by Jefferson David Tant
After reading the title, some might wonder what the battle of Jericho has to do with our salvation today. The battle when Israel conquered Jericho was about 1410 B.C., over 3,400 years ago. Thus the question might be, “What in the world would some event over three thousand years ago have to do with us?” Good question, and it has a good and valid answer.
Let’s first notice God’s instructions to Israel concerning the taking of Jericho.
“Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in. The LORD said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors. You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpet It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people will go up every man straight ahead" (Joshua 6:1-5).
We know that’s exactly what happened. Joshua, the priests, and the army marched around the walls of the city for seven days, and when the great noise was sounded, the wall around the city fell flat, and the city was conquered. Notice that Israel did not engage in warfare. There was no battle. It was a gift. God had said, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand.” That’s what we call “grace.” Israel did not battle to take the city. It was a gift. And, in the thinking of some, that’s the end of the story for some today who claim that our salvation is by grace alone.
Notice the words in The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches by Edward T. Hiscox.
“IV THE WAY OF SALVATION. We believe the Scriptures teach that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace, through the mediatorial offices of the Son of God” [Page 48].
And there are other denominations that have this same thinking, that we are saved “wholly of grace.”
That expression “wholly of grace” excludes any other element concerning our salvation. For example, if I were to tell my wife “I am wholly dependent on your cooking skills,” that would mean that I probably couldn’t even make toast without burning it. Therefore, I would not be able to survive without her ability to prepare meals.
Then we come to the matter of faith. What if the Israelites thought, “Wow! God said he was going to give us the city. So let’s sit here and watch the walls fall down.” That would have been an expression of their “faith,” which would be described as “salvation by faith only.” This is a very popular doctrine among many denominations.
In my copy of the Discipline of the Methodist Church,
“IX. Of the Justification of Men. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort” [page 70].
Turning again to the Baptist Manual, we find that it contradicts itself, for it states in
“V. JUSTIFICATION – that justification includes the pardon of sin, and the gift of eternal life on principles of righteousness; that it is bestowed, not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done, but solely through faith in Christ…” [Page 49].
Did you catch that phrase “solely through faith in Christ?” That means there is no other action in our salvation. It is “faith alone.” When my parents died, I was their “sole” heir. I was an only child, and thus there was none other to carry on the family name or to receive the inheritance.
Then the Presbyterian Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes it this way:
“Question 33, What is justification? Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins and accepted us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone. [or sola fide!]”
Once again we see salvation “by faith alone.” We could go on for many pages citing similar denominational creeds that contain the same thoughts.
So, what’s the lesson we can take from the battle of Jericho? When we put the story of Jericho all together, we see three elements in Israel’s success.
Obviously, God’s grace was involved, as he told Israel, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand.” Israel didn’t fight the battle. God gave it to them.
Another element in Israel’s victory was their faith. While God’s plan for taking the city may have seemed to make no sense from a military standpoint, they believed what God said when he said he would give them the city.
The third component in their victory was obedience. What do you suppose would have happened if the Israelite army thought, “Wow! God is going to give us the city. Let’s just sit here and watch the walls fall down.” I suppose archaeologists digging around the ruins outside the city walls would find many skeletons of those who waited, waited, and waited for the walls to fall flat. I have been to the site of the old city, and do not remember seeing graves all over the place.
We can summarize this when we see a verse in God’s Word in Hebrews 11:30: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.” God inspired the writing of the book of Hebrews for our learning, that we might become the recipients of His grace, which comes through our faith and obedience.
The thousands and thousands of manuals, creeds, catechisms, and doctrines of men all contradict the Bible. The early Christians had only the Scriptures inspired by God for some hundreds of years. Then men began to write creeds and doctrines that differed from the Bible. They all teach doctrines that contradict the Bible and each other. Is this pleasing to God? Is this what he wants? If the church doctrines all say the same thing as the Bible, why do we need them?
Note Christ’s prayer in John 17:20-21:
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
Is Christ possibly a Mormon and the Father a Presbyterian? Obviously not. Therefore the 42,000 denominations we have today with all their differing doctrines are not pleasing to God. If the writings of the inspired New Testament writers were good enough for the early church, why isn’t it good enough for us today? If one would examine all the denominational doctrinal books, something would be quite obvious. They differ from the Bible by adding to, taking from, or changing. And God has a definite warning about that.
“I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).
When Christ was on the earth, The laws of the Old Testament for the Jews were still in force, and Christ had a very strong message concerning its teachings.
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).
Would Christ say anything less about respecting the New Testament, the book for Christians? Obviously not, for we read the closing words in the book of Revelation.
Note what Christ said about the religious leaders of his day, the Pharisees.
“You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men'" (Matthew 15:7-9).
Consider this question: What are:
- “The Methodist Discipline,”
- the Catholic “Catechism,”
- the Presbyterian “Confession of Faith,”
- “The Book of Mormon,”
- “The Baptist Manual,”
- the Christian Scientist’s “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,”
- the Jehovah’s Witnesses “The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life”…”
They are church creeds and doctrines. Well, I could go on for 100 pages, but you get the point. All these church doctrines not only contradict each other, but more importantly, they contradict the most important document ever written — the Bible, God’s Holy Word. And Christ said that those who follow the doctrines of men worship him in vain.
There are churches that seek to follow only God’s word, without additions, subtractions, or changes. The Bible is our only creed book. We are known as “churches of Christ.” We take our name from Romans 16:16, as the apostle Paul is closing his letter by sending greetings: “All the churches of Christ greet you.” There are other Biblical names in the New Testament, but some denominations have taken those names whose doctrines don’t follow the Bible, so in order to avoid confusion, we generally are known all over the world by the words Paul used in Romans.
But let me give you a word of caution. Just because the sign might say “Church of Christ,” may not mean that church really follows the Bible. We do not have a copyright on the name, so we encourage those who are seeking a truly Bible-based church to check out the teaching and practice to see if the church really follows the Word of God.