Why All of This Confusion?
by Kenneth E. Thomas
October 23, 2000
Many people wonder why things are as they are in the religious community? Isn't there only one God? One Saviour? One Bible? Isn't the Bible God's inspired word? If so, surely God was able to cause it to be written in understandable language. If not, there is a problem in believing in Him as He is revealed in the book of which He claims authorship (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 2:1-13; Galatians 1:8-9; Revelation 22:18-19; 2 Peter 1:3; 20-21).
Who Deserves the Blame?
Those who have written Creed Books in most cases were well meaning folks. They actually thought they were assisting would be followers of "The Christ" in being united. Some of them even claimed "divine guidance" as they wrote these diverse and contradictory documents, which, rather than objects which solve division, are actually the instruments which promote it! Why? Because they are at odds with plain Bible doctrines. Also, no two of them are identical. Besides all that, they contradict themselves as all uninspired documents invariably tend to do! Then too, many folks will argue and fall out with you if you reject what their "Creed Book" teaches, yet have little if any opposition to those things believed and taught which are at odds with the Bible itself. What do I mean by this?
Think of it; these preachers join such organizations as the "Ministerial Association" wherein each accepts the other as his spiritual equal (even though they aren't in total fellowship because of doctrinal differences as well as organizational structures etc.) thereby "bidding god-speed" to doctrines they know to be at odds with the word of the Lord Jesus (2 John 9-11; Galatians 1:6-11). The Bible says plainly that those who are true followers of Jesus Christ, should..."Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve NOT our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple("unlearned" ket)" (Romans 16:17-18).
Some of these fellows have the audacity to actually tell their people that the Bible cannot be understood alike, even though inspired men commanded us to "..speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you:.."(1 Corinthians 1:10). Then too, who is so ignorant of the New Testament as to be unaware of the plea of Christ to His heavenly Father and ours, as he neared the ordeal of the cruel cross, for the unity of His apostles and to all those who would believe on Him through their word? Jesus prayed "..That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me" (John 17:21). Read please (John 17:17-21). The word of Christ's apostles is the standard on which we are expected to unite (Galatians 1:6-11).
When a controversy arose over the keeping of that part of the Law of Moses that commanded circumcision, it was settled by an appeal to the apostle's teaching (Acts 15:24). They said that some were "subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we (the apostles ket) gave no such commandment." The early churches of Christ were to be united on the "apostles doctrine" (Acts 2:42). What was taught in one local church of Christ was that which was taught in them all (1 Corinthians 4:17; 7:17b; Romans 16:17-18; Titus 3:9-10). You really need to read each Scripture reference given since space will not permit writing all of them out in their entirety!
We're Admonished To Abide In The Teaching Of Christ
The very fact that we are commanded to "abide in the teaching (doctrine) of Christ" is suggestive of the fact that we may know what His doctrines are! One who doesn't abide in the doctrine of Christ it is said, "hath not God!" If to have God we must abide in the doctrine of Christ, it follows that we can recognize that doctrine. If not, God is a capricious, being without compassion for His creatures! That isn't the God revealed in Scripture. Any position taken which suggests that we cannot know the revealed will of God and therefore unite upon it, does damage to the very nature of God.
Still, we hear such statements constantly by those who claim to believe in the God of creation. Actually, they serve an "unknown God" just as surely as did the Athenians of Paul's day of whom we read in (Acts 17:23). I have a sermon I sometimes preach titled "The Jesus Who Never Was." Why would I so title a sermon you may ask? Because, as true of those above, many do not know the Jesus of the Bible. The one in whom they believe, never existed! "Their Jesus" condones the Creed makers and division causers who say such things as "doctrine is unimportant", and "Just join the church of your choice." Their "Jesus" is a wishy washy sissy with feminine characteristics, a beautiful face and who never opposed anybody or anything. Again, such isn't the nature of the Son of God. Folks need to read their Bibles more. Isaiah said he was not one whose appearance would make men desire Him (Isaiah 53:1). Too, the Biblical Jesus in the flesh was the Carpenter's son-who later would overturn the tables of the money changers in Jerusalem and run the animals out of the temple. He said of those folks that they had "made the house of God, a den of thieves" (John 2:13-17; Matthew 21:12-13). To the religious leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, He said "..Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" He then reminded them of what Moses had said in the law regarding providing for their parents, and how they had created a way "out" of this responsibility, or so they must have thought. But Jesus said, "Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:3, 7-9). One would do well to read verse 1-9 of the chapter given above. If you want to read a scathing rebuke that makes this one seem tame by comparison, read (Matthew 23:1-39). There Jesus accuses the leaders of the Jews of all kinds of sin and hypocrisy and foretells their house being left desolate.
In (John 8) He tells them they are in spiritual bondage and need to be made free by the truth. While claiming the proper lineage through Abraham, which Jesus admits, but informs them that they are not his "spiritual descendants" because of the way they were conducting themselves. He even said that they were "of" their "father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do" (John 8:44a). Take time to read the entire chapter for some strong preaching and the "hitting of the proverbial nail on the head." The next time you are tempted to say that someone who calls names and identifies error doesn't possess the "spirit of Christ", read the life and teachings of Jesus in the Gospel accounts (Matthew Mark Luke & John). If you will read them honestly, you will see that Jesus who loved like no one ever loved before, was a hard hitting preacher. His love for souls caused this approach. Men cannot change and accept the truth that saves until they see themselves as God sees them and turn to His way (John 15:6; Luke 6:46; Matthew 12:30).
Writers And Speakers In The N.T. Expected People To Understand Them
Having quoted Old Testament prophecies to his audience on the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter expected them to weigh the evidence of what he had preached in the light of what the prophets had said, and act in harmony with the will of God as spoken by him. I know he did, for when his sermon had the desired effect on some of the listeners so as to make them believers, and they asked of Peter and the other apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Peter simply told every one of them that they must "Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins..." (Acts 2:22-38). They knew exactly what he meant-for we are told that "with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:37-41).
Are the apostle Peter's words difficult to understand in regard to why a believer should "repent and be immersed?" You know they aren't! The same words are used by Jesus as he institutes the memorial supper that Christians are to partake of each Lord's day. He said as he took the cup on that final Passover, "For this is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). I ask you, did Jesus shed His blood "because we were already saved" or "in order to our salvation? If you answer in order to, you are correct! Then it follows without any chance of successful contradiction, that since we are to be baptized for the same reason He shed His blood, we aren't saved and then baptized. No, we are baptized in order to be saved! It should be plain to see that the same apostle who told believers to "repent and be baptized in order to the remission of sins, would later write in his first epistle, "...baptism doth also now save us..." (1 Peter 3:20-21). See how simple it is when one takes what the word of Christ says instead of some statement found in a denominational Creed? I have said many times that we aren't divided so much over what the Bible teaches that is difficult to understand; Rather, we are divided over teachings which cannot be found in the word of God, the Bible.
If We Understand The Bible At All, We Will Understand It Alike!
We may misunderstand the bible differently, but we simply cannot understand it differently! Why? Because God is never at odds with Himself. What His word says to you, it also says to me. Truth is always consistent with itself-it is never at odds with itself you see. As we have already said, "..God is not the author of confusion..." (1 Corinthians 14:33). If God contradicts Himself, He lies don't you see? And the book says of Him, "..God who cannot lie..." (Titus 1:2). In his epistles to Timothy, Paul reminded him of two things which are worthy of note in the light of one's ability to comprehend the word of God. (1). The faith of Timothy (which later led to his acceptance of Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies) had first dwelt in his mother Eunice, and his grandmother Lois (2 Timothy 1:5). (2). Paul reminded Timothy that "from a child you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:15). Building on the foundation laid by Timothy's mother and grandmother, Paul was able to lead young Timothy to believe and obey Christ. This is still one of the proper usages we should make of the Old Testament Scriptures. See (Acts 8:32-35).
It Isn't A Problem Of Understanding: It's Unwillingness To Accept!
As we continue to seek answers as to "Why All Of This Confusion" on the religious scene, let me suggest that the above caption in many cases is the reason! This reminds me of a quotation attributed to Mark Twain. He reportedly said "It isn't the things that I can't understand about the Bible that worry me! It is those things that I can understand." That should characterize more folks than it does. What is alarming is the fact that it is the Protestant and Catholic preachers and priests who actually have convinced folks that "we cannot understand the Bible, and certainly cannot ever agree on its teachings." Don't tell me they don't! I have heard them say as much, and I have the same in writing. The Roman Catholics consider the Bible a dangerous book. Most Protestant preachers will not say that they feel that way about it, but by their teachings and practices and the fact that they each have their own written Creed in addition to the Bible, suggests that they feel the same way. Protestant preachers minimize the need for exact doctrinal purity and compliance to only that which is authorized in the New Testament Scriptures. As we have already pointed out, they will join a ministerial association and accept as their spiritual equals, men who teach things which they KNOW aren't in harmony with what is clearly taught in the word of Christ. In so doing (even if they themselves were Christians) they are "bidding God-speed" to religious error in violation of (2 John 9-11; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Galatians 1:8-9) and other related clear and plain Scriptures.
We are aware that the Protestants aren't New Testament Christians just as is also true of the Catholics, for the former teach "salvation by faith alone," and the latter "baptize" babies and claim infant membership with later confirmation after taking the instructions necessary to be confirmed a full fledged member. After that they teach that one can "earn his salvation" by doing enough of what "the church" requires of them. Proof can be given if anyone challenges my statements. Imagine if you will, a disciple of John Calvin's doctrines (a Baptist or a Presbyterian) accepting as his "brother" a man who teaches that one is "born innocent and pure!" Take it another step. Let us look at the two Calvinist, both of whom teach that we are children of the devil at birth because of Adam and Eve's fall. The one says that only immersion is the proper "form" or as he may say "mode" of baptism. The Baptist Manual uses several pages to convince folks that only immersion is baptism, and that those who act differently borrowed it from Rome. The Presbyterian constitution under the heading of baptism says;
Neither of the two Calvinist nor the one who believes children are innocent (say a Methodist) believe that baptism has one thing to do with one becoming a Christian! To all three of them it is a way one shows that he has already been saved! Why in the name of common sense argue over the "mode" if it is a non-essential act to begin with? Talk about confusion! Is it any wonder that so few folks have any confidence in the Bible as the inerrant infallible word of Almighty God? Its a wonder there are as many who respect it as there are, with such confusion as is promoted by such organizations as the "World and National Council of Churches" and the various communities who have what they call a "Christian Ministerial Association" where the preachers all agree to disagree and still claim each as their faithful brother in Christ while their doctrines not only contradict one another, but many times the Bible itself! Are you beginning to see what I mean?
Can't you now see who is to blame for the confusion and division? It is so easy to just read and accept what the Bible says on every subject. About the "mode" and the design or purpose of water baptism; the Bible says clearly it is a burial and a resurrection and that it is "into Christ" and "for the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3-4; Acts 2:38). Read those clearly worded passages and see if you can reconcile them with what is taught by the Baptist, Presbyterian, or the Methodist. If you will and be totally honest, you will have to say that they have all missed it top, side, and bottom. So who is at fault for the confusion? Not the Bible! That leaves the denominational Creeds, Articles of Faith, Catechisms, etc. to blame.
Prominent Preachers Promote This Deplorable Division
While living in North Carolina a few years ago I read an artile in the Asheville Citizen Times which shows the above to be true. Mr. Billy Graham, who wears a title never worn by any apostle or evangelist in the Bible, "Rev."- which is condemned by Jesus Himself in such passages as (Matthew 23:5-12), claims that "I have found that there are excellent congregations in every Christian denomination or fellowship."
Friends, denominationalism is a product of human, not divine wisdom! Christ brought His church into existence and paid a great price for it, His shed blood (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25). He gave it distinctive characteristics which no denomination in existence possesses. He made it exactly as He wanted it to be. He gave it a body of doctrine known as the New Testament which contains "all truth" (John 16:12-13; 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). We have already noticed in this study that He forbids denominationalism by His very prayer recorded in (John 17:17-21), and asked the question of those of His day who wanted to claim Him as Lord while disregarding His teachings, saying, "And why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say" (Luke 6:46)? The apostle Paul wrote that "we should all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you.." (1 Corinthians 1:10). How in the world Mr. Graham could promote denominationalism with its many "faiths" "baptisms" "names" and "organizations" unknown to the New Testament, and at odds with its clear teachings is beyond me to comprehend!
Of course if Mr. Graham should begin to oppose those things taught in the various denominations which he knows very well aren't taught in the Scriptures, he would immediately lose their financial backing of the "Billy Graham Evangelistic Association." Mr. Graham doesn't dare to teach what he knows full well the Scriptures teach! I would not be in his shoes for "all of the tea in China!"
I say with deep conviction, that men who write and teach such things as Mr. Graham are indeed like those of whom the apostle Paul wrote, saying, they were "enemies of the cross of Christ" (Philippians 3:18)! The reason they are such is that Jesus paid such a price for His church, His people (Ephesians 5:22-25; 1 Peter 1:18-19), and it was planned by God from all eternity (Ephesians 3:8-11). Just as surely as the Scriptures teach that there is only "One Lord" for the whole human race, there is only "One Body" in which men are reconciled unto God by the gospel, which speaks of Christ's death for our sins (Ephesians 2:11-16 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 1:16-17 Ephesians 4:1-6). Men cannot be reconciled unto God in a human denomination. This is why Jesus said such plants not planted by the Lord "shall be rooted up" (Matthew 15:13). Oh, they will protest on that great judgement day that they have "done many wonderful works in the name of Christ" and therefore will expect acceptance into the everlasting kingdom, but the Lord will say "I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity (lawlessness ket)"(Matthew 7:21-23). Oh, my friends and brethren, this is serious business of which I write! Your soul and mine hang in the balance of whether or not we accept the authority of Jesus Christ over our lives.
You may "join" every Protestant church with which Mr. Graham is in fellowship by accepting his and their terms for fellowship which is "salvation by faith alone," and never have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ through gospel obedience (Romans 16:25-26; Romans 6:3-6; 16-18; 1 Peter 1:22-25)! When Jesus comes again He is coming "with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day" (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
Why not surrender your life to Jesus Christ and submit to His authority as your Lord and Saviour in gospel obedience as did those believing Jews on Pentecost who became the first converts to Christ? They repented and were immersed to have their sins forgiven. If you will do the same He will save you and add you to His church just as he did those first converts on Pentecost as is recorded in (Acts 2:22-47). If you happen to be among those whose spiritual life and activities are guided by the Creed of some human denomination, you need to come to Christ, obey the gospel and be a Christian. It is imperative.
"Getting It All Together"
The list below represents "getting it all together" as it regards the gospel plan of salvation. These actual cases of conversion as they transpired in the Acts of the apostles of Christ, are simply showing how the "Great Commission" of Christ was carried out by men guided by the Holy Spirit. Does your "conversion" match these? If not, yours wasn't conversion at all.
Cases of Conversion To Christ
Pentecost: (Acts 2:22-38, 41, 47; Colossians 1:13-14).
Samaritans & Simon: (Acts 8:12-13).
Ethiopian Eunuch: (Acts 8:26-39).
Saul of Tarsus: (Acts 9:1-6; 22:16; Romans 6:3-6).
Cornelius & Household: (Acts 10:1-2;11:14; 10:43,48).
Lydia: (Acts 16:14-15).
The Philippian Jailer: (Acts 16:30-33).
Please read (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45-49; John 3:3-5; Titus 3:3-5; Galatians 3:26-29; James 1:18-25; 2:14-26; 1 Peter 3:20-22; Ephesians 2:11-17; Acts 11:26; 1 Peter 4:16; Acts 26:28; 1 Corinthians 1:10-12; Acts 4:10-12).
When one reads the "Great Commission" passages and then carefully studies the cases of conversions to Christ, it is evident that they each followed a pattern which logically adds up to (1)Hearing. (2) Believing. (3) Repentance. (4) Confession of faith. (5) Immersion.
This immersion was into Christ, for the remission of alien sins, to have one's sins washed away, and to save one according to the following passages (Galatians 3:26-29; Romans 6:3-6; Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 2:13-16; Mark 16:15-16; 1 Peter 3:20-21).
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