“Open Bible Study”
May 7, 2011
Are there saved Christians in many churches?
This present study concerns the subject of “One and only one church.” On May 7, 2011 Mr. Anthony Watts came to our church building to affirm, “There are saved Christians in many churches.” Mr. Watts is one of the preachers at the Wallace Ave. Baptist Church in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Mr. Watts was contacted on February 19, 2011 and accepted the invitation to come participate in the Open Bible Study. Mr. Watts and Mr. Battey met together face to face to discuss the details of the study on March 1. Both speakers had two months to prepare for the discussion.
When May 7 arrived and the crowd gathered to hear the discussion, many were surprised and shocked by the presentation given by Mr. Watts. Each speaker had the privilege of speaking for 30 minutes, but to everyone’s surprise, Mr. Watts spoke for only 15 minutes. He held up a thick notebook full of papers saying he had many things he could have said, but he would not say them. Rather, Mr. Watts told the audience that the 15 minute presentation was, “what God put on my heart to say.” No one was sure exactly what that might meant. Was Mr. Watts claiming direct inspiration from God? If so, his members expressed disappointment during the question session. One member of the Baptist Church was upset because Mr. Battey was “all prepared and even had PowerPoint charts” while “Mr. Watts wasn’t prepared.” However, if Mr. Watts was truly saying “what God put on his heart,” then the fault would lie with God. No one, not even the Baptist members would blame God for the unprepared presentation, yet that would be the conclusion if Mr. Watts was accurate in his statement, “I spoke what God put on my heart to say.”
The contents of Mr. Watts’ speech was as surprising as the brevity with which he spoke. Mr. Watts’ assignment, which he accepted, was to prove from the scriptures that there are saved Christians in many different churches. In other words, religious division is acceptable with God. Mr. Watts was supposed to be proving from the Bible that God approves of saved Christians being in many different kinds of churches – all practicing slightly different forms of worship and service and all teaching slightly different doctrines. Yet, to everyone’s surprise, Mr. Watts began his presentation with a passage on unity – reading to the audience from Ephesians 4:1-6. Many in the audience were mystified. They had come to hear where the Bible authorized division. They had come to hear where the scriptures approved of Christians being in many different kinds of churches, but instead, passages were being read about unity. Mr. Watts was defeating his own proposition. Rather than reading passages requiring unity, Mr. Watts should have been presenting passages authorizing division. It became apparent why Mr. Watts did not present scriptural authorization for division: There simply is no Bible authorization for division. It is that simple. Passage after passage read by Mr. Watts was teaching there is only “one body” and that unity should be preserved. Even though several of his fellow Baptist members were present and upset, not one presented a passage that even remotely authorized God’s people to be divided into denominations. Not one passage was presented showing that God had saved Christians in many different man-made denominations.
After Mr. Watts made his presentation, Brother George Battey presented the counterview. Brother Battey is a preacher of the gospel and represented the Good Hope Road Church of Christ in this Open Bible Study. Brother Battey’s assignment was to affirm, “The Lord has only one church and there are saved Christians only in the Lord’s church.” Brother Battey began his part of the study defining the proposition under consideration. There were fifteen major points presented to the audience:
- The word “church” (ekklasia) means “called out from.”
- The church = people “called out of” the world and into a body of fellow believers. (1 Pet 2:9; Eph 4:25)
- Jesus promised to build only one such called-out-body (church). (Mt 16:18; Eph 1:22-23; Eph 4:4)
- The Lord Himself added people to this church when they believed enough to be baptized for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38, 41, 47)
- No saved person was ever left out of that church. (Acts 2:47)
- No unsaved person was ever added to that church. (Acts 2:47)
- This body (church) was purchased by the blood of Christ. (Acts 20:28; Eph 5:23, 25; 1 Pet 1:18-19)
- This body (church) was founded on the teachings of Christ. (1 Cor 3:11; Eph 2:19-20; Mt 7:24-27; 1 Jn 2:3-5)
- The apostles taught the same doctrine of Christ everywhere they went. (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor 4:17)
- A curse was placed upon anyone teaching any other doctrine. (Gal 1:8-9)
- Since every congregation was organized by the same doctrine, every congregation identical in doctrine and practice. (Lk 8:11; Gen 1:12)
- The members of the church were forbidden to divide the church into different denominations. (1 Cor 1:10)
- Those causing divisions contrary to the doctrine of Christ were to be “marked and avoided.” (Rom 16:17-18)
- The one church of Christ will always exist because it is produced by a “seed” = the word of God. (Lk 8:11; Mt 24:35)
- Any church not founded by the Lord will be “uprooted” at the end of this age. (Mt 15:13-14; Mt 13:24-30)
Brother George emphasized the fact that the word of God, which produces the church, is compared to a seed (Lk 8:11). The Lord Himself made this comparison. The remarkable thing about a seed is that it produces “according to its kind.” In other words, a wheat seed will produce only wheat. If someone has corn growing in their garden, they did not plant wheat because seed reproduces “after its kind.” Since the word of God is a seed and can produce only “after its kind,” if the pure seed is planted in the hearts of men, only one church could possibly result. The fact there are different kinds of churches is evidence that different kinds of seeds are being planted. To prove different kinds of seeds are being planted, brother George gave the following eight illustrations:
- Some churches teach salvation by “faith only.”
- Some churches teach salvation without baptism.
- Some churches teach “once saved, always saved.”
- Some churches teach the “kingdom of God” will be set up soon on the earth.
- Some churches teach women installed into leadership positions.
- Some churches tamper with the communion (when & how often).
- Some churches tamper with the communion (how to observe it).
- Some churches tamper with the singing (instrumental music).
The only possible explanation for these “varieties” of churches and doctrines to exist is that different seeds are being planted. If the pure seed of the kingdom (the word of God) were being taught, these differences would not exist. Why? Because seed reproduces “after its kind” and none of the above variations exist in the NT scriptures.
After the intermission the audience reassembled for the question and answer sessions. Mr. Watts went first. For 30 minutes he “fielded questions.” Everyone present could see that Mr. Watts was dodging every question being asked. Only the Lord Himself knows why Mr. Watts would not answer the questions in a straightforward manner. No one is speculating on the reason for his responses. Yet, without speculating, everyone present knew he did not answer the questions posed.
When Brother Battey fielded questions for 30 minutes, he endeavored to give a Bible passage for every answer posed to him. His answers were directly to the question posed without sidestepping.
About 110+ people were gathered from various congregations to hear both sides of this topic discussed. Mr. Watts presentation and question session were so disappointing, they were deemed unworthy for posting on this website. Brother Battey’s sermon is posted for those interested in hearing his presentation. We hope the readers and listeners to the presentation will listen carefully and “search the scriptures to see if those things are true” (Acts 17:11). May the Lord bless all who would read and humble themselves before the His word.
One Church – Booklet – by George Battey (PDF)
One Church – PowerPoint Charts – by George Battey
One Church or Many Churches – Sermon Notes – by George Battey (MS Word)