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Pleading The 5th

Pleading The 5th
By Richard Nichols

Published in
The Christian Informer
February  2007

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THE FIFTH AMENDMENT to the Constitution of the United States allows a person being questioned in a court of law to avoid answering if the answer would cause them to incriminate themselves.  Many who are put on the witness stand in a trial have “invoked the Fifth” refusing to answer certain questions that would prove them to be wrong, or possibly even guilty of a crime.  We are all familiar with this transpiring from the trials depicted on television, if we have not seen such a thing in person. 
For some there are religious questions which they will never answer as long as they live.  They stubbornly refuse God’s Truth and they will refuse also to answer any question which they think would incriminate them.  This was the case in Jesus’ day and it remains true today.
Jesus was questioned by the religious leaders of His day about the authority by which he did the things He did.  He in turn asked them a question about baptism, which they would not answer. Jesus asked, “The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven, or of men?”  (Matthew 21:25). They reasoned among themselves.  Please take note–when men have to debate with themselves as to what effect their answer will have on themselves, watch out!  Their discussion did not hinge on what was the truth of the matter, but how they would be affected by their answer.
Their reasoning went like this, “And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?  But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet”  (Matthew 21:25,26).  So, fearing the consequences of the correct answer, they refused to answer saying, “We cannot tell.”  They could not for the repercussions they might sustain.
Denominational people of our day object to us because we teach “baptism for the remission of sins.”  They look at certain passages of Scripture (i.e., Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16 and 1 Peter 3:21) as “church of Christ doctrine.”  The same people will turn around and say the church of Christ was started by Alexander Campbell.  Here is the question– How could the church of Christ start with Alexander Campbell and these passages be “church of Christ doctrine” when they were in God’s word several hundred years before Mr. Campbell was born?  Who will be the first to answer?
The next question– If the church of Christ started in the 1800's how did the “churches of Christ” get into the Scriptures before the apostles died?  Who will answer?
Here is another question– “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26). When in the word of God were they called by the name of any of the Protestant denominations of today?
Another question– Since salvation is in the name of Christ, and “neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), denominational friend, why will you wear any other?  Why will you say, “There’s nothing in a name.”  Who will answer?
Ephesians 1:22,23 says, “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”  Now, here is the question for any member of a denomination– Since the church is the body of Christ and salvation is “in Christ” (2 Timothy 2:10) and Christ has only one body (Romans 12:5–27), how is it that one church is as good as another?  How is it that you can say, “It doesn’t matter about the church” when the church is the body of Christ?
If the church is the body of Christ and Christ is the head of the church, does Christ have many bodies?  Is the spiritual picture Christ and His many bodies a monstrosity?  Will you deal honestly with these questions and humbly yield to the authority of Jesus Christ in them all?  If you refuse, does that not reflect on your honesty?
To believe and obey the word of God (the gospel of Christ) is to identify with the divine body of Christ, which is the church.  As we have seen, “there is but one body!”  There are many religious organizations, many denominations, many sects but ONE CHURCH!  The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, is neither a polygamist nor a bigamist, and never will become one.  When God’s word speaks of “the church” as being “the bride of Christ” it means just that.  It doesn’t mean a bride.  Nor does it mean “many brides” as the denominational world would have you believe.  Question– How many brides does Christ have?  Or is Christ a polygamist?
When Christ said, “Upon this rock I will build MY CHURCH” (Matthew 16:18), He never said a word about building one for Paul and another church for John the Baptist, or one for “Saint Luke.”  Not one word was said about “Saint Boniface’s church.  Ephesians 5:25-27 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”  When Christ returns He will present to Himself a glorious church, without spot or blemish.  Question – Is Christ coming back for it or is He coming back for them?
When a person obeys the gospel of Christ, the Lord adds them to his church (Acts 2:36-47). Question– When a person obeys the gospel does the Lord add them to a denomination?  Who will be the first to answer?  Denominations are made up of people who “join them.”  People are said to “join this denomination or that denomination” but this cannot be found anywhere in the New Testament.
When a person obeys the gospel of Christ, he is now subject to Christ and no one else, nor does he himself have one word to say as to what he must do.  Christ is the head of the Church, he holds “all authority in heaven, and in earth” (Matthew 28:18).  He is our Lord; we are His subjects; and no subject ever talks back to his Lord in disagreement.  Moreover, we are no longer our own, we have been “bought with a price” and what a price!
Since this is true, when we become Christians we are wholly subject to Him– He speaks and every Christian obeys.  Looking at the religious groups you see a different picture.  Christ speaks and Denominations argue and defy Christ and the Father.  Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Question– If you belong to a religious group which calls on the name of the Lord but makes up its own rules and laws, will you get to heaven?  In the light of these Scriptures another question is– Does it make any difference what we believe or do, or is sincerity all that matters?  Here is another– Can a person belong to a denomination which makes its own rules and bylaws without denying the “all authority” which Christ claimed to have been given, God demanded us to listen to his Son, and the teaching of the Holy Spirit?
The teaching of the Scriptures demanded the unity of belief and practice of the church.  Jesus prayed that his disciples would “be one” in John 17:21,22.  1 Corinthians 1:10-13, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.  For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.  Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.  Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”  Question– In denominationalism is there any attempt to lay down the barriers which cause division?  Do all denominations speak the same things?  Are there divisions in the religious world?  Is this what the word of God teaches?
Are you comfortable giving truthful answers to these questions, or do you “plead the 5th?”