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My Sermon to the First Methodist Church

        by Wayne Coats


PREFACE

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The following lesson was delivered at the First Methodist Church in Donelson, Tennessee, as a result of an invitaion extended to me, as well as to several other speakers. Each speaker was invited to speak on Sunday morning and set forth the belief of his particular religious group. I very carefully stated that I could only present what I believed to be the truth, and in no way could I tell what the Church of Christ believed, since we do not have any Declaration of Faith and Order.

It was obvious that in one lesson I was no able to cover in detailed fashion every point that I presented, nor was I able to present all the points that I wanted to discuss. Some of these matters were discussed more fully in the question and answer period. This was especially true of why I do not use mechanical instruments of music in worship.

The questions were many, explicit, pointed, and denoted a very inquisitive audience. In fact, ther were so many questions and so little time, that I was invited back the following Sunday for one hour of questions and answers, and I did return for that second session. No holds were barred in the questions, nor in the answers.

May those who heard the lesson and those who read the copy, try to have the sincerity and honesty which I tried to maintain, as the lesson was given.

W. Wayne Coats
184 Hillview Drive
Mt. Juliet, Tn. 37122

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
My Sermon To The First Methodist Church
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Page 1

I assure you that my heart overflows with gratitude because of the opportunity to be with you on this bright and beautiful morning. I am profoundly grateful for the invitation extended to me by my good friend and neighbor to come over and present some thoughts relative to the church of which I am a member, which as you know is the Church of Christ. I commend you for having this study series and trust that only good will come therefrom.
Your invitaion has been extended to me because I believe defferently that you. Obviously, if we all believed and spoke the same things, if we had the same mind and the same judgment, if we enjoyed the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, then you would not have this special study series.
Because I teach so very differently from your preacher here at First Methodist, I will very obviously say some things which will sound strange to your ears, but that is why I'm here. We can all recall reading about Paul speaking in Athens and some of the people said, "For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean" [Acts 17:20]. Please listen carefully, make notes if you care to, and we will have a question and answer period at the close of my lesson and I want you to feel perfectly free to ask anything you feel to be pertinent.
The doctrines of the Methodist Church and the things which I believe are similar in some areas, and as far as the poles apart in others. I studied "Methodism" under Bishop Henley at Vanderbilt University and had several courses over at Scarritt College in an effort to see what make the Methodist Church function. The bishop somehow couldn't make a Methodist out of me, and I failed to make the bishop a member of the Church of Christ. We discussed our differences more than once.

Page 2

What are those things most surely believed among us? I shall present some of these matters and give scriptural quotations as proof texts. In other words, I'm saying that it isn't my position to just believe a matter, but I need to be able to show by the scriptures why I believe certain principles to be true, and of course, you desire to know why I believe as I do. You have asked me to be here and tell you where and why we differ.
I cannot see that God has left man without a divine standard. We must not assume that we are at liberty to do that which is right in our own eyes. The inspired John wrote, "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" [II John 9]. We must abide only, solely, and entirely by the scriptures as our standard of faith and practice. We must accept some sort of yardstick that is absolute. This is not an effort to be eccentric, odd or strange, but because of certain simple statements in the scriptures, I am convinced that we must not try to be regulated in matters religious by some standard other than the inspired, inerrant,infallible Word. Yes, I do believe the Bible to be that standard.
When Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, he said, "Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good" [I Thess.5:21]. Unless there is some acceptable rele, we can never prove anything. We believe the rule by which all men are to be governed is the written Word. It claims to be inspired of God. The apostle wrote, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" [II Tim. 3:16:17]. We have the inspired record given by Jehovah and hence ther is no need for any additional regulations. May we recall for a second time the passage which says, "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" [II John 9]. Jesus said, "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book" [Rev. 22:18].

Page 3

I suppose this seems odd that we have no writtern creed such as a Discipline, Manual, Book of Common Prayer, or Catechism, but we just try to restrict ourselves to the Bible, believing that God's word is sufficient.
One of the points with which I need to deal, is the fact that we do not attempt to follow the Old Testament as we work and worship. We believe that we are to be governed by the New Testament. I need to tell you why we hold these views in order for you to understand the reason for my postition. We believe the Old Testament came from God, and is therefore the Word of God. "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds" [Heb. 1:1-2]. The Old Testament was given to help men along the way until Christ eventually came. I will make a quick excursion through the book of Hebrews and cite some verses which point out the fact that we cannot be governed today by the Old Testament. I'm cognizant of the fact that even the devil can quote scripture, but these verses which I shall cite obviously teach something, and I have no desire to use any verse in a wrongful manner. You might keep this in mind as we have our question period later. The Old Testament period began with the father serving as the priest of functionary in behalf of the family. Abraham is an example of this system. After the law of Moses was given at Sinai, the situation changed drastically. The tribe of Levi was subsequently selected to furnish the priests [Heb. 7:5]. These priests comprised the hub around which Israel worked and worshipped. The Levites are not serving as our priests today, but Christ is our High Priest. Notice as I quote a few verses which suppor this idea. "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus" [Heb. 3:1]. "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our proffesion" [Heb. 4:14]. Page 4 "As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec" [Heb. 5:6] The priesthood changed from Levi to Christ. "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law" [Heb. 7:12]. Jesus was not a priest on earth, and could not be, because he was not of the tribe of Levi, but sprang from the tribe of Judah [Heb. 7:14]. He began his priestly work when he went back to heaven, and of course with his becoming priest, the law changed. Is it not conclusive then that I am not to try to observe a law that is no longer in force? Where could I find the tribe of Levi and a priest therefrom?
Our Lord is the ".....mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises" [Heb. 8:6]. We are under the New Covenant and not the Old [Heb. 8:7-13]. "For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth" [Heb. 9:16-17]. When Jesus died on the cross, "...He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" [Heb. 10:9-10]. We thus have a new law and walk in a new way [Heb. 10:20]. We look not to Moses but to Jesus [Heb. 12:2]. It is by Christ Jesus that we, "....offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually..." [Heb. 13:15].
These sciptures have been presented in order for you to see clearly why we do not attempt to follow the Old Testament in work and worship. It served its purpose in leading men along the way until Christ came, and then having been fulfilled by Christ, it was taken out of the way, it was abolished, indeed it was nailed to the cross [Col. 2:14].
Another point which I believe to be important is why we call ourselves "Christians" and object to the wearing of names and designations not found in the Bible. We really have no desire to be cranky or curious, and it doesn't especially appeal to me for someone to think that I am narrow minded or bizarre. As a member of the Church of Christ, I claim to have been added there unto by the Lord.

Page 5

Perhaps you may have discussed with family members or friends the fact that we do not use the expression, "joining the church." I imagine to a group of Methodists, this sounds pretty silly doesn't it? I shall try to be brief, but explicit, as I set forth the matter, and that of course it the reason you have asked me to speak.
I suppose all of us believe that Jesus really did build or establish his church, just as he promised according to Matt. 16:18-19. We differ as to what it might be like, but no student of the Bible will disagree with the fact that Christ built his church. He purchased it with his blood [Acts 20:28]. When he ascended upon high and was seated at God's right hand, he became head over all things to the church which is his body [Eph. 1:22-23]. Jesus Christ is not only head of the church, he is head over all things to the church. If he is head of and to the church, then that just about eliminates man from setting up regulatory boards or groups to determine what Christ has already determined.
For a very simple illustration of what I mean, when we read the second chapter of Acts, we are able to learn that the inspired apostles preached to those people who had gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. As the gospel was preached, the sinners were deeply disturbed and cried out, "...Men and brethren, what shall we do? The 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 2:37-38]. Verse 41 tells us that some gladly received the word and were baptized, "...and the same say there were added unto them about three thousand souls." In verse 47 we read, "...And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Since the church is the spiritual family of God, he did the adding thereto. The saved, and only the saved, were added to the church. There were no additions to the church except the saved. Such as were being saved added, and such as were not being saved were not added to the church. The church doesn't save, but it consists of the saved. Christ is the savior, but he is the savior of the body, which is the church [Eph.1:22-23; 5:23].

Page 6

Since the Lord adds the saved to the church, then we just do not know how it would be possible for one to join the family of God. This is the sole perogative of God, and He makes no mistakes. When we act accordingly to the terms laid down by the inspired apostle, we too will be added to the church. God is no respecter of persons, and therefore I should feel compelled to be as eager to obey God as were those on Pentecost.
Although I have discussed the matter in the preceding point, perhaps I should explain in more detail the belief which I hold with reference to the complete plan of salvation. In my preaching I try to show that God requires people to believe before they are baptized. Jesus placed belief before baptism in Mark 16:16. I also show that repentance was placed before baptism by the apostles [Acts 2:38].
One of the points which I present in my preaching is that baptism involves a burial in water. The inspired apostle wrote, "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. 6:4]. He again wrote, "Buried with him in baptism, where in also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead" [Col. 2:12].
After baptism, I point out that one can so sin as to be finally lost. There are many warnings in the Bible which we must not overlook. There were those in Galatia who ran well for a little while but who later fell from grace [Gal. 5:4]. The church at Cornith was warned by the example of Israel, and Paul concluded by saying, "...Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" [I Cor. 10:12]. When Jesus depicted the judgment scene, we recall how some of those in kingdom were gathered out and they received their portion with the lost [Matt. 13:41-42].
I shall now add some brief remarks relative to our worship. In preaching I try hard to get people to understand what worship means. It is reverence paid or expressed. A real careful study will show that the true worshipper always came before God, not for what he could get, but rather for what he could give.

Page 7

Worship involves giving of one's life, reverence, devotion and obeisance to God. It is a coming and bowing before him. True worship offered to God eliminates the theatrical and gaudy which appeals to people. I sometimes ask, "How do people entertain God?" The church that has the best program, provides the most entertainment, gives the people the most for their money and sets up a sort of supermarket atmosphere, is where you will find modern Americans.
The early Christians were guided by the word of inspired men as they worshipped. Today we have the inspired book. God has not changed his nature as to what pleases him. The Holy Spirit has not changed his Revelation. The word of God is still the same and 'til heaven and earth passes, it will stay the same.
The Bible tells us that the church assembled on the Lord's Day [Acts 20:7]. They were not to forsake the assembly [Heb. 10:25]. As an assembled group or a local congregation, they studied, prayed, gave of their material earnings, sang praises to Jehovah and ate the Lord's supper [Acts 20:7; Cor. 16:1-2; Acts 2:42].
It is my purpose to hearken to the ancient pattern of faith and practice in worshipping God. Those early Christians sang their praises to Jehovah without mechanical music. I really enjoy good music and have attended some great concerts at home and abroad, but when I come to worship God, what I might like or dislike is not the criteria. No having mechanical music in worship seems rather strange to many people. My attitude about the matter seems from a fervent desire to follow the pattern of the early church. Those ancient Christians sang without the use of the mechanical insrument. Paul instructed the church at Ephesus to sing [Eph. 5:19]. He also told the church in Colosse to sing. We can never be wrong when we follow the Bible. The Bible is always right.
Each congregation of the church is independent of every other congregation. There is no hierarchy nor ecclesiastical head to govern the church, but Christ serves as the supreme head with each local congregation having its own elders. These elders direct the affairs of the congregation of which they are a part, and are variously called shepherds, bishops, presbyters, and overseers [Acts 20:28].

Page 8

Deacons are also a part of the organization of the local congregation and serve under the oversight of the elders. They, like the elders, have special qualifications as set forth in I Tim. 3:8-13. As preachers, we have no prescribed set of rules or curriculum of study to which we must conform, other than that laid down in the New Testament.
I acknowledge that in this presentaion, much more information might need to be given, but these matters will give you some idea as to what I believe and why. You should be able to see why I am a member of the church of Christ. We will now close and take time for any questions which you might desire to ask. Please feel free to ask me any question which you feel disposed to ask. If I know, I will answer, and if I do not know the answer, I will tell you. I hope they will be easy questions.



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