Can We All See the Bible Alike?
by Jefferson David Tant
Religious division exists on every hand. In every city and village, buildings are erected as monuments to religion. Some say this is good, but the bottom line is that this represents confusion and division. There are multiplied thousands of sects or denominations within what is called “Christianity.”
This division is confusing to most, and few try to solve the problem, since “scholars” cannot seem to agree. The “solution” and “conclusion” to many is “We can’t all see it alike.” By this, they mean that we can’t all understand or believe alike. I often receive this as an excuse for not receiving some Bible teaching on a particular subject. People reason, “We’ll agree to disagree, and thank God for so many churches to choose from.”
May I suggest that this is not a workable solution, nor is it intelligent? It is contrary to reason, to the Scriptures, to the will of God, and to common sense. Consider a few possibilities with me Please read through, for there are some important points made that have a bearing on our eternal souls.
Chaos Would Result If We Treated Other Subjects Thusly
Suppose my four daughters were quadruplets entering school in the 1st grade. They come home from school one day after studying arithmetic under four teachers — one for each child. They were each given a different sum for 2+2 with the explanation, “We can’t all see it alike.” You can be sure that something would be done about this.
Can you imagine different interpretations of a Stop sign?
- “Skid Tires On Pavement.”
- “Stop only if oncoming traffic.”
- "Only for bicycles.”
Try telling something like that to the judge in Traffic Court, and saying “We can’t all see it alike.” What a ridiculous proposition.
This Is Exactly How Men Treat the Subject of Religion
All agree that preachers are to preach the Bible, the Truth. “Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 4:11).
Then let four denominational preachers preach four nights to the same church from the same book that exhorts us to be of the same mind and to speak the same things.
- Preacher A preaches “once in grace, always in grace, for we cannot fall and be lost.”
- Then preacher B preaches the next night that a child of God can fall away and finally be lost, and no one who believes the Bible can preach otherwise.
- On the third night, Preacher C preaches from the same Bible that immersion is the only scriptural baptism, and a man is not baptized unless he has been immersed.
- Then the next night Preacher D preaches that one drop is as good as an ocean — just so the heart is right, and it makes no difference about how much water is used.
These four claim to preach from the same book from the same God. All claim to be sent by God to teach God’s will from the same Bible. Yet the Bible says it is impossible for God to lie. “in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18). But somebody is not telling the truth, because opposites can’t both be right.
There are buildings throughout the land where this type of preaching is done. No wonder we have so many who disbelieve the Bible. Is it right for four men to teach differing doctrines? Why not employ one man to preach four nights on these topics, since all are true and are from the same Bible? “Oh, it’s wrong for A to teach B’s doctrine. He doesn’t believe it” But didn’t B claim to get his doctrine from the same Bible as A did? Yet folks say it would be crazy for one man to preach all these doctrines.
But each one claims to have the truth and the way to salvation, while some claim another way is just as good and will save, although they are in direct contradiction.
But the deception doesn’t stop there. A, B, C, and D might hold a joint revival campaign. They will make arrangements, call for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, and claim 40 converts at the end of the revival. The last night comes and the new converts are told to go out and pray, and the Holy Spirit will tell them which church to join.
- Ten will join A’s church, and go off arguing that a man cannot fall from grace, that “once saved is always saved.”
- Ten will join B’s church and argue that a saved person can fall from grace.
- Ten will join C’s church and contend that baptism is not essential, but the mode is essential. “I must do a non-essential act by a very essential method.”
- Then the Holy Spirit tells ten to join D’s church and claim that sprinkling or pouring water is fine, indeed.
And then we wonder why some people throw up their hands and call it quits.
Bible Teaching on Unity and Division
Division cannot bring success. “And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:24-25). The denominational divisions exactly fit Christ’s teachings. The heathen world looks at this and says, “Why should we believe you, for you cannot even agree among yourselves?”
Consider that unity is commanded. “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:1-6). This is not a matter of indifference, but a matter of “diligence.”
There is general agreement on “one God, one Lord, one Spirit,” etc., but much disagreement on “one faith, one baptism,” etc. If we can agree on some of what God has revealed, why not on all God has revealed? Is it possible Satan has confused the minds of some?
While unity is commanded, division is condemned. “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's [people,] that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (I Corinthians 1:10-13). If this division and wearing human names were wrong then, what about now? If it was a sin then, why is it OK now?
Christ prayed for unity. “I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, [art] in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me” (John 17:20-21).
Did Christ pray for the impossible? Was his plan insane, or was he crazy? Does his prayer convey the idea that the Father may have been a Mormon, the Son a Roman Catholic, and the Holy Spirit a Seventh-Day Adventist? Would we assume that one teaches baptism by immersion, another by pouring, while the third tells us not to practice any baptism? Dear reader, do you see the absurdity of it all? If we are to be “one” as Christ prayed, then we cannot justify the division of thousands of denominations.
What Do We Do About Blatant Contradictions?
- The Methodist Discipline, IX. Of the Justification of Man. “Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.”
- The Word of God. “You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone” (James 2:24).
Man’s book says justification is by “faith only,” while God’s book says “not by faith alone.” Which shall we believe?
An interesting statement in the Discipline claims that it is a revelation of the Holy Spirit. “We have therefore expected that the DISCIPLINE would be administered, not merely as a legal document, but as a revelation of the Holy Spirit working in and through our people.”
So now we have the Holy Spirit contradicting himself, as He says one thing in the Bible and something opposite in the Methodist Discipline. Who can believe it?
- Baptist Manual. "It is most likely that in the Apostolic Age when there was but 'one Lord, one faith, and one baptism,' and no differing denominations existed ... 'baptism was the door into the church.' Now, it is different ... The churches, therefore, have candidates ... give their 'experience,' and then their reception is decided by a vote of the members."
- The Word of God. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ’ (Galatians 3:27).
Man’s book admits what the First Century Christians practiced but then says “Now, it is different,” and people are voted into the church. The Word of God says we are “baptized into Christ,” rather than “voted in.” Question: By what authority does the Baptist Church say “Now, it is different?” Can we “see it alike” in what the Bible says about baptism? Obviously so, but now the Baptist Church says it is not going to follow what the Bible says but is going to follow the teaching of men, the Baptist Manual.
- Catholic Catechism: “The law of celibacy of the clergy is not a divine institution, but is a rule of the Church which developed gradually, and was finally made a part of the legal code…” (Externals of the Catholic Church, Sullivan, p. 61)
- The Word of God: “The bishop therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, orderly, given to hospitality, apt to teach” (I Timothy 3:2). “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage…” (I Timothy 4:1-3).
Man’s book says that marriage is forbidden to the clergy (bishops, priests, etc.). The Word of God says that a bishop must be married and that those who teach otherwise are those who “fall away from the faith, and pay attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.”
We could go on and on, but there is neither enough ink nor paper on hand to cite the contradictions between the 42,000 church creeds of men and the revelation God has given to us. Question: If God’s revelation was sufficient for the early church for some 600 years before man-made creeds began to surface, why is it not good enough for us now? Consider what the prophet Isaiah said about the Word of God. “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
Many centuries ago, as Israel was about to enter into the land God was giving them, their leader Joshua gave them a challenge. “And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15).
There is still a choice today — to choose between following the Word of God only, or choosing to follow the doctrines of men. Please give some serious thought to Christ’s words of condemnation to the religious leaders of his day. “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men'" (Matthew 15:7-9). The countless creeds, manuals, and catechisms of today are obviously well described by Christ, for they are “precepts of men.”
If the Bible Is True, and Its Commands to Be Obeyed, Then We Must Be Able to Understand (See) It Alike
The Bible, God’s Word, is true. "Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Truth cannot contradict itself. If 2+2=4, there is no other right answer. If “STOP” means what it says, then it cannot mean “slow down,” or “Skid Tires On Pavement.”
We know that God’s commands are to be obeyed. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). That’s what it’s all about — God’s will for us, not our will.
In order to obey, we must be able to understand or see the Bible alike. The power to understand enables us to discern truth from error. It also puts us on a higher plane than the beasts of the field.
The spiritual situation is parallel to the matter of traffic laws. The traffic code is the law or standard of truth for us, and we are enjoined to obey the law. But in order to do this, we must be able to understand the laws, which means that “we can see them alike” Speed limits on interstate highways are generally 70 mph. We can all understand that, but some desire to drive 80 or 85 mph. Now, if the police stop someone driving 85 mph, do you think the police will excuse the driver by saying, “Well, we can’t all see it alike?” Try that in court sometime and see how well that goes over with the judge. 😊
Now, Since There is Division, Who Is at Fault?
Is God at fault? There are three possibilities.
- Either God could not make the Bible understandable, or
- God could, but purposely gave a book we could not understand, or
- God could and did give a revelation that man could understand.
We must accept #3. “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (I Corinthians 14:33).
Is the Bible at fault? Obviously not, for it is God’s revelation mentioned earlier. Paul said it was inspired and complete. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17).
If the Bible really teaches one church that baptism is by immersion, and others that sprinkling or pouring is permissible, and still another that sprinkling rose petals (yes, I have been told that a church does that) is OK, then we would have no confidence in the Bible whatsoever.
This leaves men to be at fault. Note that we are commanded to understand. “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Man can understand what is clearly revealed. As an illustration, we have the ability to see a watch, and we can understand 2+2=4. If you do not see or understand these things, then you need help. Therefore, we must conclude that some people don’t want to “see.”
- “Yes, I know the Bible says that but…”
- “I wouldn’t believe there was only one church even if you read it to me out of the Bible.”
I distinctly remember in a class I was teaching to some men from different denominations, a question was brought up. My only answer was to turn to the Bible passage that answered the question and read it. The response? The one who asked the question said, “I don’t believe that.” Didn’t believe what? The Bible, the Word of God, that I read without making any comment!
One woman heard Mark 16:16 at the conclusion of a sermon my father, Yater Tant preached, which says “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” After the service was over and my father was speaking with the visitor, she said, “That’s not in my Bible.” My father insisted that it was, while she continued to disagree. I think what happened then was that my father asked to see her Bible. He turned to the gospel of Mark and, sure enough, it was not in her Bible. She had cut it out! Problem solved, or so she thought.
A similar incident took place when a woman heard that passage read, and replied, “But I don’t see it that way.” What way? When she said “that way,” that shows she clearly did understand what the passage said, or she would not have known what to disagree with. The problem was she didn’t want to believe it, and rather than be so open in her rejection of God’s word, she offered an excuse, a cop-out.
On the matter of “sprinkling” for baptism, all Bible scholars agree that the original New Testament Greek word “baptize” means “to dip, plunge or immerse.” It was not until centuries later that sprinkling came to replace immersion.
A fact of history is that the Church of England, Presbyterian, and Congregational churches all allowed immersion until the Westminster assembly in 1643. A number of bishops, seeing how much more convenient sprinkling was, came before Parliament, insisting that "the devil of immersion ought to be legislated out of the realm, it is so troublesome." When the matter came to a vote, it was 24 to 24. Dr. Lightfoot was chairman, and he cast the deciding vote to eliminate immersion. In 1644 Parliament acted upon this, repealing laws about immersion. Those who were not sprinkled were to be treated as outlaws. (Information taken from Edinburg Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 236).
Thus, God's will was overturned by a vote of humans who acted on their own authority, rather than the authority of Christ. Did God give them the authority to change His will? I don’t think so. So, who gave them this authority? Could it have been the same one who persuaded Adam and Eve that God didn’t mean what he said about eating the fruit?
So, what happened? It is obvious that even though they understood what the Bible said, they wanted to change the practice of immersion in order to please themselves.
We Can Agree on the Salvation of Noah and Naaman
We can read how Noah was saved. “By faith Noah, being warned [by God] about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7).
Peter wrote: “who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water” (I Peter 3:20).
We see how his belief coupled with his building the ark for God to save him and his family. We can agree on this because it does not conflict with any church’s religious theory.
We read about Naaman’s cure from leprosy. Elisha’s servant told him to go dip in the Jordan River seven times and he would be healed. Naaman thought that was stupid, and went away in a rage. But one of his servants spoke to him and said, "My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?" So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (II Kings 5:13-14).
So, Naaman was told to “wash, and be clean.” “Wash” is from the Hebrew “rachats,” meaning “bathe (self), wash (self).” Note that the text says that he “dipped” in the river. That word is from the Hebrew “tabal” which is defined as “to dip, plunge.” That’s how Naaman “washed.”
It’s easy to connect his faith with his “baptism” in the Jordan River, after which God extended His grace of healing. We can all see this alike because no preachers in denominational pulpits are telling us it’s not so. What do you think would have happened if Naaman had just dipped his finger in the river and sprinkled the water on his body? I think we would agree that he would eventually have died of his leprosy, for he would not have been healed.
But I read again Mark 16:16: “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” Suddenly, our agreement falls apart. Why? “Oh, well. We can’t all see it alike.”
Why not? Because some do not believe in that part of the Bible. They cannot believe that part of the Bible because it conflicts with some religious theory of some denomination.
Consider a concrete example. I have a “McArthur Study Bible.” The author, John McArthur has some very good footnotes throughout the books of the Bible. But we hit a snag when we come to Acts 2:38 where the people on Pentecost asked Peter what they should do after being convicted of crucifying the Son of God. The text reads, “And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Now notice McArthur’s footnote. “For the new believer, it was a crucial but costly identification to accept. For the remission of sins. This might better be translated ‘because of the remission of sins.’ Baptism does not produce forgiveness and cleansing from sin….The reality of forgiveness precedes the rite of baptism.”
Whoa! There’s a huge problem. The New Testament was written in the Greek language, and the phrase “eis” (for) “aphesis” (forgiveness) “harmatia” (of sins) is exactly the same phrase we find in another passage in the Bible. In instituting the Lord’s Supper, Matthew’s account concerning the cup is found in Matthew 26:27-28: ”And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”
Notice that “forgiveness of sins” is mentioned in both passages, and it is the same in both English and Greek. Thus, if the phrase “for forgiveness” means “because sins had already been forgiven” in Acts 2:38, then that means that Christ shed his blood for no purpose, because, according to McArthur, our sins were forgiven before Christ died.
- Acts 2:38 – "For the forgiveness of sins” (eis aphesis harmatia).
- Matthew 26:28 – "For forgiveness of sins” (eis aphesis harmatia)
In English, the word “for” can either look forward or backward. “I went to the store for a loaf of bread,” looks forward, in order to obtain. “I was arrested for speeding,” looks backward, “because of.” So the context must determine how the word is used. But in the Greek language, the word “eis” (for) is never used as in “looking backward.” It is only used in the sense of “looking forward.” “A primary preposition; to or into (indicating the point reached or entered), of place, time, or (figuratively) purpose (result, etc.)…” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary)
Thus there are two things wrong with McArthur’s argument.
- The definition of the word “for,” and
- the statement Christ made using the same words, which can only be understood as looking forward rather than backward or “because of.”
So, which shall we believe, what Christ said or what McArthur said? I think you know the answer. Yet various denominations do not teach that baptism is “for the forgiveness of sins.”
Referring again to Naaman’s cure from leprosy, was his leprosy cured because of his faith and before dipping, or did it come after his dipping? The answer is quite obvious.
Did the Jordan River water heal Naaman’s leprosy? Of course not. God healed him, but only when Naaman met the conditions that God gave. Does the water in baptism forgive our sins? Of course not, but God forgives our sins when we meet the conditions he has given.
Now back to the verse that was cited earlier — I Peter 3:20. Isn’t it interesting that we can all agree on what verse 20 says, but then all of a sudden, our agreement falls apart in the next verse? “Who once were disobedient, when God’s patience kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience -- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
We were doing well on verse 20, but suddenly the agreement falls apart when we get to verse 21. Why? Because it contradicts some denominational creeds! And of course, the common phrase says, “We can’t all see it alike.”
We might compare this to four blind men “seeing” or feeling an elephant. One says, “It’s like a tree,” as he feels a thick leg. Another says “No, it’s like a rope,” as he holds the tail. A third disagrees, claiming the elephant is like a wall, as he feels the elephant’s side. Then the fourth exclaims “You’re all wrong. The elephant is like a giant snake,” as he feels the elephant’s trunk.
This is how many treat the Bible, and why they say “We can’t all see it alike.” They pick out this or that scripture and camp on it without considering the context or other scriptures that present the whole picture. We need to consider what Christ said in Matthew 4:4: “It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'"
Dear reader, eternity is too serious for us to be stubborn and bull-headed. If the Bible says there are 200 denominations, to what profit do we deny it? If the Bible says there are ten Lords, would we change the truth by rejecting it? If the Bible says there is one body, which is the church, we just need to believe it, and then study the Scriptures to find a description of it. We cited Ephesians 4:4-6 earlier which stated that there is only one body, the church, just as there is only one God. If the Bible says – "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:16), we need to believe it, obey it, and not argue about it, for God has spoken.
What will your answer be? If you reject some of what God has said, what will you tell Him on the Judgment Day? “Well, we can’t all see it alike.” Or will you be honest and admit, “I refused to believe and obey what you said”
God warns us of the consequences. Paul writes about this in II Thessalonians 1:7-9: “…when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
Here are reminders of passages quoted earlier in this treatise.
- Do 42,000 different “Christian” sects with different creeds comply with Christ’s prayer in John 17:21 — that all his followers might be “one” as he and the Father are one? Obviously not! You will remember that Christ prayed “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
- Would you agree that all these different creeds and practices are confusing? If you agree, then you must agree that all this confusion is not the product of God’s revelation. “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (I Corinthians 14:33).
So, if all this is not from God, what is the source? You know the answer. Satan, and his followers. “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds” (II Corinthians 11:13-15). And just who are his “servants?” Are they not ministers who stand in pulpits and preach a “different gospel?” Some do it for personal gain, and others do it with sincerity, but they have been deceived.
Consider Paul’s warning, even in the first century: “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-8).
God gave each one of us the freedom of choice. So, which do you choose? The gospel of Christ, or “a different gospel?”