Question: "I would like to thank you for sending me the booklet 'Where Is God's True Church Today?' Of special note is a paragraph on page 29: 'Can one who does not know of the true organized Body doing God's Work, and therefore is outside of it, be a member of the true Church which Christ built? The answer is yes — for it is possible for one to have truly repented, believed, and received God's Spirit — and be following that Spirit as far as he sees and understands — who does not know of the organized Work Christ is using today. But surely God's Spirit in him would lead one, in due time, into his part in the organized Body the living Christ is directing.' I have not been able to find a single scriptural reference for such a declaration."
Answer: Our Editor-in-Chief has said, from time to time, that there could conceivably be truly converted Christians outside of the Worldwide Church of God. God knows them that are His and certainly has the prerogative of calling anyone He wishes, wherever they may be! (John 6:44, 65.)
Perhaps the matter may be clarified somewhat by putting it this way: The Church of God is the spiritual Body of Christ. It is composed of those human individuals who have been granted the Holy Spirit: "For by one Spirit are we all baptized [immersed] into one body..." (I Cor. 12:13). What makes a person a member of the true Church is the receipt of the Holy Spirit which comes from God — not from any human organization.
Organization is what the Church has — not necessarily what it is. Therefore, it is possible for a member to exist outside of the main organization of the Church and still be a part of the spiritual Body of Christ! We do have biblical examples of those who worked miracles, or received the Holy Spirit, apart from proximity or association with Christ Himself or with the early Church. One such instance that will illustrate this principle is found in Mark 9:38-40: "John said to him, 'Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us'" (RSV).
Here was someone performing powerful miracles in the name of Jesus, yet he was not associated with Christ or with the disciples! Naturally, the disciples were "uptight" about it.
And what was Jesus' reply? "But Jesus said, 'Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us'" (RSV).
Could those who trust in Christ, apart from the main Body, speak evil of Him and of His Church if they were exposed to it? Would they not logically be attracted to it and want to become a part of it?
Acts the tenth chapter provides us with an example of a man who was heard by God apart from association with the original apostles. He sought God's blessing in his life and God heard his prayers. "There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius [a Gentile], a centurion of the band called the Italian band, a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway" (verses 1, 2).
This man was in the Roman army. He was certainly not a follower of the apostles; in fact, we have no evidence that he even knew of them. Yet he prayed to God and God heard. In a vision, an angel of God said to him: "... Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God" (verse 4).
As a result of this man's prayers and exemplary way of life, God used him to set an important spiritual precedent in that day and age. After Peter was sent to Cornelius and his household, God poured His Holy Spirit out on these devout people without the laying on of hands: "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost [Spirit] fell on all them which heard the word" (verse 44).
This manifestation of the Holy Spirit was similar to that of Acts 2. Cornelius had been drawn to the Church as a result of his faithfulness in prayers and almsgiving! He became the first Gentile (along with his household) to be made a part of the spiritual Body of Christ (Rom. 8:9, 14; Col. 1:18).
There are many modern instances where people have sought truth in their own Bibles, have prayed and sought to serve God, and were eventually led to the Church as a result. Sometimes it is by deliberate searching for an organization that represents God's way of life, and on other occasions it is purely "coincidental."
We receive numerous questions about various aspects of the Church. Many are answered in our free booklets Where Is God's True Church Today?, Seven Proofs of God's True Church and This Is the Worldwide Church of God.