David Lee Brown
Denominational Differences and the Core Gospel
Over the past few days, I’ve been reviewing videos from a website called “Ready to Harvest.” Joshua, the author of this content, presents denominational beliefs unbiasedly. As I’ve listened and learned, I’m almost overwhelmed concerning the subtle and occasionally vast differences between denominations and cults claiming to be Christians. Each feels they are one of a few, or the only true church. And as Joshua noted, anyone that feels they are a Christian can claim to be a Christian. That claim is genuine to them, even if we disagree. So, with all the vast and varied denominational differences, what is the core Gospel in my Biblical opinion?
The Core Gospel Introduction
In order to glean out of scripture the core Gospel, you first must know the entire Word of God. Knowing parts of the Bible, either in or out of context, is insufficient. Now, to a new Christian just beginning their discipleship, understanding the key verses for salvation is enough. But then you must grow your knowledge and relationship with God. This initial belief is not what I’m talking about today. I’m talking about the doctrine and theology of denominations today. I’m referring to what every denomination must believe to understand the core Gospel. Again, this is my perspective as a self-proclaimed Christian doctrine and theology expert who has studied his way through the Bible several times.
The Core Gospel
You must believe that Jesus Christ, as described in the Bible, is the only path to redemption, justification, and sanctification. In other words, “salvation” from your sin triggered death sentence. You have been redeemed (bought back at the cost of Christ’s sacrifice for you), justified (Christ died in your stead, so God pronounces you “not guilty”), and sanctified (separated out in service to God).
Jesus’ sacrifice is all sufficient, and nothing else from you is necessary for your salvation. You simply accept His gift of salvation. Any work on your part (sacraments, deeds, tasks) would make you a co-redeemer with Christ. But according to the Bible, you are not worthy to co-redeem anyone, including yourself.
After salvation, you willingly choose to give up your will (your sinful nature) and accept God’s will, as clearly revealed in Biblical scripture. God becomes the Lord of your life. In other words, you choose obedience to God without respect for governmental regulations or personal desires – God’s will at all costs.
John 3:16, John 11:25, John 14:6, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9.
In my Biblical opinion, these three statements encompass the core of the Gospel. Some would subtract, and others would add to this, but that is the nature of personal and denominational opinion. I tried to Biblically strip down the Gospel to its core, the things you must believe to be a true Christian. I think everything else is primarily interpretive opinion. Many would argue that point too. Especially denominational leaders and various cult leaders that claim the title, Christian. This confusion is why I believe in Sola Scriptura (scripture alone). If you use anything except the canonized 66 books Holy Bible, you open the door to human doctrines, beliefs, theories, and sin. For instance, the writings of church fathers, extrabiblical books, etc. I only want God’s will, and the only way to clearly delineate God’s will is to focus exclusively on the Bible He wrote through men inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Denominational Differences and the Core Gospel
The various denominations are constantly bickering and separating from one another, as well as separating from their own denominations. For instance, an Anglican group decides to separate and form an Anglican church due to a minor difference in doctrinal opinion. This type of separation has been happening from the beginning of the church, and you can clearly see that in scripture as gnostic teachings separated congregations in the early church. Paul had to provide instruction to the church rejecting the gnostic doctrine. 1 Timothy 6:20-21, Colossians 2:8. So, doctrinal differences separate believers, which is often plotted and inspired by Satan. Satan wants to destroy the church from without and within because of his deceitful, arrogant nature.
Now, I am also not in favor of ecumenicalism (the movement toward worldwide Christian unity or cooperation.) I reject it because of the vast array of religions and cults claiming Christian inclusion. Many religions do not believe things in a Biblical manner. For instance, Mormons claim to be Christians but consider Jesus a created being and reject the Biblical fact that He is God. They also believe in multiple gods and that you can become a god through the Mormon church, now known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So, I cannot in good conscience group them together with Christians.
But that’s the biggest problem. Anyone can claim the title Christian, and as they believe, so they become, in their own eyes. I could claim to be Muslim because I think Jesus performed great miracles during his lifetime. That’s what Muslims believe, and I agree that Jesus did perform great miracles during his lifetime, but is that all that’s required for me to be an actual Muslim? No, of course not, but that’s how cults operate. They emphasize the similarities and hide the differences. They also keep the Christian words and phrases but change the meaning of those words to correlate with their doctrine. Christian denominations do this also but to a lesser degree. For instance, some denominations teach that marriage is a holy sacrament (regarded as imparting divine grace), while others consider marriage a covenant between one man and one woman. So, we must stick to an accurate interpretation of the Bible to be doctrinally sound.
Denominational Differences and the Core Gospel Conclusion
We must stick to the manual of our faith – the Holy Bible. It must be read and understood in context, as the original readers would have understood it, and then applied to our daily lives as accurately as possible. Despite the doctrinal differences and cult claims, I believe sticking to the Bible for all things spiritual and temporal is the best answer. I also think it’s the only way to claim the title, Christian. But, as I said before, anyone can claim to be a Christian, and arguing with them creates strife. So, is ecumenicalism the answer? No, not at all. You can only find the answer in the proper interpretation of the Bible – Sola Scriptura (scriptures alone). It alone can provide the true Gospel.