Pervasive Apostasy and False Ways

 

Mormon Meeting Place

Pervasive Apostasy and False Ways

Richard Hollerman

Many of you who read these words from time to time have some conception of God’s will and what He would want among His people in the world today. We don’t know if you are part of any church body or denomination, but at least you know something about what God wants and expects of us. Scripture may be confusing to you in some measure and it may be said that you are searching for spiritual fellowship, but it is clear enough that we know what pleases God and what displeases Him.

The other day, as I was driving on a street near the house, it occurred to me that we are living in an area of churches! You may respond that the reason for this is that this has been called the “Bible Belt,” and this is true. Whatever the reason, there are a lot of churches within a half mile to a mile from where we live. I’ve visited most of these groups just to get some idea of what they believe, how they live, and what their worship meetings are like.

As I drove along, I passed a large Megachurch, a so-called Assembly of God meeting place.

Right beside it was a Greek Orthodox church—so very far different from the Megachurch next door.

Next, just a stone’s throw away, we come to a liberal Presbyterian Church.

And beside that, we find the Mormon stake, the so-called “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Not far from that, we come to a liberal “Church of Christ.” Then, on the adjoining street, we first arrive at a “Community” Church, which I’ve heard is really a Southern Baptist congregation.

Beside that one is the independent Christian Church.

As we continue down the main thoroughfare, we come to a small store-front congregation that they call “The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ”—which sounds something like a Jesus-Only group. Across the street is the rather conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran Church.

And not far from that one is the liberal United Methodist Church.

As we continue down the street, we come to a large Southern Baptist Church.

You may say that this is certainly an unusual situation since there are so many churches nearby. You would be right. There are other places in this city that don’t have so many places of worship. And, of course, there are other states where churches are more rare. But there are other points that we can learn about all of these churches, many of which are close to each other. What do I mean?

In his famous list of seven “one’s,” Paul refers to the “one body” (Ephesians 4:4) and elsewhere, he refers to Christ as the “head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18). He says that we are “baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). If there is only one body and this body is the “church” (ekklesia), would it not be grieving to Christ, the Head of the body, to know that there are dozens, even hundreds, of different bodies or churches? Beyond this, would it not be a grievous sin?

Consider also the command to the Corinthians, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). If believers are commanded to “all agree” and have “no divisions” among them, and if they are to be made “complete” in “the same mind and in the same judgment,” would the current state of affairs also be wrong and sinful? Can it be said that those professing “Christians” in this area (mentioned at the beginning) are all agreeing? Are they refusing to have any “divisions” between them? Do they have “the same judgment” and “the same mind” on many matters? Or do they do the very opposite—having many divisions, having different “minds” and different “judgments” on many issues and matters?

There would be another issue that we should consider. We do know that the early Christians were called the “way” (Acts 9:2). They were disciples (vv. 1, 19, 26), saints (vv. 13, 41), brothers or brethren (v. 30), and believers (v. 42). They were called children of God (1 John 31-2) and Christians (Acts 11:26). They were called the assembly (or “church”) of God (1 Corinthians 1:2), the church of Christ (Romans 16:16), the church “in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). These various designations were not considered “religious” names and titles and they were not to be considered exclusive in any way.

But what about the various churches, organizations, or bodies that I mentioned at the beginning? The first one I mentioned was the Assembly of God—which may be somewhat better than the others, but this was never meant to be an official title of an organization. The Orthodox Church, next one that I mentioned, is a name that was never meant to be official at all. Surely the Presbyterian Church, named after the “eldership” in a church, was never intended to be official in any way. The Mormons, the so-called Church of Christ, the Christian Church, etc., somehow have missed the real intent of Biblical instruction. The Lutheran Church was named after its founder, Martin Luther, which is specifically condemned by Paul (1 Corinthians 1:10-12). The Methodist Church, named after Wesley’s emphasis on order and methods, also fails to capture the New Testament meaning. The Baptist Church, named after the New Testament doctrine of baptism (which they fail to actually practice), is also named in a way that differs from the New Testament practice.

I hope that you will agree with me that, although many may find so many churches in a limited area to be positive, in reality what we find is far, far different from New Testament teaching, belief, and practice. If this is so, I challenge all of us to return to the first century practice of following the ways of God, of Christ, and the apostles. This is the one way that we can please the Lord.

 

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