Semantics or What?

A message from Pastor Michael…

It is truly exciting for Jean and me to be a part of the family of Southside! May the LORD direct our steps going forward.

Perhaps, like me, you have heard other Christians refer to their local church or fellowship with one of these appellations: Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Messianic, non-denominational, Pentecostal, et al. If we were to compile a list of all the various denominations in the world today, depending on the specific criteria utilized, the list would be from a few hundred to many thousands. Are we really so divided?

The answer to our questions is, “Yes” and “No.” With only a few exceptions, all denominations, more or less, attribute the Holy Bible as the spiritual foundation for their beliefs. If the Bible is the foundation for most of these groups, and if one group identifies themselves as non-denominational and another as Baptist, are the differences simple semantics? Semantics may be defined as “the language used (as in advertising or political propaganda) to achieve a desired effect on an audience especially through the use of words with novel or dual meanings” (Merriam-Webster). Can denominations be boiled down to people saying the same thing but using different words?

The answer to our second questions is, “Yes” and “No.” The Bible in its original form and language had a clear message to the original readers. We read in Romans 3:2, “Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles [revelations; words] of God” (ESV). The KJV states, “Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” (By doing further study we know that it is the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who were entrusted with the care for the twenty-four scrolls that today make up the Tanakh, what is referred to as the Old Testament.)

I was once asked, “Why do Christians worship the cross?” I replied that they do not worship the cross. In an effort to prove his point, the person stated, “Every church I’ve been in has a big cross located up front and all the people face it when they pray.” This statement opened my eyes to a reality that has not left me to this day. You see, the Bible does unit people that truly desire to serve and worship the Creator and Author of the Book (the Bible). It is not the Bible that separates us. What separates us is what we think about the others that are not part of our sect or denomination. It is our traditions that may separate us. Sadly, often these traditions were created over time by people and were not always established through an objective study of the Word of God. 

John 8:31-32, “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (ESV).  In this passage, Christ is saying that we must abide in Him and that we must abide in His Word (do His Word). The Bible should be the foundation for living. For the sake of unity, perhaps we should all return to the Holy Bible even if it costs us a few of our sacred traditions or artifacts.

Pastor Michael