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
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
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
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
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
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.