So often I hear people slagging off about other churches or Christians being ungodly, rather than celebrating their different expressions of our own faith and ability to reach people differently to us.
Today, I mentioned to someone that I as a protestant have concerns about Catholicism, but noted that we’re still based on the same foundation. From my perspective they’ve piled a lot of crap upon that foundation, but I accept they’d regard me similarly 😉 I admit, some of my understandings may be wrong. To assume I’ve got it all together would be blasphemy.
Paul put this much more diplomatically
1 Corinthians 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames.
The churches are built upon the one foundation – that is Jesus Christ
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
This was all that the first saint to enter heaven knew
Luke 23:40 But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’
42Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
43Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’
He didn’t have any elaborate theological training, and he probably had some really warped ideas. He certainly didn’t have time to build upon his foundation with anything – whether gold or straw. Yet he allowed Jesus to use him for God’s glory and this was righteousness enough.
In researching the Pentecostal greats, I see differences in doctrine, but these great people of God channelled God’s miracles and brought so many into God’s kingdom. Smith Wigglesworth taught that all cancers are demonic. He addressed them as such as cast them into Hell where they belong. You probably think that’s so wrong. But it worked for him. I think he was wrong, but according to his faith (his understanding) healings abounded. So, how can I judge such, particularly when God is not so mightily manifest in my own life?
Then there’s Benny Hinn. Hmmm. He’s got some amazing teaching and God is totally manifest in his life. But I really struggle with so much “bless God with your finances – here’s my number”. Again, although I struggle with this and perhaps many have been hurt, many others have taken this in faith and found breakthrough.
I think also that many Catholics have prayed to God through Mary or some long-dead saint and received their miracle. For me, this is idolatry, but I think God does not deny a genuine heart calling out to him from a limited understanding. On the other hand, so many with a great understanding are inhibited by precisely that and see no breakthrough.
Each of these are built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and are therefore my dear brothers and sisters – although perhaps from another mother ;-).
Upon the foundation of Christ, we build our understanding (doctrines). Many doctrines are worthless as straw when the fire of judgement comes, and others as precious as gold. As long as our foundation is Jesus, we are the church.
1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognise the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
Many denounce other believers as anti-Christian, despite them proclaiming that Jesus is God who became human.
James 4:11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbour?
We must be careful when speaking about other believers and denominations that any judgement we make is true. If we’re wrong, we’re slandering Jesus’ precious bride. Therefore it is better to tolerate other understandings. But we must gently and humbly encourage and correct those whose understandings we find are contrary to scripture – using scripture.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness
In a recent discussion, one who believes that Jesus will rapture believers in the middle of Satan’s seven-year empire (tribulation) said, “the pre-tribulation rapture theory is the most damaging teaching in the church.” That’s just crazy-talk. Is this theory more destructive than denying the truth of the Bible? Actually there are many who have become believers because of pre-tribulation rapture teaching – granted, many out of fear. But this is not necessarily bad.
Matthew 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Whereas appeasing people with niceties is
2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather round them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
Romans 16:17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
Just for the record, I find that mid- and post-tribbers tend to get caught up in apocalypse-prepping – distracting our energies away from teaching the truth of the whole of God’s word. This can be destructive.
I prefer to focus on the essentials and embrace all who subscribe to the Apostle’s creed as fellow believers
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Note catholic means universal i.e. not just one denomination is exclusive.
I have strong concerns for any who claim to believe but exclude other believers because of secondary concerns.
1 John 4:20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
John 13:34 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’
Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
I pray that this would be a blessing