John T. Willis

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Only True Church

According to Matthew 16:18, Jesus declared: "On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." Jesus' prayer in John 17:17-21 is that all of his true followers "may ALL be ONE. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe that you have sent me." Paul states in Ephesians 4:4, "there is ONE body," that is, the church.

Many religious groups have taken these texts and then made the leap: WE are the only true church. This began to be a well-established belief in Churches of Christ. No one knows when someone first came up with this idea. If one studies the Bible, one will quickly realize that his assumption or view or belief is not only unchristian, but also anti-Christian. Here are some simple reasons.

1. This view is dripping with ARROGANCE, PRIDE, SELF-CENTEREDNESS, INGRATITUDE. The assumption of this view is: I am better than everyone else, and on top of that, I will go to heaven and anyone who differs with me will go to hell. The truth is: ALL of us are sinners, and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and the ONLY way we can be saved is by the grace of God through faith (Ephesians 2:8-10).

2. This view is PRECISELY the attitude of the Pharisee which Jesus blatantly condemned in Luke 18:9-14. This text says:
     "The Pharisee, STANDING BY HIMSELF, was praying thus: 'God, I thank you that I AM NOT LIKE OTHER PEOPLE: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.'"
     The prayer of the tax collector was: "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
     Jesus' evaluation is: "I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted."
It is VERY DIFFICULT, if not IMPOSSIBLE, for many so-called Christians to accept this statement of Jesus. But this is critical, and gives a clear description of the nature of Christianity.

3. This view does not comprehend or appreciate the beauty and the power and the potential of the diversity of the people of God. Think of all the churches described in the New Testament. Each church was very different, where one thinks of Rome or Ephesus or Laodicea or Jerusalem or Antioch or Colosse or Philippi or Thessalonica or whatever church there might be. The same is true in the present times. Each church in the Church of Christ denomination has its own peculiar practices and concepts and beliefs. But by the grace of God, spiritually we are united in heart and under God's deliverance and the Holy Spirit's guidance.

4. There are true Christians in all denominations. What matters is the heart. Proverbs 4:23 puts this clearly and solidly:
      "Keep your HEART with all viligence,
            for from IT flow the springs of life."
Jesus makes this same point essentially in Mark 7:21-23.

5. God's true people focus on God, not on themselves. They worship God, not the church, which is a group of fallible human beings. When we recognize and accept this view, the world will be much better.

Share YOUR insights and thoughts and reversals and shortcomings and confessions with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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