Who Should Determine True Religion?
JESUS made it clear that some forms of worship are not acceptable to God. He spoke of “false prophets,” comparing them to a tree that produces worthless fruit and “gets cut down and thrown into the fire.” He also said: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens.”—Matthew 7:15-22.
Jesus, in fact, said regarding some who would claim to follow him: “I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23) Further, when speaking to the religious leaders of his day, Jesus applied to them God’s words to apostate Israel: “It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach as doctrines commands of men.”—Mark 7:6, 7.
Clearly, not all worship is approved by God or his Son. Thus, not all worship is true worship. Does this mean that only one religion teaches the truth? Could not God be working through a number of religions, while rejecting certain others? Or, for that matter, might God be accepting and rejecting the worship of individuals scattered about in a number of religions despite what their organizations teach?
The apostle Paul wrote under divine inspiration: “Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10) The Bible also exhorts Christians to be “of the same mind and have the same love, being joined together in soul, holding the one thought in mind.”—Philippians 2:2.
Where such unity exists, the result is, in fact, one religion. Accordingly, the Bible says that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”—Ephesians 4:4, 5.
What the Bible Record Shows
That the above conclusion has solid Scriptural support is clear from the Bible record. By searching this record, you will find that God dealt with his people through one system of worship. Early in mankind’s history, God used patriarchs, or family heads, as his representatives. Prominent among them were Noah, Abram (Abraham), Isaac, and Jacob.—Genesis 8:18-20; 12:1-3; 26:1-4; 28:10-15.
The people who descended from Jacob came to be enslaved in Egypt. While there, they were cruelly oppressed yet grew to number into the millions. God delivered them from captivity, miraculously bringing them through the Red Sea. Then he adopted them as his people, providing them laws by means of the mediator Moses. They became the ancient nation of Israel, God’s nation.—Exodus 14:21-28; 19:1-6; 20:1-17.
Significantly, God did not approve of the forms of worship practiced by people in the nations surrounding Israel. In fact, he punished his people when they deviated from his laws and adopted such forms of worship.—Leviticus 18:21-30; Deuteronomy 18:9-12.
What about individuals from other nations who wanted to worship the true God? They needed first to abandon their former false worship and then join Israel in the worship of Jehovah God. Many of them gained God’s approval and became his loyal servants. These included women, such as Rahab the Canaanite and Ruth the Moabite; men, such as Uriah the Hittite and Ebed-melech the Ethiopian; and groups of people, such as the Gibeonites. Israel’s King Solomon offered a heartfelt prayer in behalf of all who, like them, joined in true worship with God’s people. *—2 Chronicles 6:32, 33.
After Jesus Came to Earth
Later, after Jesus was sent to earth, the way of true worship was established on the basis of his teachings, and God’s purposes were illuminated in a grand way. In time, true worshippers came to be called “Christians.” (Acts 11:26) Thus, Jews who wanted God’s approval had to leave their former way of worship. They did not have the option of choosing between two systems of worship or of worshipping as isolated individuals. As we have seen in God’s Word, true worshippers were united in “one faith.”—Ephesians 4:4, 5.
Today the idea that God deals with mankind through only one religion may seem extreme and unpalatable to some. Yet, it is the conclusion to which the Bible points. In the past, many individuals who had worshipped in their own way came to grips with this fact. They joined themselves to the true worshippers of Jehovah, and any initial misgivings gave way to great blessings and joy. For example, the Bible says that after one Ethiopian man accepted Christianity and was baptized, “he kept going on his way rejoicing.”—Acts 8:39.
Anyone today who accepts and practices the true religion will realize similar blessings. But with so many religions to choose from, how can you identify the one true religion?
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What will happen to a religion producing worthless fruit?