Have you ever noticed how much difference one word makes? Take, for example, the word “not.” Insert that word into a sentence, and the meaning is completely opposite! What about the importance of just a single letter or two? There is a writer who once wrote in one of his Bible commentaries, “Jesus is not sitting at the right hand of God.” Do you notice the problem? It was a typographical error, and was instead supposed to read “Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of God.” The difference was only one single letter, but it changed the meaning of the entire sentence! One sentence was Scriptural, the other blasphemous!
There is a common false doctrine called “Perseverance of the Saints” or “once saved, always saved” that permeates the religious world, as well as infiltrates the thinking of the Lord’s church. The inspired apostle, Paul, speaks clearly against it. He states “I declare unto you the gospel…By which you are saved” (I Corinthians 15:1-2a). However, he does not end the sentence there. He specifies that Christians are only saved by means of the gospel “if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you” (I Corinthians 15:2b). Do you notice the importance of that one little word: “if”? The gospel saves, but only if it is kept in memory (meaning that one continues to walk in it – see Romans 8:1, Revelation 2:10). When one becomes a Christian, yet does not continue in the gospel, he is not saved. Are you truly keeping the gospel in your memory?
The brethren in Corinth had problems. In that congregation, there was a spirit of selfishness that seemed to prevail. Some members wanted to show themselves superior to other members in the local church. Because of this, some would seek to vaunt themselves up by saying “I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas [Peter], and I of Christ” (I Corinthians 1:12). They were basically saying “I was baptized by Paul; therefore, I am more of a Christian than you are.”
Paul condemns the practice of dividing the church. He instead calls for unity in Corinth. After all, he states clearly “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (I Corinthians 1:13). Neither Paul nor Apollos nor Peter died for the sins of the people, only Christ did. People are not baptized in the name of Paul, Peter, or Apollos, but of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Therefore, Christians should not seek to follow after the teachings of any man, but instead those of Christ. Christ is not divided, nor should His church be. This is a strict condemnation of the idea of denominationalism.
Instead, Paul calls the Corinthian Christians (and all Christians) to unity. By inspiration, Paul implores, “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” (I Corinthians 1:10). Is such a thing really possible? Yes, it is. Not only is it possible, it is commanded. If God’s people would simply take the Bible, God’s word, as their standard instead of following traditions and their own opinions, unity would be achieved. Not everyone is willing to do this, and they will be judged by God for their rebellion. What are you doing to promote the unity commanded by God?
Have you ever noticed how many people are willing to just give up when they face even the slightest hardship? This same attitude is pervasive in the church today. There are those who almost seek reasons to skip the worship assembly. If it is raining, they won’t go. If there is family visiting, they won’t go. If it is night-time, they won’t go (even though there are people who would gladly pick them up and bring them). If they have a sniffle, they won’t go. How about looking at what the apostle Paul endured, and then see if you really have an excuse.
The apostle to the Gentiles listed just a sampling of the hardships he endured in II Corinthians 11. He was beaten so many times that he had lost count (verse 23). He was thrown in prison often because of his faith. He was in danger of death from the time he first became a Christian, and it was a constant threat (see Acts 14:19-20). He was beaten with whips 195 times (II Corinthians 11:24). He was stoned, left for dead. He was in perils everywhere he went: in the cities, in the wilderness, in the sea, and among false brethren. Yet, after suffering through all of those things (and many more not mentioned) he still went about preaching the word of God.
Paul wouldn’t let being publicly beaten keep him from worshiping God, yet many brethren today think a sniffle is a viable excuse to God. Paul made it a point to worship with the saints wherever he went, even if it meant the possibility of being stoned to death; yet many brethren think God will overlook their skipping services because they have family over and “have to” entertain them. Those with that attitude don’t understand Romans 8:18, “The sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us.” If Paul saw what you are doing today, would he be pleased or disappointed in you?