Arminian Today

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Refuting the ICC Position on Discipleship

In the old days of the International Churches of Christ, the ICOC taught that one had to be a disciple, to have the heart of a disciple before being baptized.  I use to say that they wanted to clean the fish before catching them.  What they taught was that one had to have a heart of a disciple as Jesus taught about discipleship in places such as Luke 14:25-35 or in Matthew 10.  They pointed to John 4:1-2, that Jesus Himself baptized disciples.  They pointed to Matthew 28:19-20 and said that we had to go and make disciples first before baptizing them.

In this way the ICOC separated itself from even the traditional (0r mainline in ICOC teaching) Church of Christ teaching on baptism.  The traditional view held by most Restoration movement teachers was that one had to be baptized to be saved or to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  The Restoration movement taught that water baptism was essential to salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 10:48) and that one is baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27).  However, the Restoration movement had always taught that one is not saved until baptized and then you become a disciple of Jesus.  The ICOC said no to this and taught that one was a disciple first before baptism and then after demonstrating a heart of a disciple, they were baptized into Christ and become a Christian (Acts 11:26).  In this way, the ICOC would tell even those in other Restoration movement churches that they were lost since they had not been baptized as a disciple of Jesus.

Now let’s discuss for a minute what the old ICOC meant by a disciple of Jesus.  First, a disciple was defined by Kip McKean as “one who has a heart to do anything and go anywhere for Jesus without question.”  In the ICC (International Christian Churches) a disciple is one who meets the standard of the ICC.  Those standards would be:

  • Attend every event at their local ICC or as much as possible.
  • Be involved in a Bible talk (an evangelistic Bible study designed to evangelize non-members).
  • Have a quiet time of prayer and Bible study each day.
  • Be active in inviting others to a Bible talk or to a church service.
  • Be submissive to a Christian (already baptized member of the ICC).
  • Confession of sins to your discipler.

All of this would be required to be a true disciple of Jesus.  You’ll notice that little is actually said about Jesus here.  It is all focused on works that the person does.  Little is said here about grace.  In fact, in the entire First Principles series, grace is mentioned only a few times and a couple of those in a negative light.  Little is said about the cross, about the saving work of Jesus, about the glorious truth of Jesus being our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

So to be a disciple of Jesus in the ICC (and the old ICOC) was based completely upon the teachings of the ICC and not the Bible.  Yes the Bible is sometimes referenced but sound exegesis of relevant passages are not given.  The focus is not upon the work of Christ and the cross but instead the focus is on your works, your obedience, your sacrifices.  Where is the grace of God?  Where is the emphasis on justification by faith?  Where is the teaching that we are saved by God’s grace through faith and not by works?  Where is the emphasis on sound exegesis on the doctrine of salvation?

The refutation of ICC position on discipleship is very easy to do.  First, the Bible never teaches that we are to have one-over-one relationships.  2 Timothy 2:2 is the closest passage on this subject and was often used by the ICOC to justify this concept.  Yet the text doesn’t say that we are to teach this one-over-one but rather people to people.  Notice the plural forms in 2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV):

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

Where is one-over-one in this text?

Secondly, where in the New Testament do we have even one example of Jesus or the Apostles telling someone that they had to be a disciple first before becoming a Christian?  The term disciple is used in the four Gospels and Acts but in the epistles we find the Apostles used the word “slave” or “saints” to describe the believers.  The Bible uses many other terms for disciples in the New Testament such as: saints, slaves, brothers, believers.  We also know that there are also false disciples in John 6:60-71 including Judas Iscariot.  Simply because someone claims to be a disciple of Jesus does not make them a disciple of Jesus.  God knows their hearts.

Thirdly, if a disciple is a Christian (Acts 11:26) then we should baptize Christians according to Matthew 28:19.  From there we are to teach in Matthew 28:20 to obey all that Jesus taught us through the Apostles.  The Apostles obeyed this in Acts 2:42.

Fourth, where do we find the Apostles instructing anyone in the book of Acts or even in the Epistles to do what the ICC says about discipleship?  Where do we find that the Apostles required people to have the heart of a disciple before baptism?  The only thing I see on this issue is that the Apostles required faith in Jesus and repentance in order to be baptized (Acts 2:37-38, 41; 3:19; 4:12; 8:12, 36-38; 9:17-18; 10:44-48; 11:15; 16:14-15, 30-34; 18:8; 19:1-7; 22:16; 26:20).  They never said anything about being sanctified in order to be justified.  Justification, according to Romans 5:1, is by faith.

Lastly, Romans 8:8 says:

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

How can someone in the flesh begin to please God?  How can someone without the Spirit honor the Lord as His disciple through faithfulness in prayer, evangelism, etc.?  The Spirit of God comes when one repents of their sins by the grace of God through the work of the Spirit.  Notice in Galatians 3:1-5 how we receive the Holy Spirit:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith.

Notice that we receive the Spirit by the hearing of faith and not by what we do.  We cannot earn the forgiveness of God.  We cannot earn the righteousness of God (Titus 3:5-7).  In fact, Isaiah 64:6 says:

We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Our sinfulness taints our good works (Romans 3:10-18).  Our sinfulness keeps us from pleasing God.  We are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3) apart from the work of the Spirit of God to open our eyes and to bring us to salvation (1 Peter 1:3).  We cannot, in our flesh, ever earn the perfect righteousness of God (Romans 3:23).  We cannot be saved by our own good works or obedience to the law (James 2:10).  We are only justified before God when we trust totally in the completed work of Christ alone to save us (Acts 13:38-39).  Our salvation is based on Jesus Christ and Him alone and not our church membership, our works, our prayer lives, our evangelism, our obedience to the law, etc.  Nothing saves us but Christ alone (Philippians 3:8-12).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/06/2013 at 10:11 AM

4 Responses

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  1. [This comment was intended for your earlier post on IFB – I just couldn’t find the comment option on it.]

    As an “IFB” (I prefer NAB – non-affiliated Baptist – for the very reasons you describe), I would say your thoughts are fairly accurate and appreciate the distinctions you make.

    In addition to those you mention, there are those of us who really don’t fall into any “camp.” It can be rather frustrating to see the common conception of “fighting-fundies” when you know you’re not that way, yet there’s no easy way to separate or distinguish yourself from someone with whom you’re not officially connected.

    Our church, for example, works together and fellowships with other churches based on doctrine, not on so-called “second-(or even third)-degree separation” or denomination. That would bother many of our IFB brethren. We don’t “major on the minors.” We have no specific ties to any one college, evangelist or fellowship, though we have general relations with people in many. We are generally out of the loop on national church “politics,” preferring to focus on our field of ministry. In a limited way, I’m aware of some of the goings-on in these “circles” but the vast majority of my congregation has never heard of them or their leaders.

    It’s unfortunate that the zeal which characterizes many IFB churches isn’t channeled into more productive endeavors. I will say that one predominant characteristic common to most IFBs is a heart for souls and missions. That, at least, is commendable.

    Nephos

    05/06/2013 at 12:05 PM

    • Thank you brother. Very helpful comments. I would label myself a fundamentalist theologically but have never been a part of an IFB church. As I said in the post, I have friends (and a cousin in fact) who are IFB members and pastors. I have no doubt of their love for God, His Word, and His kingdom. We disagree over some issues but they are not salvation issues nor important to the faith. My cousin, for example, is a faithful Scofield Reference KJV Bible guy and he and I do not agree over these issues but he does not see this as important to salvation nor the gospel we preach.

  2. I am not associated with the ICOC myself. I am not sure, however, why you object to the idea that one has to have the heart of a disciple in order to be saved. Is this not reflective a heart that is truly penitent? The rich young ruler wanted eternal life but had no desire to be a disciple and Christ, therefore, would not have him.

    Calling people to do certain things before being saved is legalistic, but I can’t say that telling people that they need to have “a heart to do anything and go anywhere for Jesus without question” if they expect to be forgiven of their sins is completely unbiblical.

    David Capuano

    05/06/2013 at 5:55 PM

    • When Jesus asked the young ruler to give up everything, He was hitting at this man’s heart, his own idolatry and violating Exodus 20:3. The rich young ruler loved money above God and Jesus showed this. Jesus was not saying, “You have to be my disciple and do all these things before you can be saved.” He was pointing to the fact that this man was self-righteous (Luke 18:21).

      I believe we should call people to consider the cost of following Christ (Luke 14:25-35) but we must acknowledge that no person, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, can get saved (Titus 3:5-7). Those in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8; Ephesians 2:1-3). Our duty is to preach the gospel (Romans 10:14-17) and the Spirit of God draws sinners to salvation (John 6:44). The Spirit opens their hearts to believe the gospel and repent (Acts 16:14-15). There are no works that a person can do before salvation or after salvation to earn God’s perfect righteousness (Romans 4:5; 10:1-4). This is my problem with the old ICOC and now the ICC tactics. It asks people to be sanctified before being forgiven of their sins. How can anyone do this? None can!


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