We are spoilt for choices. Advances in technology have ironically made our lives more complicated. Technology makes things more convenient, but not simpler. Now we are bombarded with choices across almost every spectrum of our lives—ranging from education, recreation, lifestyle, fashion, entertainment…and the list goes on.
We are also awash with choices of religion. There is almost countless number of religions to choose from and sections within a religion add only to the number.
While it may at times be advantageous to have more choices, in the midst of them let us remember to consider the consequences that may follow our decisions. Choices in the matter of religion have direct effect upon our soul. I hope we are aware of that.
As long as the Lord delays His return, I suppose there will still be people enthusiastically sharing their opinion that ‘one church is as good as another’.
This sentiment is of course understandable. At least, if it were true, it would make things so much more convenient for church-goers. However, we must respectfully disagree, for the assertion that ‘one church is as good as another’ really is without any substantiation. The most common attempt at reason—“we all believe in Jesus”—simply doesn’t measure up.
The Bible says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble (Jas 2:19).” It is more than simply believing in Jesus as the Son of God who died for our sins, was buried, and was resurrected the third day (1Co 15:3-4).
When we consider the following texts, I hope we can see the clear implications that as far as the inspired apostles are concerned—and the Holy Spirit who inspired them—‘one church is as good as another’ is not supported by scriptures.
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Mat 7:21-23).”
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (Gal 1:6-8).”
If it were true that one church is as good as another, then the apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus are petty and most uncharitable.
Were the many in Matthew 7:22 insincere and dishonest in their service? There was no indication of that. Were they unfairly dealt with? Certainly not. What was the problem? They did not do the will of God.
How many today profess to do exactly what these many people were doing: prophesying in Jesus’ name, casting out evil spirits in Jesus’ name, doing many ‘wonderful works’—miracles—all in Jesus’ name?
What about the Galatians who decided to not be Christians only but Jews as well? What was so bad about the message of the Judaizers, who told the Gentile Christians to observe the Law of Moses and be Christians at the same time? After all, didn’t they all still believe in Jesus?
The problem was that the message of the Judaizers was not the gospel the apostles preached! It was a perversion. Why? Because there is only one gospel.
How many versions of the ‘gospel’ are there today? Plenty. One version says you need to say the ‘sinners’ prayer’, another claims you must be baptised in the Holy Spirit and speak in ‘tongues’. Still others demand that you must have a ‘spiritual experience’—God talking to you, a vision or dream, a warm, fuzzy feeling, etc.
Or take the celebration of certain religious festivals or ‘holy days’. Good Friday, Easter, Christmas, Lent, etc., none of which Christians are commanded in the New Testament to observe.
Some might say, “Does it really matter that much? We love Jesus! We are sincere believers!” Or words to similar effect.
Yes, it does matter very much. It is all about authority, really. What we believe and practice in religion must have the authority of the Word of God at the back of it. “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar (Pro 30:6).”
Counterfeit is redundant if the real thing never existed. The fact that we can tell if a certain item, say, a $10 note, is a counterfeit is because we have the authentic item. We can tell the counterfeit from the real.
The church of Jesus Christ was established in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. We read about its establishment in Acts 2. The Bible, beginning from the Old Testament, tells us much of the prophecies and events leading up to that most momentous event. Obedience to the one gospel of Jesus Christ is the way to be added to the church (cf. Rom 1:16; Acts 2:38, 47).
In today’s world, where men and women are bombarded with choices of so many organisations claiming to be the church yet teaching mutually exclusive doctrines and practicing mutually exclusive practices, how do we know if any of them is the real deal?
We do that in the same way we tell a counterfeit: by holding it up against the authentic item.
We must turn to the New Testament scriptures and examine it carefully and diligently, holding every religious teaching and practice up to the light of God’s truth. Then and only then can we tell the counterfeit from the real. We should certainly do so for too much is at stake.
Let’s come back to considering the consequences. What happened to the sincere but sincerely mistaken people of Matthew 7:21-23? They were expelled from the presence of the Lord. What was the dire consequence Paul pronounced on those who preached anything different from what the apostles preached? They are accursed.
We can certainly agree that this is a very serious consequence. We do not want to be cursed and cast out from the Lord’s presence. We want to do His will and have our sins forgiven; we want to be in His glorious presence for eternity.
The true church is the one the Lord has built and we can find its description only in the New Testament. To identify the church, we must search the New Testament. While we respect those who hold differing opinions, we stress that the things of God are not matters of opinion and preference. We recognise and abide only by the authority of God’s Word.
The one true gospel that the apostles preached is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who will obey it (Rom 1:16). There are no updated versions. There will never be any updated version. It is “the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints (Jude 3).”
Any message claiming to be from God but which contradicts the clear teachings of the New Testament is not the true gospel but a perversion. Yes, the messenger may be sincere and trying to do the right thing. But one can be sincere and yet be sincerely mistaken. To such people we extend our love in the name of Christ. We pray they will come to the true knowledge of the faith.
One church is not as good as another. One so-called gospel is not as good as another. We can all know and understand the truth if we would humble ourselves, leave our ego at the door, lay aside our biases and prejudices, and come to the Word of God. There we will find and identify the authentic church that the Lord built.
Bible passages for further thought:
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11).”
“These were more noble in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:11).”
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).”
“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son (2 John 9).”