The Exclusivity of Christianity
Since the inception of pristine Christianity, the complaint has been, "You are too exclusive!" Indeed, one identifying feature of pure Christianity is the exclusiveness that characterizes it. One area of objection is pertaining to the doctrinal strictness of New Testament Christians. Notwithstanding such complaints, they remain insistent in only fellowshipping those who bring the, "doctrine of Christ" (2 John 9-11). They are also determined to not engage in sin with others, excluding such from their lives.
Doctrinal exclusivity. Almost the entire denominational world has no real appreciation for doctrinal soundness. Yet, such is manifestly taught through out the New Testament, even to subscribing to the very "form of words" comprising doctrine:
"13: Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 1).
John rejoiced when Christians "walked in the truth" and taught pure doctrine was a condition to fellowship:
"4: I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father" and, "9: Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10: If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds" 2 John 4; 9-11).
The heretic. The heretic or factious man is one who effects division (Tit. 3: 10, 11). He may bring about this division either through attracting others to himself as their party leader, by teaching error or both. In all events, he is to be treated in a certain way. Consider Paulís teaching regarding exclusivity:
"10: A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; 11: Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself" (Tit. 3).
The religious world does not relate to such teaching, especially in their view of all inclusiveness.
Prayer to Mary. The scriptures certainly present the mother of Jesus as a godly woman, but she is not observed as a Mediator or on an equal standing with Jesus (Matt. 1, 2). Yet, some persist in elevating Mary, even to the point of worshipping her. Such teaching is patently false and is excluded from the sound doctrine of the New Testament. There is only one mediator, according to the scriptures:
"5: For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Tim. 2).
It is apparent to the Bible student that assigning such a position as mediator to Mary is excluded based on the scriptures.
Baptism by proxy. The scriptures teach that the responsible individual himself is to be baptized (Mark 16: 16). Some, however, have perverted the teaching of I Corinthians 15: 29 and tried to force it to teach that one can be baptized for another, even another who is opposed to such; hence, creating a contradiction relative to the free moral agency taught in the scriptures. Here is the typical language of the scriptures:
"38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2).
Baptism by proxy is a repulsive doctrine that must be excluded. If baptism by proxy were possible, would not have Paul gladly practiced such for the salvation of his Jewish brethren? (Rom. 10: 1-3.)
Sprinkling and/or pouring for baptism. The baptism of the New Testament performed in Jesusí name or by his power and authority is immersion, a burial in water. Paul wrote thus to the Romans:
"3: Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4: Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6).
Throughout the Book of Acts, only cases consistent with immersion are observed (Acts 8: 25, etc.). Since God excluded sprinkling and/or pouring as constituting baptism, Christians today must also exclude these "forms."
Mechanical music in worship. Music is definitely set forth as involved in the worship of God. Under the Old Economy, all sorts of mechanical devices were observed (cp. Ps. 150). However, instead of the "harp" being observed in the New Testament, it is the human "heart" (Eph. 5: 19). The "harp" appears to be the type and the "heart" the antitype. Consider:
"19: Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5).
Mechanical music in worship can be traced back to post apostolic times and was introduced by man. Since it was excluded in the early worship, the church today is to also exclude it.
Exclusivity in moral matters. Just as in doctrinal considerations, so it is in moral matters, all deviations from the moral standard set forth in the scriptures are to be excluded. As conceded, such exclusiveness on the part of the people of God often serves as an accusation on the part of those being excluded. Hear Peter:
"3: For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: 4. Herein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead" (I Pet. 4).
The fornicator is to be excluded. Fornication and sexual immorality are very common in our day; nonetheless, such is to be excluded. Regarding a fornicator in the church at Corinth Paul wrote:
"1: It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. 2: And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among youÖ.7: Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 9: I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators" (I Cor. 5).
The plain and unmistakable language of the scriptures is to, "flee fornication" and exclude it from Godís people (I Cor. 6: 18).
The drunkard is to be excluded. The abuse of
alcohol has become commonplace and will continue to be so as it is not only a
moral issue but has also become political. Social drinking is vital to success
in some circles. Yet, the scriptures teach total avoidance (Prov. 23: 31, see
addendum). Consider how exclusive the scriptures are regarding the drunkard,
covetous, railer, and extortioner:
"11: But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat" (I Cor. 5).
I realize that such teaching of exclusivity has precipitated persecution against the people of God, however, this teaching is decisively seen in the scriptures.
The lazy and the busybody. The scriptures forbid the inclusion of the lazy (not working and neglecting their families) and busybody into Godís fellowship.
"10: For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11: For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12: Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread" (2 Thes. 3).
The lazy and busybody fall contextually under the command to, "Önote that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed" (2 Thes. 3: 14).
Those who walk disorderly. The scriptures set forth a certain standard, both doctrinal and moral, and the Christian is to subscribe to it. This is called "walking in the light" (I John 1: 7-9). Regarding any who refuse to march according to Godís rules, Paul wrote the following:
"6: Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. 7: For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you" (2 Thes. 3).
Hence, exclusivity is applied to any and all who rebel against Godís imposed lifestyle, if you will.
I suppose the complaint will abide regarding Godís people being exclusive. "You people are judgmental," we are told. However, the scriptures stand and exclusivity has been enjoined. Such exclusivity is one continuing trait of the Lordís church, as opposed to unity-in-diversity, etc. When churches of Christ blend or fail to be exclusive, they just become another of the many denominations! (A related article for you to read is, "The Inclusiveness of Christianity")
Addendum: While the Bible teaches against the social use of alcohol, even to the point of avoidance or exclusion, there is medicinal recognition, I Timothy 5: 23. Even in this isolated instance, only a "little" is to be consumed.