The Inclusiveness of Christianity
One way to present pristine Christianity is by noticing the inclusiveness of Christís teaching. By "inclusiveness," I am referring to what all is fundamentally included and cannot be excluded and pure Christianity continue. In another study, we plan on noticing the exclusivity, what must be excluded. However, at this time I invite you to explore the idea of what is included in the gospel. Keep in mind that men exclude many things from the gospel that God includes. They exclude while claiming that they are presenting the whole truth. Indeed, the whole truth or counsel is necessary. Consider Paulís statement to the Ephesians:
"26: Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27: For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Acts 20).
The command not to take away from the scriptures also sets forth the idea of respecting what God has included:
"19: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (Rev. 22).
Please lay aside any hindering, pre-conceived notions and let us honestly consider the scriptures.
Plenary inspiration. Many talk about the "inspiration of the scriptures," but they have in mind something different from what is taught and included in Holy Writ. To them, inspiration is a matter that is simply "inspiring" or makes them feel good. The scriptures teach that even the words found in scripture are provided by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2: 13). Hence, what the apostles taught constitute the, "commandments of the Lord" (I Cor. 14: 37). Regarding plenary inspiration, ponder the words of the Spirit as expressed by Paul:
"16: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3).
"Inspiration" is derived from a Greek term meaning "God breathed." Since the scriptures are "God breathed" or "inspired," they are profitable for, "Ödoctrine, reproof, correction, for instruction in righteousness" and they result in, "Öthe man of God being complete."
The virgin birth. Some believe they can accept and present the gospel minus the virgin birth of Jesus. However, such is not the case. God has included the virgin birth as a basic gospel truth. Isaiah prophesied of Jesusí virgin birth (Isa. 7: 14). Some have attempted to maintain that the word "virgin" (KJV) used by the prophet just means young woman or maiden. I concede the possibility of such a meaning, but in view of Matthew 1: 23, I suggest the word means more than simply an unmarried woman. The Greek word in Matthew 1: 23 is definite and sets forth the meaning of a woman who was never sexually with a man; hence, a virgin.
Even in Isaiah 7, the "sign" was that of a virgin, as this would be absolutely unusual, while simply an unmarried woman having conceived would not have been such a "sign" (vs. 14). The virgin birth is not a matter of optionality, it is indispensable to the gospel story.
The one body. Denominationalism consists of multiplied thousands of different religious bodies, teaching doctrines both conflicting with each other and of more consequence, colliding with the word of God (cp. 2 John 9-11). Jesus built his church (Matt. 16: 18, 19, Acts 5: 11). Jesusí church is observed both in origin, nature, function, and importance in the New Testament. The local church is, "Öthe pillar and ground of the truth" (I Tim. 3: 15). Hence, its mission is primarily spiritual, teaching the lost and edifying the saved. Observe what the scriptures teach about the church, her head and singular nature:
"22: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23: Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in al" (Eph. 1).
Paul is a little plainer in his First Epistle to the church at Corinth regarding the one body:
"13: For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (I Cor. 12).
Just as there is "one Spirit," there is "one body" or church. Such is in harmony with the teaching regarding unity. Paul lists a number of "ones" in the context of enjoining unity:
"3: Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5: One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6: One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph. 4).
Those who omit the "one body" concept of the scriptures and teach and practice denominationalism, have excluded a matter that must be included, the one church of the New Testament (Rom. 16: 16).
Limited fellowship. The words translated "fellowship" in the Greek New Testament when used in a spiritual climate never refer to a common meal or such practices (cp. Eph. 5: 10, 11). Biblical fellowship pertains to approval and joint participation in spiritual matters (cp. 2 John 9-11). This fellowship is based on doctrinal conformity and "walking in the light" (I John 1: 7-9).
Many religions have what they call "open fellowship." In their case, such is logical in view of them placing little if any emphasis on the truth and conformity to the truth. Too many "churches of Christ" also practice open fellowship when limited fellowship is expressly taught. Unconditional fellowship is behind many problems in these local churches.
Weekly observance of the Lordís Supper. The Lordís Supper is a static component and regular part of the Lordís Day worship of Jesusí church. So much so that we read how they, "Öcontinued steadfastlyÖin the breaking of bread" and this breaking of bread is the Lordís Supper (Acts 2: 42). The Lordís church at Troas came together on the Lordís Day in order to "break bread" (Acts 20: 7).
Many religions observe what they call the Lordís Supper once every six months or once a year. Hence, they have excluded a practice that must be included, weekly observe of Jesusí memorial (Matt. 26: 26f.). The Lordís Supper is the very hub, if you will, of Lordís Day worship (cp. I Cor. 11: 23f.).
Church discipline. The scriptures are clear both regarding how to become a part of Jesusí church and exclusion from it. Belief, repentance, confession, and baptism are observed as the means of entry into Christ or his spiritual body (cp. Gal. 3: 26, 27). One then identifies with a faithful local church (Acts 9: 26, 27). However, if one ceases to orderly walk, they are to be removed from the local fellowship (2 Thes. 3: 6, I Cor. 5). This discipline has a twofold purpose; the purity of the body and the salvation of the sinner (I Cor. 5; 2 Cor. 2).
Beloved, the foregoing are only a few of the beliefs and practices that are observed as inclusive to Christianity. They are not matters concerning which we can elect to have or not have. Without these inclusions, the church is not the church and pristine Christianity does not exist (2 Cor. 2: 9). (A companion article for you to read is, "The Exclusivity of Christianity")