Where is God's true Church today? Is it the Worldwide Church of God? How can you know? What are the signs? Here is a second major proof which will help you identify the true Church of God.
IN THE first article in this series, we saw the fact that God rules this Church — the only church willing to unconditionally surrender to Him, humbly accepting His absolute authority in everything. That God is our Ruler is proof number one. This second major proof of God's true Church is composed of three important parts. Part one concerns the true name of the true Church; part two is the understanding and observance of God's seventh-day Sabbath; part three is the understanding and observance of the annual Holy Days which picture God's master plan.
Part I — the True Name of God's Church
A minister, preaching to God's true people, may begin to describe the true Church of God. He may say, in his sermon, "This is the very Church which Jesus built — that living Church which is the very body of Christ, the Church in which God rules — the true Church of God." But is he saying this whole phrase is to be taken as the "name" of the Church? Is this the official title that God Himself places upon His own true Church? Wouldn't it look a little silly if you were to receive a letter from Mr. Armstrong with "The true Church of the Living Christ — the Church in which God rules — the true Church of God" as the letterhead? In other words, though there are many descriptive passages about the true Church of God in the Bible, it would look a little silly to paint a sign with these as the name to be put over the door. Wherever Almighty God speaks of His true Church, identifying it by name — that name is almost always the same. Jesus prayed, "And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world [but not of the world], and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou has given me, that they may be one, as we are" (John 17:11). Jesus prayed the Father to keep His own true people in and through a particular name! Jesus prayed that name would be the name of the Father. Did the Father honor this prayer? Notice Acts 20 and verse 28. "Take heed therefore unto yourselves," spoke the Apostle to the Ephesian elders, "and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." God did honor the prayer of Jesus Christ. He did give His own name to the true Church. Wherever the actual name of the Church as an organized Body is given in the New Testament — it is called the Church of God. Oftentimes, the geographical location was added to the legal name of the Church, "The Church of God." There were then, just as there are today, many local congregations of that one true Church, which is a spiritual organism composed of those members who have been granted the gift of God's Holy Spirit as a begettal. Addressing the congregation at Corinth about internal contentions concerning hair length, the Apostle Paul said: "We have no such custom, neither the churches of God" (I Cor. 11:16) — showing that there were many local congregations. When the Apostle Paul addressed anyone of these local congregations, he often included its geographical location — just as you, when receiving a personal letter, read not only your name on the address, but also your street or box number or rural route. Paul had addressed this letter to "the church of God [which is the true name of the Church] which is at Corinth" (I Cor. 1:2). Notice a few more examples: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the Church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia" (II Cor. 1:1). "For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure 1 persecuted the church of God, and wasted it" (Gal. 1:13). "For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God" (I Cor. 15:9). "For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus... " (I Thes. 2:14). "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" (I Tim. 3:5.) "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth..." (I Tim. 3:15). In this example, the Apostle Paul adds the descriptive word "living," just as he went on to describe the Church as the "pillar and ground of the truth." The Apostle Paul also addressed the "church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ..." (II Thes. 1:1), and "the churches of Galatia... " (Gal. 1:2). But he did not intend these to be designated as the one name of the true Church of God to continue down through the ages.
Why "Worldwide" Church of God?
Some few of the worldly churches have discovered this doctrinal point of truth about the true name for the Church. They have adopted this name, and call themselves "The Church of God." But a name is to convey meaning. And if these various "Churches of God" of this world are not recognizing God as their Ruler, are not completely subject to Him, are not obeying Him, do not keep His weekly Sabbath, the annual Sabbaths, and do not have any of these other seven major proofs — then, even though possessing the name authorized in scripture, they are not the true Church of God. Because of a substantial number of organizations of men laying claim to the name of the true Church — just as millions of "professing" Christians have laid claim to the name of Jesus Christ — my father, when wanting to incorporate the fledgling beginning of this phase of the true Church of God, for the purpose of conducting the business of God on this earth, was unable to incorporate it as, simply, "The Church of God." Realizing the doctrinal truth of God's Word that the various churches were also identified as to their geographical locations, Mr. Armstrong was led to incorporate in the name, "The Radio Church of God," using a descriptive adjective. God says of His Church: "Behold, I have set before thee an open door" (Rev. 3:8). The Apostle Paul said: "For a great door and effectual is opened unto me..." (I Cor. 16:9). This is speaking of the door God opened before him for the preaching of the Gospel. And in another place he said: "Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord..." (II Cor. 2:12). One of the main doors that God has opened before His true Church today is the door of radio. For years there was only the one small local congregation up in Eugene, Oregon — but a radio door had been opened, which was growing by leaps and bounds — fast becoming national and soon to become worldwide. In recent years congregations of God's Church have been raised up all over the world — so the name is now legally "The Worldwide Church of God." "Worldwide" is an apt descriptive adjective which accurately describes the global proportions of God's Church today. But the actual biblical name of the true Church has always been, and always will be — the Church of God!
What the Church Really Is
God names things, or people, what they are. There is real meaning in a name. When God writes of His Church, He calls it His. It is the Church — and the only Church — that truly belongs to Him. His true Church is directly owned by. Him, it is His instrument, His own property to perform His Work on this earth. The English word "church" merely means "congregation." Wherever you find the word "church" in the New Testament, it is translated from the Greek word ekklesia, from which such English words as "ecclesiastical" or "ecclesiastics" are derived. The word simply means "group" or "collection" of people. There is nothing holy, nothing sacred, about the word Church, by itself. It is only when you further identify which group of people, with the name of God, that there is anything holy about the name! "I will build my Church," said Jesus Christ. And it is His. Jesus Christ is the direct Head of the Church (Col. 1:18) — which is described as His own body (Eph. 1:23). The only ones who are truly members of that one body are those who have been put into it, by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. 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). The baptism with the Holy Spirit is the receiving of God's Spirit at the time of the laying on of hands — after repentance and water baptism. Notice, then, it is only those who have received God's Spirit that are in the true Church. The Church is not a physical building, or a rented hall or even an organization. (Technically, organization is what the Church has — not what it is.) The building is NOT the Church — but simply a building. It is that group of converted people in whom is the very Spirit of God, which makes up the Church. Jesus said we must repent (Luke 13:3, 5). Peter said repentance must precede baptism (Acts 2:38; 3:19). God inspired Paul to say: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ," God inspired Paul to write, "he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9). Yet it is only through obedience to God, through total repentance and complete surrender to God — symbolized by figuratively laying down your life and your whole being in water baptism — that you may receive the Spirit of God. It is only those who have really been conquered of God, who have unconditionally repented, been baptized, and have really received of His Spirit who are members of His Church. They are then joined to Him. They do not join themselves together, becoming a "group" of human beings known by a certain name. Rather, they become directly joined to Christ! Notice it: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman," said Jesus. "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away...." "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:1-5). The newly begotten child of God becomes directly joined to Christ. He is the Vine supplying the life-giving sap from the roots which produces the fruit on the branches. The branches, or the individual members of the Church, are joined only through the vine. If any member is not truly in Christ, and Christ living in Him, then he is not a member of the true Church. "That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you," wrote John, "that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (I John 1:3). The true fellowship of one member of the Church to another is in and through the Father and the Son. Any worldly organization of men, banding themselves together in their own fellowship, is just like a group of branches lying in a pile. Not joined to a productive, life-giving vine, they are unproductive; they are lifeless. Do you see? The name of the true Church of God is a vitally important proof of the Church. It is not to be taken lightly; it has real meaning. God names things for what they are.
Parts II and III — The Sabbath and the Holy Days
You have never heard a sermon really proving Sunday is to be observed by Christians as "the Lord's day." You have never heard a sermon going "right down the line" from one scripture to another, from one book of the Bible to another — proving, demonstrating, clarifying, showing the history of, the development of, the approval by Christ and the apostles for the various "holidays" sanctioned by the churches of this world! You never have — and you never will! Why? Because these days are not questioned by anyone in this world's churches. They are "par for the course" — they are carelessly taken for granted. "Doesn't everyone observe these days?" ask deceived people in the world's churches. No — not everyone — only those who have never proved it, never looked into it, never researched it, never sincerely tried to find the real truth about which days are to be observed.
Hundreds of "Excuses"
These churches appear to feel guilty about their pagan holidays, and their "Lord's Day." They know certain churches have made a fair amount of noise concerning the weekly Sabbath, and seem to write prodigious literature claiming to prove and absolutely substantiate their beliefs in observing this day. This leads to feeble attempts by many denominations to point to their vast numbers, the universal custom of all "Christians," or vague references to the time of Christ's resurrection. Every angle and method of attack against God's true Sabbath Day and His annual Holy Days is used. One method is to freely admit the days were never changed by the authority of Christ or anyone else — and that they are a part of the "Law." Then, however, those who are not familiar with the Bible are unsuspectingly led through a labyrinth of twisted scriptures which supposedly "prove" that all of God's law is done away. This includes the Sabbath, claim such deceivers. Failing this method — numerous other excuses are given. People reason the Sabbath can't be kept except in Jerusalem, or that it must be kept on Jerusalem time. People reason that you cannot keep a Sabbath if you live in a cave, or deep in a canyon, since your "sunset to sunset" would last only a very few moments. People reason in their own carnal minds about Eskimos at the North Pole (there are no Eskimos at the North Pole), or about the International Date Line, or that perhaps time could have become lost. Some claim that the whole world could have been off the weekly cycle ever since God revealed His Sabbath Day. These are only a few of the many arguments against obedience to God in the observance of His weekly Sabbath Day and His annual Sabbaths as well. You need to really know the answer to all these "arguments." You need to know (and know that you know) that God's weekly Sabbath must be observed faithfully, and that His annual Holy Days must be observed as well.
The Many Proofs
First you need to recognize that the Sabbath was firmly established and sanctified at creation (Genesis 2:1-3). Then you should prove carefully that the Ten Commandments were in full force and effect even prior to the time of Moses — that they are not now, never were, and never shall be "the law of Moses." They are the laws of Almighty God, the one Lawgiver and Judge. An article on the subject is available for any of you who have not yet read it. It's entitled "Were the Ten Commandments in Force Before Moses?" Next you need to thoroughly prove that God's law is firmly and positively established — today. You need to prove that grace does not mean license, or permissiveness, or having your own way — being free to disobey the law of God (cf. Rom. 6:1-2). If any of you feel the slightest amount of insecurity on this point of "law or grace," then write for our free reprint article — "The New Testament Teaching on Law and Grace." You also need to prove the weekly time cycle has never been broken — and can do so by reading our free booklet Has Time Been Lost? You need to absolutely, infallibly, irrevocably, and once and for all prove that the resurrection was not on Sunday — and that even if it remotely, faintly, possibly could have been (which is a foolish assumption in the first place) there is still no command, nor any example to perpetuate its observance. For a more detailed explanation, read another free booklet titled The Resurrection Was Not On Sunday. Appearing in the October 1974. issue of The Good News were major articles on God's seventh-day Sabbath and His annual Holy Days. Numerous proofs as to the absolute validity of observing these God-ordained days were offered. Be sure to write for a copy of that special issue if you are a new subscriber. Additionally, the Worldwide Church of God publishes two major booklets on these subjects. One — Which Day Is The Christian Sabbath? — goes thoroughly into many of the arguments religionists have concocted against observing the Sabbath over these many centuries since the time of Christ. The other one — Pagan Holidays - or God's Holy Days - Which? — not only shows why these biblical festivals should be observed today, but also their vital meanings in explaining God's overall plan of salvation. You should study thoroughly — not only from the booklets and magazine articles made available to you through God's Church, but also in your own public library and from your own individual research — the true origin of Sunday observance and the observance of the pagan holidays of this world. In this way — when you thoroughly and totally saturate yourself with the many thorough proofs about God's weekly Sabbath and His annual Holy Days, and when you thoroughly disprove the pagan observances of this world — it is unlikely that you will ever have any doubts on this subject again. So remember — and never forget — that in one or two remote cases, some pagan churches of this world may have appropriated to themselves one part of one proof (which, used in this respect is not proof at all), but that there is no church on the face of the entirety of this earth that could lay claim to one complete proof out of the entire seven major proofs of the identity of God's true Church. This second major proof of God's true Church is composed of three parts: The name the "Church of God"; the weekly Sabbath day, which is God's identifying sign of His true people; and the annual Holy Days, which God gave to His true Church — and which are still observed by His true Church today. An in-depth explanation of the third major proof of God's true Church will come along in the January 1975 issue of The Good News. Be sure to watch for it. And in the meantime, if you haven't read our booklet entitled Where Is God's True Church Today?, please do. This free publication will give you a good basic background for this series of articles.