One Body, One Faith

April 5, 2022

Have you ever wondered why there are so many different religious beliefs and denominations in the world today?  One thing is certain, Jesus did not start many different religious denominations.  He started one church made up of people who have saving faith in Him.  God adds people to His one church when they respond in faith and are baptized into Christ.  This is what happened on the day Peter preached the first Gospel sermon.  The scriptures say, “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41, NASB) Only God can add souls to the church he established.

Just as there is only one church, there is also only one faith.  Paul writes, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6, NASB) The word faith in this passage is referring to the body of beliefs that the church holds in common.  As Jude writes to the church, “…Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” (Jude 3, NASB). Notice that he does not speak of a faith, but the faith.  There is only one faith.  The one faith was once and for all handed down from God, and we need to be contending earnestly for it. Every belief, doctrine, and practice that we hold as a church should be rooted in God’s word and nowhere else. 

We need to be careful that we do not substitute the creeds, traditions, and doctrines of men for the truth of God’s word.  When we stray from the word of God, we end up with many various teachings that are not coming from God, but from man.  Of course, we may struggle in our attempts to correctly interpret the word of God, but this doesn’t change the fact that we should recognize that there is only one body and one faith.  I know that as we make sincere, prayerful attempts to honor the word and stay within the word, God will lead us into a better understanding and help us to properly apply His teachings.  There is one body.  There is one faith.  May God help us as we strive to hold to these precious truths. 

—Scott Colvin


Spiritual Gifts and a Christ-centered Perspective

March 1, 2022

What a wonderful thought it is that Christ, through the Spirit has given each member of the church a spiritual gift.  I hope that you are excited about using your gift for the common good of the church.  I hope you are excited about where the Lord will take us as His body as we exercise His gifts.  I hope you are excited about the spiritual growth that God will cause among us as we faithfully use the gifts He has graciously given.

It is good for us to be aware of the spiritual gifts God has given to the church and it is good to be excited about using those gifts.  But in all of this, we must also make sure that we keep the proper focus and perspective.  Spiritual gifts and the exercise of those gifts should never be about us.  It is important to remember that fact.  To think, “Look at us!”, “Look at what we are accomplishing through the Spirit!”, or “Look at the marvelous thing God is accomplishing through us!” is to have the wrong focus; a dangerous focus. 

Our focus should not be on ourselves as we exercise our gifts, but on Christ.  The Spirit of God’s focus is always on Christ!  As Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “He will glorify Me…” (John 16:14a, NASB).  The Spirit’s role and desire is to glorify the Lord Jesus.  That should be our goal and desire, too!  As we use our gifts, we should never point to ourselves, but always to Christ. 

Our focus should not be on ourselves as we exercise our gifts, but on serving and building up others in love.  As Paul writes, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7, NASB).  Paul also says, “So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12, NASB).  Our gifts are never to be used for self-promotion (this was a major problem in the Corinthian church).  Rather, they are to be selflessly used for the good of the whole, and to build up (edify) one another.              

May each one of us zealously use the gifts God has given us through His Spirit, and let us be careful to keep a humble, service-minded, Christ-glorifying focus as we do. 

—Scott Colvin


The Church, the Fullness of Christ

January 17, 2022

When we look at the church of Jesus merely through human eyes, it is easy for us to misunderstand its true nature. When looking at things from a human perspective, we see imperfect people like you and me who, at times, struggle with sin, spiritual weakness, doubts, fears, anxieties, and lack of faith. In all of this it is easy for us to miss what the church of our Lord really is. The fact is, God has made His people— His church—to be something glorious.

How does God see His church? Listen to these words: “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22-23, NASB) The church is the body of Jesus. Jesus is its head. The church is the fullness of Christ and is being filled by Christ. Not only that, but those who are members of the church are God’s family and God’s temple. God Himself dwells in the members of the church, both individually and collectively. As Paul writes, “…But you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22, NASB). The church of God is glorious! It is glorious, not because of the nature of the members themselves, but because God has united His church to Himself and to Jesus Christ in a profound and special way.

How do you view the church? We are precious to God. He gave the life of His son to purchase us. He dwells in us. He is at work in us. Given these stunning realities, I encourage you to make sure that the church is precious to you, too. Make every effort to make the church precious to your family. I encourage you to give of your time and energy to encourage and build up the members of the church here at Grandville. I encourage you to be an active part of what the Lord is doing among us. May each of us begin to more clearly see the church, not as man sees it, but as God sees it!

— Scott Colvin


Church and Politics

September 25, 2020

As I write this, we are in the midst of a presidential campaign year. Politics is everywhere, and we may be tempted to bring a little too much of politics into church. Although churches have freedom of speech, they have limitations if they want a tax-exempt status.

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.

By the way, I believe we can clearly teach about the moral issues of our day, but we shouldn’t be endorsing candidates or political parties.
But this is about more than tax-exempt status. My experience through the years teaches me that Christians may come to different judgments on politics and still have a moral reason for their choice. I have visited in church member’s homes and heard politics brought up and know from experience that good Christian people disagree. I have also held my tongue in such situations, keeping my own political views private as the opposing candidate was being endorsed. I just know that if these individuals had debated their views at church, it would have been a messy distraction from the mission of the church.

Batsell Barrett Baxter was the chairman of the Bible Department at Lipscomb University when I was a student. He was also the radio and TV speaker for the nationwide Herald of Truth, and he preached for the Hillsboro Church of Christ in Nashville. He was well known in the church at that time.

Baxter told a story on himself to his preaching students. He wanted to caution his students about politics in church. He wanted us to learn from his mistake. In the 1960 presidential election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, Baxter preached a sermon addressing the election. Many Protestants feared having a Roman Catholic in the Whitehouse, because according to the fear, he would be subject to the Pope, a foreign power. Like many Protestant ministers of the time, Baxter preached such a sermon. The closing prayer was led by a man who gave a 20-minute rebuttal to the lesson. Baxter learned his lesson painfully.

My point is simply this: we may agree on the faith and still have political disagreements. Let us not offend our brother or sister on matters that will simply pass away with the coming of the Lord.

—Russ Holden


But It’s Not Perfect

August 10, 2018

The local church is not heaven. Heaven will be a place of perfection. No sin. No problems. No conflicts. Although the church is made up of forgiven people, it is not made of perfect people. Regrettably, problems can arise, and these can even disturb the faith of some. We need to remind ourselves, that even in the New Testament we can read about people in the church attempting to resolve problems.

In Acts 6:1-7, the Hellenistic Jewish widows were being neglected. It involved the church’s ministry and matters had reached a crisis. The apostles commanded that seven men to be chosen, so they could be appointed over this need. Fairness was restored. Afterwards, the church grew even more.

In Acts 15:36-41, Paul and Barnabas had a serious disagreement as to whether John Mark should be taken on the next missionary journey. It involved matters of judgment, but I bet it was a bit tense in the Antioch church until that matter was resolved, but good came out of it.

In Galatians 2:11-21, the apostle Paul opposed the apostle Peter because he was not eating with Gentiles for fear of the circumcision party. This was a matter of doctrine, and my guess is that it was difficult for the friends of Peter and Paul to see such a disagreement arise. Yet an important doctrinal point was made; Peter was prevented from going the wrong direction. Later in life, Peter was able to write commendably of Paul (see 2 Peter 3:14-16).

I have to admit there are probably times when all of us would like to quit. Working with people can seem so hard. Why can’t I just go out in the middle of a field and worship alone! The reason is simple. God has called me to be a part of an assembly of people—the church (Hebrews 10:23-25). God in His infinite wisdom knows I need others for the maturing process that goes on in Christian living. The process is sometimes painful, but I must trust the Potter as He molds me, His clay.

What do we do while we wait for the perfection of heaven? “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1–3, ESV).


A Spiritual Church

June 2, 2018

The church began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) with the outpouring of the Spirit and the preaching of the gospel. The miraculous manifestations of the Spirit were to confirm the new revelation given by the Apostles (Hebrews 2:4). Although I do not think we should expect to see in our lifetime the things that were marks of the Apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12), I believe we are to be a spiritual church.

We are to be a spiritual church because our faith is based on the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Jesus told the Apostles: “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into al the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:12-13, NASB). Scripture comes to us because of “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21).
We are to be a spiritual church because Christians have received the indwelling Spirit when they were baptized (Acts 2:38-39, Acts 5:32). The Spirit is a motive for holiness (1 Corinthians 6:19). The Spirit aids us in our struggle with sin (Romans 8:13). The Spirit is said to produce in us the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

We are to be a spiritual church because of prayer. One of the hallmarks of the church in Acts is prayer (Acts 2:42, 3:1, 4:24, 6:4, 12:12, 13:3, 14:23, 20:36, 21:5).

What we should be and could be is not always what we are. Paul in addressing the problems in Corinth says that he ought to be speaking to spiritual people, but in reality, they were carnal (fleshly), still babes in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1). May the word of Christ dwell in us richly, may we not grieve the Spirit but mature producing the fruit of the Spirit, and may we learn to pray without ceasing. These are the things that characterize a spiritual church.


How Does Your Garden Grow?

May 18, 2018

Imagine different gardeners and their plants.

In one case, there is but an overgrown pot. Everything is under control, but growth is stifled. The plant could be several times its current size, but that would mean being repotted or placed in the garden. It would mean having room to grow.

In another case, the garden is neglected. The plants are sickly. They need weeding and pruning. They need water and fertilizer. With attention, the garden could be lush and fruitful, but this garden has many a brown spot and plants that are about to die.

The third garden is hardly a garden. Dead plants really do not a garden make. It is evident that something toxic had been in this garden. Instead of water and fertilizer, these plants received poison.

The final case is a lush, green, and fruitful garden. It has received good care from the gardeners. Weeds have been pulled. Water and fertilizer have been applied, and the increase is great.

The story of the gardeners provides a lesson for the church. The selection of elders and deacons is a vitally important decision. As the work of gardeners affect the garden, so does the work of elders and deacons affect the church.

Overbearing leaders (see 1 Peter 5:3) can stifle the life of the church. The church can be like the pot bound plant—capable of great growth if given the chance but stifled instead.

Neglectful leaders fail to do the work that needs to be done. The church can become like the neglected garden in need of weeding, pruning, fertilizing, and watering.

Toxic leaders bring false teaching (see Titus 1:9-11) or emotional abuse. Instead of the sound doctrine that produces spiritual health. False teaching kills off the life of the church.

Finally, good leaders do the work that needs to be done in the church. The result is a healthy church. The members are equipped for service (Ephesians 4). The church grows and produces good fruit.

The health and growth of the church are dependent on the quality of leadership we have. May we choose wisely. Good leaders promote “sound (healthy) doctrine (teaching).” Along with equipping people for ministry, this should lead to a healthy church. Such a church needs to be biblical in its teaching, moral in its ethical life, and loving in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18). This love is demonstrated in service and ministry as we encourage one another and reach out to the world around us.


The Storyteller’s Parable

April 27, 2018

With a twinkle in his eye, the Storyteller began his tale:

“There were two families that were very much alike — parents, children, a house, and many material blessings, but there was one very big difference.

The first family was very close to one another. Since the time the children were very small, a concerted effort had been made for the family to have time together. Meal times were special as each shared their day. Family outing were always eagerly anticipated. Certainly, each family member had his or her own interests. No two family members were exactly alike, but they had learned to enjoy one another’s company.

As the children grew, the stresses of busy and competing schedules were felt, but the family was resolute in setting certain when all were together. Sacrifices were made so that the whole family could have that togetherness.

The second family was not very close. They had not seen the importance of time together. In fact, as they grew up they found it increasingly hard even to have a conversation with one another, and what was worse, when problems came, it was hard to share the burdens for feel real support.”

Pausing, the Storyteller asked, “To which kind of family would you want to belong?”

“The close one, of course,” I replied, hardly thinking that it was much of a question.

As the Storyteller turned to leave, he said softly, “Your spiritual family has set aside times to be together, and they’ve requested your presence. Which kind of family do you want it to be?”


Suggestions for Public Scripture Reading

February 23, 2018

The basis for the public reading of scripture in our assemblies can be found in the New Testament. Timothy, an evangelist in Ephesus, is instructed by Paul: “Until I come, continue to devote yourself to reading, to exhortation, and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). Most modern translations render reading as public reading. Although the word can mean either private or public reading, the public nature of the other two items in the series, exhortation and teaching, would cause us to think of the assembly. Other passages also indicate a public reading of the word (Colossians 4:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:27, and Revelation 1:3).

The public reading of God’s word underscores its authority. It also gives opportunity for us to hear the message of scripture. Yet it must be done well. If we do it poorly, the hidden message may be that this is unimportant–the exact opposite of what we want to convey. Let me make some suggestions for public reading to help us achieve excellence.

  • Select a unit of thought to be read. Remember chapter and verse numbers are the later addition of editors. They may not always help in selecting a unit of thought. The reader may need to give some context to help the listeners. The goal is that the scripture selected will convey the same message to the listeners as if they had read it in context for themselves. (Most of the time for us, the passage is selected to go with the preaching text. If you want to know the passage prior to Sunday, let me know.)
  • Check for pronunciation and words you may not understand. A Bible dictionary can aid you in the pronunciation of Bible names, so can the book, That’s Easy for You to Say: Your Quick Guide to Pronouncing Bible Names. The web sites, biblespeak.org and thebibleworkshop.com, provide audio pronunciations of some Bible names. An app called Biblical Pronunciation is also available for Android and iOS. Some Bible names have multiple acceptable pronunciations. But nothing hurts a public reading like stumbling over the pronunciation of unfamiliar words and names.
  • Watch for problems that may arise in public reading that might confuse the sense. Failing to pause at the right place or pausing in the wrong place may confuse the listener. Consider the example Luke 2:16: “So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger” (NRSV). If the reader fails to pause at the comma, it will end up sounding as if all three — Mary, Joseph, and the child — are in the manger.
  • Find the author’s meaning, place the stress and emphasis on the main point.
  • Read more slowly than you might speak but be willing to vary the speed and pitch to fit the tone of the reading. I once heard a comparison of audio books made by Audible.com with amateur produced audio books. The speed and pitch of the Audible books were well modulated. The amateur books sounded flat in comparison. And this difference effects the listener’s ability to pay attention and comprehend. No, I’m not expecting us to become professional readers, but it is something at which most of us can do better.
  • Communicate the emotion and tone of the passage with your voice if possible. Is there joy? Is there anger? Is there sarcasm? Is there humor?
  • Practice reading the passage aloud.

The Meaning of Church

December 8, 2017

Our English word church translates the Greek word ekklesia (ἐκκλησία, G1577) in the New Testament. Ekklesia means assembly, so the emphasis of the word is on our regularly assembling together. Preachers have through the years also mentioned the etymology of the word which is “called out.” But as Everett Ferguson notes, “The popular etymology … is not supported by the actual usage of the word. The emphasis was on the concrete act of assembly, not a separation from others.”1

Our English word church derives from another Greek term kyriokos. This word is a Greek adjective mean “Lord’s.” The word does occur in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 11:20 and Revelation 1:10 where they refer to “the Lord’s supper” and “the Lord’s Day.” However, in our word church, the phrase in its word history is kyriokon doma (Lord’s house). This word phrase led to Kirche in German, Kirk in Scotland, and church in English. So, the first definition in English is “a building set apart for public esp. Christian worship.”2 However, ekklesia is not talking about a building but an assembly of people. Because of this word history for our English word, we end up emphasizing that the New Testament meaning of church has to do with the people not a building.

Ekklesia was also used for other assemblies than what we think of with church. It is used for an assembly of citizens in Ephesus.

Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly (ekklesia) was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. (Acts 19:32, ESV)

But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly (ekklesia). (Acts 19:39, ESV)

It is also used of the assembly or congregation of God’s people in the Old Testament in Stephen’s speech in Acts 7.

This is the one who was in the congregation (ekkesia) in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. (Acts 7:38 ESV)

The Greek translation of the Old Testament uses the word ekklesia 100 times in the Old Testament for such things as the assembly of the Lord (Deuteronomy 23:2/23:1), the assembly of Israel (Deuteronomy 31:30), the assembly of the sons of Israel (Joshua 9:2/8:35), and the assembly of the people of God (Judges 20:2). This may give some force to Jesus’ words, “I will build my church.”

The word synagogue (Greek συναγωγή, sunagōgē, G4864 )is also used once of an assembly of Christians, although this gets obscured by translation.

For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, (James 2:2, ESV)

I’ve heard people say, “You can’t go to church, because we are the church.” But the reality is you can go to an assembly. Unless age or health prevent it, to be a part of a church is to assemble regularly together.

1Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today, p. 130.
2Merriam-Webster Third Unabridged Dictionary