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Church that Belongs to Jesus: How to find and identify it

How Can You Find and Identify
the Church That Belongs To Jesus?

What was Jesus' church like in authority, worship, organization, name, origin, work, and salvation? How can we find and identify it? How do Catholicism and Protestant denominations compare?

According to the New Testament, Jesus built His church and added all saved people to it. What standard of authority, pattern, doctrine, or creed did that church follow? What was its worship, work, name, origin, and doctrine of salvation and forgiveness of sins? Did it have an earthly organization, hierarchy, or centralized headquarters? How does modern "Christianity" compare to the church of Christ? How did Roman Catholicism and the denominations of the Protestant Reformation originate in history? Does Jesus' church exist today? If so, what characteristics should we seek in finding and identifying it? 

Introduction

All serious Bible students agree that Jesus built only one church, and at that time all saved people were in that one church (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:47). But today there are actually hundreds of different denominations, differing from one another in name, authority, worship, organization, plan of salvation and forgiveness of sins, etc. Yet all claim to be Christian, to follow Jesus, and to be pleasing to God.

The purpose of this study is to determine what Jesus wants us to practice regarding church membership. What was Jesus' church like in the first century? Does the church that Jesus built still exist today? If so, how can we find and identify it? What does God think about all the many different modern Catholic and Protestant denominations?

Now please take out your Bible and look up the >>> CAPITALIZED Scriptures <<<. Then study for you own benefit each question marked **. You may find a list of correct answers at the end of the study. (Note: This article is not intended to be submitted to us for grading. However, if you wish to study this material as part of a graded course, please go to our online Bible courses at www.BibleStudyLessons.com. Thank you.)

How important is Jesus' church?

Why should we study about Jesus' church? Some people think the church has nothing to do with salvation, so you can be saved outside the church. How important is the church to Jesus the Lord?

>>> Read ACTS 20:28. <<<

*1* How did Jesus make the church His? (a) He bought it with His blood, (b) He came to set up an earthly kingdom but couldn't, so He made the church instead, (c) somebody gave the church to Him.

*2* Can we be saved without Jesus' blood? (a) yes, (b) no.

*3* Then can we be saved outside Jesus' church? (a) yes, (b) no.

Jesus shed His blood to save us from sin (Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5; Romans 5:6-9). But the people who have been saved and purchased by that blood are the people who are in the church!

>>> Read EPHESIANS 5:23,25. <<<

*4* For whom is Christ the Savior? (a) the nation of Israel only, (b) the body (church), (c) all people will be saved.

*5* For whom did He give Himself? (a) the church, (b) white, middle-class Americans only, (c) it doesn't matter.

Salvation can be obtained only through Jesus (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Hebrews 5:9; 7:25). But the body of people whom Jesus has saved is the church. If the church has nothing to do with our salvation, why did the Lord die for it?

The Lord adds to the church those who should be saved - Acts 2:47. Christ is the Savior; but all those whose sins He has forgiven are in the church. Those outside the church are yet in their sins. This is why it is vitally important for us to learn about Jesus' church. (See also Ephesians 3:10,11; Colossians 1:12-14; Hebrews 10:25; etc.)

The word "church" has different meanings.

In the Bible, the "church" always refers to a group of people, never to a physical building. The word has two primary uses:

1. The church universally - the body of all saved people everywhere (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:22-25; Acts 2:47).

2. The church locally - a congregation of saved people in a certain area who meet, work, and worship together (Jerusalem, Corinth, etc. - Acts 8:1; 13:1; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:2; Revelation 1:4).

We will study many examples of this word as we proceed.

First let us study the characteristics of the New Testament church, then we will study the origin of the modern denominations.


Part I: What Should Jesus' Church Be Like?


If the police were searching for a missing person, how would they identify the correct person? They would need a description or list of identifying characteristics: age, name, height, weight, etc.

Now suppose we want to find the church that belongs to Jesus. How can we identify it?

>>> Read MATTHEW 7:15-21. <<<

*6* How can false teachers be identified? (a) by their outward appearance, (b) by their unkind manners, (c) by their fruits.

*7* What are the "fruits" of God's followers? (a) they do the will of the Father, (b) they just call Jesus "Lord," (c) they just believe.

The true church can be identified because it teaches and practices the will of God. By learning Jesus' will for His church, we can know the identifying marks of His church. [Cf. 1 John 2:3-6]

Consider these characteristics:

A. The Doctrinal Standard of the Church

What law or rules should the church follow to determine what it believes, teaches, and practices?

>>> Read EPHESIANS 1:22,23. <<<

*8* Who is Head over all things to the church? (a) John the Baptist, (b) Peter, (c) Jesus.

*9* Whose control, then, should the church submit to? (a) Mohammed, (b) Jesus, (c) a council of men.

>>> Read COLOSSIANS 3:17. <<<

*10* What must be done in Jesus' name (by His authority)? (a) everything we do, (b) only the things we want to do, (c) whatever a preacher says.

Since Jesus built and purchased the church, it must follow His directions. His will is revealed in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Ephesians 3:3-5).

(See also Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18; 2:19; John 12:48; Acts 3:22,23; Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 6:46; Hebrews 5:9.)

May the church follow man-made laws?

>>> Read 2 JOHN 9. <<<

*11* What is our condition if we do not abide in the teachings of Jesus? (a) God overlooks it, (b) we get another chance after death, (c) we do not have the Father or Son.

>>> Read MATTHEW 15:9. <<<

*12* What does God think of worship that is based on man-made teachings? (a) it is vain, (b) He encourages it, (c) it doesn't matter.

>>> Read GALATIANS 1:8,9. <<<

*13* What happens if we preach a gospel different from the New Testament? (a) nothing, (b) we are accursed, (c) no one knows.

*14* Would a church be honoring Jesus as Lord if it follows doctrines or practices not found in the Bible? (a) yes, (b) no.

If Jesus' church exists today, it must strive to listen to all His teachings and must avoid practices not found in His teachings.

(See Revelation 22:18,19; Proverbs 14:12; 3:5,6; Jeremiah 10:23.)

B. The Origin or Beginning of the Church

>>> Read MATTHEW 16:15-18. <<<

*15* What did Jesus promise to build? (a) a social club, (b) an entertainment, recreational club, (c) His church, (d) all the preceding.

*16* Did the church exist when Jesus said this? (a) yes, (b) no.

*17* To whom would the church belong? (a) Peter, (b) Jesus, (c) John the Baptist.

*18* How many churches did Jesus promise to build? (a) one, (b) ten, (c) hundreds.

This passage and all passages before Acts 2 speak of the church as coming in the future (see also Isaiah 2:2,3; Daniel 2:44; Mark 1:15; 9:1; Acts 1:4-8).

But passages after Acts 2 all speak of the church as being in existence (see Acts 2:47; 5:11; 8:1-3; 11:22,26; Colossians 1:13; etc.).

So the church that belongs to Jesus began in Jerusalem on Pentecost after Jesus' ascension (Acts 2:38,41,47).

*19* Suppose men begin a church at a place and time other than Jerusalem on Pentecost. Would it be Jesus' church? (a) yes, (b) no.

We are looking for the church Jesus began on Pentecost in Jerusalem.

C. The Names or Designations of the Church

Names are important to God. He sometimes named people before they were born, or changed their names later (Genesis 17:5,15,19; 32:27,28; Luke 1:13; Matt. 1:21; Isaiah 62:2; etc.). What terms or phrases does the Lord want us to use to refer to the church and its members?

Terms used for the church:

The church of Christ or of God (Matthew 16:18; Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2; etc.).
The house or family of God (1 Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 2:16,19; Galatians 6:10).
The kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13; Matthew 16:18,19; Revelation 1:9; Hebrews 12:28).
The body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22,23; 4:4-6; Colossians 1:18).

Note that all these terms give honor to God the Father or the Son, and show our relationship to them.

Terms used for individual members of the church:

Disciples (Acts 11:26; 20:7; 8:3; 9:1).
Children of God (2 Corinthians 6:16-18; 1 John 3:2).
Christians (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16).

>>> Read 1 CORINTHIANS 1:10-13. <<<

*20* What sin occurred at Corinth? (a) groups were named after men, (b) men were exalted instead of Jesus, (c) division, (d) all the preceding.

Naming the church after a particular doctrine likewise violates the principles of this passage, promotes division, and fails to exalt God.

One of the fruits of Jesus' church was that it wore names that glorify God and Christ. It never wore names that honor men, were invented by men, or exalted some particular Bible doctrine.

D. The Steps to Enter the Church

Some churches teach that there are some things a person must do to be saved, and then afterward there are other things he must do to join the church. But the church is the body of all saved people (Ephesians 5:23,25; Acts 20:28; Colossians 1:13). Therefore, whenever one receives the forgiveness of his sins, he automatically becomes a member of the church at the same time and by the same steps.

You cannot be voted into the Lord's church, you cannot purchase membership in it, and you cannot "join" it. You simply obey the gospel and let God add you (Acts 2:47).

To be forgiven of sins, one must take the following steps:

Hear the gospel (John 6:44,45; Romans 10:17).
Believe it (Romans 1:16; Hebrews 11:6; John 8:24).
Repent (Acts 17:30; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Peter 3:9).
Confess Christ (Romans 10:9,10; Acts 8:37).
Be baptized (immersed) for the purpose of receiving forgiveness (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Mark 16:16; Romans 6:3,4; 1 Peter 3:21).

At baptism, one's sins are forgiven and the Lord then adds him to the church (Acts 2:38,47; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

*21* Suppose a church teaches some other way for people to be saved. Would it be honoring Jesus as Lord? (a) yes, (b) no.

*22* In fact, would the people in that church even have received forgiveness of sins? (a) yes, (b) no.

We are looking for the church that teaches just what the gospel says about salvation.

E. The Worship Offered in the Church Assemblies

The Lord taught His church to do five things when they meet.

1. Teaching

>>>Read ACTS 2:42. <<<

*23* In what activities did these disciples continue steadfastly? (a) the apostles' doctrine, (b) prayer, (c) breaking of bread, (d) all the preceding.

We should teach only God's word, not man's. (cf. Acts 20:7; 11:26; Hebrews 10:24f.)

2. Prayer (see Acts 2:42 above)

In Bible study, God talks to us. In prayer, we talk to God. (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:15; Philippians 4:6; Acts 4:23-31; 1 Timothy 2:5.)

3. Giving

>>>Read 1 CORINTHIANS 16:1,2. <<<

*24* How did the church obtain financial income? (a) raffles, bingo, (b) bake-sales, rummages, (c) collections, (d) all the preceding.

*25* When were the collections taken up? (a) seventh day of the week, (b) first day of the week, (c) as often as possible.

*26* How did the members decide how much to give? (a) according to prosperity, (b) the preacher decided for them, (c) they gave a tenth.

The church took up collections from the members on the first day of the week. Each member gave generously according to prosperity. The church never used tithing (requiring 10%), nor man-made fund-raising methods like bingo, raffles, rummages, etc. (cf. 2 Cor. 8:1-5; 9:6,7.)

4. Lord's Supper (communion or breaking of bread)

>>> Read 1 CORINTHIANS 11:23-26. <<<

*27* What do the bread and cup remind us of? (a) Jesus' body and blood, (b) the creation, (b) the giving of the 10 commands.

*28* Would it be right to have bacon and eggs on the Lord's table? (a) yes, (b) no.

We should eat the bread and drink the fruit of the vine in memory of Jesus' body and blood. (cf. Matthew 26:17-30; Acts 2:42):

>>> Read ACTS 20:7. <<<

*29* When did the disciples break bread? (a) at Easter and Christmas, (b) on the last day of the week, (c) on the first day of the week.

*30* How often does this day occur? (a) once per year, (b) once per month, (c) once per week.

When God has specified memorial feasts, He has always told people when to do them. If He said to do it on a certain day of a certain month of the year, it would be an annual feast (Ex. 12:6,14,24ff; Lev. 23:24,27). If He said to do it on a certain day of the month, it would be a monthly observance (Ezek. 46:1,6,7). If He said to do it on a certain day of the week, then it would be observed weekly (such as the sabbath - Ex. 20:8-11).

Likewise, since God has revealed that disciples had the Lord's supper on the first day of the week, we should do it as often as that day occurs. Note that this is the same day on which we have the collection. Some churches have annual or monthly communion. Do they also take up collections only annually or monthly?!

5. Singing

>>> Read EPHESIANS 5:19. <<<

*31* What act of worship is commanded here? (a) prayer, (b) singing, (c) none.

*32* Is God pleased if we just mouth the words? (a) yes, (b) no.

*33* What purposes are accomplished by singing? (a) praising God and teaching others, (b) showing off musical ability, (c) entertainment to draw big crowds.

Every New Testament passage that mentions music in worship, specifies singing (Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Romans 15:9; Hebrews 2:12; James 5:13). There are two kinds of music - singing (vocal) and playing (instrumental).

*34* Since Jesus expressly says to "sing," are we honoring Jesus if we add another kind of music (playing on instruments)? (a) yes, (b) no.

To use instruments of music in worship is to follow human authority. It fails to honor Jesus just like bacon and eggs on the Lord's Table.

>>> Read HEBREWS 10:25. <<<

*35* What error should Christians avoid? (a) forsaking the assembling together, (b) giving too much money, (c) attending too often.

*36* Would a church be following Jesus as Lord if it worshipped in ways that are not found in the gospel? (a) yes, (b) no.

Note: Individual Christians should study the Bible, pray, and sing regularly in private, but in this lesson we are considering our praise to God in church meetings.

We are looking for the church that worships God just the way the New Testament teaches. When we find it, we should strive diligently to attend whenever the church meets.

F. The Work or Mission of the Church

>>> Read ACTS 11:26. <<<

*37* What work did the church in Antioch accomplish? (a) entertainment and recreation, (b) social functions, (c) assembling to teach and study God's word.

The church is the "pillar and ground of the truth" - 1 Timothy 3:15. It teaches the gospel to the lost and edifies the members (see also Acts 11:22; 20:7; Hebrews 10:24,25; Ephesians 4:11-16; Philippians 4:14-18). The church also cares for its own physically needy members (Acts 4:32-35; 6:1-6; 1 Corinthians 16:1,2; 2 Corinthians 8 & 9; 1 Timothy 5:16).

The primary work of the church is spiritual. It helps people be right with God so they can receive eternal life. The church we are looking for is not a social or recreational club, nor a general welfare society. Any church that does these other works fails to honor the Lord. (See also John 18:36; 6:63,27; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.)

G. The Organization of the Church

Universal Church Government

>>> Read EPHESIANS 1:22,23. <<<

*38* Who is head over the church? (a) Peter, (b) Jesus, (c) some other man.

*39* He is head over how many things to the church? (a) things in heaven only, (b) things on earth only, (c) all things.

*40* What is left for men to be head over? (a) church laws, (b) things on earth, (c) nothing.

*41* Where is Jesus now (Hebrews 8:1; 1 Peter 3:22)? (a) Jerusalem, (b) heaven, (c) Rome.

*42* Then where is the headquarters of Jesus church? (a) heaven, (b) Rome, (c) Salt Lake City.

As Head of the church, Jesus has made all the laws and revealed them in His word. His church has no earthly headquarters or governing body. No man or group of men may make laws for the church.

Local Church Organization

A local church consists of saints (members) with the bishops and deacons (Philippians 1:1).

>>> Read ACTS 20:17,28. <<<

*43* What is the work of elders? (a) oversee and feed (shepherd) the church, (b) make laws, (c) just the same as the other members.

*44* How many flocks (churches) did these elders oversee (v17)? (a) the one at Ephesus, (b) all those in the surrounding region, (c) all churches in the world.

>>> Read 1 PETER 5:1-3. <<<

*45* What is the work of elders? (a) feed (shepherd) the flock, (b) oversee the church, (c) set a good example, (d) all the preceding.

*46* An eldership should have oversight of the work of how many churches? (a) as many as they can, (b) as many as will send them money, (c) the one among them.

(Note that "elder" is just another name for an overseer or "bishop" and a shepherd or "pastor.")

Each local church must work to appoint a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23). To be appointed, these men must possess certain qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). When they have been appointed, they guide the local church in obeying God's word. The oversight of each eldership is limited to the one local church where they have been appointed.

One of the fruits of Jesus' church is that Christ is the only Head. There is no earthly headquarters or centralized institutions, but each congregation functions independently under its own officers.

*47* If a church follows human changes in this pattern, would it be honoring Jesus as Lord? (a) yes, (b) no.

We have now studied the "fruits" or characteristics of Jesus' church. Since God is no respecter of persons, He still requires His church to possess these same characteristics today. If we seek Jesus' church, we must find the one that follows His will in all these ways. Any church that does not have these characteristics, cannot be the church Jesus built.


Part II. How Did the Modern Denominations Begin?


Jesus built one church, and the Bible tells us what it should be like. Today there are many different denominations. Is God pleased by their existence? Where did they come from?

A. Warnings of Departure from the Gospel

>>> Read ACTS 20:28-30. <<<

*48* What danger does Paul warn about? (a) following the Bible too closely, (b) condemning sin too firmly, (c) following false teachers.

*49* Can religious leaders lead people into error? (a) yes, (b) no.

>>> Read 2 TIMOTHY 4:2-4. <<<

*50* What error will people be guilty of? (a) turning away from truth, (b) rebuking false teachers, (c) being too intolerant.

*51* What kind of teachers will they want? (a) men who preach truth, (b) men who please the people, (c) men who oppose error.

>>> Read 1 TIMOTHY 4:1-3. <<<

*52* What does the Spirit predict will happen? (a) everyone will be saved, (b) the saved will never be lost, (c) some will depart from the faith and follow error, (d) all the preceding.

*53* What particular doctrines will be taught? (a) it is wrong to eat meats, (b) people should not marry, (c) both of the preceding.

Throughout history, false teachers have tried to lead God's people astray. In particular, Jesus warned that error would enter among the leaders of His people, and some would even forbid marriage and command to abstain from meats. To please Jesus, however, God's true people must reject these false teachings. (See also Matthew 7:15-23; Galatians 1:6-10; 1 John 4:1,6; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; 2 John 9-11; Ephesians 5:11; Matthew 15:14.)

B. The Beginning of the Catholic Church

In Jesus' plan for His church, He is to be the only head, and no man-made laws or earthly headquarters are allowed. No officers may oversee more than one local church.

However, after the church began, departure occurred as time passed, just as predicted in the Scriptures above. Certain congregations began to exalt one elder above the others. As new churches began, this exalted "bishop" would assume the oversight of several churches in a region called a "diocese."

Soon, bishops were meeting in councils to issue "church laws." The first universal council, to which all churches were invited to send representatives, was held in Nicea in 325 A.D. Later, discussion arose regarding who would be the earthly head of the whole church. Finally, in the sixth or seventh century A.D., the Bishop of Rome was generally recognized as "Pope." Clearly, this is a departure from Jesus' plan for church organization.

Meanwhile, the church was adopting other new practices. Listed below are the approximate dates when many of the practices came to be generally accepted. (Note: This historical information can be documented by checking encyclopedias or church history books, including Catholic sources.)

PRACTICE

DATE

Use of images in worship

4th century

Infant baptism

4th century

Celibacy of priests

4th century

Purgatory

6th century

Instrumental music (first used)

7th century

Confession to priest

9th century

Indulgences

12th century

Sprinkling for baptism

1311

Cup withheld from laity

1416

Infallibility of the Pope

1870

Note especially celibacy, which forbids priests to marry. The Catholic church has also commanded members to abstain from meats on Fridays during Lent. This expressly fulfills 1 Timothy 4:1-3.

The changes we have described resulted in the Roman Catholic church. "By their fruits you shall know them" (Matt. 7:15-21). Does the Catholic church show the fruits of being Jesus' church?

Contrary to its claims, the Catholic church is not truly "the first church," but is rather the first major apostasy from the true church. If we wish to find Jesus' church, we must look elsewhere. (Note that we have no desire to hurt people in any particular religious group. We present these facts so people can know the truth and honor Jesus as their Lord - Luke 6:46; Rev. 3:19.)

C. The Beginning of Protestant Denominations

As Rome departed further from God's word, many Catholics began to object. At that time the church allowed only Latin translations of the Bible, which the common people could not understand. In the 1400's and 1500's, men like John Wycliffe and William Tyndale translated the Bible into English. For this, the church burned Wycliffe's bones and made a martyr of Tyndale!

In 1517, a Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" (or points of disagreement) to the door of a church building in Wittenburg, Germany. Other men like Zwingli and Calvin joined the movement of "protest," not to start a new church, but to "reform" the Catholic church. Unable to sway the church, however, each of these men (or their followers) eventually began a new church separate from Rome and separate from the other Protestant churches.

Here are some examples:

NAME

DATE

PLACE

FOUNDER

Lutheran

1530

Germany

Martin Luther

Church of England

1534

England

Henry VIII

Presbyterian

1536

Switzerland

John Calvin

Baptist

1609

Holland

John Smyth

Methodist

1739

England

John Wesley

Mormon

1830

America

Joseph Smith

7th Day Adventist

1846

America

Miller/White

Jehovah's Witnesses

1872

America

C. Russell

(Again, this information can be verified in any good encyclopedia or church history, including those written by men in the churches listed. Note that some dates are approximate.)

Remember, "by their fruits you shall know them" (Matt. 7:15-21). Let us compare the fruits of these denominations to the characteristics of Jesus' church.

Authority - Most denominations have creeds the church follows as law in addition to the Bible.

Origin - No Protestant denomination existed as an organized, functioning body, separate from the Catholic apostasy, prior to 1500 AD. They were all begun by men in times and places other than the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2).

Name - Nearly all denominations have names invented by men and not found in the gospel. Their names honor men and special doctrines, not God and Christ.

Salvation - Most denominations practice sprinkling, pouring, and infant baptism. Most teach salvation by "faith only" (baptism is not necessary to salvation).

Worship - Most practice annual or monthly communion, instrumental music, holy days, tithing and other man-made fund-raising methods.

Work - Most denominations practice the "Social Gospel" - church-sponsored recreation, entertainment, etc.

Organization - Nearly all denominations have earthly headquarters, central governing bodies, boards and institutions of all kinds that centralize the work and government of the church.

Protestant leaders had some admirable goals, but all of them (or their followers) clung to many basic errors of Catholicism and even added some new ones. Every Protestant denomination differs from the church of Christ on many or all of the above points. Yet God forbids such departures from His way and warns us not to be part of such groups. Again, if we wish to find the church belonging to Jesus, we must look elsewhere.

D. God's Attitude Toward Religious Division

Denominations are divided, contradicting and disagreeing with one another. People often say, "All the churches are following Jesus. It doesn't matter where you attend, or what you believe, as long as you worship the true God. Just join the church of your choice." What does Jesus say? Is He pleased by all these denominations?

>>> Read JOHN 17:20,21. <<<

*54* In what way should we be like the Father and the Son? (a) we must overlook division, (b) we must be united as one, (c) we must tolerate error.

*55* In what ways do the Father and the Son contradict one another? (a) about how to worship, (b) about how to be saved, (c) about what church to attend, (d) none of the preceding. (See also John 12:49,50.)

The existence of many different churches contradicts Jesus' prayer for unity.

>>> Read 1 CORINTHIANS 1:10,13. <<<

*56* Is God pleased by division? (a) yes, (b) no.

*57* Are denominations (a) united, or (b) divided?

*58* Is Christ divided? Does He contradict Himself? (a) yes, (b) no.

*59* Jesus does not contradict Himself, but churches do contradict one another. So are "all the churches following Jesus"? (a) yes, (b) no.

When a preacher knowingly preaches contradictory things to different people, we call him a hypocrite. But denominations contradict one another, yet they all say they get their teaching from Jesus. What would that make Jesus?! Denominationalism violates God's law against division (Galatians 5:19-21; Philippians 2:2f).

>>> Read 1 CORINTHIANS 14:33. <<<

*60* Is God the author of confusion? (a) yes, (b) no.

*61* Is the existence of many churches confusing? (a) yes, (b) no.

*62* Is God the source of all the denominations? (a) yes, (b) no.

God did not create the modern denominations, so they must have been begun by men. They are not in the Bible, therefore they exist contrary to God's authority. When churches disagree, one may be right and the others wrong, or they may all be wrong, but they cannot all be right!

>>> Read EPHESIANS 4:3-6. <<<

*63* What should we strive to keep? (a) miracles for today, (b) unity, (c) a pope, (d) all the preceding.

*64* How many true "God and Fathers" are there? (a) one, (b) hundreds, (c) it does not matter.

*65* Can we please God if we think there are many Gods and we may just worship the god of our choice? (a) yes, (b) no.

*66* How many "bodies" and "faiths" are there? (a) hundreds, (b) one, (c) it does not matter.

*67* Can we please God if we think there are hundreds of different bodies and faiths, so it doesn't matter what we believe and we can just take our choice? (a) yes, (b) no.

There may be many false gods, but there is only one true God, according to Jesus' teaching. In the same way, there is only one true body (church) and only one true faith. All others are false. [Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-20]

>>> Read 2 CORINTHIANS 6:17-17:1. <<<

*68* What must we do to be God's true children? (a) just follow our preacher, (b) keep our family religion, (c) separate from error.

*69* May we continue to be part of churches and practices that are not found in the gospel? (a) yes, (b) no.

Jesus the Lord established one church. Denominations did not exist in the New Testament, and division is condemned. Jesus requires us to follow His same gospel pattern, but Catholic and Protestant churches are departures from His pattern. Therefore, we must not be members of any of these groups. Are you a member of one of these man-made churches? [Cf. 2 John 9-11; Eph. 5:11; Matt. 15:14]

E. The Existence of Jesus' True Church Today

If we cannot find the true church among the Protestant or Catholic churches, where can we find it? Does it exist? Since we must be members of it to be saved, how can people today be saved?

>>> Read 1 PETER 1:22-25. <<<

*70* How do we purify our souls? (a) just believe in Jesus, (b) obey the truth, (c) pray to Mary.

*71* What is the seed by which we are born again? (a) God's word, (b) human creeds, (c) denominational doctrine, (d) all the preceding.

*72* How long will this seed endure? (a) till the middle ages, (b) till the 1800's, (c) forever.

"The seed is the word of God" - Luke 8:11. God's creations, including the church, reproduce by means of seed. When men hear the gospel with receptive hearts, they will believe and obey. As a result, they are "born again" into God's family, the church. (See James 1:18; Luke 8:15; Romans 1:16; 10:17; Mark 16:15,16; John 3:3-5.)

>>> Read GALATIANS 6:7. <<<

The seed always reproduces after its own kind. To get the right "fruit," we must plant the right "seed"! The reason denominations do not produce the right fruit is that they plant the wrong seed.

*73* When a seed grows, what kind of plant results? (a) the same kind as the seed came from, (b) it changes from year to year, (c) you never know. (cf. Genesis 1:11,21ff)

At any time or place, the same seed always produces the same kind of living thing. This is also true of doctrines.

*74* Suppose you believed and obeyed Buddhist doctrine. What would that make you? (a) a Christian, (b) a Hindu, (c) a Buddhist.

Man-made doctrines reproduce after their own kind and make people members of man-made religious groups.

*75* In the first century, when people heard and obeyed the gospel of Christ, what kind of Christians did they become and what church did they become members of? (a) Lutherans, (b) Catholics, (c) just Christians, members of Jesus' church.

*76* If you were to obey simply the gospel today, without any man-made changes, what kind of Christian would you become and what church would that make you a member of? (a) the same as in the first century, (b) a modern denomination, (c) no one knows.

Anytime and anyplace, when a person obeys only the gospel, he becomes a Christian, exactly like people were in the first century. They were not members of any of the modern denominations and neither should people today be. The Lord will add people today to His church, just as He did in the first century (Acts 2:47). These saved people must then work and worship with a faithful local church.

Conclusion

People who wish to be saved must be members of the Lord's one true church. Faithful local congregations of God's people already exist in thousands of communities throughout the world. Wherever they are, they seek to follow simply God's word without any human changes. Members of these churches have humbly received forgiveness through Jesus' blood according to the gospel. They are scriptural in name, origin, worship, work, and organization.

Since salvation is free to all, you too can obey the gospel and enter Jesus' true church (Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 1:16; Acts 2:39; Titus 2:11,12; 2 Peter 3:9).

Do you believe the truths presented in this lesson? Will you submit to Jesus' commands today?

Correct answers to the questions are as follows:

*1* = a, *2* = b, *3* = b, *4* = b, *5* = a, *6* = c, *7* = a, *8* = c, *9* = b, *10* = a, *11* = c, *12* = a, *13* = b, *14* = b, *15* = c, *16* = b, *17* = b, *18* = a, *19* = b, *20* = d, *21* = b, *22* = b, *23* = d, *24* = c, *25* = b, *26* = a, *27* = a, *28* = b, *29* = c, *30* = c, *31* = b, *32* = b, *33* = a, *34* = b, *35* = a, *36* = b, *37* = c, *38* = b, *39* = c, *40* = c, *41* = b, *42* = a, *43* = a, *44* = a, *45* = d, *46* = c, *47* = b, *48* = c, *49* = a, *50* = a, *51* = b, *52* = c, *53* = c, *54* = b, *55* = d, *56* = b, *57* = b, *58* = b, *59* = b, *60* = b, *61* = a, *62* = b, *63* = b, *64* = a, *65* = b, *66* = b, *67* = b, *68* = c, *69* = b, *70* = b, *71* = a, *72* = c, *73* = a, *74* = c, *75* = c, *76* = a

Note: If you would like help in finding a faithful local church in your area or a Christian in your area to study the Bible personally with you, please click on the link at the end of this message to email us. You will be given an opportunity to inform us of your desire. Depending on where you live, we may or may not be able to help in these ways.

(C) Copyright 1990, 1998, David E. Pratte

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Topics for further Bible study

The Importance of Jesus' Church
Why So Much Religious Confusion and Disagreement?
The Bible vs. Denominational Creeds
Divine Authority vs. Human Authority in Religion
What Does God Think about Denominationalism?
Name of Jesus' Church
Origin of Jesus' Church & Denominations
The Day for the Lord's Supper
Giving to Support the Church
How Many True Churches Are There?
Instrumental Music in Worship
Observing Religious Holydays
Church Organization, Government, & Work
The Nature and Meaning of the Church

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