I would like to know, if it is possible, what are the religious differences between Orthodox and Catholic Christians? Can we say that their faith is not right, though they are Christians as we are? I mean the differences regarding calendars, the presence of statues or icons in churches, the presence of electronic instruments and the lack of them in orthodox churches, etc? What about other confessions that pretend they are Christians, like Jehovah’s witnesses and other sects that say they take their stand on the Bible?
The Bible is the standard of the true faith
Those 66 books of the Old and New Testament were called canonical books, exactly because they contain all that defines the saving faith and the healthy teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. The true is the one that is based on the whole teaching of the Holy Scriptures and the duty of each local church is to respect this teaching of the Holy Scriptures, as the Lord Jesus said once:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me. (John 5:39)(NASB)
And Apostle Paul wrote:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17)(NASB)
No denomination holds the monopoly of salvation
During centuries people showed tendency to add different things to the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ let on the pages of the New Testament. Because of these tendencies or of the wish to keep the teaching of the Savior appeared many confessions and denominations. Both, the Catholic and the Orthodox church pretend they are the primary church, but most of the protestant churches appeared even of this desire to go back to the true teaching of the Savior, as it is written in the New Testament. One thing is sure, that none of these confessions or denominations holds the monopoly of salvation, even if some pretend that there is no salvation beyond their confession. Salvation is offered by the Lord Jesus Christ to all those who believe in Him, as the Holy Scriptures say:
But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:31)(NASB)
The dream of John Wesley
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, did a great job spreading the Gospel in his nation. He studied at the theological seminary, was a missionary for the natives from America, but only when he came back home and was close to desperation, he understood the faith in Jesus Christ and was born again. Since that time he was so dedicated in spreading the Gospel and if it is was drawn a line showing the way he had made from a village to another one in the whole England, then he could have gone around the earth for four times. Very many people turned to God through him and knew the salvation. According to some historians, if there were not John Wesley, England could have passed through a hell similar to France with all its revolutions.
To the end of his life, it is said that John Wesley dreamt that he was in front of the hell’s gates and asked: “Are there any Catholics?” “Yes”, he was answered. Then he asked if there were Anglicans and he got the same answer. He asked if there were Orthodox and other confessions and he received the same answer. Then he asked if there were Methodists, these were the people that believed in God through him. To his great surprise and grief, the answer was positive. Being so desperate that all the efforts he had made were in vain, he continued to dream that he was at the gate of the paradise. He asked the angel the same question about Catholics and he was answered that there were no Catholics there. Then he asked if there were Anglicans and other confessions and he received the same answer. He asked if there were Methodists and the answer was the same: “No”. Then, being so desperate, Wesley asked the angel: “But who is there? Is paradise without saved people?”. Then, the angel told him: “Haven’t you read in the Bible? Here is a great crowd of people dressed up in white clothes, and no one can count it, they are from every people, from every nation, of every language.” “But who are they?” – asked Wesley. “These are all those who washed their clothes in the blood of the Lamb.” This dream shows us that God doesn’t save us according to the confession we share, but to the way we believed and listened to the Words of our Savior Jesus Christ.
There are unessential differences
There are some differences between confessions, and people pay too much attention to them, but from God’s point of view presented in the Holy Scriptures, these differences shouldn’t be the reason of separation, because they have no importance for the salvation of our souls. In the Epistle to Philippians, when he referred to some differences between Christians, Apostle Paul said:
Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. (Philippians 3:15–16)(NASB)
Heretics will not inherit the Kingdom of heavens
Heretics are those who turned away from the healthy teaching of the Bible and they will not inherit the Kingdom of God, as it is clearly stated and repeated on the pages of the Holy Scriptures. This is the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, that reject the teaching about the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by this, they reject their own salvation. The Holy Scriptures speaks very clearly on this subject:
Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:22–23)(NASB)
Let us contend earnestly for the real faith
From the beginning of the church, there were many attacks on the healthy teaching and apostles urged then, and through the things written in the New Testament, they teach us today as well, to fight for the faith that had been given to the apostles once for all, as it is written in the Epistle to Jude:
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3–4)(NASB)
I also want to point out that the true faith, as we find it on the pages of the Holy Scriptures was once for all handed down to the saints.
Considering all things written above, each man has the responsibility in front of his own soul to study the Holy Scriptures deeply to distinguish between truth and lie. Only in the Holy Scriptures we can find the absolute truth that can protect us from heresies and lead us to the Kingdom of heavens. And the calling of the Church is to be the upholder and the foundation of the truth.
Translated by Felicia Djugostran