William J. Stewart
As we look about, we see a great number of religious groups claiming to be “Christian”. Upon examination of this hoard of ‘Bible-believing’ assemblies, we find very few agree on very little. It is almost as though there are as many different doctrines preached as there are pulpits to preach from. Let me speak bluntly — there is a great problem in today’s religious world. Each group claims to serve the Lord in “…spirit and truth…”, yet none are able to agree on matters of doctrine. The central problem of this division is a lack of bible authority. The apostle Paul pleaded with the brethren in Corinth that they “…all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10). We must endeavour to find this type of unity, but realize, it can only be found by understanding our authority in religious matters.
There are various things being used by groups to establish what practices should be performed in and by the church. Many creed books and doctrines of men exist. Councils are established to vote on issues regarding the church. Feelings and emotions are employed to determine what men ought to do in the church. Some have been designated special authority, such as the Pope, Society presidents, councils, etc.. The Bible seems to have taken a back seat to the desires and doctrines of men.
Paul wrote to young Timothy, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Paul made no mention of the need for humanly devised councils, creed books, catechisms, manuals, etc, etc.. He found the word of God to be sufficient for the needs of the church. God has given us all we need to know on how to properly serve Him — all found in His inspired word.
- For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)
- You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)
- And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:17)
The Bible clearly states God’s displeasure with those who heed doctrines other than that which is found in is word. Jesus warned His disciples, “…beware of the leaven of the Pharisees…” (Matthew 16:6) Jesus recognized the false teachings of the Pharisees, and wanted His disciples to avoid such things. Again, He applied a prophecy of Isaiah to them, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9) God finds no pleasure in those who nullify His word with man’s creeds and doctrines.
Paul, having concern for the Galatian brethren, for they departed from sound doctrine wrote, “…even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8) Paul indicated that even he, an apostle of Christ could not change one command found within the law of Christ. How dare we attempt to teach anything that is not found therein.
Paul wrote to Timothy warning him that some would depart from sound doctrine. He bluntly declared,
“Preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4).
If I were to tell one person my height was 5′ 11″, and then told another I was 6′ 1″, I would be pointed out as a liar. Yet, in the religious world today, we have groups saying that God tells them what to preach and practice, many of these things contradicting what others say God has told them to preach and practice. What are these various denominations saying of God when they claim, “His word means one thing to us, and something else to you.” If a man tells two different stories, he is considered a liar. Is God a liar? By no means! Paul exclaimed, “…Let God be true, but every man a liar…” (Romans 3:4) If there are conflicting doctrines, one of two things has happened. Either there is a misunderstanding of Scripture (in which case one must be taught the way of truth more perfectly – Acts 18:26), or as is so often, there has been a complete neglect of the council of God (in which case one must repent of such ignorance/arrogance and submit to God’s authority). Let us never place doctrinal difference in God’s lap — such things are man’s fault.
Let us further consider a truth. We all understand that 2 + 2 = 4. We know that it is not 4.0001. Anyone who tried to tell us that it was anything but 4, we would consider to be in error. The principle — truth is an absolute. In mathematics, we are able to properly apply this law. Yet, when it comes to the word of God, people set this concept aside. Jesus said, “Thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) How many truths can there be? Truth is not something which changes meaning from person to person or from group to group. Truth is absolute, consistent, and does not contradict itself. God’s word is truth!!!
Can we understand the Bible alike? Certainly we can. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “…therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17) We can and we must understand the will of the Lord. This is done by setting aside preconceived doctrinal prejudices, and simply accepting God’s word for what it says. God will judge us, not our preacher, nor some church council, nor the Pope — God will be our judge. Paul wrote again to the Ephesians, “…there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6) Let us find the one body (the church), which belongs to the one Lord (Jesus Christ), as guided by the one faith (the word of God).