by Cecil Hook
FREE FROM SECTARIANISM
While living in the friendly little city of Lovington, New Mexico a few years ago, I developed a relaxed friendship with L. S. “Manny” Loveall, a minister of the Christian Church there. Manny and I were able to discuss matters rather objectively without each feeling that he was bound to protect his party allegiance.
I noticed that Manny had a set of Jule Miller filmstrips like the ones that I used at times to teach a prospect. As we compared our teaching and methods, we learned that we each baptized persons so that they might receive the remission of sins upon the prerequisite of confession of faith in Christ and repentance of sins. We both taught the prospects that they would be baptized into Christ, into the one body which is the church which is not a denomination. We would explain that this would make one simply a Christian. We agreed that teaching on issues like the use of instrumental music was not a part of the conversion process.
Then we mused about the perplexing results of our similar actions. When he baptized a person into Christ and His church, it automatically made that person a member of the Christian Church. When I baptized a person into Christ and His church, it automatically made that person a member of the Church of Christ. The process was the same in both cases. What, then, made the difference in the results? Why would one of us produce the Church of Christ and the other produce the Christian Church?
One possible explanation would be that the person who did the baptizing made the difference. But how could that be? The convert’s salvation was based on his own belief and obedience, not that of the baptizer. And it is the Lord who does the adding, not the preacher.
Another answer — and the correct one — is that the Lord did not add these converts to the Church of Christ and/or the Christian Church. He added them to His one church. The Spirit directed their baptism into the one body (1 Cor 12:13). There is only one.
When these converts chose to be in the fellowship with the Christian Church or the Church of Christ, they chose to be a part of a sect which rejects others in Christ. In these two groups persons have all been baptized into the one body, the church. Then they distinguish themselves from the one body and from one another by wearing distinguishing names. To name is to denominate; to denominate is to name. The Lord gave no name for His church. Now, they have become sectarian denominations! Each group is a part of the whole church but not in fellowship with the whole. They are sectarian divisions.
My brothers in Christ, what other answer can you put forth? This answer has not come to me easily. It is born of pain — in the anguish of facing disturbing truth with complete intellectual honesty.
Perhaps you hold to the objection that the Church of Christ has a scriptural name and the Christian Church doesn’t. That’s an evasion. The difference in those names is less that the difference in tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum. One is the Church of Christ and the other is the of Christ Church.
The real point is that they are distinguishing, exclusive names, and God did not intend that we distinguish ourselves and He gave us no distinguishing name.
The individuals in the two groups are in the same body of Christ. They should rejoice that they are in fellowship in Christ. They have differing scruples, but neither should judge or disdain the other any longer. They are in one body but two congregations. It is not the meeting in one congregation nor having identical convictions that make them one. It is being in Christ that makes them one. Churches are not in or out of fellowship with each other. That is an individual relationship accomplished when we are baptized into Christ, whether baptized by Manny Loveall, Cecil Hook, or any other sectarian.
To be free in Christ, we must be free of sectarian spirit and practice.