"Is Christ divided?" (1 Corinthians 1:13)
As we know, Jesus will be coming and probably very soon to unite with His bride, the Body of Christ. I believe He is in the process right now of preparing His bride, and I believe this message is one of the many things He is doing to accomplish this. Would he come back for a segmented bride, divided and still in pieces? I don't think so. I think He wants His bride united as one. "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Some Christian denominations, a few even meeting the criteria of a cult, separate themselves from the rest as the only ones with the Truth. How do they do this exactly? I'll explain.
Note: Please keep in mind as you read further that, while I may condemn the existence of many Christian denominations and cults (because I believe God does), I do not judge any persons. God looks at the heart, and only He can judge a person's heart. Indeed there are any number of people who are true born-again believers and members of the Body of Christ involved in denominations and even in some of what I consider to be cults. Besides, God can save anyone in the midst of any circumstances.
What is "The Church"?
The Church, as defined in the Word of God - the Bible, is the body of those who are true believers in Jesus Christ that have been saved by God's Grace through faith in Him. The Church is the Body of Christ.
Confusingly, though, we also use the word "church" to refer to a building or to a denomination such as the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, etc.
Christian Organized Religions
Organized religions are organizations with a hierarchy of government founded on a common general faith or religion. Christian organized religions, or denominations, are organized divisions of presumed Christianity founded on a particular sub-set of doctrines or beliefs not commonly shared among all born-again Christians. The problem I have with Christian denominations is that I believe God's Word prohibits divisions among the Body of Christ:
"Now I beseech you, bretheren, 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." (1 Corinthians 1:10, KJV, emphasis added)
"Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Cor 1:12-13, KJV)
"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." (1 Cor 2:2, KJV)
Each organized Christian denomination, or "church", while supposedly accepting the authority of the Bible, is also established on a certain sub-set of doctrines or beliefs as the foundation of its denomination. Usually, this set of beliefs is called the "Doctrinal Statement" of the denomination. In more extreme cases, these beliefs are embodied in a whole other book or set of writings outside of the Bible altogether.
These sets of beliefs, by the very nature of their existence, contain one or more of what I consider "divisional doctrines" or unique beliefs that they use to distinguish their denomination from others. With these divisional doctrines they at least inadvertently differentiate themselves apart from the rest of the Body as if to be the only ones with the "real" or "full" truth. These divisional beliefs are presented as Biblical doctrine.
Divisional doctrines are generally either conclusions drawn through the private interpretation of Biblical scriptures, or they are beliefs derived from writings outside of the Bible altogether. In a Doctrinal Statement, these beliefs are usually accompanied by isolated Biblical scripture verses that seem to support it, but are usually absent of any Biblical scriptures that may explicitly contradict it. In any case, the authorities of that denomination are prepared to explain away any scriptural contradictions to a divisional belief.
There are some presumed "Christian" denominations that actually satisfy the common traits of a cult! These are common traits of cults:
1. A source of authority outside of the Bible (person, book, or writing)
2. The denial of justification by grace alone.
3. The devaluation of Christ.
4. The group as the exclusive community of the saved.
5. Non-members and opponents are considered blinded by Satanic force.
These will generally have whole other books or writings which contain their divisional beliefs and which they accept as essential truth in addition to the Bible. Many of them also have some person who they uphold as a latter day "prophet", or otherwise infallible person whose writings or teachings they consider to be divine revelation that allegedly clarifies or even supersedes God's Word!
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction." (2 Peter 2:1)
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils." (1 Timothy 4:1, KJV, emphasis added)
"For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20.29-30)
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." (11:13-14)
"...but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ." (Galatians 1:7)
" ...and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time." (1 John 2:18)
Each of these false religions and their additional books, writings or teachings cunningly present heresies as truth and incorporate beliefs that set themselves apart from other churches as the only ones who have "the real truth". (I would gladly name those congregations here along with their "prophets" and other sources of authority, but I don't wish to offend any persons who may be members of them.)
What is Truth?
After all, what is truth? Truth is not relative to anyone; in other words, whatever one believes to be true isn't necessarily the truth just because it's what they think. Consider this: If there are two "truths" that contradict each other, then at least one or maybe both of them must not be true.
How can two different writings that contain contradictions to each other both be true? Pick one, and throw the other in the garbage. Anything that is not truth is a lie, and any writing or belief that contains a lie, is in itself a lie. "A little leaven leavens the whole lump." Satan is the father of lies, and any belief based on a lie is a "doctrine of devils".
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine..." (2 Timothy 3:16)
"...no prophesy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." (2 Peter 1:20)
"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive..." (Ephesians 4:14)
God does not deceive, nor will He lead us to deception, contention or division. This is solely the work of Satan!
There is only one Truth about God and mankind, and that is the inspired Word of God - the Bible. There have been many intelligent atheists who have devoted their life's work to finding even one thing in the entire Bible that is not true, all of whom have failed to do so, and many who have in fact become believers in the process. There are multitudes of research and information that testifies to the authenticity and credibility of the Bible. Not one person in the world has ever been able to prove one thing wrong in the Bible!
Therefore, sane reasoning dictates that we must choose the Bible against any other book, writing or teaching that contains anything that is unsubstantiated in it or directly contrary to it! Keep the divinely inspired Word of God, the Bible, and throw all others that contradict it in the trash where they belong.
"Where God builds a church the devil builds a chapel." - Martin Luther
It makes sense to me that Christianity has totally lost credibility among the unsaved these days. We can't even all agree among ourselves on the simplest of Biblical doctrines! Consider all the evangelists, preachers, teachers and other Biblical "scholars" who cannot even agree on the doctrine of the Gospel and salvation alone, or even on who Jesus was exactly. Where's the credibility in that?
Which of the myriad teachers, evangelists, and denominations is the right one to sign up with and devote himself or herself to? Whose interpretations of scripture are we to believe as the Truth? Which one has it right?
It is my opinion that the many different versions of the truth among the Body of Christ serve to further Satan's kingdom of darkness and deceit.
Very often the teachings of the pastors, priests, ministers and/or preachers of denominational churches are generally accepted by the people as inspired truth from God; many listeners tend to feel relieved from the responsibility of studying God's Word for themselves. They tend to believe they need only to accept the teachings of those in authority, rightly assuming that they are teaching the pre-approved doctrines of their whole denomination.
In the extreme cases of certain cult denominations, the people are even discouraged from studying the Bible for themselves!
Teachers are not infallible; therefore their teachings at times will perhaps contain their own false private interpretations and conclusions blended with truth, and the listener will swallow it whole.
Cults especially determine to indoctrinate, or brainwash, its members and attendees with its heretical beliefs and its fabricated regulations at as early an age as possible. Further, their members are even brainwashed to believe that anyone outside their church who opposes it is motivated by satanic force, or at least by spiritual blindness. If the brainwashing is successful, it can then be used to manipulate and control its people for its own purposes (ultimately, for Satan's purpose), and keep them blind to the Truth.
Satan's purpose in all these Christian denominations and cults is to destroy the credibility of true Christianity in the eyes of the unsaved, to divide and conquer the Body of Christ and prevent people from coming to a knowledge of the Truth and being saved. Satan seeks to draw away disciples to himself to distract and prevent people from knowing the Truth which would otherwise set them free from being in bondage to heretical beliefs and traditions of men and ultimately to himself.
Those who study the scriptures diligently and whose eyes are opened to the divisional heresies of their church usually have only one choice: they can either keep their mouths shut about it, or leave. For the average person in the congregation, the choice to leave is a fairly simple one: just leave.
But what about the pastor whose eyes are opened to the heresies of his church? He must either skirt the issue and deny the Truth, or convert his church to one that is independent and nondenominational, or leave that church and his whole livelihood. He is in bondage to the government of his denomination.
Avoid the Snares of Bondage
"Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings..." (2 Timothy 2:15-16, KJV, emphasis added)
Believers who read and study the Bible for themselves, who discover and know the real Truth of God's Word, can no longer be held in bondage by Satan and the denominational churches and cults who serve him.
"But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is the truth, and is no lie..." (1 John 2:27, KJV, emphasis added)
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that going to church is necessary for salvation, or that it is even a matter of obedience in honoring God. In fact, this is what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well:
"...Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father ... But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth:.." (John 4:21-23, KJV)
We are to worship the Father not just in church on Sunday (or even on Saturday), but with our lives.
I consider the model of the Apostles and members of the early church, and the teachings of the new testament concerning the assembling of believers, to be the perfect model that we as a Body should all return to today.
We are encouraged to assemble regularly for fellowship - to praise our Lord together in song, to share the Truth and our testimonies with our fellow believers, and to give from our abundance to distribute to the needs of others.
"But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying." (1 Cor 14:24-26, KJV, emphasis added)
A safe church to attend would be a true Christian church founded on the simple truth about Jesus and the Gospel, that is purely Bible-based. It would only have one "doctrinal statement" - the Word of God.
The only true Church is the whole Body of Christ.
Our doctrinal statement is the Word of God alone.
Our spiritual father is our Father in Heaven alone.
Our teacher, our authority, our covering, our shepherd, and our Savior is Jesus Christ alone.