Differences in Beliefs
Why are there so many of these differences today? President Obama has said the USA is not a Christian nation, however I remember a time when we did make that claim as a nation. Some today still like to think we are, but I have to admit, with all the violence and immorality, corruption in politics and business practices and even abominable laws being passed—it is very hard to see true Christian activity.
Have you ever wondered why, in the realm of “Christianity” today, that there are also many variations of religious beliefs? We have practicing Muslims, those who practice Hinduism, and Buddhism as well as Mormonism who may use books other than the Bible. They all have their own teachings and it is understandable why there are differences of beliefs across the lines of these non-Christian groups; but why so much between those claiming Christianity? Don’t all who claim Christianity base their beliefs on the Bible? For those seeking the Bible’s version of Christianity, there seems to be quite a difference between that and what most people believe and practice!
For example; we read of the early Church of God, (COG) who were first called Christians (Acts 11:26) and they being one body; 1Cor.12:12-14 (NKJ) “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-- whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free-- and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.” Now Paul was writing this to the NT COG—not a bunch of different organizations & denominations with different doctrines. We also find that Christ is the head of that one Church, (Eph.5:23) which is a single Spiritual organism. But we are now also seeing several differences in beliefs in the scattered COG of today, so the title includes them as well.
However, it is still to be only one body according to the Bible—as a wife, not many bodies as in multiple wives—that standard has not changed from the time when Christ said “I will build My Church”—which many seem to have forgotten today! The end result of the COG becoming divided was shown by Christ Himself (Mark 3:24-25) but divisiveness is truly affecting the COG, by its “leaders” in many “groups” today. We see more about the expected unity of the COG in Eph.4:1-6 (NKJ); “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
So, once again I ask the question; why are there so many differences in beliefs? Those who have been called into the COG and given the Holy Spirit should have come to understand that they cannot have long-term differences in beliefs and all still be a part of the same Body, led by the one Holy Spirit. 2 Tim 2:15 (NKJ) “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” This is the way a true Christian should be, no matter where they assembly together, in the COG today. But as anyone can see, that is not the case. People harbor prejudices toward others and show partiality among themselves over other true Christians in many of these groups, both member and minister alike, which is an ungodly trait. (See Partiality Bible study for more on this subject.)
Satan the devil is increasing his deceptions as the end draws near. Rev.12:9 says; “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” He is the god of this world today and has been for nearly 6,000 years, so he is still at work with deceptions, but he especially targets those who are truly seeking to believe and obey God and what is written in the Bible. Simply put, some of Satan’s rebellious ways are “get, greed, dishonesty, lust for power and competitions that divide” along with a false belief system that affects most of humanity. Many fail to see, however, this is actually a mixture of truth and error, which is now affecting some of those who claim to be the COG.
So a true Christian believes God in simplicity and studies to learn more of how to “rightly divide the word of truth”, adding to their understanding from Biblical teachings and concepts, as a part of the beliefs of the one true COG body. Matt 4:4 (NKJ) "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” That comes from the last part of Duet.8:3 and Christ was then the God of the O.T. (Isa.43:3,11, Isa.49:26, Isa.60:16 & 1Cor.10:4)
Something that affects many today is unrecognizable belief and unbelief, dealing with certain passages and based on what is recorded in the whole Bible. A mixture of truth and error, even in ignorance can become unbelief of truth after a while. Sometimes these “mixtures” are only viewed as a difference of opinion or Biblical perception and not taken that seriously. (2Tim.3:16-shows all Scripture is inspired) Scripture also interprets itself and is not to be privately interpreted by man, (2Pet.1:20 & John 10:35) yet many do it anyway. Clear Scriptures help explain the unclear and if we believe and apply that, being led or guided by the Holy Spirit, (John 16:13) we should all begin to come to the same beliefs, based on what the Bible reveals. However, Satan will not give up on deceiving even true believers, if that is possible. He has his human agents and some are in ignorance of which god they serve at times, (John 8:44, 2Cor.4:4 & Eph.2:2) by the things they teach and are willing to believe.
Matt 24:24-25 (RSV) says; “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 Lo, (see) I have told you beforehand.” So this should help us begin to see why the COG also is being affected today. We are in a very lukewarm and compromising state—the end time era or stage of the COG, (Rev.3:14-21) and many false prophets are showing up to deceive, within the COG realm. (Matt 24:11 "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.)
Claiming to be a true Christian and actually being one are sometimes two different things. (Rom.8:14) Those who sometimes blur the lines between truth and error today, twisting Scripture here and there are creating compromises. Some have slipped back into following the carnal mind more than letting the Spirit lead. If we fail to yield to God and let the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth, we can also end up in unbelief of certain Scriptural points of truth. This can Spiritually separate us from the true body of believers where Christ is truly the head and can cost us our crown. We must remember Pro.3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, (That would be through what is written in His word) and He shall direct your paths.” This provides a belief system that a true Christian can have faith and trust in and rely on to always be the truth. Pro.30:5-6 “Every word of God is pure; he is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. 6 Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” Some today ignore this in unbelief and privately interpret and add to His words, which brings about differences in beliefs for their “group”.
A few noted contrasts in beliefs
I have heard from some in the COG over the years that Adam and Eve were eating from the tree of life until they took of the wrong tree. That is a human idea and simply unbelief of this verse; Gen 3:22 (NIV for clarity) And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." Clearly they had not yet eaten of that tree. Most in unbelief also do not understand that the day they ate of that wrong tree, that action brought them under the death penalty, (Rom.6:23) and they began the process of dying, none living past a day to God, (2Pet.3:8) so “in the day” they ate of it they died.
Moving ahead to another clear point; Israel did not believe God and His Words—they were also in unbelief and there are many examples of that, but let us note Heb.3:10; “Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart,--(V.19 “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”) V.12 “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;” Departing from the clear word of God and what it reveals is unbelief or rebellion to those words, as Israel did and this clearly indicates. What are some other points of belief and unbelief with what the Bible teaches, that are affecting many today?
A particular denominational belief is to insist Christ was a created being. John 1:1-2 says; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.” V14 shows he became flesh. Unbelief of these simple words has found its way into the minds of some who have spent years among the COG members. Other things like God the Father being the one who was God of the OT—many passages that prove that is not the case are being ignored or reasoned around. So the one who became Christ was God and was there with God in the beginning—two eternal beings—neither were created, proven by many other passages as well. To believe differently than revealed Scripture is unbelief of those Scriptures and WILL lead to a rejection of other truths over time. (Luke 10:16 & John 12:48) Another thing becoming more prevalent today is to cast doubt on certain clear Scriptures, even Christ’s own words explaining His return and how that chain of events is to take place. Some want to believe it will happen as part of the “rapture theory” explains—Christ coming to gather the saints and then take them back to heaven to the throne of God, returning again later. This would amount to a third coming which can be found nowhere in Scripture, for the eye to see. Some want to include Christ and His crucifixion as a major part of the Gospel that He Himself preached, clearly before it ever happened. There are many more unsupported ideas of men that are now being taught. Many now question the past teachings of the COG, if they were really correct, though they were once proven by those who took the time to do so. Many of these things are nothing more than unbelief of what Scripture does reveal. Granted, there are some passages that take some time consuming study to come to fully understand and that may be a problem for some who are not willing to do that. Mistakes have been made in the past that need correction by this method. Others do a kind of “knee jerk” approach to some passages; jumping to their own conclusions quickly without in-depth study and end up teaching a mixture of truth and error. This is often found even in COG organizations statements of or “fundamental” beliefs they put out for their followers and the public.
Called out to become believers
True Christians learn quickly they have been called out of the unbelieving and distorted systems of man (2Cor.6:17) and into a belief system based on the clear word of God, so most of these common differences of the worldly religions should not affect those in the COG. However, sometimes people do not fully repent, holding onto some of their differences in belief. False “Christianity” both accept and teach the trinity, in unbelief of Scriptures proving there is no trinity. We have just read John1:1-2, showing only two beings of the God realm, now notice; II Jn,V.9 “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” The trinity is not a doctrine of Christ, besides the fact that “Both” is not three and could not mean that. The protestant beliefs in the spurious added words in 1John 5:7-8 in the KJV & NKJV are well noted to be added and other translations leave them out. (See TRINITY DOCTRINE Bible study for more.)
Paul’s inspired writings became part of the doctrines for the COG, and some of those do affect the COG today because they are being rejected or ignored. This can depend on the minister or the organization itself and what they allow. 2Cor.6:14 clearly states that people in the COG realm should not be marrying unbelievers, yet this seems to happen quite often and sometimes even COG ministers have performed some of those weddings. This is either unbelief of what the Scriptures say or deliberate rebellion—either way it is disobedience and shows a difference in beliefs, or at least how those ministers adhere to and understand the word of God.
Another point that is affecting several in today’s COG, as it was in Paul’s time, is going to the courts before unbelievers to settle matters. Many are either ignoring this in unbelief that it applies to them, or in outright rebellion of its true application. (1Cor.6:1-8) Many times this also concerns divorce, which is also discouraged by Scripture, except for certain circumstances, also revealed by Scripture. Some enter marriage, yes even in the COG, through deceit and dishonesty for gain, (which is fraud) then have broken vows they promised each other before God, in order to leave that marriage for other selfish reasons. (The majority of the time however, those who so easily engage in those carnal activities willingly and for selfish reasons are not truly converted in the first place.) This lukewarm and even unconverted activity is allowed to be going on in the COG organizations, because of differences in beliefs and practices of members and ministers and how they apply the Bible. Many other lukewarm or compromising things are allowed and even tolerated by some of the ministry and even the leaders of organizations themselves. These are acts in unbelief of, or disobedience to the clear Scriptural teachings of the Bible. All of these things will have to be recognized and zealously repented of by those who have engaged in this practice. (Rev.3:19)
(Sometimes even unbelievers (according to the Bible) who only think they are Christians, act more righteous and walk closer to the teachings of the Bible than those in some of these COG groups do, in comparison to what truth they understand. This gives the true COG and its zealous members a bad report from the outside world, not realizing some few within these scattered groups are still following the teachings of the Bible to the best of their ability and understanding. This is shameful conduct and certainly a reason that Christ would want to “vomit” the arrogant and lukewarm compromisers and unconverted out of His Body, the COG realm today! Rev.2:5 & 3:16) Repentance, zeal and love for truth and to follow the ways of the Bible must be a part of our thinking and way of living, in order to be in the Kingdom of God.
There has always been a wide margin of different beliefs between the COG and the outside world with its pagan beliefs. True believers (Members of that one body) have a system of beliefs that are based on what the Bible actually reveals, although the wording of some passages have to be searched out and paid careful attention to, in order to avoid differences in beliefs. (Thorough Bible study, mentioned earlier) We must let the context and clear Scriptures help us understand what seems unclear. True Christian beliefs are based on the words of the Bible, not the ideas of men. Therefore, any “differences in beliefs” may actually be unbelief of what the Bible teaches, when examined word for word. We are told to strive to be of the same mind; “like-minded”, not to be divided in our beliefs, so that we can be in harmony and function as one body, led by the Holy Spirit to do the work of God and be made ready for Christ’s return. That is sadly lacking and the true COG is very scattered and divided today. (Editor for TCOGMSO)