What Makes a Church a “Responsible Church”?

The quote beloq comes from a news story regarding Jewish reactions to Mel Gibson’s upcoming movie on the life of Christ, The Passion. While I do not agree with the theological slant of the movie (pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism), I found the following comment regarding the portrayal of the Jews as approving and desiring the death of Jesus very interesting:

Representatives of the Anti-Defamation League saw the movie in a private screening and the League said on Monday that if it was released in its present form it could “fuel the hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism that many responsible churches have worked hard to repudiate,” (Reuters news article, 08/12/2003, “California Rabbi Says ‘Passion’ Already Fueling Hatred”).

The Anti-Defamation League would like us to believe that those churches (i.e., denominations) who have “worked hard” to repudiate the obvious message of Matthew 27:20-26, Mark 15:8-15, Luke 23:18-24, and John 18:38-40 are the “responsible” organizations. If “responsible” in this circumstance is equivalent to “apostatized,” the statement is perhaps true. It is imperative for churches (and I mean individual congregations of God’s people, not a denominational organization) to be responsible; this responsibility is not in repudiating the clear message of the Scriptures but in many ways by upholding it. Let us now look to see what God considers to be a truly “responsible church.”

Responsible churches uphold the truth of God, the Gospel of Christ. Paul speaks to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:15:

but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

The truth mentioned here corollates to the Gospel of Christ, regarding which Paul speaks in Romans 1:16:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The responsible church is to be the support of the Gospel; this can only be true if the church is itself founded in the Gospel and preaches the true Gospel to everyone and anyone.

Responsible churches recognize the headship of Christ and cling to Him. We read two statements in relation to this from Ephesians 5:23-24 and Revelation 2:3:

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be subject to their husbands in everything.

[To the church in Ephesus] “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Responsible churches will obey Christ and act according to His authority and not with its own presupposed authority. The church in Ephesus was not being as responsible as it should have been because it had left its first love, Christ, among the disputations and heresies of the day. We must always cling to Christ and Christ alone as our authority.

Responsible churches are full of members with love and encouragement. We are commanded thus in Hebrews 3:12-13, Hebrews 10:24-25, and 1 John 4:9-11:

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called, “today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good works, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another.

Responsible churches will be full of loving and encouraging people diligently seeking to obey Christ in all things.

Responsible churches will be looked up to as examples in the faith. Paul commends the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 1:6-9:

You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves report about us what kind of reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God.

The church in Thessalonica was exemplary because (a) they received the word despite great tribulation, and (b) they immediately began evangelizing throughout the world. Churches responsible in the Gospel may receive the Gospel without tribulation but they must be known for their work in evangelism and for their stand in the Lord.

Responsible churches share in the work of the Lord by their means. We can see the example of Thessalonica above, and Paul also speaks of the Philippian church in Philippians 4:14-19:

Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Here we have a church, newly begun, and their focus already is assisting with evangelism whenever possible. Responsible churches will do well, if they are financially stable enough, to assist the work of the gospel in other lands, both locally and abroad, so that God will continue to bless that church in its work.

Time will fail if we examine all of the characteristics of a responsible church; we have seen, however, that a responsible church will be firmly grounded in the Gospel of Christ; that it will always see Christ as its Head; it will be full of love and encouragement; it will be an example to other churches; and it will give of its means to assist the Gospel locally and throughout the world. The burden of this responsibility is on each individual member of the congregation; a local congregation can only be responsible if its individual members are responsible. We as Christians must constantly ask ourselves if we are assisting the church by being responsible or if we need to work on our responsibilities to God, ourselves, and others.

The rhetoric of the Anti-Defamation League does not and cannot change the truth of the Gospel of God: the Jews called for the death of Jesus and denominational organizations that repudiate this stand to be themselves repudiated by God. There are, however, responsible churches throughout America and the world, and those churches are working for the obedience of God that the Word may continue and that each member will be saved. Let us strive to work to be responsible Christians and to be a part of responsible churches.

ELDV

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