Are You Watching Your Life?

“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” – 1 Timothy 4:16
The Bridge.

What is more important? Life or doctrine? The Bible clearly states both. An analogy that always comes to mind is that of an airplane. What wing of an airplane is more important to the success of a flight? The left wing or the right wing? The answer is obvious – both are equally important. The railings of a bridge can also apply to this analogy as well. If we are not walking a straight path, we can fall off if one of the railings is not present. In the same way, we must keep God’s standards in both our “life and doctrine” in order to successfully walk the narrow path. As Jesus states in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” What is Jesus saying here? That the majority of people who claim to “religious” will not be with Him? Consider what Jesus says later in verse 21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Only by paying close attention to our “life and doctrine” will we be sure of what God’s will is.

In 1 Timothy 4:16, the apostle Paul gives specific instructions to Timothy, his protégé and leader of the church in Ephesus. Paul speaks in very definite terms that both life and doctrine are essential to salvation, and the perseverance of such values is crucial not only for the individual, but also for the people that hear their message. As disciples of Christ, we are aware that the doctrine of the apostles (and Jesus) is very clear: We must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (John 20:31; Acts 9:20), make the decision to make him Lord of our lives (Acts 2:36; Acts 10:36), repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins, thereby receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; John 3:1-5), and live a life of making disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey as well (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 5:11-21).

The “Christianity” of today debates even these fundamental issues through various “denominations” (definition: a group of the name) and factions of churches whose disunity are clearly in violation of the scriptures (1 Corinthians 1:10; John 17:20-23). While this disunity is obvious to all, what is more frightening is the lack of standards in regards to their way of life. If doctrine, or the authoritative beliefs of the church, are the source of confusion, how much more so must the standards of discipleship in their lives be? In order to curtail any naiveté, I believe it is important to faithfully address these issues in order to discern what is best as we follow Jesus.

In Philippians 1:9-11, this goal of discerning what is best by God is made very clear. Paul writes, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (emphasis added). With issues such as life, we must be able to ascertain what is best in our walk as disciples. It is not only important for our own salvation, but our example also influences others in their discipleship as well.

So what is this “life” that we speak of? What are the issues we need to determine? First we must look at our authoritative beliefs, or doctrine. Our life must coincide with what we believe. The lordship of Jesus, repentance of sin, and Jesus’ mission of seeking and saving the lost are key directives that we have been entrusted with by God as we walk daily with Him.

With all the confusion circulating in the former ICOC churches about who’s right instead of what’s right, I feel the need to make the issues very clear for disciples who may be unaware of the key issues between the Portland Movement, the former ICOC movement of churches, and those who are watching the action from afar. While the following is not an exhaustive argument, through examining the controversy I see five clear issues of contention. The following is a list of the major issues as well as the Scriptures to confirm why we as God’s church must be convinced (2 Timothy 3:14) in order to have deep convictions (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5), resulting in courage in standing up for the sake of the gospel (Philippians 1:27-28)!

1) Disciples of Jesus are to be part of a unified movement of God. (1 Corinthians 4:17; John 17:23; 1 Corinthians 1:20; Acts 15:22-27)

2) Disciples of Jesus must be totally committed to the body of Christ. (Acts 2:42-44; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Hebrews 10:23-25; Ezekiel 33:30-32)

3) Disciples of Jesus must love each other by presenting everyone perfect in Christ through discipling relationships. (Matthew 28:20; Colossians 1:28; Romans 15:14; Hebrews 3:12-13)

4) Disciples of Jesus must be committed to Jesus’ dream of evangelizing the world in our generation. (Acts 1:8; Colossians 1:6,23; Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 9:19)

5) Disciples of Jesus must obey the biblical principle and command of dating / marrying only disciples of Jesus. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17; 1 Kings 11:1-6; Ezra 10; Nehemiah 13:23-27)

Sadly, in churches all over the country and the world, churches have stopped obeying these key standards of discipleship. Let us heed the call of Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4:

“…I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.”

It is my prayer that we can rejoice in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6)! If we focus on being convinced from the Scriptures, we can build the deep convictions necessary to call others to take a stand for the gospel. The Scriptures clearly state that others will “perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). As our brother Kip McKean has said, “Let us praise God for each baptism in the ICOC churches as well as the mainline churches for all who are faithful baptized disciples form God’s “church universal.” As for us in Central New York, let us determine to build God’s “visible church” with only sold-out disciples who will multiply and evangelize their city and nation.
And to God be the Glory!

Andrew Smellie
Central New York Church of Christ