IF YOU CAN FIND A PERFECT CHURCH, join it! But as soon
as you do, it won't be a perfect church any more.
There are many reasons why people choose one church or faith over another. Maybe parents raised a person with certain beliefs, or perhaps it was the influence of a teacher, minister or friend that influenced one's religious choice.
Sometimes it is a negative event that takes a person out of a church and into another one. Perhaps a pastor or member hurt or failed a person somehow, and as a 'reaction', that individual changed churches, or dropped religion all together.
There are realities we must deal with, such as the reality of God in our lives. We saw how the Creator communicated to man directly, through prophets, and later through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Scripture records truths which God has revealed to us. Both the Bible and reason prove that man has an immortal soul. What will happen to our soul after our bodies' death will depend on the choices we make in this life. So religious truth is important! It's the most important subject we can study, and teaches us how we should strive to live our lives.
Holy Writ tells us that "all have sinned" and that "the price of sin is death" (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Jesus said: "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mt. 9:13). The Bible also tell us that Jesus established a Church (cf. Mt. 16:18). Some claim Jesus' Church is an 'invisible society', made up of believers. But consider this advice He gave in dealing with sinners and resolving disputes: "If he refused to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a
tax collector." (Mt. 18:17). Now, if Christ's Church was 'invisible', then how can people find it to resolve disputes? Note that in Matthew 18:16, Jesus already told his disciples to first take the dispute
before two or three witnesses. These verses demonstrate that Jesus established a visible church, or His advice on dealing with sinners would make no sense at all.
In considering these verses, we learn vital facts. We too are sinners, and Jesus established a church for sinners. He expected people to be able to find His Church, and promised that not even "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Mt. 16:18).
Some protest that they won't go to church because there are hypocrites in churches. But if a person lets a hypocrite come 'between' himself and God, then the hypocrite is 'closer' to God. Besides, there is always room for one more...(grin!). Since Jesus established a church for sinners, it is obvious that there will be sinners (and hypocrites) in the church He started. So we shouldn't seek a 'perfect church,' one run by and for perfect people, since Christ's Church is for sinners like us.
JESUS ESTABLISHED A TEACHING CHURCH:
Jesus predicted there'd be false prophets, teachers and divisions among believers (cf. Mt. 24:11-12). Still He prayed His followers "may all be one" (Jn. 17:21). Jesus didn't promise a 'perfect church, 'rather He told His Disciples: "He who hears you, hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me." (Lk. 10:16); "But when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you into all truth." (Jn. 16:13). Our Savior prays for His Apostles: "I gave them your word...Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world...I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word...that the world may believe that You sent Me." (Jn. 17:14,17,20,21). What do these verses tell us? That people can err, but Jesus' Church is a trustworthy teacher of spiritual truth.
Before the Lord ascended into heaven, He gave His Apostles authority: "All power in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to do all that I commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Mt. 28:18-20) The disciples saw the glorified Lord, and the Son wanted His Church to have glory: "And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, so that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me" (Jn. 17:22-23).
Jesus' Church will be visible and will have glorious qualities, so that the world could see, recognize and join in one universal 'body of Christ!'
JESUS AND THE ROCK:
Sooner or later, we come to the question 'who is Jesus?' Jesus quizzed His disciples on this point: "Who do people say the Son of Man is?' They replied, 'Some say John the Baptizer, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I Am?' Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.' Jesus said to him in reply, 'Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father...I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church...I will give to you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Mt. 16:13-18, 19).
In the Bible, when God changes a name, it's a sign that something special is taking place. The Lord changed Simon's name to Peter (meaning 'Rock'), because God was commissioning Peter for a special role in His Church.
Some argue against Peter's special office or authority in the church. A typical argument is that we translate the New Testament from the original Greek into English, and that the verse would read with petros (Peter) and petra (rock), the masculine and feminine forms of the Greek 'rock,' a rendering almost comical and therefor presumably unintended by Jesus. But there are many reasons why such arguments are false.
Jesus' native tounge wasn't Greek, He spoke Aramaic. So the Messiah was saying 'you are Kepha, (Aramaic for 'rock') and on this kepha I will build My church.' Note too that this was the first time in history that someone is known to have used 'rock' as a personal name for a man.
Jesus called Simon 'Blessed'. It wasn't 'flesh and blood' that led to Peter's confessing Jesus, it was 'my heavenly Father.' Peter's role? He is: given the power to 'bind' and 'loose'; he's the
confessor and witness of Jesus and 'the Rock' upon which Jesus pledged ''to build my church.'' Peter is told, "you must strengthen your brothers." (Lk. 22:32); "Feed my lambs.", "Tend my sheep." and "Feed my sheep." (Jn. 21:15,16,17) by Jesus. Peter was made the shepherd of the Church by the Good Shepherd Himself (cf. Jn. 10:11)!
Note there are four lists in the Bible of all twelve apostles. In each list, Judas Iscariot is last. In those days, the order of names was significant; so this is a Scriptural 'clue.' Surely, we agree that Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, was the 'least' and last among the disciples. On the other hand, the first, or apparently the greatest, name on each list is Peter's. The various forms of Peter's name in the New Testament (e.g.: Cephas, Peter, Simon etc.) are mentioned 195 times. By contrast, runner-up John is named less than 30 times. This is just some of the evidence of Peter's leadership.
JESUS' CHURCH WAS TO HAVE:
Unity, authority, the promise of teaching the truth, of surviving even hellish attacks in spite of the weaknesses and sins of its leaders. The Church was to be visible
(find-able), with an earthly leader (Peter, and his successors) and was promised that the Holy Spirit "would instruct you in everything" (Jn. 14:26). The Apostles' mission was to all nations (see Mt. 28:19), so His Church is a 'Divine Messenger' of spiritual truth!
Since the Apostles' didn't reach 'all nations,' the Lord's commission implied a need for continuity, organization and successors. The Bible testifies to this, as the Apostle Paul wrote: "The things which you have heard from me through many witnesses you must hand on to
trustworthy men who will be able to teach others." (2 Tim. 2:2). The overseers of the Church 'laid hands' upon their successors, the deacons and presbyters (priests) who were to serve the flock: "to stir into flame the gift that God bestowed when my hands were laid on you." (2 Tim. 1:6; see Acts 6:6). The Church was intended to teach and interpret the Bible, (cf. 2 Pet. 1:20; 3:16 & Acts 8:28-35) and to hand down Jesus' traditions: "So...brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter." (2 Thes. 2:15; cf. 3:6), as spiritual 'fathers,' as St. Paul indicated: "Indeed, in Jesus Christ, I became your father through the Gospel." (1 Cor. 4:15).
SCRIPTURE WARNS US:
You shall not repeat a false report..."Neither shall you allege the example of the many as an excuse for wrongdoing" (Ex. 23:1,2). Old habits, peer pressure and prejudices shouldn't keep us from doing what God commands. "We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from the assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more since the time is short." (Heb. 10:24-25). Some have been misled by sincere people, while others preach false gospels due to pride, money, jealousy, etc. But to everyone,
Jesus proclaims: "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd." (Jn. 10:16) Despite obstacles to Christian unity in God's universal Church, we must remember, "nothing is impossible with God." (Lk. 1:37) and "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)! "Each of us will give an account of himself to God." (Rom. 14:12). "And it is appointed for men to die once, and after
that comes judgement." (Heb. 9:27). "There is such a thing as deadly sin...All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly." (1 Jn. 5:16,17).
And these will go to eternal punishment, "but the righteous to eternal life." (Mt. 25:46). It is obvious that religious truth is important, and that Jesus established a church for us, not a confusing blizzard of different denominations. Keep in mind that we aren't judging or condemning anyone, rather we are simply seeking Biblical truth! We noted at the beginning of this chapter some of the factors that cause people to be in or out of any given church. A key part of Jesus' ministry was one of healing: "He cured many who were sick with various illnesses..." (Mk. 1:34) and "He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and
healing every disease and illness among the people." (Mt. 4:23). The truth is, that we all need to be healed in various ways. We should 'be open' and try not to let anything or anyone steal His cures and teaching from us! We will learn how we can experience His Healing Love in the pages ahead.
So let's move on and learn more about the Divine Message, since you can see why spiritual truth is important for You!