Ask Your Preacher
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
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.
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.
I have always heard, and still do, that a congregation cannot have one elder. I cannot seem to find any Scripture to support this. Thanks again for your help.
Count Me In
Dear Count Me In,
The more accurate way to deal with this issue is to make your statement in the positive – a congregation must have a plurality of elders. In everything that a congregation does, it needs to find biblical authority. Acts 14:23 says that they appointed elders in every church. Acts 15:2-6 points out that the church in Jerusalem had multiple elders. In Acts 20:17, Paul called for the elders of the church that met in Ephesus. Jas 5:14 recommends that the sick call for the elders of the church to pray for them. Also, Peter exhorts the elders of each congregation to tend the flock amongst them (1 Pet 5:1-3). There is not a single example of a lone elder in the New Testament. Every congregation was led by a multiplicity of pastors. The final kicker on the issue is that Paul specifically commanded that elders (plural) be appointed in every congregation (Tit 1:5). If we let the Bible be our guide, we have no precedent for a single elder congregation.
(This question is a follow-up to “His Money”)
Is money given to the Lord attached to a particular church location, or is it to be used by the members that gave it? For example, when a church dissolves its membership, if the money is simply "the Lord’s", can it be used by another body of Christ for the Lord's work?
Dear Membership Required,
The location of the building isn’t the important thing; it is the organization of people who are guided by the elders that makes up a congregation (Php 1:1). The elders are in charge of properly using the money that sits in the local treasury (Acts 11:29-30). The local congregation’s leadership is held accountable for the distribution and use of the church’s funds. This Bible pattern ties the money to the congregation (even if they move down the street), not the specific physical building they meet in.
In the sad circumstance that a congregation dissolves, the faithful thing to do is to make sure the funds are properly used before dissolving – and one proper use would be to give the funds to another faithful congregation that could use them – just like Acts 11:29-30 shows.
What are the jobs and differences between Bishops, Pastors, Elders, Deacons? What is the chain of command or should I say the order between these positions? Where in the Bible does it talk about each of these positions, or are they manmade?
Rank And File
Dear Rank And File,
Elders are the superintendents of a local congregation, and they are always men. The word elder is one title to describe the leaders of a local church. Other titles include ‘overseer/bishop’ (depending on translation – 1 Tim 3:1) and ‘pastor’ (Eph 4:11). The title of the job explains their role. They have the oversight of God’s people. That oversight only extends to one congregation (1 Pet 5:2), the local congregation that they are among. Each congregation has elders appointed in it (Acts 14:23).
Elders must meet strict requirements before they are appointed. Those qualifications can be found in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Elders are always referred to by the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘him’ – thus making them men. Also, one of the qualifications is that they be ‘a husband of one wife’ (Titus 1:6) which makes it pretty clear we are talking about men. Elders also never serve alone. All the churches in the Bible had multiple elders. Elders serve an important role of protecting, leading, and guiding the direction of a congregation. They will give an account for every christian in their congregation (Heb 13:17). A congregation should never take lightly the responsibility of appointing only completely qualified elders.
Deacons are servants of the church. The word ‘deacon’ comes from the Greek word ‘diakonos’ which literally means ‘servant’. The Bible doesn’t give a detailed account of their job because there are so many ways that servants can serve. Deacons in the church are men that meet the qualifications of 1 Tim 3:8-13.
These deacons are a specific type of servant in the church – they serve the eldership (Php 1:1). Deacons are given authority by the elders to oversee various responsibilities within the church. These responsibilities might be building maintenance, the treasury, benevolence, etc. – whatever tasks the elders need help getting done are the tasks deacons are to fulfill. A good example of how this would work can be found in Acts 6:1-4 when the apostles needed help making sure the christian widows received their daily bread. The apostles had too many responsibilities already, so they delegated that task to seven capable men (Acts 6:5-6).
In short, the local church is led by elders (also known as pastors or bishops) and those elders have qualified deacons that help them fulfill their responsibilities.