1000 to choose from, but which can we trust?
Latest statistics reveal nearly 1000 different Christian based church denominations exist today, (e.g. All Pentecostal churches are one denomination). Although all profess to follow Christ's teachings, each differs in doctrinal beliefs. How can so many denominations all proclaim the truth, when most are preaching completely different doctrines? The differences between each church range from major doctrinal beliefs, down to minor issues relating to the interpretation of Scripture. One thing is clear, no two churches totally agree on what the true teachings of Christ are. No church will say, "that other church teaches more truth than us." It could be said that Christians are gambling with their salvation, 'pulling their understanding of Jesus out of a hat'. How much of a gambler are you? Can we trust church leaders as a source of truth? Or should our only source of truth be the Bible?
Can you believe, 99.9% of churches are deceiving their congregations!
A clear point emerges from the above facts. How many of the 1000 churches can be teaching 100% truth, when all of them have different beliefs? At most, only one church could have all truth at any given time. What does this logic tell us? A minimum of 99.9% of Christian churches are deceiving their congregations in some way! This becomes a one in a thousand chance of choosing one worthy of following. Studies conducted by the Bible Society show after 2000 years of preaching the gospel, some 3 billion people have never heard the name Jesus. The Bible says the gospel will be taken through the whole earth; so when will it happen and more importantly, which Church will the truth be taken from?
Have the churches failed?
Many Christians today are leaving churches because they are not being fed the truth. It's not that their faith is waning; it's that the Bible itself is not being preached. The sermons are full of opinions and lovely stories but seem to be lacking the true message of the Bible. Could it be that people are putting their faith and salvation in the hands of religious leaders and not in Jesus?
2000 years ago Jesus warned us to beware of the teachings of religious leaders (Mat 16:12, Mar 12:38, Luke 12:1, 20:46). Do you suppose this warning is of any less importance today? As seen from the above survey, Jesus' warning is probably more significant today than ever. The number of Christian church groups has multiplied exponentially, mainly within the last century. Many people notice a sense of failure within church systems today. Could this be a repeat of Israel's failure 2000 years ago? We are not referring to a failure of all people within today's church systems, but failure of the systems themselves and their leaders. Many are surprised to discover, that not only is God's foreknowledge of this failure recorded in Scripture; but also His plan on how He will deal with it.
Supported by Scripture
Old Testament writings reveal Israel was the chosen vessel through which the gospel was to go out to the gentile nations (Isa 49:6). We see however, that concluding with the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus, Israel failed their mission (Mat 21:43, 23:37-38, 27:25, Luke 20:9-16). Israel, the chosen people, was symbolised by the candlestick (lamp-stand) in the Holy place of the earthly sanctuary (i.e. Gods Most Holy Temple). After Jesus' resurrection and return to the heavenly sanctuary (of which the earthly sanctuary was a pattern, Heb 8:5), we see a new group of people through which the gospel is to go out to the world. Once again, this vessel is represented by candlesticks, this time 7 of them, being the 7 churches (Rev 1:20, see also Acts 13:47). The next point goes largely un-noticed.
Consider this warning from Jesus in His letter to the churches; "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." (Rev 2:5)
Do you suppose, Jesus has kept His word on this matter? How many churches today are repenting of sin? Sin is defined as the transgression of the Ten Commandments (1John 3:4, Rom 7:7). Many churches claim the Commandments were nailed to the cross and no longer require our observance. If that were the case, there would be no sin in the world today, for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20). Scripture is clear; transgression against any Commandment carries equal penalty (Mat 5:19, James 2:10-11). The idea that Jesus kept His word regarding His threat to remove these candlesticks (7 churches), unless they repent of sin; is supported by Scripture.
In the earth's final days, new vessels appear, and the task of taking the gospel to all the world will be achieved. These new vessels are represented by 2 candlesticks (Rev 11:4). This would show the churches failure to repent; and thereby, the subsequent removal of their candlesticks will leave things open for God's final plans. Scripture shows during the period of the tribulation, there are indeed new vessels to take the gospel to the world. These two new candlesticks, the Holy Spirit and The Word of God (Zec 4), are soon to empower 144,000 servants of God, whom through their prophecy, will deliver the true gospel to all man-kind, (see page 11 story for more on these plans).
Where to now?
How do God's people fit within these 'soon to commence' plans? Does one have to belong to a church institution to be saved? Certainly not. Due to the church's departure from the Bible truth, many home groups are springing up to feed those followers of God's true word. No-one is implying that you leave a church if you detect an error in it; in fact, your questions may be a channel for others whom are seeking, to be shown the truth. The important issue is that you test all things against Scripture (Gal 1:8), and follow Christ, not a church. Repent of all sin, for here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus (Rev 14:12).