Recently a preacher friend of mine forwarded the following essay written by fifteen-year-old Hannah Sexton for her humanities class. Hannah attends a private faith based school, so her peers and teachers expect her to believe in God and His Word. But, boldly, Hannah is doing more than professing belief. She is saying the unpopular things in a challenging denominational arena. Both her classmates and her humanities teacher are engaging her. They are asking questions and some, as they study, are beginning to agree with her on certain points. I do not know if any of them will ever be baptized for the remission of sins, putting on Christ, but I do know Hannah will be stronger as a result of speaking up when it would be much easier to go in silence with the denominational flow. It’s hard for me, as an adult to defend the truth about the singular nature of the church, the necessity of baptism and the tough, but required self-denial involved in repentance. I know it is difficult for Hannah to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that’s in her (I Peter 3:15). Will you resolve with me to be less like Peter when he was standing around that fire while the trial of Jesus was occurring and more like the transformed Peter of Pentecost? I’d settle today for being more like Hannah Sexton. (By the way, parents of teens, it would be a fantastic idea to share in your Family Bible Time what Hannah has written to a class full of denominational people. Then challenge your children to find one denominational friend this week. Tell them to begin a conversation with this friend by asking a question such as “I’ve been wondering what your church teaches a person to do in order to go to heaven,” or “Who was your speaker at that youth event last weekend?” or “How old were you when you ‘got saved?’” Questions like these are great study starters. Help your kids to imagine how the conversation might go from there. If 100 parents tonight get 150 kids talking to their friends about salvation this week, by next week there will be at least 10-15 teens who are, as a result, involved in Bible studies with friends. If the odds hold true, one soul will be saved as a result. That’s SAVED! You can be part of the process. Start
A key part in the book of Ephesians is Paul’s discussion and description of the word “church”. As stated in Matthew 16:18, Jesus only built one church (‘…and on the rock I will build my church…’). In the letter to the Ephesians, the church is described as the “household of God”, “the body of Christ”, and a “holy temple”. Later in Ephesians, the relationship between Christ and his church is compared to that of a husband and wife. In all of these instances and phrases used to compare Christ to His church, the word ‘the’ is used. “The household of God”, “the body of Christ”, and so on. ‘The’ is the definite article, pointing to one person, place or thing. Paul’s wording seems to indicate that there is only one true church. In the verse from Matthew referenced in the first paragraph, Christ says that He is going to build His church (singular, not plural). In Romans 12:4-5, it says that there are many members of one body, the body of Christ. This verse is easily misinterpreted to mean that all religions are correct and that all religions are members of the body of Christ, meaning that all religions are saved. However, this interpretation is not correct. There are many other verses in books such as the four gospels, Ephesians, Romans, and many others that point to there only being one church. Matthew 7:21 says, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” This verse explicitly states that not everyone (not even the “religious” people) will see the kingdom of God. The second part of that verse (“but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”) really stands out to me. The majority of “religious” people base their “religion” off of what they think God wants. Common phrases include, “Well, I don’t think God really means that,” or “We all worship in our own way, but it is all the same to God,” or, “It just feels right.” John 14:15 says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” “My commandments”; not “what I think” or “what feels right”, but “My commandments”. Back to Paul’s description of the New Testament church. His analogies are all in singular form. “The” is used repeatedly. Another interesting observation: the relationship between Jesus and His church is compared to that of a husband and wife. A husband, by Biblical standards, only has one wife. First Corinthians 7:2 says, “…Let each man have his own wife…” “Wife”: singular, not plural, indicating that there is only one wife for her husband, and only one bride for Christ. If there is only one true church, then there has to be only one way to get in. John 14:16 says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 3:16 (“…and whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”) is often viewed as the only verse explicitly stating how to be saved. ‘Believe’ it says. But is that the only thing? James 2:19 says, “You believe in the one true God; good. Even the demons believe, and tremble.” If believing is the only part of salvation, then demons are going to take part in everlasting paradise. On the day of Pentecost as mentioned in Acts, 2:38 of this book, Peter says, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” James 2:17 says that faith without works is dead. According to these Scriptures, simply believing is not enough. I have never found any Biblical reference to the ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ or ‘asking Jesus into your heart’, so I do not see any reason to mention these any further. If John 3:16 says that all you have to do to gain salvation is believe, but the demons believe (and they are certainly not going to heaven), then there must be another part. In every one of the examples in Acts of people being saved, they are baptized. Romans 6:4 says that baptism ‘buries us with Christ’. ‘Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should also walk in newness of life’ (Roman 6:4). So, as this verse states (and Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, and others), it is not the believing that buries our sin and cleanses us, but the baptism. In conclusion, if there is one God with one set of commandments and views, why would there be more than one church? Going back to Ephesians, in 4:4-5 is says, ‘one body, one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism…’ Paul stresses that there is only one. ‘One faith’ does not leave room for the hundreds and hundreds of “churches” and “religions” that there are in the world today. As Christians who want to serve God the way He says (not in what feels good to us), it is our job to leave all personal preferences behind and to seek God’s will endlessly. We were not put here to please ourselves, but to please and glorify God in the way He says.
P.S. Next time: “Summer Six” conclusion! The last fitness challenge is in its exciting planning stage. It’s something you will want to put on your calendar FOR SURE! It’s the most exciting one of all, for me! He just keeps blessing and blessing again.