By Kenneth E. Thomas
According to an article in The Bradenton Herald recently, Mr. David B. Barrett, who is styled as a scholar of the Church of England, states that “Currently, of the world’s 4.8 billion people, there are 1.6 billion Christians, 837 million Moslems, 661 million Hindus, 300 million Buddhists, 457 million of other religions, 825 million non-religious and 213 million atheists.”
So many people accept or reject their religious beliefs and practices on the basis of the number who embrace a creed. For example: I have had countless people say to me, “How many people believe as you do on this subject?” My response has always been, “What difference does that make?” The number of people who believe something isn’t the standard by which the truth or falsity of a matter is determined! If a thing is taught in God’s word, it is true if no one believes it! By the same token, if it isn’t taught therein, 837 million believing it doesn’t make it true! Nor is it false because 661 million reject it!
There are all total, if we take Mr. Barrett’s figures lumped together of the Eastern religions (not counting the Jews), 1.798 billion people who reject Jesus as the Christ, and the only prophet of God for these last days as Moses said in Deuteronomy 18:15-18; Acts 3:22-23; Acts 7:37. Do these staggering figures invalidate the biblical facts that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and the world’s only Savior (Matt. 16:16-19; John 14:1-6)? Most believers at this point show an inconsistency because they continue believing on Jesus even in the face of being in such a minority. You and I know that the numbers given above concerning the number of “Christians” in the world doesn’t really tell the tale of how many really are Christians. It lumps together all members of all Protestant and Catholic denominations. One may “join” any and every denomination in town and still not have accepted God’s saving grace through Christ and obedience to the gospel to be forgiven of alien sins and be thereby added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:22-38, 41, 47; 3:19; 4:11-12; John 3:3-5; Acts 8:26-39; 1 Pet. 3:20-21; Jas. 1:21-25; 2:14-26; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45-49).
Noah preached to his generation while preparing the giant boat (ark) and most of the world rejected his warning of a great flood which was soon to inundate the whole world (Gen. 6:5-22; 7; 2 Pet. 2:5). Later in speaking of how God blesses those who are obedient to His will, Peter said, “When once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in the which few, that is, eight souls were saved through water. There is an anti-type which now saves us, namely baptism. . . ” (1 Pet. 3:20-21). Only eight believed God’s warning and prepared for the flood. All flesh outside the ark died any way. Few believe baptism is essential to one being saved from alien sins, but still it is true (Acts 2:38; Tit. 3:5).
There are many Bible truths which few believe and accept as recorded in the will of Christ, the New Testament. We hold the views we do based on what the will of, Christ teaches in one of three ways: (1) Command, precept or statement; (2) Approved apostolic example; (3) Necessary inference. Then we recognize two kinds of authority, general and specific. General authority includes all of the items in a class; specific authority restricts to exactly what has been specified.
The following is a partial list of things the Bible teaches which faithful Christians accept as do faithful congregations of the Lord’s people as matters of faith, which the majority of religious people around us in the Protestant and Catholic churches reject. Not only this, so do our “liberal” brethren in a number of these things!
(1) Weekly observance of the Lord’s supper as well as only on Sunday the Lord’s day (Acts 20:6-7; 1 Cor. 11:26-29; Matt. 26:26-29; Luke 22:16-20). Why do you suppose only a few are willing to be guided by what the Scriptures teach in this matter? Does the fact that some partake quarterly or each month or once a year somehow alter God’s will in this matter? No! (2 John 9; Matt. 15:8-9; Col. 2:20-22).
(2) Only vocal music in worship both individually and collectively (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:15; Jas. 5:13; etc.). You see God didn’t say, make music. He said sing! That is specific and may only be obeyed by doing what He has specified. Doing otherwise is to add another kind of music than the music Christ authorizes and this is a serious matter (Rev. 22:18-19; 2 John 9). Now I am aware that only a few of us believe this, but still it is true if the whole world rejects it.
(3) Finance the Lord’s work primarily by a free will offering of the membership into a common treasury on the first day of each week (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 8, 9). 1 know denominations around us and some of our “liberal” brethren have a different practice concerning raising of funds on which to operate “their” religious organizations, still tithing and any other method of financing the Lord’s work went out with the close of the Old Testament or when Christ condemned following the doctrines of men (Matt. 15:9; Col. 2:14; Gal. 5:4). Other methods work and the majority of our religious friends practice many methods, still the faithful Christian is willing to “walk by faith” and limit himself to that which is authorized by Christ (2 Cor. 5:7; Rom. 10:17; Heb. 11:4).
(4) No organization larger, smaller or other than the local congregation exists by Christ’s authority to function in “church” work (Phil. 1:1; Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28-32; 1 Pet. 5:14; Heb. 13:7, 17). We therefore reject the denominational idea of a head of the church on earth with headquarters to which all member denominations look for direction and doctrinal changes from time to time. We likewise as quickly reject our “liberal” brethren’s “sponsoring church” (eldership) concept which ties churches together in much the same way as do synods, conferences and councils, etc. in the denominations around us (2 John 9-11).
(5) As a proper name, we refuse to be called anything but a Christian. I know that folks are aware that this name is just fine for one to wear and that it is what followers of Christ were originally called by divine decree (Isa. 62:2; 56:5; 1 Tim. 3:15; Acts 11:26b; 1 Pet. 4:16; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Cor. 1: 10- 12; Acts 26:28). Sometimes we say that “we are Christians only and only Christians.” You cannot improve on that! Other names cause the world to see the difference among us. Salvation is only in the name of Christ (Acts 4:12). You cannot glorify God wearing any other name (1 Pet. 4:16). So what if the majority of believers in Christ do not wear this name exclusively, does that make their man-given name right in God’s sight? I know the answer, how about you (1 Pet. 4:11)?
(6) We limit our functions as a collectivity (that which we support from the treasury of the local church) to the things practiced by the first century churches when men guided by the Holy Spirit were among them (Phil. 4:9; 1 Cor. 4:16-17). What did the early churches of Christ do? (1) Preached and supported the preaching of Christ’s word to save sinners and edify the members of the body of Christ. (2) Relieved the physical needs of those among them who were unable to provide for themselves (1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 10:24-25; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; Phil. 4:15-16). That’s it! So what if the most of the religious world about us, including many of our brethren, have opted for the “social gospel”? It is still not that which Christ authorized His churches to support (2 John 9-11)!
(7) As Christians and members of the church of our Lord as a result of being obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7; 2:22-28, 41, 47; 1 Cor. 12:13), we are conscience bound to reject Protestant denominationalism and Catholic tradition and teaching as a system promoting division contrary to the will of Christ and the lovely prayer He prayed in the shadow of the cross as it were (John 17:17, 20-2 1; 1 Cor. 1: 10- 12; Rom. 16:16-17; Eph. 5:11). Never mind the fact that such men as Billy Graham and others advocate the perpetuation of division based on different names, bodies and creeds saying for folks to “join the church of their choice” and practice in essence, the faith of their choice. The Bible still says, “. . . One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God. . . ” (Eph. 4:1-6). See Matthew 15:1-9, 13; Psalms 127: 1; Matthew 7:21-23; 2 Timothy 2:5; Revelation 22:18-19; Ephesians 5:11; 2 Timothy 4:1-8; Romans 16:16-18.
(8) As followers of Jesus as our Lord and the Christ of the Old Testament prophecy, we accept the New Testament as His will (John 12:48). We believe that this Testament along with the Old is inerrant and that the original manuscripts were verbally inspired, that is, the very words the Holy Spirit intended to be used were given to those who wrote the New Testament and they did not err in any matter (John 16:7-13; 1 Cor. 2:7-13; 2 Pet. 1:16-21; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). Now friends and brethren, the number of people who believe as we do about this matter isn’t the determining factor as to whether or not we are right in our beliefs. Nor is the matter of who it is that agrees with us. The determining factor is, is it the truth? I believe there is sufficient evidence internally and externally that it is. My faith rests on that fact.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 10, pp. 296-297
May 21, 1987