What We Cannot Learn by Reading the Bible No.1

Glendol McClure

The Psalmist wrote, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psa. 119:105). In fact, every one of the 176 verses in Psalm 119 contains a reference to God’s word. Each verse contains at least one term, such as, “law” “testimonies” “ways” “precepts” “statutes” –  “commandments” “ judgments” “righteous judgments” “Thy word” – that refer to God’s word. This fact illustrates the importance and dependence the Psalmist placed on God’s word. A host of other Old Testament passages also clearly show that mankind needs God’s word. For example:

$          Jeremiah declared, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23).

$          Isaiah wrote, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8, 9).

These passages are divine declarations of man’s need for God’s instruction and guidance. Not only does the Old Testament reveal this fact, the New Testament also does.

Consider Jesus’ words when he said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:29). Our Savior used the phrase, “learn of me” to emphasize man’s need to hear the word by which he will be judged (Jn. 12:48).

Paul emphasized to Timothy and Titus the need to study and adhere to the doctrine (2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Tim. 4:16; 6:3). The apostle John warned of transgressing the doctrine of Christ (2 Jn. 9-11). Paul commanded the Corinthians to heed the “things written” (the doctrine), rather than the writings of men (2 Cor. 4:6). And, Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees for their adherence to the “tradition of the elders,” while transgressing the commandments of God (Matt. 15:1-9).

Hence, it would be fair to say that in order to please God, we must obey His word. In order to obey God’s word, it is necessary to know God’s word, and so we must search and study God’s word.

In spite of all this, it is evident that many do not search God’s word to learn about heaven and how to go there. Rather, they rely on the vain doctrines, opinions, teachings, and traditions of men as their source of religious authority. Doing this will prevent their attaining salvation and entering heaven (Acts 10:34, 35; Heb. 5:8, 9).

Consider for a moment, some things one cannot learn by reading and studying the Bible:

We cannot learn that “one church is as good as another.” When Jesus replied to Peter’s confession, He said: “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Christ did not say He would build His “churches” (plural); and that the gates of hell would not prevail against “them” (plural). Rather, He used singular nouns to refer to the one, and only one, church He built–the church of Christ, the church He “purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:23-25).

Some denominational believers argue that the various denominational churches are the members of His body. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul discussed the fact that there were various gifts of the spirit, but they were from, or of, the same spirit (vs. 13). And he likened to the spiritual body, the church, the many and varied parts of the physical body that work together to aid and help one another. Likewise, many members of the Lord’s church today function in various and sundry ways to carry out its work– evangelism, edification, and benevolence (Eph. 4:11-15). While no apostles are living today (Mormon claims notwithstanding), there are various members–evangelists (preachers), elders, deacons, and saints–of his body, the church, who serve God and continue to do His work (1 Cor. 6:12-14; Eph. 1:22, 23). The verse that proves my point is 1 Corinthians 12:25, where Paul said, “That there should be no schism (division) in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.” Since it is evident that denominationalism has divisions, or schisms (contradictory creeds, traditions, and practices), the many and varied members of the body mentioned by Paul could not be the differing and contradictory denominations of men.

One cannot learn the doctrine of “salvation by faith only” by reading and studying the Bible. While many believe this doctrine, it is not found in the New Testament scriptures. In fact, good Bible students know that the apostle James taught that man is not saved by faith only. James wrote, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24).

In the July 2002 issue of the Railroad Avenue Church of Christ Bulletin, I included an article entitled, “SALVATION BY FAITH ONLY”– By What Authority Is the Doctrine Taught, written by my Dad, Tommy L. McClure (deceased). The article outlined the various persons, agencies, and conditions necessary for man’s salvation in the gospel age. I’ve listed these as they appeared in that article under the heading: Numerous Persons, Agencies and Conditions Involved in Salvation.

Persons involved in our salvation include:

$          God - “It is God that justified” (Rom. 8:33).

$          Jesus - So named because He shall save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).

$          The Holy Spirit - The Corinthians were washed, sanctified, and justified “by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).

$          Ourselves - “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40).

$          Other people - “I am made all things to all men, that by all means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22), and “he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death” (Jas. 5:20).

Agencies by which we are saved include:

$          God’s word - It cleanses (Jn. 15:3); it is the gospel of salvation (Eph. 1:13); Christians are begotten by it (Jas. 1:18); and it is able to save our souls (Jas. 1:21).

$          Gospel preaching - By it, God is pleased to save the believers (1 Cor. 1:21).

$          Christ’s blood - Redemption is through His blood (Eph. 1:7); and by it, we are justified (Rom. 5:9).

$          God’s grace - By it, sinners are justified (Rom. 3:24); and salvation is by grace, through faith (Eph. 2:8).

$          God’s mercy - “According to His mercy, He saved us” (Tit. 3:5).

$          Christ’s life - Being reconciled by His death, “we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10).

Conditions, stipulated by God and to be met by man, include:

$          Hearing God’s word - Faith comes by hearing the word (Rom. 10:17), and without faith, we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6).

$          Faith - Paul and the Romans were “justified by faith” (Rom. 5:1), and unbelievers are condemned (Mk. 16:16; Rev. 21:8).

$          Love - Everyone who loveth is born of God and knoweth God (l Jn. 4:7), and the importance of knowing God is clear (2 Thess. 1:7,8; Jn. 17:3).

$          Repentance - Repentance is “unto life” (Acts 11:18) and “to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10).

$          Confession - Specifically named as a condition of salvation (Rom. 10:9, 10).

$          Baptism - It saves us (1 Pet. 3:21), and is the means by which men become children of God through faith in Christ (Gal. 3:26, 27).

$          Faithfulness - A condition of receiving the “crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

Without comment, look at these conditions:

$          Fearing God and working righteousness - (Acts 10:34, 35).

$          Obedience - (Heb. 5:8, 9; Rom. 6:17, 18; Rev. 22:14).

$          Works - (Jas. 2:24).

$          Endurance - (Matt. 10:22).

After reading and studying this extensive list of scriptures, how can any Bible student who has an ounce of honesty, make the fallacious claim that we are saved by “faith only”?

We cannot, by reading and studying the Bible, learn that “the apostle Peter was the first Pope.” The Catholic religion uses Matthew 16:13-19 to attempt to prove that Peter was the first Pope, and that he received exclusive power to bind and loose. The Papal structure is based on the assumption that Christ appointed Peter as the first Pope, and that his successors constitute the papacy. There are numerous reasons why Peter could not have been the first Pope. When we investigate these reasons, we defeat the validity of the Catholic Church’s claims showing them to be utterly false.

(1) When Jesus said, “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18), He was making a play on words to show that the actual rock was Peter’s confession concerning Christ. Christ was the rock (petra), and Peter was the small stone (petros). The Greek word for Peter is petros; whereas, the Greek word petra refers to Peter’s confession of Christ. According to W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, petros refers to a small stone, and petra refers to “a mass of rock.” Vine states, “Petra denotes a mass, a rock, as distinct from petros, a detached stone or boulder, or a stone that might be thrown or easily moved.” Therefore, the church for which Christ died, and that He established, was not founded on Peter, but on Christ and His teachings (Matt. 7:24-29; 1 Cor. 3:10). Since Christ is “the head of the church,” and has “all authority...in heaven and on earth,” that leaves no authority for any other, especially the current Catholic Pope or any of his predecessors or successors (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:22, 23; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:10; 1 Cor. 3:11)!

(2) Nowhere in the New Testament do the other apostles acknowledge Peter as the first Pope. I’m sure that if this were so, the Lord would not have left it to doubt. Also, nowhere in the scriptures does Peter exercise, or claim, any authority over the other apostles. In fact, Jesus condemned those who wished to be greatest in the Kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18 1-6; 20:20-28), and taught that those who would be great must serve in the Kingdom and submit to one another (Jn. 3:1-17).

(3) Paul reprimanded Peter when he saw that he “walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel.” Can you imagine a cardinal reprimanding the Pope? In Galatians 2:9-21, we see the apostle Paul condemning Peter’s hypocrisy. Paul wrote, “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel...” (Gal. 2:11-14). It seems strange to me that if the Pope speaks “ex-cathedra,” and if Peter was the first Pope as the Catholic church claims, Peter would not have needed a verbal, face-to-face reprimand and rebuke from Paul, “before them all.”

(4) Peter, unlike the Pope of the Catholic church, did not accept worship from men. I recently saw a news report where various Catholic bishops bowed down and worshiped the Pope. In Acts 10, when Peter came into the house of Cornelius, the Luke records a notable action on Peter’s part: “And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man” (Acts 10:25, 26). From this text, it is evident that Peter did not accept worship from Cornelius because Peter himself was a mere man. However, the Pope of the Catholic church (a mere man) accepts worship from other men. When the devil tempted Jesus to worship him, Jesus rebuked the devil saying, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10). Jesus taught that worship should be directed toward Deity, not man. He said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24; Rev. 14:7).

If one reads and studies the Bible, he finds no mention of the use mechanical instruments of music in New Testament worship. Many attempt to use the Old Testament (David’s use of different instruments) to justify their use of instrumental music in worship. Some brethren are now using mechanical instruments of music in worship, but they do so without New Testament authority.

If we consider the New Testament passages that address music in worship to God under the New Law, one cannot find a single passage that commands, implies, or gives an example of any local congregation in the first century using mechanical instruments of music in worship to God. The apostle Paul instructed the church at Ephesus to sing (Eph. 5:19). The Colossians received the same instructions (Col. 3:16). Do you think Paul would have omitted instructions regarding the use of mechanical instruments of music if the Lord had wanted them known? Not hardly! Also read 1 Corinthians 14:15.

Since there is no command, example, or implication regarding the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship to God, then we must heed the statement Jesus made in Matthew 7:21-23. He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”

Conclusion: Yes, it is important to study our Bibles! Christians are commanded to study! But when we study the Bible, there are things–doctrines and errors of men–we will not learn. Let us not, as do many in the religious world today, offer God lame, vain, and void service by disregarding His word and will and adhering to the doctrines and commandments of men. May we strive to give a “thus saith the Lord” for everything we do in our service to God and submit to the authority of Christ and His will.