After repeated failures in an effort to make his audience laugh, a comedian got peeved. He told the best joke in his repertory and still not a ripple from the audience. He said, “Well, I guess you will laugh at that next year.” A man from the crowd said, “No, we laughed at that one last year.” Which suggests that there are many things going on these days which are “nothing new under the sun.” People are pretty much the same in all generations. The sins of the ancients have become the sins of this age. “As your fathers did so do ye.” The sins that crucified Jesus are the sins that would destroy His kingdom today. The hatred of the Jews’ denominations for Christ is expressed by denominational churches against the church of Christ today.
In Matthew chapter 22, we see three groups of the Jews—three denominations of them—trying to get rid of Jesus. They had no use for one another, but they could get together if it required to destroy Jesus and His influence. They could have a union meeting against anything good. It is not difficult to imagine them talking of tolerance and having a sweet spirit. They probably thought Jesus should have had the spirit of the Messiah. Brother Pharisee might be heard to say,
Brother Sadducee, I think Jesus is too hard. He even calls names. He is too narrow. He is opposed to our theory that the kingdom is to be of the world. From the way He talks, Jerusalem is to be destroyed, and is not to become our capitol of the Kingdom. In fact, He said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ I said Jesus is narrow, and He is, for he will have nothing to do with any of our denominations. He talks like He is the only one that is right. I am a Pharisee because my parents were Pharisees. I’ll be a Pharisee till I die. Isn’t it wonderful that we can belong to churches of our own choice? You belong to your church, The Sadducees, and I belong to my church, The Pharisees to theirs. Of course, the Herodians are not as popular and powerful as we are, but I like them better than Jesus and His little bunch. What difference what church you belong to? We are striving to go to the same place. We are agreed on the essential things. You Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection, but that is a nonessential. We are agreed that men ought to be broadminded enough to work together. We believe in tolerance, so let’s get together and kill Jesus.
The Sadducees supposed that in the resurrection things went on as they are in the world. They supposed that what is done on earth will be done in heaven. But Jesus said, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures”…for in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Matt. 22:29-30). This upset one of their studied arguments against the resurrection. But they were modern, those Sadducees. We have some of them in these days. They are mighty ancient though. They suppose that what is in heaven ought to be in the church. They double the supposition by supposing instruments of music to be in heaven. If you could find where they use the instrument in the resurrection it would not follow that we should use it in the worship any more than the fact that men marry in the church would prove that they will marry in the resurrection.
God gave the people a law which was to last till the seed should come. The seed was Christ. People were to live and be saved by that law. There were to be no additions to it or subtractions from it. But they taught for doctrines the commandments of men. These traditions or doctrines of men resulted in the different denominations of the Jews. Such as Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians. Jesus came to live on the earth at the time the Old Testament was the covenant of God. He lived up to it. He did not join any of the denominations then existing. He opposed them. They hated Him. His teaching, if accepted, would have brought them to an end.
The New Testament is the law of Christ. It is to last as long as men live on the earth—to the end of the world. By it men are to be saved, if saved at all. There are to be no additions to it or perversions of it. But as long ago, so men today teach for doctrines the commandments of men. These traditions and doctrines of men have resulted in many kinds of denominations. Such as Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics and many, many more. If Jesus were here he would be opposed to all of them. He would not be a member of any of them if He could, He could not be if He wanted to—they would not have Him. They would hate Him as they now hate His body the church. Now, as then, if men would hear Christ, all human churches would vanish from the earth. He took much personal abuse but allowed no principle of truth to be gainsaid. The disciple is not above his teacher. We must imitate Jesus in learning to be longsuffering when men would speak evil of us for His sake, but we must be quick to convict the gainsayer of the doctrine of Christ.
Because the Jews sought to kill Him, and to withdraw from the territory over which Herod was ruler, Jesus would often go into borders beyond the Jordan, or in countries north of Galilee. On one occasion He went as far as Caesarea Philippi. The record says, “When Jesus came in to the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I, the Son of man am? And they said, Some say thou art John the Baptist; some Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” (Matt. 16:13-14). Did you ever hear anybody say, “We just can’t see alike” or “We can’t understand the Bible alike” or “One man’s opinion is as good as another’s?” Those are stock statements of those who would close any discussion of differences among men on the subjects of religion. Can we see alike? Are we supposed to see alike? If two men see a thing, they both see alike. It is impossible for one man to see that 2 plus 2 equals five while another sees that 2 plus 2 equals four. In that case one of them does not see at all. They must see alike if both of them understand. If, in religion, one man sees one way and another man sees another way, supposing that one of them sees the truth, the other just does not see the truth. Not that they see the truth differently. We use the word see to mean the understanding. If A understands the truth and B differs with him, it is not that B understands one way and A understands another. B just doesn’t understand. We can’t possibly differ in understanding a point. If we understand at all, we understand alike.
Now are we supposed to see alike? Listen to these words of the apostle Paul:
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [by the name of Christ means by His authority, so Christ is the one who commands this, EH], that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind (see alike) and in the same judgment.” (1 Cor. 1 :10).
Same mind, same judgment and speak the same thing. Can it be done? He said to do it. “Well,” says someone, “my opinion is as good as yours.” Now that is right. We see alike on that. But my opinion is not worth anything in religion. Yours being just as good as mine, is worth nothing either. We are not to walk by opinion but by faith. Opinions are no more than guesses. Faith is founded upon evidence. Faith comes by hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17). What God has said you can believe. What is not of His word cannot be of faith, and what is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). But it is said, “Well, smart men differ, and how am I to know the truth?” Wait a minute! It is not “Am I smart?” but “Am I wise?” that is important. Jesus says the man who hears His sayings and does them is like a wise man. That you can do whether any smart man on earth does so or not.
No wonder men do not understand the Bible. They rely upon smart men to help them misunderstand. Read the Bible for yourself. Study to show yourself approved unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). The fact that religious teachers are divided is one of the main reasons you are commanded to study for yourself. “But we were told that we can’t understand the Bible.” Paul says of what he wrote, “…when you read you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4). It is strange to me why an audience becomes offended when I tell them that they can understand if they will read—that they have as much sense as anybody—but will feel complimented when a clergyman tells them they just can’t understand, so no need to read.
We know that the secret things belong to God, but we know too, that the revealed things belong to man. Now with these thoughts ringing in your ears, let us apply our text (Matt. 16:13-14) to it and clinch it. “Who do men say that I the Son of man am?” One said, John the Baptist. That was the opinion of a smart man. It was the opinion of Herod the king, remember? But Jesus was not John the Baptist at all. Can’t you hear Herod say, “My opinion is as good as that of anybody else.” And “We just can’t see alike.” He would call you narrow minded if you insisted that he was wrong. But he was wrong and I had rather be called narrow than to be where his kind go. But another said, Jesus was Elijah. But that was just an opinion. It wasn’t so. He was not Elijah. Opinions are worth nothing in such matters. Another said he was Jeremiah and others said he is one of the prophets. Opinions, opinions, plenty of opinions but no faith. All of them were wrong.