Secret Orders and the Church

By Elder Wayne Peters

  1. Historical Position of the Church
  2. The Secrecy of Freemasonry
  3. Freemasonry and the Bible
  4. Freemasonry and Christ
  5. The Religion of Freemasonry
    1. The Opinion of Freemasonry's Authorities
    2. Freemasonry As A Works System
    3. Evidence From Rituals
      1. Initiation Introduction
      2. Initiation Prayer
      3. Initiation Lambskin
      4. The Masonic Funeral Service
  6. Summary

Secret Orders and the Church

The Church of Jesus Christ has historically not accepted for membership anyone who is currently a member of a secret order. Similarly, the Church has withdrawn fellowship from any member who became a member of a secret order unless, after appropriate labor with the erring brother or sister, the secret order membership was renounced.

The secret order most often encountered is the Masonic lodge and its various branches including the Masons, Scottish Rites, Shriners, Eastern Star, Demolays and Rainbow Girls. Therefore, this study deals primarily with why a person cannot consistently belong to both the Church and the Masonic lodge. The same scriptural principles would apply to other secret orders.

I. Historical Position of the Church

The historical practice of the Church in not allowing within its fellowship members of secret orders such as the Masonic lodge is well documented. The Kehukee Association, which consisted of churches from which many present day Primitive Baptist churches derived, took action on this issue on May 20, 1786. Its action is documented in the following extract from the Association's minutes:

"At this Association it was held to be disorderly to hold communion with a Church member who frequented a Free-Mason Lodge."
Sylvester Hassell, in his work History of The Church of God, documents other declarations and actions taken by Primitive Baptists of various states recognizing that it is unscriptural and disorderly for church members to belong to the Masonic lodge. These actions were generally taken in the early part of the nineteenth century.

While some other Baptist orders have also taken a scriptural stand against church members belonging to the Masonic Lodge, the sad fact is that today many call themselves both Baptists and Masons.

II. The Secrecy of Freemasonry

The Masonic lodge system is clothed in secrecy. In fact, one of the earliest oaths taken by an initiate into Freemasonry includes the following:

"I furthermore promise and swear I will not communicate the grand Masonic word except in the way and manner in which I received it and then only in a low breath. To all of which I solemnly and sincerely promise and swear to keep and perform the same without any equivocation, mental reservation or secret evasion of mind in me whatever, binding myself under no less penalty than that of having my body severed in twain, my bowels taken thence and with my body burned to ashes and those ashes scattered to the four winds of heaven so that there might remain name, trace nor remembrance no more forever of so vile a wretch as I... ."
Jesus condemned such oaths:
Matthew 5:36 - Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
This condemnation of oaths like those required of Masons was recognized in the London Confession of Faith of 1689 in Chapter 23, Of Lawful Oaths and Vows:
"The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear; and therein it is to be used, with all holy fear and reverence; therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name,or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred."

(Matthew 5:34-37; James 5:12; Hebrews 6:16; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Nehemiah 13:25)

God's word not only prohibits such oaths, but also includes specific instruction regarding things taught and practiced in secret:
Ephesians 5:11,12 - And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
A practical consideration of the secrecy of Freemasonry (as if we knew none of the secrets) discloses the inconsistency of Freemasonry and membership in the true Church. For example, Christ says that his people are not to live secret lives, but rather they are to live open lives giving testimony to him:
Matthew 5:14-16 - Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
God's children are to let their light shine in the praise of their glorious Lord through a life of open obedience. Openness is a part of the Church and worship. In fact, what good motivation could a church member have for participation in secret activities? Jesus said:
John 3:20-21 - For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
The principle of this text is clear: Those with evil motivations desire secrecy; those with good motivations desire light. Since God's children are to abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), they should not participate in activities that are secret and give the appearance that such activities are not Godly and cannot be done in the light!

Jesus Christ by his own example taught that "secrecy" is contrary to the truth of the gospel and the manner of life required of His obedient children:

John 18:19-20 - The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.
Scripture condemns secrecy as contrary to the instruction of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel has no secret parts or portion. The secrecy of Freemasonry is contrary to the clear example and instruction of scripture, and this factor alone should be enough to cause God's children to have no fellowship with the secret teachings and activities of Freemasonry.

God's children are to live in obedience to the instruction of scripture, not some secret creed; and they are to allow nothing to be exalted above what God has revealed in His Word:

Deuteronomy 29:29 - The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Romans 16:26 - But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:

2 Corinthians 10:5 - Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

God has revealed the Word to his children in the scriptures; are the secrets of Freemasonry superior and more authoritative than God's word so that they must be guarded in secrecy?

III. Freemasonry and the Bible

Masons treat the Holy Bible as a mere "symbol" of the will of God, and for this reason they accept any "holy book" on their altar. This fact is declared in the Freemasons own recognized authorities (all references to books describing Freemasonry are to Freemasonry's own recognized authorities and none are from books or writings that are being analytical or critical of Freemasonry):

"The Bible is used among Masons as a symbol of the will of God, however it may be expressed. And therefore, whatever, to any people expresses that will, may be used as a substitute for the Bible in a Masonic Lodge. Thus in a Lodge consisting of Jews, the Old Testament alone may be placed upon the altar. And the Turkish Masons can make use of the Koran. Whether it be the Gospel of the Christian, the Old Testament to the Jew, or the Veda to the Brahman, it conveys the same idea, the will of God to man." Albert G. Mackey, Encyclopedia of Freemasonry.

"The prevailing Masonic opinion is that the Bible is only a symbol of divine will, law or revelation, and not that its contents are divine law, inspired or revealed." Henry Wilson Coil, Masonic Encyclopedia, page 520.

"Masonry propagates no creed except it's own most simple sublime one; that universal religion, taught by nature and reason." Albert Pike, Morals & Dogma, page718.

"The Book of the Law shall be an indispensable article of the lodge furniture. This book, however, need not necessarily be the Holy Bible; but according to the religious faith of the members of the lodge. It may be the Koran, the Zend Avesta, or the Vedas or Shasters." The Freemasons Pocket Companion, pages 4445.

Thus, Freemasonry denies that the Bible is the inspired word of God! To make Freemasonry acceptable to persons of all faiths, it treats the Bible as just one among many acceptable religious books, and by doing so denies that the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice for God's children. The Bible is treated as merely a "symbol" of God's will along with many other books. If the Bible is only a symbol of God's will, then to the Mason the art of the lodge is above the revelation of God's will as set forth in the Scriptures. This is contrary to the clear teaching that scripture is the inspired word of God and there is nothing above it:
2 Timothy 3:16 - All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
God's children are to beware of any teaching that is contrary to scripture, and certainly any teaching that claims to be superior to God's Holy Word falls within that category:
Colossians 2:8 - Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
IV. Freemasonry and Christ

Freemasonry does not recognize Jesus as the Son of God. Rather, rather it denies the diety of Christ and relegates Him to being just another bearer of part of the light of the "religion" of Freemasonry:

"The true Mason is not creedbound. He realizes with the divine illumination of his lodge that as a Mason his religion must be universal: Christ, Buddha or Mohammed, the name means little, for he recognizes only the light and not the bearer. He worships at every shrine, bows before every altar, whether in temple, mosque or cathedral, realizing with his truer understanding the oneness of all spiritual truth." Manly P. Hall, 33rd, The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, page 65, Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co. Richmond, Va.,1976.

"It [Masonry] reverences all the great reformers. It sees in Moses, the lawgiver to the Jews, in Confucius and Zoroaster, in Jesus of Nazareth, and in the Arabain Iconclast, great teachers of morality, and eminent reformers, if no more; and allows every brother of the order to assign to each such higher and even divine characteristics as his creed and truth require." Albert G. Mackey Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Revised Edition, 1921, page 525.

"We do not undervalue the importance of any Truth. We utter no word that can be deemed irreverent by anyone of any faith. ...And as little do we tell the sincere Christian that Jesus of Nazareth was but a man like us, or His history but the unreal revival of an older legend." Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, page 524.

Contrary to the teaching of Freemasonry, the Bible teaches that Jesus is the Christ, and the only Saviour and Son of the true and living God:
1 Corinthians 8:6 - But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Acts 4:12 - Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

1 Timothy 2:5 - For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

1 John 2:22 - Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.

The Christian believes that Jesus is the Christ and the only Son of God, and Freemasonry teaches that Jesus is just one of many bearers of light. With this blatent inconsistency of belief, how can one claim to be both a Christian and a Freemason? The fact is that he can't without being totally inconsistent in both belief and practice, for the truths of Christianity and and the beliefs of Freemasonry are totally inconsistent and incompatible!

V. The Religion of Freemasonry

To better understand why members of the Church cannot consistently belong to a Masonic lodge, it is important to have some understanding of what Freemasonry is and what it teaches.

First, and foremost, Freemasonry is a religion. Most Masons contend that Freemasonry is not a religion, claiming instead that it is a "fraternal order" or a social order for personal improvement which engages in benevolent work. However, as discussed more fully below, the argument that Freemasonry is not a religion is refuted by the officially prescribed activities and creeds of the lodge. While Freemasonry may not be a religion in name, it is certainly one in creed and practice.

The religion of Freemasonry is a secret religion which teaches that good works and activities as taught by Freemasonry are the way to heaven. This works religion is contrary to the doctrines of grace taught by the Word of God and held by the true Church.

The Bible teaches that there is but one gospel, and that any teaching contrary to the one true gospel is subject to God's curse. Church fellowship is not to be maintained with anyone who, after they have been labored with in love, teaches or adheres to doctrine contrary to the one true gospel of Jesus Christ:

Galatians 1:6-9 - I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

2 John 1:10 - If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:

Titus 3:10 - A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;

The Greek word translated "accursed" in Galatians 1:6-9 is "anathema" which means a religious ban or excommunicated thing or person. Those who teach and adhere to doctrine contrary to the doctrine of scripture are to be banned or excummunicated. Of course, this should only occur after appropriate labor in accordance with the instruction of scripture and in a spirit of love.

If anyone can understand why a person cannot simultaneously be a member of the Baptists and the Mormons, or the Church of God and the Catholic Church, or any two religious bodies that are totally inconsistent in doctrine and practice, then they should be able to easily understand why a person cannot at the same time be a member of the true Church and the Masonic lodge! A person simply cannot in good faith subscribe to two different religious beliefs when they are so diametrically opposed to each other.

1. The Opinion of Freemasonry's Authorities

Freemasonry is a religion. While those who want to be active in both Freemasonry and the Church may argue otherwise, the fact that Freemasonry is a religion is asserted by Freemasonry's own and most widely accepted authorities:

Albert Mackey, Encyclopedia of Freemasonry:

"The religion of Freemasonry is not sectarian. It admits men of every creed within its hospitable bosom, rejecting none and approving none for his peculiar faith. It is not Judaism, though there is nothing in it to offend the Jew; it is not Christianity, but there is nothing in it repugnant to the faith of a Christian. Its religion is that general one of nature and primitive revelation handed down to us from some ancient and patriarchial priesthood--in which all men may agree and in which no men can differ." (Page 641)
Henry Wilson Coil, Masonic Encyclopedia:
"Freemasonry has a religious service to commit the body of a deceased brother to the dust whence it came and to speed the liberated spirit back to the great Source of Light. Many Freemasons make this flight with no other guarantee of a safe landing than their belief in the religion of Freemasonry."
Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma:
"It [Masonry] reverences all the great reformers. It sees Moses, Confucius, Zoroaster, Jesus of Nazareth, ... Great Teachers of Morality, and Eminent Reformers, if no more: and allows every brother of the Order to assign to each such higher and even Divine Character as his Creed and Truth require." (Page 525).

"Masonry, around whose altars the Christian, the Hebrew, the Moslem, the Brahman, the followers of Confucius and Zoroaster, can assemble as brethren and unite in prayer to the one God who is above all the Baalim, must needs leave it to each of its initiates to look for the foundation of his faith and hope to the written scriptures of his own religion." (Page 226)

The above statements from authorities accepted and approved by Freemasonry clearly document that Freemasonry is a religion and is considered as such by knowledgeable Masons.

When Masons assemble together, they meet in a "temple" to offer "prayers" to the "Great Architect of the Universe"; and "kneel" at the "sacred altar" to engage in their "sacred vows". On the "sacred altar" is a "Volume of Sacred Law" which can be a Bible, a Koran or any other holy book. What more could be required before an assembly could accurately be referred to as a religion?

2. Freemasonry As A Works System

The religion of Freemasonry is a works system which teaches that man earns an eternal home in heaven by his good works. Freemasonry teaches that "conduct which is essentially necessary to ...gaining admission into the Celestial Lodge Above" (See 3. Initiation Lambskin below).

There is not a single mention of Jesus Christ or salvation by the grace of God in the ritual teaching of Freemasonry! Therefore, the teaching of Freemasonry is contrary to the plain teaching of the Bible that salvation is by grace and not by works:

Ephesians 2:8-9 - 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.

Acts 4:10-12 - Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, ...Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

3. Evidence From Rituals

The rituals of Freemasonry, when examined in the light of God's Word, confirm that Freemasonry is a religion, and also that it is a false "works system" of religion. Portions of the Masonic rituals will be discussed below to document this fact!

a. Initiation Introduction

The initiation ritual for a Freemason discloses this works system. As part of the initiation process, the candidate is introduced to the "Senior Deacon" as follows:

_________, a poor blind Candidate, who desires to be brought from darkness to light; who wishes to receive a part of the rights and benefits of this right worshipful Lodge erected to God and dedicated to the holy Saints John, as many brothers and fellows have done before him.
One of the Mason's own leading authorities on Freemasonry describes this ritual as follows:
"There he stands, without our portals, on the threshold of his new Masonic life, in darkness, helplessness and ignorance. Having been wandering amid the errors and covered over with the pollution of the outer and profane world, he comes inquiringly to our door seeking the new birth and asking a withdrawal of the veil which conceals divine truth from his uninitiated eyes." Albert Mackey, The Manual of the Lodge, page 20.
Freemasons say that they are the light which reveals divine truth, contrary to what Jesus Christ says about himself being the light:
John 8:12 - Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
Jesus Christ is the source of spiritual light for God's children, not Freemasonry:
2 Timothy 1:10 - ...Our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
b. Initiation Prayer

The initiation prayer for a new Mason, which is offered by the Worshipful Master, is as follows:

"Vouchsafe thine aid, Almighty Father of the Universe, to this our present convention, and grant that this Candidate for Masonry may dedicate and devote his life to thy service. Endue him with the competency of thy divine wisdom, that by the secrets of our art, he may be better enabled to display the beauties of holiness of thy holy name. Amen."
Notice that it is by the "secrets or our art" that the initiate, who was in darkness but now has the light, can display the beauties of holiness! Is this not contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ that we are to follow him:
John 12:26 - If any man serve me, let him follow me;
Also notice, that this prayer is not in the name of Jesus Christ, as his name is not mentioned in Freemasonry.

The Grand Lodge of the State of Maryland has issued a statement explaining the significance of this prayer, and also disclosing the works system of Masonry:

"Thus, Masonry is a great fellowship of men of all countries and ages who are capable of discovering in the religious teachings of all humanity, some of them crude indeed, the fundamental truth common to them all: that God is the Father of all mankind and all men are brethren, that this principle is worth dying for, and that he who remains steadfast in the service of this ideal may well hope for and expect immortal life."
According to the doctrine of Freemasonry, eternal life can be expected by all men of all religions, if they are Masons who remain steadfast to their Masonic service! They thus obviously have no need for the benefit of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, for they claim to earn eternal life through their secret Masonic arts!

If Freemasonry has a way to eternal life, why should they keep it secret! Why not share it with all? The fact is the lodge has no way to eternal life and has nothing to share with God's children who through his grace are saved by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

c. Initiation Lambskin

Upon the completion of the initiation, the new Mason is addressed by the Worshipful Master as follows:

"I'd like to present you, Brother _____, with this lambskin, or white leather apron, which is an emblem of innocence and a badge of a Mason... He therefore who wears a lambskin as a badge of a Mason is continually reminded of that purity of life and conduct which is so essentially necessary to his gaining admission into the Celestial Lodge Above."
Notice that the Mason is taught that it is "purity of life and conduct" by which one gains admission to heaven; contrary to the teaching of the scriptures that we are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.

d. The Masonic Funeral Service

The standard Masonic funeral service which is recited by fellow masons states:

"Masonry seeks constantly to build the temple of the soul, and thus to fit us for that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. When our brother labored with us in Masonic attire, he wore a white apron, which he was taught was an emblem of innocence and a badge of a Mason. By it, he was constantly reminded of that purity of life and that rectitude of conduct so necessary to his gaining admission into the Celestial Lodge Above."
Again, as in the other parts of the ritual, at the grave praise is given to the Mason for his good life by which he earned an eternal home. Not one mention is made of the saving work of Jesus Christ. It is adherance to the teachings of Masonry which Freemasonry claims to fit one for heaven; thus denying that salvation is alone by Jesus Christ!

Not one mention is made of the fact that Jesus taught that we are saved by him alone:

John 14:6 - Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

1 John 1:7 - But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Titus 3:5 - 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;

Ephesians 2:8-10 - 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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

The Bible teaches that we get to heaven by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and not by the "secret art" revealed by Freemasonry.

VI. Summary

Freemasonry in its oaths and rituals teaches a works system of salvation, and thereby denies that salvation is by the grace of God and through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Those who deny salvation through the Lord Jesus have no right to fellowship in His Church.

The secret practices and doctrines of Freemasonry are contrary to the doctrines of the Bible and the Church. Freemasonry and its teachings conflict with the truth of God's Word. There are many good men, sincere in their Christian beliefs, who as Masons also hold to beliefs contrary to their Christian beliefs.

It is likely that there are many Masons who do not realize that the teachings of Freemasonry are in direct conflict with the teachings of the Bible. It is important to remember this in dealing with Masons, and to help them to compare the teaching of scripture with the teaching of Freemasonry.

When a child of God is led to a knowledge of the truth of the doctrines of grace, and compares those true doctrines to the teaching of Freemasonry, they should follow the teaching of Jesus and renounce that which is contrary to his Word:

2 Corinthians 6:14-17 - Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; ...
God's children who are entangled in the yoke of Freemasonry should repent of their error and follow Jesus' instruction to "be ye separate." To do less than this is to deny the clear teaching of Jesus and the Bible!

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