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Why so many churches?
|Created by Gerard de Vos|
An accusation against God’s children is that there are so many different churches and denominations that it is impossible to find out which is the true one. It is said that each one has a different version of the Bible and regards itself as the only true church. How must we handle this accusation?
☛Churches differ because of God’s freedom principle. God gave man the freedom to decide for himself how to live his life. Yet at the end of time each person will individually have to give an account of him/herself to God. It is written in Hebrews 4:13b: ‘Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.’ There is no such thing that believers will not be judged, because their sins are forgiven by Jesus. They are still exhorted to live holy lives (‘Be holy, for I am holy’ 1 Peter 1:16). In the same way churches have quite a lot of freedom to determine their own order of worship. Yet they have to teach sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). There is no way that another church planting can be justified if it is based on petty differences, or some disagreement with the leadership. Submission, and learning to function as a body is important, as we will one day all be part of the Bride of Christ. The Bible is there as a guide line and foundation.
☛We are taught that Jesus is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22). What He commands, is what the church should do. That is in theory. In practice, it doesn’t necessarily work like that. Many of the differences in churches and denominations have to do with minor doctrines. The central doctrines are not negotiable, like the fallen nature of man; salvation through Jesus Christ only; the Trinity; the virgin birth; death on the cross; resurrection and ascension; and the inerrancy of Scripture. When it comes to minors, like wearing a hat or a suit, that doesn’t influence a person’s salvation or his relationship with Jesus. An easy test would be to ask whether something that a church does or teaches, enhances one’s relationship with Jesus, making one more like Him, or is it a peripheral issue? It is also true that people differ: some like to worship with abandon, since they so appreciate Jesus’ salvation, while others are more reserved; some like a formal church service, others have a more relaxed approach; some like to be neatly dressed in a suit, since they show respect to God in that way; others are very casual since they enjoy God as a personal Father who loves them. In no way are we to judge another person’s way of worshipping, dressing, or praying. The important thing in the life of a Christian is his/her relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not necessary for churches to be dogmatic and oppose each other.
☛What do we say if certain churches do teach that they are the only repositories of the true faith? That is usually an indication that the deceiver has influenced them to break away from the true teaching of the Bible. No church is perfect and has all the truth revealed to it. The church (the people, not the building) are those who walk in the footsteps of Jesus.
We live in a fallen world, and Christians are not saints after they are saved. We do find many different denominations. The important factor is finding a place where the Word of God is taught without compromise. We shouldn’t be ashamed of all the different churches and denominations, since ours is a living faith. Besides, we have to contend with the deceiver, and he has influenced many to break away from the true teaching as found in the Bible. Churches differ because of the freedom principle of God. We have the standard, the Word and will have to give an account of what we did with it. Did we build with gold, silver, or straw (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)?