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OF GOD'S TRUE CHURCH
Where is the one and only true Church today-the Church founded by Jesus Christ in A.D. 31?
Seven major eye-opening proofs identify it unmistakably.
By Herbert W. Armstrong
WHAT AND WHY THE CHURCH?
When we come to the question, WHAT and WHY is the Church, it is indeed astonishing that the one original true Church of God, still extant after 1,900 years of persecution, opposition, martyrdom, remains UNIQUE in having the answer.
The real PURPOSE and function of the Church is as little understood as the knowledge of who and what God is, what and why MAN is, what was the gospel of Jesus Christ, the government of God and His supreme creative achievement-holy righteous CHARACTER.
Isn't it incongruous? Man invents numerous religions for the worship of God-yet doesn't know WHO or WHAT God is. Man does not know what HE is! Or WHY! Seven hundred million who do not know the purpose or function of the church join "Christian" churches!
True, indeed it is, that the whole world has been DECEIVED!
The first and most widespread false belief in this world's churches is the assumption that this is God's world-that God is desperately trying to get everybody "saved," while Satan is trying to keep everybody "lost." If that is true, Satan is surely winning that battle!
But 1) God is NOT trying to "get everybody saved" spiritually, now! And 2) those uncalled are NOT "lost"-just not judged-YET!
We need first to understand the world out from which God's Church has been called to be a separate, holy people.
Let me restate it briefly. The first man Adam was given two MUSTS: 1) to reject Satan's way of "GET" and 2) to give himself to God's way of "GIVE"-the way of God's law-outflowing LOVE, thus developing the holy, righteous CHARACTER to qualify to restore the government of God on earth.
But Adam rejected God's way. He rejected God as the Source of basic knowledge and as the God to be worshiped and obeyed.
But let it now be emphasized that when God sentenced man, on Adam's choice, to 6,000 years of being cut off from God, the Eternal retained the prerogative of specially calling to Himself those He chose for special service. And, ALWAYS-in every case-those specially called were called for a mission PREPARATORY TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
Understand this! Everyone God called was chosen for a special mission PREPARING FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
God is no respecter of persons. He called no "favorites" merely to bestow upon them His gift of eternal salvation. Each has been called for service to prepare for the KINGDOM OF GOD.
BUT, understand this also: That special mission or service to which each called-out one has been chosen was GOD'S MEANS of developing in him the holy, righteous CHARACTER to QUALIFY him to reign and rule with and under Christ in God's KINGDOM-in THE WORLD TOMORROW!
In ancient Old Testament Israel only the prophets were called in this sense. The Holy Spirit was never made available to others in Old Testament Israel. The purpose for the special calling of that nation has been covered in proof number four.
Remember, God creates in DUAL stages. The first stage of man's creation was the physical stage. It began with Adam. The second phase of man's creation is the spiritual phase and begins with Christ.
As a group or nation, Israel was called under the physical stage of man's creation. The SPIRITUAL stage began through Christ with righteous Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the prophets in Israel. But as a group-calling, the Church of God begins the spiritual phase.
The Church was called for a very special PURPOSE in preparation for the KINGDOM-a purpose not fully realized from the first century until the present generation.
The first Adam, formed altogether from the dust of the ground, was given a spirit to empower the human brain with intellect. This was explained fully in proof number three. But he was incomplete-he was created to need also a second Spirit-the Holy Spirit of God. Old Testament Israel was not given God's Holy Spirit.
Man, possessing only the one "human spirit," is, truly, "not all there"-yet he is unaware of the fact. He is a natural-born carnal person. He has only the physical, carnal mind.
And what says God of the carnal mind? It is hostile against God and not subject to the law of God, ". .. neither indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). Also, as Jeremiah explained, this natural carnal mind is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Hundreds of years of Old Testament Israelitish experience proved this! They were given God's revealed knowledge which was hidden from other nations, yet they rebelled and sinned even above other nations!
It was into such a world-and to such a people (Judah)-that Jesus came. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not" (John 1:11).
First, before teaching or preaching His gospel of the Kingdom, Jesus had to QUALIFY to restore the GOVERNMENT OF GOD and establish the KINGDOM OF GOD. In the most titanic battle ever fought for the greatest stakes in the universe, Jesus overcame Satan, rejected Satan's "GET" way, proved 100 percent obedient and loyal to God (Matthew 4:1-11).
He called and chose the disciples He trained to be His apostles.
Then He said, ".. . Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell [the grave] shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee [His chief apostle] the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:18-19).
Plainly Jesus was speaking to one man, His chief apostle, when He spoke of binding and loosing-not to the Church.
For 3 1/2 years Jesus taught His apostles-to-be about the Kingdom of God.
The first Adam, in order to qualify to restore the GOVERNMENT OF GOD on earth, had to overcome Satan-Satan's way ("GET")-and prove obedient to God. Adam failed.
Christ, the second Adam, had to qualify by overcoming Satan and proving loyalty to God and God's way. He QUALIFIED!
Each one in the Church must also qualify in order to sit on Christ's throne with Him! "And he that overcometh [Satan], and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron . . ." (Revelation 2:26-27). Again, "To him that overcometh [Satan] will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame [Satan], and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Revelation 3:21).
I have shown that the whole world, except those specially called by God, is CUT OFF from God-cut off from access to Him who has eternal life to give. Jesus CONFIRMED THAT plainly and definitely. He said, "No MAN CAN come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him . . ." (John 6:44). No scripture can or does nullify that! All others are CUT OFF from God. No one of them CAN COME to Christ!
Jesus was crucified, resurrected after three days and three nights in the tomb (another incidental proof of the one true Church), and after 40 days ascended to the right hand of God in heaven.
Then, on the day of the Feast of Firstfruits (Pentecost), A.D. 31, God sent the Holy Spirit in an amazing display, founding His Church!
The number of disciples who still believed after Jesus' 3 1/2 years of preaching was a mere 120 (Acts 1:15).
". . . They were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:1-3).
I have purposely emphasized certain words in this scripture, because it was a ONE-TIME-ONLY incident. It never occurred before. It never has since. Modern "Pentecostal" meetings and "tongues speaking" are emphatically not the same thing at all.
Notice carefully! First, they were all of one accord-something often not true today. Second, the Holy Spirit came suddenly-they did not "work it up" by emotionally shouting, as is usual in such meetings today. Third, the Holy Spirit came with a sound-they heard it-like a blast of a rushing mighty wind. No such thing occurs today. Fourth, the Holy Spirit is here twice called "it," not "he"-not a ghost or personage. Fifth, they saw the Holy Spirit. It appeared as divided tongues like fire. This was actually seen, sitting on each of the 120. No such thing is ever repeated in so-called "Pentecostal" meetings today!
Now, further, do they today speak with the same kind of tongues'? Here again the REAL Pentecost experience is not in any sense duplicated today. Read on:
". . . There were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad [word spread rapidly of this once-only amazing experience-hearing and seeing the Holy Spirit], the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them [the 120] speak in his own language" (Acts 2:5-6).
Study this again carefully. The Mede among these devout Jews who came running in heard them-the 120-speaking the language of the Medes. And he understood what they were saying! The one Mede heard and understood 120 Galileans speaking the language of the Medes! But the Parthian heard them-the same 120-speaking his Parthian language! And so on! It was not a gibberish-unintelligible-as "tongues people" speak in their meetings today! And it needed no interpreter. I well remember experiences in such meetings, where in service after service the same man rose to interpret- and although the gibberish of different ones was entirely different, the "interpretation" had been memorized, and in every case was the same! I saw that kind of experience drive sincere people hungry for God's truth away in disgust!
Let me add here that God's Holy Spirit is the Spirit of a SOUND MIND (II Timothy 1:7). The one and only original Church of God was founded that day of Pentecost, A.D. 31. They were all of SOUND mind-like-minded-of ONE accord.
The multitude who came running in were all amazed-in wonderment doubting and asking, "What does this mean?"
Then God's chief apostle, Peter, stood up to explain-to deliver to these thousands the first inspired sermon by an apostle.
These devout Jews were "pricked in their heart" by Peter's sermon and asked, "What shall we do?"
Peter gave no twentieth-century "altar call"-pleaded with none to talk them into conversion-but answered their question, saying, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). It was the power of the Holy Spirit that had struck straight in their hearts. GOD HAD CALLED THEM!
"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41).
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine..." (verse 42).
Note here this important point! They did not appoint among themselves a "doctrinal committee" to decide intellectually in which doctrines they could believe God's apostle. God gave them the true doctrine through His apostle, and they continued together with one accord in "the apostles' doctrine and fellowship."
Now WHO added members to the Church? Not apostolic or evangelical salesmanship-but "the LORD added to the church daily such as should be saved [were to be saved]" (Acts 2:47).
But what was the FOUNDATION of the Church? It is referred to as a "building," and a solid building must be built on a solid foundation.
Of course Jesus Christ is the foundational Rock. But the Church is built on the FOUNDATION of the apostles (New Testament) and prophets (Old Testament), Jesus Christ Himself being the chief CORNERSTONE (Ephesians 2:20). Jesus taught the apostles. The CHURCH followed the apostles' doctrine. Lay members were not free to set, change or decide doctrinal TRUTH-but only to receive and believe it.
A day or two after the Church was founded, Peter and John went up to the Temple. At the Beautiful Gate entrance was a crippled beggar, lame from birth. Peter, being asked for alms, took the cripple by the right hand, lifted him up, saying, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk" (Acts 3:1-6). "And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple. .." (verse 8).
The beggar was known to all. This miracle drew a huge crowd. Peter, explaining, preached to them about the resurrection of Jesus. He proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom, saying the heaven had received Jesus until the time of restoration of the GOVERNMENT OF GOD by the KINGDOM OF GOD (Acts 3:20-21),
As Peter spoke, the priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them and threw them into prison for the night.
Next morning, Peter and John were brought before the rulers, elders, scribes, the high priest and his family. Peter spoke briefly but boldly to them. They then threatened the apostles, forbidding them to preach any further about Christ and His Kingdom.
Peter and John, though now inspired by the Holy Spirit, were human, and naturally were somewhat shaken up and frightened.
Being released, they went immediately for moral support and encouragement to "their own company" (Acts 4:23), the Church.
The Church "lifted up their voice to God with one accord" (verse 24). And when they (the Church) had prayed, God answered by shaking the place where they were assembled, filling them with His Spirit, courage and power.
Another incident: The apostles had continued preaching, healing the sick and performing miracles. God added to the Church, but also the persecution grew. Peter again had been imprisoned, Steven had been stoned to death. In Acts 8:1 "... there was a great persecution against the church ... and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles."
By the following Passover, persecution had mounted. "About that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison... intending after [Passover] to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in prison . . ." (Acts 12:1-5).
Now came another example of how the Church stood back of the apostles. Remember, the word apostle means "one sent forth." Jesus had given the great commission to Peter and the apostles. The other members of the Church were not sent forth with the gospel. They were called to support and encourage the apostles in getting out the gospel message, as GOD'S MEANS of developing in them God's holy, righteous CHARACTER, qualifying them for places as kings and priests in the KINGDOM!
So here came another incident showing how the Church supported the apostles. Continue, verse 5 of Acts 12: "... but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him"-Peter. The brethren stood loyally 100 percent back of God's apostles.
What happened when the Church so unceasingly prayed? "... The same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands" (verses 6-7), and Peter followed the angel on out of the prison. Peter fled on to Caesarea.
Jesus gave His GREAT COMMISSION to the apostles-those sent forth with the message. The lay brethren were added to the Church to support the apostles.
Notice the GREAT COMMISSION as recorded by Matthew: "Now the eleven disciples [Judas had left them] went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.... And Jesus came and said to them [not the whole Church], All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, THEREFORE, and make disciples of all nations .... " Notice, "make disciples OF," or within all nations. A disciple is a student-one learning, being taught. "... baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. ..." Notice here, this does not and cannot refute Jesus' own statement that "NO MAN CAN come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." The GREAT COMMISSION was not a commission to try to persuade ALL in those nations to come to Christ. Jesus said plainly, "... make disciples OF [within] all nations." He referred to those whom God had called-and they were, comparatively, exceedingly FEW by proportion to the whole population. Then Jesus continued, "... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:16-20, Revised Standard Version).
The apostles were NOT sent forth on a soul-saving crusade, but to TEACH those whom God had called and made willing to listen. That is what God's apostle does to this day. Today we are able to utilize modern methods of MASS COMMUNICATION- radio, television, the printing press. We TEACH the good news of the coming KINGDOM to those whom God calls and makes willing to listen. In this way we TEACH and PROCLAIM the true GOSPEL MESSAGE to many MILLIONS worldwide. Our magazine, The Plain Truth, has more than TWO MILLION subscribers, and estimates are that each copy is read by at least three people-actually reaching six or seven MILLION people! And we teach all who willingly listen to observe all that God commanded His apostles!
Now notice Mark's account of the GREAT COMMISSION: "Afterward he appeared unto the eleven.... And he said unto them, Go YE into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:14,15). Naturally Jesus did not mean every human being on earth-but all they might reach who would hear. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved...." Yet only those God called would be able to believe-for Jesus meant they should believe what was SAID-believe the GOOD NEWS!
However, this is quoted from the 1611 King James Version, but nearly all other translations omit it, saying Mark did not write the words beginning in verse 9 through the end of the chapter, but that they were added by some later editor trying to make it harmonize with Matthew 28:18-19.
But the great commission was given to the apostles-not the Church as a whole-although as cited above, the Church completely, prayerfully, wholeheartedly backed up and supported the apostles. That was their part in the great commission.