God has always taught His people to be different. One of the major problems of His people has been forgetting this truth and losing their distinctiveness. The nation of Israel wanted to become like the other nations around them (I Samuel 8). They became like them and God cast them off. Surely there is a warning for the church.
The Church Is Different From the World
The church is different from the world in its attitude and ambitions. “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). The values of Christians are different from sinners. Sinners live for self. Christians live to glorify God and serve others (Matthew 16:24; Mark 10:45). Are we losing this distinctiveness today? Are the attitudes and ambitions of Christians different from non-Christians?
The Church Differs From Judaism
Judaism was carnal, the church is spiritual. “Then verily thefirst covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldlysanctuary...which stood only in meats and drinks, and diverswashing, and carnal ordinances imposed until the time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:1,10). Look carefully at the word, carnal.The church is spiritual (Ephesians 1:3). It is heavenly (2:6). Its worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24; Romans 1:9). This is one reason that mechanical instruments of music have no place in Christian worship. If one granted that it was right in the Old Testament it does not suit the spiritual worship of the New Testament. Christian worship must be from the heart. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).
The Church Is Different From Catholicism
The church differs from the Catholic church in that it accepts the authority of Scriptures. Catholics do not accept the authority of the Scriptures. Consider the following quotation. “One must keep the commandments of God and the church” (Catechism of Christian Doctrine, No. 1, pl. 31). The Scriptures are an authority but not the only authority. In truth it is no authority since the pope must interpret it. Catholics teach that II Peter 1:20 denies the right of individual interpretation. This is a perversion of the passage. Peter is speaking of how Scripture was given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (1:21). Paul commanded the Thessalonians to “prove all things, hold fast to that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21). He did not say prove all things by what Peter said. The church differs from Catholicism by “speaking as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11). The church urges all to have an open mind and “search the scriptures daily” to see if what is heard is in harmonywith what they have read.
The Church Is Different From Protestantism
The church differs from Protestantism in that it accepts the completeness of the Scriptures. The church has no creed but Christ and no book but the Bible. All teaching is based upon the Book. All questions are decided by what the Bible teaches, not a manual or discipline. It also differs from Protestantism in accepting the completeness of the Scripture and denying the need for a direct operation of the Holy Spirit in order to be able to understand it. Protestants generally misapply I Corinthians 2:14. They think the natural man is the sinner without a direct operation of the Spirit he cannot understand the Bible when he reads it. It has always been strange to me that even though the Bible is made of words just like one finds in the school books or the newspaper on can understand them in the book or paper but not in the Bible.
The Church Is Different From the Christian Church
The church differs from the Christian church in its respect for the silence of the Scriptures. The Christian church teaches that where the Bible is silent we may speak or act. This opens the door for anything that is not specifically forbidden. This is a real difference between it and the church.
We should not be afraid or ashamed to be different from the world, from Judaism, from Catholicism, from Protestantism, and even from the Christian church. Without a doubt one of the greatest problems we are facing in the church today is the fact that most people are afraid to be different.