by Britt Gillette
Which church is the one true church of God? This is one of most debated questions in human history. While searching for truth, many people have struggled with this question. Literally thousands of churches, denominations, and religious organizations throughout the world and throughout history have laid claim to the title “the one true church of God.” Even today, many people remain convinced their denomination is the anointed one of God. As a result, it’s not difficult to see how people can easily become frustrated in regard to this question.
So how does a person searching for truth find the one true church? With so many options – Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and literally thousands of alternatives, the average Christian can not reasonably be expected to examine the tenets of each and every one. Yet each of these groups harbors a certain number of adherents who believe their church is the “one true church of God,” while all other groups are inferior or even outright evil. Some even promote such a declaration as their official position. In light of these circumstances, many will honestly wonder: does a “one true church of God” exist? And if it does, where is it?
To find the answer, one needs to consult the definitive authority on the matter – the bible, the very Word of God Himself. According to the bible, the one true church of God does exist, but it can’t be identified by man-made tradition or human declaration or doctrines or rules. And it doesn’t gather in a single building every Sunday. Such ideas are worldly conceptions of what the church should be.
The one true church of God is comprised of various individuals from every walk of life, who live in a multitude of places stretching from one end of the earth to the other. Each of these individuals is a part of the body of Christ, and the very Spirit of Jesus Christ resides in their hearts.
Christians In Name Only
One of the problems with identifying the one true church of God is that not all people who call themselves Christians are really Christians. The Lord Jesus Himself revealed that on the Day of Judgment, many will claim they lived their lives for Christ but will be exposed as “Christians” in name only:
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” Matthew 7:21-23 (NLT)
Who are these people? These are people who use Christ’s name here on earth for their own purposes, be it to acquire fame, wealth, adulation, or some other selfish ambition. Yet these same people actually reject Christ in their hearts.
This passage frightens many true Christians, who begin second-guessing their own standing with God. But such thinking comes from Satan. If you truly believe in Christ and trust in Him, you need not worry about your failure to adhere to some doctrine of which you are unaware. If you believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the Son of the living God, who died for your sins, then your salvation is secure. And, in the words of Jesus, you are also part of His church:
“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.’” Matthew 16:16-18 (NLT)
Some say these verses identify the Roman Catholic church as the true church of God. They claim Peter was the first pope, and the Vatican is built upon his final resting place in Rome. But this is a clear misinterpretation of the context and meaning of Jesus’ words.
Jesus didn’t intend to build his church upon Peter, a fallen human being. Rather, He announced He would build it upon this concept:
“You (Jesus) are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”
This is the central truth upon which every person’s faith should be built. It reveals that salvation isn’t found in buildings or church names. Neither is it found in the traditions or the doctrines of man, or through good works or a good heart.
Salvation is found exclusively through Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Everything Must Point to Jesus
For members of the one true church, Jesus is central to all things. Any teaching, belief, tradition, or doctrine that fails to glorify Jesus is false.
“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6 (NLT)
Jesus did not say, “This or that church is the way, the truth, and the life.” He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
If you want to call yourself a Christian, Christ must be the basis of your faith, not the pronouncements of a church. In fact, the very definition of the word Christian is “follower of Christ,” and Jesus Himself explicitly stated His criteria for all who wish to follow Him:
“Then he said to the crowd, ‘If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.’” Luke 9:23-24 (NLT)
To be a true Christian, you must replace your own selfish ambition and worldly desires with the will of God. Christ must be the dominate influence in your life, not human traditions. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their insistence that others follow their rigid and burdensome traditions:
“Jesus replied, ‘You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.’ Then he said, ‘You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition.’” Mark 7:6-9 (NLT)
Living for Christ requires suffering and an unyielding willingness to sacrifice everything that is not of Christ in order to serve Him:
“He said to another person, ‘Come, follow me.’ The man agreed, but he said, ‘Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.’ But Jesus told him, ‘Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.’ But Jesus told him, ‘Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.’” Luke 9:59-62 (NLT)
Nothing is inherently bad about burying one’s father or saying goodbye to one’s family. However, the true Christian is outfitted with tunnel vision, his eyes focused solely on Jesus Christ. The true Christian doesn’t let worldly pursuits distract from the Lord’s will.
Few stories from the Gospels make this as clear as the story of the rich man who approached Jesus asking how to receive eternal life:
“Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. ‘There is still one thing you haven’t done,’ he told him. ‘Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” Mark 10:21-22 (NLT)
This man possessed great earthly wealth, and he allowed his love for this wealth to distract him from what should have been his primary pursuit: the Kingdom of God. If you want to follow Jesus Christ, you must never allow anything else to take priority over His will. That includes church doctrine.
Jesus As High Priest of the Church
The one true church of God is not dependent on a worldly leader as its final authority on spiritual matters. The true church of God gives final authority to its High Priest, Jesus Christ:
“So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood – not the blood of goats and calves – he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” Hebrews 9:11-12 (NLT)
Only worldly churches seek out human counsel as a final authority. When they do this, one blind man leads another, and they both fall in a ditch.
If this is the case, where can mankind turn for wisdom in a time of confusion?
God has sent us a Counselor, the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit
If earthly organizations are not responsible for salvation, then who are the members of the one true church of God? No matter what worldly church a person attends (if any), the only way they can become members of the one true church of God is if they allow the Holy Spirit to enter their lives. Members of the one true church of God must be born again. Jesus explained this to Nicodemus nearly 2,000 years ago:
“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ ‘What do you mean?’ exclaimed Nicodemus. ‘How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ Jesus replied, ‘I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.’” John 3:3-8 (NLT)
When you believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life, accepting His blood as payment for your sins, you are filled with the Holy Spirit. You then become part of the Body of Christ, the one true church of God:
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” Romans 8:14 (NLT)
The Holy Spirit is the very Spirit of Christ. It is the means by which He identifies the members of His church:
“It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.” 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NLT)
If belonging to Christ requires the Holy Spirit, how can you know for sure if you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit? This is a good question, and it requires a personal examination of your relationship with God.
The presence of the Holy Spirit in your life will lead to great transformation. Being “born again,” you will become a new creation, meaning the sinful desires of your old life will give way to the desires of Christ. It isn’t necessary to be struck by lightning or to have some Hollywood epiphany. The transformation may be gradual, but it will be noticeable:
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
The Holy Spirit provides wisdom and council to those who listen, and the Holy Spirit gives glory to Christ. This is how you will know if the Holy Spirit is your advisor:
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.” John 16:13-15 (NLT)
Does the Spirit within you glorify Jesus and the Word of God? Does it remind you that you’re a sinner in need of Christ’s saving grace? Does it continually speak to you, directing you to follow God’s commandments and love your neighbor as yourself? If so, this is confirmation that the Spirit of God is within you.
The Holy Spirit also reveals God’s will to members of His church.
“But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. For, ‘Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?’ But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 (NLT)
The Holy Spirit also reminds us of the teachings of Jesus Christ. In this way, we are never without His counsel:
“But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” John 14:26 (NLT)
Many earthly churches and religious organizations claim to have a monopoly on salvation. But only one path to salvation exists, and it has nothing to do with the doctrines of earthly churches and religious organizations:
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.’ Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:9-13 (NLT)
Salvation is equally available to both Jew and Gentile. Even though they may observe different religious traditions, both are saved when they “call on the name of the Lord.” For salvation comes not from the traditions of man or from his good works, but only from God’s mercy through the blood of Jesus Christ:
“He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:5 (NLT)
The ability to wash away sins and give new life through the Holy Spirit is NOT a power enjoyed by self-righteous humans or earthly religious groups. It is the exclusive domain of God Himself:
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)
Earthly religious organizations should never boast of their ability to save souls, because salvation doesn’t come from churches or mosques or synagogues. No earthly organization can take credit for God’s amazing grace. Salvation is a gift from God, bestowed by His saving grace for all who believe in Christ.
Salvation is not a complicated matter. It doesn’t require years of theological study. It doesn’t require good works or religious rituals. No traditions of man are necessary, nor is membership in a religious organization, or weekly attendance in a fancy building.
All that is necessary is a personal relationship with your Creator:
“And this is the way to have eternal life – to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” John 17:3 (NLT)
This relationship is available to everyone willing to trust in Christ – don’t let anyone convince you otherwise! For what man can close a door which God has opened?
Members of the one true church of God live by the laws of God’s Kingdom, not by the human laws of this earthly kingdom. This isn’t an indictment of the churches here on earth, only a reminder that a church is not an end unto itself. A person’s focus should be on Jesus Christ, and a church is worthless unless it aids in furthering this purpose.
The one true church lives through the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit resides in the hearts of individuals of varying circumstances. Some are rich; some are poor. They are people of many different races, languages, and nations. And they are people of many different religious upbringings, members of many different earthly religious denominations. Some are Catholic. Some are Protestant. Some are neither.
Do you find this concept difficult to accept?
Then ask yourself where your true allegiance lies. Is your ultimate authority a religious group? Or is your ultimate authority Jesus Christ? For a person can only obey one or the other:
“Don’t you realize that whatever you choose to obey becomes your master?” Romans 6:16 (NLT)
Do you believe the church you attend on Sunday is infallible? Do you believe a particular denomination is the only path to truth and salvation? If so, you’re putting your faith in a human created organization and not Jesus Christ. According to Jesus, this is not the road to Him:
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other.” Matthew 6:24 (NLT)
Which is your master? The traditions of man, or Jesus Christ?
Britt Gillette is founder of BrittGillette.Com, a website examining the relationship between bible prophecy and emerging trends in technology. For more information or to sign up for his email alerts, please visit http://www.brittgillette.com