by Dave Miller
The Christian religion has fallen prey to the pluralistic, multi-cultural mindset of American culture. Religion is now fashioned according to the prevailing mentality that citizens have a right to make their own choices and “do their own thing.” “That’s the American way!” After all, “I have my rights!” “My view is just as good as the other guy’s.” Unfortunately, such self-centered arrogance does not prepare one for humble submission to God (James 4:10). It only encourages compliance with self-stylized religion, i.e., religion that is structured according to one’s own desires. Paul referred to this approach as “self-imposed” or “will worship,” i.e., worshipping according to one’s own will (Colossians 2:23).
Religious conditions in the first century were such that most people believed in a multiplicity of gods (e.g., Acts 17:16). But, in reality, there was only one God (Ephesians 4:6). The fact that men fabricated elaborate trappings like images, temples, etc., and took their religion seriously, did not alter the fact that they were involved in vain worship and false religion (cf. Matthew 15:9; 2 Peter 2:1). Telling them that there was only one God, or that one god was not just as good as another, would not have been a popular teaching. In fact, the doctrine of “one God” was perceived as a genuine threat to the polytheism of the day, and as a serious challenge to the Empire’s religious health. Polytheism had so permeated first-century society that acceptance of the doctrine of “one God” was virtually inconceivable for most people.
History repeats itself many times over. Our day is really no different from those first-century environmental factors. While Americans historically have rejected the notion of “many gods” (although even this foundational truth is changing), the concept of “many churches” has been embraced fully. The prevailing attitude is “attend the church of your choice,” and “one church is as good as another.” But the concept of multiple churches is as foreign to the New Testament as is the idea of multiple gods. The exact same passage that affirms only one God (Ephesians 4:6), affirms only one church (Ephesians 4:4; 1:22-23). Either out of ignorance, discontent, or pride, men have taken it upon themselves to fabricate their own churches, stylizing doctrine, organization, worship, and name according to their own desires. Some never seem to realize that Jesus did not leave anyone free to fashion his or her own church (Matthew 15:9; 16:18). All false doctrines, false teachers, and false churches will be rejected (Matthew 15:13).
Let us not encourage people to “join the church of your choice.” Rather, let us urge them to respond obediently to the Gospel of Christ—through faith, repentance, and water baptism (Acts 2:38)—so that they may be “added” (Acts 2:47) to the church of Christ’s choice (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:23).