The highest form of worship is obedience, and in the Bible God has established the regulations governing His worship. Men are not at liberty to add to these, nor to take away from them. In the days of Jesus many of those who were in charge of religious things had come up with doctrines that were not based on the scriptures. Today we have the same problem. We still have many doctrines that are not based on the scriptures.
In a church doctrines are what we are taught to believe that the Bible teaches, and therefore doctrines must come from the Bible itself. Each of the doctrines that we have are like "pieces of a puzzle". Some of these "pieces" are from the Bible and of course they fit the "puzzle", but some are not from the Bible and therefore do not fit. (At first these may SEEM to fit, but on closer inspection actually do not.) We must not accept any doctrine, nor any "form of worship" unless it is in the Bible. It may be that tradition has made a man-made teaching into a doctrine, so be careful and "prove all things" with the Bible.
Our mental picture of who God is will be shown by the doctrines that we believe. You may wish to look at BibleTimelines.com as a tool to help you bring many of your "puzzle pieces" together so that you will have a more complete picture of who God is and what He is like. But remember, no one has all the pieces and never will, so throughout eternity the redeemed will be discovering more about who He is.
In 2 Timothy 3:16 the Bible says, "All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness", and in the New Living Translation (NLT Version) 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 says, "Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good."
So doctrines must come from God's Word. We need to "test everything" and keep only "what is good" as a doctrine. Keep in mind that the more we learn of God, the greater will be our admiration of His character. And as we learn of Him our picture of who God is will become clearer and clearer.
"In all the affairs of this present life, my fidelity shall be unshaken, for here to lose or to gain is of no consequence to salvation. But when eternal interests are concerned, God wills not that man should submit unto man. For such submission in spiritual matters is a real worship, and ought to be rendered solely to the Creator." Martin Luther, D'Aubigné, b. 7, ch.II
But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men. Matthew 15:9
"Every human invention that has been substituted for the commandments of God will be found worthless in that day when 'God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.' Eccl. 12:14" The Desire of Ages, page 398
So why are there so many churches?
A "denomination" is a group of churches (people) who hold a specific set of doctrines to be truth. But the question needs to be asked, "How can there be so many denominations with so many different doctrines, when they all claim to follow the same Bible?"
The answer to this question may best be illustrated by thinking of "truth" as a solid, pure gold ball.
To hide this pure gold ball in plain sight you would need to create many others that "claim" to be that first one and that looks just like the original ball, but that are not exactly like it.
These counterfeit balls could be made out of steel, glass, plastic, wood or anything else that can be covered with gold. You could even take real gold and add a small amount of another metal if you want it to look and feel like the first one. If you made hundreds of these "counterfeits" and placed them with the first one, it would be very difficult to find the original gold ball. There may still be value in each of these counterfeits, but they are not pure like the original.
Just like with this solid, pure gold ball illustration, the Devil needs to hide the solid, pure truth about God. He has already tried to destroy truth by having Bibles burned, people tortured and burned, etc., but he has not succeeded in destroying truth. Now, with Bibles everywhere he needs to hide truth in plain sight, and in order to hide the truth he must make it extremely hard to find. He has done that by creating hundreds of churches that may look like the original but are not.
In the late 1970's there were already over 600 major Christian denominations just in the United States alone. In 2013 one website estimated that there were around 41,000 Christian groups in the world. But even if there were only half that, that's way to many to dig through. Many of these groups teach mostly truth, but have allowed a small amount of untruth to become doctrine. Others look pure on the outside, but are far from the original on the inside. It does not matter to the Devil, he just doesn't want people to get to know the truth about God, and so he will do anything to lead people to believe his lies about Him.
The more truth we know about God, the more we will love Him and appreciate His character. The less we know about God (the more lies we believe), the less we will love Him and the less we will appreciate His character, and so the Devil will do anything he can do to keep us from knowing the truth about God.
What is TRUTH, and how can it be found?
Our aim should be to come to know the truth about God, and to do that we need to find pure Biblical truth. But it would be impossible to search each denomination one by one. What we need then, is a way of finding the truth without having to search through each denomination. If there was a way of removing the non-biblical doctrines from our search, thereby removing the churches that do not teach Biblical truth, we would eliminate those that are not like the original and we would get much closer to finding pure Biblical truth. If you were to find someone, or a denomination, who's teaching even ONE thing that is contrary to the Bible then you can know that they are not teaching totally from the Bible, whether they claim to be or not.
By studying just three specific doctrines, using just the Bible and a concordance (a book or an online resource used just for finding specific Bible verses) we can remove almost all of the non-biblical doctrines. Each topic will remove several hundred, if not several thousand, denominations because they would not be teaching what the Bible teaches about that specific doctrine (pure truth), even though they may claim the Bible as their only Guide. This will also help you find the real truth about other things as well, including the truth about Jesus.
God has promised in Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT), "If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me." So, let's claim God's promise that we will find Him if we do it with all our heart. Let's begin our search for pure truth, and begin to eliminate the counterfeit by looking at just three doctrines. Remember, men are not at liberty to change what God has established. (There are several online Bible concordances available. One that is very popular is the free BibleGateway.com online concordance. You will find several versions of the Bible available on their website, but you should check what is displayed on your computer's screen with what is written in your own Bible at home! The online versions of many concordances offer the ability to compare several versions of a Bible verse side by side.) So here are the suggested questions:
- What does Jesus, the Author of the Bible, teach; what does He say really happens to us when we die? Do we go someplace else and continue to live, or what?
- What does Jesus, the Author of the Bible, teach; what does He say about His Second Coming? Will it be a secret?
- What does Jesus, the Author of the Bible, teach; is there still a specific day that He wants us to worship Him on? Has it been changed or even totally done away with?
There is no benefit in supporting any non-biblical doctrine, and in fact, if we come to believe something that is not in the Bible then we are on dangerous ground. The NLT version of 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 says "He (the Devil) will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth." Please note that they had already refused to love and accept the truth, and so God causes them to believe the lies.
"A message was sent from heaven to the world in Noah's day, and their salvation depended upon the manner in which they treated that message. Because they rejected the warning [they refused to believe the truth], the Spirit of God was withdrawn from the sinful race, and they perished in the waters of the Flood." The Great Controversy, pg 431
"Nothing but his own choice can prevent any man from becoming a partaker of the promise in Christ by the gospel." The Desire of Ages, page 403
"When the mind dwells upon self, it is turned away from Christ, the source of strength and life. Hence it is Satan's constant effort to keep the attention diverted from the Savior and thus prevent the union and communion of the soul with Christ. The pleasures of the world, life's cares and perplexities and sorrows, the faults of others, or your own faults and imperfections--to any or all of these he will seek to divert the mind. Do not be misled by his devices. Many who are really conscientious, and who desire to live for God, he too often leads to dwell upon their own faults and weaknesses, and thus by separating them from Christ he hopes to gain the victory." Steps to Christ, page 71
"Whenever the study of the Scriptures is entered upon without a prayerful, humble, teachable spirit, the plainest and simplest as well as the most difficult passages will be wrested from their true meaning." The Great Controversy, pages 521
"No repentance is genuine that does not work reformation. The righteousness of Christ is not a cloak to cover unconfessed and unforsaken sin; it is a principle of life that transforms the character and controls the conduct. Holiness is wholeness for God; it is the entire surrender of heart and life to the indwelling of the principles of heaven." The Desire of Ages, page 555
Trust your salvation to no man! Study God's Word for yourself!
Use tools like this website if you want, but pray and ask God to show you the truth!
There is no benefit in supporting a doctrine that is man-made.
The highest form of worship is obedience!
For further study: