Walking Heaven's Road Together
On almost every street in our cities, whether the cities are large or small, and on many little country roads we observe a multitude of churches. These churches teach different religious doctrines and wear different religious names. These religious bodies all claim to believe the same Bible, serve the same God and they also all claim to be going to heaven. They say "One church is as good as another" but their actions prove that they do not believe that statement. They claim to be going to the same place but they cannot walk together. "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3)
Only a little reasoning and a small amount of common sense should convince anyone that not all of these religious bodies are teaching the truth. These churches teach opposing points of doctrine on practically every issue. When two religious groups teach different things about the same thing both of them may be wrong. However, both cannot be right and contradict the teaching of each other. Reason and understanding must direct our religious steps. Right and wrong cannot be determined as a matter of sentiment and feelings. Solomon wrote, "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered." (Proverbs 28:26)
Have you ever heard someone say, "We cannot all see the Bible alike?" It is true that not everyone sees the Bible alike. However, that fact is no proof that God does not want us to agree upon His word. Paul wrote by inspiration of God, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Corinthians 1:10) Religious division does not serve our Lord Jesus Christ. The fact that the disciples of Jesus Christ have not continued in one faith has led the world into skepticism and infidelity. Jesus prayed, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17:20-21) We are producing a world full of infidels because of religious division. Those who are walking on Heaven's road must walk together!
The divided state of the so called Christian world does not represent the Lord Jesus Christ and His church. God is so intent on those who are walking heaven's road walking together that He said, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." (Romans 16:17-18) Many today teach things contrary to the doctrine of Jesus Christ. In so doing they "serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly."
Sadly instead of being concerned about religious division most preachers thank God that people can have the church of their choice. There are so many different kinds of churches and so many different doctrines taught today that the average person never grasps a concept of the unity and oneness which should characterized the first followers of Jesus. You cannot ignore the fact that Jesus said, "Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." (Matthew 15:13) Before any religious group could have the hope of heaven it must be proved that the heavenly Father planted it. Remember, God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." (1 Corinthians 14:33) Such conditions as exist in the religious world today gravely endanger the eternal salvation of millions. Please understand that I am not the judge in this matter. I am not trying to impose my will on anyone. My desire is to simply encourage people to surrender to the will of God. If any religious division is pleasing to the Lord then error is as good as truth.
Those who walk down heaven's road together must wear the name of Christ. We should honor the name of Christ when referring to the church. “Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.” (Romans 16:16) We should also honor the name of Christ when referring to the people of God. "And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." (Acts 11:26) Eternal salvation is only in and through the name of Jesus. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) As we walk down heaven's road we must come to understand that it is sinful to wear human names religiously. "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?" (1 Corinthians 3:3-5)
Those who walk down heaven's road together must hold a proper view of the Bible. We must understand that the Bible is the inspired word of God and that it is perfect and complete. "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 1:3) As we walk down heaven's road we must reject all human creeds as wrong and sinful. Mark wrote, "He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition." (Mark 7:6-9) We believe it is sinful to alter, pervert, add to or take from the Lord's revealed will in the Scriptures in any way. "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Revelation 22:18-19) Those who walk down heaven's road together warn against all false doctrines and all false teachers. "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." (2 Peter 2:1-2) There are horrible consequences both for believing a lie and for preaching a lie.
Those who walk down heaven's road together must have a proper view of the Bible. Let us understand that the Old Testament was written for our learning. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." (Romans 15:4) The Old Testament as a rule of faith and practice has been taken away. We are not governed by the Law of Moses in the Christian age. Under the Old Testament economy priest were certain men from the tribe of Levi. Under the New Testament Jesus is our high priest. "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." (Hebrews 7:12) Jesus has all authority in the Christian age. We must obey Him. "While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." (Matthew 17:5) We believe that the will of Christ is the New Testament. "And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." (Hebrews 9:15-17)
Those who walk down heaven's road together must accept God's simple plan of salvation. God's terms of pardon include hearing and learning the gospel. "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:46-47) Faith in God and His Son is necessary for salvation. "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:6) God also requires you to repent of your sins. "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." (Acts 3:19) A confession of our faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is also necessary. "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 10:32) A baptism in water "for" or "unto" salvation or the remission of sins is likewise a part of the gospel plan of salvation. "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:38) Those who do not obey the gospel are lost. Man's salvation depends upon a faith that leads to obedience to God. "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9)
Those who walk down heaven's road together believe that there is one church. In Romans 12:4-5 we read, "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." (Romans 12:4-5) The church is the body of Christ. "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Ephesians 1:22-23) In apostolic times there was only one church and there should be one church today. "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling." (Ephesians 4:4)
Those who walk down heaven's road together understand the value of godly living. Christians must exemplify purity of life and holiness before the world. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." (Titus 2:11-12) God will protect and preserve His children but they must be faithful to the Lord. Faithfulness is the condition upon which God keeps and preserves His children. Peter wrote, "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9) A failure to love God and keep his commandments will cause a person to be eternally lost. "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20)
Those who walk down heaven's road together participate in the New Testament worship. We must engage in every item of worship authorized by the Lord, taught in His New Testament and practiced by the New Testament church. We worship in spirit and in truth. We dare not go beyond what is written or leave out what is taught in the New Testament. We are to sing. "I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." (Hebrews 2:12) We partake of the Lord's Supper on the first day of every week. "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight." (Acts 20:7) We give as we have been prospered. "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." (1 Corinthians 16:2) We offer fervent prayers to God. "Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18) We study God's word each Lord's day. "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:42) Our worship must be designed to honor God, not just to please ourselves.
Those who walk down heaven's road together must be involved in the work that God planned for the church. As the church, (1) we must worship as God prescribed, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24), (2) We must be active in benevolence to widows, orphans and other poor, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." (Galatians 6:10), (3) we must do what we can to edify other Christians, “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another." (Romans 14:19), and (4) we must share the gospel and save lost souls. "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:15-16)
Your soul is so significant and your eternal destiny so important that you should carefully examine every point that we have talked about today. Let us love and serve God together so that we can go to heaven when we die.
By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, P.O. Box 551, Greenville, Alabama USA