Do you know of any Church which proudly proclaims "We teach error"? Of course not. Each considers its teachings to be "truth". Yet the varieties of Christian faith by far outnumber the proverbial "Heinz 57 varieties"! This means they conflict, and each denomination has its own "statement of beliefs". These beliefs vary widely from denomination to denomination. So - who then has the truth? And does it matter?
Perhaps we ought first to define "truth" in the modern Christian context.
What Is Truth?
During the trial of Jesus, Pilate expressed what philosophers from time immemorial have asked: "What is truth?" Two thousand years on they still ask the question. But for Christians we can identify with Jesus own definition. "Your Word is truth", he said (John 17:17). So it is to the Word of God that we look to find truth. And God's Word is unified, consistent, unchanging - and humanly unchangeable.
Any concordance will show that the apostles were quite preoccupied with the idea of truth. It is the foundation of the faith. It is vital to belief. And to salvation. The apostle Paul, for example, warned the disciples at Thessalonica that some could miss salvation through deception "because they refused to love the truth" (II Thes 2:10).
Perhaps, then, we ought to give it more earnest heed. Can you, from Scripture, substantiate all your church's teachings? Of course, no church will be one hundred per cent right. But on the pillars of the faith, are you right? You need to know.
Cozy traditional belief isn't often truth. A warm and caring fellowship can exist apart from truth and isn't uncommon in non- Christian religion and in the so-called "cults". Nor is truth necessarily found in a charismatic setting. Tongue-speaking, as an example, is found worldwide - even in rank paganism.
Tradition, loving concern, spiritual gifts - all have their proper place alongside truth. But they are not a substitute for truth. Indeed these can so much appeal to us that they blind us to God's revealed way.
Worship - In Truth
Take, for example, our worship. Is that important? Surely in this there's no question of "truth"? Yet because ancient Israel deviated from God's revealed worship they ended up as slaves! The northern House of Israel merely changed the time of God's autumn festival - and began to slide into idolatry. In recounting Israel's sorry history, the prophet Ezekiel wrote: "I swore to them in the wilderness that I would scatter them among the nations because they had...profaned my sabbaths" (Ezek. 20:23-24).
Is the Church any better? For the Christian church has indeed similarly profaned God's true worship.
Jesus urged that we "worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). Has that truth changed? Can you produce a scrap of New Testament evidence that God changed the day to worship from the seventh to the first? Or that He has relaxed our observance of that day from its original concept'? Write to us if you think you have that scrap of evidence!
And not only has the church in general profaned the weekly Sabbath. It has replaced the form of worship that God ordained with a rag-bag of festivals drawn from pre-christian religion: Lent, Easter, All Souls, Christmas and a host of saint's days.
The Edge Of Disbelief
Note, however, that even the perfect observance of true worship won't save you. It's God's mercy and love expressed through Jesus Christ that saves. But does that mean we can do as we please? Ancient Israel thought so, and were severely chastised for their betrayal of truth. Can a Christian "get away with" disobedience - in worship or in an aspect of God's Law - and be sure of eternal life? Paul thought not. He wrote "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God'? Do not be deceived: neither the immoral, nor idolaters [that includes how we worship God - the first four of the Ten Commandments], nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the Kingdom of God" (I Cor 6:9-10).
As a Christian you are committed to obey God. If you imagine otherwise you are on the edge of disbelief. If you think obedience to God's Law as expressed in the whole of Scripture is optional, you are on a slippery slope to losing the opportunity of being a part of the Kingdom of God. It is positively dangerous. It is lawlessness - sin.
The Christian life is no easy ride. Paul knew this and wrote: "For if we sin [i.e., transgress God's Law - I John 3:4] deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. A man who has violated the Law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God. and profaned the blood of the Covenant by which he was sanctified. and outraged the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:26-29).
By that Covenant, God's Law is written into our minds - Jeremiah 31:31-33. It is the expression of God alive in us. If we disobey, we will in time quench the Spirit. That could jeopardize eternal life. Let's all take earnest heed to the truth of God's Word.
Writing to another Christian publication, one of its readers roundly condemned an earlier contributor for advocating a practice which, he claimed, was not mentioned - or required - by the New Testament. The topic was tithing.
But his complaint raises the question as to the source of our belief Is it indeed true that "if it's not in the New Testament" we ought not to observe the practice? It has all sorts of interesting and disturbing implications.
How many modern church practices can we "prove" from the New Testament? Where, for example, does the NT urge on us the festival of Christmas? And I challenge you to prove from it that Christians ought to keep the first day of the week as a rest and worship day! And do you see in it a direction to attend an "Easter sunrise" service? Include the Old Testament, of course, and both are roundly condemned!
First Century Bible
The letter writer went on to ask "...should Christians be putting themselves back under laws Christ died to free us from?" Did he (or she) perhaps mean the law that prohibits murder? Or the one against stealing, or adultery? Or "you shall have no other gods before me" - not, by the way. directly quoted in the New Testament but surely still valid!
There is here woeful ignorance of the role of the Old Testament in the life of the Christian. Realize that in the days of the apostles the New Testament writings didn't exist. And the new disciples were constantly directed - by the apostles - to study the Old Testament.
Of the Berean Christians, Paul wrote "...they were more noble ... for they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily whether these things were so" (Acts 17: 11). Which Scriptures? None other than what we today call the Old Testament!
To Timothy, the apostle wrote: "From childhood you have been acquainted with the Sacred Writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching. for reproof, for correction. and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be complete... " (II Timothy 3 :15-16). What "sacred writings"? Why - none other than the Old Testament!
Source of Belief
God, for emphasis, often repeats Himself in His Word. But He doesn't have to. So those first Christians pored over "the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms" (Luke 24:44-45) to find out how they should behave as Christians. That's where they learned when to worship, when to come together for Festivals. That's where they learned about tithing. That's where they learned to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). For most of them had never heard Jesus utter those words - and they hadn't yet been written down by New Testament scribes!
History attests that they modelled their lives on what they read in the Old Testament. Only a tiny number of well-documented changes - e.g., circumcision (Acts 15), or the sacrificial system (Hebrews) -were introduced. These changes are writ large and clearly attested in the New Testament.
Jesus warned against those who follow human traditional beliefs "making void the word of God". [Read Mark 7:6-13] If you want to be certain you are indeed "right with God" then check you own beliefs with God's revelation - the entire Holy Bible.
An opportunity for you to put on your thinking cap!
Sabbath - Or Sunday?
[Use an encyclopedia and your Bible to answer these questions]
I Did the Jews alone observe a seven-day week?
- known in all ancient societies
- not dependent on the movements of the planets
- c.f., year. month. day which are: (earth-moon-sun)
- what does this signify?
II When did seventh-day religious observance begin?
- origin at man's creation
- Gen 2:1-3, Mark 2:27-28
- observed before the Law given at Sinai through Moses
- by Abraham (Gen 26:5)
- leaving Egypt (Exodus 16) and before the Law given
- for Jew and Gentile
- Mark 2:27-28, Isaiah 56:1-8
- rest day in many ancient nations [encyclopedia again]
- many modern languages use some form of "sabbath" for Saturday [e.g., subota - Russian, sabtu - Indonesian, al-sabt - Arabic, szombat - Hungarian]
III Was the 7th Day special to "Israel"?
- special to the nation of Israel
- part of the national Constitution: Exodus 20:8-11
- an identity sign: Ex 31:12-17
- exiled for profaning it: Ezekiel 20 & 22
- special to spiritual Israel, the Church
- the Church is the New Covenant Israel: Gal 6:16
- special to Jesus Christ: Luke 4:16ff
- special to the Apostles
- annual Sabbath: Acts 2, I Cor 16:8?,Acts 12:37, 20:6
- weekly Sabbath: Acts 13:42, 15:21, 16:13, 18:4 etc
IV Will the 7th Day ever be observed for worship by all men?
- to be observed by all in the millennium: Isaiah 66:23, Ezekiel 44:24, 46:3
- annual Sabbaths included: Zech. 14:16-19
- it's sin not to observe it: Matt 5:17-20, Rev 12:14, 1 John 3:4
V Shouldn't you observe the seventh-day Sabbath?
[Request the free 16-page booklet Why Do You Observe Sunday?]
To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.
For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Volume 1 Issue 1, January/February 1997. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.
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