This is the true story of the true Church, founded A.D. 31 by Jesus Christ, the unique and only voice giving a hopeless world its only and sure hope—the soon-coming peaceful world tomorrow!
The visitor, to put it mildly, was astonished! He was witnessing something he had never expected to see. He was professor of comparative religion at one of the world's great universities, visiting a Canadian festival site of the world's largest annual church conclave. This, however, was one of the smaller of a score of such annual convention sites throughout the world. Seven thousand were here assembled for the eight-day festival. At once the visitor was impressed by an atmosphere refreshingly different—and he had visited many church conventions in many countries. Had these people been odd or fanatical, it would have been no new experience. He was well aware of religious groups who generated a temporary emotional fervor in their meetings. He was familiar, too, with those who were stiffly formal—and unhappy. But here he was experiencing something which was, to him, unique. He was seated next to one of the ministers of the Worldwide Church of God. "These members," he volunteered, "obviously are solid and stable people, and they radiate an inner happiness that is genuine. Life to them seems to have purpose and meaning. It's an enjoyable and healthy attitude I can't quite find words to describe." "Yes," smiled the minister, "life does have purpose and meaning to our people. And they do radiate the inner joy you have observed because their lives have been changed by God's Holy Spirit, and because they are participating in and prayerfully backing the spreading of Christ's TRUE gospel—the same message originally proclaimed by Christ Himself. "For nineteen centuries that message had been suppressed. But this is the very generation that shall see that message fulfilled. It is God's time for that message of WORLD HOPE to be again proclaimed in POWER, worldwide. When one knows he has a part in giving a dying world its real and only hope, it is indeed a gratifying experience. That's what radiates that inner joy you see here." "But how can this be? How can one explain it?" the professor asked. "Well," responded the minister, "it begins with the story of the appearance on earth of the REAL Jesus Christ more than nineteen centuries ago. It's the story of His message from God to mankind. It's the story of the founding, the history and the mission of His Church. It's the story of the suppression by hostile world powers of Christ's real message—of spurious and counterfeit teachings deceiving the whole world for nineteen centuries—and, finally, of God's rejuvenating His people with His Spirit and vitality to carry that message of sure HOPE to this present world's last generation." "Yes," observed the visitor thoughtfully, "I can believe that must be true."
These people are members of the Church of God, known in our day as the Worldwide Church of God. This Church is unique in practicing Christianity as A WAY OF LIFE, as well as a faith—even as it did originally in the days of the first-century apostles. Its members are motivated by a supreme goal, inspired by knowing the transcendent human potential. They know the true values. They have found THE WAY that makes life truly meaningful, rewarding, abundant! It is the way the whole world ought to be living. What is that WAY OF LIFE? It is the WAY OF LOVE—the way of outgoing concern for the good and welfare of others equal to self-concern. It is the way of cooperating, serving, helping, sharing—of consideration and patience. More important, it is the way of humility and of obedience to, reliance on, and worship solely toward God. It is the GOD-centered way. The world in general lives the way of "GET." It follows the SELF-centered way of vanity, of greed, lust, envy, jealousy and hate. It exalts the self. It sets its heart on self-gain and material possessions. It lives the way of competition, strife, unconcern for the welfare of others. It always seeks to get the best of every deal, indifferent to the fact that the other must take the worst. In this world the successful are considered to be those who have piled up the biggest fortunes in material goods, not those who have given the most in spiritual gifts for the happiness of others. And yet there is the promise that if one seeks first the righteous and unselfish way, then material prosperity shall follow. Material possessions may add to happiness already attained, but they are not the SOURCE of happiness—they cannot produce it. Actually, what almost none—including those who profess Christianity—seem to realize is that this "GIVE" way is based in an invisible, yet inexorable, spiritual LAW in active force and motion. It is a law as real, as inflexibly relentless, as the physical law of gravity. It governs and regulates all human relationships. Traditional Christianity seems to have forgotten that this law is summarized in the Ten Commandments, which are the basis of the Christian WAY OF LIFE. And the lives of these people who were enjoying the convention in southwestern Canada are a living demonstration that the teachings of Jesus, which He carried out in the example He set by His own life here on earth—living the principles of the Ten Commandments—are in truth THE WAY of practical, rewarding and joyous living—and neither impractical platitudes nor a burdensome yoke of bondage. This WAY OF LIFE is paying off among Church of God people in joyous happiness, successful living, and abundant well-being! This GOD-centered way broadens and expands one's horizons. Self-centeredness constantly shrinks one's mental and spiritual outlook. It is, to most who profess Christianity today, astonishing to learn that Jesus, Peter, Paul and all the first-century apostles taught obedience to this inexorable spiritual law—the WAY OF LOVE. It is surprising to most to learn that the Bible plainly shows that the religion of Christ—the only true Christianity—is a WAY OF LIFE as well as a living FAITH. This spiritual law was set in living motion as the loving gift of humanity's Maker to CAUSE every desired GOOD. Yet humanity in general has been living a diametrically contrary way of life. There can be no law without penalty for violation. All the evils suffered down through the stream of time by humanity have simply been the PENALTIES caused by violation of that law.
How Knowledge Was Lost
How did mankind LOSE knowledge of the PURPOSE of human life—of WHAT man is, WHY he is, WHERE he is going—his transcendent potential—of THE WAY that is the only possible CAUSE of peace and happiness and everything good and desirable? First, we might illustrate the world's sickness this way: A manufacturer sends along with his mechanized product an instruction manual. The instruction book explains what the product is, what it is intended to do, how to operate it to accomplish its intended purpose. In like manner, man's Maker created a human mechanism far more perfectly designed than any man-produced product. And our Maker also sent along His INSTRUCTION MANUAL. In it He reveals what we are, why we are, where we are going, and above all, HOW to operate this human mechanism to accomplish its intended potential in peace, happiness and abundant well-being. But the more perfectly designed GOD-MADE human mechanism is not functioning well. Human society is sick—filled with unrest, discontent, unhappiness, suffering. Human society does not know the way to PEACE. Crime and violence are rampant and on an accelerating spiral. Morals have skidded into the cesspool. Evils of all kinds escalate. Why? If people threw away or ignored the instruction books for operating mechanical gadgets—or tried to operate them contrary to all the manufacturer's instructions—mechanical devices would not work, either! It all started in the Garden of Eden when our first parents rejected their Maker's revealed knowledge and disobeyed His commands. And humanity as a whole has followed that course ever since—cut off from God! Humanity has continued to reject revelation as the source of basic knowledge. Man has continued to reject the WAY of God—His spiritual law—as the way to all desired good, and to decide for himself what, in his eyes, is good and what is evil. He has continued to take to himself the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He has continued to do what is right in his own eyes. And in so doing, he has brought on himself every evil that has beset humankind. See where it has now brought this world. Humanity continued along on even keel, in knowledge production, until about 170 years ago. As the prophet Daniel foretold, at "the time of the end ... knowledge shall be increased" (Dan. 12:4).
Science, the False Messiah
So, about 170 years ago, scientists decided the human intellect had become so near perfect it could now safely cast off its swaddling clothes and throw away the crutch of religion and belief in God. Given sufficient knowledge, they reasoned, they could solve all of man's problems and cure all his ills. Modern science stepped forth as the new Messiah that would deliver humanity from all troubles and evils. Morals began to relax. Spiritual values gradually were de-emphasized. Education threw the Bible out the window, and with it interest in teaching moral, spiritual and ethical values. Educational emphasis came to be, after World War I, solely on intellect, unconcerned with development of righteous character. Knowledge production was increasing at an accelerating rate. Great progress was being made—in industry, in technology, in areas of materialistic, scientific and medical knowledge. But increasing knowledge DID NOT solve humanity's problems. It cured no ills. On the contrary, man's problems, troubles and evils accelerated in almost exact proportion to this increase in knowledge. Finally, in the one decade of the '60s, the world's fund of KNOWLEDGE DOUBLED! And in the same ten years the world's TROUBLES ALSO DOUBLED! And the trend has continued since. The more man works at producing KNOWLEDGE, the more he brings EVILS upon himself. Now he has brought himself to the very brink of cosmocide. World leaders and scientists now know that humanity's number-one problem is that of SURVIVAL! Now they are beginning to speculate on whether the '70s or '80s may be MAN'S LAST DECADE. The engines of destruction have been produced that could quickly erase all human life from the earth!
The Foundation of True Knowledge
But our Maker has sent along with the product He made—humanity—His Instruction Book. He has made the TRUE KNOWLEDGE accessible for those willing to seek and use it. The VERY FOUNDATION of knowledge is this Instruction Book of man's Maker. The FOUNDATION of education to fit one for happy and successful living is being totally ignored in today's educational system. One is shocked and disillusioned in the discovery that virtually all religions, including traditional Christianity, have utterly ignored or rejected God's revealed WAY OF LIFE. This makes shockingly plain the reason WHY the world's religions and churches have not made this a better world—WHY there is no peace, WHY so little happiness! Ask the average church member how much biblical teaching has to do with his everyday life—his business, his social life, his home life, his politics, his entertainment and recreational life. He will probably reply, "Why, nothing, I suppose." But the Church of God, from A.D. 31 to now, has lived by God's revealed WAY OF LIFE, as well as by the faith of Jesus Christ. And in that it is indeed unique!
Importance of the Name
This Church has always recognized the importance of the NAME given the Church. And it has been always kept in that name. Twelve times in the New Testament the NAME of God's own Church is called just that: "the Church of God." Christ is revealed to be the living Head of that Church. And in this connection it is in one place only spoken of as the "Churches of Christ." But it is composed of the begotten children of God, who collectively as a Church are named after their Father. In some New Testament instances, a descriptive phrase is added to the name, such as the Church of God at Corinth, or the Churches of God in Judea. Today, it is the Worldwide Church of God. But Jesus prayed to God the Father that the Church would be kept in the Father's name (John 17:11). It has been.
A Worldwide Function
But when Jesus Christ said, "I will build my Church," it was for a PURPOSE that is more than merely preserving members in THE WAY that produces happiness and successful living for themselves. The Church has a serious and worldwide function to perform. It is a mission of LOVE—of outgoing concern for humanity worldwide. Its commission is to proclaim to the world the good news of the Kingdom (government) of God—not to convert the world, but merely as "a witness." That government has been taken from the earth. It is to be restored (Acts 3:19-21). God governs—as do all governments (or kingdoms)—by LAWS. God's law is a spiritual law—the WAY OF LIFE that CAUSES—produces—every good result. For carrying out that commission, the Church is called, in the New Testament, the "body of Christ." Few understand why. Jesus had come in human flesh, among other purposes, to start the Work of God. He said that of Himself He could do nothing. It was the power of the Holy Spirit of God in Him that empowered the Work. He called and chose His disciples, who became the original apostles. He taught and trained them to become, with Him and the prophets, the foundation of the Church. He gave His life for the Church—to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world—for all who will repent and accept His shed blood which is full payment for their sins. God raised Him from the dead, that by His life we might receive eternal life as God's free gift by grace. But, after His resurrection, and just before He was taken up to God's throne of the universe in heaven, Jesus "commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father" (Acts l:4)—that is, wait to receive within them the same Holy Spirit that had empowered Him. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you," He said (verse 8). The Spirit which had started God's Work in Jesus' single human body would now carry it on in the COLLECTIVE body of the Church. That Work—that commission—was: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). And, for this present time in which we now live: "... this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached [and published—Mark 13:10] in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end [of this age] come" (Matt. 24:14). The first great commission be-comes a far more complex and sizable operation today than it was in the first century. The world's population has multiplied many times over. We live in a different, far more mechanical and complex world today.
Powerful Work Today
The Church of God was not, in the first century, a world power either religiously or politically. It is not today. At times it has undergone violent persecution. It is not, today, a multimillion-member Church. Yet today it carries on a great worldwide Work. As a public service, it is reaching, by radio, television, and large-space advertising in many mass-circulation magazines and newspapers, 150,000,000 people with the inspired message of the WAY OF LIFE that is the CAUSE of all GOOD—of peace, happiness, prosperity, abundant well-being—the truly successful life.
Same Original Faith-Modern Procedures
The faith and way of life of the Church is precisely the same today as it was in the first century. It is the true faith "once delivered to the saints." That never changes. But today the Church lives and functions in a vastly different and highly complex and mechanized world. Accordingly, modern conditions necessitate different procedures, and modern methods of organization and operation.