Why are there so many different denominations, groups, cliques, and movements, with each one claiming the title “Christian”? It is because they all have “pet verses” to which they give favored preference over other verses from scripture. Allow me to offer five examples from a list that could surely provide many more.
Example #1: The Church of Christ denomination as well as The Christian Church (The Disciples of Christ) denomination both believe that water baptism is an essential requirement for salvation. Their pet verse is Acts 2:38, which says:
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (K.J.V.)
Of course, one verse these two denominations don’t say much about is 1 Corinthians 1:17, where Paul says to the Christians of Corinth:
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. (K.J.V.)
It certainly seems strange that Paul, who desperately wanted to lead people to salvation in Christ, would say, “Christ sent me not to baptize” if baptism is a requirement for salvation.
Example #2: While Calvinism is not itself a denomination, it is a doctrinal system that pervades various denominations such as Presbyterians, Primitive Baptists, and Reformed Baptists. Also, various congregations that are aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention are Calvinistic in nature. One of Calvinism’s pet verses is Ephesians 2:1, which says:
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,… (N.K.J.V.)
In reference to an individual making a decision to believe in Christ as Savior, Calvinists use this verse to teach that salvation is wholly and completely an act of God, an act in which the individual essentially has no free will. To the Calvinist, if God has chosen an individual for salvation from eternity past, He will do a work inside that person to make sure the person places saving belief in Jesus. As the Calvinists say concerning an individual making a freewill decision to believe in Christ, “A dead man — one dead in trespasses and sins — can’t make any decision, even one to believe in Christ as Savior.”
There are, however, many verses that flatly contradict Calvinism. One of them is John 5:40, where Jesus says to a group of lost Jews:
“But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (N.K.J.V.)
Notice that Jesus didn’t say to those Jews, “You can’t come to Me because God the Father didn’t chose you for salvation from eternity past.” No, what He said was, “You aren’t willing to come to Me.” If, as Calvinism contends, those Jews had absolutely no possibility of coming to Jesus for salvation because they were all dead in trespasses and sins and dead men can’t make decisions, Jesus’ words would have amounted to Him taunting them concerning their eternally lost state and powerlessness to do anything about it.
Example #3: Like Calvinism, the teaching that a Christian can potentially lose his or her salvation is one that is prominently featured in various Christian denominations and groups such as Catholics, Freewill Baptists, and Pentecostals. One of the pet verses used to support this teaching is John 15:2, where Jesus says:
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (N.K.J.V.)
On the flip side, however, besides the fact that the Bible doesn’t offer even one example of anyone getting saved twice, there are numerous verses and passages that can be used to teach the eternal security of the Christian. One of those verses is John 10:28, which is another quote from Jesus:
“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (N.K.J.V.)
Example #4: Many denominations (Southern Baptists, Independent Baptists, Freewill Baptists, Pentecostals, etc.) teach that any and all consumption of alcohol is a sin. One of their pet verses to authenticate this teaching is Proverbs 20:1, which says:
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is no wise. (K.J.V.)
Is drunkenness always a sin? Absolutely. But before we start outlawing any and all drinking, regardless of the amount and the setting, we might want to remember that Jesus turned the water into wine, not grape juice. And then there is 1 Timothy 5:23, where Paul says to Timothy:
Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities. (K.J.V.)
Example #5: The Seventh Day Adventists teach that Christians should meet together for weekly worship on Saturday rather than Sunday. This teaching stems from the fact that the Jewish Sabbath officially lasted from sundown Friday evening to sundown Saturday evening. As might be expected, one of the pet verses the Seventh Day Adventists use to promote this teaching is Exodus 20:8:
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. (K.J.V.)
Okay, so is there a verse that can be used to contradict the teaching that Christians should meet for worship on the Sabbath (Saturday)? Yes, there is. That verse is Colossians 2:16, which says:
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (K.J.V.)
Can you see how, if we couple that verse up with other verses such as 1 Corinthians 16:2 — which indicates that the early Christians met for worship on Sunday — we can understand why the vast majority of Christians meet for worship on Sunday rather than Saturday?
In conclusion, what I’m trying to get you to realize by way of these five examples is that it is unwise to build your doctrine around a handful of your pet verses. The Bible is a highly complex book that can wrongly be used to teach just about anything, and a ton of time and effort are required to do the studying necessary to get at what the book actually teaches. That’s why cherry-picking a verse here and there to back up what you already believe just won’t get the job done. Instead, you must embrace the totality of scripture, from Genesis to The Revelation, and compare your pet verses with other verses that might be used to contradict them.
This, then, is my challenge to you: Whatever you believe, give the teachings of other denominations, groups, cliques, and movements a fair investigation. Hear them out concerning their pet verses and their comebacks to your pet verses, and keep an open mind about things. After all, everybody thinks they have “the truth.” (I’ve never once heard a preacher stand in a pulpit and say, “Today, I’m going to teach you a pack of lies.”)
The fact is that everybody uses certain portions of scripture in their attempts to back up what they believe. Obviously, though, everybody isn’t right. How can they be when there is so much blatant disagreement? Someone has to be wrong, and you don’t want that someone to be you. As for God, He doesn’t do pet verses. He considers each and every word of the Bible to be inspired by Him and, as such, equally important. Therefore, that’s the attitude that we must have as well if we want to stand a chance of being right in our beliefs.