Teach me, LORD, your way that I may walk in your truth. (Ps 86:11)
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I can’t imagine any Christian looking at the above verse and disagreeing with its content. Essentially, it is a summary of our mission as followers of Christ. But exactly how does the Lord teach us “His way” so that we can “walk in His truth”? Even though we acknowledge Jesus as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, we still need a set of guidelines for making moral decisions.
The Bible tells us that “the church” is the guardian of the truth, but why is it that various Christian churches hold such radically different beliefs? While pledging loyalty to the Bible, many denominations have conflicting teachings on important moral issues such as abortion, birth control, divorce and homosexuality. Didn’t Psalm 86 state that there is one way which allows us to walk in God’s truth? Can there actually be multiple conflicting “truths”?
In reality, the Bible illustrates that there is indeed ONE truth and that there is ONE Church which was established to help us learn and live that truth. Let’s look at 10 Scripture passages that take us from point “A” (there is one absolute truth) to point “B” (there is one Church that contains the fullness of truth). Once we arrive at our destination, finding that one, true Church is relatively easy!
1. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth (1 Tm 2:3-4).
According to St. Paul, God wants everyone to be saved and to know THE “truth”. It sounds good to me, but how can I discover THE “truth”?
2. But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tm 3:15).
A clue! We are to look to “the Church” to discover the truth…but which one? There are tens of thousands of Christian churches!
3. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming (Jn 16:13).
There’s that “truth” thing again! This could be another clue. If (as Jesus promised) the Holy Spirit really guides us to all truth, then conflicting doctrinal beliefs would not be possible. Doesn’t that make a strong case for a single, authoritative interpreter of the truth? Could this interpreter possibly be “the Church” referred to as the “pillar and foundation of truth” in 1 Tm 3:15?
4. If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Mt 18:15-18).
Jesus gives us a clue about “the Church”. He points to “the Church” as the ultimate authority for settling moral issues and He gives this Church authority to make binding decisions on earth. That narrows my search down a bit; I need to find a church who can teach authoritatively…
5. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:18-19).
Not “churches”, but CHURCH (singular)! This Church, founded by Christ, is built on the leadership of St. Peter (the first pope), to whom Jesus gives the power to make authoritative decisions on earth. This could be that Church that I’m searching for, but I still need to look for more clues…
6. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:18-20).
Let’s see…Just before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He instructed the Apostles to carry on His mission by baptizing and teaching ALL that He has commanded. This is an unexpected development. Now I’m looking for a church that presents the teaching of Jesus Christ and also utilizes baptism as a means to become a disciple. I thought I was getting somewhere, but now I’m not so sure. Lots of churches baptize their members. I need to look for more clues…
7. Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit (Jn 3:1-5).
Wait a minute! Jesus told Nicodemus that no one can achieve salvation “without being born of water and Spirit”. It sounds like He’s referring to baptism and deeming it to be necessary for our salvation! Now I’m looking for a church with a common set of beliefs (the “truth”), that is visible, can make authoritative decisions AND teaches that baptism is necessary for salvation. Our list of potential churches has gotten a lot smaller!
8. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him (Jn 6:48-66).
Huh? Did Jesus just say that eating His flesh and drinking His blood is necessary for achieving salvation? This sounds like cannibalism! He must be speaking figuratively and probably means “spiritual bread”. Although, if Jesus was speaking figuratively – why would this saying be “hard” and why would He let many of His disciples walk away? Wouldn’t it make sense that He would call them back, explaining that He wasn’t speaking literally? In fact, He did just that when the Apostles misunderstood His reference to the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (“How do you not comprehend that I was not speaking to you about bread?”) in Mt 16:11. Therefore, we must assume that Jesus meant exactly what He said. If that’s true, how is it possible to actually eat His Body? There must be a missing piece to this puzzle and it’s definitely worth pursuing, since it sure sounds like Jesus is telling us that it’s necessary for salvation! Stay tuned…
9. Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you (Lk 22:19-20).
Aha! Now the words about eating His Body make sense and thankfully it has nothing to do with cannibalism! Our Lord didn’t say that “this REPRESENTS my Body” or “this SYMBOLIZES my Body”. He said, “This IS my Body”. Is there a church that believes that Our Lord’s Body can actually exist under the appearance of bread and that follows His command to “do this in memory of me”? This sounds like the Catholic Mass…and, come to think of it, the Catholic Church fits all of the other scriptural requirements, but it can’t really be “the Church”, can it? After all, Catholics believe that they can only be saved by faith AND works. All Christians know that we are saved by faith alone…
10. See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:24).
It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Could it be that the teaching of the Catholic Church is actually supported by the Bible? If that’s the case does anything prevent me from recognizing that the Catholic Church is the one, true Church founded by Jesus Christ?
(© 2011 Gary Zimak)