True Church Today - Part 1

True Church Today - Part 1

Scripture: Ephesians 4:5-14, Proverbs 4:18, Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 4:5-14, Proverbs 4:18, Matthew 16:18
There are so many voices and denominations claiming to be the true church. God does not want us to be blown about by every wind of doctrine. The dilemma we face is, "Which is the true church?" The Bible gives us guidelines to determine the one Lord, the one faith, and the one baptism.
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I am sure it comes as no news to anyone today when I say that the religious world is full of confusion. It seems there are so many voices beckoning for the floor, so many causes seeking our allegiance. One church says, "We have the truth." Another church says, "No, we do! It reminds me of the story of a little girl who was invited to go to church with a neighbor. She replied by saying, "I'm sorry, I can't go to church with you. You see, we belong to a different abomination!" While we can smile, friend, we are discussing an issue that is a very significant one in the Christian world. While we have one Book as our guide, one Lord as our God, there are some 250 or 300 different denominations.

It is not God's plan that the Christian church should be so fragmented. As a matter of fact, we discover just exactly what God's plan is for His church in Ephesians. "And he 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 fulness 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, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." Ephesians 4:11-14. God's plan is that we come into the unity of the faith and that we not be blown about by "every wind of doctrine." But, friend, God's purpose is that His people be unified in the truth, not simply united in some great super-church, but rather joined together in the truth of Scripture.

This is the dilemma that faces us. As we walk down the street and knock on the church doors of this city or any other city, and ask them some questions, we get surprisingly different answers. The layman says, "If the clergy can't understand these passages of Scripture and come to a knowledge of God's will and truth, how can the layman ever come to understand?" That is a very valid question.

As we go down the street and ask one church, "What do you believe about baptism?" we could get any one of a dozen different answers. The Bible says, however, in the chapter we just read that there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism." Ephesians 4:5. We ask one church, "What do you believe about the ten-commandment law of God?" The church says, "We believe that it is ever binding upon all Christians." We go down the street a little further and ask another group; and they say, "Well, that has been done away with and nailed to the cross. We are no longer under that law. We are under grace now, you see." We ask another church, "What do you believe about the second coming of Christ?" One will say, "Well, we believe that Jesus is going to come and bring an end to the reign of sin and that we will see Him with our eyes." Another church says, "We believe that Christ is going to come at the end of a long period, a thousand years of peace and happiness." Then another church says, "We believe Christ has come already, quite a few years ago. He is already here."

We ask one church, "What do you believe happens when a man dies?" The first church tells us, "Well, we believe that when a man dies, he goes immediately to the grave, and there he awaits the call of the Lifegiver." We talk to the folk from another church, however; and they tell us, "We believe that when a man dies, he goes immediately to his reward, either heaven or hell." We ask one church, "What do you believe about what God is going to do with the wicked?" One says, "We believe that God is going to destroy them, burn them up, leave them neither root nor branch." Another group says, "We believe that He is going to torment them forever and forever, throughout eternity." How can we know the truth for the world when preachers can't agree, when theologians misunderstand? They can't all be right, that is obvious. That is the point I wish to make right now. They cannot all be right.

You have heard it said, "All the churches are roads leading to the same place." How can that be true if one of them, if some of them, are teaching error? Do you see how important it is for us to understand the truth of Scripture, the "truth as it is in Jesus"? Do you see why it is that we must have a "Thus saith the Lord" for everything that we believe? Friend, I don't know of any other safeguard! We are not concerned with what a church teaches, but rather with what the Bible teaches. Remember this, truth is progressive. We have referred to this text a number of times, and I want us to read it again today, "But the path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Proverbs 4:18. Now, keep this text in mind, because we will have occasion to refer to it later on in our study.

You know, it is interesting to ask people why they belong to a certain church. This is a great age for surveys. Not long ago I heard that they are going to take a survey of the surveyors to see what things are being most surveyed! Some months back somebody took a survey of a cross section of American people because they wanted to discover the reasons people give for belonging to the church to which they belong. I thought the results were interesting. You know what was number one on the list? You might guess. "I belong to that church because my parents did, and I was reared in it." The second reason was, "My friends go there." Not much theology in that, is there? Number three, "I attend the church I do because it's nearby." Number four, "I attend the church I do because I like the pastor." That is good, but really it isn't too much to anchor to as far as a belief is concerned, is it? Number five, "I attend the church I do because I believe what they preach." Number six, interestingly enough, "I attend the church I do because I like the beautiful building." Way down at position number five on the list was the reason, "I believe what they preach."

There is no doubt that God wants us to join a church. For Jesus told his disciples, in Matthew 16:18, "...I will build My church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." While the floodgates of hell have been loosed against God's true church through the centuries, we are thankful to God that His true church still stands. In Ephesians 5: 23, 25 we are told, "...Christ is the head of the church... Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." If Christ loved the church so much, should we not also love the church and desire to be a part of it?

Christ is the head of the church, and His church is the body. He wants us to be members of that body. How do we become members? In apostolic days, those who heard the Word were pricked in their hearts, and asked, "...What must we do?" Then Peter answered them, "...Repent and be baptized..." Then what was the very next step? In verse 47 we read, "...And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Jesus loved this church so much that He gave minute instructions in dealing with the erring, to prevent them from straying.

Having settled the necessity of belonging to a church, the next question is, "Which church?" Some join a church because it is a popular church or near where they live. Some join a church because they like the preacher, or the choir, or the congregation. But we are told, in 1 Peter 3:15 "...Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you."

We should have a good Bible reason for joining a particular church. Paul advises us in Ephesians 4: 14, 15 "That we henceforth be no more...carried about with every wind of doctrine... But speaking the truth in love..." Jesus tells us what truth is, in John 17:17 "...Thy word is truth." So if we know what the Bible says, we will not be carried about with false doctrines. We should join a church because we endorse its teachings. Therefore, we should discover which church preaches the Bible truth. The church is to be God's representative on earth, demonstrating His power to save men and women from sin.

Many people ask me, "How can I know for sure which is the true church." There are so many churches. Is there a Bible guide to direct my search? Is it possible to really know? To all of these questions I would say emphatically "Yes". If you really mean business with God. And if you are willing to follow when God shows you from the Bible His true church. Then you can know. And it is not hard. In fact God puts down a very simple way to know. So easy that many people look right over God's answer without ever realizing it. Revelation 14:12 "Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." God says to start with, just find a people who keep all of the Ten Commandments and have faith in Jesus and it will take away a lot of confusion. But now let's get a little background of God's church and how it started back at the creation of this world.

There have been seven great religious movements in the history of our world. All of them were established by God. The Lord made it clear right after sin entered into this world that He would have a church, and that that church would be in direct conflict with Satan and his work. So, down through the ages God has always had a church, a special church, to carry on His work.

The very first church was the church of Adam, 4004 B.C., was founded by God in the Garden of Eden. At creation it was a pure church, and God committed a lot of truth to our first parents in that Garden Church. The Bible teaches us to protect in every way possible the purity of that original truth once delivered to the saints. Here is the text on it in Jude 3:4 "...Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares...turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ." Notice the word "once." The true faith of God is unchangeable, and it was delivered by God Himself to the saints, once and for all. Through the ages it has been the great objective of the enemy of all righteousness to corrupt or pervert this faith "Once delivered to the saints."

What kind of doctrine did God give to that first church? Was it the same we read about in the book of Revelation, keeping the commandments of God and having the faith of Jesus? Yes, it most certainly was. They did have faith in a Saviour. That faith was put in operation as soon as sin entered that beautiful world. And they did have the commandments of God from the lips of the Creator Himself. Notice that even though man was made with freedom of choice, we are told in Genesis 2:16, "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying..." The religion of Eden was implicit obedience to the commands of God.

And please notice, friends, that the Sabbath commandment had to be one of those included in that original faith once delivered to the saints in the Garden of Eden, because God blessed it and sanctified the very next day after creating Adam and Eve. (Genesis 2:2, 3). Now if God saw that the Sabbath was vital to man's happiness before sin entered, how could it be possible that in a world of sin it should be discarded? The Sabbath was made free from local restrictions, national boundaries, racial characteristics and peculiarities.

Thus, we see that the religion of the Garden of Eden was the keeping of the Commandments of God and Creator worship. Satan soon succeeded in getting man to disobey the commandments of God. In eating of the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve broke nearly all the commandments found in the law given at Sinai. They stole that which was not theirs. They put another god before the God of Heaven. They really committed a slow suicide, and tried to hide and deceive God Himself. God made it clear that it was the transgression of His commandments that caused the entrance of sin and sorrow.

However, immediately after the fall of man, God revealed the wonderful plan of salvation. The hope of man was to center in the coming Redeemer. Thus was added to the commandments of God, the promise of the Saviour, or the faith of Jesus. This plan of redemption is the same now as it was then. It has been the same since the beginning of time, and will be till the end of time. And it included the Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. God's true Church on earth, whether the first or the last, the Edenic or the Remnant Church, will be built upon the same foundation.

After Adam and Eve sinned, the Lord spoke to Satan in their presence and said: "And I will put enmity between thee (Satan) and the woman (the church), and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel (referring to the death of Christ, which was not lasting)." Gen. 3:15. Christ was slain, but He rose again. When Satan is finally destroyed, he will never rise again.

God made it very clear to Adam and Eve that there would always be enmity between the church and the devil and that God was going to fight Satan. God also indicated that there would be a way of escape for Adam and Eve and all their descendants. In the fourth chapter of Genesis we find that God immediately instituted a round of religious services for Adam and Eve and their children. Sacrificial ordinances were given to them, pointing to the death of Jesus on the cross. By performing these sacrifices, they recognized that there was to be a Saviour who would die for them and their sins.

They looked forward in faith to the death of Jesus of the cross. Today, we look back in faith to the death of Jesus on the cross. Genesis 4:4 says: "And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering." This makes it clear that the family of Adam were offering sacrifices to God as He had directed them. It also indicates that they knew something about the plan of salvation for the sacrifices of animals was a type of the death of Jesus on the cross.

Adam and Eve soon saw the results of sin, that the wages of sin is truly death. They saw the falling leaves, the thorns, the thistles, and the briars; they saw the fading flowers, and all the evidences of death and sin that surrounded them. It was not long after the Church of Adam was founded that corruption began to eat out its moral fibers. In fact, there was even a murder in Adam's own family. Abel was slain by his brother Cain.

The Church of Adam started to go down, down spiritually, until finally it had become so sinful that God looked upon the earth and saw that it was corrupt in every way. So God decided He must start another religious movement to call out His true saints from the Church of Adam and organize a new church. And this was the church of Noah 2348 B.C.

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