False Christianity

Audio of “False Christianity” (20 min, 23 sec)

Many False Churches Exist

Sadly, many groups and churches today claim they are Christian but in reality are not.

This shouldn’t be surprising, since even in the days of Jesus and his first followers, the same problem persisted. In fact, Jesus repeatedly tells of people meeting God the Judge, thinking they are good with Him, only to be surprised that God says He never knew them (Matt. 7:22-23; 25:11-12, 41-46; Luke 13:25-27; etc.).

Even more sobering, Jesus compares true followers of God to people going through things like a, “narrow door,” (Luke 13:24) and a, “small…gate,” that, “only a few find,” (Matt. 7:14).

Thus, we repeatedly read about, “false apostles,” (2 Cor. 11:13), “false prophets,” (1 John 4:1), “false christs,” (Matt. 24:24), “false brethren,” (2 Cor. 11:26), etc.

All to say, false churches/Christians aren’t new problems, and they aren’t going away.

Where To Look

Given that sobering warning, we are not helpless in discerning true churches from false ones.

The first place to examine is the leadership. Namely, what do they teach and how do they act?

I’ve documented “Elder Qualifications” already (as well as “Testing False Teachers”). But now let’s consider how to examine the teachings themselves.

The 2 places to study are:

  1. Their written statements of belief
  2. What they teach on a regular basis

Though both are very important to consider, I think their written statements of belief offer the best starting place, as these tend to be the most thought out, vetted, and pointedly answer the questions of whether they are truly orthodox (that is, if they truly are Christian as the Bible defines it).

4 Questions

Now that we know where to look, we need to know what to look for.

The 4 questions that Scripture (and church history) seem to gravitate toward the most in discerning true from false Christianity are the following (along with the rationale for their importance):

  1. Is GOD correctly identified as Triune? (that is, He is 1 God who exists in 3 Persons)
    • Believing there is only 1 God is part of, “the most important” commandment (Mark 12:29), repeatedly assumed by the church (Romans 3:30; 1 Cor. 8:4-8; Gal. 3:20; 1 Tim. 2:5), and is considered so basic that, “even the demons believe that,” (James 2:19).
    • Likewise, God the Father (e.g. John 17:1-5), God the Son [Jesus] (e.g. John 1:1, 14-18; 8:56-59; Heb. 1:8; Phil. 2:3-11), and God the Holy Spirit (e.g. John 14:15-24; Acts 5:1-5) are all affirmed as God in Scripture, while simultaneously being 3 separate Persons (e.g. Matt. 3:16-17; 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14). Even more, Jesus warns that, “if you do not believe that I am He [God, cf. John 8:58], you will indeed die in your sins,” (John 8:24).
    • Thus, any true Christian must affirm only 1 God who simultaneously exists as 3 Persons.
  2. Is JESUS correctly identified as fully God and fully man?
    • As said above, Jesus strictly charges that all must believe He is God – John 8 (especially vv. 24 and 58).
    • We also read that, “any such person,” who does not acknowledge that Jesus came as a man (i.e. “in the flesh”) is “the deceiver and the antichrist,” (2 John 1:7).
    • Thus, any true Christian must affirm Jesus as fully (and truly) God while simultaneously being fully (and truly) human.
  3. Is the true GOSPEL affirmed?
    • The gospel (i.e. “good news”) of the Bible is the means whereby sinful humanity (that’s all of us) are reconciled to a Holy God (e.g. 2 Cor. 5:12-21; Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21-23).
    • On God’s end:
      • He came to earth as Jesus (John 1:1, 14),
      • lived perfectly (2 Cor. 5:21),
      • took on the full wrath of God we deserved in His tortuous death (John 19:30; Rom. 3:25),
      • then bodily resurrected 3 days later to prove the payment for our sins was PAID IN FULL (1 Cor. 15:1-4, 17)!
    • On our end, we must:
      • repent (i.e. turn toward Jesus/God as our new Boss/King/Lord; see Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38; 3:19) and
      • believe/trust that Jesus’ finished work alone reconciles us to God (Gal. 2:16; Rom. 3:28; 4:5; Eph. 2:8; etc.).
    • Thus, any true Christian must affirm this true gospel.
      • The evidence we have truly done our part–and are thus forgiven and made righteous in God’s eyes (past, present, future)–is that from the point of our conversion onward, God the Holy Spirit indwells us, leading to a transformed life and character that more resembles God/Christ over time (Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 1:13; 1 John; Heb. 10:14; etc.).
  4. Is SCRIPTURE the ultimate authority?
    • Jesus sees Scripture as:
      • “the word of God,” (John 10:35; cf. Matt. 19:4-5),
      • the ultimate authority (e.g. Matt. 5:17; Jn. 10:35; 17:17)
        • surpassing the commands of religious rulers (Matt. 15:3-6),
      • our final judge (John 12:48; Rev. 19:15),
      • relevant at all times (Matt. 22:31-32),
      • best interpreted by the Bible itself (Matt. 4:6-7).
    • Thus, when dealing with Satan in the desert, Jesus said three times, “It is written,” to introduce Scripture as the final authority on Jesus/God (Matt. 4:4-11). By doing this, He demonstrated that Scripture is a greater authority than:
      • the words of God-appointed leaders (Matt. 3:11-14),
      • God’s audible voice (Matt. 3:17),
      • and Holy Spirit-led experiences (Matt. 4:1)
    • In contrast, Jesus warns his disciples to trust Scripture over:
      • religious leaders (Matt. 15:3-6; 16:6, 11-12)
      • God-appointed apostles such as Judas Iscariot (e.g. Jn. 13:27; Acts 1:18) or Peter (e.g. Matt. 16:22-23; 26:34; Gal. 2:11-14).
    • Thus, any true Christian should teach and obey Scripture as their ultimate authority.
      • Though a failure to do this may not explicitly be stated as damnable in the Bible, it completely ignores Jesus’ teaching and example, and always eventually leads to serious and damnable error (as the Bible and experience demonstrate).

4 Questions In Brief

Said again, when assessing true from false Christianity, ask:

  1. Is GOD correctly identified as Triune?
  2. Is JESUS correctly identified as fully God and fully man?
  3. Is the true GOSPEL affirmed?
  4. Is SCRIPTURE the ultimate authority?

Next Steps

Lord willing, I’d like to take these 4 questions to assess whether specific churches/organizations are true or false.

If there are any places you’d like examined, please leave a comment.

For a better understanding and background on the marks of a true church, see historic church confessions such as The Belgic Confession, The Apostles’ Creed, The Westminster Confession of Faith, The Chalcedonian Creed, The Athanasian Creed, and The Nicene Creed.

Brian

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