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The True Church—Identifying It – Part 4

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The True Church—Identifying It – Part 4

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When Jesus said, “I will build My Church” (Matt. 16:18), did He really mean just one? Are there verses in the Bible—plain statements from God!—that make absolutely clear that Jesus Christ constructed just a single unified organization? There are—and in this final part of the true Church series, we will examine many.

Watch the truth emerge. And recognize that God would have to make available what you are about to see.

The Bible speaks of the all-important role of the Spirit of God—or Holy Spirit—and how Christ’s followers would each receive this gift at conversion. Jesus promised to send His Spirit after He was resurrected: “…It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send [it] unto you” (John 16:7).

Yet receiving God’s Spirit signifies more. Almost none understands what else has occurred at conversion. When one is converted—has repented, been baptized, and received the Holy Spirit—he has been placed into the Body of Christ. Notice: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (I Cor. 12:13).

Only One Organization

The New Testament speaks of God’s Church as “the Body of Christ.” It states that this Body has many members (individual brethren), who are likened to parts, or members, of the human body. I Corinthians 12 is the place to begin: “For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is ChristFor the body is not one member, but many” (vs. 12, 14).

What does this mean? Almost all are confused. When Jesus walked the Earth, His preaching of the gospel and other teachings, and all miracles and works that He did, were done through, and from, His physical body. Of course, Christ’s body was later resurrected as spirit, requiring that His Work and preaching be transferred to another entity, His Church—which Scripture makes plain He still considers His “Body” continuing on Earth what He started.

The analogy of hands, feet, eyes, ears and mouth is used in the chapter to show how different parts of a human body are connected: “But now has God set the members every one of them in the body, as it has pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body” (I Cor. 12:18-20).

Popular Belief

This passage cannot be “spiritualized away” through human reasoning. It does not describe an amorphous, disconnected structure of disagreeing people and organizations. Feet, eyes, ears or limbs severed from human bodies die! God created the body, so He understands what He inspired to be written.

Yet the professing Christian world almost unanimously teaches that Christ’s Body—His Church—consists of many denominations and fellowships said to be connected by the Holy Spirit working in believers wherever they are affiliated. Many sources attest to this popular thinking. But this is totally contrary to the Bible. This clever counterfeit asserts that Christ and His Body are divided among many groups or organizations.

Let’s learn why this is false.

Further Meaning of “Body”

Recall from Part 3 of this series: “[Christ] is the Head of the Body, the Church…” (Col. 1:18), and “…[God] gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His Body…” (Eph. 1:22-23). The Bible definition of the Body of Christ is the Church, and vice versa! They are the same.

Further, the apostle Paul admonished the brethren to be “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body [Church], and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father…” (Eph. 4:3-6). There is no confusing the all-encompassing unity and agreement required of God’s people. Recall how Jesus prayed in John 17 for this level of oneness.

Paul went on to describe a faithful ministry working with and teaching Christ’s Church. Let’s comprehend through a longer passage. As we read, ask if multiple organizations could fit this description: “And [Christ] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men…but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted [I Corinthians 12:24 adds “tempered together”] by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part…” (Eph. 4:11-16).

Christ’s Body is unified in both doctrinal truth and love. This is impossible to miss. In phrase after phrase, this passage demonstrates the “whole body,” with “every joint,” and “every part,” must be in complete agreement under Christ’s authority. And He works through His ministers to keep the Church from drifting into “every wind of doctrine.”

The New Testament Temple of God

Another connection must be seen. The New Testament Church and Body of Christ is also described as the “Temple of the Lord.” Many passages make this plain, and they are crucial to understand.

Let’s examine what—and more correctly, who—is the Temple of God today.

John 2:19-21 proves the Body of Christ is the same as the Temple of God—or, as we will see, the House of God. Christ’s words become the Bible interpreting the Bible: “Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building [the renovated temple built long after Solomon’s had been destroyed], and will you rear it up in three days? But He spoke of the temple of His body.”

This is astonishing understanding known to but the tiniest few! Yet if you just take Christ’s words at face value, that His “Body” is also His “Temple,” you can never get confused. The Bible will continue to interpret itself.

What Paul Recorded

Now notice this from Paul: “…You are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:19-21).

Next read this: “For we are laborers together with God: you are God’s husbandry, you are God’s building” (I Cor. 3:9). Then Paul added, “Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (I Cor. 3:16-17).

God sees His people—the true Church—the Body of Christ—as His Building, or Temple. Jesus Christ is building a Temple.

Notice further: “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (II Cor. 6:16).

The end of this passage is from Leviticus 26:12. It reveals God has always planned—“has said” from the beginning—that His Church would be those in whom He would one day personally dwell—making it the most glorious temple of all.

Church, Body and Temple—Three Critical Verses

Another proof that the Church of God, the Body of Christ, the House of God, or the Temple of God are the same is understood by comparing several passages. Follow closely the incredible connection to come.

First, remember from Part 1 that the Bible definition of the true Church is “…the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15). The Church is where “the truth” is—not “some of the truth” or “much of the truth” or even “most of the truth”—and certainly not “truth mixed with error”—but rather simply “THE TRUTH”!

Get clear that the Church is also the “House of God”—and it houses both God’s people and God’s truth.

Now recall that God’s Temple is called “a building fitly framed together” (Eph. 2:21). Did you notice Ephesians 4 spoke identically of Christ’s Body—“the whole body fitly joined together” (vs. 16)?

“Fitly framed together” and “fitly joined together” come from the same word. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible defines it as “to render close-jointed together,” “organize compactly,” “be fitly framed (joined) together” (in the sense of laying). God clearly meant the same thing whether discussing the Church, Body of Christ, the Temple, or House of God.

Here is fascinating meaning. “Render close-jointed” and “together in the sense of laying”—obviously means to lay individual bricks or stones that are mortared—“close-jointed”—beside each other—“together”—as one would lay them in rows within a building.

Since the Temple is also God’s “building,” there is no way to conclude the true Church could be anything other than one undivided organization—a single building! Let no one tell you God’s Church is anything different! This Building cannot be spiritualized away—as do professing Christian ministers with virtually every teaching in the Bible!

The apostle Peter brings an exclamation point to this. Let’s read it: “…the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone [Christ], disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, you also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ…it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone [of God’s House or Temple], elect, precious: and he that believes on Him shall not be confounded” (I Pet. 2:3-6).

The Tragedy

Most will not hold precious the Christ of the Bible. Neither will they hold to His teachings (of course, most will not even research them). They will not yield to His government. Neither will they come to His Church, nor support His Work. And they will not permit Him to head their lives—and place them into His Temple. Blind, they keep themselves outside the only House He is building.

Why will not most people accept that God’s Church has to be one organization?

Get this. If God is calling you—if He is offering you His truth—you are being judged on this knowledge! Peter also wrote that “judgment” is now on “the house of God” (I Pet. 4:17).

What could be more important to you than allowing yourself to be placed by Christ into the House of God? What could be more important to you than comprehending this vital knowledge—never understood by Christendom—that, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it…” (Psa. 127:1)? There is but one House God could have had in mind.

How could the leaders of men’s churches think they can build their own “houses,” and that Christ would submit to their lead, and follow them, instead of the other way around? And how can so many millions blindly help them?

Why Many Groups?

Some history. Let’s understand why the supposed Christian world has so many squabbling, competing churches.

The universal church at Rome has always taught that the Body of Christ is solely those within that church. Even though it teaches doctrines that are almost entirely the traditions of men, its understanding that Christ leads one undivided Body, identified in a single church, is largely correct. Their error is to whom they connect it.

Now let’s understand the thinking of the reformers. When they rejected Rome, they knew they had left what they once believed was the sole Body of Christ on Earth. They knew that, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body…” (I Cor. 12:13).

The entire world of Christendom can read this passage, and others, about the Body of Christ. So such passages had to be “reconciled” with now what were different groups, founded by different reformers. Here was their problem: they had to come up with a teaching compatible with baptized believers joining many denominations—they had to reconcile “one Body” with hundreds of organizations. They had no choice but to conclude Christ’s Body involves many, disagreeing “communities of believers” that are somehow all “spiritually tied together.”

This is utterly false!

Complete Unity

A great deal can be learned by reading instructions to various congregations. Unity and oneness are stressed time and again within the true Church.

The Corinthian congregation was suffering from division and disunity. They were admonished to stop entertaining other doctrines: “Now I beseech you, brethren…that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10).

Where in this is license from Christ for multiple organizations—“churches”—to appear in His name? Where in this description is room for hundreds, even thousands, of groups in disagreement over teachings—and diminished in the all-important announcing of God’s kingdom to the world?

The answer: nowhere!

Do not miss God’s intent. It describes—in five ways—how completely all of God’s people—all true Christians!—should be unified. Again, human reasoning cannot spiritualize away such plain instruction.

Let’s go further. Verse 13 begins with the rhetorical question: “Is Christ divided?” When people ask rhetorical questions, no one actually responds because the answer is obvious. In Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” is left unanswered for this reason.

The Bible declares, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (I Cor. 14:33) followed by, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (vs. 40). This condition is impossible if God’s Church is divided into many organizations, let alone thousands.

Next is the Philippian congregation: “…stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (1:27) and “…be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (2:2). These passages teach that complete unity is the only condition acceptable to God!

Now the Colossians: “…being knit together [meaning, “compact,” “unite,” “force,” “drive together” “gather”] in love, and…the full assurance of understanding…” and “…established in the faith, as you have been taught…” (2:2, 7). This also describes total unity—brethren “together,” assured of the right “understanding” they “have been taught” by Christ’s duly appointed ministers.

Protecting Unity

We might ask: How does Jesus preserve His Church? What if one tries to teach something other than the truth delivered from its Headquarters?

The congregation in Rome was experiencing false doctrines entering and dividing it. Notice how they were instructed to address this problem: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark [take note of] them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them. For they…by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:17-18).

Look at this: “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us…And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” (II Thes. 3:6, 14).

These passages introduce the truth of the biblical doctrine of disfellowshipping (sometimes described as shunning or excommunicating) those who depart into false doctrines, seeking to take others with them—to divide the Church. This principle demonstrates how God views straying from the truth into manmade ideas.

Additional scriptures amplify this principle. They represent a Bible teaching that the true Church practices to maintain unity. Churches that will not obey it—and almost none do—are full of division, discord and disagreement, which inevitably leads to splits within the church or congregation.

Disfellowshipping is neither abusive nor an act of hate! It is actually a form of God’s love administered to awaken those who have drifted into error. It also protects surrounding brethren. It certainly requires a greater level of faith—that most find too difficult—to obey God and protect the Church as He commands. Persecution can result.

Think. The identity of the true Church must be known to its members so they will know who has the authority to administer this protection—and who does not!

Peter also taught the oneness of God’s Church: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people…” (I Pet. 2:9). These four phrases are in the singular—meaning one, not several, of each term. If a nation is split into several nations, no one would consider it a single nation—it would be multiple nations, not “a” nation. The same is true of God’s Church.

There is but one!

Christ Left No Doubt

People often write us asking if we can recommend an “affiliated church” or a “similar church” they can attend in their area. There is no such thing. God’s Church is one organization, completely undivided. All other churches are outside that one Church.

Jesus Himself taught the need for unity: “…Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand [meaning, survive]” (Matt. 12:25). This is Christ’s own answer about whether He and His Church are divided. His instruction is fascinating since He is describing Satan’s kingdom! Jesus taught that even the devil is smart enough to know his kingdom cannot survive divided!

Surely, the great God of heaven and Jesus Christ are at least as wise as Satan the devil.

Can a divided marriage continue indefinitely? Could even the most powerful company survive if its board of directors were divided? Could a winning professional sports team continue winning if the coach regularly challenged decisions from the team’s corporate management? Could a school survive if decisions made by the principal were repudiated by its faculty, and groups of teachers regularly broke away to form other schools? Certainly not!

Why then do millions believe that the most important organization on Earth—the Church of God—can be divided into thousands of denominations? Why do they presume God cannot figure out what even the devil knows?

We are left to ask: how long could God’s people survive in a state that a family, a company, a sports team, or a school could not endure—and are not foolish enough to think they could?

In John 15, Jesus explained an analogy picturing Himself as the “Vine” and Christians as “branches” (vs. 5). He instructed, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in Me. I am the Vine, you are the branches…without Me you can do nothing” (vs. 4-5).

Individual Christians must be connected to Christ, meaning to His one, organized, unified Body and Church, to produce fruit (Gal. 5:22-23). The true Christ is not divided—meaning there is only one Church and one true Work of God where Christ leads! Until you find that Church, you cannot have contact with the living Jesus Christ who heads it, and only it!

Jesus Built His Church

The true Church is also depicted as the Mother of its members (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22-23). Like any Mother, she cares for and feeds her children. You must know—have sure knowledge!—of who holds the authority to feed you.

Additionally, the Church is pictured as a bride prophesied to marry Jesus Christ at His Return (Rev. 19:7-9). She is described as having “made herself ready” for this glorious event!

I ask: will you make yourself ready?

God thunders, “Wherefore come out from among them [the world], and be you separate…and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (II Cor. 6:17-18).

What Will You Do?

Men’s churches follow men’s ideas. While some do tithe, keep the Sabbath, avoid pagan holidays such as Christmas and Easter, or have other points of truth, this does not mean they are led by God. A few do teach a little truth, while always rejecting the great majority of truths in God’s Word.

The true Church is different. It is God’s Church and not only carries His name, but also teaches His truths—all of them. And it is the only place this is done. Those in this Church diligently strive to keep God’s Law, support preaching the gospel, as well as believe and practice all doctrines of God.

Our special book Where Is the True Church? – and Its Incredible History! addresses all parts of this series in detail, and also takes the reader into the fascinating history of God’s Church. I urge you to read it.

The Church of God has ministers available to answer any questions you might have about the truth you are learning. But they will not call on you unless you request it. God does not pressure, persuade, beg, cajole or force anyone to obey Him. He has made all human beings free moral agents—and this includes you. The all-knowing, all-wise, loving Creator has given men the choice, and ability, to decide for themselves. He leaves it up to us to act on knowledge given. Thus, we never pressure people into joining us. But you may freely contact us.

God intended His people be a model of His Way—and to reflect the blessings of happiness, peace and unity in truth that He intends all peoples to ultimately enjoy. Jesus taught, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14, 16).

People are to see vibrant, happy, productive lives in those living God’s Way—and they do. So the Church itself—collectively—becomes a visible city on a hill. For a little while longer in this age, God is still calling residents to this city.

What will you do with the precious knowledge learned in this series? You must take a position. You must make a decision—to support one of the churches built by men, or the only one built by Christ. 

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