The Buffet of Christianity
When I look upon the religious world of Christianity today, I can't help but be reminded of a buffet. If you have ever eaten in a buffet, there is a smorgasbord of choices for your meal. In Christianity today, there are a smorgasbord of choices. Over here you have Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists & Presbyterians. Over there you have Catholics, Anglicans, & Orthodox. On the other side you have Charismatics and Pentecostals. Over yonder you have Mormon’s, Jehovah Witness’ and many other such choices. According to recent research, it is said that there are presently over 35,000 different "Christian denominations" in the world today. So as I sit back and think on all this I ask myself, "How did it come to this?"
Then, as I study the Word and look into the history of civilizations, it is quite apparent to me that “In the beginning”… it was not so.
In the beginning there was only ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE Spirit, ONE Lord, ONE God and Father of all creation (Eph 4:4-6)… …ONE Gospel.
In the beginning there was only ONE gospel of the kingdom (Matt 4:23, 9:35, 24:14; Mark 1:14,15). That gospel was first preached by a Jewish man named John the Baptist as he prepared the way for the Lord. When he was put into prison, the man Jesus Christ continued to preach the gospel of the kingdom and fulfill it.
What’s interesting to note is that Paul and Peter in separate letters spoke of this gospel of the kingdom and some very severe consequences…
1Pe 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
Peter said that judgment will begin in the house of God, and if God will be that severe with His own people, what will be the end for those who DO NOT OBEY the gospel of God?
2Th 1:8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
The messages of both apostles are virtually the same. They both agree that there are very dire consequences awaiting those who DO NOT OBEY the gospel.
Virtually most of Christianity believes the gospel. Paul stated that the gospel is simply “…how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” (1Co 15:3-4)
So then what’s the problem? How does this explain the various sects and denominations that make up Christianity?
The problem, the root of all this division, is their differences in how one obeys the gospel.
Some obey according to their own individual beliefs and opinions; some obey according to their denominational affiliations, but very few obey and believe on Him “as the scripture hath said” (John 7:38).
After reading what Peter and Paul wrote in the scriptures mentioned above concerning NOT OBEYING the gospel, I came to realize that #1 – I need to know what the gospel is and #2 – I need to figure out how to obey it.
Finding out the gospel was the easy part, but because of almost 2000 years of heretical teachings and the development of different popular denominations, finding out how to obey was much more difficult.
However, if I would have just kept my nose in the Word, I would have found the answer much more quickly. Those who seek, shall find. Sometimes the problem for us is that it’s easier to listen to well-meaning and well-intentioned individuals, rather than study for oneself to find out the truth. The problem is well-meaning and well-intentioned individuals, though extremely sincere in their message, can be sincerely wrong. Listening to sincerely wrong individuals is no excuse for not obeying the gospel.
I figure, if I am willing to spend years of education in grade school, high school, college, and post-graduate school to earn a diploma, I really have no excuse why I can’t search for the truth myself in the scriptures and see it for myself. Looking outside the truth, for the truth, is inexcusable.
So having shared all this, I’ve come to realize that the most neglected book in the Bible, at least as far as my experience is concerned, actually had the answer of how one must obey the gospel.
In Acts, there are explicit and unambiguous examples of how the early Church obeyed the gospel. Having searched thoroughly, I have come to find out that the book of Acts is the only book in the Bible that has the examples of the obedience needed for salvation.
Although more can be shared, I will only share 4 examples (witnesses) in Acts of how the early Church disciples obeyed the gospel of the kingdom.
In Acts 2, the 120 had received the promise of the Father, the blessing of Abraham, the gift of God – the Holy Ghost. They began to speak in tongues as the Holy Ghost gave the utterance. Many traveling Jews, coming from abroad to celebrate Pentecost in Jerusalem, heard them speak in their own language from abroad. They didn’t understand how local Jews in Jerusalem knew their language. They even went so far as to accuse them of being drunk.
This is when Peter, full of the Holy Ghost, spoke up and declared the gospel of the kingdom under the banner of the New Covenant. In a nutshell, he preached that Jesus Christ was the Messiah and was crucified for their sins. Yet he rose again on the third day and has been made both Lord and Christ (this is the same gospel Paul spoke of in 1 Cor. 15:3-4). When the listener’s heard Peter's words, they were convicted and pierced in their heart because they realized they crucified the Lord of glory, whom they were expecting. This was the gospel of the kingdom to the Jews.
A greater question may not have been asked in all the bible than when the Jews asked Peter and the apostles, “Men and brethren what shall we do?” Two thousand years ago, Peter answered this question without ambiguity. He plainly declared to them that they needed to respond to the gospel they just heard by repenting, being baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38). A simple and clear commandment was given. Why can we not make the same statement to others today?
Why is there so much division in Christianity?
Because they all tell their hearers to obey the gospel differently from one another, but more importantly differently from what the apostles of Jesus Christ commanded and expected in the first century.
The next witness can be found in Acts 8. Philip the evangelist then went to minister the gospel of the kingdom to the half Jews, the Samaritans. The Samaritans believed on the gospel that he preached to them (the same gospel Peter declared on the day of Pentecost) and they repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard this, they sent Peter and John to Samaria because they had yet to receive the Holy Ghost. When they arrived, they prayed and laid hands on them and they received the Holy Ghost just as 3000 did on the day of Pentecost. The same gospel of the kingdom resulted in the same response of obedience to the gospel.
In Acts 10, Peter is sent to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. Peter begins to declare the gospel of the kingdom to his household, and before Peter can even finish, Jesus displays his stamp of approval on Cornelius and his household by baptizing them in the Holy Ghost. The Jews who traveled with Peter were quite taken aback by this. They were literally astounded because they realized that the “unclean” Gentiles had been granted repentance unto life because they witnessed the Gentiles also receive the Holy Ghost, for the Gentiles spake in tongues as did the apostles and Jews did on the day of Pentecost approximately 10 years earlier.
Although Peter himself was surprised at this whole turn of events, he does not dare to quibble with Jesus over what he so adamantly expressed. He basically says who are we that we should forbid them to be baptized in water, and straightaway he baptized Cornelius and his whole household in the name of the Lord Jesus. The same gospel of the kingdom results in the same response of obedience to the gospel.
My last witness to share is from Acts 19. Many people believe that since their parents or grandparents or close family relatives are "Christian", than they themselves must be alright too. Again, they lay their foundations on, and put their trust on, things outside the Word. Yet for those who believe there is no need to ever be re-baptized (if they were baptized previously as an infant, or by sprinkling, or any name other than the name of Jesus) you may want to consider this particular account in Acts 19. Paul’s treatment of some "apparent" disciples may shed some light on their present state and situation.
Paul was traveling along the countryside and ran into some “apparent” disciples. After talking with them for a little bit, Paul all of a sudden asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Ghost, since you believed?” The “apparent” disciples answered that they had no idea what he was talking about. So Paul asks them another question, “What were you baptized into?” They answered into John’s baptism. Paul then realizes that these were converts of John the Baptist, but not disciples of Jesus Christ. For Paul, we see it was not only important, but also very necessary to be baptized in the Holy Ghost and to be baptized in water in the name of Jesus.
Paul then declares to them that John the Baptist indeed did the baptism of repentance, but even he spoke of one that would come after him, that they should believe on Christ Jesus. Paul then takes them into the water and baptizes them in the name of the Lord Jesus. He then lays hands on them and they received the gift of the Holy Ghost as evidenced by them speaking in tongues.
Once again, the same gospel of the kingdom is given to all, regardless of race, color, or ethnicity. The same response of obedience was necessary from all people - Jews, half Jews, Gentiles, and those walking in the ignorance of their own beliefs. Somewhere, we all fall into one of these categories.
The one gospel of the kingdom has opened up the doors of heaven to all people who will believe on Him, as the scriptures says (John 7:38), to those who obey the gospel.
So the question now is…
Have you obeyed the gospel… as the scriptures hath said?
© copyright 2010 Jesus M. Ruiz