A Guide To
—Michael G. Urangikor
The world is religiously sick in that one does not know which way to follow (Jeremiah 6:16). Man has, in his efforts to accord God an acceptable service, gone as far as propounding strange doctrines and holding to tenets that have become a complete violation of the teachings of Christ (II John 9:11; Galatians 1:8-9; I Peter 4:11).
The world has also rejected the inspired directives of the One that is vested with "all authority in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18). Consequently, this rebellious act in man has supplied him with a strong delusion so that he could not see the need to secure a hopeful relationship with God in the body of Christ, the church.
Today, many have ignorantly grounded their faith in an unscriptural axiom which states that "church is not important." With this religiously bigoted belief, man has gone into a competition with Jesus in the statement "I will build My church" (Matthew 16:18). Those that have his conviction are unabashedly promoting this heretical dogma because they do not know what the Bible says about the word "church."
I reserve no blame for such people because they are unaware of the eternal purpose of God in his plan of salvation. Also I would not hold this against them for the fact that they are offspring of the great harlot and as a result have been trained to drag the church into apostasy.
It is this that the writer has taken the pain to write, without bias, a brief guide to the church of the first century which is the only true church that can survive the gates of hell. It is my plea that you should see the need, after reading through this tract, to become a member of God's saving church where His manifold wisdom is made known.
Is it possible to identify the true church in this world of increasing denominationalism? Yes, if only we can allow the Bible to
be our guide. Then how can one know which is the church of the Bible? We must go back to the Bible to obtain the identification marks of the first century church and compare them with the existing churches around the world.
Naturally, for instance, if Mr. Awajiokino is missing, the only way his parents can locate him is to gather his marks of identification and then begin to search. It is only after finding the one that matches every mark of identification used in the search that the parents would accept him as the one they were seeking.
Therefore, when one wants to locate the true church that saves, one needs to gather its identification marks. What are the identification marks? Where are they found? The Bible has the answer.
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus promised to build a church, "and on this rock I will build My church." This indicates that no church can be the spiritual church unless it was founded by Jesus Christ. Therefore, any church founded by someone other than Christ is an apostate church. Many centuries before the promise to establish a church, David announced a great truth when he said, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it" (Psalm 127:1).
The "house of God" is shown in the New Testament to be "the church of the living God" (I Timothy 3:15). In Matthew 15:13 Jesus declared openly that "every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted." This teaches that it is not scriptural for a man to be a member of any spiritual household, religious plant or church which was organized by anyone except Christ: "It shall be uprooted."
The true church of the Bible was established at Jerusalem. If you are a member of a church that was not first begun at Jerusalem, you are not a member of God's saving family on earth.
In Isaiah 2:2-3 we have a prophecy that Jehovah's house was to be established in Jerusalem; Jehovah's house would be exalted
and all nations would flow into it; and the time of fulfillment would be in the latter days. What does Jehovah's house mean? Paul, the Apostle of Christ, speaks of "the house of God, which is the church of the living God ..." (I Timothy 3:15).
Therefore, Jehovah's house in the book of Isaiah is the church, and, from this prophecy, we learn when and where it was to be established.
In Micah 4:1-2 and Zechariah 1:16 it was also prophesied that the Lord's house would be established in Jerusalem. These prophets have, through the Holy Spirit, alerted the world on where the spiritual body of Jesus Christ, the church, would first be established. These prophecies were fulfilled thus:
Dear friend, you need to be a member of this same church. There is no importance in church succession. But if the same
seed of the kingdom that produced the church of the first century is sown today, I believe it will reproduce the true church in any community. Is that what you are doing?
The church was founded on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. If you are a member of any church not built on the Pentecost day of A.D. 33, then you are not in the church of the Bible, and therefore should seek union with the body of Christ. This date is based on the account of Acts 2.
It is a great privilege to be a member of the church that Christ established and which He is the foundation (I Corinthians 3:11). Notice that the first apostate church started many centuries after the establishment of Christ's church.
The true church has no special name, but it is spoken of in several significant applications. A critical survey of the Bible reveals that the following designations were authorized by the Holy Spirit for the church:
Notice that these references are not denominational names with their headquarters somewhere on earth. They do not refer to different churches established by men, but only to God's one true church. In each of these names one can see God and His Son's name being glorified. God has chosen these names for His church. Any term which is not from the Bible is not a scriptural
name for the true church. Beloved, if we are professing Christianity with a name or designation that is foreign to the Bible, we are dishonoring God, Christ and the Bible.
Members of the true church wore the name "Christian" (Acts 11:26(. King Agrippa knew of this name (Acts 26:28), and the first century church was admonished not to suffer any other name than the name "Christian" (I Peter 4:16). This name was the fulfillment of the prophecy that worshipers of God would "be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name" (Isaiah 62:2), when the Gentiles would see the righteousness of God. Along with this name, the Bible also recorded that members of the true church were known by several distinctive and significant names, among which are:
Members of the church were not called Baptists, Methodists, Anglicans, Catholics, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses and many religious hyphenated names. The Bible declares, "nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Paul, in his writings, depicts Christ as the redeemer, the creator, and the head of the church (Colossians 1:14-18; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 2:10). Christ is the source of life to the church. He rules the church with divine authority.
These quotations suggest that Christ has a divine head and a divine body (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22-23), a divine authority (Matthew 28:18), a divine practice (Colossians 3:17;
I Thessalonians 5:21), a divine perpetuity (Hebrews 13:8) and a divine relationship with the church (I Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 4:11-15; I Peter 4:8-11). Therefore, if one has developed the desire to have Christ as his head, he must be in the body or church of which Christ is the head and the Savior.
The Scripture states that "there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling" (Ephesians 4:4). This indicates that the body is one and that God loves oneness. But what does the Bible say is the body? Colossians 1:18 and Ephesians 1:22-23 are proofs that the church and the body are the same.
Therefore, if there is one body and it is the church, then there is but one true church. God does not have pleasure in denominationalism in that He does not give any man the power to duplicate churches in the name of Christianity (John 17:20-21).
The existence of denominations on earth today is the result of our inability to stay in the doctrine of Christ and to recognize Him as the only head of the church.
Men were not called members of the New Testament church by a decision to join it in a crusade or by filling out a form. They were not known as members because their parents were prominent members of the church. The Scripture, the standard of authority, has provided some conditions for an alien sinner who wants to become a Christian. Notice that to become a member of this church is to become a Christian.
The conditions are:
The purposes of baptism are:
Baptism is not pouring or sprinkling as it is being practiced by some denominations. It is a figure of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:3-5). Its action is immersion (Acts 8:38-39). Baptism does not require examination or official aptitude tests whereby if one fails he may be restricted from it. Finally, an infant is not a subject for baptism.
All religious services in the first century were commanded to be done in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) and also to be decent and in order (I Corinthians 14:40). The first century church met for worship on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 16:2) and their worship was simple and based entirely on the command of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible reveals only five items of worship and they are:
The mission of the church is three-fold. The church of the first century preached the gospel (Mark 16:15; I Thessalonians 1:8; Philippians 4:14-18), helped those in need (Acts 4:34-35; 6:1-7; I Timothy 5:16) and edified its members (Ephesians 4:11-16). Any church that does not have these as its mission is not the church of the Bible.
The doctrine of the original church is based on the Bible only. The early Christians accepted the revelations from the Holy Spirit without addition, subtraction or substitution (Revelation 22:18-19; Galatians 1:6-11). A sensible motto rightly states: "If a human creed contains more than the Bible it contains too little, but if it contains the same thing as the Bible, we do not need if anyway." Therefore, the catechism, church manuals, confessions of faith, canticles are not needful today because they are works of uninspired men. The early Christians did not have them in their worship as they knew such would change the doctrines of Christ. The New Testament was their guide!
The early church had reverently recognized Christ as its head (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 5:23; 20:17-18) and each congregation was under the elders (Acts 14:23; 20:17-18) who were assisted in their work by the deacons (I Timothy 3:1-13); Philippians 1:1). It also had evangelists who publicly proclaimed the gospel (II Timothy 4:5; Ephesians 4:11). The organizational structure of the early church was according to God's command. The Lord's church has no earthly head or headquarters and neither did it have national or international man-made organizations. Every local congregation was independent and had every right to exist without the oversight of an older congregation.
The present practice of one elder or single pastor over God's church is unscriptural. The Bible says, "Appoint elders in every city" and not one "elder" (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). There should be a plurality of elders (who are the same as bishops and pastors) in every church. These names were interchangeably used (Acts 20:17, 28 and I Peter 5:1-2).
It was a departure from God's pattern that gave rise to synods, general councils, assemblies, conferences, presbyteries, etc. in the religious world. This is the result of a full-grown apostasy from the New Testament pattern of government and organization. Also, all religious titles are not scriptural.
It is not wise in a religious sense to call a man by the title: Reverend, Father, Apostle, Prophet, Master, Pope, Cardinal, Archbishop, Archdeacon, Pastor, etc. (Read Matthew 23:8-10.) Terms like elder, deacon, evangelist are scriptural but cannot be used as a title.
The church of the Bible was never a denomination. The word denomination means a division by name which also, in a religious sense, signifies a sect or party.
The original church was not a division of any other church. It was not a Jewish synagogue as the Old Testament had been fulfilled and done away before the church was established (Romans 7:1-4; Colossians 2:14-17; Hebrews 8:8-13). It was not a
protestant denomination as all denominations of our day were established by men hundreds of years after A.D. 33 (Mark 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4, 47). The practices such as prayer altars, voting on baptismal candidates, mechanical instruments of music in worship, universal and territorial organizations, etc. were not in the original church.
Finally, the true church was not the Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church did not exist in a full-grown state until A.D. 606, nearly 600 years after the true church was established. Moreover, their cardinal doctrines do conflict with the doctrines of the true church.
The original church is that one fold mentioned in John 10:16. There is only one body and it is the church of Christ on earth. This is the body that Christ is the head (Ephesians 4:4; Ephesians 5:22-23).
The early Christians did not compromise sin. This was an obedience to the Holy Spirit command to withdraw from an unruly brother (II Thessalonians 3:6). In spite of the Bible record that God was a God of love (I John 4:8), He is also a God of severity (Romans 11:22).
The Lord intended that the true church should exercise discipline so as to bring the erring ones to repentance before it was too late (I Corinthians 5:5). Discipline can not wreck a local congregation as it did not weaken the early church (Acts 5:1-11, 14).
Therefore, as Paul would not compromise sin at Corinth (I Corinthians 5:4-5) but rebuked a tolerance of sin in that church, any congregation that overlooks discipline today is not the true church and cannot lead one to heaven.
The Holy Spirit warns that sin should be publicly rebuked (I Timothy 5:20). There was no back-bench and suspension system of discipline in the true church.
Beloved, the above mentioned marks of identification were taken from a concise study of the Bible and not from a biased mind. You are sincerely requested to compare these with that of the
church you are attending or other churches around you. If they do not agree with the doctrines of the church you attend, then you have ample opportunity now to fight for your salvation by leaving your traditions behind and taking the Bible as your guide and only standard of authority in religion. You need to become a member of the body where salvation is possible. God loves you and needs you in His Family, the church of Christ, which is God's kingdom on earth (John 3:16; II Peter 3:9).
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