Ask Your Preacher
I love church, and I love being part of God’s family, but I really dislike being a certain type of christian. I don't understand why there are so many different beliefs for one religion (like Catholic, Methodist, and so on); is it possible to just be a christian and not any thing specific? Is there a special church that's just christian?
No Party Affiliation
Dear No Party Affiliation,
All we should ever be is just christians… you are absolutely right for being frustrated. The denominational world is confusing… exactly the opposite of God’s church (1 Cor 14:33). The term ‘denomination’ comes from the idea that a church believes that it is a subgroup of a larger religious body. Lutherans worship and teach differently than Episcopalians, Catholics, Presbyterians, etc., but they all believe themselves to be christians – this is wrong. Jesus said that there is only one path to heaven (Matt 7:14). Denominationalism teaches that how you act and worship are matters of opinion, but Jesus said that how you act and worship are matters of truth (Jhn 4:24). The only way to avoid denominationalism is to find a congregation that simply teaches what the Bible says – no creeds, no opinions, no personal agendas. If we truly love Christ, we will follow His commandments (1 Jn 5:2).
Everything a church does (worship, membership, how they teach to be saved, how they spend their money, even their name) needs to have Bible verses backing them up (1 Tim 3:15). A church needs to be able to explain the reasons for why they do what they do (1 Pet 3:15).
Our congregation here in Monroe goes by the name ‘Monroe Valley church of Christ’ because ‘church of Christ’ is a Biblical name for a congregation (Rom 16:16). We worship by singing (Col 3:16), studying the Bible (1 Tim 4:13), praying (2 Thess 3:1), taking communion (only on Sundays – Acts 20:7), and taking up a collection (also only on Sundays – 1 Cor 16:1-2). We teach that you must hear God’s Word (Rom 10:17), believe God’s Word (Jhn 3:16), repent of your sins (Mk 6:12), confess Jesus as your Savior (Lk 12:8), and be baptized to be saved (Acts 2:38, 1 Pet 3:21). We do all these things because they are practices found in the Bible. As you said, you don’t want to go to a church that offers their own thoughts – you want God’s thoughts.
There are other congregations like ours scattered across the country and the world. Most of them use the name ‘church of Christ’, but then again, many churches that use that name aren’t faithful. A Bible name for a church isn’t enough to make it faithful. We have helped others, like yourself, looking for New Testament Christianity find faithful congregations in their area by contacting other preachers and christians that we know. We’d be happy to do the same for you. If you feel comfortable, just let us know what general area you live in, and we will try and get you in touch with a congregation that lives like your Bible reads (our e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org). It is frustrating, confusing, and exasperating to deal with denominationalism. Thanks be to God that there is a better option!
If apostolic authority was meant to end with the last apostle, how are autonomous local congregations meant to settle doctrinal disputes? The sheer number of differing Protestant denominations only proves that leaving the church with the Scriptures alone only leads to division and fragmentation. Calvinists believe in predestination, Lutherans believe in baptismal regeneration, Baptists believe in symbolic adult full-immersion baptism, Pentecostals believe in speaking in tongues, the church of Christ believes in no musical instruments, and Seventh Day Adventists worship on Saturday. All of these local congregations are interpreting the same Scriptures, and yet, all are divided on any one of a number of important doctrinal positions. They can’t agree on the nature of baptism, the causes of salvation, the gifts of the Spirit, the study of eschatology, and so on. The differences are endless. Why would Christ leave His church with a set of Scriptures but no authority to properly interpret them?
Dear Needing More,
Religious confusion isn’t because of the Scriptures. The Scriptures aren’t the weak link; people are. If you look at the vast majority of religious organizations, they don’t take the Scriptures as their only guide. They allow religious tradition, personal whims, various creeds, etc. to sway them from basic Bible teachings. It is when people warp and pervert the Scriptures that they get the divisions and fragmentations that we see today (Gal 1:6-8). False teachers disguised as ministers of righteousness infiltrate churches and lead many astray (2 Cor 11:13-15). False teachers are described as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15) because they pretend to teach Bible, but instead, they teach their own devices. False religions spring up when people are tired of the pure and simple Bible pattern and itch for a more comfortable message (2 Tim 4:3-5). The problem isn’t that we have too much emphasis on Scripture – it is the exact opposite! If you want to remove division and chaos, return to simply studying Scripture and expel all creeds, traditions, and personal preferences from religious discussion.
Your assertion assumes that the Scriptures alone aren’t powerful enough to teach and prepare people to meet their God. The Bible teaches that the Scriptures are the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16). 2 Pet 1:3 says that the Scriptures provide every answer to life and godliness. Peter said that the apostles wrote down the wisdom God had given them so that long after they departed, we would still have it (2 Pet 1:12-15). When Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, He condemned them for their lack of Bible knowledge (Matt 22:29). Jesus believed the Scriptures were plain enough for anyone to understand if they had an honest heart and applied some effort… He believed it enough to be angry with the Pharisees when they didn’t know their Bibles. When Paul taught the people, he reasoned with them using only the Scriptures (Acts 17:2). The Berean converts were praised as being noble-minded for not accepting the apostle Paul’s teachings without first examining the Scriptures for themselves (Acts 17:10-11). The Bible is sufficient for our salvation, and there is no need for anyone to have modern abilities to “interpret” the Bible for us (2 Pet 1:20-21).
I am a Methodist, and I was wondering why we recite the Apostles' Creed. What's the point?
Method To The Madness?
Dear Method To The Madness,
The Methodist church recites the Apostles’ Creed because the Methodist Worship Manual says to. The Apostles’ Creed is a manmade document, and even though much of it is accurate – it isn’t from the Bible. It is a commentary on Bible teachings that has been adopted as a statement of faith by many churches… this is wrong. God tells us to never add or subtract from His Word (Rev 22:18-19). There is no need for creeds and statements of faith – the Bible is our statement of faith (Rom 10:17, Rom 1:16). The Methodist church, along with many others, have left the biblical foundation of Christ and added their own traditions and systems that warp and pervert God’s true intent for Christianity (Gal 1:6-9). The only way to rectify this is to shed all creeds, traditions, and manmade doctrines. We must return to the Bible, and the Bible only, as our guide. If we follow the Bible pattern for the church, we will have total confidence that we are pleasing to God.
My question is about the "Rapture". Although this word doesn't appear in the Bible, I have been reading about this event and would like to know more about it. I was raised in a Bible Presbyterian church and now attend a United Methodist church. My wife and I both believe the Premillennialist point of view. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 points this out very clearly. We also believe this because Scripture is clear in 1 Thessalonian 5:9 that we as the church and christians are not appointed to wrath, so we will not be here during the tribulation. One scripture that isn't clear is Daniel 12:10-12. The 'abomination of desolation' is clearly the anti-Christ, but I don't understand the daily sacrifice and the period of time referenced in the Bible as 1,290 days. Please help us understand or clarify this passage of Scripture.
There are quite a few problems with the premillenialist viewpoint. ‘Premillenialism’ comes from ‘pre’ and ‘millenial’ because it teaches that Christ will come back before (pre) He sets up a 1,000-year reign (millennial) on Earth. Premillenialism gained popularity in the 1800’s and has gained even further popularity because of the fiction series ‘Left Behind’. Popular is not the same as correct. 1 Thess 4:15-17 simply addresses what will happen to christians when Christ returns – it never says anything about a tribulation event or a millennial kingdom reign.
The problem with premillenialism is that its teachings are based upon the idea that Christ failed to set up His kingdom on this earth. Premillenialism teaches that when the Jews crucified Christ, they “rebuffed” His efforts to set up a millennial kingdom and that Jesus started the church as a temporary measure until He could return and set up His kingdom for real.
If this is true (and it isn’t), Jesus was lying when He said that His kingdom would be set up within the lifetime of those He was preaching to (Mk 9:1). In fact, it would make Jesus a false prophet (Deu 18:20-22). The truth is that Jesus has already set up His kingdom – the church is that kingdom (Col 1:13). Jesus never planned on setting up a physical kingdom on this earth (Jhn 18:36). Jesus’ kingdom is a spiritual kingdom that reigns forever within the hearts and lives of christians (Lk 17:20-21). In fact, it was Jesus who rejected the Jews when they tried to make Him king of a physical kingdom (Jhn 6:15). Premillenialism isn’t a doctrine from God; it contradicts Scripture.
Why do Baptists believe in eternal security and the Methodist don’t?
Pondering The Protestants
Dear Pondering The Protestants,
The idea of ‘eternal security’ is a doctrine accepted by many of today’s Protestant churches. Eternal security is the teaching that once you are saved, you can never be lost. It is based off of the teachings of John Calvin (read “Calvin And Sobs” for a more in-depth look at the doctrine of Calvinism). Methodists don’t subscribe to that teaching, but the Baptists do. Although, neither the Baptists nor the Methodists are God’s church, in this case, the Methodists are right.
God very clearly teaches that someone can lose their salvation. Heb. 3:12 tells us to be watchfull, or we will fall away from the living God. Heb 6:4-6 talks about those who crucify Christ again. Even after someone has been enlightened and tasted the blessings of salvation, they can fall away. You have the freedom to choose or reject God (Mk 7:9). 1st Corinthians chapter five is an entire chapter dedicated to someone who had turned his back on God and had once again immersed himself in a life of sin. Even the apostle Paul said that he himself had to live faithfully or face rejection (1 Cor 9:26-27). We will only be eternally secure when we get to heaven; until then, continue to fight the good fight. Live so that on your deathbed, you can say what Paul did – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Tim 4:7-8)