Songs and Hymns

What are some examples that will help illustrate the doctrinal differences between the Churches of Christ and evangelical Christianity?

I believe one of the best ways we can draw a contrast between the Church of Christ and evangelical Christianity is to compare lyrics of each one’s beloved songs and hymns.

For although both views enjoy most of the same great Christian songs and hymns, the Church of Christ may be surprised to learn that some of their songs would actually be considered heretical in evangelical Christianity.

Now I realize that’s quite an accusation to make.

And may I say that I do not make it in a careless, reckless, or cavalier manner.

However to demonstrate what I mean, let’s take a moment to look at a few of the songs that are easily recognized in the Church of Christ, and then consider why they would not be accepted in evangelical Christianity.

A Beautiful Life

Each day I’ll do a golden deed,
By helping those who are in need;
My life on earth is but a span,
And so I’ll do the best I can.

Chorus: Life’s evening sun is sinking low,
A few more days and I must go.
To meet the deeds that I have done.
Where there will be no setting sun.

To be a child of God each day,
My light must shine a-long the way;
I’ll sing His praise while ages roll
And strive to help some troubled soul.

The only life that will endure,
Is the one that’s kind and good and pure;
And so for God I’ll take my stand,
Each day I’ll lend a helping hand.

(Traditional/ Public Domain)

At first glance we may not see anything wrong with this song, for certainly both the Church of Christ and evangelical Christianity believes that God has called us to live holy lives that honor Him, and that each of us will be called to give an account of our lives.

However, there is a radical difference.

While continuing to live a good life is a necessary condition for salvation in the Church of Christ, evangelical Christianity believes that a good life is merely the fruit or result of a person's salvation.

In other words, when we place faith in Jesus Christ, He saves us and our works have nothing to do with it. Thus for the believer, since their sin has already been judged at the cross, the judgment they will experience has nothing to do with salvation but rather is about eternal rewards. (See 1 Cor. 3:10-15)

But here we can see Pelagian or works theology being taught in that, if we can just live a “good enough” life, we can have a home forever in heaven. Yet no where does it ever mention that salvation is by the grace and mercy of God, brought to us by Jesus Christ and received by faith.

I’ll Be List’ning

When the Savior calls I will answer,
When He calls for me I will hear,
When the Savior calls I will answer,
I’ll be somewhere list’ning for my name.

Chorus: I’ll be somewhere list’ning
I’ll be somewhere list’ning,
I’ll be somewhere list’ning for my name.
(Repeat )

If my heart is right when He calls me,
If my heart is right I will hear,
If my heart is right when He calls me,
I’ll be somewhere list’ning for my name.

If my robe is white when He calls me,
If my robe is white I will hear,
If my robe is white when He calls me,
I’ll be somewhere list’ning for my name.

(Traditional/ Public Domain)

May I say if you understand this to mean that salvation is dependent upon you and your good heart and your good works....Well, Good Luck with all that.

The Bible tells us that except by the blood of Jesus Christ, our hearts and robes are anything but white.

Scripture reveals that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and DESPERATELY WICKED; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) "there is NOT a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins" (Ecc. 7:20), that "there is NO ONE righteous...NO ONE who does good...ALL have turned away" (Rom. 3:10-12), that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), that "ALL OUR righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6), and that "if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves." (1 John 1:8)

Which again is why we are in such GREAT NEED of a Savior!

Hard Fightin’ Soldier

I am a hard fightin’ soldier on the battle field (Repeat 3 times)
Chorus: I keep on bringin’ souls to Jesus, by the service that I give.

You’ve got to walk right and talk right and sing right and pray right
on the battlefield. (Repeat 3 times)

Chorus: I keep on bringing souls to Jesus by the service that I give.

I got a helmet on my head and in my hand a sword and Shield (Repeat)
Chorus: I keep on bringin’ souls to Jesus, by the service that I give.

(Traditional/ Public Domain)

Earlier we mentioned that the reason we must “walk right and talk right and sing right and pray right“ according to the Churches of Christ is because of their performance view of justification.

If righteousness is available to us only through our own co-operation and obedience to the necessary moral and religious requirement of God, then we must be fully obedient in every way in order to attain to it. In fact as James 2:10 says, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."

However, the good news message of the gospel is that God has provided the very righteousness we need and is available to all and upon all who will place faith in Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 4:4-5, "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law," and that Jesus became FOR US "our righteousness, holiness and redemption." 1 Cor. 1:30.

One final note

As we draw this section to a close, I would like to say again that most of the classic songs and hymns embraced by evangelical Christianity are going to be found in Church of Christ hymnals.

Of course, someone may be inclined to ask that if the Churches of Christ actually teach “Pelagian” or "works-for-salvation" theology, why then would songs that teach the doctrine of justification by faith alone be accepted in their own hymnals?

And that’s a good question.

And as one who has grown up in the Church of Christ, the only answer that I can give is that the lessons these songs taught us were hidden from our eyes.

After all, when you stop to think about it, the term justification by faith alone never appears in any of the these well-known Christian songs and hymns:

Just As I Am
My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less
Nothing But The Blood
‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus

And yet, when we stop to consider the context and message of the lyrics, clearly the implications of this doctrine are being taught.