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 (Manna 74: Standing Firm)
The Church as Described in the Bible
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The Church as Described in the Bible

Lily Ng Shim—Singapore

Growing up in a traditional Chinese family, I always thought that Christianity was a Western religion. Although I was educated in a Catholic school, all I knew about Christendom were some lovely hymns that I had learned during hymn singing classes.

In December 1980, I saw a Bible for the first time in my life. I was attending a school camp, and in order to occupy myself during free time, I read the first few chapters of the Bible. I was left wondering why it was so different from all the other books that I had ever read.

FINDING JESUS, YET DOUBTING MY SALVATION

The following year, I was invited to join a Bible study group, organized by one of the seniors from my school. I learned about Jesus and how He died on the cross to save us from our sins. I was interested to know this Jesus personally, so I continued to study the Bible with this senior. It was impressed upon me that all I needed to do was to receive Jesus Christ into my life as my personal Savior by saying the sinner’s prayer, and I would receive eternal salvation. I longed to have Jesus in my life, so I accepted my senior’s guidance and said the sinner’s prayer.

Despite having said the prayer sincerely and being assured that saying it once was sufficient, I often doubted my salvation. When my cousins learned of my interest in Christianity, they brought me to Sunday worship services at the Bible-Presbyterian (BP) church they attended. However, through the years, I repeated the sinner’s prayer innumerable times, as I was not convinced that I was indeed saved into the arms of Jesus.

MEETING A GIRL FROM THE TRUE JESUS CHURCH

In January 1983, I underwent a major operation and had to recuperate for six months in a children’s hospital. During part of this stay, my bed was next to that of another girl who was also recovering from a similar operation. We had nothing in common except that we were both Christians, so we talked about our faith in God.

One day, I asked her if she had said the sinner’s prayer. She told me that she had been baptized as a child, at which point her sins had been washed away, so there was no need for her to say the sinner’s prayer. I was bewildered that she had never said the prayer despite having been a believer all her life. I expressed my concern, but she was adamant that it was unnecessary to say the prayer.

Shortly after we were discharged from the hospital, this girl invited me to her church. Out of courtesy, I accepted her invitation and joined her family for service at the True Jesus Church in Telok Kurau, Singapore, one Saturday afternoon.

The worship service was as solemnly conducted as in the BP church. One major difference was that the True Jesus Church worshippers kneeled and prayed individually, though at the same time, and many prayed in tongues.

When the BP church pastor learned of my visit to this church, he was very concerned. He asked me if I didn’t think it strange that they called themselves the True Jesus Church, thereby falsifying all other churches. The pastor advised that I should distance myself from this church because her teachings were unorthodox and different from mainstream churches worldwide. I had no reason to challenge my pastor, so I continued worshipping God in the BP church.

As we led very different lives, the girl from the True Jesus Church and I lost touch barely a year after we had been discharged from hospital.

STUDYING THE BOOK OF ACTS

A couple of years later, a theological student from the BP church organized a Bible study for young women on the Acts of the Apostles. I was keen to be instructed in this book, so I joined the group’s weekly sessions. Given my outspoken and questioning personality, I participated vocally, albeit in a friendly manner, asking week after week why mainstream church practices have changed so much since the days of the apostles. Patiently, the Bible study leader explained to me that because Christendom today is very established, it does not require the full manifestation of the Holy Spirit, as compared to the apostles’ era when speaking in tongues, miracles, signs, and wonders were required to actively manifest the power of God.

When I enquired why the BP church baptized by sprinkling of water instead of immersion in water, as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, the Bible study leader answered that the mode of baptism is insignificant, because baptism itself does not save one unto God but is only a public proclamation of one’s inner faith in God.

The leader explained to me that the Acts of the Apostles was documented as a historical record of the works of God in the early church. Christianity has evolved into different denominations, each imperfect on its own and practicing a variation of what is recorded in the Book of Acts. When Jesus comes again, all denominations will merge together to become the one true perfect church, which will then be brought into the eternal heavenly kingdom.

IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECT CHURCH

I was not confused; I just could not accept any of these explanations. I could not believe that the Acts of the Apostles had no practical value for current-day believers apart from being a historical reference. Is the Bible not the word of God? Does the Bible not say that the word of God is living and sharper than any two-edged sword? Then how can it be that this biblical book is considered a historical document only?

I decided that somewhere, somehow, there must be a church that practices all the teachings in the Book of Acts. I set out Sunday after Sunday in search of this perfect church, attending worship services at several Christian denominations. Indeed, just as the Bible study leader had said, each church practiced a variation of the teachings in Acts, but none embraced them fully. After several weeks, I decided to stop attending church altogether, because I did not want to accept a modified doctrine.

For months, I stayed home on Sundays. I missed going to church, but I was adamant that I would not go anywhere until the right church came along.

RECONNECTING WITH MY HOSPITAL ROOMMATE

One day in 1988, for no particular reason, I remembered the Christian girl who had slept next to me in hospital years ago, whose parents had once come to my neighborhood to take me to church. I recalled that their church had a different way of praying, but I could not remember its name, only that it was in Telok Kurau.

A plan came into my head: If ever I have the opportunity to reconnect with this girl, I will ask her to take me to her church. I was intent on investigating the teachings of that church based on what I had studied in the Book of Acts.

A few days later, this girl telephoned me. I was both shocked and excited by the call. We made arrangements and, within days, she brought me to church for worship service. In the following weeks, I asked the girl many questions about the Bible, similar to those I had asked my Bible study leader at the BP church. She decided to arrange a regular Bible study so that we could discuss my questions more systematically. Every Saturday, after worship services, I diligently studied the teachings of this church with the assigned youths.

FINDING FULL ASSURANCE OF SALVATION

From the Bible study lessons and the diligent reading of church literature, I was convinced that this church is the living church that was detailed in the Acts of the Apostles. In September 1988, three months after my second visit, I was baptized into the True Jesus Church.

Before my baptism, we sang a hymn with these lyrics:

There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins … and there may I though vile as he [the thief], wash all my sins away ... I do believe, truly believe, that Jesus died for me ….

My own words could not describe any better what I was about to do.
At the moment I was baptized in the blood of Jesus, He redeemed me unto Himself. Through baptism in His name, with the presence of the Holy Spirit, in the living water of the open sea, I was finally certain that my sins had been cleansed by the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for me.

At last, I have the true and complete assurance of the forgiveness of my sins and a claim to the salvation that Jesus promised to all who obey Him. I have found the truth, the redemption of my soul, the light of my salvation.
Hallelujah, praise be to the Lord Jesus.

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Author: Lily Ng Shim
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