Change Means DIFFERENT

The constantly changing religious landscape in this country is one that is frustrating to the one whose trust is in God's written word, and confusing to those who do not know God's written word, the Bible. Religious leaders and organizations in this country and around the world praise change as if it is the highest achievement, and deride those who would hold to the old paths as out of touch and legalistic; and even as they conceive, promote, and effect these changes, claim they are still a part of the Lord's church.

      I may not have a degree in Theology from Harvard or some eminent school of divinity, but I do know what the word change means. Pardon me for a moment, but I do not mean to insult anyone's intelligence by taking a moment to think about the meaning of the word change. According to the Random House Dictionary, the word change means "to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone." I am sure most of us understood this already, but it seems religious leaders and institutions do not actually understand what it means to change — at least not according to their own words and actions. Simply put: change means different.

      Let it be noted right now that I am not saying all change is a bad thing. As disciples, we should be seeking to change ourselves constantly — for the better. We are to, of course, “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” that we might “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:22-24). That is a change for good, and is to be commended. We are to “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2), and that kind of change is helpful and good, too.

      But this is not the kind of change men and religious organizations have made and continue to inflict on us, while claiming to be the same church Christ established, and for whom He shed His precious blood. Let's note just a few of those changes and why they are neither good nor acceptable to God, and should not be viewed as such by us, either.

      Changes in Doctrine. When Jesus sent the apostles out into the world, He charged them to teach the gospel (cf. Mark 16:15), which is the story of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-8). He also commanded that they teach “them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). The things the apostles taught were given to them by Divine revelation (cf. Eph. 3:2-6), and they relayed those to the world by the spoken and written word. God had always intended that His eternal purpose would be revealed by the preaching of the word (Titus 1:1-3), and it was done exactly as He intended.

      But, not long after the true gospel was preached, some men came along and began preaching a different gospel; they had changed the doctrine! How did God perceive that? Let the Divinely-inspired words of the apostle Paul tell us:

      “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:6-9). You see, a change of doctrine was not good at all! When they changed just one thing [by adding the necessity of circumcision], they effectively made it into a “different gospel, which is not another.” It was not “another” because there is only one! Anything else brings condemnation from God!

      Changes in Organization. The church Christ established has Christ as its head (cf. Col. 1:18; Matt. 28:18), and where there are qualified men (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9), elders and deacons are to be appointed as leaders within individual congregations, with limitations to the extent and reach of their oversight and work. According to the Divine plan, the elders had oversight of a single congregation, of which they were a part, and the deacons worked within that same congregation. They had no authority to oversee other congregations, and there were no other offices established by Christ within His church.

      It was not long, however, before changes were instituted. Within congregations, one elder was raised above the others; then, those elevated men began to meet with similar men of other congregations within the same city to discuss church matters. Eventually, one of those men was chosen to lead the other elevated men within that city, then those men met with elevated men of other cities and one of them was appointed to lead them. Eventually, there existed a hierarchy of men that led to the appointment of one man over all the churches and they called him the pope.

      God intended that to Him alone should “be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations” (Eph. 3:20), but when man changed the organization of the church Christ established into something unrecognizable to anyone who lived in the first century and saw its birth and growth, it was not a change for good because it was not conceived or approved by God.

      A Change in Leadership. As noted earlier, Christ established the church, and He is its supreme authority and head (cf. Col. 1:18; Matt. 28:18). In it, Christ is to have preeminence, and in it He has all authority. These passages are so clear it would take effort to not see the truths revealed in those words, but apparently man does not see the truth on this matter, and changes were made.

      As previously noted, over several years, changes were made in the church that led to men being appointed to positions God never created or intended, and many of those positions were positions of leadership that led to a single man being appointed as head over the church. If that wasn't bad enough, dissension brought only more churches, which engendered more men being appointed to lead those churches, until we now have literally thousands of churches and numerous men recognized by particular organizations and groups as their churches' heads. One church says the pope is head of the church; another church says Joseph Smith, Jr. is the head of its church; another says a synod or council is head; another says the Governing Board is its head; and so on and so on. Again, this was not something ordained or desired by God.

      If we recall the definition of change, then we must admit that man has changed the church and, because of that, man has "made the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (the church) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone." Indeed, what we see as 'the church' today is different than the one we find in the Bible and, if I may borrow the words of Paul, any church that is not that church "is not another" because there is only one. Any church that is different than the church Christ established, simply put, is not His church, and is a false church.

             In this, change is not good.    — Steven Harper