“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). Love is seen in the way we react to each other as we meet and then as we later leave. The love of the father for the prodigal son was visibly seen as he rushed toward him. What did the father do to the barefooted son in ragged clothes who had been among the swine? He embraced him and kissed him. Contrast this with how the older brother reacted.
When Paul spoke of greeting one another with a holy kiss, he was not instituting a new form of greeting. Some focus only on the kiss, while Paul’s emphasis was on the nature of the kiss. The kiss of Judas in Gethsemane was far removed from being holy—it was hypocritical.
Kissing is only one way to greet. It varies in different cultures. Some reverently bow toward the other person with folded hands. In other places, there is kissing on the cheeks—either one or both. Then, there are those where greetings are shown by rubbing one’s nose against another’s. How each of these is done can show respect, honor or love. Paul’s emphasis was not on the kiss, but its genuine sincerity.
It is interesting to note how often the Bible talks about what happened after the kiss. Joseph revealed himself to his brethren. The text says he embraced Benjamin, kissed all his brothers and “…after that his brethren talked with him” (Gen. 45:15). The kiss was just the beginning. It was what followed that really showed his heart. Think again of the kiss of Judas and what followed.
In Acts 21, Paul arrived in Jerusalem and greeted the elders. What happened next? “He declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.” The emphasis is not on the greeting but what followed. Paul greeted in writings. He greeted 24 people in just 13 verses in Romans 16. Culture often determines the nature of the greeting. The heart determines how sincere it is.
We see genuine brotherly love so often. Think of what spontaneously happens after one is baptized and is welcomed into the kingdom. You see it again when one is restored. It is seen in the compassion at funerals.
Recently, we have experienced new ways of greeting. In view of the contagious virus, there are still shaking hands or embracing others. Far more will bump fists—where did that come from? Some teens bump toes as they greet. Who would have ever thought Americans would ever greet by bumping elbows! Remember there are holy kisses, holy hugs, holy fists, and holy elbows. It is what follows the greetings that matters!
If you are talking about man-made churches, the answer is yes. But, if you compare Christ’s church to the churches of man, the answer is no. We often hear the phrase, “Join the church of your choice.” Even though this sounds good it is NOT in harmony with the Word of God! One church is not as good as another. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Lord spoke in the singular when he said, “I will build my CHURCH.” He did not promise to build many “churches” so that we might choose the one of our choice, instead he promised to build “my church.” The apostle Paul wrote, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). What is the “ONE BODY” that Paul refers to? In Colossians 1:18 Paul writes, “And he is the head of the body, the church:...” We read in Ephesians 1:22,23, “And he put all things 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.” According to both of these passages the church and the body are one and the same! To talk of “the church of one’s choice” is no different than saying, “Accept the Lord of your choice” or “the God of your choice.” The same passage that says that there is “one Lord” and “one God” says that there is “one body (church)” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
In 1 Corinthians 12:13, 20 we read, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (20) But now are they many members, yet but one body.” In Romans 12:4,5 we again read that there is but ONE body (church). Paul wrote, “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”
Other designations in the Bible suggest the oneness of the church. For example, Romans 7:4 and 2 Corinthians 11:2 teach that the church is the BRIDE of Christ. How many brides does Christ have? If Christ has many churches (brides) then he is guilty of polygamy (which the Bible condemns). In 1 Timothy 1:15 the church is spoken of as the (family) house of God. How many families does God have?
The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ has only ONE church! In Acts 2:47 we read, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” No where in the Bible do we read of anyone being told to “join the church of his choice!” In the New Testament we only read of ONE church and the only way to become a member of it was to obey the gospel. In Acts 2 on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter told his Jewish audience, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (2:38). Verse 41 says, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
Are you a member of a man-made church or “Christ’s church?”
Having confidence in salvation can be good – or bad. Paul, in a final inspired statement, declared: “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Just how sure are you that you are in the right way, on the way to heaven? Could you say what Paul said? Is it possible for anyone to “know” they are saved? Or must we live always in doubt, never able to have the assurance of the forgiveness of God? Men in history have declared their doubts, their fears on this subject. Criminal attorney Clarence Darrow wrote: “Life is like a ship on the sea, tossed by every wave and every wind; a ship headed for no port, having no harbor, with no rudder, no compass, no pilot, simply floating for a time, then lost in the waves.” What a sad perspective, with no hope. Bertrand Russell, a renowned skeptic, had a similar view: “The life of man is a long march in the night, surrounded by invisible foes, tortured by weariness and pain, toward a goal that few can hope to reach, and where none may tarry long.” Where do you fit into this issue? Are you with Paul—or with Darrow and Russell? What assurance do you have? And, is that assurance based on the Bible, God’s Word? Or is it just a “feeling?” Some have a false assurance; but claiming assurance is not the same as having real assurance. The same Apostle Paul quoted previously later told King Agrippa he had been mistaken: “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9). Paul just “knew” that killing Christians was pleasing to God. But he was dead wrong, and he made it right by becoming Jesus’ disciple.
Perhaps some of us are full of false confidence, having convinced ourselves that we are ready to meet the Lord. Jeremiah the prophet told Judah: “The way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). By God’s inspiration, Solomon wrote: “There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25).
We have all been “certain” of some things, only to find later that we were mistaken. We cannot afford to be mistaken about our eternal destiny! We cannot know we will stay true to God, nor can we know how we will deal with future temptations. However, we can take God’s Word — the Bible — and compare our life, our “conversion” with what God has commanded therein. There we will discover how we stand in our relationship with God. John wrote: “Hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that says, I know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him” (1 John 2:3-5).
Compare your life with the Bible’s instructions, lest you have a false assurance. See if your “conversion” is in harmony with New Testament conversions in the book of Acts. Don’t depend on feelings and emotion. How did Paul gain such assurance? Paul was assured of his eternal destiny at the end of his life because he had finished his course. He had “kept the faith.” There had been many trials, many temptations to go back to his old way of life. Instead, he “fought a good fight,” beating back each of Satan’s assaults. He ran the entire race. He resisted Satan, and he won the victory. You and I can do the same, but we must let God’s Word be the judge, not our own feelings.
Isn’t it about time man learned what God’s Word says about becoming a Christian? A “crown of life” awaits those who seek the truth and obey it, John 8:32, 17:17. Will you seek that way of truth? Will you live by it? That is the only way we can have God’s “Blessed Assurance.”