One Bible - Many Churches
Does it matter what we believe?

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The Holy Scriptures
The Apostle Paul had a companion in the ministry of the Gospel named Timothy – the son of a Jewess from Lystra. Two of Paul’s epistles were written to that young man and in one of them the apostle used these words: “From childhood you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). From this letter to Timothy we also see how he received his early knowledge of the scriptures: it was from his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois. In Acts 17 there is a record of how Paul and Silas preached the Gospel to the Jews at Berea. They received the word gladly, but tested the truth of what Paul and Silas had said and “searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so”. Paul did not rebuke them for doing this but rather commended them for their zeal.

To the believers at Thessalonica he wrote, “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). These references lay emphasis upon the fact that the scriptures are able and sufficient to teach the truth about God necessary for salvation. They uphold the right and duty of ordinary people to read the scriptures for themselves.

It is perfectly true that the Apostle Peter warned the believers against those who twist the scriptures and make them mean something which is not intended. But he never warned them against reading the scriptures, for he exhorts them “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Their spiritual growth and increased knowledge of God depended upon a careful reading of the word of Truth. There is not the slightest suggestion that by doing this they would be exposed to danger or would be led away from the faith. On the contrary, the essential and central feature of these passages is that the scriptures are able to teach people the truth about salvation and that truth is comprehensible by ordinary people. According to the Bible, then, the Reformers’ theory was right, but something went wrong.

Many churches
The Bible is intended not to conceal but to reveal, not to cause confusion but to establish unity. How then has it come about that since the Bible has been made available for people to read in their own language, so many different churches have emerged? In the main, two factors have produced this unhappy result. Firstly, if the Bible is to be understood properly, it is necessary to come to it with an open mind, ready to be instructed and willing to submit to its teaching. The trouble has been that so many people have come to it with preconceived ideas, seeking in its pages support for doctrines already formulated from other sources.

There has been a marked tendency for people to make God after their own image – to fashion their ideas about Him out of their own desires, so that they invent a God in accordance with what they wish Him to be, rather than as He is revealed in the Bible. They come to the Bible seeking support for a self-invented God and very often they are satisfied that the Bible supports them.

This satisfaction is secured by a superficial reading of certain passages of scripture, a personal selection of parts of the Bible which appear to be favourable, and a rejection of those parts which are not. Furthermore, doctrines are formed or supported on isolated texts without reference to the general teaching of scripture. Very often doctrines tend to be isolated from each other, like parcels tied up separately, and the final and logical outcome of their teaching is not looked at in any depth. So the discrepancies and contradictions are not brought to light.

Secondly, certain churches have been dominated by particular doctrines upon which more than usual emphasis has been laid, which has resulted in the neglect of other important teaching. The outcome of this has been a dislocated and unbalanced view of Bible truth leading to false conclusions and a disordered conception of salvation.

In the religious world today, therefore, it would be impossible to get a clear and unanimous explanation of the kingdom of God, the authority and inspiration of the Bible, the second advent of Jesus Christ, the importance of baptism, the nature of the church, the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, the nature of man, the resurrection of Jesus Christ and life after death. Churches which for years have been teaching their people a theology based on the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, now find that some of their leading theologians and writers are saying that this doctrine is not Biblical but pagan; that survival of the individual will not come about by flight of the soul to heaven at death, but by the resurrection of the body at the second advent of Jesus Christ.

This is the Biblical view of the nature of man, but only a few believe it. The Bible says that man is mortal. It says it categorically and emphatically, and yet in the religious world there is uncertainty, doubt and deliberate contradiction. This one thing alone is representative of the confusion and multiplicity of ideas which confront the seeker after religious truth. It so often fills him with dismay and despair, or breeds an indifference leading to apathy and agnosticism. Sometimes that indifference is expressed in the belief that it does not matter which church you attend or what you believe – with so many to choose from, one is as good as another. CONTINUE ...

 


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