|A Voice Cries Out Amid Religious Confusion
Part Two: WHAT AND WHY THE CHURCH?
THE WESTERN WORLD has taken the existence of churches for granted. WHY was the institution of the church ever formed? WHAT is its purpose? Such questions seem never to have occurred to most.
In the average mind, a church is a building with a steeple atop, and a cross on its facade. Indeed Webster defines it thus. People at least some go to this building every Sunday morning to attend a "worship service."
But to many and probably most the church plays no part in their lives. Indeed God plays no part in their lives. God is not consciously in their world. Just people, material things and interests. Of course, far back in the subconscious recesses of many minds may lie dormant the supposition that God exists. But He does not seem REAL to them.
Yet the CHURCH, too, does exist. But WHY? WHAT is it, really? What PURPOSE does it serve?
We have seen that there is, indeed a PURPOSE being worked out here below. Winston Churchill stated that before the United States Congress. There is a REASON for the presence of humanity on the earth. And for the working out of that PURPOSE there is a MASTER PLAN. The CHURCH is an important part of that plan.
Never lose sight of the setting that led up to the raising up of the Church. Keep in mind WHO and WHAT God is the Divine creating Family, now reproducing Himself in man.
Pertinent to the purpose of the Church is what happened upon creation of that first man, Adam.
Satan, the former cherub Lucifer, sitting on the throne of the earth, had made the Government of God inoperative. Yet, his rule not lessened, he remained still on that throne!
The first human followed the way of Satan, rejecting the Government of God for himself and for his posterity. The whole world was to spring from him. On cutting himself off from God, the Eternal made Adam's decision effective on Adam's human race UNTIL the restoration of God's Government over the earth. And that meant a duration of 6,000 years until the Second Coming of Christ to restore that Government. This severance from God applied to all except the exceedingly few God would specially call to Him in preparation for the Kingdom of God, to rule earth with the Government of God.
God did call and choose His nation, Israel, but His Spirit was unavailable to them, except for their prophets.
This brings us to the time of Jesus the Messiah and His founding of the CHURCH.
But bear constantly in mind God's PURPOSE is the reproduction of Himself through MAN. The physical creation of man began with Adam. But the spiritual re-creation of man began with Jesus Christ.
At this point bear in mind Satan is the most powerful being next to GOD. He is the archenemy of the GOVERNMENT OF GOD! Yet to this day he still sits on earth's throne! He could not be removed from that throne and from the earth UNTIL a successor had qualified and been actually inducted into power on that throne!
But WHY is that? Could not God, in His supreme limitless power, have simply removed Satan and sat "The WORD" (John 1:1-3) on that throne before He became the human Christ?
He could not for TWO vital reasons:
1) God's supreme PURPOSE is to reproduce Himself through MAN. And MAN the progenitor of the human race had sold out to Satan and like him rejected the Government of God. To reproduce Himself through humans, God had to SAVE humans from that rebellion and its penalty.
2) God had established HIS GOVERNMENT on earth. It is based on God's LAWS and God will not compromise a millionth of an inch on HIS LAWS. God, for example, had power to forgive humanity automatically without requiring the PENALTY incurred through sin to be PAID. But, rather than that, God GAVE His only begotten Son to pay that penalty in our stead! And God's LAW of His Government required that the throne He had set on earth remain inviolate until a successor had qualified and had been inducted into power on that throne.
Bear in mind further: In order for Christ to RESTORE God's Government over the earth, He would need with and under Him a qualified and organized personnel of GOD-BEINGS all having rejected Satan's false way, and proved loyalty to the Government and righteous ways of GOD!
God's CHURCH was designed in His supreme Master Plan to prepare that dedicated and organized personnel of GOD-BEINGS. The Church, then, became God's instrumentality for His over-all PURPOSE of REPRODUCING HIMSELF!
The CHURCH was planned to be God's instrumentality for calling human beings out of this world, and developing the begotten and finally born FAMILY OF GOD, which shall form the KINGDOM OF GOD.
All this necessitated certain vital steps one at a time in the procedure of God's supreme Master Plan!
In the time sequence of God's Master Plan, we have seen there are four important "UNTILS."
1) Mankind as a whole would remain CUT OFF from God UNTIL the Government of God is restored at the Second Coming of Christ. Satan will then be removed..
2) The Gospel message announcing the future Kingdom of God could not be proclaimed to the world UNTIL the second Adam had qualified to restore the Government of God.
3) God's CHURCH could not be founded, and endued with His Holy Spirit, UNTIL Jesus had ascended and been glorified in heaven.
4) Even then the Church could not be born of God UNTIL Christ's return as KING of kings.
And we might add a fifth "UNTIL." All who died mankind as a whole uncalled and therefore unjudged (neither "saved" nor "lost") prior to Christ's return to RULE shall not be resurrected for their time of judgment UNTIL after Christ's millennial reign. This will occur at the end of the 7,000 years of God's Master Plan.
There is a vital reason for these "UNTILS."
But now in this chapter we have come to the time of that second "UNTIL." Jesus had come and qualified to proclaim the prophetic GOOD NEWS of the future KINGDOM OF GOD.
So, once again, WHAT and WHY is the CHURCH? The Church is the called out (from this world) begotten children of God. It is the Body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 1:23). It is the organized spiritual organism that shall be the "Bride of Christ" after its resurrection to immortality. Then it shall be married to Christ! It is the spiritual TEMPLE to which Christ shall come at His second appearing.
The Church could not be actually founded UNTIL Jesus had ascended and been glorified (John 7:37-39). But in a sense God began calling out some to form the foundation of the Church with Abraham and the prophets of the Old Testament or even, perhaps with Abel, Enoch and Noah (Ephesians 2:20).
And Jesus, immediately after qualifying by overcoming Satan, began calling out His future apostles. They were to form, with the prophets, the very FOUNDATION of the Church, under Christ who Himself is the real foundation and HEAD of the Church (I Corinthians 3:11, Ephesians 5:23).
The average person has no conception whatever of the tremendous, supreme supernatural achievement Almighty God has undertaken in REPRODUCING HIMSELF ultimately into billions of spiritual GOD BEINGS! Or of the many-faceted stages of development necessitated in this pinnacle of all divine accomplishments!
God could not hurry. It required a Master Plan, which must proceed a step at a time. It required PATIENCE and never-deviating determination on the part of the Divine Creator!
Few UNDERSTAND this!
From a child only 5 years old God put it in my mind and heart to desire to literally crave UNDERSTANDING! Solomon desired wisdom and God gave him wisdom above all who ever lived.
What, then, is the necessary prerequisite to receiving UNDERSTANDING? "A good understanding have all they that do his commandments" (Psalm 111:10). The one test commandment is the fourth keeping God's Sabbath. My conversion resulted from a struggle to resist that commandment! But when a merciful God conquered me brought me to surrender to Him on that point, He revealed also the necessity of observing His ANNUAL Sabbaths and festivals. These picture the seven major spiritual steps in the great Master Plan. Through this and other revealed knowledge of the Holy Bible, God gave me UNDERSTANDING of the working out of His great PURPOSE! And also the necessary part of His CHURCH in fulfillment of that glorious purpose!
After Adam's rebellion, with Satan still on earth's throne, only God could have known how gradually, cautiously, a step at a time, must be the procedure.
Such righteous men as Abel, Enoch and Noah undoubtedly were used to play some part in the ultimate creation of the KINGDOM OF GOD. But the Eternal began laying the actual foundation of that ultimate GOD FAMILY through the patriarch Abraham. Isaac, Jacob and Joseph formed part of that prefoundation.
Then through Moses, God raised up the nation Israel God's first Congregation or Church. That Old Covenant Church was given God's Government, but NOT His Holy Spirit! Israelites were not begotten to become future GOD BEINGS. Yet ancient Israel fulfilled a necessary part in God's supreme program.
Nevertheless, during those years, God continued to call and prepare individual PROPHETS to become part of the FOUNDATION for His CHURCH.
And WHAT, then, was to be the CHURCH? As pictured by the third of God's annual Holy Days (festivals) it was to provide the FIRST ACTUAL HARVEST of mortal humans being translated into Spirit-composed GOD BEINGS! However, the CHURCH is the BEGOTTEN (not yet born) children of GOD. But the CHURCH shall be the firstBORN harvest (Christ being the foregoing Pioneer) at Christ's coming in POWER and GLORY!
Through the years from Abraham until Christ, God had called out of Satan's world begotten and prepared PROPHET'S, as the preliminary co-foundation of God's CHURCH! Jesus Himself is the main Foundation.
During Jesus' 3 and a half year earthly ministry, He called out, chose and trained, to begin with, the second co-foundation, His original 12 apostles.
During His human earthly ministry, Jesus announced publicly the future KINGDOM OF GOD. He taught and trained His apostles as He proceeded.
But He DID NOT CALL to salvation the public to whom He preached. He spoke to them frequently in parables. And WHY in parables? To cloud, to hide from them the meaning (Matthew 13:10-16) which was given to His chosen apostles to understand.
By the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus had completed preparations for founding His Church. He had finished the Work He, as a human had come to do. Then He gave His life on the cross. He took on Himself our human guilt for our sins.
Understand, however, Christ did NOT take on Himself Satan's primary share in all human sins. Satan will continue to pay his own penalty throughout all eternity!
The FOUNDATION for the Church of God had been laid. Christ Himself is the Head and chief cornerstone the main foundation. His apostles, with the prophets, formed the remainder of the foundation.
The apostles were chafing at the bit to GET STARTED to go forth proclaiming the Gospel Message. But God has wisely used restraint, with patience, taking a proper step at a time. So Jesus cautioned His apostles to WAIT! "Tarry ye," He commanded (Luke 24:49), "In the city of Jerusalem, UNTIL ye be endued with power from on high."
Ten days later came the annual Day of Pentecost, originally named the Feast of First Fruits (Numbers 28:26).
On that day the Holy Spirit came! On that day THE CHURCH WAS FOUNDED!
That day symbolized the very firstfruits for God's Kingdom. God's feast days picture God's spiritual harvest. The very first portion of God's spiritual harvest of humans finally to be born of God made GOD BEINGS is THE CHURCH! That's why even those who shall be born into the Kingdom of God at Christ's return starting with ancient prophets are part of the CHURCH OF GOD. Even prophets of Old Testament times are part of the FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH (Ephesians 2:19-21).
All prophets, apostles and Church brethren in whom resides the Holy Spirit shall be resurrected and/or changed to immortality at Christ's coming in GLORY and POWER!
Thus the WHOLE CHURCH constitutes the very FIRST of all humans who shall be finally BORN AGAIN into the Kingdom of GOD. They shall be GOD BEINGS!
How DECEIVED (Revelation 12:9) have been all those who think they already have been "born again." The reader should request our free booklet Just What Do You Mean Born Again?
Now before proceeding further, UNDERSTAND WHY only the minute FEW have so far been called to salvation WHY the world as a whole has been CUT OFF from God WHY the world has not been yet judged WHY neither "saved" nor "lost"!
The first Adam fell before Satan cut himself and the world of from God. Satan was still ON EARTH'S THRONE! He was disqualified; he had rebelled GOD'S GOVERNMENT no longer was operative. Yet Satan had NOT BEEN REMOVED FROM THE POWER OF THAT THRONE! He was ruling with his satanic attitude of "GET" instead of God's law of "GIVE"
Adam made the choice for himself and his children who were to constitute the world (for this world was destined to spring from him). Adam had rebelled against the Government of GOD cut the world off from God's impregnative GOD-LIFE through God's Holy Spirit sold out the world to SATAN!
Unless or UNTIL a son of Adam could qualify where Adam failed could overcome and conquer SATAN none could restore GOD'S GOVERNMENT none could be given eternal GOD-life!
The Supreme Master Plan for working out GOD'S PURPOSE reproducing Himself called for the self-existing "WORD" to be born of human flesh as a son of Adam. But ALSO that plan called for Him to be born as the only begotten Son of GOD!
The Messiah, and He alone, would be able to overcome and conquer Satan to QUALIFY to replace Satan ON THE THRONE OF THE EARTH! Only through Him could the sons of Adam be reconciled to GOD, receive God's Spirit, become GOD'S sons become the GOD BEINGS by whom God should have finally reproduced Himself!
What a superb incredible Master Plan for such a SUPREME PURPOSE! How GREAT IS THE ETERNAL GOD WHO DESIGNED IT!
This wonderful plan of God therefore of necessity called for the sons of Adam in general to be NOT YET JUDGED! God left them to their own devices knowing full well they would willingly and willfully follow automatically Satan's "GET" way.
But meanwhile they would not be finally judged, but "reaping what they sowed." They would live this sinful life, die, and God would RESURRECT them in a special resurrection to JUDGMENT in the end of the 7,000 years of the Master Plan. Christ already having atoned for their sins Satan having been removed Christ and the Kingdom of God having restored the Government of God over the earth then they could be CALLED to repentance, to reconciliation to GOD, to becoming, on their then free choice, GOD BEINGS!
And THAT'S WHY God has kept the world as a whole CUT OFF from Him even as their progenitor Adam had cut off himself and his human family.
As the apostle Paul was inspired to write, "I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery" (and it is a mystery to the world) "that blindness" to these mysteries has happened to this world even to its "Christian theologians" UNTIL the Kingdom of God has been established in rule of the earth!
"For," continues Paul, "as ye [Christians] in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they may also obtain mercy. For GOD hath concluded all in unbelief, that He may have mercy UPON ALL!"
And at this point Paul shouted out in writing. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:25, 30-32.)
True, the apostle wrote the above concerning ISRAEL, and I have applied it to all uncalled humanity but it is truly applicable.
God called and prepared the Old Testament prophets. He has called and still calls and prepares the CHURCH to overcome Satan whereas those now blinded, uncalled and cut off from God have NOT had to overcome Satan. WHY?
WHY the CHURCH?
That we may QUALIFY to rule WITH and UNDER CHRIST in the Kingdom of God that we may prepare the way for the ULTIMATE CALL AND SALVATION OF THE WORLD!
At this point let me quote two passages from the direct word of Jesus, which apply ONLY to the CHURCH:
To the CHURCH of this 20th century Jesus says, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my father in His throne" (Revelation 3:21).
Then again to the CHURCH Jesus says, "He that overcometh, 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).
This explains the WHY of the Church its great PURPOSE.
But WHAT is the CHURCH HOW ORGANIZED HOW does it function?
God explains in I Corinthians 12 functions, offices, administrations and their officers as GOD set them in His Church.
"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant
. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all
. But all these worketh that one and selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, ARE ONE BODY: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free
" (I Corinthians 12:1, 4-6, 11-13).
Notice especially, there is only the ONE CHURCH. Not MANY churches. The CHURCH is not divided. Divisions splintering off are NOT STILL IN THE CHURCH. It is the CHURCH that is to marry Christ in the resurrection at His coming not disagreeing churches not groups who have broken off! That will become more obvious as we continue.
So notice, too, the Church conducts VARIOUS OPERATIONS. For these in the ONE Church there are also various ADMINISTRATIONS or executive departments, with an executive manager over each department or operation (verses 4-6). Remember an executive administrator DOES NOT SET POLICY OR PROCEDURES OR DOCTRINES. He administers he carries out and directs what has been already set from above.
The President of the United States does NOT MAKE THE LAWS. He administers the policies as functions authorized by Congress enforces the laws made by Congress. Administrators are set in the Church merely to supervise, direct, execute the policies, procedures, doctrines assigned to them from above.
The ONE Church, undivided, is emphasized again in verse 20: "But now are they many members, yet BUT ONE BODY" ONE UNDIVIDED CHURCH! Even GOD is composed of more than one Personage, yet but the ONE GOD! GOD, remember is the Divine GOD FAMILY. Those in the Church are already begotten sons begotten members of that GOD FAMILY. But not yet BORN as GOD BEINGS!
Notice verse 25, "there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care one for another."
To administer these many operations, God not a vote of the members "hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers." Or, as stated in more detail in Ephesians 4:11 (Revised Standard Version): "And His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers."
An apostle is "one sent forth" with Christ's Gospel message, including the supervision of proclaiming that message to the world by means and persons other than himself. Also an apostle was given supervision over all the local congregations or churches(I Corinthians 16:1, II Corinthians 11:28).
The prophets set in the foundation of the Church are those of the Old Testament, whose writings were used to form a considerable part of the New Testament and Gospel teaching and functioning. The word prophesy is often used in the sense of "to preach, or proclaim". So some of the preachers might well be termed "prophets" but no prophets are mentioned as having either administrative, executive or preaching functions in the New Testament Church.
Evangelists were leading ministers, proclaiming the Gospel to the public, even raising up local churches and having supervision over some churches under the apostle. Therefore an evangelist may hold executive functions under the apostle in the Church headquarters or Work today. An evangelist is not necessarily stationary. Pastors are stationary pastors over a local church or contingent group of local churches. Then there were placed in the Church teachers not necessarily preachers. Yet all ministers and teachers are called elders in other New Testament texts. Therefore, in God's Church today there are both preaching and nonpreaching elders. Preaching elders pastor local churches. Then some elders, not preaching, are called local elders in the Church today.
Now further about CHURCH ORGANIZATION.
The CHURCH is the spiritual Body of Christ not a secular or worldly organization, club or institution. Yet it is HIGHLY ORGANIZED.
Notice how thoroughly organized: "Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God." Notice the Church is a FAMILY, even as GOD is a Divine FAMILY "the household of God."
Continue, "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in whom all the building" the Church is a building "fitly framed together (WELL ORGANIZED all parts joined and functioning together in harmony and teamwork) "groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22).
The Church also is to grow into a HOLY TEMPLE the spiritual TEMPLE to which Christ shall come even as He came to a material temple of stone and metals and wood the first time.
Notice further: "
the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body fitly joined together" ORGANIZED "and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body
" (Ephesians 4:15-16). Compacted means knit together, compressed together, as closely together as if welded together. This shows ORGANIZED UNITY, HARMONY!
Old Testament Israel, the Church of the Old Testament, was also a nation in the world though not OF the world as God organized it. Its GOVERNMENT was HIERARCHICAL. It was Theocratic Government government from the top down the very opposite of "democracy."
The CHURCH is organized under Theocratic Government, hierarchical in form. The members do not set officials in the Church. God sets EVEN THE LAY MEMBERS in the Church (I Corinthians 12:18).
Jesus said explicitly, "NO MAN CAN come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). The world, except for the specially called, is CUT OFF from God!
We have just covered the truth that GOD set officials to serve on the human level under Christ, in the Church. Members do not elect them. Yet in the churches of this world some believe in government by the entire congregation "democracy" and call themselves "Congregational." Others have organized themselves into government by ministers or presbytery and call themselves "Presbyterian." Some follow Luther and call themselves "Lutheran." Some follow Wesley, who was strong on "method," and call themselves "Methodist." Some learned God's truth about baptizing and call their church after the name of that one doctrine, "Baptist." One wanted complete universal world dominion, and called itself "Catholic," which means "universal." A number, mostly smaller or "pentecostal," saw God's Church named "the Church of God" 12 times in the New Testament, and used that as their church name.
Yet none is truly the Church OF GOD, unless it is GOD'S CHURCH, continuing in doctrine, practice, organization, in all ways on the original biblical pattern, headed by Jesus Christ, yet belonging to God the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit, having GOD'S TRUTH, fulfilling Christ's commission of proclaiming His GOOD NEWS of the KINGDOM OF GOD to the world as a whole.
And there is only ONE such Church!
And it CANNOT BE DIVIDED. It remains ONE.
In I Corinthians 1, the apostle Paul was inspired to command that all in the Church "SPEAK THE SAME THING. There must be no division in what is believed, taught or preached.
But what about all the many organized churches labelled under the category "Christianity" some with millions of members? They are all described in Revelation 17:5: "Mystery, Babylon the Great the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth."
Are they, then, evil?
Not consciously or knowingly, necessarily. The world of humanity has been CUT OFF from God. Satan is still on earth's throne, next in power to GOD Himself! And the whole world is DECEIVED by Satan (Revelation 12:9). Those deceived are not aware that they are deceived. If so they would not be deceived! They may be ever so sincere in believing they are right!
Are they condemned? By no means! They are simply NOT YET JUDGED neither "lost" nor "saved." Few indeed realize the magnitude of Satan's power and the extent of his DECEPTION!
It is SATAN who is evil and diabolical. But he is an INVISIBLE being and force unseen and unrecognized by mortal humans.
Satan is a great COUNTERFEITER! He appears as "an angel of light" (II Corinthians 11:13-15). And he has his counterfeit CHURCHES! His ministers are deceived by him into believing they are "ministers of righteousness" and of Christ (II Corinthians 11:15, Matthew 24:5). Yet they have neither known nor preached Jesus' true Gospel of THE KINGDOM OF GOD (Matthew 24:14). Nor do they comprehend what is written in this book about the CHURCH OF GOD!