I’m so confused! Are all denominations wrong and going to hell?

My Mother has been attending your church for a couple of years now and basically believes everything Lutherans or any other religion believes is wrong. She has me so confused I am always afraid and think I will go to hell. I was raised Lutheran by HER. I now have my children at a Lutheran school and belong to the Church. In my heart I believe Baptism is a time to let your family know I want to raise this baby to k now Jesus. I also believe that communion is a remembrance that he died on the cross for my sins and that to be saved, I need to believe he died and rose. I am so angry with my Mother for always changing religions and every time she does she tells everyone how wrong we are and that people will go to hell. If our sins are forgiven then why would getting baptized or not believing the way YOU believe would it send us to hell. I thought every sin is forgiven because of his death. I am so tired out and so sick to my stomach. I am sitting here on Easter Sunday sick and sad. 

Thanks for writing and being open with your concerns.  First of all I am glad to have read your statement saying that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that to be saved I need to believe he died and rose again.  Yes!  That is the gospel.  The full gospel.  And according to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 anyone who believes that, trusts in that to save them, they are saved.

Salvation is in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  No church or denomination saves.  The reason there are so many denominations is because in the pursuit of truth, people have learned some things and then stopped as if to think we got it all.  When Martin Luther left the Catholic Church because he discovered in the book of Romans that a person is justified before God by faith without works it split the church, upset many, but as a result came the Protestant Revolution.  People began to read and study the Bible.  The pursuit of truth is ongoing.  Martin Luther made a big step but he carried with him many unscriptural practices.  Some of his followers stopped searching for truth and became a denomination.  He would have never wanted them to do that.

Some of those practices that continue on is Communion and Baptism.  We practice communion, as you said, and according to 1 Corinthians 11, “in remembrance of Him.”  But to believe that the “fruit of the vine” becomes the very blood of Jesus Christ, or the “bread” becomes his actual body is pure superstition.  Yet, to think it becomes those things, then they would be virtuous and necessary.  Not just a remembrance.

Concerning water baptism.  We don’t practice that in any way.  In the Bible John the Baptist called the nation of Israel to repentance by baptizing them in the Jordan river.  All of that is associated with God calling out the nation of Israel since Abraham and Moses in the Old Testament.  It has nothing to do with God calling out Believers today from all nations – the Gentiles.  Remember two things about John’s baptism. 

First, he did it “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4).  This was before the cross.  Until the Apostle Paul’s writings (Romans – Philemon) no one understood all that God was accomplishing through Jesus Christ on the cross.  They only knew that he was supposed to be their King.  We however, trust in the cross of Christ for the remission (or forgiveness) of our sins.  We progress with the revelation of God, we have the completed Bible.  We now know how God can forgive sinners.  We do not go back before the cross for our doctrine.  If we did that we would sacrifice animals.

Now the second thing to know about John’s water baptism is this.  Since it was “the baptism of repentance” (Mark 1:4), then no babies were water baptized.  Never, in the Bible, is water baptism associated with babies!  Babies did not need to repent.  The water baptizing of babies came from the false doctrine of washing away their original sins, so that if they die as a baby God will let them into heaven.  God will let them into heaven because Jesus Christ died for their sins.  Not because a child’s parent water baptized them in a church building as a member of any denomination.  There is nothing even close to that in the Bible.

I did not mean to give you another Bible study, but perhaps you get the point.  We must all keep pursuing the truth.  Never settle for “I think” or “the church has always taught…” We do not claim to have all the truth, but we all agree the truth is in the Bible and we must study it God’s way.  Many things religion teaches actually takes people away from the truth and especially away from the gospel of Christ.  And without believing the truth of the gospel, a person cannot be saved.

These are the things your mother is trying to convey.  Not condemning everyone else to make her or us look good, but pointing people to the truth of the gospel for their good, out of the love of the truth, to the glory of God.

I too, have been where you are.  I went 4 years to Bible college only to learn after I graduated that they left out a key point in the Bible that affects the whole of scripture and all doctrine.  I then had to rethink all that I learned, and correct many things I embraced, in order to stand on the truth of God.  It’s OK to be wrong, as long as when the truth comes to light we search it out and accept the truth (see Acts 17:11).  This is what Israel faced when Jesus Christ came to them.  The religious leaders tried to keep things the old way, but the Lord Jesus Christ said he was the way, the truth and the life.

I really do hope this helps settle your frustrations and begin a quest for truth.  As far a schools go, the Lutheran schools are great schools.  We have several families whose children went to Lutheran schools.

If you would accept it, I would like to send you a small book on the gospel.  The last chapter speaks about baptism.  Many have found it helpful.  If you would write back and give me your address I will send you a free copy.  If you would prefer to stay anonymous, that is OK too.

Dear Thomas, thank you so much for writing me back. I read this email probably 6 times as I have a hard time retaining and remembering what I have read. I am a little confused by the statement that you stated “And without believing the truth of the Gospel, a person cannot be saved”. That is another scary statement that makes me nervous. Like if I believe in Baptism or something wrong then I will go to HELL. Do you believe that all people who have followed a religion but they believe in there heart they are right and do believe Jesus died on the cross that they will go to hell? I have always been afraid of going to hell. I have never felt saved. I know the Holy Spirit has guided me and helped me make decisions because I know I as a person would not have made the same decision that the Holy Spirit has helped me to make. I still to this day don’t know if I will go to heaven and have anxiety a lot throughout the day and week. If you met me you would have no idea that I was so upset and lost. You would think I was slightly funny and always happy. I don’t know what I feel about Jesus because all the Heaven and Hell talk has got me a little upset with him.  I sometimes think the only reason I want to know him is so I won’t go to HELL. That’s terrible, right? I know it is.  I used to want to be a Pastor when I was growing up and sang hymns as loud as I could and had so much light in my heart, but you grow up and lose a child, have a husband leave you and I don’t blame God but you change regardless.  Some strong Christians probably don’t change but I did.  I am so sorry for writing so much but I can’t live like this anymore. I am so afraid.  My son is going to be confirmed in the Lutheran Church in May and I am afraid now that this is probably wrong. Am I leading my son and daughter to Hell for believing differently like Lutherans.  I have talked to my son and told him my feelings on Baptism and Communion and of course he now believes the way I do but then I am being just like my Mom and forcing yet another belief on him When did this all get so hard. Many would say you are all going to HELL because you don’t believe Baptism and Communion and they show all the passages that they say back up their beliefs. I feel there is so much finger pointing going on that I now know why the word “Christian” sometimes is not liked by all because you have so many people telling you so many different things and I am sure that scares soooo many non- believers.  If you can help me in answering this letter I would so appreciate it.  Oh sorry one more thing, can’t everyone interpret the “truth of the gospel” a little differently and what if we struggle to find the truth but we die too early then will we go to hell for not interpreting it the same way as your Church.

Hello Again.

Thanks for writing back. You have very important concerns. Thanks also for identifying yourself. Tomorrow I will be sending you that book Dictionary of the Gospel. It will explain many of the things in this email in more detail.

There are about six things in your email I would like to help you with. In all your confusion, listening to so many voices, you would be surprised to find out that there is simplicity and peace and even assurance in the gospel.

In II Timothy 1:7 the Apostle Paul wrote to fearful Timothy and said: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

The Corinthians were being tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine and Paul wrote to them saying: “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles” (II Corinthians 11:3-5)

Notice the statements about what “we preached” or “we have not preached” and about him being an apostle. That is because he is “the Apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13), he has God’s message for us. If we believe what he writes, there is no confusion.

The reason there is so much confusion is because people read the Bible thinking that what God wrote to and about Israel is what God is saying to us. That is not true. If it was we would all be moving to the land of Israel. There would be no confusion if everyone studied the Bible as Paul instructs in II Timothy 2:15 “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” That is, to divide the truth for Israel, form his truth to us Gentiles.

Now the simplicity of the gospel is what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:1-4 “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

Notice, it says you are saved “if” you believe what he delivered. To believe is to trust, to have faith in. By the cross of Christ salvation is the gift of God (Romans 6:23). That gift is given to those who believe. By trying to do a work for salvation, a person is not trusting, not believing, does not have faith, that Jesus Christ paid it all. Galatians 2:21 says it this way: “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

Notice in the following verses that works for salvation is contrary to salvation by grace through faith.

Ephesians 2:8,9 says: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Titus 3:4-7 says: “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

The book I am sending you will focus in on Romans chapter 3 & 4, but for now consider these verses: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: …Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:24-28).

Romans 4:1-8 goes on to say: “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

I wish for you that same blessedness that David found in just believing what he was told. God would not hold his sins against him. We now know how God can forgive sinners. Jesus Christ died and paid for his and your sins.

That is the gospel Paul preached. So that is why in Ephesians 1:12-13 he speaks about believing the truth of the gospel. If it is not the truth, it cannot be of God. If it is not the gospel of grace, it cannot save. Those verses read: “…That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,”

There it is, saved and secure with much assurance!

Don’t worry about if the reason for being saved is not out of love for God, but only because you do not want to go to hell. Love is a choice. To believe the gospel, is to receive the Lord Jesus Christ, and that is love. That love will grow as you understand more of His love for you. Right now, God would have you to trust the cross work of Jesus Christ for your salvation. Put that decision to rest. Believe in that alone and be saved. Since it is in believing these verses, your faith is in what God said, not man. And since God said it, you can know that you are saved because He said so.

Lastly, being water baptized will not send anyone to hell. But if a person believes they are saved because that have been water baptized, they are not saved because they are not believing, trusting, putting their faith in what Jesus Christ has done. Instead, they are trusting in what they have done. They are trusting in their works.

If you have taught your son things you felt were true, it would be easy to tell him you were wrong, because you were trusting in what man has told you, but now you can show him from the Bible what God has said, and both of you can choose to trust God and not man. Look up Romans 3:4, it is one of my favorite verses.

When the book arrives, please read it prayerfully. If you haven’t received God’s gift by faith, trust in the cross, the finished work of Jesus Christ, be saved and enjoy His salvation.