Category: Christianity


To understand why Christianity is a “bloody religion,” we must go back to God’s declarations regarding blood in the Old Testament: “the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11, 14). Here God tells us that life and blood are essentially one and the same. The blood carries life-sustaining nutrients to all parts of the body. It represents the essence of life. In contrast, the shedding of blood represents the shedding of life, i.e. death.

Blood is also used in the Bible to represent spiritual life. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden by disobeying God and eating fruit of the forbidden tree, they experienced spiritual death immediately, and physical death years later. God’s warning, “You shall not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17) was fulfilled. Their blood—their lives—were now tainted by sin. In His gracious plan, however, God provided a “way out” of their dilemma by declaring that sacrifices of blood, first the blood of animals and finally the blood of the Lamb of God (Jesus Christ), would be sufficient to cover the sin of fallen mankind and restore us to spiritual life. He instituted the sacrificial system, beginning with the animals. He himself killed to provide the first garments, thereby “covering” the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). All the Old Testament sacrifices which followed from then on were temporary ones, needing to be repeated over and over. These continual sacrifices were a foreshadowing of the one true and final sacrifice, Christ, whose blood shed on the cross would pay the penalty of sin forever. His death made any further bloodshed unnecessary (Hebrews 10:1-10).

As far as Christianity being a bloody religion, it is. But it is uniquely a bloody religion. Contrary to bloodless religions, it takes sin seriously, indicating that God takes sin seriously and gives a death penalty for it. Sin is not a small matter. It is the simple sin of pride that turned Lucifer into a demon. It was the simple sin of jealousy that caused Cain to slay Abel, etc. And in Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, they believed the deceiver over a good and loving God, choosing to rebel against His love and denying the goodness of His character. Christianity is a bloody religion because it views sin as a holy God views it—seriously.

Also, because God is just, sin requires a penalty. God cannot merely forgive in mercy until the demands of justice have been met. Thus the need for a sacrifice before forgiveness is possible. The shedding of the blood of animals, as Hebrews points out, could only “cover” sin for a time (Hebrews 10:4) until the intended and sufficient sacrifice was made in Christ’s atoning death. Thus, Christianity is different from other bloody religions in that it alone provides a sufficient sacrifice to take care of the sin problem.

Last, although Christianity presents a bloody sacrifice in these regards, it is the only religion that is bloodless in the end. The opposite of death is life. In Jesus’ death, He brought life as is shown in so many verses. And in trusting Christ and His atoning sacrifice for one’s sins, one is saved from death and has passed into life (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14). In Him is life. All other paths lead to death (Acts 4:16; John 14:6).

As a background, please read our article on Christian reconstructionism, which is closely related to “dominion theology” and “theonomy.” This line of theological interpretation states that biblical Christianity will rule all areas of society, personal and corporate, and that the goal of Christians is to help create a worldwide kingdom patterned after the Mosaic Law. Those that hold these views believe that Christ will not return to earth until such a kingdom has been established, a view that is completely antithetical to the Bible’s teaching on the second coming of Jesus Christ.

The principal goal, then, of dominion theology and Christian reconstructionism is political and religious domination of the world through the implementation of the moral laws, and subsequent punishments, of the Old Testament (the sacrificial and ceremonial laws having been fulfilled in the New Testament). This is not a government system ruled by the church, but rather a government conformed to the Law of God.

God has never called Christians to establish a physical kingdom ruled by His laws, commands, and statutes. The mission of Christians is to share the gospel of salvation with the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). When people are saved, the Holy Spirit will begin the work in them of changing their lives into conformity with God’s Word (Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). It is only when a society or culture is populated with born-again Christians that the society is changed, one heart and one life at a time. That is why Christ put an end to the Old Testament Law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:24-26; Ephesians 2:15) and instead instituted the law of Christ (Matthew 22:37-40; Galatians 6:2). The law of love and grace is what is needed in the hearts of men who, once their hearts are changed, can corporately effect change in their society.

Attempts to change societies and cultures from without will always fail. Changing people on the inside is God’s work through His Holy Spirit, and therefore no one can be forced into the kingdom. God is more interested in saving people’s souls than He is in forcing people to obey His laws. If an unsaved person if forced to obey God’s law, he would be doing it out of fear and obligation. God wants a person to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) and then to obey His commands out of reverence and love (1 John 5:3). So the answer to the question is no. God has not called us to enforce His commands on an unredeemed world. Rather, he has called us to proclaim the message of salvation—the redeeming power and life-transforming message of Jesus’ death on the cross (Romans 5:8).

Christianity’s second Milinium


A complete history of the Christian church for the first 1000 yrs. With a thorough prospective of the Roman Empire, and the Papacy, Rome never died. And the Papacy is not the True Church of God.

Pauline Christianity is a term applied to what some perceive as the religious teaching unique to Paul’s writings and distinct from the gospel of Jesus. That is, Jesus taught one thing, and Paul taught something completely different. Those who believe in a separate Pauline Christianity believe that the Christianity of today has little to do with Jesus’ teachings; rather, it is the product of Paul’s corruption of those teachings.

We believe that the New Testament is a unified whole: the Gospels present the life and work of Jesus the Messiah; the Epistles explain the meaning and scope of Jesus’ work and apply it to daily living. For example, Matthew 28 narrates the fact of Jesus’ resurrection, and 1 Corinthians 15 explains the significance of His resurrection. Mark 15:38 tells of the temple veil being torn in two when Jesus died; Hebrews 10:11-23 reveals the import of that event. The same Holy Spirit who inspired the Gospels also inspired the Epistles to give us a fuller understanding of God’s plan of salvation.

However, those who theorize about a separate “Pauline Christianity” tell a different story:

Jesus, a great teacher, considered himself to be the long-awaited Messiah for the Jews. He believed that God would overthrow Rome and bring His kingdom to earth. In preparation for this, Jesus taught a message of unconditional love, tolerance, and non-judgmental acceptance of everyone. Alas, Jesus’ mission of inaugurating a new earthly age failed when the Romans crucified him.

Jesus’ followers, believing that God had raised their rabbi from the dead, continued to meet in Jerusalem under the leadership of James, Jesus’ brother. Their intention was to await the still-coming kingdom and continue observing Jesus’ brand of enlightened Judaism. But along came Saul of Tarsus, who faked a conversion in order to infiltrate the church. Peter and James and others who had actually known Jesus were suspicious of Saul, who had never met Jesus.

Then Saul, who started calling himself “Paul,” had a stroke of genius. He artfully combined traditional Hebrew ideas with those of pagan Greek philosophy, creating a new religion that could appeal to both Jews and Gentiles. He began preaching that Jesus was actually God, that Jesus’ death was linked to the Jewish system of sacrifice, that one could be saved by simply believing, and that the Mosaic law was obsolete. Paul’s zealous missionary activity and persuasive writings took his new “gospel” around the Roman Empire. The Jerusalem Church, including Peter and James, disowned Paul as a heretic and cult leader.

After the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the Jewish Church lost authority, but the Gentile Church founded by Paul increased its influence. One of Paul’s fervent followers wrote the book of Acts, which gave Paul legendary status with its glowing portrayal of him as the hero of the church. Later, four unknown writers gathered scraps of information about Jesus and wrote books they called “Matthew,” “Mark,” Luke,” and “John”—but Paul’s theology, already dominant in the church, tainted the writers’ perspective. Thus, Paul’s religion won out over Jesus’ religion.

In short, Paul was a charlatan, an evangelical huckster who succeeded in twisting Jesus’ message of love into something Jesus himself would never recognize. It was Paul, not Jesus, who originated the “Christianity” of today.

Commonly, those who hold to the above theory also believe the following:

1) Jesus was not divine. He never claimed to be God, and he never intended to start a new religion.

2) The Bible is not an inspired book and is riddled with contradictions. None of the Bible, except possibly the book of James, was written by anyone who knew Jesus. There are fragments of Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels, but it is difficult to discern what he really said.

3) Paul was never a Pharisee and was not highly educated. His “conversion” was either a personal hallucinogenic experience or an outright fraud. His claims to be an apostle were attempts to further his own authority in the church.

4) Pauline theological “inventions” include a) the deity of Jesus; b) salvation by grace through faith; c) salvation through the blood of Jesus; d) the sinless nature of Jesus; e) the concept of original sin; and f) the Holy Spirit. None of these “new doctrines” were accepted by Jesus’ true followers.

5) The Gnostic Gospels are closer to the truth about Jesus than are the traditional four Gospels of the Bible.

The concept of “Pauline Christianity” represents an outright attack on the Bible as the Word of God. Adherents of the “Pauline Christianity” theory are truly misrepresenting Jesus’ teachings. They choose to believe His words on love but deny His teachings on judgment (such as Matthew 24). They insist on a human Jesus, denying His divinity, although Jesus plainly taught His equality with God in passages such as John 10:30. They want a “loving” Jesus without having to accept Him as Lord and Savior.

Any time a skeptic finds a “disagreeable” doctrine in the Bible, he is likely to say, “That passage has been corrupted,” or, “Paul wrote that, and we know he was a liar.” Where the Gospels teach a “Pauline” doctrine, such as Jesus’ atonement for sin in John 1:29, the skeptic dismisses it as “inserted by devotees of Paul.” In reality, the skeptic’s only basis for such a selective approach to Scripture is a personal bias against the idea of Jesus’ atonement.

Interestingly, Paul’s credentials as an apostle were attacked, even in his own lifetime, by those who desired to lead the church into legalism and other errant ideologies. Paul defends himself from the spurious attacks of false teachers in 1 Corinthians 9; 2 Corinthians 12; and Galatians 1.

Paul’s apostleship is attested to by the miracles he performed (Romans 15:19), the training he received (Galatians 1:15-20), and the testimony of the other apostles. Peter, far from being Paul’s enemy, wrote this about him: “Our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16).

The Pauline epistles are the 13 “letters” written by the Apostle Paul that are included in the canon of Scripture. The Pauline epistles are Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

The Pauline epistles contain much of the doctrine the Christian faith is built upon, especially in relationship to salvation. The Pauline epistles expound on the doctrines of sanctification, justification, redemption, and reconciliation. The Pauline epistles contain significant teachings on difficult theological issues such as: election, predestination, foreknowledge, the deity/humanity of Christ, God’s ongoing relationship with Israel, and the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Pauline epistles also get very practical in how the church should function, containing teaching on: spiritual gifts, qualifications of church leaders, the role of women in ministry, and the relationship between law and grace in the life of a Christ-follower.

The Pauline epistles are not to be confused with “Pauline Christianity,” which is the unbiblical view that Paul’s teachings in the epistles are unique in Scripture and distinct from the gospel of Jesus. The “Pauline Christians” believe that what Paul taught differs from what is taught in the Gospels. This belief goes against some of the most fundamental beliefs of orthodox Christians, including the inerrancy of Scripture, the unity of the Bible and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We know that “all Scripture is God-breathed,” inspired by the same Spirit. Therefore, it is a unified whole, preserved forever by God. The Pauline epistles are part of that unity and the teachings they contain are equally inspired and in complete harmony with the rest of the Bible.

This question really has several answers, and they can be either simple or complex. The simplest answer is that a non-denominational church is any church which is not part of a larger denomination. A denomination is a church organization that exercises some sort of authority over the local churches that comprise it. Examples of denominations are Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, Episcopal, Wesleyan, Methodist, etc. Non-denominational churches go by many different names and hold to a wide variety of beliefs.

Why altruistico chose to be Non-Denominational:

Why do some churches choose to be non-denominational? Though the answers will vary somewhat, a major consideration is the freedom to direct the ministry and teaching of the local church without interference or control from without. When we look to the Bible, the evidence points to each church as self-governing and answerable directly to God Himself. In the book of Acts, where we read of the first missionary journeys and the establishment of many churches, there is no indication of a hierarchy of authority beyond the local elders of the church. Some people point to the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 as a pattern for denominational structure, but it is nothing of the sort. The Gentiles had been given the gospel under the ministry of Paul and Barnabas, by the direct authority of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2; 15:7). The churches established in that first journey were left under the care of elders (Acts 14:23) from their own ranks, after having been taught by Paul and Barnabas. When the council was called at Jerusalem, it was not because of any question of organizational structure or control, but to discuss doctrinal matters about what constitutes salvation (Acts 15:5-6). The apostles who had been directly commissioned by Jesus were the only people who could properly address the question authoritatively.

When a church is non-denominational, does that mean it has no need of other churches? That may be the belief of some, but it is certainly not the example we find in Scripture. The book of Acts and the New Testament Epistles make it clear that the churches communicated with one another regularly. As Paul and his companions made their missionary journeys, it was not uncommon for the believers to send letters to the other churches (Acts 18:27), or to greet one another through his letters (Romans 16:16). Likewise, when there was a great need, the churches worked interdependently to meet that need—for example, the collection for the famine in Jerusalem (Acts 11:29; 2 Corinthians 8:4). The various churches of the New Testament, though independent, self-governing bodies, were definitely connected in fellowship and cooperative ministry, giving us an example to follow today.

The measure of any church, whether inside or out of a denomination, is not how it is organized nor what name it is called, but rather how faithfully it adheres to the teachings of the Word of God. No church is inerrant, because churches are made of people who are capable of error. Even the apostles, with all the gifts God gave them, were not without error. Paul records in Galatians 2:11 that “when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” Peter, the first to give the gospel to a Gentile, gave in to pressure by the Judaizers to separate himself from Gentile believers. Paul’s ability to confront Peter was not based on his position as an apostle, but on the revealed truth of God’s Word. Paul complimented the believers in Berea (Acts 17:11) for checking his own teaching against the Bible to find out if he was telling them straight doctrine.

All believers need to be like the Bereans, checking what we are taught against the Word of God to find out if those things are so. If our church is out of line with God’s Word, we must lovingly, patiently give instruction or correction. If it will not be corrected, then we should seek out a church that is faithfully obeying God’s Word.

“And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead . . . the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints . . . Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:18, 26-28).

Discussing the origin of Christianity (compare with “Origins of the Catholic Church“) requires the review of an intricate story spanning time and eternity. Instead of a simple beginning, we consider Christianity’s origin from several points of view. Acts 2 records the birth of the church at Pentecost. This was indeed a Feast of Harvest (Exodus 23:16), because a harvest of about 3,000 souls took place on that day when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and disciples (Acts 2:1-41). Biblically, Christianity is not a building or religion but the church, or household of God. It is embodied in Christ and His people, individually and collectively. Before time began, the church was conceived in the mind of God. Then, “when the time had fully come” (Galatians 4:4), God sent His only son, “born of a woman, born under law” to be the church’s true founder, foundation, and head (1 Corinthians 3:11). As the first of the chosen ones (1 Peter 2:6), Jesus, the anointed one (that is, the Christ) died as the perfect Passover lamb fifty days before the events of Acts 2. Before that, He prepared the apostles for three years, giving them the Father’s Word and keeping them in His name (John 17:12, 14). After His resurrection He breathed into the apostles the breath of eternal life in the form of the Holy Spirit, who was to indwell them (John 20:22; cf. John 14:25-26). They became the seeds of the new church, which sprouted into thousands when the Holy Spirit came upon them, empowering them to witness, preach, and carry out the mission Jesus gave them. Rising from the dead, Jesus was the first fruits of God’s Kingdom; ”then, when he comes, those who belong to him  will also rise, never to die again (John 11:25-26). Thus, Jesus is the one foundation and source of the church.

The Old Testament had prophesied that a “shoot” would come from the “stump” of Jesse (King David’s father) and that this “branch” would bear fruit (Isaiah 11:1, 10). Jesus is that Messiah or Christ. He is the hope of Jews and Gentiles. “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him” (Romans 15:12; cf. Revelation 5:5; 22: 16). Peter learned that Jesus is not merely a human being, the Son of David, when God showed him that Jesus is “the Son of the living God.” To this, Jesus added that He Himself is the Rock or foundation upon which He would build His church (Matthew 16:16-18; see also Isaiah 26:4). The building of the church upon Jesus, the Rock of Israel (Isaiah 30:29), is taught in 2 Corinthians 6:16 (see also Ephesians 2:21-22).

Some writers mention that the word for “church” in the original Greek is ecclesia, meaning “a called-out assembly” (εκκλησιανMatthew 16:18) and that the church is formed by the “elect” or chosen (Mark 13:20; Luke 18:7; Romans 8:33). Yes, the elect have been called out from the kingdom of darkness, but we have also been called into God’s family as adopted children. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16; cf. Ephesians 5:1, 8). We are chosen, but Jesus is the first of the chosen (1 Peter 2:6), and He lives in us as we live or abide in Him (John 8:31; 15:4-9).

Christians are individually in Christ even as the church as a whole is in Christ (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30). The mystery of Christ and the church is brought out in Paul’s discussion of the mystery by which two become “one flesh” in marriage, in Ephesians 5. There the apostle writes that “this mystery is profound,” referring to Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:32). The tense of the Greek word translated “mystery” (μυστηριον) is singular. This grammatical detail shows that in their unity Christ and the church are one mystery. They are not a mixture or compound; rather, their union is like that of a man and woman in holy matrimony who become “one flesh” or a new family unit without giving up their individuality (Genesis 2:24). In marriage a couple becomes legal “kin,” even though they are not blood relatives as Adam and Eve were. Similarly, through Christ God legally adopts the chosen as children (Ephesians 1:5). Because of this, and because Christ lives in each member of the church, His spiritual body, He is our hope of glory (Colossians 1:18, 26-28). Christ’s presence in Christians answers Jesus’ prayer in John 17: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you” (John 17:20-21; see also John 17:11).

The connection between the words “church” and “Christianity” is old and complicated, but we can simply say that Christians do not go to church; rather, they are the church. Most disciples who first joined the growing church were Jews. Like Paul (Philippians 3:5; Romans 11:1), they considered themselves Israelites, descendants of Abraham, to whom belonged the covenants, the giving of the law, etc. (Romans 9:4-5). They acknowledged the Lord Jesus as Messiah and God but did not (at first) call themselves “Christians.” At Antioch in the first century, outsiders first called the followers of the Christ “Christians” (Acts 11:26). They thought “Christ” was the proper name of the God whom they worshipped, not aware that “Christ” means “anointed” and that Jesus is the Christ. As for “church,” some early Christian writers used this word to refer to the place where people worshipped (i.e., the church building). But in the New Testament, the word translated “church” refers to the “household of God.” In Ephesians 2:19, the Greek word translated “household” is οἰκεῖοι. This plural form refers to the all those who belong to the immediate family of God, i.e., those who are spiritually family in the faith (Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:19). As members of this universal household, Christians have taken root and blossomed among the various peoples and in almost every language group in the world.

Now, let’s look beyond history to reflect on the eternal origins of the church (i.e., “Christianity”) in the mind of God. Even as God chose Israel (Deuteronomy 7:6; 26:18), He also elected the church in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). In eternity past, God willed that the elect would be saved and made part of His household by adoption. “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:5). However, the church born on Pentecost has not yet realized its ultimate purpose in its development. The church is not yet the spotless bride of Christ (Revelation 19:6-8), in accord with God’s purpose for it, as we read in Ephesians 1:4: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” The fulfillment of this prophetic purpose which God set forth in Christ (Romans 8:28; 9:11) “to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment” (Ephesians 1:10) does not depend on “… anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” (2 Timothy 1:9).

One reason the “visible” church is not perfect is because within its ranks there are false Christians. Jesus told the apostles that within the church there would be a mixture of “wheat and chaff,” genuine saints and secret, unrepentant, self-deceived sinners (hypocrites). Considering that Christ has not yet returned in power and glory (Matthew 26:64; Mark 13:26), and that the elect have not yet been revealed as God’s children (Romans 8:19; 1 John 3:2), the mystery of Christ and the church, kept secret for long ages (Romans 16:25), remains partially concealed. The unveiling of the church will not take place until the moment we are changed, as 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 says. The real hope for Christians is not that we will be immortal (the damned in hell will also be immortal, but they will be without Christ), but that Christ lives in us now (Colossians 1:28).

This brings us to a final thought about the church’s present hidden-ness and ultimate unveiling. We have been redeemed, we are no longer slaves to sin, and death no longer has dominion over us (Romans 6:5-9). Nevertheless, our “body of sin” or “body of death” (Romans 6:6; 7:24) has yet to be “brought to nothing.” We still await the resurrection and redemption of our sin-stained flesh. This will take place when the Lord returns for us. Then “we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is” (1 John 3:2). Then, our glorious, imperishable spiritual bodies will be revealed (Philippians 3:20-21), and we will no longer be burdened by what remains of the carnal or sinful mind. Thus, in a real sense, the church or Christianity in its perfection, as the undefiled and glorified bride of Christ, continues to wear a discrete veil, until she is called to heaven in glory at the marriage supper of the Lamb. This event is prophesied in Revelation 19:6-8, where we read, “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)”

“If all Christians have the same Bible, and the same Holy Spirit, should not Christians be able to agree?”

Scripture says there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). This passage emphasizes the unity that should exist in the body of Christ as we are indwelt by “one Spirit” (verse 4). In verse 3, Paul makes an appeal to humility, meekness, patience, and love—all of which are necessary to preserve unity. According to 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God (verse 11), which He reveals (verse 10) and teaches (verse 13) to those whom He indwells. This activity of the Holy Spirit is called illumination.

In a perfect world, every believer would dutifully study the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15) in prayerful dependence upon the Holy Spirit’s illumination. As can be clearly seen, this is not a perfect world. Not everyone who possesses the Holy Spirit actually listens to the Holy Spirit. There are Christians who grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30). Ask any educator—even the best classroom teacher has his share of wayward students who seem to resist learning, no matter what the teacher does. So, one reason different people have different interpretations of the Bible is simply that some do not listen to the Teacher—the Holy Spirit. Following are some other reasons for the wide divergence of beliefs among those who teach the Bible.

1. Unbelief. The fact is that many who claim to be Christians have never been born again. They wear the label of “Christian,” but there has been no true change of heart. Many who do not even believe the Bible to be true presume to teach it. They claim to speak for God yet live in a state of unbelief. Most false interpretations of Scripture come from such sources.

It is impossible for an unbeliever to correctly interpret Scripture. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). An unsaved man cannot understand the truth of the Bible. He has no illumination. Further, even being a pastor or theologian does not guarantee one’s salvation.

An example of the chaos created by unbelief is found in John 12:28-29. Jesus prays to the Father, saying, “Father, glorify your name.” The Father responds with an audible voice from heaven, which everyone nearby hears. Notice, however, the difference in interpretation: “The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.” Everyone heard the same thing—an intelligible statement from heaven—yet everyone heard what he wanted to hear.

2. Lack of training. The apostle Peter warns against those who misinterpret the Scriptures. He attributes their spurious teachings in part to the fact that they are “ignorant” (2 Peter 3:16). Timothy is told to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). There is no shortcut to proper biblical interpretation; we are constrained to study.

3. Poor hermeneutics. Much error has been promoted because of a simple failure to apply good hermeneutics (the science of interpreting Scripture). Taking a verse out of its immediate context can do great damage to the intent of the verse. Ignoring the wider context of the chapter and book, or failing to understand the historical/cultural context will also lead to problems.

4. Ignorance of the whole Word of God. Apollos was a powerful and eloquent preacher, but he only knew the baptism of John. He was ignorant of Jesus and His provision of salvation, so his message was incomplete. Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and “explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:24-28). After that, Apollos preached Jesus Christ. Some groups and individuals today have an incomplete message because they concentrate on certain passages to the exclusion of others. They fail to compare Scripture with Scripture.

5. Selfishness and pride. Sad to say, many interpretations of the Bible are based on an individual’s own personal biases and pet doctrines. Some people see an opportunity for personal advancement by promoting a “new perspective” on Scripture. (See the description of false teachers in Jude’s epistle.)

6. Failure to mature. When Christians are not maturing as they should, their handling of the Word of God is affected. “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly” (1 Corinthians 3:2-3). An immature Christian is not ready for the “meat” of God’s Word. Note that the proof of the Corinthians’ carnality is a division in their church (verse 4).

7. Undue emphasis on tradition. Some churches claim to believe the Bible, but their interpretation is always filtered through the established traditions of their church. Where tradition and the teaching of the Bible are in conflict, tradition is given precedence. This effectively negates the authority of the Word and grants supremacy to the church leadership.

On the essentials, the Bible is abundantly clear. There is nothing ambiguous about the deity of Christ, the reality of heaven and hell, and salvation by grace through faith. On some issues of less importance, however, the teaching of Scripture is less clear, and this naturally leads to different interpretations. For example, we have no direct biblical command governing the frequency of communion or the style of music to use. Honest, sincere Christians can have differing interpretations of the passages concerning these peripheral issues.

The important thing is to be dogmatic where Scripture is and to avoid being dogmatic where Scripture is not. Churches should strive to follow the model of the early church in Jerusalem: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). There was unity in the early church because they were steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine. There will be unity in the church again when we get back to the apostles’ doctrine and forego the other doctrines, fads, and gimmicks that have crept into the church.

The Bible underscores the importance of “unity” and “oneness.” Unity with others is “good” and “pleasant” (Psalm 133:1). Unity is absolutely essential because the church is the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27), and a body cannot be in disunity or disharmony with itself. If disunity occurs, it essentially ceases to be a body and becomes a disjointed group of individuals. Jesus’ plan for His church is people unified in the faith.

The secret to unity begins with how we view ourselves within the body and how we view others. The key verse that addresses this is Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” All disunity in a church can be traced back to the simple truth that too often we act selfishly and consider ourselves better than others. Paul goes on to explain further in the following verse: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Sadly, churches that experience disunity and are in conflict and turmoil are generally filled with people looking to their own needs, their own desires, and their own ambitions. Such behavior is characteristic of unbelievers, not those with the mind of Christ. Worldliness, not godliness, is the hallmark of the disunified church, as Paul reminded the Corinthians: “For you are yet carnal. For in that there is among you envyings and strife and divisions, are you not carnal, and do you not walk according to men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3).

But Paul tells us that we are to consider others’ needs before our own. In all modesty, humility and lowliness of mind, we are to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). A church filled with such people cannot help but have peace, unity and harmony. The truly humble person sees his own faults in light of the perfections of Christ; he does not seek to see the faults of others, but when he does, he speaks the truth in love and desires their sanctification so they will be built up in the image of Christ. He sees his own heart and the corruption that lies hidden there, along with impure motives and evil ambitions. But he does not seek to notice the errors, defects, and follies of others. He sees the depravity of his own heart and hopes charitably in the goodness of others and believes their hearts are more pure than his.

Most importantly, as Christians, we are to see one another in the light of the cross. Fellow Christians are those for whom Christ died a horrible and painful death so that He might exchange His righteous perfection for their sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). How can we not extend to them the love, compassion, and grace of our heavenly Father? How can we demean, criticize, and defame those covered with the precious blood of Christ? Were we not slaves to sin when He called us, hopelessly lost, dead in our own transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1)? But we are now slaves of Christ, slaves to righteousness, and as slaves of the Master, the task before us is not to quarrel and demand our needs be met but to reflect His grace and love to those who are also His by His mercy. A church full of such people enjoying their “common salvation” will be a true, biblical church unified in, and earnestly contending for, the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).