Many people today are erroneously satisfied with their faith and religion and feel so sure they are on the right path. They are against anyone who tells them otherwise. Some of them are so irrational that even when they are told the truth, they will not accept it.
The saddest part of it all is that they claim to believe the Bible as God's word; but, ironically, rather than obeying God's commandments, they succumb to human doctrines and creeds.
My plea, therefore, with anyone reading this tract is for him to do so with open-mindedness, ready to hear God's word, prove it, and obey it. The Bereans "were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things [they heard] were so" (Acts 17:11). No wonder, then, when Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, he charged them to prove all things; hold fast to that which is good (I Thessalonians 5:21)! I, therefore, plead with you to prove your belief. Each of us need to ask ourself: am I doing the will of God?
Jesus once said, "Not everyone that saith unto me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?' And then will I profess unto them, 'I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity"' (Matthew 7:21-23).
Our Lord Jesus Christ here described people who thought they were serving the Heavenly Father, but because their religious beliefs and activities were not a part of the Father's will, He will tell them, "I never knew you." You can be religiously zealous, and yet be wrong! Now is your chance to prove your belief.
Again, Jesus said, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:8, 9). Here our Lord stresses plainly the cause of vain worship--when we practice that which men authorize, our worship is vain.
Later down in the same chapter, His disciples told Jesus that one of the Jewish religious sects, the Pharisees, were offended at His sayings. Jesus replied, "Every plant, which my Heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Matthew 15:13, 14). Jesus was not talking about an ordinary plant, but about religious sects. He was not talking about literally blind people, but religious leaders who are blind to the truth. It is sad to note that today religiously blind leaders quote these passages to drive home their false teachings.
Let us, in a very simple way, expose some false teachings, and with the scriptures disprove them! Our special Bible text is II John 9: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, hath both the Father and the Son." Abiding in the doctrine of Christ means: living within the laws, rules, regulations and practices of the New Covenant, the last will of God for all mankind. Please read these reference again and again: Hebrews 1:1,2; Galatians 3:21-25; Hebrews 8:13 and 9:16,17.
To have fellowship with God and His Son, we must abide in the doctrine of Christ. II John 9 is a very simple passage by which you can prove your belief and practice in Christianity. In light of this passage, consider some very simple and basic beliefs and practices:
Remember that Jesus Christ said, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the words that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father who sent me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak" (John 12:48, 49). God will judge you by His words as they are found in the New Covenant, the last will of God to all mankind. You will never be judged by the false teachings of religious leaders, church Manuals, books of Discipline, Prayer books, catechisms, the tenets of faith, etc. Neither will you be judged by the Old Testament. You will be judged by the doctrine of Christ. Only by being loyal to the doctrine of Christ can you enjoy fellowship with God and with His Son (II John 9).
God gave the best of heaven to redeem you from sin (John 3:16). Jesus Christ emptied Himself and took the form of a servant, and was obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross, and thus paid the price for your sins (Philippians 2:5-8). God, Christ and the Holy Spirit have done their part. Now, do your part by simply following God's plan of salvation for you.
Are you saved? You may say, yes! Then I ask you, "Are you saved outside the body of Christ?" Paul declared, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). The result of sin is eternal death--separation from God and the glory of His power (Romans 6:23; II Thessalonians 1:7-9). The only way to escape this condemnation is to accept the offer of salvation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
To get into Christ: (1) You must hear the gospel (Romans 10:17); (2) Believe the gospel (Romans 10:9; John 3:16); (3) Repent of your sins (Romans 2:4; Luke 13:3); (4) Confess your faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9, 10; Matthew 10:32); (5) Be baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3, 4; Galatians 3:27) for the remission of your sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Mark 16:16). Upon this you are added by the Lord to His church, the body of Christ; not to some denomination or a human organization called a church (Acts 2:47; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:22, 23; 4:4- 6; Colossians 1: 18).
Having done these things in submission and obedience to Christ, you start living for and serving Him until death (Philippians 1:20, 2 1). Save yourselves from this wicked world today (Acts 2:38-40). God loves you (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8).
With more than 500 different denominations, it is not surprising that many folk are confused. The question is often heard, "How can I be sure which is the right church?" That question should be asked, and it also should be answered with a much better reply than is usually heard: "Which one doesn't matter, for one church is as good as another." The truth is that Jesus built only one church, not many (Matthew 16:18). He died for one church (Ephesians 5:25); He shed His blood for one church (Acts 20:28); He is the head of one church (Colossians 1: 18); and He is married to that one church (Ephesians 5:23-32). That obviously does not mean that "one church is as good as another," now, does it?
The apostle Paul, in the first generation of the church, revealed that ". . . some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits. . ." (I Timothy 4:1). He further warned that, because some people do not have a love for the truth, ". . . God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believed not the truth. . ." (II Thessalonians 2:10-12). The multitude of denominations is the direct result of ". . . they will not endure the sound doctrine, but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts" (II Timothy 4:3). When people reject the truth of God and follow teachers who tell them what they want to hear, new religious groups result.
We look around and see "many churches." Is there a way to tell which, if any, is the right one? Can there even be one that is right? Let us recognize, first, that the church is a people: "The Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved. He is the head of the body, the church. We, who are many, are one body in Christ '(Acts 2:47; Colossians 1: 18; Romans 12:5).
When you look for "the right church," you must look at the people who compose that church. Therefore, let us find some of the requirements, if we would honestly answer the question, ."How can I find the right church?" What kind of people will we find when we find the right church?
THEY WILL BELIEVE AND FOLLOW THE WORD OF GOD
As the prophet wrote, "It is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). The right church will be composed of people who look to God for guidance, who respect His word and study it diligently (II Timothy 2:15). Jesus told the apostles, "Whoever heareth you heareth me; he that rejecteth you rejecteth me; and he that rejecteth me, rejecteth Him that sent me" (Luke 10: 16). Christ is ". . . the mediator of a new covenant" (Hebrews 9:15), and that is what the apostles preached. Paul said, ". . when you received from us the word of the message, even the word of God, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God" (I Thessalonians 2:13). The right church will adhere to that teaching found in the word of Christ, the New Testament.
We must recognize that we are "justified by faith" (Romans 5: 1). The right church will teach that. Not by our own works, but "by grace are ye saved through faith" (Ephesians 2:8). Acceptable faith is clearly defined in the Scriptures: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice . . . by faith Noah prepared an ark ... by faith Abraham obeyed" (Hebrews 11:4-8). To find what God wants us to do, to believe Him and His promises, then to do what He tells us--that is acceptable faith. In fact, God warns that if we have faith and not works, that faith is dead and cannot save us (James 2:17-24). The right church will believe the word of God and act on what it teaches. It does no good to sing How I love Jesus unless we do what He says! As He put it, "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments . . . This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments" (John 14:15; I John 5:3). The right church will be active doing what it believes and teaches.
THEY WILL TEACH THE SIMPLE PLAN OF SALVATION
Why complicate? Jesus made it simple, and His apostles kept it simple. We are "saved by grace through faith" (Ephesians 2:8). God's grace, as manifest in all that Jesus Christ has done for us, brings the response of man's faith (Hebrews 11:4-8). Notice how Paul wrote of our salvation by grace through faith: "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood ... Being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him! For, if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son ... Are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death" (Romans 3:23-25; 5:9,10; 6:3)? We have access by faith into this grace (Romans 5:2) when that "faith works by love" (Galatians 5:6) in doing the will of God.
Jesus set forth very simple terms for our salvation. He showed that we must believe (John 3:16; 8:24; Mark 16:16). That faith is to lead us to repent of our sins: "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish" (Luke 13:3). The Lord also said, "He that confesseth me before men, him will I confess before my Father, which is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32). In the great commission Jesus promised that "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). The apostles, in accord with that New Testament commission, preached the gospel of Christ to people lost in sin. They heard, believed, repented, confessed faith in Christ and were baptized into Christ (Acts 2:36-41; 8:35-39; 16:31-34; 22:16; Romans 6:3-6). When they did that, the Lord added them to the right church (Acts 2:47). The right church still teaches that, and the right church still grows in the exact same way.
THEY WORSHIP BY NEW TESTAMENT AUTHORITY
The pattern of worship of the New Testament church was very simple. Christians met "on the first day of the week: (Acts 20:7). The Lord arose from the dead on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1-6; Mark 16:9). The Lord appeared to the apostles on the first day of the week (John 20:1-19; 20:26). The church began on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1-47). Early Christian writings confirm that the practice of the early church was to assemble each first day of the week for worship.
When the disciples assembled for worship, they studied together from the word of God (Acts 2:42; 20:7). Without the use of instruments of music, they were "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord!" (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). The right church still does that. The right church, believing firmly that God answers their prayers (James 5:16), often prays together (Acts 2:42; 12:12; Philippians 4:6). They come together "on the first day of the week to break bread" (Acts 20:7), thus commemorating the death of the Savior (I Corinthians 11:23-28) as their sacrifice for sin. And on the first day of the week, they "lay by in store" (I Corinthians 16:2), giving cheerfully and liberally for the Lord's cause (II Corinthians 8:5,8; 9:6-8). The right church still does this.
THE LOCAL CHURCH IS SCRIPTURALLY ORGANIZED
The New Testament reveals, and history confirms the fact, that the churches of Christ (Romans 16:16), 1900 years ago, were autonomous. That is, they were bound together by a common faith and love, but they were not bound by any kind of organizational structure. Each congregation (local church) selected her own leaders (Acts 6:1-6). Not even the apostles being with them could change that! No man, no group of men, no congregation ever selected leaders for those in another local church.
It was, and is, God's plan that each local church would have elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). These men were called "pastors, bishops, elders, shepherds" (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11; I Peter 5:1-3). They were to "oversee the church," tending to the "flock of God which is among you" (I Peter 5:2, 3). Members were told, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them: for they watch in behalf of your souls" (Hebrews 13:17). The elders were the only ones in the New Testament church to rule, oversee or shepherd the church.
In the local church, there were also "deacons" and "ministers" (Philippians 1: 1; I Timothy 3:8-12; Philippians 2:25). These all served under the oversight of the elders in the various areas of service that were needed in the local church (Acts 6:1-6). In the New Testament church, there was never a "one-man rule," and the deacons and/or ministers were not the decision making group. The elders (always plural) had the oversight of the local church. In the right church, it is still this way.
THEIR HOPE IS TO LIVE ETERNALLY IN HEAVEN
Jesus made this promise, "I go to prepare a place for you ... that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2, 3). Peter spoke of the death and resurrection of Jesus as a pledge of that promise: "God ... begot us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (I Peter 1:3, 4).
The hope of Christians 1900 years ago was not on this earth, but beyond this life. The apostle Paul wrote, "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.... There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness. . . . We know, if the earthly house of your tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens" (Philippians 1:21; II Timothy 4:8; II Corinthians 5:1).
The right church still has that same hope. Because they believed Jesus, his followers "went everywhere preaching the word" (Mark 16:20). They knew that "the gospel is the power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16), so they told their neighbors and friends and relatives about the wonderful Savior they had found (John 4:29, 30; Acts 5:42; 8:4). They were concerned about lost souls, so they used every means they could to tell others about Christ.
The right church still does that. Because someone cares for your soul, you are reading this paper. Thousands of copies of this tract are in circulation as a means of reaching out to those who need the Savior.
How can you find the right church? Go to God's word, find what the church should be, then find a group that is identical to what you read in God's word. We urge you to investigate the church of Christ.