My biggest difficulty in accepting Galatians’ teachings on the salvation of those who seek a works salvation is the seeming unfairness of it all. Why condemn someone just because he insists that the instrumental music is a salvation issue?
For that matter, circumcision is a very personal matter. It doesn’t affect our worship or organization. IN today’s world, most people really don’t know who is and isn’t circumcised. Why does insisting on circumcision as a requirement to be saved cause one to fall away from grace? Why isn’t faith in Jesus and penitence enough? Why does this mistake damn and not so many others?
I studied on this for quite a long time actually. Several years. And I finally realized the obvious answer — because unity of God’s people is essential. And unity is not possible when we damn over non-gospel issues.
Think about the history of the Churches of Christ from 1889 on. In the Sand Creek Address & Declaration, we divided over instrumental music, located preachers, fund raisers other than free will offerrings, and missionary societies. (Of course, our located preachers now tell us there’s no sin in this.)
In 1939, H. Leo Boles put an effective end to efforts to re-unify the a cappella and instrumental churches in his “The Way of UNITY Between “CHRISTIAN CHURCH” AND CHURCHES OF CHRIST.” He insisted on separation over instrumental music, missionary societies, and calling the Christian Church a “denomination.”
The readers are well aware of the numerous other issues that have divided the Churches of Christ — sometimes into official camps that get footnotes in our directory and sometimes into unofficial camps that won’t invite the others to their lectureships all the while pretending not to have divided.
The Galatian heresy inevitably leads to division because there’s no way to say which errors damn and which do not. Once you’ve decide that the instrument damns, then anything you feel strongly about becomes equally damning. If you’re unsure about the answer, it becomes — to you — a disputable matter and not a basis to break fellowship. But once one side figures the issue is clear, fellowship breaks. Yesterday’s disputable matter is today’s test of fellowship and salvation issue.
The result is that the lines of fellowship are no longer found in faith in Jesus and submission to Jesus as Lord. We must also submit to the higher wisdom of the editor-bishop whose periodical the preacher reads — or else face damnation. Of course, the church down the road reads another editor-bishop and so damns over entirely different issues. And so, when one church damns you, you can just transfer to the other church in town.
This constant division and wrangling is repeatedly condemned.
(Gal 5:15 ESV) But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
(Gal 5:19-21 ESV) 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
And so, to go all the way back to part 1. I wrote,
Of course, my view of the gospel differs from the gospel as taught by conservatives in important ways. I’m persuaded that if they’ll understand the gospel as I teach it, unity will be easy.
If we would make just one little change in our thinking, unity would indeed be easy. Simply accept that we are saved by faith in Jesus — a penitent faith, that is, faith that submits to Jesus as Lord — and not by works. Do that and we will no longer have to divide over instrumental music or the frequency of communion or how to support missionaries. We can discuss those things without having to damn each other. Indeed, we could even teach in the same lectureship.