Know Your Bible
SIMILAR OR IDENTICAL?
"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, ‘Whom do men say that I the Son of man am'? And they said, ‘Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.'" (Matthew 16:13-14). Since Jesus knew the hearts of all men (John 2:24), it is obvious that He was not asking this question to seek information but rather to enable His disciples to learn. Were those individuals who thought Jesus was John, Elijah, or Jeremiah sincere in their belief? No doubt! In fact, I would not doubt their sincerity for one minute. Jesus shared many similarities with all three. Yet, regardless of the common ground He might have shared with these prophets and regardless of how sincere people were who honestly believed these things about Him, their sincerity did not turn Jesus into John or Elijah or Jeremiah.
What about people today who sincerely believe the church they belong to is the Lord's church? Does that make whatever denomination they belong to the Lord's church? There are most certainly similarities between denominational churches and the Lord's church but do the similarities make them identical? A cow and a horse are similar. They both have a head and a tail but everyone will admit they are not the same! The problem today is that people are satisfied with similarity in religion but not in other things. An avid football fan realizes that all football teams have the same number of players and play on similar fields. However, what is not identical is where the team is from, the team colors, and the players names and that makes the difference that distinguishes his team from all the others.
We often hear statements like: "We worship similar in that we both sing!" but similar is not identical. While we both may sing, one uses a mechanical instrument of music and the other simply sings as directed in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. Another statement heard is: "We worship similar in that we both observe the Lord's Supper!" Yet, one takes it on Saturday night, once a month, or once a year while the Lord's church is to observe it every first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Some said, "Our church preaches the Bible just like yours!" Yet, one let's women preach from the pulpit and be in other leadership roles while the Bible teaches women are not to preach or be in a position of authority over the man (1 Corinthians 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:12).
We should not be interested in ‘similarity' in spiritual matters, but in being ‘identical' with the Lord's church we read about in the New Testament. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God...." (2 John 9) "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." (Colossians 2:8).
When Jesus asked His disciples, "But whom say ye that I am?", Peter replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.", to which Jesus replied, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 16:15-17). Peter's answer was what he had heard from God in heaven. We need to do exactly like Peter; "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles (words) of God;..." (1 Peter 4:11). SIMILAR is not IDENTICAL!
---E.R. Hall, Jr.
What Is Your Standard?
When it comes to religious matters, there are many standards that are accepted.
Many, who profess to be Christians, use the WORLD as their standard for the way they talk and dress. But Christians must "...present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:1,2). Also, we must not forget "...that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." (James 4:4).
Religious organizations and those who are members of them, often are bound by HUMAN CREEDS, manuals, and disciplines. If these human creeds are nothing more than what the Bible teaches, as some claim, then what useful purpose do they serve? The truth in the matter is that human creeds contain more and they also contain less than what the Bible teaches. They contain the commandments of men. Yet Jesus said, "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Matthew 15:9) Any religious organization which uses a human creed is rendering their worship vain.
Many people do what they do in religious matters because they have their own THOUGHTS about certain things."I think it would be pleasing to God" is often the statement that is heard. However, God says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8,9). What I, or anyone else, think about something does not mean God thinks that way! Just because I think it is right doesn't make it right!
Many accept HUMAN TRADITIONS as a standard. When questioned about why they do a certain thing in religion, they respond, "We've always done it that way!" We must realize that traditions of men are not after Christ (Colossians 2:8). Jesus asked a very relevant question in Matthew 15:3 when he asked, "...Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" Do you suppose He could ask the same question of religious denominations today if He were here on earth?
Some see no need for anything more than their own CONSCIENCE. They do things in religion because they believe their conscience is a safe guide. Let us realize our conscience is the product of what we teach it. If we are taught the wrong things, our conscience will condone us as if we were doing the right things. We will feel just as good about doing wrong because we have been taught wrong. Saul of Tarsus persecuted Christians (Acts 9:1) and consented to the death of Stephen (Acts 7:59-8:1), all with a good conscience (Acts 23:1).
While there are many who accept the BIBLE, GOD'S WORD, as a standard for some things, very few are willing to completely accept the Bible as their standard. What about you? What really is your standard? Test yourself!
What do you accept as authority in answering the question: What must I do to be saved? Is a person saved the moment they believe faith only? Where does the Bible teach that a person today can be saved by faith only? The only verse containing the words ‘faith only' are found in James 2:24 ,i>"Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and NOT BY FAITH ONLY." We do have the words of Jesus in Mark 16:16 saying, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." If you reject the part that baptism plays in the forgiveness of sins, you have accepted the wrong standard!
What do you accept as the terms or conditions of church membership? Did a group of people have to vote on your acceptance into the church you are a member of? Where does the Bible teach that church membership is determined by a vote? We don't find any such thing in the standard of God's Word but we do find them in the creeds of man. The Scriptures teach: "...And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." (Acts 2:47). The reason the Lord does the adding is because it is His church; not yours or mine. The Lord built it (Matthew 16:18), He purchased it with His blood (Acts 20:28), and He is the "head" of it (Colossians 1:18).
What is it that governs you in your worship? The church at Jerusalem "...continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." The early church's fellowship was in the gospel and in the breaking of bread to commemorate the Lord's death. Where is your fellowship; in the "Fellowship Hall"? What does your breaking bread pertain to; the eating and drinking of a common meal? Every Christian is to teach and admonish "one another" in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). What about where you worship; do all Christians sing or are there solos, duets, quartets, and choirs, instead? Is there singing or is there playing upon mechanical instruments of music?
God's Word must be our guide in all these things. It is His Word that we must accept as the standard by which we believe and practice the things we do. Won't you accept God's Word as your only standard? All other standards will not stand in the Judgment Day.
---E.R. Hall, Jr.
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