|Vol. 14 No. 5 May 2012||
Most of us are familiar with the fact that the first major work produced by the newly invented Gutenberg printing press, which featured moveable type, was a copy of the Bible known as the Latin Vulgate. It was printed around 1450, and the next fifty years would see many copies of the Vulgate in over 100 different editions born from the press. So popular was it that many, even up to our age, have asserted the Bible was first rendered in Latin.
However, it was not until 1514 that a Greek version of the New Testament, included in a work called the Complutensian Polyglot, was printed in any complete form. There are a number of reasons why this may have been the case. First, Koine Greek letters were very different in form from the letters we have in, say, the English language. Very often one letter can have many different forms. In addition, a system of accenting and breathing marks would change depending on the usage of the word, which made it necessary to create each variation of the letter to be placed on the printing press. Thus, the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet required the creation of over 200 different printing press pieces.
Another reason, however, that it took so long had to do with a fear that if scholars were able to examine the Greek, then they would be able to point out the flaws in the much-venerated Latin Vulgate. They would be able to examine the text in the language in which it was first written and compare it to the rendering in Latin, finding and confirming sections that are lacking or misleading. In other words, the publication of the Greek text could expose weakness within a much-loved publication.
In the years since that time, though it took many centuries and much sweat and toil, we now understand those flaws in the Vulgate and readily accept the fact that the New Testament was originally penned in Greek. Few today use the Vulgate or refer to it.
Isn’t it odd how we are so often fearful of our flaws being addressed, even when it comes to things as simple as a book or typos or mispronunciations or misunderstandings of little significance. Of course, it is not “odd” in the sense of being uncommon or unique. Rather, it is “odd” among the children of God in the sense that the God that we acknowledge as our Lord and Master is the same who tells us we must constantly be about the business of testing ourselves, challenging ourselves and maturing toward perfection by it.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I think we are very good at criticism and critique, but such is usually reserved for others. Again, this too is odd when one considers the fact that the same God that tells us to “self-examine” is the God that tells us not to judge others beyond the standard of His judgment or what you may call “righteous judgment.”
Do we do as well in judging ourselves as we do with the critiques given about others? Are you self-examining? Are you growing? I tell you, about the only way not to be fearful of the critiques of men is to blaze that trail yourself in consistent and forthright self-analysis. I do not fear what I already know and that through which I am already working.
Overcome your fear through self-examination. Who knows, it may also give you better insight about how you can and should view your brothers and sisters in Christ as well. Do not fear the weaknesses, but embrace them for there is the place that your God can work. Furthermore, in the end, you will go through examination anyhow, though perhaps then you will be unprepared and left wanting. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5 KJV).
There is a Bible doctrine clearly taught in God’s Word. You can read in the New Testament about the one church doctrine. The word church is translated from a Greek word which means the called out. Therefore, the church is the body of believers that are called out and gathered for a specific reason. God calls men out of the world through the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14).
Jesus committed to build His church (Matthew 16:18 - note that the singular word “church,” not “churches,” is used). In that same context, He referred to the church as the kingdom (Matthew 16:19). Just prior to His transfiguration, Jesus promised this kingdom or church would come in the lifetime of those to whom he was speaking (Mark 9:1). He said the church or kingdom would come with power when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles (Acts 1:8). This took place on the Pentecost following the Ascension of our Lord as recorded in Acts 2. On that day, Peter and the other apostles taught the Gospel by which men were called out from sin. When the hearers were “pricked in their heart,” they asked what they were to do (Acts 2:37). When told, many (about 3,000) accepted the truth of the Gospel, turned from sin and were immersed to be forgiven of sins and to be saved (Acts 2:38, 41, 47). When they did this, they were added (by the Lord, v.47) to the one church that had come into being with power on that notable day. Jesus had promised one church. The one church was established on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). The Lord added the saved to the one church (Acts 2:47).
The one church doctrine was further confirmed when, by inspiration of God, the apostle Paul wrote that the church is the body of Christ and that there is only one (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4). If there was no other Scripture that taught the one church doctrine, these passages in Ephesians would suffice to prove this teaching.
It is significant that Jesus had prayed for the unity of believers (John 17:20-21). Divisions in Christendom today go contrary to this prayer of the Savior. The apostle Paul rebuked the early church and said let “there be no divisions among you” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Men were following men, instead of following Christ who bled and died for them. That is still the problem today. Men are still following the teaching of men instead of following Christ and His Word. Division was wrong then and is wrong now. Denominationalism is division. Thus, denominationalism is contrary to the teaching of God’s Word and contrary to the one church doctrine.
If there is only one body, the church, then those religious groups that cannot truly be identified with the one church cannot be of God. Every plant (religion) that God has not planted “shall be rooted up” (Matthew 15:13). Therefore, it is essential to be a part of the one body that Jesus will save (Ephesians 5:23). What good would it do to be a part of a manmade religious body that would be rooted up?
Again, there is one church. It is the one body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4). The one body or church has many members but is still only one body (1 Corinthians 12:13ff; Romans 12:4-5). The church has many congregations but it is still one body (Romans 16:16; cf. Galatians 1:2 “churches of Galatia”; congregations of the one church in the region of Galatia).
The one church doctrine can be illustrated with the Noah and the ark account (Genesis 6-9). Men were living in sin in Noah’s day. Today, men still live in sin. The flood was to destroy those condemned by sin. Sin still condemns men today. There was one ark. There is one church. There was one door into the ark. There is only one way into the one church (Acts 4:12). The obedient (those who entered the ark) were saved. The obedient are saved today (Hebrews 5:9; 1 Peter 3:21). God commanded Noah to build the ark to His specifications. God has given His pattern for the one church in the New Testament. Now some questions: Do you think the ark would have floated if it were not built according to God’s pattern? Do you think a manmade religious body “will float” today if not built according to God’s pattern? The answers should be obvious! So why do men condone and approve of denominationalism? It must be because they are unwilling to accept the truth of the Bible doctrine of the one church. Obedient Noah and his family were saved because Noah built the ark as God had told him. The church today must be according to the instructions or pattern given by God in the New Testament. Had Noah not followed God’s pattern, the ark would not have saved Noah and his family. Likewise, if a church is not according to God’s pattern, it will not save in the end.