The True Christian Church
Today there are many camps using the Christian banner that claim to be the true church or the only church of Jesus Christ. Jesus defined the true church very simply. He said, “Wherever two or more are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them” - Matthew 18:20.
The true church is not an organization but an assembly of believers that are unified by faith in the Jesus of the Bible as defined by the Scriptures that contain the testimony of the founding apostles.
The model of the true church is portrayed for us in the word of God. There was no pope or president other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God was worshipped through the Messiah Jesus, who alone was their high priest and the sole propitiation for their sins.
The leadership of the church was plural. The apostles were overseers. There were pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc. (Ephesians 4:11). Each believer was accountable first to Christ, then to each other.
It was very simple with an emphasis on the believer’s personal, individual relationship with God in Christ. There were no other intermediaries.
But from the beginning the Holy Spirit warned of false teachers and prophets who would lead many away from the simple purity of that first century church. Therefore it behooves us to heed those warnings and strive to return to the simple model set before us in the Scriptures.
The apostle Peter warned that there would be counterfeits of true Christian leadership.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privately shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction – II Peter 2:1
The foundation of Christianity is the atonement of Jesus Christ and the goal of any false prophet is to eliminate this foundation. The atonement will either be denied or diluted. There is no ritual or act of man that can atone for sin or complete that atonement. Membership in any particular church will not save you, only the blood of Jesus Christ.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement - Romans 5: 8-11.
The spirit operating behind those false prophets is defined for us by the apostle John. –
Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that anti-christ shall come, even now are there many anti-christs; whereby we know it is the last time.
They went out from us, but they were not of us…
The greatest enemies of the church will arise out of the church because they were not “of us” they were not of the same Holy Spirit that unified the apostles and their disciples.
…for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us, but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us – I John 2:19
The apostles were the men that were handpicked by the Lord to be the expositors of Christian doctrine. To remain pure in the faith, we must be followers of them as they followed the Lord. Their emphasis must be our emphasis and that emphasis will be what the Lord Jesus emphasized.
The apostle Paul warned the leaders of his day to –
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He has purchased with His own blood. (The apostles recognized that the Spirit of God is in the blood of the Messiah) For I know this, that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves (the leadership) shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them – Acts 20:28-30.
A true Christian leader will direct his students to be followers of Jesus and His apostles, for they are our examples like the apostle Paul who said –
For you though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have you not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten(birthed) you through the Gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, you be followers of me – I Corinthians 4:15, 16.
Be followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. – I Corinthians 11:1
We are admonished to follow the apostles’ example for that example is following Christ, and we learn from them how Jesus is followed.
Paul continues –
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ – II Corinthians 11:3
The devil is the enemy of simplicity.
God gave a very simple command to Adam and Eve – And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: 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. (Genesis 2:16, 17).
The devil said in essence, “That’s not what He meant.”
And the serpent said unto the woman, “You shall not surely die:” - Genesis 3:4.
Instead of receiving the simple truth of the word of God at face value, false teachers will use philosophy in order to twist the meaning of the Scriptures to support their own agendas.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power: - Colossians 2:8-10
The apostles were ordained to explain the Scriptures; their explanations don’t need to be explained. The Scripture is to be taken at face value and not philosophized. If a point is not clear, then the Scriptures are to be searched and correlated to give additional insight to the subject. Scripture enlightens scripture.
Peter said –
“For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from those who live in error – II Peter 2:18.
John adds –
They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world hears them. - I John 4:5
The motive behind such deceptions is to ensnare the victim in lust of some sort – love of the world, lust of the flesh, the pride of life -
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world .- I John 2:16
Note in the devil’s seduction of Eve, He discredited God’s word, and then he added -
For God knows that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. - Genesis 3:2,5.
The devil subtly created a lust for something more than what they had –
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. – Genesis 3:6
Eve gave into the deception and instead of following God’s direction followed her own “lust of the flesh,” the eyes, the pride of life, and quickly became infected with the devil’s disease of self-exaltation, which immediately severed her relationship with God. Likewise, it is the goal of any demonically led false teacher to sever the relationship with God and His people by discrediting the only means that God has ordained for the restoration of that relationship with man and that is through the blood atonement of the Messiah Jesus.
Paul continues –
For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you received another spirit, which you have not received, (from Christ) or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might (as) well bear with them – II Corinthians 11:4.
In other words – “you are not one of us in the first place.”
Let us remember that – “false apostles, deceitful workers, transform themselves into apostles of Christ – II Corinthians 11:13.
False teachers transform themselves; they are not transformed by the Spirit of Christ working within them to conform them into His image.
“And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works – II Corinthians 14,15.
There is no ritual, ordinance or church membership that is required for salvation other than faith in the atonement. Nothing you eat or drink can make you holy, only faith in the shed blood of the Messiah.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you other than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. – Galatians 1:8
We are admonished to “Test the spirits” -
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world – I John 4:1.
Hereby we know the Spirit of God; every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ (Messiah) has cone in the flesh is of God – I John 3:2
Jesus is the Messiah who alone makes atonement for sin. Any spirit that does not recognize Jesus as coming from God for this purpose is the spirit of anti-christ-
And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of anti-christ, whereof you have heard that it should come and even now already is in the world – Verse 3.
Let no one deceive you. Salvation can never be obtained by being a member of any particular church or denomination, but only through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ, His death and His resurrection as the Apostles taught.
The word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation – Romans 10: 8-10.
We are made holy once for all time through Messiah’s sacrifice, and a holy life is the fruit or result of the ongoing relationship with God through Messiah Jesus that is established in the heart of a genuine believer.
Test the spirits – if the apostles did not emphasize something – then it is not an emphasis. Make the apostle’s focus your focus, which is Jesus Christ and you will not be deceived.
We are of God: he that knows God hears us; he that is not of God does not hear us. This is how we know (or can discern) the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. – I John 4:6
Copyright 2013 by H.D. Shively