 2010

"I'll take Christ. You can keep the church."

When I read last week that novelist Anne Rice was leaving Christianity, I thought it was a very timely illustration for us as we have been looking at the issue of the perseverance of the saints.  I thought Rice was the perfect example of what we have seen in 1 John 2:19, They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.  But as I read further, I realized there was a different truth at play.  Rice wasn’t renouncing Christ, just His church.
Rice has experienced great difficulty in reconciling her liberal social views with biblical Christianity.  In an attempt to hold onto those views and Christ, she has jettisoned the church.  The question that this raises is, “is it possible to hold onto Christ while rejecting His church?”  The answer is no.   
Romans 12:4-5 tells us, For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  God, in making us members of the body of Christ, has also made us members of one another.  We are connected in one unified body to Christ as our head.  Ephesians 4:1-16 shows that there is one body and that God has gifted each member of the body to edify the church.  As each member exercises his or her gift, the body “builds itself up in love” (v16).  The purpose of our growth is that we “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” so that the body as a whole attains Christlikeness (v13).  God has not provided a mechanism for Christlikeness outside of the ministry of the body of Christ. 
We need to be admonished when we are idle, encouraged when we are fainthearted, helped when we are weak (1Th 5:14).  We need the teaching of the word from those gifted to speak biblical truth, so that we will be equipped for the work of ministry (Eph 4:11-12).  We need brothers and sisters to walk beside us as we pursue holiness and kill sin (2 Tim 2:22).  This is why it is explicitly forbidden to separate yourself from the church (Heb 10:25).  We need each other. 
Scripture so clearly teaches that we are to be active, serving members of the body of Christ that for one to walk away from the church, one of two things must be true of that person.  Either they have deliberately disobeyed the truth or they have rejected the inerrancy, inspiration, and authority of God’s Word.  Based on statements I’ve read from Anne Rice, it appears that in her case the latter is true.
There is a very practical lesson here for those of us who regularly attend a local church.  Attendance on Sunday morning is not equivalent to carrying out all the mandates I just mentioned above.  We can be at church every time the door is open, but never be engaged in the lives of others, actively serving one another, submitting to the teaching of the bible, keeping one another accountable, praying for one another, or encouraging one another.  If we are not doing those things, one of two things must be true of us: either we are deliberately disobeying the truth or we have rejected the inerrancy, inspiration, and authority of God’s word.  
Whichever is the case, it is impossible to hold onto Christ the Head while rejecting His body.

Posted by Greg Birdwell

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