"A" Way Or "The Way?"
Question: Are there many roads to heaven? According to the majority of believers in God, the answer is “Yes, there are many roads to heaven. So long as you are sincere in your beliefs, God accepts you.” The proof of this idea is seen in the multitude of “Christian” denominations that claim to be serving God. By some estimates there are some 42,000 such denominations. One problem is that they all contradict one another in doctrine and practice, and they all contradict the Bible in various ways. To get an answer to the question in the title, let’s turn to God’s Word, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by God’s chosen writers.
“There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) Evidently having a good conscience and thinking you are right is not good enough. The conscience can be mistaken and deceived. Do you suppose that Adam and Eve knew they would be punished for eating the forbidden fruit? No, they were deceived by Satan. They believed what they were doing was OK, and we know the result. Obviously, they did that which seemed right.
Christ warned His listeners about this problem in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” To whom is Christ referring? Would it not be to people whose conscience was clear, who thought they were following Christ? But they were mistaken.
So, if we are to do the will of God, where do we learn what His will is? Do we go to the Baptist Manual? If that’s God’s revelation to us, then how do we reconcile the fact that the Manual differs from the Methodist Discipline and the Catholic Catechism? The truth is, these books of church doctrine contradict one another, and more importantly, they contradict the Bible. But truth does not contradict itself. Do you find it confusing that none of the 42,000 different church creeds agree with one another? That’s got to be confusing. Note what the apostle Paul wrote about this: “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (I Corinthians 14:33) It is quite obvious that the denominational world is confusion, not peace.
Question: Where can I go in the Bible to read about the Episcopal Church, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Holy Ghost Repair Service Church, etc., etc?
I have read the Bible through more than once, and can’t recall reading about any of these or the multiplied thousands of other denominations.
Another question: How many Gods are there? Perhaps we agree on this, as there is only one true God. In fact, the Bible verifies this, as Paul wrote to Ephesus: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)
Note that the passage says not only is there “one God,” but it also says there is “one body.” And just what is that body? It is the church. “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” (Colossians 1:18)
As we consider the obvious division in the denominational world, consider what Christ said about division: “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. (Mark 3:24)
An example of division relates to baptism. The Catholic Church pours water on the subject, Methodists sprinkle water, Baptists immerse in water, the Salvation Army practices no baptism at all, and another church sprinkles rose petals for baptism. Now, all Bible scholars agree that in the original Greek language of the New Testament, the Greek word “baptizo” means “to immerse.”
By whose authority was this changed? God’s Word says that man has no right to change any-thing that was written. “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)
The New Testament gives a complete guideline for the church which Christ established, as He announced in Matthew 16:18: “Upon this rock I will build My church.” If the church belongs to Christ, and was established by Him, then He is the head, the authority.
Note the question the chief priests and others asked Jesus: “They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, and began saying to Him, "By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?" (Mark 11:27-28) That was a legitimate question. On another occasion Christ spoke of His authority. “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18)
Obviously, all church creeds differ from the Bible. If they all said the same thing as the Bible, we wouldn’t need them. But they change things. One example is the Baptist Manual that admits that in the first century baptism was the entrance into the church, but then the Manual says on page 16 “but now it is different,” as the church takes a vote on those seeking entrance. Who said it was different? My Bible still reads the same as it did in the First Century! Without going into great detail, just note a few changes the churches of men have made through the years—things that differ from the Bible. The Catholic Church forbids bishops to be married, but the Bible says they must be married (I Timothy 3:1-3). The Methodist Church ordains women as pastors, but the Bible forbids this (I Timothy 2:12). The Episcopal Church ordains homosexuals, but the Bible says they are to be withdrawn from (I Corinthians 6:9). The Christian Science Church has cancelled baptism, but the Bible says one must be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:16). I could go on for many pages, but I don’t have enough paper or ink to cite the differences that the 42,000 denominational creeds have with the Bible.
And what is the source of these false teachers and doctrines? “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” (II Corinthians 11:13) Obviously, many false teachers are themselves deceived, but sincerity does not make one right.
In closing, I ask that the readers give serious thought to the things written, and if you have questions, please feel free to write to me. I will strive to give a Biblical answer. We must seek to follow Christ on “the way” rather than “a way” as noted by the writer of Proverbs 14:12. When Thomas asked Christ to show him “the way,” “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) And we come to Christ by following His Word, not by following the creeds of men.
Note what Christ said about the doctrines of men. “But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine the precepts of men.” (Matthew 15:9) Why not take just the Bible, God’s Word, and follow it? That’s all they had in the early years, and that was all they needed. In closing, “the churches of Christ salute you” (Romans 16:16)
Jefferson David Tant