It is only proper to first introduce myself. I am a 19-year-old guy and I live in the Philippines. I have been surfing your web site for almost half a year now (although not very often) and have in fact asked you probably less than five questions. Dear sir, I quite appreciate your labor for the Lord and I thank God that He has let me come across your web site. I'm quite amazed by your answers to questions for you quote the Bible as your proof. I believe that the best way to help people with their problems and the best guidance you can give them is by showing them what the Lord who made them teaches. I commend you for doing just that.
I have been a member of the Baptist denomination for about three years now and about a year ago, I have been studying the teachings of the churches of Christ and have become familiar with some of your teachings (especially baptism and salvation). I still fellowship with the Baptists though my heart is not with their teachings anymore. I want to be able to reach them first that they may be able to hear the true gospel. Please tell me, sir, is it wrong that I stay among the Baptists even though I know that they greatly err in many of the Lord's teachings just to be able to give them the knowledge of His words? Just last week, I already took the step of talking with our pastor concerning some biblical topics. We had a good conversation and I admired his attitude (although I abhor his teachings) because he was willing to talk about differences. I am doing this so that both of us would be able to check our own positions and be corrected if refuted by the use of the Scriptures.
Dear sir, it is my earnest desire to study under someone who has great familiarity with the holy oracles of God. So far, I have seen that you are one of those who fit this description. Sir, I indeed desire to be your friend and student in the Holy Scriptures. I have determined in my heart that I shall study the materials in this web site and of other sites, one topic at a time, and if I have questions, I'll ask it of you. May this be not a burden to you sir. You said that knowledge in the Scriptures is not to be learned in a Bible college but must be passed by the church. I hope that you'll be able to pass your knowledge to me, sir. I pray to God that he grant me this desire of mine.
This is quite a long letter I have sent you, sir, and may you not take this as a burden. Anyway, this is just a sort of introduction to, what I hope to be, the start of a wonderful friendship. I would like to inform you about a preacher who is quite popular as well as controversial here in the Philippines and now even abroad. His name is Eliseo Soriano. He is one preacher which can greatly impress his hearers for he answers questions extemporaneously in front of thousands of crowds and can quote Scriptures accurately. He is also an excellent debater. I believe that he does have a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. I even once almost decided to undergo indoctrination in their local congregation. But one thing that I have observed about him and his followers are that they are almost always angry. In his "mass exposition" where he preaches to a vast number of crowd and answers their questions, he gets into a fight with words to those who would contradict him. Though he can refute them with reason and the Scriptures, his manner of speaking and shouting is, to me unchristian-like. Would you please take the time to look at this man's teachings and tell me what you think about them? A lot of his teachings are similar to yours. He believes that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are separate beings of the Godhead. He believes that the church is the kingdom of God. He believes that baptism is essential for salvation.
Sir, I have already written much. I hope I didn't tire you with my letter. Sir, I hope that we would have a strong friendship even though we have not, and may not see each other in this world.
May God bless thee with the work he hath given thee. Thank you very much.
Strangely enough, I do recall your past questions and I am happy that you wish to learn more. You might be surprised how things work out with the Lord. My brother preached in the Philippines for seven years. I came once to help him for a month. I still correspond with one of the young men whom I met there at the time. Let me know where you are located and I'll see if my brother can recommend a local preacher for you to talk with. Meanwhile, please ask all the questions you want of me. I won't always be able to answer quickly, but I do keep a list and work through them as I can.
Let's start with your first question. You need to be a part of a congregation. The problem is that you are currently among people that you know haven't been teaching the full truth. That is going to impact your worship of God and your ability to be a part of a church. Your current situation will make you feel like a visitor among others and your disagreement will cause you to think in terms of "us against them." In other words, your current situation isn't producing unity. "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Corinthians 1:10).
I'm puzzled that you feel that you can only work with the people there by attending this congregation. Bible discussions are not limited to only assembly times. I assume you meet these people at other times as well. So why not worship with people with whom you agree and study with those who are interested in talking about the Bible?
In regards to Eliseo Soriano, I read your praise of him and wondered if you would have been impressed with the Apostle Paul if you had a chance to meet him. "And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (I Corinthians 2:1-5). Good recall of the Scriptures and well-polished debate tactics do not always imply that the person is accurately handling God's word.
You already pointed out that you are troubled by the anger displayed in the group. In warning about false teachers, Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:15-20). There should be consistency between what is taught and how the teacher is living his life. The Bible states, "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20). A group that frequently displays anger is a warning that something isn't right.
I read through a number of articles on the gentleman's web sites. I noticed that he is a member of the Members Church of God International denomination. It is also called "The Old Path" or Ang Dating Daan. This particular group teaches that a person cannot be saved except by membership in their particular church. I checked through the articles about gaining salvation, but all that is essentially taught is that you have to be baptized and that the Holy Spirit then adds you to their church. I found nothing about listening to God's word (Romans 10:17), the necessity of faith (John 3:16), the need to change your life -- though there were some hints of this (Acts 3:19), or confession of Christ (Romans 10:8-10). In fact, as I went through each article, while things were said that seemed accurate, I was, at the same time, amazed at how little is actually stated. Each article struck me as being vague, never quite answering the question or topic it claimed to address.
I did find that he claims the flood in Genesis was not worldwide (http://esoriano.wordpress.com/2007/05/30/the-truth-about-noah-and-the-worldwide-flood/), despite the fact that the Bible states, "by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water" (II Peter 3:6). In addition, the depth of the flood is recorded as "And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered" (Genesis 7:19-20). "All the high hills under the whole heaven" does not leave any hills out. The impact of the flood is also stated, "And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died" (Genesis 7:21-22). There is no way to read these passages and not conclude that the flood impacted the entire world.
It appears that this group is denominationally oriented. Instead of Christ being the head and each church being independently organized in a town or city as you find in the New Testament, it appears that Eliseo Soriano is the head of the denomination and the denomination owns and controls all congregations under it. What is most disturbing is that he claims that he and his church are the fulfillment of specific prophecies found in the Old Testament (http://esoriano.wordpress.com/2007/08/09/godly-inspired-prophecies-about-a-poor-country-and-a-nobody-like-brother-eli/). In particular, he claims to be the governor mentioned in Jeremiah 30:21. The problem is that he builds his claim by a patchwork of unrelated passages, picking out key phrases and then claiming that they are about him and his organization.
Even though there are many accurate teachings in this group, there are enough inaccuracies to cause me to encourage you to avoid them. When a counterfeiter wishes to pass off a false bill, he makes it look as close to the original as possible so that it is easily accepted. But the problem is that it is not the original and its value is worthless. Satan does the same thing with religion. He gains more followers by appearing to come close to the truth, but since it isn't the entire truth, his religions are worthless. "But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (II Corinthians 11:12-15).