disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
None of the
If we are none
of the above, then what are we? Infidels? Heathen?
Materialists? Moslems? Buddhists? Cultists? It could
obviously cover a lot of ground. How about this one:
In a world so
filled with religious traditions and denominational
structures, the concept of being simply Christians is
difficult to communicate, yet a careful reader of the New
Testament will realize that Jesus did not die so that His
followers could be divided into sects and parties. Jesus
died that He might reconcile all men in one body to God
through the cross (Eph. 2:16). To belong ONLY to Christ, is
something altogether different from belonging to just any
one of the other 300 religious bodies in this country (1
Cor. 12:13; Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:23). The Bible teaches there
is to be "one body" and "one faith," just as there is to be
"one God, one Lord, one baptism, and one hope" (Eph.
4:4-6). This "one body" is the church of Jesus Christ (Eph.
1:22-23) which Jesus built, not men (Heb. 8:1-2). This
spiritual house is made up of living stones (1 Pet. 2:5) who
are citizens of God's kingdom (Col. 1:13), saints (set apart
ones) of the Most High God (Co. 1:2), having been born again
of water and the spirit into God's family (John 3:5; Eph.
2:19). The church of Jesus Christ is "built upon the
foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Eph. 2:20), not on
the sand of denominational creeds and traditions. Jesus
Christ, as the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20), is the only
head (Eph. 1:22) and all authority in heaven and in earth
rests in Him. This leaves no room for Popes, councils,
synods, conventions or so-called "latter-day prophets."
Just as Moses
was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle:
"See that you make all things according to the pattern which
was shown you on the mount" (Heb. 8:5), Jesus built the
church according to the divine pattern God gave Him. A house
built by Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Joseph
Smith, Ellen White, Mary Baker Eddy, the Popes of Rome, the
Watchtower Society, or any other is not recognized by the
Lord. "Except Jehovah build the house, they labor in vain
that build it" (Ps. 127:1). Jesus said, "Every plant which
my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up"
the leaders of the various sects and parties of His
day, "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the
traditions of men. You nicely set aside the commandment of
God in order to keep your tradition.
You invalidate the Word of God by your tradition which you
have handed down, and you do many things such as that" (Mark
7: 8,9,13). Jesus quoted the Prophet Isaiah to show the end
result of such DENOMINATIONAL LOYALTY, "This people honors
me with their lips but their heart is far away from me, BUT
IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, teaching as doctrines the
precepts of men" (Mark 7:6-7).
Will you be
The teaching of
Jesus on the subject of loyalty to denominational traditions
offended the members of these sects (Matt. 15:12). How will
you react to the teaching of Jesus? Does the appeal to be
SIMPLY A CHRISTIAN interest you? Are you concerned with
having a part in answering Christ's prayer for unity among
believers (John 17: 20-21)? Or does a plea to be neither
Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish offend you?
If this plea
offends you, why? Do you view those who make such a
plea today to simply be another sect or denomination
themselves? Do you view this plea as coming from just
another group of narrow-minded religionists? This, of
course, is a possibility, but before you let your view
hinder your investigation of this plea, realize that the
family of God in the first century was looked upon by their
enemies as being just another sect of the Jews and it was
everywhere spoken against (Acts 24:5; 28:22). Before you
reject this plea that all be simply Christians, please
investigate to see if it is scriptural.
Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish
of this message is not to defend and uphold any practices
that originated with us, but to call attention to the plea
of Jesus Himself concerning the unity of all believers (John
17:20-21). We have nothing personal to gain in the way of
money, attention, or honor by pointing out the error of
religious tradition and division. Quite the contrary, by
honoring only Jesus Christ, we repeatedly have been reviled
by religious people of every faith. Loyal to the One who
bought us and loving the souls of men, we heed the words of
James, "My Brethren, if any among you strays from the truth,
and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns
a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from
death, and will cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).
We do not claim
that we understand all truth, and believe anyone who claims
to be infallible to also be guilty of blasphemy, but we do
seek to point men back to the source of truth (Jesus and His
Word) and point men away from the doctrines of men which
Jesus said would make our worship vain
(Matthew 15:9). It is for these reasons: our love for
God and men, the shortness of life, and the certainty of
judgment, that we will use great plainness of speech. We
speak this way, not with a purpose of offending, but to
challenge you to "examine yourself to see if you are in the
faith" (2 Cor.13:5).
Being a Jew is
different from being a Christian
It is possible,
of course, to be of Jewish blood and to be a Christian,
but not possible at the same time to practice the Jewish
religion. While there are many good, moral, upright people
of the Jewish faith who claim allegiance to the God of
Heaven, they have:-
Jesus and are without the Way, the
Truth and the Life. Jesus said, "No one comes to
the Father but by Me" (John14:6), and "For if ye believe
not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins" (John 8:24).
In reality, the
Jews do not know God, because they do not know the Son (John
8:19; 14:7). If God were their Father, they would love Jesus
(John 8:42). I know we speak very bluntly and plainly, but
we only speak the words of our Savior, the Hope of Israel
and the world.
Catholic is different from being a Christian
A loyal citizen
of the kingdom of God will give allegiance to only one
king, one head, one source of authority. A Christian
recognizes that Christ is the only head of the church and
that He rules from the right hand of God and not from Rome.
A Christian will heed the warning that whoever "exalteth himself"
on earth to such authority works iniquity (2 Thess. 2:1-12).
The work of Christ and His apostles does not mention such
Clergy, Pope Pontiff, Vicar, Cardinal, Archbishop, Abbott,
Laity, Parish, Diocese,
Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Papal Infallibility,
Bull, Litany, Absolution, Confessional, Limbo, Purgatory,
indulgence, Penance, Transubstantiation, Mass, Sprinkling,
Infant Baptism, God-Mother and Father, Pater Noster,
Catechism, Sacrament, Ave Maria, Lent, Christmas, Good
Friday, Ashes, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Relics,
Epiphany, Praying for the Dead, Mortal Sin, Latria,
Celibate, Easter, Confirmation, Holy
Water, Rosary, Sign of the Cross, Immaculate
Mary as Medatrix, etc.
All these doctrines came from some other source than Jesus
Christ. Jesus said such traditions make our worship
vain (Matt. 15:9).
NO MAN EVER
BECAME A CATHOLIC BY FOLLOWING THE BIBLE.
Protestant is different from being a Christian
Paul made it
plain that to be loyal to him or Apollos, or Peter, was not
to follow Christ. "Has Christ been divided? Paul was not
crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name
of Paul?" (1 Cor. 1:13). Of course, to imitate another man
as he imitates Christ is a scriptural principle (1 Cor.
11:1), but to:-
up with Martin Luther (Lutheran Church), John Calvin
(Presbyterian or Reformed Church), John Wesley
(Methodist), and a host of other names
is to show disloyalty to Christ.
It is only when
we drop our loyalty to these men and their doctrines that
we can "be of the same mind one with another according to
Jesus Christ: that with one accord we may with one mouth
glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ"
(Rom.15: 5-6). It is only when we drop our denominational
names, creeds, and organizations that we can obey the charge
to "all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you
be made complete in the same mind and the same judgment" (1
Cor. 1:10). The only way to answer the prayer of Jesus
concerning all His followers "that they may be one that
the world may believe," is to all listen and obey the same
Lord and authority (John 17: 20-21; Col. 2:8-10).
It goes without
saying, that a person could read the Bible from Genesis to
Revelation, follow everything in it intended for men of this
age, and he would never be anything else than SIMPLY A
It would take
something else besides the Bible to make one a Lutheran
(Luther's Catechism or the Augsburg Confession).
It would take
the Baptist Manual to make a Baptist.
It would take
the 39 articles to make an Episcopalian or an Anglican.
have to follow the Methodist Discipline to be a Methodist.
become a Mormon if you want to, but not by following the
Bible and the Bible alone.
become a Jehovah's Witness without submitting to the
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
What passage of
scripture would one obey to become a member of any of these
churches? What is it that perpetuates these denominational
distinctions ~ obeying the scriptures or following the
commandments of men? Why will there still be Methodists,
Baptists, Lutherans, etc., tomorrow? Because all are
following Jesus or because at least some are following men?
people on the day of Pentecost complied with the conditions
of grace for their salvation (Acts 2:38-41), "The Lord added
to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). To
which church did God add them? Was
Peter a member of
a religious organization that John did not belong to,
and was Andrew a member of a denomination that Peter and
John were no members of?
Does not this
question seem absurd to you? Certainly no one would claim
that Peter, John and Andrew were anything other than
SIMPLY CHRISTIANS! They taught and practised the same thing
in the name of Jesus Christ. If they were alive today, no
denomination could claim them, for the apostles' teaching
made men and women Christians, not Protestants or Catholics.
No doubt, if Peter and Paul were alive today, they would be
the enemy of Protestant and Catholic denominations, for
their doctrine would conflict with the traditions of men. If
all believers today listened to the apostles' teaching as
recorded in the New Testament, denominationalism would die a
sudden death. Did not Paul show the sinfulness of following
men to the Corinthians (1 Cor.1: 10-13)? Did he not teach
the Ephesians that the only wall of separation ever ordained
of God to distinguish between men on a religious basis was
the Old Testament, which differentiated between Jew and
Gentile? Did not Paul say that Jesus broke down that wall of
separation, reconciling all men in one body through the
cross (Eph. 2:14-17)? Jesus died to make all men one
religiously. Did not Paul define that one religious
body made at the cross as the church of Jesus Christ
IS IT NOT
PRESUMPTUOUS FOR MEN TO BUILD AND MAINTAIN THE WALLS OF
DENOMINATIONALISM WHICH KEEP US SEPARATED RELIGIOUSLY? Is
the Bible still true? Is it still God's will that there
is only "one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one
faith, one baptism, and one God" (Eph. 4: 4-6)?
The Sin of
Did not Paul
condemn factions and heresy as a sin of the flesh that
would keep us from the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:20)? (Heresy
is defined by Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament
Words as the choosing of an
opinion, especially a self-willed opinion, which is
substituted for submission to the
power of truth, and leads to division and the formation of
sin and those who commit it have no part of the kingdom of
God. Who has the greater sin, the one who initially promotes
the heresy, or those
uphold and practice it? Will not both lose their inheritance
in the kingdom of God? Did not Jesus say to the leaders of
the Pharisee denomination, "Every plant which my heavenly
Father did not plant shall be rooted up. Let them alone,
they are blind guides of the blind, and if a blind man leads
a blind man, both will fall into the pit" (Matt. 15:13-14)?
heresies, factions, and divisions cease to be sin? If a
heresy or denomination began due to the damnable doctrines
of one man 500 years ago, is the heresy made right because
it is 500 years old?
Is the self-willed opinion of a
small group of men 500 years ago made into the salvation
of Protestant America because it is 500 years old and
practised by millions of people?
opinions and dogmas belonging to the "Church Fathers"
of the second and third centuries become the law of Jesus
Christ because they are over 1500 years old and reverenced
by millions of Catholics the world over?
Do the fake
visions of Joseph Smith in the 1820's become the
revelation of Jesus Christ today because they are
believed by the fastest growing sect in the United States
~ the Mormons?
These are questions that every honest Catholic and
Protestant must deal with.
author seem as an unnecessary alarmist when he warns that
most priests, pastors and rabbis are teaching deadly
doctrines of Satan that will condemn our souls if followed?
Are we not aware of two Old Testament Priests who were
consumed by fire down from heaven because they "offered
strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded
them" (Lev. 10:1-2)? Do we not recall our Lord's own
warning, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in
sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves"
(Matt. 7:15)? Will we continue to let the outward appearance
of moral purity and good works in the majority of
religious leaders deceive us into thinking that all are
ministers of God? Did not Jesus warn us that "many will say
to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy
name? And in they name cast out demons, and in thy name done
many wonderful works? And then I will declare to them, I
never knew you; depart from me you who practice lawlessness"
say, "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter
the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father
in heaven" (Matt. 7:21)? Did not Paul warn of religious
leaders who would deceive us with their righteous
appearance, "For such men are false apostles, deceitful
workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.
And no wonder, for even Satan himself disguises himself as
an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his
ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of
righteousness" (2 Cor.11:13-15)? Will we not wake up to the
fact that when 300 different denominations teach 300
different creeds, that they cannot all be in harmony with
The Irony of it
It is sadly
ironic that most members of the various denominations not
only contradict the will of Christ in their allegiance to
the denomination of their choice, but they contradict the
pleas of denominational founders and leaders. Charles
Spurgeon, a prominent Baptist preacher, said:
forward, with pleasure, to the day when there will not be a
Baptist living. I hope the Baptist name will soon perish;
but let Christ's name endure forever." (Spurgeon's Memorial
Library, Vol.1, p.168).
founder of the Lutheran Church, said: "I
pray you to leave my name alone, and call not yourselves
Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not
mine. I have not been crucified by anyone. St. Paul would
not let any call themselves after Paul, not Peter, but
Christ. How then does it befit me, a miserable bag of
dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of God.
Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and
distinctions; away with them all, and let us call ourselves
only Christians after him from whom our doctrine comes."
(The Life of Luther, Stork, p. 289).
founder of the Methodist Church, said: "Would to God that
all party names and unscriptural phrases and forms which
have divided the Christian world were forgot; that we all
agree to sit down together, as humble, loving disciples at
the feet of a common master, to hear His words, to imbibe
His Spirit, and to transcribe His life into ours."
(Tabernacle Sermons, Vol. IV, p. 216).
We cannot help
but wonder what changes would have taken place in religious
history had the followers of these men heeded their pleas.
The pleas, however, went unheeded. Denominationalism exists
and will continue to exist until our Lord roots it up in the
last day. But meanwhile, no one has to be a part of the
spirit of division and guilty of the sin of heresy.
TODAY BY SIMPLE FAITH IN AND OBEDIENCE TO JESUS CHRIST BE
SIMPLY CHRISTIANS, WITHOUT BELONGING TO A DENOMINATION?
YES! " To answer otherwise is to admit that the "faith
which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3)
is not the same today as it was during the first century. In
the first century, on the basis of what was written and
spoken by the apostles (which has been written and preserved
for us in the Bible), people were able to obey God, and to
do whatever God wanted them to do.
They were being saved; they were complete in Christ, lacking
nothing that pertained to life and godliness; they were
dying in hope of heaven.
centuries before the first human creed, centuries before
the Catholic Church was present to establish "Divine
Tradition or to "interpret" the scriptures, centuries
before there was a universal pope, long before the
doctrines of celibacy, sprinkling, transubstantiation,
purgatory, extreme unction, Mary worship, and confession
before a priest. It was 1800 years before the doctrine of
the infallibility of the Pope.
It was 1400
years before Luther's revolt against Catholicism
years before the Church of England (Anglican or Episcopal)
or the Presbyterian Church
years before John Smyth and the first Baptist church in
before John Wesley and the Methodist Church.
It was 1700
years before Joseph Smith and Mormonism
and William Miller and Adventism.
It was 1800
years before a Jehovah's Witness knocked on your door.
Do you realize
what this means?
It simply means
that all the creeds, the traditions, the "revelations," and
the institutions of men that have cropped up over the past
1900 years to clutter the religious scene and to confuse the
minds of the people are at best unnecessary ... unnecessary
to obedience to God, unnecessary to salvation, unnecessary
to completeness in Christ, unnecessary to life and
godliness, and unnecessary to the
hope of heaven. But it also means that the whole concept of
modern denominationalism in not part of the true
Christianity originating in the mind of God, revealed by the
Holy Spirit, and preserved in the new Testament. God
purposed the church of Jesus Christ before He even made the
world (Eph. 3: 10-11; 1:3-4). Did He purpose the
Lutheran Church or the Episcopal Church from eternity? Did
anyone ever become a Jehovah's Witness or a Mormon simply by
obeying the scriptures? Did the
Holy Spirit, who inspired the apostles in the first century,
reveal to them the doctrines and names that make the
Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Catholics distinct
Can we be
SIMPLY CHRISTIANS? Certainly! No one ever became anything
else by following the Bible and Jesus. Follow the
Word of God as it stands, not after it has been filtered
through the creeds and doctrines of men, then let that make
of you what it will. It will make of you what it made of
others in the book of Acts. Those
who continued in the apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42) were
believers, disciples, saints, Christians; it made a group of
them the church of God or the
church of Christ, and that is all the apostles'
doctrine will ever make of anyone.