Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened
unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept,
his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. Matthew 13:24-25
In our day there exists literally thousands of "Christian" denominations. To someone who is earnestly and sincerely desiring to find the truth, this presents an enormous problem. Which, if any of these, hold the truth?
The answer to this problem is profoundly complex. Even a brief study of the major Christian denominations will show that there are major differences in teaching between them. Adding to the problem is the fact that many of them claim to have gotten these beliefs solely from the Bible, all the while accusing each other of the grossest heresy. Is it any wonder that someone who is curious about the claims of Christianity quickly becomes frustrated when they see these hundreds of warring factions?
Where, and how are we to ever locate the truth? Among most evangelical and fundamental denominations, the answer will almost surely be that we need to look only to the scriptures, and to them alone for truth and guidance. While this is surely correct, we have to ask: are all of these divergent teachings solely based upon the Bible? Is the Bible so confusing and unclear that it allows for these hundreds upon hundreds of interpretations?
I would ask the reader of this to be painfully honest with themselves. Are you absolutely sure that what you have been taught is the clear teaching of scripture?
Before you answer that, I would also ask you to consider a few more questions.
Which do you spend more time studying: the Bible, or books others have written about the Bible?
When you read something in the Bible you don't understand, is your first reaction to bow your head in prayer and ask God for wisdom and understanding, or to reach for a commentary?
Have you ever read something in the Bible which you felt clearly contradicted something you had been taught?
Do you believe that some teachings must be right because they were believed by "sincere, intelligent, or Godly men"?
Have you ever felt that the Bible was too complex for you to learn on your own, and feel you must rely on someone to explain it to you?
Have you genuinely received what you believe from the Bible, or have you received it from another source, then go to the Bible expecting to find such teachings there?
Are your beliefs based first solely on your own study of the Bible, or on someone else's study of the Bible?
Have you ever felt inclined to believe something, but were afraid to because it was rejected by your Church, organization, or someone had denounced such a belief as heresy?
I believe these questions cut right to the heart of this issue. Many professing Christians in our day simply do not study the Bible. Of those who do, many spend a great deal more time studying what others have written about the Bible rather than studying the Bible itself.
In a day where there are so many "Christian" factions, each claiming to have the truth, this is certainly very dangerous. Somehow Christians have gotten the idea that Bible study simply isn't that important, and that absolute Biblical truth and doctrine are secondary. I would ask any professing Christian who is earnestly desiring to know the truth to hear the words of their Lord and Savior:
....Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many... Matthew 24:11
...Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8
Jesus foretold that MANY would be deceived. Not a few, but MANY. In addition to this Jesus' question "when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth", seems to indicate that He knew that when He came back that true faith would be almost entirely absent from the face of the earth.
What should this tell us? That it is certainly very dangerous to assume that our mainstream Christian denominations have the truth. Surely Jesus knew what things would be like in our day. He knew that in the close of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st that there would be huge cathedrals, multi-million dollar ministries, satellite broadcasts, and scores of "Christian" radio programs. Yet, in spite of all this He asks this solemn question, "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?"
We need only to read the New Testament to see why Jesus would ask a question like this. The apostles clearly tell us that even in their time apostasy had begun to creep into the Christian congregations. Consider the following:
I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock;
and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
Wherefore watch ye, remembering that by the space of three years I ceased not to admonish every one night and day with tears. Acts 20:29-31
Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old written of beforehand unto this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 3-4
But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their lascivious doings; by reason of whom the way of the truth shall be evil spoken of. 2 Peter 2:1-2
Little children, it is the last hour: and as ye heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they all are not of us.
1 John 2:18-19
The most shocking words however come from the pen of the apostle John, and should send a chill up the spine of every believer who seeks to please God and know the truth:
I wrote somewhat unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
Therefore, if I come, I will bring to remembrance his works which he doeth, prating against us with wicked words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and them that would he forbiddeth and casteth them out of the church. 3 John 9-10
I don't think many have taken the time to think about the implications of this passage. The apostle John tells us that some had taken hold of the church, and had cast out the true believers, as well as the apostles themselves! Here we see clearly that even within the lifetime of the apostles, true believers and true faith were being cast out of the church.
These points are very important to consider because many in our day feel that if they can find a certain doctrine substantiated by "Christian" writers to within 200 years of the death of the apostles, then somehow this lends credence to such teachings and establishes them as the "faith once delivered to the saints." Nothing could be more dangerous!
If the true Christians were being cast out of the churches during the lives of the apostles, and if the apostle Paul warned that after his departure "grievous wolves would enter in, not sparing the flock", then how much confidence should we place in documents written a full 200 years following the death of the apostles?
History tells us that by 500 AD Christianity had become so influenced by state governments and pagan doctrine that the entire world entered into "the dark ages" and stayed there for 1000 years. The lights of true faith and true Christianity had all but gone out. Anyone who resisted the teachings of the Catholic Church or the Holy Roman Empire did so by risking their own lives.
But what of the reformation which began in roughly 1500 AD? Didn't the reformers restore the faith and the true teachings of the Bible? Undoubtedly the reformation helped, mainly in that it finally brought the Bible to the masses. However, the followers of the major reformers (Luther, Calvin,etc) maintained many of the errors which had developed during the Dark ages.
Luther and Calvin both denounced anyone who disagreed with them as utter heretics.
Calvin went as far as having Michael Servetus burned at the stake because he did not agree with Calvin's explanations of the trinity.
In time, the churches of the reformers went on to become established state religions just as the Roman Catholic church had been. What a far cry from the teachings of Jesus that his true disciples were to be no part of the world.
It wasn't until settlers seeking freedom from religious persecution landed in north America that a truly free study of scripture became possible. Thus by the late 1700's into the 1800's there was an explosion of Bible study, and many new groups and denominations were formed which are still in existence today.
So the question still remains, which is right? In light of the apostasy that developed immediately following the death of the apostles; the 1000 years of darkness which followed it; a reformation which failed to correct its errors; and literally hundreds of groups which have sprung up due to religious freedom in North America, there can be only one correct answer to this question.
The truth is not to be found in any one of them but only in a personal relationship with the risen Savior. It is my firm belief that if we make THAT our first goal, only then will God instruct us in His truth. When we are willing to drop all our pre-conceived ideas and ask the Lord for His wisdom and only His wisdom, then we will be on the right path to learning what is truth and what is error. When we become willing to believe what God will teach us, regardless of what anyone says, then we will be on the right path to learning truth.
But certainly we must be willing to study His word for ourselves, and not just accept that the things which have come down to us through the centuries must be true simply because so many have believed them. Ask yourself: Have you ever really repented of shallow and superficial Bible study?
Friends, I believe that God wants His people to know the truth. However, God in His wisdom let that truth become buried to the point where apostasy has seemed to triumph. The world has become, as Jesus foretold, a field of wheat and tares; a field of genuine believers and counterfeits. These are indeed perilous times we live in. We need to all the more examine ourselves and ask where our loyalties rest. Have we believed something just because someone said it was true?
Can't we see how dangerous this is?
In a world full of counterfeits, and in a time when Jesus said true faith would be scarce, it simply won't do to just believe what someone else had said, regardless of how sincere they are. More than ever we need to cry out for wisdom and understanding, all the while diligently studying His word....
...My friends, truth is available, but it is not in any one person, denomination, or group, but only in the One who said "I am the way, the truth, the life". Make it your goal to follow Him and His leading first, being determined to believe whatever He will show you, regardless of the cost, or the scorn and ridicule it may bring from others. Then and only then can you be sure you are in the true faith. From harvesthearald.com