7.7 " Are we the only ones who have truth...?"
Is my church the only one which has truth?
There is a question which will occur to each of us as we go this wilderness
way: " Are my church the only ones who've got it right?
Are people from other churches really not in fellowship with God and without
hope? Aren't we rather arrogant to say 'We've got the Truth'...?"
. These questions will plague some of us more than others. But the fact
is, we are living in a world which is rapidly breaking down barriers,
which is seeking peace and unity at all possible costs. We deal with people
who have lived through the twentieth century, and seen the dangers of
dogmatism. We have seen millions of people have their lives ruined by
being forced to unquestioningly accept misplaced ideals, millions after
millions emotionally scarred by megalomaniacs. And so our contemporaries
have come to the conclusion: You can't be sure about anything, let's just
get on with enjoying life as and where we are, principles are phoney,
let's each find the best path we can through this crazy jungle of life.
Our life in 'the Truth' is a total contrast to this. The Lord Jesus is
" the (only) way, the truth, the (only way to)
life" . God's word is truth (Jn. 17:17). Yet the whole
world is looking on at us, screaming, muttering, whispering in our ear:
'But there's no such thing as absolute truth!'. The fact is, the basic
doctrines which make up the One Faith are indeed " the truth"
. God really did promise Abraham eternal life on earth; He really did
explain to him the work of Christ. Christ really will come back to fulfil
these promises; those in Christ by baptism really will be raised and share
in that eternal age. Sin really is serious, the devil really is within
us (rather than outside of us); we really must repent; Christ really was
of our nature; He really can grant us forgiveness... As we huddle together
at a funeral, with our backs to the wall, as we behold a beloved brother
or sister in Christ lowered into the earth, we cling on tight to the wondrous
reality of the Truth. Job likewise could look out of the misery of his
depression: " I know that my redeemer liveth...he shall
stand at the latter day upon the earth...whom I shall see for
myself, and mine eyes shall behold..." . Yet without the
intensity of trials like this, we find it hard to hold on to this conviction
all the time. This is the challenge of living in the Truth,
of framing our daily lives around the implications of our fundamental
If there is truth, there must be error. The more tightly we cling on
to what we know God's word reveals as Truth, the more we effectively deny
the truth of anything else. The teaching of the Father and Son as recorded
in the word is fundamentally exclusive. The idea that Christians must
be 'inclusive' at all costs is an effective denial of the truth
and holiness (separateness) of the Lord God and His Son. There is repeated
Biblical emphasis on the need to not only believe Truth, but also to deny
error. Our Statement of Faith therefore lists doctrines which we believe
and those which we reject. It is meaningless to claim to believe that
(e.g.) God is one, and yet refuse to categorically reject the doctrine
of a trinity.
We must in some way separate people from the beliefs they hold. We are
baptized into the truth of Christ, not our church. Many of my Sunday School
contemporaries reasoned: 'O.K. the Truth is true, we can't deny it, but
we can't be baptized because we don't like this church. They're old fashioned,
divisive, boring...'. We would all agree that their attitude was wrong.
They mixed up the doctrines with the people holding them. They rejected
the doctrines (in effect), and above all the Lord Jesus Christ, because
they rejected the people who held those doctrines, and the people of Christ.
Men have ever done the same with natural Israel. Because of the bad behaviour
of the Jewish people, many in the 'Christian' church have thrown away
the basic tenets of the Jewish faith which are also at the root of true
Christianity: the promises to Abraham, belief in one God, Messiah being
inferior to God and not eternally pre-existent, the Hope of Israel being
the Gentile hope, an eternal Kingdom on earth... thus the Gentile world
has failed to separate people from their doctrines. If we say that our
church alone 'have the Truth', then we would, in essence, be making
the same kind of error. We would be totally associating people with their
doctrine. What we should be saying is that the doctrines of the One Faith
are the one and only Truth, and anyone who holds them has the Truth. Not
all bearing the name of our church likely believe those doctrines. And
there could well be groups of isolated believers who believe exactly as
we do, without using our name.
We must make this separation between people and doctrine as we look out
on the false 'religious' world around us. We cannot judge any man in the
sense of condemning him; that is for God, " the judge of all"
. Yet we must " judge righteous judgment" in the sense of forming
a Biblically-informed opinion. When it comes to doctrine, we can certainly
say that there are some doctrines which are vital to understand if we
are to enter into covenant relationship with God. There is a set of doctrines
which Eph. 4:4-6 calls " the one faith" ; which Rom. 6:17 calls
" that form of doctrine" to be believed before baptism; "
the form of sound words" (2 Tim. 1:13). It is baptism, following
a knowledge of this one basic Gospel, which places us in covenant relationship
with God. Our sincerity or 'Christian' way of life is irrelevant in terms
of entering the covenant. We only enter into Christ by being baptized
into Him; it is easy to underestimate the importance of baptism and covenant
relationship. The 'religious' world is not in this relationship; the bulk
of them are not even baptized, and certainly do not know the true terms
of the new covenant.
God's people in the past were the people of Israel. Through baptism and
sharing the faith of Abraham, we become spiritual Israel. We are only
part of the people of God by reason of our correct faith and baptism.
When we see someone who appears so sincere in the fake 'Christian' churches,
we must ask, 'Are they in spiritual Israel, or not?'. Under the Old Covenant,
it is not revealed to us that God had fellowship with isolated groups
of Gentiles who He respected for their sincerity. He fellowshipped only
with His people Israel. But in extreme cases of Gentile sincerity and
faith, they were guided by Him to join His people Israel- Ruth and Rahab
are examples of this. In the New Testament, God beheld the potential spirituality
of Cornelius, and guided him to join up with the body of believers.
God desires unity amongst those who are His people. It is for this reason
that I, personally, find it hard to believe that in these days of easy
communication, God would stop baptized believers who believe our same
doctrines, from finding us and uniting with us. There are many cases I
know in Africa and Eastern Europe of men and women who had come to understand
much of the Truth, and were then guided by God to contact us, and therefore
come to full fellowship with the rest of the body. This is one of the
reasons why I personally remain sceptical of the suggestion that there
are lots of people somewhere 'out there' who believe as we do.
By now many will be drawing a deep breath. 'So, are you effectively saying
that yes, we can say that our church are the only ones who've
got it right?'. Our basic doctrines are the one and only approach
to God, yes. The question of whether our church are the only ones who
teach these doctrines is to some degree academic. So what? Let's rejoice
that " We have the truth" ! Let's put the emphasis
on the word " truth" rather than " we" .
If we really believe that we, on a personal level, have the truth, yes
the one and only saving truth of Christ, we will appreciate
that the world around us is truly in darkness. We will be intensely motivated
to go forth and hold up the banner of Truth to them, the true light of
the real Christ as He hung on Calvary; to debate and dialogue with those
who do not believe the Truth; to go forth as far as we are able and offer
this pearl of great price to the whole world. If we have the truth in
our hearts, we know where we are going. We have a sense of direction which
the world totally lacks. True Christian doctrine is not just another town
along the road for us. We have been blessed with the truth of Christ.
It's the greatest honour a man could have. We have the greatest thing
in the world. Let's not treat it as something ordinary.