Satan – The Author Of Confusion
“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33). KJV
Loved ones, in our text there are two points made: (1) God is not the author of the confusion in the churches claiming to be “Christian,” and (2) the churches in the first century were at peace with one another (Romans 16:16).
Yes, there were problems within some local churches, and the writers of the Bible dealt with them, but we don't find one group of churches at odds with another group, with one teaching a particular doctrine and another group teaching just the opposite.
As we look around in this 21st Century, what do we see? Don't we see confusion? One denomination ordains women pastors, and another permits only men. One church forbids bishops to marry, while another says the Bible teaches they must be married. One church teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation, while another does not even practice baptism.
We could go on citing such differences among the 45,000 denominations in the world that all claim to follow Christ, but there isn't enough room for that in this post. How does this measure up to Christ's prayer in John 17:11? Not long before Christ was crucified, He prayed to His Father in heaven. One part of that prayer is: “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.”
Notice that He prayed that His disciples, His followers, might be “one” even as He and the Father were one. Now, in considering the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – how can we portray their “oneness?” Perhaps the Father is a Mormon, and the Son is a Presbyterian, and the Holy Spirit is a Jehovah's Witness? Obviously, nobody in their right mind would make such a claim.
It's obvious that all this division is not from God since He is “not a God of confusion.” So, where did this confusion originate? The only logical answer is that it came from Satan. Were we not warned about him? “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
Since he deceived Adam and Eve in the garden, Satan has been working throughout the ages to deceive many. He worked in Israel in the Old Testament. Even though they were God's chosen people, time and again they went into idolatry. Satan was still working to cause division among the Jews in Christ's lifetime in the 1st century.
There were various Jewish sects or denominations. We read of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots and Herodians, etc. What did Christ think of these various denominations? The Scriptures give us a clue. As an example of Christ's thoughts, we see the following words repeatedly: “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! (Matthew 23:13). The Pharisees were one of the strictest sects. Jesus added the Sadducees: “But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6, 11-12).
Now add the Herodians: “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:6). We also have the sect of the Zealots, one of whom was called to be a disciple. That was Simon in Luke 6:15. Josephus, the Jewish historian, wrote about this sect: “Some Jews gave this name to themselves because they pretended to be more than ordinarily zealous for religion, and yet practiced the very worst of actions.”
With respect to Simon, we know that men's hearts can change. Saul was a Pharisee who persecuted Christians, but he became the Apostle Paul upon his conversion. The point made in mentioning these sects or denominations among the Jews is that this practice of denominations among those claiming to believe in God is nothing new. Christ condemned it then, and there is no indication that He has changed His mind about such practices today. Thus, the question, “How do we know which church is right?” What we must do is compare the teaching and practices of any denomination with what the Bible says.
There was an occasion when Paul was preaching in the city of Berea, and the listeners didn't just accept what he said because it sounded good, or tickled their ears, or because he may have been a good preacher. No. Consider what Paul said about them: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). They checked out Paul's teaching with what the Scriptures said. Why isn't that done more today?
Did any group have Christ's approval? The only term He did not speak against was used when he called Nathaniel to be a disciple. “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47). An “Israelite.” That's just what Jews were supposed to be, Israelites.
What does God want us to be today? The church in Jerusalem heard about the conversion of Saul, and they sent Barnabas to find him. “25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 26 and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:25-26).
That's what God wants us to be called today – just Christians, followers of Christ. Not Mormon Christians, or Holy Ghost Fire Baptized Christians, or Lutheran Christians, or… Well, there's no room to list the 45,000 sects. God gave us the New Testament to guide us into all the truth. If we just do what the Bereans did, then we won't need the creeds and catechisms that all teach something that contradicts the Bible, as well as the other sectarian creeds.
When men go beyond God's word to follow men's creeds they have gone too far. “Whosoever transgresseth (goes too far), and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9).
The first man-made creed was not written until the 4th century, so the early church existed for hundreds of years by following only the Scriptures. Why won't that work today? Again we ask, who is behind these creeds and doctrines that differ from one another and the Bible? If not God, then it must be Satan: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1).
Christ promised the disciples: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13). If that happened, then that was sufficient for hundreds of years before men began to write creeds and catechisms. And that's true even for today. God has not changed. Truth has not changed.
Look for a church of Christ that follows God's word, not the doctrines, creeds, and practices of men. Don't be guilty of what Christ said: “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7). If it was wrong to follow the precepts of men then, what makes it right today to follow creeds that not only contradict the Bible, but contradict one another? If they all taught the same thing as the Bible, we wouldn't need them, for we already have the word of truth.
Consider Ephesians 4:4-6: “4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Can we change that to read “45,000 bodies, five Spirits, ten Lords…” etc.? Obviously not. What is the “one body?” Paul wrote in Colossians 1:18: “And he is the head of the body, the church….”
Can you imagine the impact on the world if all 45,000 sects were united as one body/church, the one you read about in the New Testament?