Some evangelists would advise joining whichever denomination appeals to an individual, as way of submitting to Jesus. Other Church authorities would declare that it is only their denomination that represents the true Church. However, all that projects what cannot be right—as no-one can “join” God’s Church.
Those accepting Jesus as their personal Saviour become followers of Christ who is the only authority in Christianity. Even among the converted Christians, there may be those desiring to be under the authority of Jesus. But the currently established Christian confusion makes it difficult for them to make independent opinions.
Which Church do they “join” in order to feel secure—as to be able to practice Christianity without hindrances? They may be aware of Jesus being the supreme authority. But which Church represents that supreme authority?
We have to first appreciate what Jesus—the supreme authority—said; before tackling the question, concerning “joining” God’s Church. This is relevant, especially for those desiring to serve their Master, even in this world of Christian confusion. To the religious authorities of His time Jesus declared:
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:39-44) (ESV).
Right here, in plain language, Jesus shows how foolhardy it can be to receive glory from one another, instead of seeking God’s glory. “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (Verse 44).
Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the Life (John 14:6), did not submit to the religious authorities of His time. Instead, He became a thorn in the flesh—to those religious authorities—telling them that He directly received instructions from His Father in Heaven. Thereby, setting an example to those, truly desiring to follow Him. However, Jesus also gave clear instructions to His disciples:
“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted”(Matthew 23:8-12) (ESV).
Terms like; “Rabbi, (Master or Teacher,)” “Father,” “Instructor;” denoted those who held authority, as in religious organizations. These were the people holding leadership positions. Different terms can be used in our times, but equally referring to people exercising authority over others.
Father implies source. Apparently Jesus is even invalidating our earthly fathers who—empirically—are not our original source. Our original source is God who, therefore, is our only Father—though resident in Heaven. Without the sin of Adam, we would be like Jesus—only able to regard God, as our Father.
Currently, these authoritative terms—as elevating Christian leaders—are considered necessary, as ensuring order. As if to warn of danger associated with foolishness in acknowledging such earthly authorities—Jesus stated that those authorities served to block people from entering into God’s Kingdom:
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves”(Matthew 23:13-15) (ESV).
Those religious leaders would not, necessarily, be deliberately shutting people against the Kingdom of heaven. Those leaders would, actually, be assuming to exercise the responsibility—considered as bestowed on them— to help others to enter into God’s Kingdom.
This is why ordinary people also assume that it is impossible to enter into God’s Kingdom without them. If Christianity has had problems—none of those problems could overtake this one—existing even in our time.
The only problem lies on the question of; who authorized them with that kind of responsibility? The author of Christianity clearly stated that, unlike what goes on in this world, none of His disciples would be expected to hold any leadership position, as to be honoured by others (Matthew 23:8-12).
From where did this kind of confusion arise? Among the Apostles, Paul is arguably the most travelled and most publicized. Most Christian Scholars portray Paul as having had more understanding of the New Testament teachings, than the other apostles. Yet others accuse Paul for having taught things not taught by Jesus.
Whether any of those assertions are true or not, it is not necessary to engage in such debates—which reveal stupidity, more than wisdom. If Paul was here, I suppose he would be able to defend himself from such accusations?
Objective people know that Paul never directed people to listen to him—more than he directed them to listen to Jesus. Paul was very clear in that Jesus was everything to do with Christianity. In all his teachings, Paul did not fail to project Jesus, as the way, the truth and the life.
And, neither any of those Apostles served to promote themselves as being vicars of Christ, during their time. But, I suppose it was only Paul who attempted to deal with the stupidity of those failing to appreciate Jesus as the only authority:
“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarrelling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptize anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:10-17) (ESV).
Apparently, there is no ambiguity in what Paul was putting across, in this passage of Scripture. Paul’s statement, served as summarizing everything—descriptive of his ministry. But, I suppose, just to buttress the sufficiency of Jesus’ authority, Christ Himself declared:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock, and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock”(Matthew 7:24-25) (ESV).
Let us now address a genuine question of a newly converted person, desiring to be united with God’s people. In the early Church there were those who, after Peter had preached to them, likewise, raised the same question. They desired to know what to do, next—after their conversion:
“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself’”(Acts 2:37-39 (ESV).
The most important terms to take note of, in what Peter said, are: “you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” and “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself”The gift of the Holy Spirit implies that from that time on—God would dwell in the body and life of that convert.
The Holy Spirit would dwell in that person, in the same way that it dwelt in our brother, Jesus, when He was here. That Spirit enables that person to become God’s Son, just as Jesus was the Son of God.
The next of these two vitally important phrases shows that the Lord our God would have called the convert to Himself—not to the one baptizing. Jesus, as Son of God, did not need anyone to superintend over Him, after His baptism.
What then follows is the question: What would be the role of the one who baptizes the person who would receive the Holy Spirit—but called by God to Himself? This is not a difficult question—as Christ left nothing without precedent.
Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. But, Jesus never consulted John the Baptist for any clarification on Godly principles—as Jesus would directly communicate with His Father in Heaven. As for us, Jesus is the way the truth and the life—how foolish can we be, then—if we behave differently?
A convert—having been baptized in the name of Jesus—follows in the footsteps of Jesus. It is not the concern of that person—or the concern of the person baptizing—to worry about what Jesus would do with the convert.
The person—having become a new creation—communicates directly with His Father in Heaven. This is just as Jesus communicated directly with His Father in heaven. While counselling may be necessary, from fellow brethren, the baptized person ought to realise having become connect to His Father in Heaven.
What is practiced all along is that, indeed, people are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. However, it is no secret that they would then be expected to commit themselves to the directives of the concerned Church authorities. Obviously, this is clear departure from their Master, Jesus—in whose name they were baptized?
Perhaps, the most relevant question to ask ought to be: Who is authorized to baptize people in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? Nothing is specific, except the instruction given to the disciples by Jesus:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age”(Matthew 28:19-20) (ESV).
Apparently, whoever takes the command to “go therefore and make disciples,” is authorized to baptize. The most important thing is that the person would be baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Those converts, having been baptized by whoever the evangelist—become disciples of Jesus.
Also, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is not necessarily limited to simple verbal pronouncement. This is a solemn declaration, addressing the intention of the one baptizing.
None of the early apostles had disciples of their own—as Paul clearly showed this reality (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). However, in the early Church the disciples had an obligation to teach those having been baptized—just as Christ instructed: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
The mandate was to teach only what Jesus had commanded. At that time there had not been any recorded Scriptures, to point people to. The words of Jesus had to be transmitted to others by word of mouth—according to those apostles’ experiences with Jesus.
The instruction was that those disciples would teach only what Jesus had commanded them. This is why the twelve were called apostles; which means messengers. A messenger carries the message verbatim, or in written form, to the intended audience. Bear in mind that elsewhere Jesus had instructed His disciples as follows:
“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ” (Matthew 23:8-10) (ESV).
It is not the duty of any Christian, to scrutinize the behaviour of the early apostles. Asking whether they fulfilled the mandate of preaching according to Jesus’ specific instructions, or not. Christians take instructions directly from Jesus—without having to be concerned with whether the early disciples complied or not.
The written word of Jesus—comprising what is in the four gospel books—is sufficient, for the modern day Christians—sincerely desiring to be Christ’s disciples. Paul may have attempted to put hierarchical structures in the early Church—to instil some semblance of unity among the early Christians. But, so what?
Nothing appeals for dogma in that behaviour. Christ remains the authority. So that those desiring to build their house on rock-solid foundation, would apply only what was taught by Jesus (Matthew 7:24-25).
I find it safer to err towards what Jesus taught, than to err against what Jesus taught. On the question of whether God’s true Church can be distinctly pointed at—within today’s Christian confusion—that can be clarified by whoever is guided by the truth. The word of Jesus is truth (John 8:31-32).
What should be clear to everyone is that; after baptism, Jesus reported directly to His Father in Heaven. Therefore, any convert should seek to report directly to his/her Father in Heaven—after baptism.
Any communication, whether coming from human beings, reverie, dream or hallucination—has to conform to what is written in the Holy Bible, as applicable to Jesus’ word. Submitting to Christ, has got nothing to do with the Church organizations of this world.
Jesus calls people into His Kingdom, as individuals—not as Church organizations, or hierarchical consideration of those called (Matthew 22:1-14). The reader may find the following posts insightful—if desiring to know more on this topic:
Otherwise any direct communication with the author is welcome, whether critical or supportive. However, the intention is to project the light of God, more than it is necessary to project the author.
Whoever, finds blessings in these writings is encouraged to give glory to our only teacher, Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, any form of encouragement, or assistance, from any source is sincerely appreciated. As we collectively seek to continue doing God’s work—as has always been the case throughout the ages.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99