There are probably a few things in this world that are both right and popular, but the truth is that often what is popular is not that which is right. When it comes to matters of the spiritual nature, that which is popular is most often unscriptural. In the long ago, God’s word to Israel through Moses included, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil” (Exodus 23:2). Obviously, if a multitude is doing something, it must be popular, yet God forbade following that popular belief or practice when it was contrary to His will. In the New Testament, Jesus taught, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). Again, the many would certainly represent that which is popular, while the few would represent that strait and narrow way given by God’s word. Let’s face it, the truth of God’s word is often not popular. Yet, the truth of God’s word is that which is to be taught, even when it is not popular to do so. The apostle Paul told Timothy to, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (II Tim. 4:2-4). “In season and out of season” means when it is convenient to preach it or not convenient. Or, as an old preacher once said, “when they like it and when they don’t like it”. And the text goes on to assure us that the time would come when most would rather hear that which is popular than that which is scriptural. In the remainder of our space here, we wish to examine just a couple of examples of how man today holds on dearly to that which is popular in the realm of Christianity, even at the expense of the truth of the scriptures.
A very popular belief espoused by a multitude of those who claim Christianity as their religion is that one church is as good as another, that it really does not matter which church one is a member of. Generally when this is said, the word “church” is used in reference to denominations or in other words, one denomination is as good as another and one can be saved in any denomination. There is much more unity between the various denominations now than there was shortly after they were established in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. When one consults the scriptures, one will find no denominations mentioned at all. What one finds in the scriptures is that Jesus Christ built His church (Matt. 16:18), that He was the head over it (Eph. 1:22-23), that it was also called the body, of which it is clearly stated that there was just one (Eph. 4:4; I Cor. 12:20) and into which all that are to be saved are added by the Lord (Acts 2:47; I Cor. 12:18). The truth is that denominations are divisions of the church, all of which were established centuries after the last inspired scripture was penned. What the scripture says about division in the church is that it should not exist at all (I Cor. 1:10; John 17:20-21). The very existence of denominations and the idea of people just choosing the one they like the best may well be popular, but it is not scriptural.
Another extremely popular doctrine found in what is called Christendom, or really all that claim the name Christian, is that salvation is by faith only. All one has to do is believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and they are saved. There is no doubt whatsoever that it is a popular doctrine. The creed book for one of the major denominations of our land states, “faith only is a most wholesome doctrine and very full of good comfort”. However, the doctrine is not scriptural. Before someone starts calling out scriptures that demand that we have faith or that one that has faith is saved, keep in mind the doctrine under consideration is not salvation by faith, but salvation by faith only. When speaking of matters concerning salvation or justification, there is only one passage in the New Testament that has the words “faith” and “only” side by side. James coupled those two words when he wrote, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). James coupled the two words, but he preceded them with the words “not by”. Included in this doctrine of salvation by faith only is the teaching that baptism has nothing to do with salvation. Again, this is popular, but not scriptural. The word of God teaches us that salvation is “in Christ” (II Tim. 2:10). The scriptures also tell us how we can get “into Christ”. Paul told the Romans, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death” (Rom. 6:3), and he told the Galatians that they were “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27). It may not be popular, but the scriptures teach baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Follow the scriptures, not popularity. (Send any questions or comments to: email@example.com)
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.