With this article I would like to explain what being a protestant Christian means. I live in the Eastern European country of Moldova where protestant Christians are called “part of a sect, part of a cult” even though most people do not really know many facts about protestant Christians. The dominant denomination is Russian orthodoxy and based on this, the claim is, “since protestants are part of a minority, they are part of a cult or sect, and therefore are not true Christians”. I would like to look at the protestant doctrine and then compare it to what the Bible teaches to see if protestant Christians are true Christians or not, according to the clear teachings of the Bible.
First of all, I would like to take a look at the etymology of the word “protestant”. The word “protestant” comes from the Latin word (verb) “protestari” which means “to declare publicly”. The declaration can be against something or it can be for something. For example, you can declare publicly to be against homosexual marriage or you can also declare publicly to be for traditional marriage. Protestant Christians declare publicly for things as well as against other things. Some claim that protestant Christians have their foundations in the man, Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk during the XVI century. The reason that he “protested” (declared publicly) was because he had repented while translating the Bible. Luther was a well educated man who had superior studies in the Catholic religion, yet at the same time, he had never really studied the Bible. The reason that he repented was because he decided to translate the Bible from Latin into his native language. While translating Saint Paul’s epistle to the church in Rome, he realized that he was a sinner and that he was in need of salvation, as are all humans. He also realized that salvation comes only through faith in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Once he realized this, he repented and was born again. He received the Holy Spirit, just like the Bible teaches; hear the Word, understand the Word, repent, be born again. Once he repented and was born again, he began to look at the teachings of the Bible and at some of the teachings of the Catholic Church and decided that in many ways, some of the teachings of the Church were contrary to the clear teachings of the Bible. He saw that the majority of “Christians” were being deceived by the false teachings of the Church because they did not study the Bible for themselves and as a result, were not living a lifestyle of obedience to God. Because of all of the above mentioned, Luther decided to write his 95 theses. These 95 theses are against the false teachings of the Catholic Church and not necessarily against the Church (because there are many good teachings in the Catholic Church). Those who claim that the Protestant Church has its beginnings in Luther are only partly correct in saying this because the foundations of Luther and the Protestant Church are found in the Bible, the Word of God, which is much older than the XVI Century. In fact, the Protestant Church is not a “new sect or cult” but instead its beginnings are older than both the Orthodox and Catholic Churches which appeared much later than the I Century.
I would like to take a look at the 5 principle doctrines of the Protestant Church and see how they compare with the teachings of the Bible, the foundation of the Protestant Church.
1) Sola Scriptura – which means that the Bible, the Word of God, is the final authority in the Church. In Paul’s second epistle to his best disciple Timothy, we find the following words about the Bible and Its authority in the Church:
According to this text, the Scriptures are the supreme authority in the Christian’s life as well as in the Church. If the Scriptures are not the final authority in your life or in your Church then your faith has not been placed in the True God, the God of the Bible. The things that were happening in the Church during the days of Luther are the same things that are continuing to happen today in the lives of many who “go to Church” or consider themselves to be Christians. Just like Luther was not a true Christian (even if he were a monk) until he realized the importance of the Word of God and repented, being born again, so are you (not a true Christian) if the Bible is not the final authority in your life or in your Church. I know that sounds harsh but it is reality (according to God).
Let’s take a look at how the idea of the Bible’s supreme authority was demonstrated in the early Church (I Century, led by the apostles of Christ).
41 Sothen, those who had received his word were baptized ; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
The first Christians were continually in the Word of God. They were devoted to the Word of God, meeting together day by day to study the Scriptures and then putting what they learned into practice during their daily lives. That is why God was continually adding to the number of Christians on a daily basis. Do you continually dedicate yourself to the study of God’s Word and application of the truths that you learn? What about your church, is there heavy emphasis placed on personal study of the Bible? Do you claim to be a Christian yet spend little or no time in studying the Bible? How do the teachings of your church compare with the clear teachings of the Bible?
As we have seen, the foundation of the Protestant Church is not only in the XVI Century but more importantly, in the I Century according to the Word of God
2) Sola Fide, Sola Gratia (3), Soli Deo Gloria (4) – which means salvation through faith, through grace and that all of the glory belongs to God for salvation. In other words, people (Christians) are saved only by faith which is the grace or unmerited gift of God. People are not saved through or because of their “good” works and no one “deserves” salvation. It cannot be “earned”. Paul describes these 3 truths in his epistle to the Church in Ephesus.
The Bible clearly explains that mankind is in need of salvation and that salvation does not come from man, himself, meaning that he is in no position to gain or earn salvation through his good deeds or his merits. Salvation is a gift from God given to mankind through faith in the sacrificial work and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Mankind cannot do good works to earn salvation (as many religions and churches unfortunately teach). In fact, the Bible teaches that the good works of a man who is not saved are like filthy rags (literal translation; used feminine napkins) in the eyes of God. Our good works cannot bring about salvation. Salvation comes only through faith and it comes from God and not ourselves. This does not mean that Protestant Christians do not do good works or good deeds. In the previous verses we see that true Christians will do good works, but not in order to gain salvation but because of salvation. When a person is saved he begins to do the good works that God has already prepared for him. Good deeds are a way of life and not just a hope to gain God’s approval. So, we can clearly see that it is God who has prepared everything for us and He has given us the choice; to accept His way or to reject His way and try our own way. If He has done absolutely everything and offers it to us a gift, then of course all of the glory goes to Him. Do you do good deeds? Why? (in order to gain salvation or because of salvation)
5) Solus Christus – which means that Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and mankind. There can be no other mediator between God and man (no priest or saint or anyone). Before the first coming of Jesus Christ to this earth, the Hebrew priests were the mediators between God and man (method established by God) but since the coming of Christ, He is the mediator of the New Covenant and no one else can intercede on behalf of mankind before God. If your Church teaches that a priest is a mediator between you and God or that a saint can intercede for you before God then you are following a false teaching that is not Biblical. Let’s take a look at the epistle to the Hebrews (some wanted to turn back to the priests as mediators between God and man).
15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Do you have open access to the presence of God? In other words, do you have a personal relationship with God? Does your Church teach that a person can have a personal relationship with God, that you have access to God no matter where you are if you are a Christian? Protestant Christians understand that we can have free entrance into the presence of God, that we can have a personal relationship with Him through the person (mediator) of Jesus Christ.
The final argument that I would like to make is that some say that Protestant Christians are a minority and therefore are part of a cult or sect. Let’s take a look at the statistics to see how true this claim really is.
- Number of Protestant Christians in the world = 800 million
- Number of Christians of every denomination in the world = 2.2 billion
- Approximately 40% of all the Christians in the world are Protestants
- There are more Protestant Christians than Orthodox Christians (800 million compared to 300 to 400 million)
- Number of Catholic Christians in the world = over 990 million
Just because there are not many Protestant Christians in your country does not mean that Protestants are a minority religion/denomination. Here is a break down of Protestants all over the world:
- 170 million in the USA
- 160 million in Africa
- 120 million on Europe
- 70 million in Latin America
- 60 million in Asia
- 10 million in Oceania (Australia)
My dear friend, what is your relationship with God like? Have you surrendered your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ? Do you study the Bible daily? Do you live according to the Word of God or according to your “religion”? May God bless and help us understand Him by having a personal relationship with Him.