This is a question
we have been asked recently. The questioner appeared to think
that all 'believers' should live completely harmoniously
together. But this is surely both naive and
If Jesus Christ is the very Son of God and if the teachings contained within the Holy Bible will dress and furnish us for salvation (though only God can save us), then it is surely rather important that we do not misappropriate those teachings! One lady said to me, "Jesus never criticised other people's teachings and doctrines - so why do you?" I must admit that I was shocked at her assertion! I pointed out His powerful criticism of the religious leaders of His day. Jesus launched quite a sustained attack on them from Matthew 5: 20 to Matthew 6: 18. Then I pointed out Matthew 7: 15-29, Matthew 10: 34-39, Matthew 15: 1-14 and virtually the whole of Matthew 23; these were major attacks, reaching a climax, perhaps, in that 23rd chapter. In short, Jesus was quite prepared to tell people when they 'fell short'- He was not a 'men-pleaser'. But what of His own disciples and followers? Did Jesus display an attitude of 'as long as they have me, they can hold whatever beliefs/use any approach they want?' Now I pointed out such Scriptures as Matthew 24:23-27, and the whole of Matthew 25. Then I asked this lady to go back and read Jesus' words in Matthew 7: 21-23. There is no doubt that in these Scriptures Jesus is talking about His followers at the time of His return. Is His attitude one of, 'Well, as long as they have Jesus, they can hold whatever beliefs/doctrines they want?' That is not an attitude which we find coming across in these Scriptures at all! So let us look at Matthew 7: 21-23;
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord,Lord,'shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord,Lord,'have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practise lawlessness!'
Quite obviously, here we see people who feel themselves to be followers of Jesus. They consider themselves Christians!! They are indignant at Jesus' rejection of them. And please note that I have so far confined myself to just one New Testament book ; The Gospel of Matthew.
If one were to broaden the scriptural approach, ones case would be corroborated even further. Paul, in the first chapter of Galatians, is utterly scathing about those who were undermining the gospel in that province. Lets remind ourselves of just a few of his words:
"I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you,let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1: 6-9).
These are the most strong and condemning words which we ever find Paul using in the Scriptures! Obviously, then, it matters rather a lot that the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is not perverted. Yet somebody who supports the prosperity teaching recently said to me,
"You'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar"
Actually, I do not think that the person who made that remark realised the seriousness of it, because that individual was comparing the true New Testament gospel to 'vinegar' and the gospel with the prosperity message closely entwined, was being compared to 'honey'. I think we should all try to be more responsible about our use of words!!
Now of course Christians do not constantly have to disagree. We ourselves have upset some people by saying that Christians should not be bickering over such things as whether infant baptism is fully biblical, the timing of the 'millenium' and whether or not there will be a 'rapture' before Christ returns, we should be prepared to agree to differ in some of these areas, since we are never going to completely agree in every aspect of God's Word. But we should all be able to hold to the great creeds, for example, which outline the essential biblical truths. We should all be able to agree that the Bible is divinely inspired, that we have a responsibility to preach the gospel, and to warn this society of the way it is going with its sell-out to liberalism and pluralism. These are all areas where biblical Christians should be standing together and as one! We should be anticipating Christ's glorious return to this earth (while refusing, however, to get too strung up on 'prophetic particularism' which will lead to us arguing with those whose approach is different).
But certain things are important. To be frank, the teachings of the Word-Faith movement - and the prosperity teaching which largely emanates from it - actually pervert that essential gospel message, so we have to sound warning here. But people from this background can usually be brought back 'on track'- the errors are not usually as hard to overcome as those who have been badly affected by 'New Age' and the cults, for instance. But our warnings are comparatively gentle, we are not as hard-hitting as some, we rarely mention names; we just want to bring people back into a close walk with Jesus Christ.
So we are not too critical of others at all, but what museltof christian ministries do say is:
Let us all at least agree on the essentials of the gospel message - that message which (as Paul shows us) must not be perverted in any way! Then let us - by whatever means the Lord has opened to us - get on with preaching that message!
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