DISTORTED AND CONTRIVED
RRELIGIOUS TERMS #2
Jon Gary Williams
Part one of this article appeared in the previous issue of STOP (Feb/21) and addressed terms found in the Scriptures but which are given distorted meanings by men. Now we turn to part two, which deals with contrived (improvised, invented) terms unknown to the Scriptures and are used to convey false religious ideas.
CONTRIVED RELIGIOUS TERMS UNKNOWN TO THE BIBLE
This is a word widely used to describe the various divided groups found in the world of “Christendom.” During the expansion of the Reformation, a number of churches were formed, all adhering to their particular creeds. Though the relationship between these churches was contentious, as time passed this changed to a cautious acceptance, and eventually became an “agree to disagree” alliance. So the word “denominations” became a charitable way of saying they were divided. However, the concept of divisiveness is contrary to the teaching of the New Testament. The apostle Paul was clear on this matter. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).
Beginning during the reformation movement, this word was used to describe non-Catholic churches, for they were “protesting” the flaws of Roman Catholicism. Over the years this term became a fixed expression to describe the anti-Catholic view of these churches. To this day it is common to hear people being asked, “Are you Catholic or Protestant?” Though the Lord’s church should protest all that is wrong, the term “Protestant” cannot be used to describe the church. The church of the New Testament is neither Catholic nor Protestant.
JOIN (THE CHURCH)
“Joining the church” is an expression describing someone becoming a part of a particular denomination. In most instances the acceptance of a person into a church’s fellowship is determined by a vote of its members. Such a concept reveals a lack of understanding of how one becomes a member of the church. This practice is akin to joining a social group or civic organization and is foreign to the teaching of the New Testament. No one can “join” the Lord’s church. Rather, lost people are “added” to the church when they obey the Gospel. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).
Most denominations teach that an alien sinner is saved from sins by believing in Christ and then praying what is called the “sinner’s prayer.” People are told they must express their faith by praying for salvation. However, the Scriptures teach nothing of the kind. Rather, praying for the forgiveness of sins is meant for Christians when they commit sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The New Testament contains no examples of alien sinners being told to pray to have their sins forgiven. To be forgiven of sins, a non-Christian must believe in Christ. “...For if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). They must also repent of sins. “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). They must then confess faith in Christ. “...And with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10). They are then to be baptized in water. “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins...” (Acts 22:16).
The millennial reign refers to a future, so-called, one thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. Most denominations believe that when Christ returns He will set up a literal, earthly kingdom over which He will rule for one thousand years. To the contrary, when Jesus comes again, the earth will be destroyed. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Also, the Scriptures plainly teach that the closest Jesus will come to the earth is in the clouds. “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them [the resurrected dead] in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).
This word refers to a so-called rapturing up of the saved (both dead and living) to be with Christ when He comes again, and is based on a misuse of 1 Thessalonians 4:17. It is taught that this “rapture” is to last for seven years. At the end of the seven years Jesus and those raptured will then live on earth for a one thousand-year millennial period. Of course, no such teaching is found in the word of God. To the contrary, when Jesus returns, it will be immediate, with no seven-year delay. And at that time all those who ascend to be with Christ will at that moment go to be with God. “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power” (1 Cor. 15:24).
SAVED — CANNOT BE LOST
It is taught by most denominations that once people are saved they can never be lost. This doctrine is sometimes referred to as “perseverance of the saints,” suggesting that the saved will persevere to the end. However, the Bible clearly teaches that the saved can be lost. Paul told the Galatians, “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). Timothy was told, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith...” (1 Tim. 4:1). The writer of Hebrews said, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Heb. 3:12). In fact, the apostle Paul said that even he could be lost (1 Cor. 9:27).
This is the practice of the majority of churches wherein water is either sprinkled or poured on small infants, and is sometimes referred to as “christening.” Such a practice is the spinoff of the belief that all children inherit the sin of Adam, often referred to as “Adamic sin.” However, that children are born guilty of sin is contrary to Biblical teaching. Jesus Himself said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14). Additionally, to be a subject for baptism there are several prerequisites. First, one must be able to believe in Christ (John 8:24). Second, one must be able to repent of sins (Acts 17:30). Third, one must be able to confess faith in Christ (Matt. 10:21). However, since infants are not capable of doing any of these things, they are not subject to baptism.
CHRISTMAS — EASTER
These are terms commonly used of the celebration of the birth and resurrection of Jesus. However, they are both founded on the traditions of men and have no Biblical basis. In fact, the actual dates of Jesus’ birth and resurrection are unknown. As to Christmas, many do not realize that this is a special mass devoted to Christ (“Christ-mas“) and that such an observance was not known for hundreds of years. As to Easter, the earliest record of such observance was also unknown for many years. Though the King James Version has the word “Easter” in Acts 12:4, this is a term that was arbitrarily and incorrectly inserted. The word here is pascha, and simply refers to the Jewish Passover. It should be kept in mind that the Scriptures place no emphasis on setting aside a time to observe either the birth or resurrection of Jesus. However, by way of contrast, it is important to know that the only observance regarding Jesus is the remembrance of His death in the Lord’s supper (Matt. 26:26; Acts 20:7).
CHURCH — HEADQUARTERS
Denominational churches are known for having centralized headquarters located in specific cities, for example: Catholicism (Rome), Mormonism (Salt Lake City), Southern Baptist (Nashville), and so on. These headquarters are overseen by a selected board. Concerns about beliefs and practices are, after designated conferences, determined at these headquarters. However, this is not true of the Lord’s church, for in the New Testament there was no earthly headquarters. Rather, local congregations were autonomous (self-governing) and did not look to a centralized, worldly body for direction. The Bible teaches that Christ is the head of His church. “And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18). Since Christ is the head of the church and since Christ is in heaven, the headquarters of the church must be in heaven (Phil. 3:20). Every congregation is to look to Jesus for guidance and this is done by looking to Him through His word (John 12:48).
The word Pope derives from the Latin “papa” and refers to the physical head, or Father, of the Roman Catholic Church. The concept of a Pope is fundamental to the ecclesiastical (pyramid) structure of Catholicism, but stands in stark contrast to the Lord’s church. Nowhere in the New Testament do we read of one man being a universal head of the church; this concept is blasphemous. It is also taught that such an office began with the apostle Peter and that it has continued unbroken through the centuries. Yet, history shows that such an office did not appear until the seventh century A.D. That Peter was not a Pope is shown by the fact that when he became an apostle he was a married man (Matt. 8:14) and that he remained married for many years (1 Cor. 9:5). According to Catholic belief this would disqualify him from being a part of the clergy.
The Catholic Church teaches that at death the souls of saved people go to a place called “purgatory” to be temporarily punished for their venial (temporal, lesser) sins. The length of time spent in “purgatory” depends on the volume of such sins. It is also taught that the length of time one spends in purgatory can be reduced by the granting of “indulgences.” (See next) This doctrine is the invention of man and is nowhere found in the Scriptures.
This is a pardon granted by a priest which reduces the length of time a person is punished for temporal sins in Purgatory. Some of the things for which a priest can grant the pardon of an indulgence, are: Praying the Nicene Creed or Apostles’ Creed, reciting several approved prayers, reciting Psalm 51, a devout use of a holy object (a crucifix or rosary), prayer for the Pope. This belief, along with Purgatory, is completely unknown to the Scriptures.
BAPTISM — FOR THE DEAD (BAPTISM BY PROXY)
This is the Mormon doctrine of living people being baptized on behalf of dead people. It is erroneously based on 1 Cor. 15:29. However, the baptism mentioned here is not a baptism on behalf of dead people. Rather, in this text Paul is responding to those who said there is no resurrection of dead bodies (v.12). He argues that if their own bodies will not be raised, why, then, do they baptize their bodies? Note: The only thing that can be raised is that which dies, that is, the physical body. Hence, Paul was not speaking of being baptized on behalf of people who have died. Note also: Clearly, the resurrection spoken of in this chapter is the resurrection of physical bodies (vs.35,36,37, 38,40,44).
The English word “Mass” refers to the main Catholic public worship. It culminates in a sacrament of the Eucharist. (See Eucharist above). The Mass consists of two parts. The first includes readings from Scripture or other sources, sermon, and intercessory prayer. The second includes the presentation of bread and wine at the altar followed by the Eucharistic prayer, after which the members receive the elements. The focal point of the Catholic Mass is the claim that in the Eucharist, the “sacrifice” (crucifixion) of Jesus is repeated every week. The Catholic Mass is not only a man-made, laborious practice, the teaching of the weekly sacrifice of Jesus is contrary to the New Testament. The Scriptures clearly reveal that Jesus offered his body “once for all” (Heb. 10:10).
Many words unknown to the Scriptures are used to convey false religious ideas. However, when these words are properly researched and compared to the Scriptures, the corruptive use of them becomes obvious.