Jesus Christ declared, “I will build My Church” (Matt. 16:18). No matter how men interpret it, this passage speaks of a single church! Christ continued, “and the gates of hell [the grave] shall not prevail against it.” He promised that His Church could never be destroyed.
Over 2,000 different professing Christian church organizations have been “built” by men in the United States. Another is started every three days. Estimates place the number of professing Christians at more than two billion. While church attendance seems to be increasing, it is not increasing as fast as the confusion surrounding the question of which is the right church.
While it has been said, “They can’t all be wrong,” it is more correct to say, “They cannot all be right.” If Christ built His Church as He said, then it can be found somewhere on earth today—and it is the only right Church. But we must ask: How do we find it—what do we look for—how do we identify it—how do we know it if we see it?
My mother required me to read many books when growing up. I spent many summers reading her assigned “book a week.” I enjoyed most of them and am very thankful she did this. On occasion, perhaps two or three times, I picked up the Bible and attempted to read it. But I never got far, because it made no sense to me. I simply could not understand the Bible.
Despite this lack of understanding, upon turning sixteen, I was “confirmed” into the church that I had been born into. I recall having to appear briefly before a panel of “deacons” to answer some questions, which I no longer remember. I do recall making some kind of general affirmation about this denomination, but I also remember that I was not concerned in the least with whether or not I was in the right church, or if I was fulfilling the Bible definition of a Christian.
Neither of these questions remotely interested me. I did vaguely believe that God existed, but He was not real to me. I had certainly never attempted to build a personal relationship with Him or to find His true Church. I did not pray or study His Word for guidance or doctrinal instruction. These concerns did not enter my mind until a year and a half later, in 1966, when I heard a powerful voice on the radio that introduced me to Christ’s statement in Matthew 16:18. I began to question where I could find this true Church. I immediately realized that it had to exist because, through just basic study, I came to understand Christ’s promise that it would remain and could not be destroyed.
Christ said, “But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9). In Mark’s parallel account of this statement, He continued, “Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition” (7:9).
The world’s Christianity is filled with traditions. One of the largest is the traditional view of the New Testament Church. Most ministers, theologians and religionists typically define the church in this way: “All those who sincerely believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior comprise the true Church.” This is often followed with the familiar statement, “There are many routes to heaven” or “There are many spokes on the wheel of salvation.” Though the Bible does not teach that heaven is the reward of the saved, the clear implication of these is that people can believe what they want, or be a part of any group that they choose, and still be Christians—still receive whatever is salvation. While people may sincerely believe these traditional ideas, they are sincerely wrong!
My research led me to absolute proof of where the Church was that Christ promised to build. I learned that this Church could be carefully traced through almost 2,000 years of New Testament history. I was shocked. I could not believe the Bible was so clear on a subject that confuses so many.
Your Bible declares, “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints [the context shows this refers to all congregations of the true Church, not all organizations of men]” (I Cor. 14:33).
God’s Church (composed of many congregations of saints) was to reflect peace—not confusion. You need not be confused about the identity of the true Church. God commands, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thes. 5:21). While this certainly refers to scriptural matters (not the car you drive or house you buy), it does say that “ALL things,” not “some things,” should be proven! Surely God would not exclude something of such magnitude—such vital importance—as the matter of where His true Church is found. And He would never emphatically tell people to prove things that cannot be proven!
The more I studied the other doctrines of the Bible, the more I learned that the churches of this world were wrong—on virtually everything! One plain scripture after another contradicted each traditional “Christian” idea I had been taught. I was amazed—actually stunned—at how easy it was to find direct, clear, undeniable proof that even the most popular traditions of the big denominations were not based on the Bible—at all!
Each time I studied a Bible doctrine—salvation, baptism, who and what God is, the gospel, death and hell, law and sin, grace, being born again, the Christian Sabbath, the true origin of supposed “Christian” holidays, where the modern-day tribes of ancient Israel are found today, the sequence of prophetic events preceding Christ’s Return and so much more—I gained undeniable proof of what the Bible really taught! I was excited and fascinated. I found that the churches of this world were almost invariably confused on all these and many other plain points of Bible teaching. I came to realize that there had to be a church that correctly believed and practiced all the doctrines of the Bible.
I learned that this Church existed, and that the proof identifying it and setting it apart from all the churches of recognized, mainstream Christianity was no different than the proof of any other biblical doctrine.
When speaking to His disciples about the importance of seeking the kingdom of God, Christ said, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). By no stretch can churches comprised of millions, let alone over 2 billion, be considered a “little flock.”
Christ understood that His Church—His little flock—would be persecuted and despised by the world. Just before His crucifixion, He warned, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). In the previous verse in the context, Jesus had reminded His disciples that “I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Christ was persecuted, to the point of horrible crucifixion after a night of brutal torture. Therefore, the true Church could also expect to be persecuted—and hated! Those in it are not “of the world.” The world senses this and hates them for it (Rom. 8:7). Christ used Paul to record, “Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12). The word “all” means what it says!
Consider what we have just discussed. How many churches can you name that are small, persecuted, not of this world—and even hated because of it? Think about those you are familiar with. Do any fit this description? Surely not many!
The world’s churches have many different names, which are derived in various ways. These include the particular doctrines they teach, the names of the men who founded them, the humanly-devised type of church government that they espouse, their location, or their intended scope and size, such as universal or catholic—in order to be thought of as all-encompassing.
On the night of His betrayal, Christ prayed for His Church. Here is what He said: “Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one, as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in your name…I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through Your truth: Your word is truth” (John 17:11-12, 14-17).
There are twelve separate places where the New Testament records that the true CHURCH has been kept in the name of the Father—God. The first five refer to the entire Church, or Body of Christ, as a whole. The next four speak of a specific local congregation, while using the same term “Church of God.” This may refer to the Church of God at Judea or Corinth, etc. The final three references speak collectively of all the individual local congregations combined. All these references use the term “Churches of God”:
(1) Acts 20:28: This verse is instruction to the elders to “feed the church of god.”
(2) I Corinthians 10:32: “Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of god.”
(3) I Corinthians 11:22: “…or despise you the church of god, and shame them that have not?”
(4) I Corinthians 15:9: Paul wrote the same thing to two congregations: “For…I persecuted the church of god.”
(5) Galatians 1:13: “I persecuted the church of god.”
(6) I Corinthians 1:2: “the church of god which is at Corinth.”
(7) II Corinthians 1:1: “the church of god which is at Corinth.”
(8) I Timothy 3:5: Paul references any elder in a local congregation: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of god?”
(9) I Timothy 3:15: “…behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living god.” This verse adds a descriptive word to God by using the term “living.”
(10) I Corinthians 11:16: “…We have no such custom, neither the churches of god.”
(11) I Thessalonians 2:14: “For you…became followers of the churches of god which in Judea are in Christ Jesus.”
(12) II Thessalonians 1:4: “So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of god.”
In the modern age, for corporate reasons, the Church may use an additional descriptive name to distinguish itself from other “Churches of God”—those merely appropriating God’s name, but not obeying His commandments, believing His true doctrines or doing His Work. Herbert W. Armstrong, the twentieth-century leader of the Church, chose the name Worldwide Church of God and before that, Radio Church of God. We have chosen the name The Restored Church of God.
Just as various mainstream denominations may have a few correct doctrines mixed with much error, some appropriate to themselves the name of God’s Church. This “Personal” will later explain why some few churches may even have a significant amount of truth, but choose to accept a variety of false doctrines. Only one church on the face of the earth has the correct name and teaches all the additional many true doctrines that the Bible teaches! Recall that Christ prayed, “Sanctify them through Your truth: Your word is truth.” The Church that Christ works through, directs and guides is sanctified—set apart—by its belief of the plain truth of God’s Word!
In addition to carrying the name “Church of God,” we have seen that the true Church has come out of the world, is small and persecuted, even to the point of being hated by it. This Church is then also set apart by its beliefs and practices—which are in complete agreement with the truth of the Bible!
Men have their own differing definitions of what the Church actually is, but only the Bible definition—God’s definition—matters. Read it for yourself. Paul wrote to Timothy, “…that you may know how you ought to behave yourself 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 the end, no other definition, devised by men, is acceptable. This definition of the Church Christ built will guide us throughout the remainder of this “Personal.” God’s Church has and teaches “the truth.”
We have discussed how this world’s churches are in confusion, divided by endless disagreement over doctrine and practice. Amos 3:3 asks, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” The answer is NO!
This world’s churches do not practice the principle of “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4), exactly as written. Instead, since they follow the many differing traditions of men, endless disagreements separate, divide and create more and more churches of men. They generally do not “walk together,” because they do not “agree”—either with each other or God!
God’s Church is different. Many New Testament verses show that the Church Christ built is unified—with all its members and congregations walking together in complete agreement with each other, and with God and Christ.
An important point, demonstrating the unity of the true Church, emerges from Christ’s same prayer in John 17, on the night of His betrayal. He prayed, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified [set apart] through the truth…That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that You have sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them, and You in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them, as You have loved Me” (vs. 19, 21-23).
These are powerful statements! Christ intended that His Church be unified—“one”—no less than were He and His Father! There is no room for disagreement in a Church that is this unified. These verses describe a perfect oneness through the truth—the same kind of oneness that the Father and Christ enjoy. It is this kind of unity that allows true Christians to be “in” them—be in Christ and the Father (vs. 21).
Even in the Old Testament, David was inspired to record, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psa. 133:1).
We now must examine several New Testament passages to see if, in fact, this kind of wonderful unity was apparent after the New Testament Church actually formed. Did God’s true servants teach and administer this kind of agreement? And how is that unity achieved?
First, notice this early picture of God’s Church. On the day of Pentecost, gathered in “one accord” (Acts 2:1), when the New Testament Church came into existence, 3,000 converts were baptized. They formed the very beginning of Christ’s building of His Church. The initial description given was “…and they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (vs. 42), “…all that believed were together” (vs. 44) and “…they, continuing daily with one accord…did eat their meat [food] with gladness and singleness of heart” (vs. 46). From these verses, we clearly see that the Church Christ built was unified—in agreement—over doctrine, and together. Notice verse 47: “And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved.” In the Church Christ guides and directs, He is the One who adds to it, building it!
The New Testament speaks of the Church of God as the same thing as the Body of Christ. This introduces remarkable understanding.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul recorded that the Church had many separate members (brethren), yet was like various parts of the human body, in that these members were connected. Carefully study chapter 12. Verses 12 to 14 state, “For as the body is one, and has 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…For the body is not one member, but many.”
When one is converted—has repented, been baptized and received the Holy Spirit—this verse reveals that he has actually been placed into the Body of Christ as well as into the Church of God.
Many have been confused by what this means. In other words, exactly what is the Church or Body of Christ into which one has been baptized?
The context of chapter 12 uses the analogy of hands, feet, eyes, ears and the mouth to show how different parts of a human body are connected within the same person. Paul continues, “But now has God set the members every one of them in the body, as it has pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body” (vs. 18-20).
Let’s understand what this means. The “Christian” world teaches that the Body of Christ—Jesus’ Church—consists of many denominations, fellowships or “communities of believers,” said to all be connected by the “Holy Spirit” working in believers wherever they are affiliated. (Many, many sources attest to this thinking.) But this is totally contrary to what the Bible teaches about the Body of Christ. This substitute—counterfeit!—idea asserts, in effect, that Christ and His Body are divided among many groups or organizations. We will see that this is not true.
I Corinthians 12 cannot be “spiritualized away” by human reasoning. It does not describe an amorphous, disconnected, “spiritual” body of disagreeing people and organizations throughout professing Christianity. Any foot, eye or ear that is taken from a human body dies! No severed body part can live for very long without blood supply and the connective tissue necessary to secure it to the body. God created the human body, so He obviously understands the analogy that He inspired.
For further proof of the meaning of body, consider two additional scriptures, written to two separate congregations under Paul’s leadership.
Notice his statement to the Colossian congregation: “And He [Christ] is the head of the body, the Church” (1:18). Now see his instruction to the Ephesian congregation. Speaking of what God placed under Christ’s control, Paul wrote, “…and gave Him [Christ] to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body” (1:22-23). The Bible definition of the Body of Christ is the Church! They are the same.
In chapter 4 of Ephesians, Paul admonished the brethren to be “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body [Church], and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father” (3-6). Again, there must be no confusing the all-encompassing unity and agreement that this verse requires of God’s people. Recall how Christ prayed for this kind of oneness and unity.
A few verses later, Paul described the importance of a faithful ministry, actively working with and teaching Christ’s Church. Carefully read and understand the following lengthy, important passage: “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (vs. 11-16).
The Church is a type of Christ’s own Body and, as its Head, He governs, directs and builds it, adding to it daily. These verses describe it as being unified in both doctrinal truth and love. In phrase after phrase, this passage demonstrates that the entire Church (“whole body” and “every part”) must be walking together in complete doctrinal agreement under Christ’s authority. And He works through His true ministers to keep the Church from drifting into “every wind of doctrine.”
A great deal can be learned by also examining Paul’s instructions to various other congregations he was overseeing. He continually stressed unity and oneness.
The corinthian congregation had many problems—including terrible division and disunity. Early in his letter to this congregation, Paul strongly admonished them to stop entertaining other doctrines and to quit playing favorites with ministers. Notice: “Now I beseech you, brethren…that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment…Now this I say, that every one of you says, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas [Peter]; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided?” (I Cor. 1:10, 12-13).
Do not miss the intent of this passage. Paul was inspired to describe, in five different ways, how completely all of God’s people in every age should be unified and in agreement. These verses also cannot be “spiritualized away” by deceptive human reasoning.
Where in this passage does Christ give license for multiple organizations—“churches”—to appear in His name? Where in this description is there room for hundreds, even thousands, of divided, competing groups, in disagreement over teachings—and diminished in the all-important impact in taking the gospel announcement of the kingdom of God to the world (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20)? The answer: Nowhere!
Let’s examine further. Verse 13 begins with the rhetorical question: “Is Christ divided?” The only reason it is not followed with the word “no” or something similar is because the answer is so obvious. Considering what he had just written, Paul knew that the thrust of his question was equivalent to asking, “Is grass green?” or “Is the sky blue?” When people ask rhetorical questions, no one actually responds, because the answer is so obvious. In Amos 3:3, even the question “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” is left unanswered for the same reason.
It was in this same letter to the Corinthians that Paul also had to write, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (14:33), followed by “Let all things be done decently and in order” (vs. 40). Real “decency” and “order” are impossible if God’s Church is divided into many organizations, let alone hundreds or thousands.
Now consider Paul’s admonition to the philippian congregation: “…stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries” (1:27-28). And, “Fulfill you my joy, that you be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (2:2). These passages teach that complete unity in the Church is the only condition that is acceptable to God!
Paul admonished the colossians to be “knit together in love, and…the full assurance of understanding,” and “rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught” (2:2, 7). There is no misunderstanding the total unity Paul is describing. Brethren walk “together,” assured of the right “understanding” that they “have been taught.” (We already saw how strongly Paul admonished the ephesian congregation, in numerous ways, to strive for unity.)
The local roman congregation was experiencing a problem with false doctrines entering the Church. Notice how Paul instructed them to address this: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark [take note of] them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them. For they…by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (16:17-18).
We must ask: How did mankind get into the state of confusion, division, war, competition and disagreement that exists all over the earth today? God’s original command to Adam was, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
In the next chapter (3:6), Eve, with Adam following, rebelled and ate of this wrong tree. Notice that this tree represented knowledge that was both “good and evil.” In other words, the tree was not entirely evil—it contained a mixture of true and false knowledge! It is the same with the churches of this world. Some do have small amounts of true (“good”) doctrinal “knowledge,” mixed with much false (“evil”) doctrinal “knowledge.” For 6,000 years, God has told His true servants to avoid mixing truth with error. He warned Adam that eating of the wrong tree would result in death. It did.
The warning is the same for us today!
When I was first learning the truth in 1966, I heard an analogy that I had never considered before—but have never forgotten since: Think of a delicious cake laced with either arsenic, cyanide, ricin or strychnine, while otherwise containing nothing but good and healthy ingredients. Eating the cake would always result in death.
The good ingredients would not be sufficient to overcome the poison hidden in the cake. Likewise, God’s Church does not and cannot mix truth with error. As with the cake, the result for those who do is deadly!
I have explained some of the true doctrines taught by the Church Christ built. This “Personal” could scarcely contain a simple listing of all of them, let alone a detailed scriptural explanation proving them and explaining why God teaches them.
(To gain a deeper understanding of this vital subject, read our booklet Where Is God’s Church?)