By David Hersey
Why are there so many different churches today? When we open the Bible, they are not all there. Do all of these different religious organizations belong to Jesus Christ? The psalmist wrote that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it, (Psalm 127:1). Jesus said that every plant the heavenly father has not planted shall be rooted up, (Matthew 15:13). We must ask ourselves if God accepts all of the religious organizations we see today. Are we allowed to pick through a variety of churches until we find one that suits our taste or lifestyle and expect God to honor that choice and welcome us with open arms?
When we look in the Bible we see that Jesus established His church, (Matthew 16:18). The church that Jesus built was important enough to Him that He died for and in so doing purchased it with His own blood, (Acts 20:28). If the church was important enough for Jesus to die for, then certainly it is important for us today to recognize and be a part of the church we read of in the New Testament. Jesus has only one body of Christians, (1 Corinthians 12:20, Romans 12:5), and the body of Christ is the church we read of in the New Testament, (Colossians 1:24).
We can’t read about all the different churches we see today in the Bible because they did not exist then. These organizations started since then by men, have their doctrinal statements, catechisms, or articles of faith written by men. Scripture plainly teaches us that those who teach the doctrines of men worship in vain, (Matthew 15:9). We are taught in scripture to “observe all things whatsoever I [Jesus] commanded,” (Matthew 28:20), but to not go beyond what is written, (1 Corinthians 4:6), adding to or taking nothing away from God’s word, (Revelation 22:19). So then if the teachings of men contain less than what the Bible says, they fall short and if they contain more than what the Bible says then they have gone too far. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death,” (Proverbs 14:12). Jeremiah wrote in chapter 10:23, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps”. Paul wrote in Romans 10:3, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”
The Bible does not teach that we can choose from a variety of faiths tailored to suit our individual preferences. Rather we must “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” (Jude 3); the “one faith,” (Ephesians 4:5), spoken of in scripture. We cannot be “carried about with every wind of doctrine,” (Ephesians 4:14), rather we must “take heed” to the doctrine and continue therein, (1 Timothy 4:16), and teaching no other, (1 Timothy 1:3).
Since there is only one church and one faith it is therefore of utmost importance for us to know how to recognize the one true church, striving in the one true faith when we see it. There must therefore be a standard by which all of them can be gauged. That standard exists in the Bible today. We have been given “all things that pertain unto life and godliness,” (2 Peter 1:3), the word of God “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16), and thoroughly furnishes us unto every good work. Since we have been given all things we need and are thoroughly furnished with the word of God, there is no need to go any further than the Bible for our instruction in righteousness. The word of God is living and eternal, (1 Peter 1:23), its relevancy is as sure and true today as it was in the first century. We can absolutely trust it as the one standard by which all things of a spiritual nature must be measured.
No man is going to stand for us on the day of Judgment. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad,” (2 Corinthians 5:10). We shall each bear our own burdens, (Galatians 6:5). It is therefore every Christian’s personal responsibility to make sure they are a part of the “one body,” striving for the “one faith” spoken of in Ephesians 4:4-5. If we will just open our Bibles, use only it as our guide, believe what the first New Testament Christians believed and practice what the first New Testament Christians practiced, then we will be what they were; Christians. There would then be only one church and it would be the church of the New Testament; the one church Jesus died for; the church built by Christ; purchased by the blood of Christ; headed by Christ, in subjection to Christ; which is the church of Christ, (Romans 16:16).