WHY I LEFT THE METHODIST CHURCH
(Transcript of a sermon delivered June 6, 1983, Dalhart, TX)
By Joe R. Price
The subject you have given me to speak on this evening is, due to its very nature, a subject which is very important to me – “Why I Left The Methodist Church.” This topic contains things which influenced my conversion, and I sincerely hope that the reasons I based my departure from the Methodist faith upon will be prayerfully considered by you, and used by you to help convert others who at this time are in the Methodist religion.
Of necessity, portions of the lesson this evening will be, in one sense, subjective. There could be many different reasons why one might leave the Methodist Church. But this evening we want to speak concerning some of the reasons why I left the Methodist Church. But, at the same time, let me warn you not to accept any of the things which are laid this evening, or base any decisions concerning your life merely on the fact that Joe Price says them. If my reasons and my conclusions are without the basis of inspired scriptures, they are worth nothing.
So, the plea this evening at the outset is to investigate for yourself. Examine Methodism with the Bible. Take out your Bible and consider and compare Methodism with the word of God. Make a personal study of these issues for yourself. Should you have friends who are in the Methodist Church, prepare yourself to speak with them and teach them these truths, by investigating these things, instead of just saying, “Joe Price said it, so I’ll accept it, because I like his preaching, etc.” Dig it out for yourself. Make it your own. Investigate it, for only then will you be able to act out of conviction in teaching others, and those you are teaching can then have a similar conviction impressed upon them, that they too may be able to act out of conviction. In Acts 17:11, we find this occurring and being commended, when we read, “Now these (Bereans) were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” This verse has reference to those who were not Christians having “all readiness of mind.” They were willing to investigate and examine the scriptures. They did not take the apostle Paul and Silas’ word for it, but instead they searched it out for themselves to see if the things they were saying were so. And that is our plea as we introduce our lesson this evening.
I have no ax to grind with the Methodist Church. As I said a moment ago, I grew up in the Methodist Church. I was a member of the Methodist Church until I was sixteen years old. People who are very dear to me are in the Methodist Church. Many whom I dearly love (family and friends) are members of the Methodist Church. My only concern this evening is to arrive at the truth concerning Methodism. To see the validity of the Methodist Church in the sight of God. And so, with this setting of the stage of the emphasis of our study this evening, allow me to lead us through a study of some of the reasons why I left the Methodist Church.
To begin this study, we would like to study the origin of the Methodist Church. We want to consider some people, places, dates and reasons behind the formation and origin of Methodism.
The Methodist Church had its origin in the Church of England. There were two men in the early 1700’s going to school in England at Oxford University – John and Charles Wesley. We normally associate John Wesley with the beginning of Methodism, and rightly so, for he was the voice of the principles and philosophies which formed the basis for the Methodist Church. John and Charles Wesley were brothers going to Oxford University in England in 1729. In that year they formed a society called the “Holy Club.” This “Holy Club” was comprised of members of the Church of England who had become dissatisfied with what they thought was a sterile formalism pervading the Church of England. So, this society formed in an effort to counteract this sterilism and formalism which they saw pervading the Church of England. Right away their opponents began calling them Methodists out of derision. History tells us the use of this word began in derision because of the methodical lifestyle these people in this society chose for themselves. For example, they chose a lifestyle which stressed personal habits such as Bible study, prayer, acts of charity, piety and service. These different areas of lifestyle were practiced very methodically by these people, hence, they were called “Methodists.”
It is important for us to understand that they were not recognized as a Church at this point. In fact, in the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, of which I have a copy before me this evening, we are told on page 8 that Wesley did not plan to found a new Church! (We will be, throughout our study tonight, quoting from the 1980 edition of the Methodist Book of Discipline.) Let it be understood that the Methodist Church did not begin in 1729, but rather, that was when Wesley decided things were not right in the Church of England, and he began to attempt (along with his associates) to help change these things, thus forming the “Holy Club.”
At another time and place, John Wesley himself said, “Would to God that all party names, and unscriptural phrases and forms which have divided the Christian world, were forgot,” and “that the very name (Methodist, jrp) might never be mentioned more, but be buried in eternal oblivion” (Universal Knowledge, Vol. 9, p. 540). Wesley himself said he wished that name would go into oblivion; that it be obliterated from the face of the earth! And so, Wesley had no intention of forming a Church! It is interesting to note that John Wesley never left the Church of England. And yet, he is credited with originating the Methodist Church, mainly because of his widespread influence in the particular doctrines which the Holy Club began to set forth.
Although Wesley did not actually leave the Church of England, neither did he personally intend to form a new church, yet in 1744 he organized the first annual conference of “his” preachers (i.e., those preachers who were in agreement with his teachings). Then, in 1784 in Baltimore, Maryland, the Methodist Episcopal Church was formed under the direction of Dr. Thomas Coke, who Wesley (as a priest of the Church of England) had ordained to be a superintendent “to preside over the flock of Christ” in America. (you see, Wesley’s followers were having problems in America, because they could not get the Church of England to sanction what they wanted to do in America. So, Wesley took it upon himself to say ‘Thomas Coke, you superintend the flock in America, you preside over them.’ So he did by organizing the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784 in Baltimore, Maryland!)
Wesley died in 1791, after which time the Methodist Church began to formalize, and eventually become that which we know today. The Methodist Church has had divisions and reconciliations throughout its history from 1784 to the present). Currently, the most widespread body of Methodists is the United Methodist Church, which is the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States, with 18 million Methodists worldwide. These figures have been taken out of Encyclopedias which are a number of years old, so the current statistics will be slightly different.) We are talking about millions and millions of souls who are one day going to face their Lord and give an account of their association with this organization called the Methodist Church:
Until I was about 15 or 16 years old, I really had not given much thought to the origin of the Methodist Church. I assumed it was perfectly all right for a church to be started by a man because he decided that certain things were not right, which caused him to teach others until eventually a new church was formed. I did not see anything wrong with that. Then I started turning to the Bible and reading some of its passages. There I began comparing the origin of the New Testament church with the origin of the Methodist Church. For example, consider Matthew 16:15-18, where Jesus said,
“But who say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
In this passage, I learned that Jesus said He would build His church! And yet, the Methodist Church was built after the designs, order, philosophies and doctrines of John Wesley! He and his associates built their own brand of church (perhaps unintentionally, but true nonetheless)! Jesus said “I will build my church.”
Then, in Isaiah 2:2-3, a very interesting prophecy was brought to my attention – one which continues to build my faith. In this passage we read,
“And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of Jehovah’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the Cod of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem.”
In other study, I found the church is called the “house of God” (1 Tim. 3:15). So, here is an Old Testament prophecy saying that God’s house would be established, and people would go to it to learn, and the law (the word of Jehovah) was going to go forth from Jerusalem. In Luke 24:45-47, we find a looking forward to the fulfillment of this prophecy (which occurred shortly thereafter). It reads,
“Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures (the Old Testament scriptures, jrp); and he said unto them. Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
Jesus said the gospel (the good news of salvation) was going to be preached from Jerusalem. In Acts 2:41-42, Peter and the other apostles preached on that day of Pentecost the good news that the Christ was not kept in the grave, but was raised by the power of Cod and at the right hand of God. So, “they then that received his word (the gospel that was preached, jrp) were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls.” The New Testament says that in approximately 30 A.D, the church that Jesus said He would build was built.
These facts greatly disturbed me. I looked at the facts I had been taught about the Methodist Church, and looked at what the Bible said about the origin of the church Jesus was going to build, and I was perplexed! How could the Methodist Church be Christ’s church, and yet not be built until 1700 years after the church in the New Testament was built?! Do you have an answer? Is the Methodist Church the church of the Bible? We believe it is not because its origin is 1700 years too late! Jesus said the prophecy was fulfilled in His day (in those “latter days” in which the apostles spoke – Acts 2). And so, the origin of the Methodist Church was a reason which caused me to take notice of it as being something other than the church spoken of in the New Testament.
Let us secondly consider the Methodist Church’s ecumenical view of the church and believers. I was taught that the Methodist Church is one of many branches which compose the church. That each different church (whether it be the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, Presbyterian Church, etc.) were all branches of the Vine (Christ), and thus were each, one branch of the church. In fact, the Book of Discipline says on page 20:
“The United Methodist Church is a part of the Church Universal, which is one Body in Christ.”
There it says the Methodist Church is a part of the Body of Christ. It is a part of the Universal Church. It is just a branch, just a member of the Universal Church.
Well, that had always sounded pretty good, and it went a long way in trying to explain (at least in my mind), the reason for the many different churches that are found in the world. But the Bible, in John 15:4-5 does not teach us that any particular church, such as the Methodist Church, is a branch of the Vine, composing the whole (the Body of Christ). This passage says:
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing.” (emp. mine, jrp)
Jesus was not talking to churches in this context. Jesus was talking to disciples. He was talking to followers of him and his teachings, and He said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches.. He (the individual, jrp) that abideth in me and I in Him” will bear much fruit. That is what will happen when you abide in Him, but it is the individual, the disciple, the Christian bearing fruit, not a church! He is talking to individuals, He is talking to people in that passage, He is not talking to churches.
Now, that view of the Methodist Church just did not hold water, it just was not sufficient, when I saw that passage. But, that is not the only thing in reference to an ecumenical view of the church which disturbed me when I started thinking about these things, because in the Bible we find two uses of the word “church.” We find the “Universal church” (the body of all the saved) in Matthew 16:18, where Christ said, “I will build my church,” those “called out ones”" the saved individuals. In 1 Corinthians 1:2, the Bible talks about “the church of God which is at Corinth.” So, it also uses it in a local sense. These two usages of “church” are all I can find in the Bible. But, the Methodist Church uses the term “church” in three ways.
It uses the universal application (and agrees with it). It also uses the local application of “church,” and recognizes it is in the Bible. But, the Methodist Church (as well as any denomination we might speak of) uses the word “church” in a third way, and that third way is not found in the Bible. That third usage of “church” is less than the universal church, but it is more than the local church. Think about that. The Methodist Church is a body of believers which is a part of the whole. We have the “Methodist Church.” It is not the Universal church (It is not used in that sense. They will not use the term “Methodist Church” and say, ‘That is all of the saved.’ Not at all.); Neither is it used in a local sense (because all Methodists are not located in one location). So, a third use of “church” is found in the Methodist Church, which specifies that particular group which lives by Methodist doctrine. Let us emphasize this. In the Book of Discipline, page 112, we are told: “The United Methodist Church, a fellowship of believers, is a part of the Church Universal.” Unquestionably then, Methodism says the Methodist Church is a part of the Universal (not the whole – it is less than that), but at the same time it is more than the local church, a concept which is not to be found in the Bible. Now, here is the dilemma – A usage of a very important word in the Bible which I could not find when I turned to the Bible to understand its usage.
In this same general area of discussion, I want us to also think about the Methodist Church’s ecumenical view of the unity of believers. The Methodist Book of Discipline tells us that,
“As a part of the Church Universal, the United Methodist Church believes that the Lord of the Church is calling Christians everywhere to strive toward unity; and therefore it will seek, and work for, unity at all levels of church life: through world relationships with other Methodist churches and united churches related to the Methodist Church...and through plans of union with churches of Methodist or other denominational traditions.” (p. 21)
The Methodist Church is a leader in worldwide ecumenical movements. It is leading the charge to become ecumenical among the various denominations.
Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with the unity of believers. We advocate that and believe that. But the problem with the Methodist view of unity (as I began to understand) is that, in reality, the Methodist Church is simply saying that we should agree to disagree! In the above quotation, a word seemed to jump out at me – the word “union.” They will work toward “plans of union with churches,” not unity of believers but “union of churches” of differing denominations.
Now, the Bible does not talk about the “union” of believers, but it does talk about the “unity” of believers. In John 17:20-21, Jesus prayed to the Father saying,
“Neither for these (the apostles, jrp) only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word; that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me.”
Jesus said He was praying that believers would be one, just like He and the Father are one. And how can believers by one? Jesus said we can be one through the word preached by His apostles. By believing the word of the apostles we can be one. Now, that really gave me problems, because I knew the Father and the Son were not just in union (having disagreements, but deciding to put aside those disagreements and just emphasize whet they agreed on)! I knew that the Father and the Son are in total agreement. In another place Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:30). They had no disagreements which had to be laid aside. And Jesus prayed that believers would be united in exactly the same way.
In 1 Corinthians 1:10 the apostle said,
“Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
This is a very clear command that I found in the Bible which told me that God does not simply want us to agree to disagree! No, God wants us to be “one,” to be “united” – not simply to have “union.” There is “one body” (Eph. 4:4), not hundreds of bodies! There is one body. and the body is not divided! The body of Christ is His church (Eph. 1:22-23).
So, the problem I saw was how could the Methodist Church be the Lord’s church and yet recognize religious division? How could it be the Lord’s body, and say religious division will be recognized and tolerated?! I was unable to coincide that with the scriptures. That makes God indecisive, inconsistent and vacillating, and it relegates His body (the church) to an inferior, compromising position! That is not the church we read about in the New Testament. And so, the Methodist view of the church and ecumenism greatly disturbed me and in fact were reasons for my departure from the Methodist Church.
Thirdly, let me suggest to you that certain areas of the worship and the work of the Methodist Church also contains reasons why I left the Methodist Church. In John 4:23-24, Jesus talks about worship that God will approve of and receive as acceptable:
“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Jesus makes it very clear that only a certain type of worship is going to be acceptable before God. He is seeking, desiring and will accept those who worship in spirit and in truth. The emphasis I found when first considering these things was that area of “truth.” Was the worship of the Methodist Church true? Was it according to truth? Was its worship “in truth?”
One area which, I suppose, gave perhaps as much as any area, a problem and dilemma to me was the use of instrumental music in worship to God. This was true because I had grown up using instrumental music to worship God. No one will deny that the Methodist Church uses instrumental music to worship God. I grew up doing so. I grew up playing those instruments on occasion. Even though, as an interesting note, John Wesley himself on one occasion said:
“I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen.” (Cited by Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 684).
This is an indication that the Methodist Church has drifted away from the things Wesley taught. The point is, I did those things! I believed those things! I practiced them! Then, I began attending a church of Christ. I began listening to the preacher preach from the word of God. I heard the congregation sing without the use of instrumental music. I inquired, I investigated, and I heard lessons concerning this matter. And I found some contradictions which I would like for you to consider with me.
For example, the Bible tells us that when New Testament Christians are commanded to worship God with music, they were, without exception, told to sing – to use vocal music. Nowhere was I able to find Christians playing and singing! But, always I found them being commanded to sing, and practicing only singing! Note Ephesians 5:19, which says, “Speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” He says we are to be “singing and making melody” with the heart. That is the instruction given to one who is “filled with the Spirit of God” (v. 18). Then, in Colossians 3:16 I read: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God.”
That is a glaring contradiction which stood out before me! Every time I saw New Testament Christians (members of the New Testament church) worshipping, they were singing! But not one time were they singing and playing! It is an addition to the word of God, pure and simple. God says in Revelation 22:18 that adding to the word of God is forbidden before Him. Man does not have that right! And yet, that was exactly what I had been doing in my practice and belief. Nowhere in the New Testament do we find Christians playing and singing praises. It would be as if, when God commanded Noah to build the ark with gopher wood, for Noah to take it upon himself to use pine and gopher wood! Can you imagine that? Can you imagine Noah saying, “God, I know you said gopher wood (and I will use gopher wood), but there are certain parts of this ark which really need pine!” That is not what he did. He responded to God the way God said to respond and to obey. So, my dilemma was, who was I going to obey? Was I going to obey the Methodist Church, which played and sang, or was I going to obey Christ? I heard lessons that told me of a voice which spoke out of a cloud on one occasion and said, “This is my beloved Son, hear ye him” (Matt. 17:5). What was I going to do? That was the dilemma I faced.
Another area of worship which disturbed me was the Lord’s Supper. In the Methodist Church I grew up seeing and eventually participating in partaking of the Lord’s Supper once a month. And so, the frequency of the Lord’s Supper began to concern me because, when I attended the church of Christ, I noticed they partook of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. It is interesting to note that on this topic also, John Wesley did not teach a monthly observance of the Lord’s Supper. In his Letters to America, 1784, he said, “I also advise the elders to administer the supper of the Lord on every Lord’s Day” That was his advice in 1784 – a weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper on the Lord’s Day. Indeed, when I turned to the Bible and heard lessons concerning the Lord’s Supper and its frequency, I was directed to Acts 20:7 where I read: “And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them...” So I saw the New Testament Christians had as one of their purposes of meeting on the first day of the week that of breaking bread (partaking of the Lord’s Supper), unquestionably a reference to Communion. I thought with myself “Yes, but it does not say which first day of the week, and even done once a month, it is still done on the first day of the week.” But then, a point was made to me which stuck with me. In Exodus 20:8, the children of Israel were given a similar command. There, they were told, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” But God did not say which Sabbath day, He simply said, “Remember the Sabbath day...” Well, how often did a Sabbath come along? Obviously, there is one Sabbath day every week. And just that often, Israel was to remember and keep holy the Sabbath day! Now, in the New Testament the law has changed, but the principle is the same. In observing God’s command concerning partaking of the Lord’s Supper, we find disciples gathering on the first day of the week. A first day of the week comes along every week! However, I was told by Methodists that if the Lord’s Supper was taken every week it would lose its significance. It would soon become common and of no importance or meaning. That was the response I received in considering this matter. But, in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, the Bible tells us the purpose of the Lord’s Supper:
“For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, This is my body, which is for you; this do in remembrance of me. In like manner also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death till he come.”
The Methodist response to me was that it would lose its significance if practiced every week, but the Bible says it continues to maintain its significance every week, because every week we are to be keeping in remembrance the death of Jesus Christ, as well as proclaiming that death until He comes again. So, far from taking away its significance, week by week upon the first day of the week adds to the significance and brings to the Christian’s remembrance the sacrifice that was made for him. In all honesty and humility, I must conclude that it is the weak-minded individual who would see a loss of significance in a weekly observance, rather than see in it a weekly reminder of Christ’s death, and welcome such an opportunity.
The elements of the Lord’s Supper was not so much something that concerned me at the time of my conversion, but it is something which has caused concern in recent days. I have recently learned that, although I grew up in the Methodist Church using and partaking of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine (exactly as is stated in the Bible by way of example and command in Matt. 26:26-29), now, at least some Methodist Churches are using leavened loaves of bread in the Lord’s Supper. And not only that, but that leavened bread is being dipped in the fruit of the vine in order to “speed things up” – to save time and make it more convenient to get the Supper around to everyone in that particular congregation! That is not what we find in the Bible. We find the bread being unleavened, and it being partaken separately from the partaking of the fruit of the vine. Not at the same time, and certainly not leavened bread!
So, within the worship of the Methodist Church (singing and playing and the Lord’s Supper) were two very important areas which concerned me and led to my departure from the Methodist Church.
Now, the work of the Methodist Church that I was most familiar with its social functions. Right from the start (as was suggested briefly in introduction) the Methodist Church stressed involvement in social reform activities. In fact, in the Methodist Book of Discipline, pp. 103-104, a “Social Creed” is found, following which we find this comment:
“It is recommended that this statement of Social Principles...be emphasized regularly in every congregation. It is further recommended that our Social Creed be frequently used in Sunday worship.”
The Methodist Church is greatly associated with social reform and activities. It owns and operates hospitals, homes for the aged, orphanages and other similar organizations. I knew about Methodist hospitals, schools, colleges, etc. while I was still a child. It was and is involved in social endeavors. And yet, I was directed to the Bible, because I was told it is the word of God, and that the New Testament church is found in it, and that its work is found in it. Consequently, when I turned to the word of God and considered what it had to say about the work of the church, I found out that the New Testament church did not involve itself in social reform and activity. It was not the purpose and function of that church to get involved with all the poor and needy of the world! In Acts 11:29, we find there was a famine one time during the first century, and when that famine occurred, the disciples in the church in Antioch decided they were going to do something. They did not decide they were going to provide for all the poor and hungry in Judea, but rather, they “determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judea.” Every time the benevolent work of the New Testament church is discussed in the New Testament, it was responsible for “needy saints.” And I began to understand that the Lord’s church was not set up to be a social organization. That is not what it is! The Lord’s church is a spiritual organization, a spiritual group, a body of believers who have been called out of sin. Its main function is not directed toward social functions.
And yet, the Methodist Church offers a whole spectrum of social activities for its members. There is something for the youth (the MYF - Methodist Youth Fellowship), there is something for the women (the United Methodist Women’s Organization), and for the men (the United Methodist Men’s Organization). Fellowship halls are provided in which to entertain and hold social activities by the Church. But, I found from the Bible that this is not the work of the New Testament church. The church has no business in socializing – that is not its function as found in the Bible. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11:34, the apostle said, “If any man is hungry, let him eat at home; that your coming together be not unto judgment.” I had to learn this, and when I did, I had to leave the Methodist Church.
Another area which caused me to leave the Methodist Church was organization. I found its organization to be different from the organization we can read about in the Bible. The Methodist Church has an organizational superstructure or hierarchy which is truly astounding. I know I did not comprehend its hierarchy while I was in the Methodist Church, and I still do not fully understand it because it is so complex and diversified. The Methodist Church is basically organized and managed through what are called “conferences.” There is the General Conference, which is its highest legislative body. There is a Jurisdictional Conference, made up of bishops, district superintendents, ministers and lay-persons, which is its highest interpreter of Church law. Under these, there are the following: The Central Conference, Provisional Central Conference, Provisional Annual Conference, Missionary Conference, Mission, Annual Conference, District Conference, Local Congregation, Committees. This structure is nowhere to be found in the Bible! But also, consider the offices and functions within the Methodist Church. There are Bishops (six of these bishops are over each jurisdiction of 500,000 members or less), District Superintendents they oversee pastors and churches within a particular district), Ordained Ministers (termed the “pastor” over a local church, who are set in place to perform weddings, pass the “sacrament”: and perform other duties), Diaconal Ministers (special servants of the church) and the Lay-person (member of a local church). Briefly, these are the offices, officers and functions found in the Methodist Church. A related issue which greatly disturbed me (and still does) is the use of women as ministers, superintendents and bishops in the Methodist Church. In 1 Timothy 2:11-12, God taught something about the place and function of women within the church, when He said,
“Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach, not to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness.”
God said He was not permitting a woman to have dominion over a man! Then in 1 Timothy 3:1 he said,
“Faithful is the saying, If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”
Yet, the Methodist Book of Discipline says,
“Both men and women are included in all provisions of the Discipline which refer to the ministry” (p. 192).
In this Discipline, when a section is applied to “the ministry,” it equally applies to men and women. But the Bible says “men,” not “men and women.” And yet, a number of the “ordained ministers” within the Methodist Church are women! This is not what we find in the Bible.
The organization of the church we find in the Bible is not complex, it does not have all the hierarchy and superstructure found in the Methodist Church – it is very simple. In Ephesians 1:22, we find that Christ is the head of the church. In the “universal” church (body of all Christians regardless of time and/or place), Christ is the head of this body of believers. But, in the universal church, there is no earthly organization. Christ is the head, and it is composed of the body, the members. The universal church has no organization in the Bible through which to function. But, the local congregation is organized. It has Christ as its head (He is the one with all authority). There are elders (Acts 14:23), who are also called bishops (Acts 20:28). Philippians 1:1 speaks of the bishops, the deacons and the saints. In that one verse we find all the organization of the New Testament church. So simple in contrast to the multitude of conferences of the Methodist Church (which are not even in the Bible!). I had a dilemma here. How could the Methodist Church be the Lord’s church and yet not be organized like the church which is found in the New Testament?! One has to admit the Methodist Church is not organized like the New Testament church.
There were some doctrinal reasons (namely, doctrines concerning salvation) which caused my departure from the Methodist Church. One of them was the doctrine of salvation by faith only. The Methodist Book of Discipline, page 57, says,
“We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith, only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.”
Certainly we deny, along with the Methodists, that one can earn (merit) his salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says,
“For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory.”
But you see, if one rejects salvation by faith only, that does not necessarily mean that he accepts salvation through meritorious works! There is another option! The Bible says in James 2:24, “Ye see that by works a man is justified (pronounced not guilty, jrp), and not only by faith.” The Bible says “not only by faith,” but also by works (or, obedience, which is motivated by faith). Thus, the only logical conclusion I could arrive at was that the Methodist doctrine on saving faith contradicts Bible doctrine on saving faith. They are simply not the same. The Bible says we must believe, we must have faith, and it must be an active faith. We must have works of faith – not faith only.
Another area which greatly concerned me that we must bring out is baptism. The Methodist Church taught (and teaches) some very different things about baptism from what I read (and read of) in the Bible. Concerning the subjects of baptism, the Methodist Church teaches that infants may be baptized. In the 1894 Methodist Book of Discipline we are told they had to be baptized in order to remove original sin, but in the 1980 edition of that same book, we are told they are not to be baptized in order to remove original sin! The reason has been changed! Now, the infant is to be baptized in order to “present the child to the Lord” and to make the child a “preparatory member” of the Methodist Church. We are told that “....because Jesus explicitly included the children in his kingdom, the pastor of each charge shall earnestly exhort all Christian parents or guardians to present their children to the Lord in Baptism at an early age.’” (The Book of Discipline, p. 116).
In another place we find this:
“All baptized children under the care of a United Methodist Church shall be retained as a preparatory member in the Church,” (Ibid., p. 117).
Friends, the Bible says nothing about “preparatory members!” The Bible says nothing about infants being baptized! The Bible does say to be baptized scripturally, one must have the capacity to believe (Mk. 16:16 - “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved...”). So, infant baptism is simply not found in the Bible.
But, the modes of baptism was another disturbing area of concern to me, because the Methodist Church taught that I could be “sprinkled,” “poured” or “immersed,” and any of these three would constitute baptism. In fact, when I was about 10 years old I was “sprinkled” in the Methodist Church. However, the Bible says that baptism is a burial. Colossians 2:12 says, “having been buried with him (Christ, jrp) in baptism...” In Acts 8:38-39 we read that both Philip and the eunuch got out of the chariot, they both went down into the water, Philip baptized him, and they both came up out of the water. Now I just could not figure out why Philip would be so foolish as to get his clothes wet if all he had to do to baptize the Ethiopian was to sprinkle or pour some water on him! That would have been foolish, would it not?! You see, there was a purpose for going into that water, because only then could Philip “bury” the eunuch in the water! In fact, the Greek word “baptizo” (from which “baptize” is transliterated), is defined to mean “immerse, submerge!” This conflicted with what I had been taught in the Methodist Church.
The purpose of baptism as taught in the Bible was also at conflict with what I had learned and practiced in the Methodist Church. My baptism (“sprinkling”) at the age of 10 was to put me into the Methodist Church. The Methodist Book of Discipline says that baptism is simply “a sign of regeneration or the new birth” (p. 59). It is defined as a sign that one has already experienced the new birth. Friends, the Bible does not say that baptism is a sign of the new birth, it is an element of the new birth! In John 3:3-5 Jesus said,
“...verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, verily, verily, I say unto thee, except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
One must be born anew – born of water and the Spirit. Jesus said water is an element of the new birth! Water is not a sign that the birth has happened, it is an element of that birth! The Bible says that baptism is necessary for salvation. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins...” (Acts 2:38). Saul was told to “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). These passages struck me right between the eyes! I had to admit to myself and face the reality that the “baptism” I had experienced in the Methodist Church was not Bible baptism! I had not been scriptually baptized (because I had not been immersed). Nor had I been baptized for the proper purpose (to remove my sins).
In summary, all of these conflicting areas with truth which led to my departure from the Methodist Church came down to a matter of Bible authority. I learned that men cannot add to, take from nor change God’s word. This is interesting because on page 56 of the Methodist Book of Discipline we are told, “The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”
Their own Discipline says if it cannot be proved from the Bible, do not force it on somebody else as necessary in order to be saved. Yet, that is exactly what is done with Methodist doctrine (for example, their doctrine of “faith only.”) The Bible says we are justified by works (of faith or obedience) and not only by faith (James 2:24). The Book of Discipline says “faith only” is a wholesome doctrine and full of comfort (page 57). The Methodist Discipline changes the word of God in this matter! The apostle said, “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God” (2 Jn. 9). I had to face the fact that while I was in the Methodist Church, I did not have God, because I had accepted changes which had been made in the teaching of Christ! I realized the Methodist Church had God’s anathema placed upon it. Galatians 1:8-9 says,
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, If any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema.”
We must do all things by the authority of Jesus Christ in order to receive God’s blessings. “And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus...” (Col. 3:17). Here we have conclusive authority described to us and commanded of us.
The origin of the church? God’s authority (the gospel) says 30 AD The church and unity of believers? The Bible says universal and local. Not an in-between designation. The Bible says “unity,” not “union.” The worship and work of the church? The Bible says “in spirit and in truth.” The organization of the church? The Bible says God’s organization with Christ as the head, under whom are elders, deacons and saints. Salvation in God’s way, not man’s way. In Matthew 15:7-9, Jesus said,
“Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘This people honoreth me with their lips; But their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me. Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men.’”
After examining the evidence available to me, I had to face the fact that the Methodist Church was practicing the doctrines of men, and therefore, according to this verse, was offering vain worship to God – that I, as a member of that religious body, was offering vain worship to God. I had to change in the way the Bible told me to change – to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; to repent of my sins; to confess that Jesus is Christ; and to be baptized into Christ for the remission of sin. Then, to live a faithful Christian life just like the Bible said I needed to do.
I request that you, in a similar manner, examine the evidence with an open heart and with an open Bible to see, as did the Bereans of old, “Whether these things (are) so!”