by B.D. Johnson
"Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom Thou hast given me, that they may be ONE, as we are . . . that the world may believe . . . " —Christ's prayer. John 17:11,21.
"On this Rock I will build my Church." Matt. 16:18. "One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." Matt. 23:8.
"The house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth." I Tim. 3:15.
"General assembly and Church of the Firstborn, written in heaven." Heb. 12:23.
"The Church which is His body." Eph. 1:22-23.
The Bewildering Muddle of Men's Churches Under the White Light of Truth
"Are you a Christian ?"
"Yes, I belong to the Methodist Church."
"You belong to what?"
"I belong to the Methodist Church."
"My friend, I understand from the New Testament that Jesus Christ saves His people from their sins and gives them a heavenly inheritance; that Christians are those who belong to Christ and to His saved people by repentance and faith in Him, and that those thus joined constitute His Church. Is that what you mean by saying you belong to the Methodist Church ?"
"Yes,—or,—Well, I believe there are different branches of Christ's Church, under different names, and that it is the duty of all to join the Church of his choice; the one that he believes nearest the Bible."
"And how came you by this belief ?"
"Well, it always has been so, and always will be. People can't all see alike, and so they require different churches to suit their different beliefs."
"Does the Bible tell you to join the church of your choice ? Does it intimate that Jesus has different churches to suit man's different beliefs ? Does it say one word about a duty of Christians to join any church church? Did Jesus pray five times in one prayer (John 17) that His disciples shall all be one, and then send out His twelve apostles to organize twelve branches of the church to accommodate men's differing views ? What denomination did Paul join after he was converted? or Peter ? or Timothy? or Titus ? Do you read in the Acts, of seventeen Christian denominations in Ephesus ? When the first symptoms of denominational divisions appeared at Corinth, did the apostles treat them as a providential arrangement to suit their natural differences, and did he urge on the Christians of Corinth the "duty" of joining them? Instead of this he points to denominationalism as proof that they are "yet carnal and walk as men." Of course, men, natural, unregenerate men, differ in their beliefs, but real salvation made "the multitude of them that believd of one heart and one soul." (Acts 4:32.) And so Paul is grieved and astonished to see his beloved brethren acting like unconverted men, and exclaims: "I beseech you by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." Impossible! says the wise man of the world; impossible! says the devil, and so it is for all the philosophies and all the religions of men, but it is an accomplished fact whenever and wherever the glorious gospel of the grace of God is permitted to exercise its transforming and saving power in the hearts and lives of men.
Christ's Church is an altogether different institution from all man-made churches.
Here are some vital marks of distinction:
The True Church Is
God's house, temple, dwelling place on earth. Heb. 3:6; I Tim. 3:15. Through the Spirit.
Built of living stones. I Pet. 2:5.
Christ its rock foundation. I Cor. 3:11.
It is Christ's body, of which He is the only head. Col. 1:18.
He only admits the members every one of whom is saved. I Cor. 12:18,27; Acts 2:47; 5:14.
The members' names are written in heaven in the book of life. Phil. 4:3; Luke 10:20.
It is a unit, one body. Eph. 4:4; I Cor. 12:12,13,20.
Salvation from sin and mutual love are proofs of membership and tests of mutual recognition. Matt. 1:21; John 13:34,35; I Pet. 1:2,3.
Its record is kept in heaven; God Himself writes it. Ps. 87:5,6; Heb. 12:23; Luke 10:20.
Jesus is its only mediatorial priest, hence all Christians are called priests unto God, because access to God, once the peculiar privilege of the priesthood, is now, through Christ, open to all. Having no human intervening priesthood Christ's Church has no external rites, (Heb. 7:12-28, and chapters 8, 9, and 10; Eph. 2:12-15; Col. 2:14; Phil. 3:3.)
Its ministry are not mediators or lords over God's heritage, but examples and feeders of the flock of God, and they are called, commissioned and qualified by God, not of men nor by men (I Pet. 5:1-5, Gal. 1:1; Acts 20:28). The motive power that runs this Church is divine love (II Cor. 5:14). Money is not mentioned in the New Testament as a requisite to its maintenance or success.
It is absolutely separate from the state and independent of political patronage. Being a spiritual and not a temporal institution, many temporal things are used in Scripture as figures to illustrate it; as a fruitful vine, a sheepfold, a building, the physical body, a family, etc. In each of these figures the unity of the Church, its divine source and authority, its permanence, its purity and separation in spirit and practice from an ungodly world are conspicuously set forth.
When you have studied well the Church of Christ in the light of the above and connected Scriptures, compare that Church with the so-called churches of today and you will find that they are opposite in every essential particular! These "churches" are man-made, man admits and sets the members, "everyone of them," as it pleases him. Their record is on earth and not in heaven, "because they have forsaken the Lord." (Jer. 17:13). Human popes and lords officiate in Christ's place as heads of these churches. They consist in divisions and sub-divisions, their name is "legion," for they are many. Salvation from sin and mutual love are not marks or tests of membership. The divine call to the ministry is not recognized in one of them. Human credentials only count. So the contrast appears in everything. How amazing that Bible readers should mistake these institutions for Christ's Church!
Any sect that would abandon all tests of membership except those that prove that one is a real Christian, would instantly cease to be sect, and would be the true Church or body of Christ. It is a sect, and not a Church of Christ, because its boundary lines are not identical with those of Christ's Church. "Salvation hath God appointed for walls and for bulwarks" to Christ's Church. Isa. 26:1. Therefore there are no unsaved ones in it, and no saved ones out of it. Jesus breaks down all middle walls that would divide Christians from each other (all of which consist in non-essentials, Eph. 2:14, 15), and builds around them the walls of salvation, that separate them from the world only! John 17: 14.
Every so-called Christian sect is the result of man's attempt to join Christians together by another yoke substituted for, or added to the yoke of Christ.
When Christ saves you from your sins He puts you in living fellowship with all His saints. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him!" "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage."
God's servants fight for truth against lies, and not for their opinions against other people's opinions. Opinions never saved anybody, but God's truth saves. God commissions and endows every one of His ministers with His truth and that truth is backed by His authority, and it purifies and makes men free. "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy Word is truth."
Remember, Christ said, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad" (Matt. 12:30).
—B. D. Johnson
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