Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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The Seed Principle

ImageThere is a simple, natural principle that has been used numerous times by the Holy Spirit to illustrate truth. We may call it the seed principle, and it was used (for example) by Paul when he wrote to the Galatians, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:7-8). You reap what you sow — a sublime idea that has awesome implications regarding spiritual truths.

The idea holds with regard to amount, kind and the nature of the soil upon which the seed is sown. For example, Paul used the principle in exhorting the Corinthians to liberality in their giving. “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). Jesus, in His parable of the sower, indicated the importance of planting the seed (the word) upon good soil (the honest heart), referring to the honest man as one “who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23). The seed principle even can be used to show God’s glory in the redemption of man. Paul deflected any personal glory in his work in preaching, saying to the Corinthians, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 6:7-8). All of these points can be illustrated equally by this simple, agronomic analogy.

Consider this application with regard to the Lord’s church. There exists today a multitude of denominations, each claiming to be a part of the church established by the Lord over 2000 years ago. The attitude expressed by leaders in the Catholic church toward these denominations has varied from disdain to paternal resignation over the last several centuries. Why? Because Catholics believe that because the Catholic church predates these denominations it is the “true” church. They “broke off” from us! Why be part of a “copy” when you can be part of the “original.”

However, this belief is at odds with the “seed” principle. At some point in time (whether gradually or abruptly) a different seed began to be planted, resulting in something other than the Lord’s church. This is easily seen in a simple comparison between the church as it is revealed to be in the New Testament, and the Catholic church as it exists in the present. Consider the following innovations of men, and their approximate dates of introduction:

  • The use of “holy water” (120 A.D.)
  • Infant baptism, (post 3rd century)
  • The first human (Nicean) creed, (325 A.D.)
  • Latin Mass, (394 A.D.)
  • The doctrine of Purgatory, (593 A.D.)
  • The use of instruments of music in worship, (666 A.D., not general approved until centuries later)
  • The doctrine of celibacy in the clergy (1015 A.D.)
  • Auricular confession, (1215 A.D.)
  • Sprinkling for baptism (formally legalized in 1311 A.D., although practiced from time to time for hundreds of years previous).

Some may question some of the dates cited, but all accept that these innovations were not practiced by Christians during the time in which the New Testament was written, and are not authorized in its pages. Consider the admonition of Jesus in this context, when he quoted Isaiah to the Jewish leaders, “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).

The denominations are no better off when contemplating the seed principle. The fact that there are so many different doctrines, names, patterns of organization, and practices show that different seeds have been planted. Put simply, you don’t plant God’s word (the seed) and get a Baptist or a Methodist — you get (purely) a Christian. To extend the metaphor, the seed (God’s word), when planted, results not in a denomination, but a congregation of God’s people — a church of the Lord.

This is why self-examination is a must. Am I individually and are we collectively, the product of the pure seed that is the word of God? “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:5). The religious world in general completely disregards the idea of conforming oneself to the New Testament directives. That’s why the Catholic church and various protestant denominations do not resemble the church as it existed in the New Testament. And, it is why we oppose them. The are not derived from the true seed, and do not belong to the Lord!