Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 30, 1969
NUMBER 38, PAGE 8b-9

An Unsound Church

Larry Ray Hafley

Many churches of Christ feel that because they oppose human institutions which do the work God assigned to the church that they are unquestionably sound. Is this one criterion a safe standard of strength and favor in the eyes of the Head? Far from it. A church has many patterns of Divine perfection which it must constantly seek to achieve. While realizing this, some will say, "We are not only true to the Book in all matters of work and worship, but we also have a good bulletin, a radio program, and an effective visitation schedule." Could such a congregation be unsound? Yes!

An Unsound Church:

1. May Be Right In Doctrine. The church at Ephesus enjoyed at least two years and three months of the Apostle Paul's characteristically vigorous labor. During this time he often warned them concerning false teachers and admonished them to remain grounded in "God and the word of his grace." (Acts 20:32) Later, Timothy was sent to Ephesus that he "mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine" (I Tim. 1:3).

Years pass and the sacred narrative shows the fruits of the Ephesian church's being established in the truth, for they "could not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars" (Rev. 2:2). Sound in doctrine? Oh, yes! But a sound church? No, they had left their first love and were counseled to "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works" (Rev. 2:5). Strange language to use in writing to a "sound" church, is it not?

The church at Corinth affords another good bad example. The brethren there had profited from Paul for a period of at least eighteen months. Many worldly souls had been called from pits of filth into the kingdom of Christ by the gospel. (I Cor. 6:9-11; 4:15) After Paul's departure, the eloquent Apollos came and "being mighty in the scriptures" he put false teachers to "an open shame." Hence, the Corinthians, Paul said, stood in the gospel. (I Cor. 15:1)

Were they sound? Though correct in many matters of doctrine and deeply enriched by spiritual gifts, (I Cor. 1:5-7) the church was unsound, insecure. (I Cor. 3:1-4; 5:1-11; 6:1-7; 11: 17-34) Worldly, sensual lusts had pervaded the church's membership and worship, thus we see another instance of an unsound church that was primarily right in doctrine.

An Unsound Church:

2. Is Content. The Christians at Laodicea had, so to speak, a modern plant, a good bulletin, radio program, and money in the bank. However, they were condemned for their lukewarm contentedness. (Rev. 3:15-17) A contented, self-satisfied church and stagnant water have many unbecoming similarities.

Colosse and Thessalonica were praised by Paul for their diligence and steadfast, working faith. (Col. 1:6; 2:5; I Thess. 1:3,8) These churches of Christ were evidently alive and active by the way they allowed the word to work effectually in them. Surely Paul should say, "Brethren, be at ease, you are doing enough, just continue at your present pace." If Paul had said that, then a contented church could be a sound one, but instead he urged them to "increas(e) in the knowledge of God;" (Col. 1:10) and "abound more and more." (I Thess. 4:1) Had these brethren failed to heed as encouraged by Paul, would they have been sound? Certainly not! Hence, a contented church is unsafe.

Let us not, in our zeal to be correct "as it is written," overlook other characteristics of a sound church. Be careful not to let virtue shield your perspective of weaknesses, lest you become an unsound church that is doctrinally correct, "rich and increased with goods" (Rev. 3:17).

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