Why Is It Different Now?
I submit this quotation for your careful consideration: "It is most likely that in the Apostolic age when there was but "one Lord, one faith, and one baptism," and no differing denominations existed, the baptism of a convert by that very act constituted him a member of the church, and at once endowed him with all the rights and privileges of full membership. In that sense, 'baptism was the door into the church.' Now, it is different..." (The Standard Manual For Baptist Churches, Edward T. Hiscox, pg. 22).
Please note that Mr. Hiscox confidently affirms there was "one Lord, one faith, and one baptism" in the Apostolic age. No doubt, he was able to make this assessment because of the plain teaching of Ephesians 4:4-6. This scripture teaches the unity of all believers which God demands. A unity under submission to the authority of "one Lord" (Matt. 28:18; Lk. 6:46), thus having "one faith" rather than many and "one baptism" for penitent believers in order that their sins be forgiven (Acts 2:38), and at which point God adds them to his church (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 12:13). Mr. Hiscox further acknowledges that "no differing denominations existed" in the days of Christ's apostles. This is true because the New Testament teaches there is "one body" (Eph. 4:4), the body being identified as the church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18). The only church that one can read about in the New Testament is the one Jesus built (Matt. 16:18), and purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28).
However, Mr. Hiscox says, "Now, it is different". To this, we ask why? We agree modern religion, including the denomination Mr. Hiscox is affiliated with, is different from what is revealed in the New Testament, but are these changes justified? What has happened to bring them about?
Is it different now because the apostle's doctrine has become ineffective? An inspired apostle said that the gospel is God's power to save the sinner (Romans 1:16). Also, he said that it was God's wisdom that sinful man be saved by "the foolishness of the preaching" (1 Cor. 1:21). It is elsewhere affirmed that those who "receive with meekness the implanted word" will save their souls (James 1:21). If God's word had such saving power in the apostolic age, what has changed now? God says that His word is all-sufficient to accomplish the purpose for which He gave it: "so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa. 55:11). "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If God has affirmed this power and sufficiency for His gospel, why would Mr. Hiscox believe it is different now?
Is it different now because somehow man is different now? Admittedly, man has advanced in knowledge, but has man ceased from being a sinner? God affirms in his scriptures that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). Jesus came and died on the cross in order to save mankind of their sins (1 Pet. 1:18-20). Man's need for salvation in Christ will never change, whether he rides a chariot or a space shuttle. The gospel is relevant to all.
Actually, God's word itself answers the question we propose. First, religion is different now because many choose to go "beyond the things that are written" (1 Cor. 4:6). This very thing the apostle warns us not to do. Conformity to the doctrine of Christ is essential if we would please God: "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9).
Second, religion is different now because of man's pride. Throughout history, many have become dissatisfied with God's ways and substituted their own. Our Lord rebuked Pharisees who "transgress the commandment of God because of your traditions" and were "teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men" (Matt. 15:3, 9). The apostles foretold and warned of those who would fall away from the faith: "I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30). Again, "For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine, but having itching ears will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts, and will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside unto fables" (2 Tim. 3:3-4). Man's pride to do things his way has made religion different today.
Third, religion is different today because of an emphasis on the carnal rather than the spiritual. The desire of many to be "entertained" has given modern religion into "carnival" atmosphere. The religious page of a local newspaper testifies to this fact when it is mostly comprised of announcements for dinners and concerts sponsored by the differing denominations. This is an indicator of where the emphasis of modern religion lies and why things are different now. True disciples of Christ will "hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matt. 5:6), rather than worldly pleasures.
Yes, religion may be different now, but not justifiably so. To call Jesus "Lord" and not obey His word of truth is mere lip-service and shows no commitment (Lk. 6:46). Pleasing God must be according to His terms, not ours. Cast off the fetters of human traditions and doctrines that have bound so many in denominationalism. Study the Bible for yourself rather than heeding those who say "now, it is different".
By Dan Richardson
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