Substance Over Form

Last week I attended a meeting with a congregation that has beliefs far from the truth I’ve known. It was a bible exposition via live online streaming with centers all over the Philippines and even abroad. You could ask their leader anything about the bible in order to know the “truth.”

I was invited by a friend. At first I thought it will just be the two of us. Seeing our two other friends invited made me overwhelmed by my friend’s seriousness to fish people. I know she invited us so we would know the truth as they know it. She is being obedient to the call their group was campaigning. So I came not because I am lost and seeking the truth but because I want to build relationship with her by knowing more about her and somehow make her feel accepted no matter what.

The questions were deep and doctrinal, even theological, or whatever “” term there was. They discussed the areas of tithing, heaven and hell, baptism and salvation, Jesus and Jose Rizal, judgement, etc. To some I have deep biblical foundations; but to others, I know the answers but can’t fully defend with full biblical support.

Their leader answered the questions spontaneously: no cheat sheet. It is amazing how he knows so much about the bible, he don’t even have to open it to answer the question. It could have been brought by years and years of practice and refined study. I think he pretty get the same set of questions most of the time. They say that he has a gift of photographic memory.

However, since he answer the questions using a single set of verse at a time, he could be using the verse out of context. When you highlight a single verse without considering the whole story behind, you’ll be getting a different interpretation about it. It could be very dangerous and misleading. Just like when you hear two people inside a room making remarks like, “ouch!” and “it hurts” but didn’t considered the room as a dental clinic, you may interpret the scenario in a totally different way.

As their leader speaks, you can’t help but notice how he generously insert bad words all over his sentence. I just can’t help but remember how the bible tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. I don’t think I would be able to follow a leader who influences me to speak foul words against another person when Jesus Himself teaches us to love others as we love ourselves.

What struck me is the genuine concern they has for other people not yet members of their congregation. They were truly convinced that what they believe in is the truth and there’s no other truth beyond it (just as I am fully confident about the hope we have in Christ).

With that, I realized that just as my friend is active in fishing people and their group expresses genuine concern, I should be active in making disciples for Christ and be genuinely sincere with other people as well.

I was also deeply saddened by us being so concerned about the form and neglecting the substance. We put premium effort on debating things like: where will people go after death, will they go straight to heaven or hell, or wait on somewhere until final judgment? When will the tribulation be, is it before or after coming of Christ? When is the correct day of Sabbath, Sunday, Saturday, Friday? These issues focus on form rather than substance.


Can’t we just put effort on preparing for Christ’s coming and be overly excited that He will actually come? Can’t we just focus on our relationship with Christ and make it our goal to please Him? Can’t we just be more concerned over people who doesn’t know Christ rather than criticize other people or group who doesn’t believe what we believe in?

I’m not saying that answering those questions are not important. What I’m saying is if we focus too much on debating over the correct form, we are missing the whole point of Christianity.

However, the bible says that we should be prepared to give an answer to those who ask about the hope that we have. Thus, I should know our stand regarding those matter. I was now compelled to do research and read things about it. But in the process, I ask God to illuminate the truth through His word and prepare my heart so it would have the right motives and intention on why am I doing it; and be excited to know Him in a deeper way. 😉


Disclaimer: The thoughts I shared above are solely based on my conviction and interpretation of the truth based on the Bible; and do not necessarily represent the voice of the church I attend to nor the group I belong with. I am not, in any way, picking on any denomination, group and or congregation but just stating my insight and realization. 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Substance Over Form

  1. This.

    “With that, I realized that just as my friend is active in fishing people and their group expresses genuine concern, I should be active in making disciples for Christ and be genuinely sincere with other people as well.”

    AMEN 🙂


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