By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: How do we know that our interpretation of the Bible is correct, and other churches who claim to follow the Bible and live according to the Scriptures, are in error and lost?
Reply: There are many difficult passages in the Bible, and in some instances, various views or interpretations are given as to the meaning of those passages. It is not always possible to know which view is correct in regard to some particular verse or verses. This, we readily admit.
On the other hand, there are many plain simple truths which need no interpretation. They are plain simple facts. With reference to these, it is not a matter of interpretation; it is a matter of either believing them and accepting them, or not believing them and accepting them. It is a simple matter of authority. The reason for religious division and human churches is the failure to recognize and adhere to divine authority.
When it comes to human redemption (the salvation of the human soul), the New Testament furnishes ample teaching which would require help to misunderstand. In other words, God has not left man in the dark as to the answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” God’s matchless love sent Jesus, His only begotten Son, into this world to die for it (Jn. 3:16). It was His grace and mercy which made this possible (Eph. 2:8; Tit. 2:11; etc.). The blood of Christ was shed in our behalf that we might be redeemed from sin (Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1: 18,19). His precious blood purchased the church (Acts 20:28). God, through the revelation of the Holy Spirit (1 Pet. 1:10-12), made it possible to know this; and the same Holy Spirit has revealed to us through the Scriptures what we must do to be saved. He has not only made it known, but He has revealed it in such simple language that all accountable persons can understand it (Eph. 5:17). What has God revealed to us by the Holy Spirit? He has revealed to us that we must come to God by faith (Heb. 11:6), and that faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). He has revealed to us that all must repent (Acts 17:30, 31), confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:37; Rom. 10:10) and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Those who comply with these terms are added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:47). The book of Acts furnishes us examples of people who did these things (Acts 2,8,9,10,16,18:8, ch. 19; etc.). In this paragraph we have illustrated the plain truths of what God requires of people to be saved and examples of them. The same applies to our work, life and worship after we become Christians. Space does not permit a detailed account. (See 1 Cor. 15:58; Rom. 12:1,2; Acts 2:42; 20:7; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16, etc.)
Just as simple as is God’s plan for man’s salvation, so is the church. It was promised by Christ (Mt. 16:18), was built by Christ (same verse) and was purchased by His blood (Acts 20:28). He is the head of His church (Eph. 1:22,23; 5:23; Col. 1:18), and the savior of His church which is His body (Eph. 5:23). There is only one body (Eph. 4:4), and the church is that body (Eph. 1:22,23; 4:23; Col. 1:18); therefore, there is only one church. It is not our church but the church that belongs to Christ. There are many human churches but only one divine church, and that is the one described in the pages of Sacred Writ.
The above is furnished by the Scriptures, not man (2 Tim. 3:16,17). The above facts, commands and examples need no interpretation. It is only a matter of whether we accept the truth or reject it. So you see, this is not our interpretation. In fact, it is not interpretation. The old common expression, “We cannot all see the Bible alike,” is not true. When it comes to difficult passages (passages which do not relate to our salvation), none of us may understand them. But when it comes to the will of God as to the salvation of our souls, all can understand. It is not a question of understanding it “alike,” for if we understand it, we are in agreement. If there is disagreement, it is not a matter of “not seeing alike,” but rather it is simply that some understand and some do not, or that all do not understand. Or it may be, as often is the case, that some understand but they refuse to believe it. Or, they may believe it, but refuse to obey it. To say that men cannot understand God’s word “alike” means that God either was not able to reveal it so they could, or being able, He did not want to do it. Who but an infidel would say either? It is only a matter of believing or not believing, obeying or not obeying.
Our querist mentions “other churches” who claim to follow the B1ble, and how do we know they are lost? In the first place, claiming to be right does not make us right (Mt. 7:21; Lk. 6:46). We have already seen from the plain Scriptures that there is only one divine church, only one that is authorized by the Scriptures. The “other churches” are not authorized by the Scriptures because they are not identified by the Scriptures. This is how we know they are in error. They are human churches and cannot be authorized by Christ. He built only one and He is the head of it. That human churches are in error is not our judgment, but that of God’s word. It is by that word that we shall all be judged at the last day (Jn. 12:48; Rev. 20:12). The issue will be “righteousness” (Acts 17:30,31). We are thankful that it is not our prerogative to do the judging, but the Lord’s. We can understand the will of the Lord (Eph. 5:17). We shall all be judged as to whether we have or have not accepted God’s word by believing it, obeying it, worshiping according to it and living by it.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 17, p. 518
September 5, 1985