January 17, 2003
In my opinion there has been a great deal of misunderstanding, and subsequently much misinformation, with regard to the matter of the identity of that to which we are added when we obey God's "plan of salvation." Typically we declare that when one "obeys the gospel" this person is then added "to the church." I don't believe that is a completely accurate statement.
Some, in an effort to refute what I've stated above, will quote Acts 2:47 (KJV) which reads, "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." The phrase "to the church" is not in the original text. It has been added. In fact, to my knowledge (and I checked dozens of other translations) there are hardly any other reputable translations which say "to the church" in this passage. It is an incorrect and false rendering. The original Greek here literally says: "And the Lord added together daily the ones being saved." The passage does not tell us specifically to what or to whom those being saved were added. It merely states that all those being saved were "added together" or "numbered together."
I believe that our brother Hugo McCord, in his translation, has captured the original very well when he translates it as follows: "The Lord was adding together daily the ones who were being saved." That is exactly what the passage says in the original Greek. Again, the phrase "to the church" is an addition to the text of the Bible. Even the NKJV (New King James Version) has a footnote here which says this phrase is omitted in the Greek (which leaves one to wonder why they went ahead and added it anyway! Was their loyalty to the original Greek text or to the KJV?!!).
Some might argue that if God is taking all the saved ones and collecting them together into a common group, then this seemingly suggests the addition is to the group itself. If there was no other teaching on this matter, this might well be a logical conclusion. However, there IS further teaching which suggests that the saved are added to something else entirely, and that all those who are thus added to this "something else" are then "numbered together." Even if the assumption of the translators was true (that those being saved are added "to the church"), such is nevertheless not stated in the text, and for translators to impose their own interpretation upon the original text (however true that interpretation might be) goes beyond the work of a translator. The result, therefore, becomes more commentary than translation.
Acts 2:41, in the KJV, reads, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." At least in this passage the phrase "unto them" is placed in italics in the KJV. It is thereby acknowledged that this phrase has been ADDED by the translators to the text of the Bible. In the original Greek the latter part of the verse literally reads "And there were added in that day about three thousand souls." The verse does not tell us to what these 3000 were added. It only says they were added. Again, the KJV translators did some assuming and interpreting, and then they did some adding to the text. It is assumed by some that it was to the other saints they were added (i.e.: the church), however this is merely an assumption. There is no question but what they were "numbered together with" the other saints, but is it possible there was something else to which or to whom these saved ones were added? If so, what or who was it?!
I believe the answer is found in Acts 5:14. Again, notice the KJV (which in this passage gives the correct translation of the original): "And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women." Some translations continue with the concept that it was "to the church" that the believers were added. The NIV, for example, reads, "more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added TO THEIR NUMBER." This is not a correct translation of the original. However, the KJV, ASV, RSV, and even the LB (and other translations as well) all correctly translate the original here --- "added to the Lord."
In my view, this is a concept which has been largely overlooked in our preaching and teaching. We tend to proclaim that when one "obeys the gospel" they are then added to the CHURCH (and, of course, by that we mean the Church of Christ church). Thus, it becomes very important that we make sure they get into the RIGHT church --- OUR church --- the only TRUE church --- the REAL church --- the Church of Christ church!!
Brethren, such preaching and teaching misses the mark. People are not added to the CHURCH, they are added to the LORD!! And all who are added to the LORD are then "numbered together" with that great, universal ONE BODY. It is GOD who does the adding of people to something, and He adds them to the Lord. All those who are being saved -- who are being added to the Lord -- are then numbered among the family of God: His One Body universal. God does not add anyone to a particular group (Baptist, Methodist, or even Church of Christ), rather He collects them all together into ONE BODY, and the common bond which they all share is: they are "in Christ Jesus" -- having been added to HIM!
I believe that once we truly comprehend this, we will begin to change the thrust of our preaching and teaching. Rather than trying to get people into the CHURCH (and, of course, we mean by this OUR church group), we will instead focus our energy upon seeking to get them into CHRIST. Someone might say, "But that person over there isn't worshiping God in OUR group; he's worshiping God in some OTHER group. Doesn't he know he can't go to heaven unless he worships in OUR group?" The fact is, if he is worshiping God "in Christ Jesus" and "in the Spirit," then that is sufficient. If he is truly "in Christ," then he is automatically in the "right group" -- the ONE BODY. This confused, and almost comedic, concept of "right groupism" is nothing more than sectarianism!!
John learned this lesson the hard way (Mark 9:38-40; Luke 9:49-50) when he tried to hinder the work of a certain man "because he was not following US." Jesus had to point out to John that walking about in their own little group was NOT what determined one's place in the kingdom. Being in a relationship with the LORD was the critical issue, not whether or not one was "following US." I think many need that same lesson today!!
From a Reader in Colorado:
I enjoyed your Reflections #8 --- "From Whence Cometh Contentions?" --- it's so much like what we have here. The little "anti" church out on the highway can't tolerate us in town at all .... until they need a larger building for a funeral. Then they want to use our building, have our singers sing for the funeral, and use our annex (which is "unscriptural" for us to have!) for the family meal that they will help fix ... maybe. People are inconsistent at best; totally impossible at worst.
From a Reader in New Mexico:
Al, your latest Reflections is the most forceful one to date!! Amen! Amen! Amen!
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