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The True Church—Identifying It – Part 1

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The True Church—Identifying It – Part 1

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Nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ built His Church—and promised at the same time that it could never be destroyed (Matt. 16:18)!

Foretold to remain small, persecuted and uncompromising, this Church—with faithful leaders and members in every age—has endured and continued. During the same two millennia, men have been building their organizations—their churches. But Christ’s Church has been recognizable to those knowing what to look for.

This Church has existed unbroken for all these centuries. It can be found in history and traced to the present day. But how is it identified? For instance, some know the seventh-day Sabbath is commanded. Is any Sabbath-keeping church good enough? What else—how many other things—must we know?

This Personal will open your eyes!

Christ Built One Church

In one of the most powerful, dramatic and profoundly important statements in the Bible, Jesus Christ declared, “I will build My Church” (Matt. 16:18). He did not say “churches,” “fellowships,” “sects,” “denominations” or “communities of believers.” No matter how men try to place an interpretation on it, this passage speaks of a single Church—of one, undivided organization!

Jesus continued, “…and the gates of hell [meaning the grave] shall not prevail against it.” He promised that His Church could not be destroyed. This Church—Christ’s Church—the true Church—was foretold to never be extinguished—to never die out.

Unrecognized and discounted as a cult or a fringe sect on the edge of supposed Christianity, the Church of God has endured every trial and storm it has faced.

For nearly 2,000 years, almost everyone has been looking in the wrong place for God’s Church. The true Church was called out of this world—out of its religions, creeds, customs, beliefs and traditions. The word translated throughout the New Testament as “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia, meaning to be “called out”—and Christ’s Church has come out of the world. This has made it more difficult for traditional historians to locate it. Unlike historians within the Church, they simply do not know where to look, or what to look for.

Since the Bible states that the whole world is deceived (Rev. 12:9) and blinded (II Cor. 4:4), as well as cut off from God (Isa. 59:1-2), it is evident that civilization as a whole could never be greatly influenced by the truth or by the true Church that always strove to uphold it. This helps explain why so few would become converted in this or any previous age. In fact, it is evident from just one other passage that the true Church of God would never be large. Notice how Christ addresses His Church in Luke 12:32: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

The respected and accepted churches of this world are so because they teach the popular doctrines and traditions familiar to the masses. By no means could any of these well-known denominations be considered a “little flock.” Instead, many of them are comprised of millions, or even hundreds of millions, of members. One has over a billion.

More than 2,000 different Christian organizations have been “built” by men just in the United States. Estimates place the number of professing Christians at over two billion. While attendance seems to be increasing, it is not growing as fast as the confusion surrounding the question of which is the right church.

While it has been said, “They cannot all be wrong,” it is more correct to say, “They cannot all be right.” If Christ built His Church as He said, then it can be found somewhere on Earth today—and it is the only right Church. But we must ask: How do we find it—what do we look for—how do we identify it—and how do we know it if we see it?

Early “Religion”

My mother required her three children to read many books when growing up. I spent a lot of summers reading her assigned “book a week.” On occasion, perhaps two or three times, I picked up the Bible and attempted to read it. But I never got far because it made no sense to me. I simply could not understand the Bible.

Despite this lack of understanding, when quite young, I was “confirmed” into the church that I had been born into. I recall having to appear briefly before a panel of “deacons” to answer a couple questions, which I no longer remember. I do recall making some kind of general affirmation about this denomination, but I also remember that I was not concerned in the least with whether or not I was in the right church, or if I was fulfilling the Bible definition of a Christian.

Neither of these questions remotely interested me. I did vaguely believe God existed, but He was not real to me. I had certainly never attempted to build a personal relationship with Him or to find His one Church. I did not pray or study His Word for guidance or doctrinal instruction. These concerns did not enter my mind until some years later, in 1966, when I heard a powerful voice on the radio introduce me to Christ’s statement in Matthew 16:18. I began to question where I could find this true Church. I immediately realized that it had to exist because, through just basic study, I came to understand Christ’s promise that it would remain and could not be destroyed.

Traditions of Men

Jesus declared something in Matthew that almost none seem to believe, or even know about. He wrote, “But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9). In Mark’s parallel account, He added, “Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition” (7:9).

The world’s Christianity is filled with traditions. One of the largest is its view of the New Testament Church. Most ministers, theologians and religionists typically define the Church this way: “All those who sincerely believe in Jesus Christ, and accept Him as their Savior, constitute the true Church,” I might add, without regard to their denominations or beliefs. This is often followed with the familiar statement, “There are many routes to heaven” or “There are many spokes on the wheel of salvation.” Though the Bible does not teach that heaven is the reward of the saved, the clear implication of these cliches is that people can believe what they want, or be a part of any group or organization they choose, and still be Christians—still receive whatever is salvation. While people may sincerely believe these traditional ideas, they are sincerely wrong!

(While it is not the purpose of this article to detail salvation, learn more by reading Do the Saved Go to Heaven?)

My research led me to absolute proof of where the Church was that Christ promised to build. I learned that this Church, foretold to span seven eras or phases, could be carefully traced through the centuries.

I was shocked. I could not believe the Bible was so clear on a subject that confuses so many.

Can Be Identified

Your Bible declares, “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (I Cor. 14:33). The context shows that “all churches” means all congregations of the true Church, not all of the many organizations of men.

God’s Church was to reflect peace—not confusion. You need not be confused about its identity—about the location of the true Church. God commands, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thes. 5:21). While this refers to scriptural matters (not the car you drive or the house you buy), it does say “ALL things,” not “some things,” should be proven! Surely God would not exclude something of such magnitude—such supremely vital importance—as the matter of where His true Church is found. And He would never emphatically tell people to prove things that cannot be proven!

The more I studied the other doctrines of the Bible, the more I learned that the churches of this world were wrong—on virtually everything! One plain scripture after another contradicted each traditional supposed Christian idea I had been taught. I was amazed—actually stunned—at how easy it was to find direct, clear, undeniable proof that even the most popular—the most widely believed—traditions of the big denominations were not based on the Bible—at all!

Each time I studied a Bible doctrine—salvation, baptism, who and what God is, the gospel, death and hell, law and sin, grace, being born again, the Christian Sabbath, the true origin of supposed “Christian” holidays, where the modern-day tribes of ancient Israel are found today, the sequence of prophecy in the last days, including events surrounding Christ’s Return—and so much more—I gained undeniable proof of what the Bible really taught! I was excited and fascinated. I found that the churches of this world were confused on every one of these and many other plain points of Bible teaching. I came to realize there had to be a church that correctly believed and practiced all of the doctrines of the Bible—including perhaps the most central—what is the true Church.

So, I learned that this Church existed, and that the proofs identifying it and setting it apart from all the churches of recognized, mainstream Christianity were no different from the proof of any other biblical doctrine. I also learned that the scope of the proof—the sheer volume of facts—about God’s Church was vast, almost overwhelming in amount. Of course, therefore, I came to see that those who were in this Church absolutely knew they were—and it could not be otherwise.

A Persecuted “Little Flock”

Let’s begin to take a closer look at what Jesus built. Recall He said, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Jesus recognized His people might naturally conclude, “We just don’t seem big enough.”

Now think. By no stretch can any church comprised of millions—let alone over two billion collectively—be considered a “little flock.” And such numbers would not have to be reassured.

Christ understood that His Church—His little flock—would be persecuted and despised by the world. Just before His crucifixion, He warned, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…” (John 15:20). In the preceding verse, Jesus had reminded His disciples that “I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (vs. 19). Of course, Christ was persecuted to the point of horrible torture and crucifixion. Therefore, the true Church could also expect to be persecuted—and hated! Those in it are not “of the world.” The world senses this and hates them for it (John 17:14). The apostle Paul recorded, “Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12).

The word “all” means what it says! What church do you know where absolutely every person in it is suffering at least some form of persecution? Any? Even one? And remember, Jesus said His servants would be hated! We will learn momentarily what causes the hatred.

First, consider what just these points reveal. How many churches can you name that are small, persecuted, not of this world—and to the point of being hated because of it? Think about those you are familiar with. Again, do any fit this description? If so, surely not many! And we have only begun the proofs.

Importance of the Name

The world’s churches have many different names, which are derived in various ways. These include the particular doctrines they teach, the names of the men who founded them, the humanly devised type of church government they espouse, their location, or their intended scope and size, such as universal or catholic—in this case to be seen as all-encompassing and therefore being a BIG flock.

On the night of His betrayal, Christ prayed for His Church: “…Holy Father, keep through Your own name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one, as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name … I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them [notice this hatred is tied to God’s Word], because they are not of the world…” (John 17:11-12, 14).

There are 12 verses where the New Testament records that the true Church has been kept in the name of the Father—meaning God. Let’s look at three.

First is Acts 20:28. This verse instructs elders: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock…to feed the church of God …”

Next is I Corinthians 10:32: “Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.”

Last is I Corinthians 15:9. The apostle Paul wrote, “For…I persecuted the church of God.” There are nine other places where it says much the same.

In the modern age, for corporate reasons, God’s Church may use an additional descriptive name to distinguish itself from other “Churches of God”—those merely appropriating God’s name to themselves (and many groups do)—but who are not obeying His commandments, believing all His true doctrines, or doing His Work. Because of circumstances in our time, we use the name The Restored Church of God.

Just as various mainstream denominations may have a few correct doctrines mixed with much error, some appropriate to themselves the name of God’s Church. A few churches may have some amount of truth, while accepting many false doctrines. Only one Church on the face of the Earth has the correct name and teaches all the additional many true doctrines of the Bible!

Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them [this means set them apart] through Your truth: Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). The Church that Jesus works through, directs and guides is sanctified—is set apart—by its belief of the plain truth of God’s Word!

In addition to (1) carrying the name “Church of God,” we have seen the true Church has (2) come out of the world, (3) is small, and (4) is persecuted. This Church is then also (5) set apart by its beliefs and practices—which are in complete agreement with the truth of the Bible!

But we are still only beginning with proofs.

Unified Through God’s Word

Let’s go further on this last point by asking an all-important question. What is the Bible definition of the true Church? Have you ever wondered? The answer has everything to do with why this Church is unified. Men have their own differing definitions of what the Church isand these could be listed almost without end—but only God’s definition matters.

The apostle Paul also wrote this: “…that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15). Note the words “the truth.”

In the end, no other definition devised by men is acceptable. This description of the Church Christ built will guide us. So then, God’s Church has and teaches THE TRUTH!

This world’s churches are split by endless disagreement over doctrine and practice. Amos 3:3, in the Old Testament, asks, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” The answer is an obvious NO! Just ask any divorced couple what caused their split. They did not agree!

The problem is these churches do not practice the principle of “…man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4), meaning, exactly as written. Instead—since they follow the many differing traditions and ideas of men—endless disagreements separate, divide and create more and more churches of men. These organizations generally do not “walk together” because they do not “agree”—either with each other or with God! (And this starts with how they define the New Testament Church.)

God’s Church is different. Many verses show that the Church Christ built is unified—with all its members and congregations walking together in complete agreement with each other—and with God and Christ.

Picture of Complete Unity

A crucial point, revealing the kind of unity to be seen in the true Church, emerges from Jesus’ earlier-referenced prayer of John 17. Notice: “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified [again, set apart] through the truth…That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that You have sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them, and You in Me, that they may be made perfect in one…” (vs. 19, 21-23).

These are powerful statements! Christ intended that His Church be unified—“one”—bound together—no less than were He and His Father!

There is no room for disagreement in a Church that is this unified. These verses describe a perfect oneness through the truth—the same kind that the Father and Christ enjoy. It is this kind of unity that allows true Christians to be “in” them—be in Christ and in the Father (vs. 21).

Even in the Old Testament, David wrote, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity ” (Psa. 133:1).

My thorough book Where Is the True Church? – and Its Incredible History! examines various New Testament passages to see if, in fact, this kind of wonderful unity was taught after Christ’s Church came into existence. It shows that God’s servants teach and administer this level of agreement, and more of how that unity is achieved.

Next notice this earliest picture of Christ’s Church. In Acts 2, verse 1, on the day of Pentecost in AD 31—the very first day the New Testament Church came into existence—with the disciples reported as gathered in “one accord,” 3,000 converts were baptized. They formed the very beginning of Christ’s building of His Church. The description of them was, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship…” (vs. 42) and “all that believed were together” (vs. 44), as well as “they, continuing daily with one accord…did eat their [food] with gladness and singleness of heart” (vs. 46).

From these verses, we clearly see that the Church Jesus Christ built was unified. It was in agreement over doctrine—and was together. Notice verse 47: “…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” In the Church Christ guides and directs, He is the One who adds to it, and builds it!

Think. Reason alone says Jesus would not add to thousands of different churches that cannot agree on His teachings—that cannot agree on what is truth.

Many Vital Truths

We must ask one more question before concluding: How did mankind get into the state of confusion, division, war, competition and disagreement existing all over the Earth today? Of course, this includes religion. God’s original command to Adam in the book of Genesis, chapter 2, was, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die” (vs. 17).

In chapter 3, Eve, with Adam following, rebelled and ate of this wrong tree (vs. 6). Notice that this tree represented knowledge that was both “good and evil.” In other words, the tree was not entirely evil—it contained a mixture of true and false—good and evil—knowledge! It is the same with the churches of this world. Some do have small amounts of true (or “good”) doctrinal knowledge, mixed with much false (or “evil”) doctrinal knowledge.

For 6,000 years, God has told His servants to avoid mixing truth with error. He warned Adam that eating of the wrong tree would result in death. And it did.

The warning is the same for us today!

When I was first learning the truth, I heard an analogy that I had never considered before—but have never forgotten since: Think of a delicious cake laced with either arsenic, cyanide or any other poison, while otherwise containing nothing but good and healthy ingredients. Eating such a cake would always result in death.

The good ingredients would not be sufficient to overcome the hidden poison. Likewise, God’s Church does not and cannot mix truth with error. As with the cake, the result for those who do is fatal!

We have already seen some of the truths taught by the Church that Jesus built. But do not take my word. Prove these things to yourself from the Bible.

One article could scarcely contain a simple listing of all the truths taught in God’s Word, let alone a detailed scriptural explanation proving each and explaining why God teaches it. However, in Part 2, we will begin to look at certain of the doctrines of God taught by His Church. We have much to cover. It is fascinating knowledge—and you will want to read it.

In the meantime, read the informative and eye-opening book titled Where Is the True Church? – and Its Incredible History! In it, you will learn about the amazing 2,000-year journey of the Church that Christ established. 

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