1 Peter 3:15 (NIV) But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
Growing up I knew that the Christian faith, which I profess was majorly categorized into Catholic and Protestant. I also knew that among the Protestants there were different denominations within such as the Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptists and the list is endless. Myself, I was brought up in a Pentecostal church. Of course I had a negative bias towards other denominations mostly from what had been passed down to me and not according to my own judgment understandably so because I was still very young.
However, over the years some of my biases changed. I met a few people of shared faith but they belonged to those groups that I had stereotyped and I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were true Christians. At that point I learnt to that the mark of a true Christian was not necessarily in the denomination they belonged but with the true consistent fruit of regeneration. So, while I changed my mind about branding people who went to such churches as unbelievers or generally just looking down on them, it wasn’t to the point of changing my church or denomination because there were still parts in their theology that I didn’t agree with.
In the recent past I come across more factions in the Christian faith than I realized there was. There were not just Catholics and Protestants. But among the Protestants there were numerous factions that I didn’t know existed. I came to realize that different denominations had different ways of doing things and a lot of it was not merely from a point of preference but it stemmed from a difference in theology.
As I explored my faith I realized that there were more theological issues which were right in the dogma that I believed in as a Pentecostal. Perhaps you are wondering what it means to be a Pentecostal, I will insert a definition I found from John Piper which I found to befitting – People who are believing in the power of the Holy Spirit, believing that the Holy Spirit does miracles today, believing that the gifts of the Holy Spirit described in 1 Corinthians 12 are still active today. While this is the true meaning of Pentecostalism I have found that the movement has been greatly maligned and slandered. While the criticism meted out is partly true such as infiltration by false prophets, false miracles and the prosperity gospel but my view of the infiltration is that the enemy is in his character; sowing tares among the wheat.
Again I found that some of the essential beliefs I held as a Pentecostal such as the continuation of the gifts outlined in 1 Corinthians 12 was not a theology that was acceptable among all Christians. In fact I found very strong language and criticism against Pentecostals for this. Further, as Pentecostals we believe that God can speak through dreams and visions and I was again surprised to find that this does not sit well with some other denominations.
I was in a crisis. I wasn’t sure what to believe anymore. I wondered whose interpretation of the Bible was to be believed. I thank God I came to this place because I began to seek. I wasn’t willing to simply believe because that is how I had been raised, I was determined to seek the Truth.
I prayed a lot for guidance and for truth and God in His faithfulness answered me. While my parents may have handed down to me the denomination I grew in, as an adult I have chosen it for myself. I believe, as is in the definition I put out earlier, that the Holy Spirit is still at work and that God still performs miracles and this will be the case until He takes us home. I came to an affirmed position that believing God can and does speak to us in ways that He spoke to our forefathers such as through dreams or visions does not mean that I don’t believe in the sufficiency of scriptures.
During that season, I realized that the body of Christ was greatly divided and this had me deeply troubled and praying sorrowful prayers. I could see the division for what it was, the enemy’s devices against the body of Christ. But I also learnt some great lessons that I will carry in life with me.
Here are my five lessons:
Offer grace – in the beginning of this post I stated that my stereotype against particular denominations had changed after meeting people who conducted themselves as truly regenerated. At that time I didn’t know that I would also meet people who had stereotyped me in similar fashion and when I did I found that it was the opportune moment for me to display the fruit of the Spirit.
Be slow with the name calling – Theological differences do not mean that the other person is an unbeliever or a heretic, while there are certainly those who have placed themselves in the body of Christ to deceive His bride with false doctrines and such people should without a doubt be called out as false teachers and heretics. However, I will not brand a fellow sister/brother in Christ as an unbeliever because they do not ascribe to what I believe should be the right way of baptism. In keeping with this I often ask myself, does this person ascribe to the essential doctrines I believe as a Christian?
Be weary of pride – I have found that it is possible to think that my doctrine is superior and look down on others in other denominations. Pride will sneak up on you when you think you know too much. The only reason my theology would make me proud is if I attributed the understanding I have to my own intelligence. However, if I believe, that the salvation I have, the growth I have and the understanding I have is solely out of His grace then I have all the more reason for humility.
We need more Priscilas and Aquilas in the church – when the two heard Apollos teaching in the Synagogue, he wasn’t exactly teaching the correct thing because he hadn’t known that Jesus had already been born, crucified and resurrected. Apollos didn’t do this because he was a false teacher, there had just not been anyone to explain the truth to him. I am praying to God for this kind of attitude as opposed to a warring approach when I don’t agree with a brother/sister in Christ.
Stay teachable – while I believe all scripture is beyond reproof I do not think the same of my interpretation of it and I have the same attitude towards teachers of the word that I trust and I look up to. This is not to say that I would deceive anyone willingly but rather that I am committed to truly understanding it. The more I grow in my faith, the better I understand it. With this in mind, I know that the process of regeneration will take my entire life on earth and at the end of it I will certainly have better understanding of the word than I do today.
The Holy Spirit is not redundant. The truth is to be sought in studying the word and on our knees in prayer. If the text was inspired by the Holy Spirit then we need the Holy Spirit to interpret it – Jackie Hill Perry.