What is Real Religion?
What is the real gospel?
causes people “in Christ” to feel they must exclude others from
the table of the Lord in order to maintain what they sincerely
believe is the true Gospel? What does the New Testament teach about
who we fellowship?
seems to me that there is a small group of verses used as
justification for actions which exclude others, but there are far
larger volumes of teaching which promote unity and reconciliation .
condemning those who do not preach “this
have been used to make a separation between those who think they have
the one true gospel, or “the truth” and those they believe are
there come any unto you, and bring not this
receive him not into your house, neither bid him
speed; For he that biddeth him
speed is partaker of his
“ (2 John 10,11).
it comes to excluding people we have to be careful that we are
really acting as God intended and not taking verses out of
quote another author concerning 2 John 10,11...
is one of the more prominent "twisted scriptures." It has
become the handle for every factional tool used to pry apart the
living stones in the temple of God. It is the murderous knife
employed to dismember the body of the Lord. It was written by the
apostle of love to protect the flock of God from the prowling wolves
who sought to seduce them through denial of the foundational fact
that Jesus came in the flesh. It is now used to convert the sheep
into snarling dogs, snapping at each other over every stray scrap of
doctrine. It has substituted the law of the pack for the love of the
other passage so well illustrates the danger of ignoring the context.
That the leaders of religious thought in some sects should have been
betrayed into adopting an interpretation which makes unity impossible
and renders ridiculous their vaunted claim to respect for the
authority of the word of God...Any use of the written word which
makes impossible the fulfillment and realization of the prayer and
purpose of the Living Word is abuse and misuse. We can never regain
our integrity as scholars until we repudiate the partisan explanation
which makes every vagary of thought and dissent an occasion to
destroy the fraternal relationship created by the blood of Jesus, and
stab love dead at our feet.
is "the doctrine" which is so transcendent that one who
does not attest to it must not be allowed to enter the house, nor be
given a greeting on the street or in the marketplace? Or, looking at
it from the opposite position, what is it that, when advocated is so
heinous and so poison to the fellowship, that to merely salute its
opponent is to make one a participant in his
vicious works? To this question a medley of things is contributed by
factional voices. Every trivial idea which has been magnified out of
all proportion to its value and worth is exalted to the status of the
doctrine which is to preclude hospitality and make all greeting a
violation of the Word of God. So ludicrous are some of these that it
serves no good purpose to even mention them.
depth of one's love for the family of God can be determined by the
relative value of those things which will cause one to sacrifice it
or to break up the relationship. The triviality of those views
elevated to a higher station than the family ties created by the
blood of the cross is indicative of the shallowness and
superficiality of thought eating like a pernicious cancer at the
heart of a wonderful fellowship created by God and inaugurated by the
can believe that the apostle who wrote more about brotherly love than
any other man, would recommend that we refuse entrance to our homes
to those saints who disagree with us over some of the things about
which we debate? What sane reasoner can actually conclude that to
greet a brother who disagrees with us about these matters is to
become a participant in some "evil deed"? The very
absurdity of such a conclusion renders obnoxious the common usage of
the passage by expositors who should know better. “
so this writer has stated that to twist such a scripture and misapply
it, kills love and the real message of the gospel. In fact John is
speaking about the importance of love in the context of this passage,
and the importance of recognising that Jesus came in the flesh in all
His humanity, and that if people can't understand such a simple
message and are bent on making trouble and division then they should
be avoided so as not to destroy the message of love which Christ
brought... in fact a warning against the ones who undermine the work
of others and don't show love and who cut people off... they are
the ones to avoid.
never condemned people for a misunderstanding of doctrine the way
that some do in this age. His condemnation was saved for those who
thought they were better than others and for those who oppressed
others. It is interesting that Jesus did not correct the disciples
for their misunderstanding about demons... nor their thought that
they saw a ghost walking on the water... Jesus emphasised that real
doctrine is how we live and not just the list of creeds we profess.
practice of disfellowship is another cause for serious concern. It
seems to be copied from the “Campbellites”, however the term
“withdraw fellowship” does not occur in the Bible. One of the
verses used as justification for such action occurs in
Thess 3 v 6
we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that
you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not
according to the tradition which he
quote another Brother,
KJV expression “walketh disorderly” has been used by religious
purists to expel anyone who doesn't measure up to their standards,
doctrinal or behavioural.
the Thessalonian context we can see that the NIVs translation “every
Brother who is idle” is a reference to the problem of idleness in
Thessalonica (many retired people supported by the Romans and granted
tax exemption)...It is almost impossible to imagine how the tangled
maze of disciplinary action – accusation, boycott, disfellowship,
and congregational exclusivism – has grown out of this passage.
When authoritarians seek justification for their bullying attitudes
they undoubtedly find that the words “withdraw yourselves”
provide a handy tool to satisfy their divisiveness and they
appropriate them as a weapon in the arsenal of factionalism.”
think it is a misunderstanding of what the real gospel is that has
caused such verses to be misapplied. The doctrines of men have always
been a threat to overshadow the gospel which Jesus preached...the
amazing “Good News” which gave men encouragement and hope and
shone as light in darkness... Jesus calls us to let the true light
of the world shine out and not be overwhelmed by darkness. He says
are the light of the world by our “GOOD DEEDS” rather than our
pure theology (Mt.
your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and
glorify your Father in heaven.” )
over time some have developed such a long list of what they consider
first principles that it may take a year of study for a person to be
considered to have enough knowledge to be baptised. This in itself
has caused some to question whether in fact this long study of head
knowledge before baptism can be really what God intended.
list of requirements
is perhaps because we are seeing baptism as a schooling of people
into a denomination rather than converting desperate sinners to
Christ as their saviour.
argument has been used that things were different in New Testament
times so baptisms could be much quicker than today because they were
not confused by so many different religions. If this were true the
New Testament couldn't be an example to us, it would just be a
historical record of no value. But surely the 21st
is called to be a reincarnation of the 1st
Century church. Different
religions abounded back then just as they do today, and even the Jews
held many false doctrines – they misunderstood who Messiah was to
be, and they believed in the myths of the immortal soul and a
New Testament baptisms were shown to us as examples, not as
exceptions. Strange how all the quick baptisms in the New Testament
are quoted by some
yet the isolated examples of casting others out have been used as
weapons against our fellow believers.
real gospel does not drive people away, does not oppress others or
need to be guarded or buried in the ground. The real gospel is about
a better way, as different as light is to darkness. We are not
contaminated if we break bread with someone who has done something
wrong, if that were true we would all be contaminated, imagine
asking all sinners to leave the meeting... who would be left?
is more than just breaking bread, they are two different things and
are listed as such in Acts
they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to
the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
have taken verses about casting others out, and being exclusive out
of context... it was never what Jesus intended. His focus was always
on bringing back the lost sheep. His warnings were about the ones
who would scatter the flock.
have sometimes been made about others that they are not “bona
fide”... that they are “wishy wahsy”...that their eternal
salvation is in jeopardy because they do not understand the “true
gospel” or that the one baptising them is jeopardising their
salvation because they don't have enough “knowledge”.
is this knowledge that we need? The New Testament warns about the
Gnostic type worship of head knowledge to know God. The real Gospel
is not how it has been defined over the centuries by men – the real
Gospel is found in the Gospels.
account of the four Gospel records confirms that Jesus taught the
4 v 23
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues,
preaching the Gospel
of the kingdom.”
1 v 14,15
came to Galilee, preaching the Gospel
of the kingdom of God”
time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and
believe in the Gospel.”
4 v 18
Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed MeTo preach
to the poor;He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim
liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind,To set at
liberty those who are oppressed”
Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light
shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend[it...He
came to His own,
not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the
right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13
who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the
will of man, but of God. “
verses show that what Jesus lived and taught was the Gospel. He was
the word and in Him is life.
best summary of first principles is given by Jesus himself in the
“Sermon on the Mount”... and the best understanding of what the
real gospel is gained by looking at the words Jesus taught and the
things he did. He gave us examples to follow. He ate and drank with
the outcasts. He broke bread with them in their houses he had
fellowship with them... and the pharisees despised Him for it. He
shared His bread with Judas at the last supper, this was not an
exception... it was another example to us. Paul endorsed what Jesus
preached, he did not set out to redefine the gospel but to preach the
same gospel and give advice about local situations based on the
gospel Jesus preached.
apostles doctrine was Jesus doctrine, they were the same. Paul said
“be imitators of me as I am of Christ” and then later “imitate
warned about the basic gospel being added to, and about the
traditions of men gaining hold. A
fear some seem to have is that if we deviate from the traditions
developed by men, that the true gospel will go down the drain... yet
the real fear should be whether we have deviated from the gospel
taught by Christ and have sunk into traditions of men.
all the baptisms in the New Testament give that impression that they
occurred within hours of a person wishing to be baptised... that it
was the realisation that they needed to be saved, and the
understanding of what Jesus and God had done for them and a very
basic understanding which was enough.
said “Come to me and learn”... not “Learn and come to me”.
No-one can make another be born of the spirit or have faith... it is
from God. No amount of head knowledge can transform our hearts...
bet seeing love at work in others can help.
are examples of New Testament Baptisms...there are no examples given
in the Bible that lengthy head knowledge is required prior to
baptism...nor even club rules to gain membership.
And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you
beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He
is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”
4 v 1
when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus
made and baptized more disciples than John
(though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), 3 He left
Judea and departed again to Galilee.
3 v 5
Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out
to him (John) and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing
Judea and Jerusalem went out to John, and Jesus disciples baptised
more than John did... so combined it must have been a great number)
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one
accord in one place. ...
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to
them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be
known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you
suppose, since it is only
the third hour of the day. ...
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God
has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Now when they heard this,
they were cut to the heart, and
said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and
brethren, what shall we do?”
7 38 Then Peter said to them,
and let every one of you be baptized
in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall
receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and
to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord
our God will call.” ...
And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be
saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly
his word were baptized; and that
day about three thousand souls were
42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and
fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
as they went down the road,
they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here
water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
37 Then Philip
said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”
answered and said, “I
believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the
eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.
Immediately there fell from his eyes something
like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was
34 Then Peter opened his
mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.
35 But in every nation whoever
fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36
The word which God
sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus
Christ—He is Lord of all— 37 that word you know, which was
proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the
baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and
healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39
And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of
the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. 40
Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 not to
all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even
to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And
He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He
who was ordained by God to
Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets witness
that, through His name, whoever
believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon
all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who
believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the
gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46
For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God.
Peter answered, 47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not
be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside,
where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the
women who met there.
14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us.
She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped
God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15
And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us,
saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to
my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.
16 - The Philippian Jailer
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be
saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the
Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And
he took them the same hour of the night and washed their
stripes. And immediately he and all his family
And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?”
they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
4 Then Paul said, “John
indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people
that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on
5 When they heard this,
they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at
him. 14 Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that
you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of
His mouth. 15 For you will be His witness to all men of what you have
seen and heard. 16
And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away
your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
1 Cor 1
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach
the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should
be made of no effect.
For the message
of the cross
is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being
saved it is the power of God.”
verses show the urgency that the early apostles felt for baptism
once they believed.