IF GOD CARES, WHY IS THIS SO-CALLED CHRISTIANITY DIVIDED?
The night before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:20-21). Unity is the Lord's will. The problem is, it isn't man's will. And this is precisely the problem. The divided state of so-called Christianity exists because men have permitted their wills to take the place of God's will, and men are notorious for not being able to get along when the basis for that "getting along" is the will of man.
WHY "SO-CALLED" CHRISTIANITY?
I refer to the divided state as "so-called" Christianity because the divided state which the world sees, and calls Christianity, is not Christianity at all. To be sure, there is division within Christianity; but the divided denominational scene is not "within Christianity", nor is it any part of the Christianity of the Bible. The Bible reveals one gospel (Romans 1:16) that is designed to place those who obey it into one church (Ephesians 1:22-23, 2:16), by which the one God is to be glorified through the one Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:21). This gospel was first preached on the day of Pentecost, as is recorded in the second chapter of Acts, and the church of Christ was born as a result of people hearing and obeying that one gospel. This was in approximately 33 A.D., or 33 years after the birth of Christ. The church continued to flourish during the lifetime of the apostles, and into the next generation. It was, however, foretold that apostasy from the truth was going to happen (Acts 20:29-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:3), and warnings were given to keep individual Christians from being swept into it (1 John 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1).
The apostasy occurred, just as the inspired apostles had foretold. The church did not cease to exist. It is eternal (Daniel 2:44; Matthew 16:18). It may have been known only in the area where it existed (isolated places), or it may have existed in seed form (Luke 8:11), but it did exist. However, the apostate church took the public eye, and unscrupulous men and women led the apostasy into a state which made it a religion other than that which Jesus had established. The following chart may help to get the picture before us concerning the state of "so-called" Christianity.
CHURCH - DATE STARTED
Roman Catholic 606 A.D.
Greek Orthodox 1053
Seventh Day Adventist 1830
Christian Science 1866
Nazarene Church 1895
Pentecostal Holiness 1898
Assembly of God 1914
The above chart is in no way exhaustive. In fact, several hundred more denominations exist. The various orthodox churches (Russian, Romanian, Greek, etc.) are splinters from the Roman Catholic church. The protestant denominations are the result of protests against the Roman Catholic Church, and attempts to reform it. The protests were met with stern opposition, the reformation attempt failed, and out of the rubble came the separate churches.
Some of the protestant churches that presently exist are born from protests against other protestant churches. Both the Catholic Church and protestant denominations are built upon the foundation of the commandments of men on doctrines that do not exist in the Bible. They are the result of men "speaking perverse things" (Acts20:30), departure "from the faith" in which men were "giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (1 Timothy 4:1), and "false prophets" having "gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).
God warned of it happening, but he did not cause it, nor does He sanction it. The various bodies that have been born from the apostasy exist as fruits of rebellion, thus we refer to them as "so-called" Christianity.
GOD'S WILL IS UNITY
The Psalmist wrote, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Psalms 133:1)! It is a pleasant atmosphere. None will deny it. And it is the will of God that it be so. And it can be so, if men and women would set aside their pet theories and doctrines, and submit to the all-sufficiency of the scriptures in matters of faith. The apostle Paul wrote:
"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1Corinthians 1:10).
Paul also wrote of this matter to the church in Ephesus:
"I Therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:1-6).
Did you see it? There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God! This is God's way. Man's substitute plan is for many; but there can never be unity in such a plan because it is subjective, void of any objective foundation.
NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY
The church of the New Testament does exist today. When one hears the unadulterated gospel, or reads it for himself/herself from the scriptures, the seed is planted (Luke 8:11). When one obeys what is learned from the scriptures, the seed is germinating, and brings forth a Christian. Not a "kind" of Christian, but a Christian. No party names, no denominational doctrine, no creeds of men just the pure life in Christ that is guided by the word of God. All who do the same are the same. Differences which divide are avoided and likenesses are enjoyed. This is the "unity of the Spirit". And it is this pleasant "oneness" that creates a situation where "the world may believe" that God sent His Son. Men and women of different nations, different races, different languages becoming one in Christ. This is the will of God!
THE FUTURE OF "SO-CALLED" CHRISTIANITY
Jesus spoke clearly of what will happen to those who follow after the commandments of men. Hear Him: "But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Matthew 15:13-14). That which is not built upon the rock (teachings of Christ) is destined to fall, as a building built upon sand (Matthew 7:26-27).
Since God denies authorship of confusion (1 Corinthians14:33), and we cannot deny that confusion exists in the denominational world, just like it exists in the broader state of world religions; then we must conclude that God is not the author of the denominational world any more than he is the author of all world religions.
God does care, and the divided state of "so-called" Christianity does not at all imply that he doesn't.
Questions for Lesson 4
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