What if Church Teachings Do Matter?
It is very popular today for people who profess to believe in Jesus Christ to say that what a particular church teaches does not really matter. Many people believe that it does not matter whether a church is a Lutheran church, a Baptist church, a Methodist church, or a community church, or a church of Christ. Many think that believing that Jesus is the Christ is all that really matters.
While many believe this, what does God have to say?
But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema (Galatians 1:8-9).
The word “anathema” here means one that is accursed. According to Paul, those who preach any other gospel than the original Gospel will be going to hell if they do not repent and change their ways!
Many think that the “Gospel” that Paul talks about involve the “basics” of the faith, and the “basics” only. Those “basics” are the belief that God is One in Three Persons, that Jesus is the Son of God and God the Son, that He was raised from the dead on the third day, and that salvation can only be found through Jesus. It is certainly true that these “basics” are very important and we must agree on them if we want to be followers of Christ and to receive salvation (cf. 2 John 1:7-11). But the letter to the Galatians makes it clear that the “Gospel” of which Paul speaks is much more than this!
Paul’s letter to the Galatians makes it clear that there were false teachers going around to the various churches in Galatia teaching the Gentile Christians that they needed to be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses (Galatians 3:3-4, 4:8-11, 5:1-5). This was the “other gospel,” the idea that the Gentiles needed to also follow the Law of Moses. According to Paul, those who taught these things were accursed– and those who accepted them were cut off from the grace of God in Christ (Galatians 1:6-9, 5:1-5)!
As far as we can tell, the “Judaizing” teachers in Galatia believed that God is One in Three Persons, that Jesus is the Son of God and God the Son, that He was raised on the third day, and that He is now Lord. According to many today, they should be accepted since they are “fellow Christians.” Yet Paul says that they are accursed!
We mention all of this to ask a very important question:
If those teaching that circumcision was necessary were accursed, what about those who teach various doctrines not found in the Bible today?
This question can take many different forms. For instance, if accepting circumcision is in debt to keep the whole Law and are separated from Christ (Galatians 5:1-5), what about those who still believe that the Law is binding today? Or, if binding circumcision was a “false gospel,” what about the belief that one should pray the “sinner’s prayer” to be saved, a prayer never mentioned in the Bible, when the Bible clearly shows that one should be baptized (Acts 2:37-38)? Likewise, if believing that following the Law on top of being a Christian was sinful, what about believing that God does everything and people can do nothing for their salvation?
We could make this parallel with many other doctrines and beliefs in various churches. The letter to the Galatians makes it clear that doctrine does matter. The Bible shows that some people will go to hell because of what they taught (Galatians 5:19-21)!
We do not say these things because we want people to go to hell– far, far from it! Friend, we do not want anyone to go to hell, including you. That is why we talk about these things. We do not want anyone to be deceived into believing that doctrine does not matter and that one church is as good as another!
But, you may ask, doesn’t God want us to be one? Absolutely! As it is written,
“Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word; that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me” (John 17:20-21).
Jesus’ prayer makes it clear that God wants those who believe in Him to be one. But the Bible makes it clear that the unity of believers must be real unity, not the “unity in (doctrinal) diversity” that so many promote today. Consider what Paul tells us:
Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10).
This is the type of unity God desires– the same unity that exists between the Father and the Son. We are one in Christ when we have the same mind and the same judgment– when we teach and believe in the same truths!
This does not mean that we must all be the exact same people! God expects different people to be in His church doing different things and using different abilities, just like our bodies are made up of different parts doing different things (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). People of different races, languages, and ethnicities can and should all be part of the church (Galatians 3:28). There may even be differences of opinion on matters of liberty– things regarding which God has not shown concern (cf. Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8).
Yet even though the church may be made up of different people from different backgrounds, whatever God has spoken in the New Testament, they must all accept it, believe it, and promote it (Romans 1:16, Galatians 1:6-9). Please remember that what a church teaches does matter, and if a church is not teaching God’s truth as revealed in the New Testament, it is a false church teaching a false gospel. If they do not change their ways, they will end up accursed!
Friend, we encourage you to think about these things, study the Scriptures, pray to God, and consider whether what has been said is true. We also encourage you to seek out a church of Christ near you, where you can find a group of Christians who are seeking to follow God according to His Word and His Word only, not accepting the creeds or traditions of men as authoritative. We look forward to encouraging you in your walk with Christ!