Being Religious Isn't Enough; One Must Be Religiously Correct>!
by Kenneth E. Thomas
(John 8:31-32; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Romans 10:1-4; Acts 23:1; 1 Timothy 1:15; Galatians 1:13-14; Acts 22:19-22).
The passages above taken in order read thus:
"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If you continue in My Word, then are you My disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
"And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all may be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who would have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."
Paul, a very religious Jew said of himself; "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." So religious and zealous was this great man that he "persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the tradition of my fathers." All this devotion and zeal, and Saul was dead wrong!
Paul details how zealous and active he was in the Jews' religion in great detail after his conversion. He was exceeding mad against Christians thinking they were following a false Messiah and should be eradicated. Jesus spoke of "vain worship" when men set aside God's will for the traditions of men (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13).
The gospel truth is often hidden from the minds of men due to the "god of this world," Satan, having blinded their minds lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God should shine unto them" (2 Corinthians 4:1-3). We cannot overemphasize the need for each of us to maintain a "love of the truth, a proper and healthy humble attitude toward God and His word, lest we be deceived. Jesus repeatedly warned His disciples against false teachers as did other inspired New Testament writers (Matthew 7:15; 1 John 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1-2).
Satan has "his ministers" whose job it is to deceive all whom they are able. Paul wrote of this in (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). If Satan transforms himself into an "angel of light" Paul warned, "it is no wonder that his ministers transform themselves as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." Jesus warned "..if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the pit" (Matthew 15:14). While we're thinking along this line, remember that Paul admonishes that we should not "think of men above that which is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6). Too many times, if we aren't careful, we will do exactly that; Take men's word even when it is in opposition to what the Lord's revealed will is. This can be fatal to one's immortal soul!
Recently a local Baptist so called "Pastor," on his weekly ( it should be called weakly) radio program, was heard by two members here at Westside to minimize the importance of doctrine as it related to pleasing the Lord Jesus. It isn't any wonder that the rank and file of Protestant and Catholic denominationalist have little or no respect for the word of Christ as written in the Bible! That is how they are often led by their preachers and priests to feel.
Could it be that many of them know that if folks began to investigate what they are teaching and practicing in the light of the New Testament Scriptures, as Paul commended the Noble Bereans for doing, that they would soon learn that their "Pastors and Priests" aren't "telling it like it is written?" I think that just may be so in some cases at least. We are admonished by Paul "Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17). He had already told them earlier in this book , "..when you read you may understand..." (Ephesians 3:4).
Why not be like the "noble Bereans" (Acts 17:11)? They listened to what Paul said, and "searched the Scriptures daily whether those things were so."
Over the years I have stated often, "If I can only find a person who has an 'honest and good heart', who is desirous of knowing what the will of the Lord is, I can convert them to Christ in a relatively short period of time." Cases of conversion to Christ in Biblical times, some records of which we have preserved in the Acts of the Apostles of Christ, are relatively simple and each follow the "Great Commission" of Christ as found in (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45-49). Each case, even though not every step is specified, followed these five steps "into Christ" and "into" His blood bought church. They were taught the gospel, for "faith comes by hearing..." (Romans 10:9-17; John 6:44-45; Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19). This teaching produced the faith without which one cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6; John 8:21-14; Acts 15:7). Believers were commanded to "repent" or perish (Acts 17:30-31; Luke 13:3; 2 Peter 3:9; Acts 2:38). They had to "confess Jesus" with the mouth (Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:10; Acts 8:37). This was not so much some formal confession "taken before the church," as it was a way for the teacher to know the one taught believed on Christ. See (Acts 8:26-37, 38-39). Then having Heard, & Believed on Christ, Repented of sin and error, they confessed with the mouth Jesus as Lord. Then in the final act of the "New Birth" which changed their state or relationship from a child of the devil to a child of God, they were baptized or immersed "into Christ:" It was by this same act that a transition, "into the church or kingdom of Christ" was accomplished (Acts 2:38; Acts 8:38; Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3-6; Galatians 3:26-29; Acts 22:16; Colossians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 3:20-21; Titus 3:3-5; John 3:3-5; Hebrews 10:22; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 24:47).
Having now been "born again" and becoming a citizen of Christ's kingdom, a member of His blood bought church, one must "grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). One will learn that as a Christian he has not only individual responsibilities in serving the Lord, but there are some things he is to do with a collective of Christians. Reading the Scriptures, one learns that the only working entity for collective functions is known as the local congregation. Each of these is a separate and independent entity overseen by mature Christians appointed from among the members with the leadership of an evangelist, known variously as "elders" "Bishops" or "Pastors." See (Philippians 1:1-2; Acts 14:23; Hebrews 13:7, 17; 1 Peter 5:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:11-21; Acts 6:1-6). So, God's arrangement for collective "church work" is the local congregation. Elders in "every church" as well as the statement "feed the flock among you" etc. indicate that each is autonomous or self ruled under Christ who is head of His church both in heaven and on earth (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22-23; Hebrews 12:22-28; Matthew 28:18).
The qualifications for "Pastors" (and each congregation had two or more), are found in (1 Timothy chapter three and Titus chapter one). A preacher, minister, or evangelist, cannot be a "Pastor" unless he, along with at least one other has the Biblical qualifications found in the two chapters just listed. The one man so called "Pastor System" of Protestantism is a creation of uninspired men and is a departure from the ancient faith "once delivered" (Jude 3; 2 John 9-11).
Both Catholicism and Protestantism are products of uninspired human history and are not associated with New Testament "Christianity" or the church identified on its pages. They are "plants not planted by the heavenly Father", destined to destruction (Matthew 15:13; Psalms 27:1).
No Christian can be faithful to Christ who refuses to become a "team worker" in a local congregation, following the New Testament pattern of organization, worship, and work. Paul was always careful to "join himself" to the local group of disciples when he went from one location to another (Acts 9:19-26). In learning how to "abide in the doctrine of Christ," it becomes absolutely necessary to study and "rightly divide" the word of God (Christ) (2 Timothy 2:15). Unless proper respect is paid to acting by Christ's authority (Colossians 3:17), we will depart the faith (2 Timothy 4:1-8). Local congregations in Asia were warned of the impending danger of having their "candlestick removed" by Christ unless they corrected their doctrinal impurities. The figure of a "candlestick or lamp stand" was said to be their identity as belonging to Christ (Revelation 2:1-5). See (Revelation 1:20).
We have briefly given the organization of a local church identified as belonging to Christ. When fully and scripturally organized, there were "elders , deacons, and saints (Philippians 1:1-2). They were centers of edification. Elders were to oversee these periods of study and worship so this would be accomplished, or at least see that a proper diet of spiritual food was being served and that they maintained respect for the Lord's will as they engaged in these prescribed activities (Acts 20:17-28, 32: Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:11-21). Deacons in the local church took care of the more mundane though important functions such as "setting tables," leaving the elders free to take care of the spiritual matters among the Lord's people. This can be shown from the actions of the Jerusalem church in (Acts 6:1-4). The apostles would not leave the more important work of preaching and teaching to set tables or do the benevolent necessities among them. Mere men cannot improve on Christ's arrangement. We shall (God willing) study next about how doctrinal purity relates to all of the functions of the collective if Christ is to be served acceptably. False teachers were to be named or identified and their doctrines were to be opposed. This was primarily the function of elders and of course preachers are charged along this line as well. Sometimes preachers have to "rebuke elders before them all" that others may fear (1 Timothy 5:17-20). In his letters to Timothy, Paul mentioned the names of some men of whom Timothy should be aware. He calls their names and identifies what they are teaching so Timothy and the brethren could be aware of their error.
"This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme" (1 Timothy 2:18-20).
In his second epistle to Timothy, after admonishing him to "study to show himself approved unto God..." (2 Timothy 2:15), he admonished him in the following language. "But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker (cancer ket): of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some" (2 Timothy 2:15-18). It will be immediately obvious to one who reads and studies the Bible that doctrine is extremely important!
BOTH PROFOUND AND SIMPLE
God's arrangement in organization, worship, and work of His people, the church, is at once the epitome of simplicity and profundity. By this I simply mean that its "profundity" is seen in its "simplicity." Men have tried in vain to improve on God's simple plan in each of these areas of "organization, worship, and work or function," only to meet total failure! Denominationalism both Protestant and Roman Catholic are cases in point as are such organizations begun by our brethren over the years, such as the U.C.M.S., Sponsoring Elderships, World Radio, World Bible Class, Herald of Truth radio and TV, One Nation Under God- along with the "social gospel" involving so called "fellowship Halls," "ball teams," "family life centers," etc., etc., etc., ad-infinitum! Even if such things "worked," they render those who begin them "without the Father and the Son" for they are all without one iota of scriptural precedent or authority (2 John 9-11; Romans 16:16-18; Colossians 3:17).
All inventions of uninspired men who attempt to "help God" get things done with a "flair" using large ostentatious programs and organizations all "peter out" and that usually in a relatively short period of time. You simply cannot improve on God's organization nor can "methods" be created for reaching the lost which fail to take authority into account. As John Iverson, a gospel preacher friend of mine used to say as he opposed the "social gospel" concept of attempting to bring men and women to Christ with hamburgers and coke etc., "Brethren, if you get them in with hamburgers you will have to give them steak to keep them." How true! Folks who "come to Christ" for the "fishes and loaves" were drawn with the wrong bait. The gospel is not only God's "saving power" (Romans 1:16-17), it is God's "drawing power" (2 Thessalonians 2:12-13; John 6:44-45). In addition, it is God's "keeping power." (1 Peter 1:3-5). Anything in addition to, or substituted in its place is destined to failure even in this life, and especially in eternity! You can read of some who will never have known the Lord, who were very religious and active, but not by His authority, who will be told "..I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity (Gr. ANOMIA lawlessness ; Matthew 7:13-23). Paul wrote to Timothy- "And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully" (2 Timothy 2:5 ASV).
I doubt that we could overemphasize the need for religious authority for that which we believe, and in which we engage ourselves. We cannot emphasize the proper doing aside from the proper motive behind it all of course, but hopefully you understand that to be understood by this writer/speaker (1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Galatians 5:6; John 14:15, 21, 23). "Faith working by love" Paul wrote to the Galatians. Love for the Lord must be the motivation behind whatever we do or it becomes useless. This is the "first and greatest commandment" said Jesus when they tried to catch him in some doctrinal inconsistency (Matthew 22:37,38). Love for one's neighbor was the second. Love for one's neighbor was to be like unto that of one's self (Matthew 22:39). This indicates there is to be a proper love (respect) for one's own self. Paul likewise wrote of this in the Ephesian letter (Ephesians 5:28-29).
Look with me at a listing of some pertinent passages of holy writ before we take up another segment of our study, please! Each of these show the need for Scriptural authority behind every belief and practice (Colossians 3:17).
"Let us walk by the same rule.." Philippians 3:16 "That you all speak the same thing.." 1 Corinthians 1:10-12 "..Speak as the oracles of God.." 1 Peter 4:11 "Preach another gospel accursed.." Galatians 1:6-11 "Don't think of men above that written.." 1Corinthians 4:6 "Reject the heretic after 2 admonitions.." Titus 3:10 "Mark those who cause divisions.." Romans 16:17-18 "False teachers mouths...stopped.." Titus 1:10-13 "Reprove, rebuke, exhort..." 2 Timothy 4:1-5 "Hold fast the form of sound words.." 2 Timothy 1:13 "To those who teach otherwise, proud..." 1 Timothy 6:3-6 "Charge some teach no other doctrine." 1 Timothy 1:3 "Endeavor..keep unity of..Spirit.." Ephesians 4:1-6 "Prove all things hold fast what's good..." 1 Thessalonians 5:21 "Beware of false prophets (teachers).." Matthew 7:15 "Try (prove) the spirits (teachers).." 1 John 4:1-2 "There were and will be false teachers.." 2 Peter 2:1-3 "Abide not in Doctrine of Christ have not God" 2 John 9-11 "Teach others what you have been taught" 2 Timothy 2:1-2
When what men believe, teach, and or practice, disagrees with God's revealed will, Paul wrote, "..Yea, let God be true but every man a liar.." (Romans 3:4).
One must not allow one's love for even one's closest relatives, friends, or even one's mate to cause one to disregard what Christ's word teaches, or to fail to submit and obey Him (Lk. 14:25-34). This hard passage when viewed in connection with a parallel passage on this subject is easier to understand, See (Matthew 10:34-35). It means simply to love everyone and everything less than we do our Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly we are commanded to "honor your father and your mother" in both Old and New Testaments (Matthew 15:4; Eph. 6:1-2). This not only means to respect them, it means when necessary to assist or provide for their needs. One must use what someone has called "sanctified common sense" as one studies and applies the word of Christ. Other such passages over which some stumble and cause to lead them into absurdities and contradictions, are such passages as suggest the "plucking out the offending eye or cutting off the offending hand to prevent having the whole body thrown into eternal torment" (Matthew 5:29-30). Such passages use what is called hyperbole, pronounced hy-per-ba-lee. It is an exaggeration for emphasis sake showing how important the soul's salvation really is. Likewise when Jesus said "Labor not for meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures to everlasting life" (John 6:27); He is showing how to set one's priorities, putting the spiritual ahead of the physical. See (Matthew 6:19-33).
We are told that we should not "think of men above that which is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6). Often folks will determine their beliefs and practices in religion on no more than what some man in whom they place great confidence has said or taught them about some matter. This is frustrating to say the least when you use a Biblical argument to show Christ's truth and one opts to continue believing what he has been told by some man/woman which is at odds with what the Lord's will is in the matter! Besides, it renders the belief and or practice of that person useless insofar as pleasing the Lord is concerned. Jesus said, "if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the pit (ditch) (Matthew 15:14). We have repeatedly pointed out what Jesus said in John 8:32, and what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:22-25 as well as Paul's statement of 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, as these passages relate to the need for believing as well as obeying the truth of Christ to be pleasing to Him. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is sufficient in religious matters. When folks learn this great lesson it will not be so difficult to teach what "the book" actually says. It isn't that difficult to understand in reality! We are commanded to understand and obey the truth of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:4; 1 John 1:6-7; 2 John 9-11; Jude 3). It would not be difficult to multiply passages saying the same but these are enough.
Kenneth E. Thomas
1519 West Shore Dr.
Pekin, Il 61554 1 (309) 347-5645
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