What a blessing to be able to assemble together on the Sabbath day. It’s a very special time for God’s people because Jesus Christ conferred a special Love on His people for an identifying sign, as well as other characteristics of His Church.
Let’s read in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” (The Greek word for love used here is “Agapeo”. This is a spiritual love that surpasses human love.) You’ll notice that John seems to have had a special affinity or brotherly love for Jesus Christ in his writings; he is the one who “was leaning on Jesus’ bosom, the disciple whom Jesus loved,” i.e., like a “bosom buddy”. Verse 23.
This is the most important identifying sign that reveals who and where God’s people are. But there are several other more specific things to look for when you are trying to locate God’s Church. There are several books published that try to trace the history of that Church down through the ages from the time Jesus Christ established it. And He was the One who began it! How then, does one “Identify the True Church of God?”
I’ll be giving you several points and scriptures that will enable you to better understand this subject because I believe Satan has deliberately tried to camouflage or hide where the true Church is today. He has a counterfeit church posing as God’s true Church and that false church practices totally different doctrines and traditions as Christ’s original Church!
Let’s go to the Bible to see where Christ promised He would build a Church: Matthew 16:13 “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some Elias (Elijah); and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom saith ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jo-na: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, Thou art Peter (from Gr. Petros, meaning “little stone”), and upon this rock (from Gr. Petra, meaning a Great huge Rock, (who is Christ-I Corinthians 10:4) I will build My church; and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
So what we see here is that Christ would build His Church upon Himself, and that Peter would become one of the foundational stones. This is exactly what it tells us in Ephesians 2:20 “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.”
So we have this great and powerful universal church, posing as the true and only church of God, and that is a blatant lie! God tells us that you can discern individuals or organizations by their fruits. As history will attest, this church has been one of the most corrupt, murderous, evil organizations ever formed on this earth, yet has prospered into the most powerful and influential system ever devised. And its head is Satan the devil! The Apostle Paul had to contend with this false religious system, even back in his day.
Turn to II Corinthians11:12 “But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity (“occasion”-K.J.V.) from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14. “And no wonder! for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”
Notice Gal. 1:6 “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” So you see that within about 25 or 30 years after the beginning of God’s true Church, on Pentecost, in 31 AD, this counterfeit church was misleading people with false doctrines and trying to deceive even members of Christ’s own Church.
The Apostle Peter also had to deal with these heresies and false ministers who were infiltrating the Church in those early days: II Peter 2:1 “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not (will not) slumber.”
You may want to read the rest of this chapter to see the character and goal of these people and their ultimate fate. John too, recognized these deceivers as well who were teaching doctrines differently from the true Church of God: II John 7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh (as living in human beings through the Holy Spirit). This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”
This deception was so widespread that God inspired it to be written by several other writers. Another was Jude, ver. 3 “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny our Lord Jesus Christ.”
There are dire warnings about these deceivers, who will still be teaching their ungodly doctrines, even at the return of Christ! Jude verse 14 “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, 15 “to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” So you see how that this false church of Satan was making rapid headway in spreading a deceptive message or gospel to the people, even infiltrating the true Church of God! Today, that same corrupt system is UNIVERSAL (Catholic)! It will continue to deceive this world until Jesus Christ returns and totally destroys it! Read these verses: Rev. 17:1-9, 15, 16, 17, 18; 18:1-4, 10, 16-21, 23.
Of course this will include her “harlot daughters” who have joined themselves back to the “mother”!
So with this background, we can now proceed with our topic,. but I felt we had to first recognize our enemy, Satan the devil, and his false religious system, by which he has “deceived the whole world”, (Rev. 12:9).
Now for the identifying signs of God’s True Church:
The first identifying sign of God’s true people is, They will “have love for one another… ”Christ explained this clearly in Matthew 22:37 “Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38 “This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40”On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Then in the very next chapter, Christ gave a serious warning that should give us all a reason to examine ourselves, to see if we are maintaining that love! Mt. 24:10 “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”
Chapter 10:21 “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.”
I’m afraid this could include Spiritual brethren, who have lost that Christian love toward one another, the first identifying sign of God’s true Church.
God’s True Church will preach the true Gospel - the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
I’ll not spend a lot of time on this point because I’ve covered this thoroughly in two recent Sermons entitled “What is the Kingdom of God?” and “Why the Kingdom of God?”. But we’ll use a couple of Scriptures that were read in those sermons. The most important scripture was found in Mark.1:14 “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, .preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. 15. and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel.”
Then we gave the warning from Paul in Galatians 1:6 where these deceivers would be preaching another gospel and be perverting the gospel of Christ. I now want to point to a couple of places in the Bible where it shows that it is Jesus Christ, the Founder of His Church, that makes it possible for the true Gospel to be preached: Revelation 3:7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,’These things says He who is Holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens”: 8. I know your works, See, I have set before you open door, and no man can shut it. for you have a little strength, and have kept My Word, and have not denied My Name.”
The “door” is the opportunity to preach the true gospel: I Corinthians 16:9 “For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”; II Corinthians 2:12 “Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s Gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord,”
God’s True Church will be a scattered Church.
Matthew 26: 31 “Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” (Mark 14:27);
Acts 8:1 “Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”
And there is a prophecy in the Old Testament that the Church would be scattered (KJ) or shattered (NKJ), after they have finished the Work they were to do and after the Great Tribulation has occurred. Turn to: Daniel 12:7 “Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; (3½ years) and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.”
We can see how that we are scattered over broad areas in God’s Church today. When I first began, I had to drive over 200 miles to attend services. And I wasn’t the only one doing this. I don’t ever say this boastfully, but we were scattered even farther apart than we are today, but there were more of us being called at that time.
God’s True Church, though scattered physically, will be united SPIRITUALLY
Yes, SPIRITUALLY, God’s True Church will be UNIFIED! That is, if we have God’s Holy Spirit we will be led of that Spirit into the same Truths, no matter if we are in a different organization, corporation, or country.
The Church is an Organism! This is the Body through which Christ works! We must accept that fact if we are to follow the Scriptures: Romans 8:1 “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
Brethren, I know we can “know them by their works”, but do you know their HEART? I’m afraid that we might be too quick in judging other individuals in other organizations! Now I’m not talking about someone who is blatantly, outwardly sinning or teaching heresies or false doctrines. You can judge by God’s Word and can clearly perceive, by their actions, whether they are of God or of Satan.
John was not afraid to call a spade, a spade: III John 9 “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loved to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 10. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words, And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.”
God desires that we be unified in Spirit, let’s read a couple of Scriptures: I Cor.1:10 “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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.”; (Ephesians 4:3 )
So brethren, that brings us full circle from point one of loving one another, to this point.
We will stop here for now. Be sure and be watching for Part Two of this article soon to follow. It is important that you be able to identify God’s True Church. Can you identify it? Are you a part of God’s True Church? You should be.