There are many different churches—from Catholics to Pentecostals and everything in between—yet their teachings clearly aren’t the same. Why is this, and what does God say about it?
“There is one body [the church is referred to as Christ’s body] and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling” (Ephesians 4:4)
There are so many varieties of “Christianity” not because God’s Word is difficult to understand, but because of the human ego—our innate sin natures, which always wants to be right.
Before He went to the cross, Jesus Christ—our Savior who died for our sins—prayed to God the Father on behalf of His followers. It is a long prayer, but even a portion is worth studying:
“…I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified [honored, shown to be who I am] in them. Now I am no longer in the world [Jesus is about to go to the cross], but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name…But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world [those who reject God’s forgiveness through Christ and His call to right living] has hated them because they are not of the world [because they don’t also reject what is right], just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them [make them holier, help them become better at doing right] by Your truth. Your word is truth [as we immerse ourselves in the teaching of the Bible, more and more we become the people God wants us to be]. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world…” (John 17:6-18)
There are many “churches” and denominations, but God has only one church. These are the people who believe what He says in His Word, recognize their sinfulness before Him, understand that it is only because of Christ that they are forgiven, and refuse to intentionally live in sin any longer. God says these people have been born again of Him, and it is they who are His church. All others are imposters.
If this seems harsh, consider what He says:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh [indulging sinful urges], but according to the Spirit [saying “no” to sin]…For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded (fleshly minded) is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity [hostile] against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh [who indulge their sin natures] cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:1-11)
The interesting thing is that throughout the ages, those who clung to God’s teaching and Christ were the odd men out. Remember what Jesus said in the passage above? “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” True followers of Christ aren’t always appreciated, not because of their abrasive personality or because they are “sticks in the mud,” but because they refuse to say wrong is right or right is wrong simply to fit in—because their love of and loyalty to Christ will not allow them to lie to others. And it is this quality that has always distinguished God’s people, whether in the Old Testament or the New, or even today, from the culture around them.
So while there are many physical buildings with the word “church” in their name and various denominations, God’s people are not recognized by which local congregation they attend on Sunday morning or which larger denomination they belong to, but by whether they cling to what He says in His Word.
Dear Lord God,
Thank You that You build Your church, Your people, regardless of where we choose to worship. Thank You that what matters is whether we put the effort in to get to know and love You, whether we agree with what You say and recognize that we are forgiven only through Christ. Help us grow in our love and knowledge of You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.