In the centuries since the death of Christ, there have been many misunderstandings, heresies, myths and lies about the Church, Jesus and the sins of men (and women) which have caused divisions among His Church. Let’s investigate some of these dividing issues, and come to a firm resolution about the Church.
Jesus Prayed for ONE Church
It’s almost as if He knew the Church He came to build would be broken apart, huh? Let’s take a quick look:
John 17:11: And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
John 17:20-23: I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in my through their word, that they may all be one…The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou has sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.
Jesus divided the evil from the faithful, but of His faithful, He wants us to be united in the one Church.
There is only ONE Truth
Remember this viral picture of the black and blue dress, or was it white and gold? People got into heated debates and were really upset because what they saw was white and gold. The truth was, it is black and blue. Just because a photo made it look like it was white and gold, didn’t make it white and gold, it was still black and blue. Jesus gave us ONE Truth, which was given to him by the One True God. Just because society says something different about God, doesn’t make it true. We must rely upon the Word given to us by the Lord for the one truth.
God shows no partiality
There are those who use Acts 10 to justify that is ok to just be a good and they will be acceptable to God. Let’s take a look at the verses in question.
Acts 10: 34-35: And Peter said: “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
At face value, it looks as though Peter says as long as you have a fear of God and you do what is right, you’re good as gold! Sadly, this is greatly misunderstood because it is taken out of the context of the chapter. Go and read the entire Acts chapter 10, and you will see that Cornelius is a Centurion who did fear God. He receives a clear vision which tells him to welcome a man by the name of Simon Peter into his home. Peter also has a vision which shows him that all food is now made clean. Peter awakes to find men sent from Cornelius, and the Spirit tells Peter to go with them. From there, Peter goes into the house of Cornelius, speaks the words above, and goes on to preach the Good News and baptizes Cornelius and the Gentiles into the Church. Peter witnessed these pagan people receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, just as the Jewish people received the same gift. Therefore, God shows not partiality to who receives His Message, but they still must come into the One Church.
United by Jesus
The first test of the young Christian Church came at the first Council at Jerusalem. The disciples who came from the Jewish faith still wanted to hold fast to the old law of circumcision, while the disciples who were formerly gentiles felt burdened by having to keep the old law (which was probably why they never converted anyway). Peter listened to the arguments and spoke that he witnessed the same Holy Spirit fall upon the Gentiles as did the Jews. He also had the vision that there was no unclean food, therefore he ruled that they did not have to be circumcised (much to the relief of Gentile men), but they must not eat food sacrificed to the idols (there is only One God), and not have the blood of animals (it is through Christ’s blood that we live, not through the blood of animals).
Gospel of Christ vs. the gospel of men
We often think that we are the generation that is forward thinking and revolutionary, but there is a phrase, “there is nothing new under the sun.” As we read in the New Testament letters, many people misunderstood Jesus and His words. St. Paul writes to the Galatians about how they are distorting the Gospel of Christ.
Galatians 1:8-10: Even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel that is contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please me? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.
It is in our nature to be proud, to be the best, the richest, the winner, to seek the glory among men. This is the gospel of men, and their view of the world, and not God’s. We can only serve one master and must choose, God or men (**when I say men, I’m saying it in the general sense of “people” and not that men need to dominate over women).
The Church of Christ
So how do we determine what is the true Church of Christ or just a church claiming to follow Jesus? There are some key hallmarks which one must pay attention to:
1. Do they use the complete Bible: There are churches who remove entire books, (even though those books were accepted for a thousand years after the Bible was completed) . They also error in that they only read and reflect on certain passages, ignoring the real meaning of the entire chapter? For example, this “motivational” quote from Luke 4:7
2. Do they dismiss Church traditions: We must stay true to both Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. If Jesus wanted us to live by Scripture alone, He would have sat down and written the text himself.
3. Do they dismiss St. Peter: Jesus told Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18) and, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19). If he wanted multiple leaders of the church, he would have sent out all of his Apostles to lead their own churches, but He didn’t. It all went through St. Peter, and then St. Linus, then St. Cletus, and the Church as been passed down through all the Popes to Pope Frances, and onward. One head, One Church.
4. Do they leave interpretation open to personal discernment: There is only one Truth. We are called to know and study the Bible, but we can not leave our studies to our own interpretation. We either live by it or die by only believing partial truths. We can’t believe Jesus is God’s Son and deny the establishment of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. We can’t believe that we are the Body of Christ and marry and divorce or have sex with whoever we want. A great place to start is with the Catechism of the Catholic Church which is rooted in Biblical texts.
5. Do they have other books or prophets who claim to have received visions from God: Upon the Cross, Jesus’ last words were, “It is finished.” (John 19:30 – by the way, St. John was at the foot of the Cross, therefore firsthand account of what happened). The reason why these three words are so important is because Jesus had one job to do, and this one job was to die for our sins. God had sent prophets before, but their warnings were ignored. It is Him and Him alone that we received the final Word of God. Jesus himself states there will be those who claim to be prophets, but there will be no other. Some verses to contemplate: Matthew 7:15-19, Matthew 24:11-14, Mark 13:5-8 & 21-23
To read more about the arguments for one Church, check out Let There Be No Divisions Among You: Why All Christians Should be Catholic by Reverand John MacLaughlin.