God Has an Ordinance in Everything, by M.H.
January 1, 2018
Dear Writers of the Amish Voice, growing up in the Amish, I was always taught that the only way to heaven was through Jesus Christ and being born of the Spirit; I was taught that the ordinances of the church were simply a helpful set of guidelines – not the way to heaven. It sounds like the writers of your magazine grew up in churches that are different and not familiar to me.
Look around yourself. God has an ordinance in everything from the sun, moon, and stars to the seasons; the list could go on and on.
I know that churches aren’t perfect and are far from it, but I see that as a reason to keep working, not a reason to leave. I believe our churches have God’s blessing, which is why the devil is working so hard to destroy them.
I am writing to ask that your writers of the Amish Voice examine their motives carefully and to make sure they are not using their writing to sooth their own consciences.
In closing, I will say this: I hope that through the grace of God and saving blood of Jesus, we can one day all meet in heaven.
Joe Keim responds: First and foremost, I celebrate the fact that you were taught, from a little boy up, that salvation is in Jesus Christ alone. You used the term being born of the Spirit, which Jesus clearly communicated to Nicodemus and to all generations since then.
Having been in ministry of evangelism for almost thirty years, I have had many opportunities to discuss scriptures with many groups of Amish people, scattered throughout thirty-one states in the US. There are those who, like yourself, say the gospel is clearly preached and explained in their setting – that is, by faith alone, grace alone, and in Christ alone. Again, I celebrate with you and all of heaven and earth.
Jesus preached: I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).
Peter preached: 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).
Paul preached: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9)
There is another group, however, a second setting of Amish churches, who do not preach, nor do they understand the same gospel you believe. In this setting, the church rules and traditions are always at the forefront. They use fear and control to keep their members in line. Yes, they do preach the name of Jesus and quote scripture about the new birth; however, they do not explain, nor do they understand the new birth. Therefore, individuals, in this setting have a warped and twisted understanding of the gospel. They believe the new birth is partly Jesus, partly baptism, partly membership in the Amish church, partly staying unspotted from the world, and partly following a detailed list of do’s and don’ts. It is this belief that says when individuals are lying in their coffins before their own people, in their original dress pattern, after having kept up with all their parts, that somehow, they are or will have become born of the Spirit. This is a false gospel! The apostle Paul had plenty to say about false gospel creeping into the church. To the Galatian church, he wrote: I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
The scriptures give us a clear example of how the gospel of Christ was being perverted in Act 15:1, and certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. That is the very same thing as saying, except you get baptized, you cannot be saved; except you become, live and die a member of the church, you cannot be saved; except you follow a lengthy list of man-made rules, you cannot be saved. The apostle Paul gives a very strong warning, concerning this idea of adding to or perverting the gospel: But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we [that is, the apostles] have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preaches any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9).
What is the gospel? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:1-3:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that (1) Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that (2) he was buried, and that (3) he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. (1 Cor 15:1-4).
That’s it! If you or I add anything to the gospel – death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ – we have just perverted the gospel.
Concerning structure in the church: I agree with you in saying that God is a God of structure. If He weren’t, the sun, moon and stars would have crashed into planet earth a long time ago. God gave us a clearly defined outline for the Head of the Church—Ephesians 1:22, 5:23, 25, 27; Church Offices—Acts 14:23, 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Relationship Between Offices—Acts 6, 1 Timothy 5:17; and Relationship Between Churches—Acts 24:17; Romans 15:26-27; 1 Corinthians 16:3; 2 Corinthians 8-9. I also agree that each local church must come up with common sense structure, but this is also where it gets tricky. When the church begins to enforce traditions and personal preferences on its members, it will soon water down and pervert the pure and simple gospel.
Putting pressure on church members to conform is legalism, and is the opposite of grace. The apostle Paul warns us of legalism: Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men (Colossians 2:20-22)? Legalistic people may appear to be righteous and spiritual, but legalism ultimately fails to accomplish God’s purposes because it is an outward performance instead of an inward change.
To avoid falling into the trap of legalism, we can start by holding fast to the words of the apostle John: For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand (Romans 14:4). But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10).
I welcome your honest and scriptural reply to my response.
— Joe Keimcomments powered by Disqus« Back to Articles