THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH AND DENOMINATIONS
My friend and brother Keith Sharp wrote in an article recently “what’s the basic difference between the church we read about in the New Testament and evangelical denominations? … the people of God submit to the authority of Christ as expressed in the New Testament, and denominations do as they please.” I think Keith’s statement is right on the mark.
Consider how the Episcopal Church justified their first gay bishop (a violation of Rom 1:26-27 and many other passages) – “Just simply saying it departs from … Scripture does not necessarily make it wrong.” Consider how the Presbyterian Church USA justified compromising to allow gay marriage – “The church should ‘re-evaluate its definition of sin to reflect the changing mores of society.’” Not only have these churches compromised the truth on homosexuality, they are admitting they don’t follow the scriptures anymore; am I right?
Perhaps the most prevalent example of unsound churches doing as they please is on the subject of Divorce And Remarriage. Notice this quote from Anthony Dunnavant in the Orange County (California) Register “Some conservative groups believe that divorced people who marry another spouse are living in sin (and therefore have to terminate such, ptd). However, the number of divorces in the United States has led most denominations away from that teaching.” Isn’t it obvious this sea change is not due to a restudy of the scriptures? What denominational preacher Ken Wilson writes – “I say to the remarried couples, whose second marriage was clearly condemned by the plain meaning of scripture, ‘You are welcome and wanted’” makes it clear many congregations are not set on following the Bible anymore. This change reflects a total disregard for Bible authority, doesn’t it? And my guess is over 95% of churches across America have compromised on divorce and remarriage in this same way. Stats say 20% of their memberships are in a second or third marriage that Jesus calls adulterous in Matt 19:9. They are doing “as they please,” aren’t they?
Now notice this quote from the Watchtower Witnesses – “We find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself. We see also that if anyone lays aside the ‘Scripture Studies’ (Watchtower literature), even after he has read them for ten years – if he then lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the ‘Scripture Studies’ and had not read a page of the Bible, he would be in the light.” So the Watchtower religion is admitting they don’t really use the Bible as their final authority either. They evidently think a person would be better off reading their literature alone than studying the Bible. They position their material above the Bible in what they are going to follow. Compare that to II Tim 3:16-17 “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 perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” And John 17:17 says “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” So God’s book defines for us what His truth is, and John 8:32 says “And ye shall know the truth, the truth shall make you free” (from sin). Guess what? Most denominations are like the JWs – they are not (as Keith says) “submitting to the authority of Christ as expressed in the New Testament.”
Billy Graham was famous for teaching in crusade after crusade that people have to accept Christ in order to be saved. But in an interview with Robert Schuller (5-31-1997), Mr. Graham said “Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light they have and I think they’re saved and they’re going to be with us in heaven.” In McCall’s magazine (Jan 1978) Graham said “I used to believe that pagans in far-off countries were lost — were going to h-e-l-l — if they did not have the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them. I no longer believe that. … I believe that there are other ways of recognizing the existence of God—through nature, for instance—and plenty of other opportunities, therefore, of saying ‘yes’ to God.” To the contrary the Bible says in texts like John 8:24 “I said … ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” and John 14:6 “Jesus saith … I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Many Baptist preachers (not all) would agree with Billy Graham on this point. The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches by Hiscox reads “… in the Apostolic age when there was but one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert … constituted him a member of the church …. In that sense … ‘baptism was the door into the church.’ Now, it is different.” So aren’t the Baptists preaching what they please instead of what the scriptures say?
In conclusion Deut. 12:8 says “Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.” Unfortunately, isn’t that what the great majority of denominational congregations do?
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