Lesson 1: Why do we think we are right and others are wrong? (Part 1)

Many of us have heard something like this: “the church of Christ thinks they are the only ones going to heaven.” These kinds of things are said for a couple of reasons: First, religion has adopted a post-modern mindset where truth is relative and subjective. Thus, many no longer think of a “right church” or “right doctrine”, but different traditions within the church. So, if we say that a matter of doctrine and/or practice is correct, thus implying or stating that others are wrong, we have committed the cardinal sin of intolerance. Second, the sad truth is that we have fueled some animosity by some fairly unmerciful attitudes and a quickness to condemn others.

So, if I believe that I am saved and that I worship and work with a congregation seeking to please God, what does that mean about other people and other churches? Is it ok to think that we are right and others are wrong?

Who are the “we” and the “others”?

Chances are we define “we” and “others” along denominational lines, even if we don’t think we are. Thus, “we” are members of churches of Christ, and the “others” are members of other churches. So, if my “group” is correct in doctrinal matters, others must be wrong. If the “group” I’m part of is saved, then others must be lost. The problem with this thinking is that Scripture teaches God doesn’t save based on “groups” (at least not in the way we think). Members of Israel were part of the right group, but most of them died in the wilderness (see 1Corinthians 10.5). Rahab was a member of the wrong group, but she was saved (Joshua 2.8-14). God had some terrifying things to say about the churches in Thyatira and Sardis, yet there were members of those congregations who were pleasing to God (Revelation 2.19-29; 3.1-5). Scripture consistently teaches that God saves individuals who seek after and follow Him (Ezekiel 18.14-20; Romans 2.1-11).

Now, there is one “group” that I must belong to if I wish to be saved. One “group” that is right, leaving the rest of the world in error. That “group” is the church, the very body of Christ (Ephesians 1.22-23). But, we need to think carefully about how we define the church. If we identify the church as the group (congregation) we worship with or other groups (congregations) like us, we have a bad definition of the church. Scripture teaches that the church is comprised of all those who submit to and follow Jesus!

  • The church is comprised of those who desire to be taught His ways (Isaiah 2.3).
  • The church is comprised of those who adhere to His word and produce fruit (Matthew 13.18-23).
  • The church is comprised of those who submit to Christ (Ephesians 5.24).

Your local church is not the “saved”. That’s not to say the members of your local congregation aren’t saved, nor does it mean that the local church is unimportant (it is very important). But the saved are all who seek after and submit to Christ. They are His church, His body, His Kingdom, His bride and His temple. I can only be saved if I’m a member of this “group”.

Desiring to be right is not wrong!

Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9, NASB95)

We discussed earlier how post-modernism and our own judgmental attitudes have contributed to harsh feelings toward churches of Christ. We need to flee from any harsh and/or hypocritical judgments we might make of others, but we must not be ashamed for desiring to be right in all matters of faith and practice. In fact, we should desire to be right! Not so we can gloat or think of ourselves as being better than others. Rather, we must desire to be right because we live under the rule of a King and our sole aim should be to please Him. Consider the following:

  1. The reign of God is part of the “good news” (Isaiah 52.7).
    • The reign of God is assured, in spite of what the nations may say or do (Psalm 2.1-9). His reign is what gives His people hope (Psalm 2.12; Psalm 3).
    • New Testament Christians found assurance in His reign (Acts 4.23-31; Romans 8.31-39). Why can nothing separate us from God’s love? Because that love is found in Christ Jesus our Lord!
    • Simply put, there is no good news without the reign of God (cf. Matthew 4.23).
  2. God’s reign presents a choice (Psalm 2.10-12).
    • We can worship Him with reverence and give Him homage, finding our refuge in Him.
    • Or we can refuse to yield to Him, anger Him and perish.
    • The saved are those who submit to His rule and authority (Matthew 28.18-20; Ephesians 5.24).
  3. So, our aim should be to please Him! (2Corinthians 5.9; Galatians 1.10).
    • If my greatest concern is that a particular practice or teaching might alienate others, I’ve missed the point. The point is to please Him! Teaching that homosexuality is sinful (1Cor. 6.9) will alienate us from the rest of society. Teaching that baptism is essential for salvation (Mark 16.16) will alienate us from other churches. But if we please the Lord, that’s the only thing that matters.
    • We must guard against being smug in our attitude, but there should be some satisfaction in seeking to please God by following His revealed will. If we know that our faith and practice please Him, there should be some joy in that knowledge.
    • And while a local church is not “the saved”, this is why the church you work and worship with is a very important matter. If your local church teaches something contrary to the Lord’s will, then you are in danger of not submitting to God. And if you don’t submit to God, you cannot please Him!

One final note: we don’t need to spend our time judging others’ desire to please God. But we must know that people can desire to please God and fail to do so. Paul sincerely desired to please God, but he mistakenly thought he should persecute the church (Acts 23.1; 26.9). Paul’s countrymen were zealous for the Lord, but their lack of knowledge was preventing them from truly pleasing Him (Romans 10.1-4). So, let’s desire to be right so that we can please Him. Let’s not spend our time judging the motives and desires of others, rather let’s focus on following the Lord’s will and encourage others who love the Lord to do likewise!

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