Ask Your Preacher
Why are there different religions?
Having Trouble Counting
Dear Having Trouble Counting,
There are several reasons why there are so many different religions out there:
- Paul condemned the Jews because they worshipped God without knowledge (Rom 10:2). Many people follow whatever seems best to them and when our feelings design our religious beliefs, confusion ensues.
- Rom 1:18-23 says that when people suppress the truth about God, they exchange the truth for a myriad of other false beliefs.
- God warned that there would come a day when false teachers infiltrated Christ’s church and started teaching things contrary to Scriptures (2 Tim 4:2-4). Paul told the first-century christians to watch out for the “falling away” (2 Thess 2:3). Division and false teaching in the name of Christ is a very common thing. Wherever there is an opportunity for selfish gain, false teachers crop up and attempt to lead people astray.
There are tens of thousands of different religions in America that refer to themselves as “Christian”, and even more than that when you add things like Islam, Buddhism, etc.… yet God says there is only one true faith (Eph 4:4-6). So how can you know whether a church is Christ’s church?
Jesus says that we can know them by their fruits (Matt 7:15-20). A church is faithful if the way they worship, preach, and live is in accordance with Christ’s teachings. A faithful church keeps Christ’s commandments (Jhn 15:14). Most churches today have added all sorts of things to their worship (from rock bands to belly dancing) and leadership structure (popes, community boards, franchised churches, etc.) that were never intended by Christ. We should never add to God’s Word, and we should never take away from it (Rev 22:18-19). A faithful church should be able to give you book, chapter, and verse for everything they do. We recommend the posts “Down With Denominationalism”, “Finding A Church”, and “Preacher Interrogation” for further information on what questions to ask. If you would like us to help point you in the right direction of a congregation in your area, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will do our best to put you in contact with a Bible-founded congregation.
Where does Israel currently stand with the Lord? I ask this because many christians support Israel. Some of that support is for political reasons; Israel is an allied nation and a democracy, but most of the support comes from their belief that God still holds Israel as His chosen people. Some of this belief, I know, stems from Premillennialism and the belief that the Lord will raise up Israel in the end times. The popular Left Behind series pushed this concept. I do not subscribe to that view, so you don't need to respond to that belief. I can't help but to believe that God has had a role in the history of Israel. No other culture has withstood the destruction of their cultural center and identity (AD 70 siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple), been scattered, persecuted, almost wiped out, and managed to come back and re-establish their nation and culture.
So my question is: does God still hold Israel in His good graces? Or is He just protecting them out of His obligation to Abraham? Or is He protecting them at all?
Dear History Buff,
The nation of Israel lost God's protection when they rejected God's Son. Jesus says that christians are His royal priesthood and chosen race (1 Pet 2:9). Under the Old Testament, the Jewish people were God’s nation (Deut 7:6). The Jewish nation was warned that if they rejected God’s Son, they would be rejecting God, and God would make a new nation out of those who believed in Christ (Jesus explained this to the Jews in the parable of the vineyard – Lk 20:9-19). In that parable, Jesus also explained that the Jewish nation would be destroyed and abandoned by God (Lk. 20:15-16). The vast majority of Jews didn’t believe in Jesus, and therefore, they never became a part of Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus’ chosen people are those who love Him and keep His commandments (Jhn 14:15). The Jewish people rejected God because they would rather have their traditions than God’s Son (Mk 7:9).
Now, it is true that there is a nation called Israel today, but just because they occupy the same territory doesn’t mean that the Jewish nation that was destroyed in 70 AD has been re-established. The current nation of Israel has none of the things that made it special – it has no high priest, no priesthood, no Levites, no temple, and no record of genealogies to properly rebuild tribal lineages. It would be impossible for Israel to even follow the commands given by God in the Old Testament. Modern Israel is kind of like tearing down Buckingham Palace and then putting a double-wide trailer on the same property – just because you call it ‘Buckingham’, doesn’t mean it is. The name ‘Israel’ doesn’t make it the same nation.
Is the Baptist religion one that goes by the Bible?
Looking For The Truth
Dear Looking For The Truth,
We will admit that Baptist churches are much more Bible-centered than most of the denominational world, but just because they say that they do exactly what the Bible says doesn’t make it true. Many of the things that the Baptist church believes are right, but there are some glaring practices that simply ignore Scripture. Remember, if you avoid or ignore verses, that is just as bad as adding to the Bible (Rev 22:18-19). We have to take every Bible teaching, no matter how unpopular, and accept it in order to truly call ourselves a “Bible-only” congregation. So let’s take a look at a couple of areas that this Baptist church is ignoring obvious Bible text.
- Baptism is necessary for salvation. This is one of the clearest teachings in the New Testament. Peter literally wrote, “Baptism saves you” in 1 Pet. 3:21. Mark 16:16 teaches that when you believe and are baptized, you are saved. There is not a single example of someone becoming a christian without baptism. If a church is teaching that baptism is only symbolic… it is ignoring the text. In fact, the Baptist church’s manual specifically says, “Baptism was the door into the church; now it is different” (Standard Manual for Baptist Churches pg. 22). Feel free to read our article “Baptism” for further Scriptures on this topic.
- The Bible openly teaches that you can lose your salvation. Gal 5:4 says that people can be “severed from Christ” and “fall away from grace”. 1 Tim 4:1 also warns that people will fall away and follow false teachings. Heb 3:12 also mentions falling away because of an unbelieving heart. The clearest verse on this topic is Heb 6:4-6 because it talks about someone who was “enlightened” and had “tasted the heavenly gift” and yet were “crucifying Christ again”. Once again, these are simple verses with clear and direct implications. Most Baptist churches teach that you cannot be lost.
- The Lord’s Supper. The Baptist church only takes the Lord’s Supper every once and a while. Where is the Bible authority and support for that? Where in the Bible does it show christians taking communion every four months, two weeks, yearly, etc.? Acts 20:7 mentions christians taking the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. Once again, this is a plain teaching with a simple consequence. If we want to be like the first-century christians… we take communion every first day of the week.
This is hardly an exhaustive answer to everything that the Baptist church does, but it should be enough to give you an idea that there are some clear verses that are being avoided. God tells us to test all teaching against the Scripture (1 Jn 4:1). No congregation advertises that they are ignoring parts of the Bible, but many churches do exactly that.
Does it matter how we are baptized and who baptizes us as long as it’s in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? I'm getting baptized at my friend's church which is Calvinistic; I'm more of non-denominational Bible-believer, but anyway, they're going to baptize me in a swimming pool. Should I go through with it?
Dear Diving In,
Why you are baptized is one of the most important elements of baptism, and a Calvinistic church will not baptize you for the right reasons. People are baptized all the time without being saved! The word ‘baptism’ comes from the Greek word ‘baptizo’ which means ‘immersion’. The word ‘baptism’ is the same word that Greeks used when a ship sank to the bottom of the ocean or when someone dove to the bottom of a swimming pool. In the most technical sense, people are baptized when they take baths, go swimming, etc. Taking a bath will baptize you, but it definitely won’t save you.
The Bible teaches that baptism saves you. According to the Bible, baptism is a requirement of salvation. Peter said so in Acts 2:38 when he preached the first sermon after Christ’s ascension. In 1 Pet 3:21, it specifically says that baptism saves us. Mk 16:16 says that baptism is as integral a part of salvation as belief, and Paul tells us in Rom 6:4-5 that baptism buries us with Christ, so we might be born again without our sins. The Bible clearly teaches baptism as a prerequisite for salvation.
Now, here is your problem. Calvinism teaches that baptism is “an outward showing of an inward grace.” That means that Calvinistic churches do baptize people, but they believe it is only for show and that you were already saved before you were baptized. Therefore, the reason they baptize people is completely wrong. If you are baptized for the wrong reasons, you just get wet – not saved. We would be happy to get you in touch with a congregation that isn’t tied to denominations, teaches the whole Bible (Rev 22:18-19), avoids manmade traditions (Matt 15:9), and will baptize you for the right reasons. Just e-mail us (email@example.com) with the general area of the country you live in and we will happily put you in contact with a faithful church. You may also find the article “Calvin And Sobs” on Calvinism of use to better understand this manmade religion.
If christians of all different denominations are bound for heaven if they accept Jesus, why is there so much division? If there aren't different levels to heaven and varied eternal rewards based on your denominational allegiance, then why the need for so much variation?
Too Many Choices
Dear Too Many Choices,
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). The apostle Paul said that there is only one church (Eph 4:3-6). 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) and the Bible condemns the division we see in the religious world today (1 Cor 1:13). 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!