Does It Really Matter What We Believe?
YES IT DOES MATTER!!!
To believe otherwise, would be to suggest that any number of different beliefs, ideas and worship is acceptable to God and rewarded by Him.
Or to put it another way God’s not fussed about what you think or do, He’ll give Life Eternal to anyone on any basis.
I’m sure the reality of such a suggestion is not believed by the average thinking person.
I mean could such a suggestion really be true? Surely God has a line so to speak somewhere on what is Right vs Wrong when it comes to a true belief in GOD and upon which the ONE TRUE GOD will reward those who believe in Him as promised?
The Apostle Paul writes:
“Now faith is the substance (AV marg. ground or confidence) of things hoped for, the evidence (RV proving) of things not seen…” Hebrews 11:6
“…And without faith [belief] it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.“
We learn from this that having Faith or more particularly ‘The Faith’, as it is referred to by the Apostles, is critical in our “seeking” and our acceptance and “reward” with God. Immediately we note that God did not say “any faith”, but He said “The Faith”.
This Faith or Belief is the Truth that was preached by the Apostles, concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.
Some examples of New Testament usage of the term “the faith” – occurs 42 times
1 Corinthians 16:13
“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”
2 Corinthians 13:5
“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.”
“…that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
“Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught…”
1 Timothy 4:1
“Now the spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith…”
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
Since it is God’s prerogative alone to set the terms on which He is worshipped we need to examine His word to find the answer.
And God says that our “FAITH”(belief) is very important!
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Why is Faith so Important?
Because prior to Paul preaching the Gospel message to them they were;
- “…without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12)
So important was this new knowledge called “truth” or “the faith” that they were told by Paul to believe no other;
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal 1:8)
So we learn from this that IT DOES MATTER WHAT WE BELIEVE. That God has made this very clear through is word, and as we will now find out, very clear through examples that God has given to us in His relationship with man.
Let us now have a look at the HISTORICAL importance of belief and doing what is Right vs Wrong before God and as a result how God accepts or rejects us based on what we do or belief. We’ll look at a couple of actual examples to learn this.
Cain and Abel – Genesis 4
Cain and Abel
“And in the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, should thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him…Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him” (Genesis 4:3-8)
|Cain and Abel – When they come of Age make an offering to God||Abel makes the right offering for sin to God and is Accepted by God||Cain makes a wrong offering and is rejected by God and takes his anger out on Abel|
Now let’s examine what happened here.
It’s important to note first and foremostly that Cain and Abel were both raised by the same parents, Adam and Eve, they were both taught what was right (truth) and wrong by the same parents.
And yet they both did different things when they were called on (come of age) to worship God by themselves.
|Cain was “a tiller” ie a tiller of the ground and from so doing he brought forth fruit from it.||Abel was “a shepherd” he looked after a flock of sheep|
|When asked to bring an offering to God, Cain brought of the “fruit of the ground”||When asked to bring an offering to God, Abel brought a “firstling of his flock”|
|In Genesis 3:21 God had already taught Adam and Eve that a slain lamb was a suitable offering for sin.|
In Hebrews 9:22 the Apostle Paul shows us that “…without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin” And later in Revelation we learn that the Lamb slain by God in the Garden of Eden pointed forward to the work of our Lord Jesus Christ Revelation 13:8 “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
|For Cain’s offering “the LORD had not respect”||For Abel’s offering “the LORD had respect”|
|As a result Cain became angry (“was wrath”)|
|Yet in Genesis 4:6-7 we see that God tried to lead Cain carefully to see his wrong doing|
6And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? (ie. If you don’t sin all is okay and you will be accepted by God) and if thou doest not well (ie. If you sin as we all do), sin lieth at the door (ie. The acceptable sin offering lies at the door so to speak, ie. The firstling of lambs is right outside and easy for you to lay old of). And unto theeshall be his desire (ie. It will let you take it), and thou shalt rule over him. (ie. You can offer this lamb as a sin offering)
|Cain did not worship God correctly as they had been taught, and even though God showed him his mistake, Cain was consumed with pride and anger at being rejected and carried on doing things his own way, eventually taking his anger out on Abel.||Abel had worshipped God the way God had required and taught them, he did it God’s way.|
|The result was that Cain was REJECTED by God||The result was that Abel was ACCEPTED by God|
Cain blinded by pride!!
From the very beginning God put a difference between True and False worship. ie. true and false belief.
We all have the same opportunity to read, study and come to understand the Bible, but not all will do this in the correct or accepted way.
For this reason Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
False teaching and intellectual pride, that we are right, along with human emotions attached to both, will and does blind millions of sincere believers to the truth of God’s word and to acceptable worship – as it did Cain.
This will result in their rejection by God as it did with Cain.
The Nation of Israel is another great example of what is acceptable to God.
The nation of Israel were a special people called out of the nations through Abraham and given a great Hope of an everlasting life and possession of the land of Israel. But for this to happen they were clearly told that they must obey God’s voice and follow His commandments (truth).
“And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgements: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do” (Exodus 24:3)
“…if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments…and all these blessings shall come on thee…” (Deut 28:1-2)
“But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments…that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (Deut 28:15)
The Nation of Israel was punished for failing to follow the word of God
“…ye children of Israel…the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land” (Hos 4:1)
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…seeing thou hast forgotten the Law of thy God…” (Hos 4:6)
“Therefore my people are gone into captivity for lack of knowledge…” (Isaiah 5:13)
From this we learn that the Nation of Israel were punished for their lack of “truth” and “knowledge” by which they could remain in God’s favour and acceptance.
Another individual example is Nadab and Abihu – Leviticus 10:1-3
Nadab and Abihu during a time of worship they took it upon themselves to do something the LORD had not instructed them to do
“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died…Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me…” (Leviticus 10:1-3)
From this we learn that, it is not the prerogative of any to decide for themselves how they will serve or worship God.
God requires all to serve and worship in exactly the manner as He has revealed in His Word.
The New Testament reveals the same.
In John 17:1-3 we read these words:
“1These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: 2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. 3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
In this passage Jesus lays out the criteria for “life eternal” to be given to his true followers.
In John 17:3 the word “know” is a key word! In the Greek it is the word ‘ginosko’ and this signifies ‘to perceive, to fully understand what something is all about, to understand something until it has a practical out working in one’s life’.
So we need to have the Knowledge revealed in God’s word that ultimately manifests itself in one’s conduct.
So how do we reconcile todays One Bible yet many churches and teachings?
The Bible predicted it would be so, and gives us the reason why.
We saw in the example of Cain, that it was his own pride that caused him to be blinded to the true and acceptable way to worship God.
God says that Man’s heart is “desperately wicked”.
We suggest to you that this is still the cause behind the diversity of beliefs that remains today.
The Pharisees and the Scribes rejected and crucified Christ because in their pride they could not believe that “any good thing could come out of Nazareth.”
“heap to themselves teachers” men who in their own pride were eager to put forth some new doctrine they could name their own.
“itching ears” to hear some new thing like the people of Athens.
The “heap” of “teachers” and “itching ears” resulted in “a working of error or a delusion” amongst the believers “that they should believe a lie”.
Several of the Apostles when writing to the first century believers warned them to guard against false teaching.
There was ample evidence of it in their day. A good number of false beliefs were brought into the community of the believers by those who were converts from Greek and Roman paganism, under which all manner of superstitious beliefs had been accumulated from ancient times.
Later the introduction of the Clergy into Christendom under Roman Catholicism gave a select few the opportunity to influence, control and even dictate the beliefs of the laity/congregation.
Not surprisingly this encouraged and permitted all manner of devious motives to be exercised by members of the clergy. [most motives were political as the church and state had become one]
This we believe is the principle reason why Christendom today is Astray from the Bible.
From these examples we learn:
- That if we want to be accepted by God, then we must worship Him in the way He has prescribed.
- That even if sincere in our worship we must ensure that we follow God’s word or instructions very carefully.
- That we must have a true knowledge of God’s word if we are to be blessed by Him according to all His promises.
- That to do otherwise will lead us to stray from God’s word and lose our hope of salvation.
Let us compare what the Churches teach verses what the Bible, the word of God teaches.
CONSIDER THESE FACTS:
|The Churches Teach||The Bible Teaches|
|There is a mysterious Trinity, “One God yet Three”|
|“To us there is but one God the Father…and one Lord Jesus Christ” (1Cor 8:6)|
|Purgatory is a place of temporary punishment for departed souls|
|“For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know not anything…their love, hatred, envy is perished” (Ecc. 9;5-6)|
|The soul is immortal and cannot be destroyed||“The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ez 18:4) “All have sinned” (Rom 6:4)|
|The Churches Teach||The Bible Teaches|
|Sprinkling of infants constitutes baptism|
Heaven is a place of reward and hell is a place of torment
|“If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest be baptised” (Acts 8:37)|
“No man hath ascended into heaven: (Jn 3:13) “In death there is no remembrance of Thee” and “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Psa 6:5, Matt 5:5)
|Satan is a supernatural evil being causing men to sin|
|“Whatsoever thing from without entereth into a man cannot defile him…from within out of the heart of man proceed evil thoughts etc…” (Mk 7:18-22)|
God is THREE verses God is ONE?
Two such conflicting beliefs can’t both be right, let alone acceptable to God.
Mary worship is the result of this?
The Bible clearly warns us about the development of “false teaching”.
A warning to US from the Bible!
- “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jere 10:23)
- “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (things that aren’t true) (2Tim 4:3-4)
- “For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work…” (2Thess 2:7)
- “…with lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that are perishing because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2Thess 2:10)
The Bible predicted a Great “falling away” from the truth as taught by the Apostles.
Paul predicted that believers would be led away from the faith by men who would teach lies…
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits (false teachers) and doctrines of devils (teaching of liars); Speaking lies in hypocrisy…” (1Tim 4:1-2)
That a religious system whilst initially holding the truth would “fall away” and follow the lies of men who used followers for personal gain
“Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed…who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God…” (2Thess 2:3)
That only when Christ returns will this system of “lawlessness” be fully exposed and destroyed.
“…the Lord Jesus shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2Thess 2:8)
If we look back at the history of religion we can see the origins and progress of false teaching over time.
GROWTH OF FALSE TEACHING and the year in which it came to prominence…
- Immortality of the soul………………………………………………………………………..124 AD
- Pre-human existence of Christ………………………………………………………………124 AD
- Sprinkling instead of immersion……………………………………………………………..150 AD
- Infant baptism…………………………………………………………………………………180 AD
- Constantine triumphs the Christian cause and makes apostate Christianity the state religion and forms what has become known as The Roman Catholic Church …………………………………………………………………………………………………312 AD
- Jesus a person within the Godhead..…………………………………………………..…..325 AD
- “Holy Ghost” a person within the Godhead…………………………………………………381 AD
- Doctrine of purgatory………………………………………………………………………….431 AD
- Exaltation of Mary “the Mother of God”………………………………………………………431 AD
Much of the development of false teaching can be blamed on the rise to power of Constantine and his self proclaimed championing of the Christian cause.
Yet people like Hendrik Van Loon, in summarising the life of Constantine wrote:
(Constantine revered as a saint by the Catholic Church.)
“This wild Serbian who had wielded a spear on every battlefield of Europe, from York in England to Byzantium on the shores of the Bosphorus, was among other things the murderer of his wife, the murderer of his brother-in-law, the murderer of his nephew [a boy of 7], and the executioner of several other relatives of minor degree and importance.”
“That he lived and died a barbarian who had outwardly accepted Christianity, yet until the end of his days tried to read the riddle of the future from the steaming entrails of sacrificial sheep, was most considerately overlooked in view of the famous Edict of Tolerance by which the Emperor guaranteed unto his beloved Christian subjects the right to freely profess their private opinions and to assemble in their meeting-place without fear of molestation.”
“For the leaders of the Church in the first half of the fourth century were practical politicians, and when they had finally forced the Emperor to sign this ever-memorable decree, they elevated Christianity from the rank of a minor sect to the dignity of the official Church of the State. But they knew how and in what manner this had been accomplished and the successors of Constantine knew it, and although they tried to cover it up by a display of oratorical fireworks the arrangement never quite lost its original character…. There have been other bargains during the history of the last twenty centuries; but few have been so brazen as the compromise by which Christianity came to power” [from The Liberation Of Mankind p.80]
In order to retain and widen their position of power these same practical politicians who became the clergy, commenced to merge Christianity with paganism which resulted in this apostate religion that continues unto the present day.
In the year 1521 A.D. The Reformation commenced when the Protestants rebelled against the Roman Catholic Church, and its doctrines.
With the advent of printing and the first copies of the Bible freely available, the Protestants as a result of their reading and study of the Bible identified the Catholic Church as the great apostate system spoken of by Paul the Apostle.
It was a system evident in Paul’s day and would continue until the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This along with other passages in the Bible clearly identifies The Roman Catholic Church to whose beliefs nearly all Protestant churches have since returned under what has been known as the Ecumenical movement ie. a movement that proposes ‘let us come together as friends despite our differences in what we believe’.
During the early days of the Period of Reformation a group of French Cardinals give this advice to the Pope in AD 1550
- “Of all the advice reserved for your Holiness, we have kept the most essential until the last moment. Concerning the reading of the Bible, we must keep our eyes wide open and intervene with all our power. It is necessary to authorise as little as possible the reading of the Gospels, particularly in modern languages and in countries under our jurisdiction. That which is generally read during Mass must suffice, and nobody must be authorised to read any other.
- Your interests will prosper so long as the people are contented with the little which is offered them, but as soon as the public asks for more, your interests are in danger. The Bible is the book which, more than any other, can stir up against us revolt and storms which might well nigh destroy us. Certainly, if somebody studies the Bible seriously, and compares it with what is happening in our churches, he will soon find the contradictions, and will see that our doctrines are far astray from the truth, and are even more often completely opposed to the Bible.
- And if the people come to recognise all these things, they will be constantly defying us, until everything is brought to light: there upon we shall become the object of ridicule and hate. It is vital to keep the Bible away from the attention of the people, but with much caution so as to avoid uproar.’
As the Catholic Church tried to stem the tide of protesting against it’s beliefs by the reformers, numerous debates and trials were conducted by the church.
Just one such example of the Debates and Trials during the Reformation AD 1500 – 1800 is listed below…
- Huldrich Zwingli: a Swiss evangelical who in 1523 advocated splitting with Rome and the Catholic church on the grounds that the church was astray from the Word of God. He argued that “the word of God would be his sole arbiter” In reality Zwingli was mostly interested in exalting himself as he staunchly held to Catholic teaching, notable infant baptism.
- Dr. Balthasar Hubmaier: an evangelical preacher, who had formerly been a university vice-rector having graduated as Master, plunged into assiduous study of the Scriptures which led to revolutionary thinking. Based on his studies, Hubmaier insisted that no trace could be found of infant christening in the Scriptures.
An excerpt from their debate follows:
- Zwingli: You reject infant baptism that you may set up rebaptism.
- Hubmaier: You have not produced a single passage to prove infant baptism is baptism. You should remember what you once said, that truth is clearly revealed in the word of God. If now infant baptism is a truth, show us the Scripture in which it is found.
- Zwingli: If everone adopts such views as he pleases, and does not ask the church concerning them, error will increase.
- Hubmaier: We should consult the Scriptures, not the church. The church is built upon the word, not the word upon the church.
- Zwingli: The thief on the cross believed, and on the same day was with Christ in paradise; yet he was not baptised with outward baptism.
- Hubmaier: A man who has the excuse of the thief on the cross will have the favour of God. But when this excuse is lacking the word of Christ holds true that “he that believes and is baptised shall be saved”.
- Zwingli: Matthew 3 says that “all Judaea” went out to John and were baptised. Here one may say that if the whole multitude went out, we should expect that there were children who went out also.
- Hubmaier: Might not one also say that we should expect that Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate and Herod went out and were baptised? It matters not what we think or expect. We must be governed by the Scriptures. I appeal to the Scriptures. Let them decide.
The reformers consistently made their stand on the basis of what the Bible taught and not on what the church taught. Eventually many new protestant churches were formed as a result listing their beliefs based on the Bible.
Sadly however over the passage of time, many of these new churches have lost their way, many now include amongst their beliefs teachings that their early founding fathers would not have believed.
So today we end up in a situation where there is One Bible yet Many Churches.
So what does this mean for the FUTURE – What is to become of this situation?
God tolerates this now so that the True Believers can prepare themselves for Christ’s coming. But a day of judgement for all people is coming when those who perpetuate this apostasy will be destroyed.
Acts 17:31 Paul in addressing the false beliefs of the people of Athens said that God had;
“appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” ie. the Lord Jesus Christ. (Isaiah 11:1-5)
Concerning his return Christ said;
“…Nevertheless when the son of man cometh, shall he find the faith on the earth?”
Jeremiah 16:19-20 At that time…
“…the Gentiles shall come unto three from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?”
Clearly it does matter what we believe, as this will be the end of all those who don’t believe the Truth of God’s Word, but rather have “turned unto fables” and have chosen to believe “lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.”
And so what must we OURSELVES DO ABOUT THIS – What must we do now to be saved?
This is what the Bible tells US! “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” [Phil 2:12]
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of Truth.” [2 Tim 2::15]
We have to be “obedient as children, not fashioning ourselves according to our former lusts in the time of our ignorance: but as he which called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of living: because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” [1Pet 1:14-16]
The first act of obedience once we have come to a knowledge of the Truth of God’s Word and His purpose with mankind, is to be baptised.
“He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” [Mark 16:16]
If we do this and continue to walk faithfully with our God until the return of Christ, God will reward us with eternal life in His Kingdom.
A Kingdom of everlasting joy, peace and righteousness.
A Kingdom that will be established on this earth under the righteous reign of the Lord Jesus Christ with whom we will reign as kings and priests.
During this Kingdom all people will be made to learn the Truth of God’s Word and to walk in His Ways.
“1But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. 2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.”
Such a great HOPE demands that we each search out the scriptures to find the truth and having so done…
…in God’s Grace we shall all be there to enjoy this great day.
How to identify wrong teaching
Like those who have gone before us, we must make the WORD of GOD our basis of belief and not what the churches teach.
- “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2Tim 2:15)
- “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith” (2Cor 13:5)
- “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” ( Phil 2:12)
An Important Issue in our Day!
- In this age of democracy and “political correctness” with all its pressures on tolerance and accommodation with others, we face the risk of becoming complacent in our understanding and appreciation of the dangers of the influence of the WRONG TEACHING of the Churches.
- Our eternal well being is at stake…
- “And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)
“Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book…Behold I (the Lord Jesus) come quickly and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rev 22:7, 12)