Religion today seems to come in every size and shape. The many faces of religion represent every persuasion from the staid, straitlaced types to rock opera with all the gimmicks of modern-day evangelism. Religion has been so heavily influenced by the gospel of Madison Avenue that you can shop for it in much the same manner as for clothes, detergents and deodorants. The basic questions in this hodgepodge of confusion are: Is God the author of dozens of different religions? Did God create what appears to be a modern, religiously oriented, evangelical, salvation supermarket? Is God's Church divided up into hundreds of different sects? Is His one true Church made up of many segments, brackets, splits, divisions, organizations and subgroupings? Has God Himself raised up all of these different churches, sect and denominations? In short "Is Christ divided?"
AS YOU look around the world today and ask the question "Is Christ divided?," you find yourself forced to admit that the only honest answer is a resounding "yes." He is not only divided, but fragmented into hundreds of different parts — that is, if what you see represents true Christianity!
A Confusing World of Religion
Many even take a broad world view far beyond the bounds of a divided Western Christianity. They philosophize that if some fellow who believes in prayer wheels and the creaks and strains of the mountain is faithful to his God as best he knows how, he's going to "get to heaven" — no matter what his particular brand of religion. It's comforting for people to think that it makes no difference what your degree of ignorance, awareness, intelligence, or education. Whether you live in the Orient or Occident, if you measure up to your chosen philosophical or religious standards, then there's some great awesome Being in the great somewhere who is going to reward you exactly proportionate to somebody else sporting some other religion. But how does this square with what the Apostle Paul said about Jesus Christ in Acts 4:12? "... There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
A Divided Christendom
Even narrowing it down to the religion using the name of Christ, there are in the Western world of Christianity nearly 250 different recognized denominations • (most of them professing to use the Bible as their guide) — and enough other schisms and splits, or independent organizations to make up more than 400 different "bodies of Christ." It's hard to keep track of exactly how many because sometimes they appear and disappear. The 1971 edition of The Yearbook of American Churches lists some 230 denominations in America alone (Constant H. Jacquet, Jr., ed. [New York: Council Press], p. V). In his book The Small Sects in America, Elmer T. Clark wrote: "It is difficult to see how the [many] voices speaking to the American conscience in the name of God could be more completely confused" ([New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press], p. 15, emphasis mine). Today, religion is in chaos. There are literally hundreds of differing groups, with different beliefs, different books to which they attribute divine authority, different customs, different methods of church government and organization, different goals, different places of worship, different doctrines — carloads and myriads of insurmountable, irreconcilable differences. Why? I know a man who as a young boy trudged down a country road toward a small church building some distance away. A neighbor friend stopped in his car and offered the lad a ride. Grateful for the ride and for being able to avoid the dirt of the road, the boy seated himself comfortably beside his neighbor. Shortly, the car pulled to a stop in front of the small churchyard. The neighbor opened the door and allowed the boy to get out. Struck with a sudden thought, the boy asked the driver of the car, "Why don't you get out and come on in with me to church?" The man answered, "Sorry, sonny, but my church is a mile further on." The boy hesitated, and then finally got out of the car. Still thoughtful, he entered the small church building — to hurry to the matronly woman who was the children's teacher. He explained how his neighbor had delivered him to the church — and how the same kindly man had continued down the road some distance further to enter his own, a different, church. "Why is it," asked the boy of his teacher, "that he doesn't just come in here to our church, instead of going so much farther to another?" The teacher could not answer! Can you? Why is it that there are multiple dozens of different churches, sects and denominations teaching doctrines exactly the opposite of, or at least in variance with, the other denominations — and yet all claiming the same authority, the same originality, the same authenticity? Some of these churches have split right down the middle over such questions as whether it's right to have music in church services. Others have split up over the way people dress. A lot of people seem to believe in "yardstick" religion. They, mentally, spend their time running around checking hemlines and hair lengths.
Still people like to take comfort in the broad, general mainstream of evangelical thought that parrots the immortality of the soul (we have a new booklet on that subject thoroughly disproving any such doctrine; Do You Have an Immortal Soul?), the idea of going to heaven or hell, and the automatic switch that is thrown once you say the magic words: "I accept Jesus as my Saviour." There are a great many people who seem to believe that they can rely and depend upon the comfortable "churchianity" of our society — as typified by our little wall calendars with the New England scene showing the proverbial little steeple poking up through the autumn leaves. Churches and religious occasions seem to be as comfortable to small-town U.S.A. as post offices, fire departments, parking meters, billboards and the local grocer. It just wouldn't be American and Americana without all of these little old church buildings around. Someone who seems to go against the grain of organized, mainstream evangelical Christianity is immediately faced with the question: "Why, all these churches can't be wrong, can they?" Now wait just a minute! Let's turn that question around. Can they all be right? Utterly impossible! If anyone of them is right — and they all differ (spanning every conceivable range, color, shading and extreme of emotion) — then that one being right automatically renders all the others wrong. In the conflicts, schisms, splits, divisions, arguments, personal interpretations and private philosophies making up our Western world of Christianity — from the total respectability of mainstream churches to the mavericks sneeringly called fanatical sects — one stark, clear fact stands out. Somebody, sooner or later, has to rationalize or Justify in his mind the fantastic disarray of disorganized and confused religions in Christendom with the question the Apostle Paul asked in I Corinthians 1:13 — "Is Christ divided?" The answer Paul really wanted from the Corinthian church brethren was, "No! Christ is not divided and can never be."
Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph. 4:4-6). Is Christ divided? Not if there is only one body as it says in Ephesians 4:4! But how is the Church ONE BODY? "For as the body is ONE, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so ALSO IS CHRIST" (I Cor. 12:12; see also verse 27 and Rom. 12:4-5). Read it again! All the members of Christ's body are one. They are one in spirit, one in purpose, one in real unity and harmony. Together they are accomplishing the ONE GREAT WORK of which Jesus spoke. Just as Jesus accomplished the Work of God in His physical body while personally here on this earth, so today He accomplishes the activities of God through His spiritual body. And that body is the Church of God — of which Jesus is the Head! Notice the scriptural proof: "And he is the head of the body, the church..." (Col. 1:18). "... Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body" (Eph. 5:23). Paul also wrote in Ephesians: "... And gave him [Christ] to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body..." (Eph. 1:22-23). How is the Church of God of one Spirit? It is the receiving of the Holy Spirit that makes a person a member of that one true body. "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles [regardless of racial or national origin], whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many" (I Cor. 12:13-14). But are, then, the different members of this spiritual body utterly divided in their doctrinal beliefs? Or to put it another way, I again ask: "Is Christ divided?" No, of course not! Remember, all the members are one body (verse 12), and all are partakers of the same Spirit — that "one Spirit" spoken of in Ephesians 4:4. Even the various and sundry spiritual gifts of God are given by the same Spirit (see I Cor. 12:4, 9, 11).
The true Church of the living God has "one faith" — which means ONE BODY OF BELIEFS, one system of doctrines — not dozens of differing doctrines all opposed to each other. Remember, the Church of God is one body — not a man-made organization of "believers" devising their own system of doctrines — not the repository for a conglomeration of many conflicting, differing ideas, all somehow being "one church." There is only one true body of beliefs or system of doctrines: it is "one faith" — or "the faith." The Apostle Paul, once the avowed enemy of true Christians, "... now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed" (Gal. 1:23). Paul toured the Asian cities of Lystra, Iconium and Antioch urging true Christians to "continue in the faith" (Acts 14:22). He spoke of the churches as being "established in the faith" (Acts 16:5). Felix, governor of Caesarea, heard Paul "... concerning the faith in Christ" (Acts 24:24). The expression "one faith" or the term "the faith" make up the sum total of all the doctrines (biblical truths) that comprise the true Christian religion. The individual doctrines or beliefs of God's Church are just particular, points of truth about the purpose and plan of God. One faith means one harmonious truth believed and practiced by the one body — the true Church of God. Unless an individual point of truth (a single doctrine) fits harmoniously into the whole of the doctrine of Christ — unless each major truth you have previously learned only further serves to elucidate, clarify and explain the whole of the plan of God — then it is not "a point of truth," but rank error. John wrote: "Whosoever transgresseth ["commits sin" — I John 3:4], and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. [But] he that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed" (II John 9-10).
According to the divinely inspired Word of God there is only one valid, authorized, right baptism — not dozens of different modes and methods. Today there is everything from dry cleaning to sprinkling and pouring — and even running around under a hose. No, I'm not kidding. One particular evangelist, on a hot day in Brooklyn, secured permission from the city fire department to turn on a street-corner fireplug, and then sprayed his whole crowd of avid followers with a fire hose. But this baptism was not the one valid baptism. There are not even two or three different manners in which it may be done — each one "as acceptable as the other." God did not leave it up to this world to devise some form of manmade religious rite, attaching the name of Christ to it and calling it Christian. A full, in-depth explanation of that one method of baptism is available in our two booklets entitled All About Water Baptism and What Is a Real Christian?.
How Can It Be?
Prior to writing about one body, one Spirit, one faith and one baptism, the Apostle Paul talked about "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph.4:3). And to the Christians at Rome, he wrote: "Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Jesus Christ: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 15:5-6). Later in the very same book Paul again exhorted them to "Be of the same mind one toward another..." (Rom. 12:16). Since the Bible places such evidence, such emphasis, such continued repetition, on this subject of the oneness (the unique unity) of the Church of God, how can it be that every last one of the choices in the dazzling supermarket of Christianity claims to be the true Church? It's time you answered this and the following questions for yourself: Where is God's true Church today? Is there only one true Church? Or is there one huge church divided up into hundreds of differing sects and disagreeing denominations?
The Worldwide Church of God
What about the Worldwide Church of God? Are we who sponsor the publication of this Good News magazine just another voice among hundreds; just another label on the supermarket shelf; just another size, brand name, or product which may be "better suited" to some people than others? Are we (if we ran an ad on the Saturday church page where you can see all the different brands of religion conveniently lumped together) to be classified and categorized with all the different persuasions of Christian churchianity? Or are we the very servants of the living Jesus Christ of Nazareth preaching His word (II Tim. 4:2) and fulfilling His great commission (a warning and a witness) through and to His own body — the Church of God? (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10; John 21:15, 17.) If you honestly and sincerely do not know, then you owe it to yourself (and most of all to your Creator) to prove it once and for all. (Thousands reading this Good News magazine have already proved it for themselves.)
How You Can Prove It
My father and I have always said on The World Tomorrow broadcast, the telecast, and in the pages of our publications: "Don't believe us, believe what you read in your own Bible!" Isaiah wrote: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20). The Apostle Paul urged: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (I Thess. 5:21). Luke wrote in the book of Acts concerning the Bereans who "... received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). But the text goes on: "Therefore many of them believed" (verse 12). In other words, because of their honest, forthright, open-minded zeal in wanting to prove the truth, these Bereans believed. You too can prove where God's truth is available. You can prove, and come to really know, what is the only true religion which Jesus Christ of Nazareth brought to this earth from His Father.
Where Is God's True Church Today?
We of this worldwide Work of God have prepared a special booklet in order to help you find the true Church. Its challenging title is Where Is God's True Church Today? It shows how the Church that Jesus built (Matt. 16:18) upholds God's law (The Ten Commandments), preaches the correct gospel, understands His plan of salvation, bears the fruits of God's Spirit, keeps God's Sabbath and has the correct biblical name (the Church of God).