It has not been at all unusual throughout the ministry of Brother Thomas for religious people of every hue and stripe to attempt to “straighten him out.” Sometimes they feel he is in outright error — in their assessment — and at other times that there is not a sufficient emphasis upon their “pet doctrine” or practice.
Often following ministry Brother Thomas has had to endure the well-meaning zeal of someone who would corner him to explain what he ought to say and do and emphasize. Not a few letters over the years have arrived, often with enclosed literature, sent not with a free spirit to bless and encourage, but with a subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, spirit to correct, to contend for their version of Christianity.
There is such a diversity of opinion that prevails under the umbrella of what passes for Christianity that it can only be characterized as “Babylon.” “Babylon” means confusion. Its meaning is rooted in the confusion of language that God brought about at the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11) to thwart men’s efforts to unite in rebellion against Him.
The religious confusion we see today is the result of men’s efforts to build and preserve their concepts of the Kingdom of God. Men contend, not for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3), but for that of the Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Holiness, etc. Is God the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33)? What is it that causes men to hold and contend for such obviously conflicting religious views?
We are shaped more by our environment than we realize. If we are exposed to a particular belief long enough we tend to believe it. To us it becomes “the law and the gospel.” In addition it becomes a yard stick by which we measure and evaluate others. Unless God intervenes it never occurs to us to question whether our ideas are really so or not. To us, we’re right and others who differ are wrong.
Religious ideas not of God are undoubtedly the worst prison in our world (Is. 42:22). Few escape from this prison. It offers men the delusion that they are thereby acceptable to God when in fact they are being bound into bundles and made ready for the fire (Matt. 13:30).
Most religious men are simply a product of their religious environment, conditioned to believe and promote whatever ideas hold sway in that environment. Whatever measure of tradition and error is there is taken in and forms the unconscious foundation of their thinking.
We are constituted as human beings in such a way that there are ideas so deeply rooted in us that we are not even conscious that they are there. When we work out a simple arithmetic problem we do not stop to question whether 1 + 1 = 2. That is assumed. It is the foundation of mathematics. It is something we “know” and no longer have to think about. What would happen if someone tried to become a math teacher whose basic assumption was that 1 + 1 = 3?
All human thought and reasoning works this way. Certain things are “known” to be true and just accepted. At one time reasonable men “knew” that the earth was flat and that if you went far enough you’d fall off! Today we laugh at such a notion and take pride in all the things we “know” as a result of modern science.
In every religious group, they similarly “know” many things that are transmitted from generation to generation without serious question. Yet down the street is another group that “knows” very differently.
Take a look around. How do you know you are right? How do you know anything? Are you wise and prudent — a serious pursuer of religious knowledge? Jesus said that his Father had “hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” Matt. 11:25. Can you discover what God has hidden? Paul said “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” I Cor. 1:21.
“But,” you say, “I’ve been taught by Rev. so-and-so. He’s a real sincere, spiritual man who can explain the Bible well. He’s been to school and ...” (You fill in the qualifications that impress you and cause you to receive someone as God’s representative).
How do you know? What qualifies you to judge whether something or someone is of God or not? Your intelligence? Your religious sincerity? Bible study? A religious teacher you heard and were impressed by? Things you “know” to be true? Why are you any more qualified than the fellow down the street who is just like you and yet “knows” differently?
Are you afraid to question? Do you prefer to plunge ahead, blindly contending for “your” faith? Will your spiritual foundation stand?
This is no time for uncertainty. Christ is coming and only those who are ready will go in with him. Matt. 25:10. Multitudes will be shocked on that day to discover that the religion, of which they had been so sure, had been in vain. Matt. 7:21-23. Where will you be on that day? How can you know?
Is there any reason to believe we can know, or has God deliberately left us in a state of uncertainty? Are we each to pursue his own conception of truth? Is one way as good as another?
You cannot read the book of Ephesians without being aware of the great desire of the Lord toward His people, expressed through Paul, that “... we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” Eph. 4:13-15.
Eph. 5:25-27 tells us that “... Christ ... loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
The conflicting traditions of men will never prepare the church for Christ’s coming. Only an ever-more-pure stream of revelation from Christ, the Head of the Church can accomplish that.
Yet the condition of the world in general is a desperate one. Isaiah 60:2 says, “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people ...”
Rom. 3:11 says, “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”