Some Questionable Doctrines
These studies examine the traditional doctrines held by the Church of Christ to see if they are actually taught in the scriptures. This is not an "anti-Church of Christ" site. I was reared in the Church of Christ and have been preaching since 1968 in the Church of Christ. My desire is that we walk righteously before God, not according to traditions of men. Bernie Parsons
by Bernie Parsons October 19, 2002
Major revisions 11-05-2009
Minor revisions 12-28-2009
Some of our present day doctrines have come down to us from various people and religious groups in our past. I see infighting and accusations from some quarters in the churches of Christ over such doctrines and commandments of men.
One such divisive issue is that of "celebrating" holidays. There are churches of Christ whose members "celebrate" holidays, and there are those who forbid it, saying that those who "celebrate" are going to hell. Some have even begun to use the word "participate" rather than "celebrate" to condemn those who do anything remotely appearing to have anything to do with a holiday. I once knew a lady who would not buy any "Christmas" candy or confection, or even candy items that appear on the shelves only during the Christmas season, yet have no obvious ties to that holiday.
Some people use the term "celebrate" sarcastically and derisively. "Celebrate" literally comes from a root word that means "much frequented, or famous". We take that word the wrong way, as if to celebrate is a sin.
The word "holiday" is derived from two words, "holy" and "day". Holiday means holy day. For some, this is enough to forever banish all holidays from the Christian's life. I have heard my brothers and sisters in Christ say that we should have no holy days, neither should we celebrate. The Bible contradicts them on this point.
Colossians 2:16-17 "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
Some misinterpret the above scripture as saying that we must not respect any day as special. Quite the opposite is true -- Paul told the Colossians not to judge each other when it comes to food, drink, holidays, the new moon, or the Sabbath (rest) days. In the freedom that comes in serving Christ, it does not matter how we approach these particular things -- our treatment of them will neither save us nor destroy us. As Christians, those things established prior to Christ on earth are insignificant -- they are but shadows. A comparison of several other translations than the KJV bear this out.
"Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and
worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen,
vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which
all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit
together, increaseth with the increase of God.
What the apostle Paul was telling the Colossians was that these things don't matter. We don't live by the commandments and doctrines of men: "touch not, taste not, handle not". To engage in such activity is to advertise and boast of one's own willpower, the ability to abstain from these things. It appears to be a form of godliness, or righteousness, but is the opposite. Paul warns of these kind of people in:
2 Timothy 3:5-7 "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."
To deny the flesh appears at first to be a form of godliness, but it is not. It is born of self-righteousness, from a puffed up mind -- that means that it comes from one's own arrogance. It rivets our attention on the flesh of our bodies, and on this world below. It shifts attention from Christ and spirituality to ourselves and our flesh. Note Paul's next words from:
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where
Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above,
not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with
Christ in God."
Romans 8:5-9 "For
they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that
are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be
is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and
peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject
to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh
cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be
that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of
Christ, he is none of his."
Exodus 23:15-16 "Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:) And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field."
Lest some try to declare that all feasts were solemn, subdued affairs, let me quote the following:
Deuteronomy 14:26 "And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household,"
Deuteronomy 16:13-14 "Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine: And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates."
Apostle Paul tells us that it matters not to God whether we esteem one day above another, or consider all days the same--as long as we give Him the glory.
Romans 14:4-8 "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's."
Apostle Paul tells the church at Rome that it is okay for a Christian to hold one day in special regard over another, as long as we thank God for it, giving Him the honor and glory for it. By the same token, he says, if a Christian regards each day to be just as every other day, that is acceptable to God as well, as long as he recognizes through the giving of thanks that it is a gift from God. Paul did not tell one church one thing, and the opposite to other churches. What he wrote to the Romans applies to the Colossians, and every Christian.
Jesus was known to attend celebrations. Let us take a look at this fact. The first recorded miracle that Jesus performed was transforming water to wine at a wedding celebration and feast.
John 2:1-11 "And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
"And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.
"When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him."
Jesus had a reputation, which led to false accusations, of attending feasts rather than avoiding them, as did John the Baptist. While at these feasts, Jesus ate and drank along with the other guests, earning Him the false descriptions of glutton and over-indulger in wine.
Matthew 11:16-19 "But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
"For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children."
The following passages from Luke show that the Lord authorized feasting, or celebrations.
Luke 14:13-14 "But
when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt
be recompensed at the resurrection of the just."
1 Corinthians 10:27-31 "If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof: Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
It would do us good to rejoice, and celebrate the blessings of our Lord, and our God. We need to wipe the frowns from our faces, and retrieve our lower jaws from the pavement, and raise up holy hands of thanksgiving to God Almighty, in the name of Jesus, the Christ, and our Lord.
Paul went so far as to say that those Christians in attendance could even eat the food offered to false idols as long as the host made no mention of this fact. So much for our intolerant brothers and sisters who claim that any attendance at, or connection to, any such event earmarks the attendee for eternal damnation! We have great freedom in Christ. Paul warns that we not abuse this freedom, but that does not diminish our freedom. Let us not replace the words of righteousness with the doctrines and commandments of men: "Touch not, taste not, handle not"!
Things I have not done, will not do, and will not condone, about holidays:
A command that anyone must observe a holiday -- holidays are personal choices and family traditions, not laws from God. Some hold certain days as special, while others do not.
Lies and deceit about holiday events and characters like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Cupid, etc.
Singing songs like, "O, Christmas Tree", that honor an inanimate object.
Making false declarations like "December 25th is Christ's birthday", "Santa Claus knows if you have been good or bad", and "Look what Santa Claus (or the Easter Bunny) brought!"
Most of the condemnation of holidays appears to derive from Protestant and Jehovah's Witness doctrines. Most of the modern religious holidays were originally holidays established by the Roman Catholics. Often it was done when worshippers of idol gods turned to Christ. Since the people were accustomed to holding celebrations at certain times of the year, usually connected with the changing seasons, the Catholics persuaded them to abandon service to false gods, and instead render glory to God through Jesus Christ at those times of the year.
I understand this to have been an effort by the Catholics to follow Romans 14 in giving God thanks and glory for special days. I don't see us going to hell for having special observances in honor of God, and His son, Jesus. Remember that to generate doctrines and commandments -- either for or against -- special observances is man-made doctrine: "Touch not, taste not, handle not".
I also know people who will not mouth the word Christmas, as it had Catholic origins, derived from Christ Mass, and consider it blasphemous to utter the word. I also know those who condemn gift exchange because, they say, that the gift is given to a fellow human, and not to God. They are willingly ignorant of the fact that God owns everything, that He gives us what we enjoy, that we offer our entire life back to Him as a living sacrifice, and that we are to show kindness and mercy to our fellow man.
Most modern holidays contain elements of decoration, eating, or activities that are a hodgepodge of various traditions -- some religious, and some not -- from various cultures and times, including our own. Some critics try to tie a modern celebration back to a given past holiday in honor of idol gods by using one or more of these elements. They then make the connection that to have such a decoration, eat such a meal, or engage in such an activity is tantamount to worshipping an idol god. If by chance that ancient religion contained an aspect such as offering human sacrifices, the critics say that one is participating with long-dead religions in such an activity. I don't know any Christian who keeps a modern holiday as an honor to a false god, or who offers human sacrifices.
The knowledgeable, spiritually mature Christian recognizes that the earth and everything in it belongs to God, including the food that we eat. We recognize that we are the Lord's, and the earth is the Lord's. Since we are stewards of God's riches, we need to treat our brethren accordingly.
1 Corinthians 10:26 "For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof."
1 Timothy 6:17 "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;"
Romans 12:1 "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
2 Peter 1:7 "And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity."
Matthew 25:40 "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
These same people never read and discuss Luke chapter 2, which deals with the birth of Christ, because they say, "We are to remember the death of Jesus, not His birth." The miraculous birth is worthy of discussion, as Luke saw fit to include this important event in his writing. It shows how that the very angels in heaven rejoiced at His birth, and invited mankind to join in the celebration!
Jeremiah chapter 10 does not describe a Christmas tree, and if you have researched anything about the origin of the Christmas tree, you know that this is so. Even if it did, the Israelites were told not to be afraid of those trees, because they were not alive and contained no power to perform either good or evil. Why, then, do our preachers and teachers tell us to fear the Christmas tree?
Jeremiah 10:5 "They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good."
We fear too much the things of this world and the things of the flesh. We need to stop concentrating on "Touch not, taste not, handle not", and place our affection on things above. We need to be spiritual, not carnal, and we need to give God the glory in all things.
Colossians 3:17 "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him."
2 Corinthians 3:17 "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
Galatians 5:13 "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another."
We need to remember that we have liberty -- freedom -- in Jesus. We should use that freedom to serve one another. If a brother or sister has a family tradition of celebrating a special day in honor to God, we should not condemn such a tradition. Traditions are only dangerous if we fail to recognize them as such, and elevate them to status of doctrine.
Matthew 15:6 "...Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition."
Matthew 15:9 "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
Finally, let us not condemn our brothers and sisters for doing innocent things that violate no commandment of God. Let's quit disputing about "Touch not, taste not, handle not". Who are we to judge another man's servant? Although we may not be able to see it, God is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:1-8 "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
"Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
"One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it.
"He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
"For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's."
I agree with the apostle Paul!
Love, in Christ,
"I Am Weak, So Stop Offending Me!"
by Bernie Parsons
November 11, 2009
Some Christians, condemning certain practices of their Christian brothers and sisters, invoke the "weakness" defense. I have seen this regarding things like eating pork, wearing a certain style of clothing, or participating in special observances, otherwise known as holidays. They say, "You can't do that, because that offends me." They cite:
Romans 14:15 "But if thy brother be
grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with
thy meat, for whom Christ died.
Yes, Paul said not to destroy the weak with a practice that does not matter to God, one way or the other. We must take care to look out for our weak brothers and sisters in Christ. As usual, people who approach the scriptures seeking to justify a preconceived doctrine tend to take the scriptures out of their original context. The "weakness" defense is one such peculiar doctrine. Every time that I have seen it invoked, it was because the person invoking it claimed to be offended by someone else participating in a holiday in one way or another.
Such a person is confessing that they are weak in the Lord, weak spiritually. They are admitting that their understanding is incomplete and immature in the Lord. If they are knowledgeable enough about the scriptures to invoke this "weakness" defense, then they know enough to keep the scriptures in their context and understand them correctly and completely. That is, unless they are merely parroting what someone else has instructed them to say. Put the verses back into their surrounding context, and it changes everything. Note where I have italicized relevant portions:
Romans 14:10 "But why dost
thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we
shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
The italicized parts emphasize what the apostle Paul was teaching in this portion of his letter to the church at Rome. While it is true that he said that we are not to offend and destroy our brother for his lack of understanding, yet he tells all, whether strong or weak, not to judge one another! God will do the judging, not us. Paul goes on to weigh in on the side of the meat eater -- which also reflects upon the person who chooses to hold a day as special, above others -- when he says that "All things indeed are pure." The sin occurs when a person participates in eating meat or holding a day as special, when in his or her heart that person has decided that it is wrong to eat meat or hold the day as special! 22 "Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
Paul is plainly stating that the sin is internal to the individual in this instance. God does not care if we eat meat or are vegetarians. As an aside, some ignore apostle Paul's contrast between eating meat and herbs -- plants -- arguing that this is referring to eating meat served to idol gods, or not. Although that they are wrong, it doesn't matter, as the point being made is the same, and is not restricted to meat, anyway. They use that erroneous criticism as a distraction from the main point.
God does not care if we feel that every day is just like every other, or whether some of us like to esteem one day above another! Yet, Paul takes the side of the meat eater, because God does not care what we eat! As Jesus told His critics, it all passes out into the waste, anyway! It is the weak person who condemns eating meat or keeping a day as special. His condemnation is due to a lack of understanding.
Paul, in verse 22, admonished the Roman Christians to keep their choice between themselves and God. It is an individual, personal matter, not to be imposed upon others. In verse 10, he said not to judge one another. In verse 19, he told them to follow the things that made peace. Sometimes, that means accommodating a spiritually weak person who lacks in understanding and wisdom until they learn better. Should we never teach the weak that their understanding is incorrect, or should we lovingly work with them to help them overcome this weakness?
If you read this and are one of those people invoking the "I am weak, and you are offending me" defense of your stance on an issue, you need to grow in the Lord, and learn what the scriptures teach! Don't revel and glory in your ignorance and weakness! I have seen church members who had been in the church for forty or fifty years, who still use the "I am weak, you are offending me" defense! At what point in their lives as Christians will they begin to grow and mature?
On the other hand, if you are smart enough to use that part of Paul's letter to justify your stand on an issue, you are also smart enough to realize that you are not supposed to do that! You can't use that scripture to attack your brothers and sisters who see and do those things differently than do you.
In fact, if you were as enlightened as you think that you are, that makes you the strong person of understanding, and the other person the one who is weak! Instead of trying to force them to agree with you, isn't Paul telling you to accommodate that "weak" person of "poor understanding" who thinks that one may hold a particular day as special to them? Aren't you supposed to "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another"?
No, to say that you are weak and are being offended is a poor defense for your animosity and belligerence toward those who keep one day as special above other days. If you are weak, let these ancient inspired Christian writers speak to you:
Romans 14:1 "Him that is weak in the faith receive
ye, but not to doubtful disputations. 2 For one
believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. 3
Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let
not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God
hath received him. 4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his
own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is
able to make him stand.
These are the words of the apostle Paul that precede the ones about accommodating the weak Christian. In them, he says that Christians are to accept one another without arguing over things that God doesn't care about, one way or the other, such as what is eaten or whether days are kept as special or treated all the same. We are not to judge, condemn, or argue with one another, about these personal practices. We answer to, and are judged by, our Master, who is God, through Jesus Christ. Our master can hold us up, even if our brother thinks that we have fallen.
The apostle Paul said that we are not to judge one another, which Jesus also taught.
Matthew 7:1 "Judge not, that ye be not judged.
1 Corinthians 4:3
"But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of
man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.
And, if weakness is your defense, heed what those ancient holy men wrote about that.
1 Corinthians 3:1 "And I, brethren, could not
speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in
Hebrews 5:11 "Of whom we have many things to
say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
It takes a spiritually mature Christian to understand some parts of Christ's and His apostles' teaching. One who chooses to remain weak in understanding, and lacking in spiritual growth, is like a baby when it comes to handling the word of God. He or she is unskillful and not qualified to teach others. So, if you are claiming spiritual weakness, quit trying to teach others--you are not qualified!
Grow up! Learn what the Holy Bible is teaching us! Learn to rightly divide the word, as the apostle Paul told his protégé, Timothy.
Love, in Christ,