Well, greetings everybody! Why should there be such a thing as the church? Why did Jesus say, "I will build my church, and the gates of the grave will never prevail against it?" God doesn't do things without a purpose, without a meaning, without a reason. But he did found the church. Why? What is its function? What is its meaning? I think there's been probably nothing more misunderstood than that.
Very few people understand why Christ built the church, what its function is, and what it is not, as well. Now one cannot comprehend the real purpose and meaning of the church, unless we first know something of the Old Testament church, which is called in one place in the book of Acts, the "church in the wilderness," or the congregation of Israel.
But I think we must start even farther back than that, as I have done time and then again on this series of programs, even earlier, because I mentioned to you.... Time and again, I will be mentioning it again, that you enter a motion picture house, or tune in to a motion picture on the television screen, a little more than halfway through the picture, and you're bewildered.
You don't know what happened before, you don't know what led up to it, and the result is what you're seeing now is a little bit confusing. It just doesn't make sense. And it's the same way about so many things in the Bible. If we tried to understand the Bible, the church (for example) today, or any of the things in the Bible pertaining to our time today, unless we have begun clear back at the beginning, and have traced events all the way through, we just don't understand. We're bewildered and we get a wrong concept altogether.
Now God called Moses. Moses didn't want to, he didn't look for God. God had seen to it that Moses was trained for the job before God called him. He had been reared as a prince in Pharaoh's palace, but he didn't want the job, and so when God called him and told him what he wanted him to do, Moses said, "Oh no, God, I can't do it. You see, I have an impediment of speech. I stutter. And I, I don't talk well, so I couldn't go. Just count me out, God."
Well, God said, "I, naturally I knew all about that, Moses, and I have appointed your brother Aaron to be your spokesman for you, so you will do what I tell you to do." and then Moses did. But Moses was human like all the rest of us. You know, Moses lost his temper one time when the people, when he was gone, made a molten calf to worship it, and he was up with God on Mount Sinai.
God Made a Proposition Well, anyway, at Mount Sinai as they were being delivered out of Egypt and Egyptian bondage by miracles from God, God then made a proposition to them that they would enter into what became known as the Old Covenant with him. God did not promise the Holy Spirit to Israel, but he did give them his law. Now they were also the congregation of Israel, as the church, not the church of God, but the congregation of Israel, and called in the 7th chapter of Acts (Acts 7:38), the "church in the wilderness."
They were the kingdom of Israel, one of the governments of this Earth, one of the nations. Without the Holy Spirit, which God did not give them, they did not obey. They had carnal minds that were not subject to God, not subject to the law of God, were hostile to God, and they never did obey him. There was a purpose god was going to show, that without his Holy Spirit, it is absolutely impossible for a carnal mind, hostile to God, to accept the way of God.
Well, anyway, I would like to read you just a little bit here in Jeremiah, in the 3rd chapter of Jeremiah, about ancient Israel. This is the Old Testament church, or the Old Covenant church, we might say. God says, "Go and proclaim these words," he said to the prophet Jeremiah, "proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return thou backsliding Israel, saith the Eternal, and I will not cause my anger to fall upon you, for I am merciful, saith the Eternal, and I will not keep anger forever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity that thou hast transgressed against the Eternal thy God, and has scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, says the Eternal. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Eternal, for I am married unto you, and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you unto Zion." (Jer. 3:12-14)
Now that is a prophecy there of what is not yet happened, which will happen later in our generation, only a few years from now. And God will do that, even yet, but it has never been accomplished yet. Now Old Covenant Israel were in the days of the first Adam, carnal, but it required the second Adam before people could have the kind of mind that could be subject to the ways of God, and that could understand the ways and knowledge of God, and the spiritual things.
So let me get you some scriptures. One in Isaiah 7, verse 14 (Isaiah 7:14): "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel," which is, translated into English, means "God with us, God in person with us, with the human family." Now, that was a prophecy of how Christ was to come as a savior, to save the people from their sins. I'll show you that in just a moment.
But then in the 9th chapter of Isaiah was the prophecy beginning in verse 6 (Isaiah 9:6): "For unto us a child is born..." Now notice, he was to be born as a baby, as a child. "Unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder." Born to be a king! Born to qualify now, to succeed this former Lucifer, this Satan, and to restore the kingdom and the government of God on this Earth.
And His Name Shall Be Called... "And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace, there shall be no end, and upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Eternal of Hosts will perform it."
Now I would like to have you turn to Matthew the 1st chapter, and beginning with verse 20 (Matthew 1:20): "Behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins." And so was born Jesus, the second Adam, and he was coming to restore the government of God. He was coming to save the people.
Jesus had said, as you read now in Matthew 16, and verse 18 (Matthew 16:18): "I will build my church. I will build my church, and the gates of the grave shall not prevail against it." It will exist throughout all generations, and it has. But you won't find any record in profane history about it, from the first century on. You'll find a record of a church — well, there was in what I call "the lost century" after around 70 A.D., every record of what was happening to the church that Christ had started, was destroyed, systematically destroyed.
And 100 years later, it seemed like the curtain is lifted on the thing, and you see a church, and it's called the Christian church, but it wasn't that of Christ. It was as different as day is from night, and night is from day. And it was a different church; it was a counterfeit church.
[Commercial break: The Plain Truth Magazine] Jesus spent three and one-half years preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and he now called disciples. A disciple is a learner, one being taught, and one learning, and he was teaching them for 3½ years to become his apostles. Now an apostle is one sent forth. The word "apostle" means "one sent forth."
Now Jesus called Peter and Andrew. Now they didn't call for Jesus, they weren't trying to find him. They weren't seeking him to give their hearts to him. What they wanted to do was to be fishermen. And Jesus called them, so they dropped what they were doing, and they forsook everything else and followed him.
Then he called two other brothers, and they were fishermen. They didn't want to follow Christ, they didn't want to be apostles, they wanted to be fishermen. He said, "No, you come follow me," and they did. And he called Matthew. Matthew wanted to be a tax collector, but he gave that up, and so it was. Jesus called his disciples. Actually, he called 14, but only 12 were official.
John 15, verse 16 (John 15:16): "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go," an apostle is one sent, to go into all the world, "that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain," and so on. He chose them to be his apostles. Jesus spent 3½ years teaching and training his disciples to become his apostles, and he was preaching the kingdom of God to thousands of people.
Only 120 Believed Him And of all those thousands that heard him speak, how many do you think really believed him? And really followed him to the end, and were still with him after 3½ years? Only 120, you'll read that in the first chapter of the book of Acts. Only 120. In the 15th verse of the 1st chapter (Acts 1:15), it says the number of those together, that all that were still there together after Christ's 3½ years preaching, was 120, only 120.
Now in Acts the 2nd chapter, in verse 1 (Acts 2:1). You read: "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they," and that's speaking of the 120. Now all this 120 were there together, "with one accord, and suddenly now" a great display happened that had never occurred before, "suddenly there came a sound of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting." Now they heard this. This was something they could hear with their ears.
"And there appeared unto them..." Now they could see with their eyes. Now get this — this had never happened before or since. "There appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire and sat upon each of them." They could see it. They heard the sound. "And they," that's the 120, "were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance."
Now what kind of tongue-speaking was that? They were dwelling at Jerusalem, and then Jews out of all the nations of the Earth, and they were a crowd, and they were gathered there to see what had happened. "And they were all amazed," verse 7 (Acts 2:7), "and they marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these that speak Galileans?" (the 120), "and how hear we every man in our own tongue wherein we were born?" Now it goes on to mention there were Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and different ones that it mentions from the different countries where they had come from.
"We do hear them," in verse 11 (Acts 2:11), "speak in our tongues, our language, the wonderful works of God." In other words, the crowd there, thousands of them, heard the 120 all speaking in their own language. It wasn't a, sort-of a crazy put-on thing that a little child could do. They were speaking something that made sense, they were speaking in that language, and the people there heard. The miracle's in the hearing, not in the speaking. Nothing like that has ever happened since. Just don't be deceived.
Now then, Peter preached to them that day, and this was the first real inspired sermon. The Holy Spirit entered into Peter, and 3,000 were baptized that day. And the last verse in the 2nd chapter of Acts (Acts 2:47): "And the Lord added to the church daily such as might be saved." Now I want you to get that. The apostles didn't go out and talk them into it. There was not a soul-saving crusade. They preached the kingdom of God, the government of God, the family of God, but God added to the church.
[Commercial break: Just What Do You Mean... Kingdom of God?] God, Christ had called the apostles. He had trained them to go out with the message about the kingdom of God. Now he added a church, and he added that to the apostles. But they weren't trained in carrying that gospel message out. So why were they, and I'm coming to that, why the church? What is their function? Lay members did not go forth with the gospel. Show it to me here in the Bible. You can't do it, because it isn't there.
Persecution of the Church Now I want you to notice a little further, a very savage persecution set into the church after two years. You'll read in Acts the 8th chapter, and the 1st verse (Acts 8:1): "And there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem, and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles."
Now we come to Acts the 12th chapter (Acts 12:1), and I want to read a little of it to you. "Now 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," Peter, "he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after," (and here is a mistranslation: "Easter") and in the original as it is written in there by Luke, who probably wrote the book of Acts, it was "Passover," or "Pascha." And it was not "Easter" at all, that is a misprint. "...to bring him forth to the people.
Peter therefore was kept in prison: but," now notice, notice the function of the church, to back up the apostles. The apostles are the ones that were sent forth with proclaiming the message. "But prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him," for Peter. And the result is that God sent an angel, and just simply broke the chains, the big steel or iron chains that held him hands and feet, and opened the doors and released him, and got Peter out of there.
Now I skipped one very important part, that I would like to go back to and mention. That's back here in the 4th chapter of Acts. Peter and John had healed this well-known cripple, and preached a sermon, and really there were about 2,000 that were converted as a result of it that God added to the church. But then Peter and John were threatened. They put them in prison overnight, and then they threatened them the next morning. And these were the top men. It was the high priest, and the top rulers, and people there, and naturally these apostles were human. They now had the Holy Spirit, but sometimes they were tried.
Notice now in Acts 4:23. "And being let go" from prison, "they went to their own company," the company of newly converted Christians now, "and they reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them, and when they heard this, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and they said, Lord, thou art God which hast made heaven and earth and the sea," and they asked them to give these apostles the power, and the courage, and to make it possible for them to go ahead with the mission, and to carry on this great commission of getting the announcement of the kingdom of God on out.
Now, I would like to show you that the great commission was given not to the church, but to the apostles. It isn't a message to the church, that the church is given the great commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel. If you will turn with me first to Matthew 28, beginning with verse 16 (Matthew 28:16): "Then the eleven disciples..." Now Judas had left them, you see, and they had not yet chosen Matthias to take his place.
"Then the eleven disciples," who became now apostles, "went away into Galilee into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them, and when they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted, and Jesus came and spake unto them." That is the eleven, not the whole church, only the eleven. "And said, all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
Now, some construe that to mean that you're to go and convert everybody, and baptize everybody. You know that wouldn't make sense anyway, if you stop to think. Actually, in the Revised Standard translation, that is "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" — "Make disciples within all nations, and baptizing them."
No Man Can Come To Me... Except Now Jesus Christ had said here in John the 6th chapter and 44th verse (John 6:44), Jesus had said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which sent me draw him." No man can. I told you a while ago, that God pronounced sentence, that humanity was cut off from him, except such as he would call. Now unless God calls, people are shut off. So finally, let's get our bearings, and let me show you what is the real purpose of the church.
Number one — to back up the apostles as the church's part in getting the gospel to the world, to back up the apostles with their encouragement, with their prayers, with their tithes and offerings to make it possible for the apostles to go into all the world with this message. Second — the church overcoming Satan, developing this character through the Holy Spirit, to qualify them to sit on Christ's throne.
You'll notice that in II Peter 1 and verse 4 (II Peter 1:4), that once we have the Holy Spirit, we have received the very nature of God. God has put his divine nature within us. Now Jesus said in Revelation 3, verse 21 (Revelation 3:21): "He that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I also overcame." Now Christ had to overcome Satan before he could qualify to sit on that throne. If we're going to sit with him on that throne, we have to overcome Satan.
Listen, only a few have been called up to now. Everybody living will be called after the second coming of Christ, and his annual Holy Days that he's given, and annual festivals, teach all of this. The church mostly has lost those things, and consequently do not understand. But in the 2nd chapter of Revelation, verses 26 and 27 (Revelation 2:26-27): "He that overcometh will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron."
Now we have to overcome Satan, but when Christ comes, everyone that is on Earth that is then living will be called. And they will not have Satan to overcome at all. They won't have this carnal nature that has been put within us by Satan. Satan begins instilling that within human beings. A child is not born with it, but Satan begins instilling it in little children as soon as their minds begin to accumulate knowledge and to think and to reason. And then the self-centeredness begins to come in.
But those who do qualify now, and to, most of the church are called to back up the apostles as their part in getting the gospel out. Now it does take organization in this modern day, and there is considerable organization and machinery for getting this gospel out. But the church's job is to back that up, and that is their part in doing it, and to develop this character within themselves, that they may qualify to rule with Christ when he comes.
And then at the second coming of Christ, that 6,000 years will be over in which humanity has been cut off from God, and everyone will then be called. Then after that thousand years, will come the Great White Throne Judgment when everybody clear back to Adam who ever lived, is going to be called and given a chance, and there will be no Satan around at that time at all.
Now there's one thing I want to say in closing. There are two booklets that I would like to ask you to write in for, and they're absolutely free. There is no price whatsoever. Just What Do You Mean... The Kingdom of God? I said Christ came announcing the kingdom of God, but what is the kingdom of God? Is it the church? Is it something set up in men's hearts? What is the kingdom of God? Write in for it, it's free.
Another one is What Do you Mean... Born Again? What is the meaning? What do you mean, born again? You know, almost everybody misunderstands that. And if you want to get it cleared up and understand it, as it is in the Bible, just write it in for it. There is no charge whatsoever, I'll be glad to mail it to you right away. So, until next time, this is Herbert W. Armstrong. Goodbye, friends.