Based on a sermon by Aun-Quek Chin—Singapore
Faiths, Changing Faith
In 2007, the U.S. Religious
Landscape Survey found that more than a quarter of American adults (28%) had
left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion, or
professed no religion at all. If the change in affiliation from one
denomination to another was included, 44% of adults had either switched
religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being
affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific
religious tradition altogether.
Since its establishment by the
Holy Spirit in 1917, believers in the True Jesus Church (TJC) all over the
world have been united by “one body and one Spirit, … one hope of [our]
calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all” (Eph
4:4–6). But in a world that prides itself on having change as the only
constant, have we also – like the 44% of Americans - changed in our faith?
This is no empty threat. As in the
days of the apostolic church, the TJC today faces renewed and relentless
attempts to change her teachings. As individuals, these crises are a personal
trial of faith for us. Do we truly believe? Why do we believe? Have we changed
in our faith and faithfulness to the Lord’s word? Constant self-examination of
our faith is critical (2 Cor 13:5). As the ultimate aim of our faith is
salvation, we must know what we ought to do in order to be saved.
in the True Church?
Some may wonder how deviant
teachings can possibly arise in the TJC, a church who has the truth and the
presence of the Holy Spirit. In their disappointment, some even begin to doubt
that the TJC is the true church. Yet we need neither be surprised nor
disappointed, for the Holy Spirit has already revealed that such things will
surely befall the true church. God allows this as a test for us. As Paul told
Timothy, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart
from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons”(1 Tim
Paul did not just stop at warning
Timothy but also added: “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will
be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the
good doctrine which you have carefully followed” (1 Tim 4:6). Today, every
minister of the church, as a steward of God’s household, has the responsibility
to remind the brethren not to heed deviant teachings and never to veer from the
pure unadulterated word of God. Whether as part of our pulpit ministry or other
areas of church work, we have the responsibility to protect the believers so
that they are not deceived and can stand firm in the truth.
View of the One True Church Doctrine
In the TJC, believers are still
strongly convinced that there is only one true God; we have no qualms
proclaiming the one true Savior. However, when asked about their belief in the
one true church that is saved, some hesitate. In fact, many have wavered in
their belief and chosen to reject this article of faith. Why? There are two
First, the doctrine of the one
church that is saved is a concept that turns off many other Christians because
it smacks of elitism and arrogance. Proclaiming this doctrine inevitably opens
us to more quarrels with other churches. Some believers thus feel that, to
co-exist harmoniously with the rest of Christendom and perhaps even grow in
favor with them, the TJC ought not highlight her differences nor emphasize that
we are the only church that is saved. They justify such reticence as diplomacy
and “respect for another person’s beliefs.”
But reflect a little deeper. If
refraining from the one-true-church claim were the right and wisest step to
take, should we also stop preaching about the one true God and the one true
Savior? Preaching these aspects has even more serious consequences. When we
talk about the one true church that is saved, we merely offend other
Christians. However, when we talk about the one true God and one true Savior,
we risk offending every other religion in the world!
Although we could please
non-believing friends and family by saying that “all religions are the same
because they all teach you to be good, Christianity is just one of the many
ways to God or the Ultimate Being,” we will never say that. We bravely proclaim
that there is only one true God because we truly believe Jesus’ words that He
is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6). We strive hard to bring the
people we love to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ because we believe the
Scriptures’ teaching that there is salvation in no-one else, “for there is no
other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Similarly, we have made the decision to be baptized in the TJC, believing in
all the “one-s” elaborated by Paul in Ephesians 4:4–6. Yet why are we afraid to
say that there is a one true church that is saved?
This leads us to the second
reason. We still firmly believe that “one true God” and “one true Savior” are
part of the truth. But some of us are no longer totally convinced that the
truth also includes the teaching that there is only one true church that is
saved. We thus need to understand again why the true church concept is a
biblical truth and not just a claim concocted by some ministers in the TJC.
When the TJC was first established
in 1917 in China, the number of believers was small and many of the early
workers came from poor financial backgrounds and were without much education.
But they were unmovable in their belief that the True Jesus Church is the only
church that is saved, and went forth to preach exactly that. Undoubtedly, they
were met with skepticism, and the true church concept was criticized for its
seemingly arrogant and cultic nature.
Almost a century later, we thank
God that the TJC today is all around the world. No longer do other Christian
churches reject her as a cult. Many have understood that we call ourselves the
true church because we truly adhere to all that is commanded in the Bible.
These other churches also acknowledge that there are some parts of the Bible
that they have not truly obeyed, because they have different interpretations of
those passages. But they cannot and do not deny that the teachings of the True
Jesus Church are in accordance with the Bible. At worst, they merely describe
the TJC as “fundamentalist” due to our strict adherence to the Scriptures or
our relative conservatism.
Ironically, there are members and
even ministers from within the TJC family who have stood up to challenge her
claim to be the one true church that is saved. When believers who were already
embarrassed to tell others that the TJC is the one true church hear of this,
they are naturally attracted by such a message. These detractors even play the
“love” card. They say that other churches are full of love. Their missionaries
have taken the gospel to the poorest of poor countries. Some even emigrate to
these countries with their spouse and children. Besides evangelism, these
missionaries have also done a lot of charitable work. They have established
orphanages, hospitals, and schools. And despite all their good works, the TJC
says that they cannot be saved because the TJC is the only church that is
saved. We have neither their love nor sacrifice, yet we mock them.
Hearing this, some may agree that
it is embarrassing to continue to state we are the one true church. Is this
right? Should we stop teaching a biblical truth because we have yet to match
other churches’ standard of love and service to society? Should the TJC
eliminate an article of faith because it disqualifies other churches whose
social service and evangelistic efforts surpass ours?
We must return to the fundamental
question—on what does salvation depend? If salvation could be earned through
actions of love, Jesus would not have to be crucified and to die for us; and we
would not need to talk about baptism, footwashing, Holy Communion, etc. As long
as you have faith and love, you can be saved. It is your faith and love that
saves you. This is the gospel of love advocated by some denominations.
While this gospel of love is
appealing in its simplicity, can it truly effect the forgiveness of human sin
and bring salvation to a person? When we read the Bible and study what Jesus
says, we understand that man’s salvation does not depend on his actions, no
matter how much love he has shown or how great a sacrifice he has undertaken.
Instead, we are saved by believing that our sins are forgiven through water
baptism in the name of Jesus. By and through Jesus’ love and His death on the
cross for us, we receive the forgiveness of our sins, and thus salvation. By
that reasoning, if a person has not and does not receive this forgiveness of
sin, he or she will not be saved; no matter what great deeds of love he or she
Why We Must
Believe in the One True Church Doctrine
Understanding and believing the
truth is thus very important, and belief in the one true church is an
indispensable article of faith, which brooks no compromise. There are three
Christ Only Established One Church
Firstly, there is only one church
that is saved because Christ only established one church.
“And I also say to you that you
are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades
shall not prevail against it.” (Mt 16:18)
The Lord Jesus said, “I will build
My church on this rock.” Jesus Himself established the church and personally
built up this church. Importantly, He did not set up different churches. He
only established one church to save both the Jews and the Gentiles.
“And other sheep I have which
are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and
there will be one flock and one shepherd.” (Jn 10:16)
It is the will of God for everyone
to be saved, not just the Jews. However, there is a process for the attainment
of God’s will. First, the gospel was preached to the Jews. Hence, in the time
of Jesus, the sheep of the Lord referred to the Jews. When Jesus first sent out
His workers, they were sent to the Jews to preach the gospel. After the Jews,
the gospel was to be taken to the Gentiles so that the sheep of the Lord
amongst them would return to Jesus’ fold (cf. Rom 15:15–19). These are also the
“other sheep” that the Lord wants to bring into His fold.
Jews and Gentiles are to be one
flock, belonging to one shepherd. Sheep of other flocks will have to be rescued
and integrated into this one flock that belongs to Jesus. It stands to reason
that there should only be one church that is saved, a church comprising not
only the Jews but also the Gentiles. This is the church built by the Lord
Jesus—the one church that is saved.
Christ Gives the Keys to Heaven to Only One Church
Secondly, the church that is saved
is only one because the Lord Jesus has given the keys of heaven only to this
“And I will give you the keys
of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in
heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:19)
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said that
He would build His church. There would only be one church through which both
Jews and Gentiles will be saved. In Matthew 16:19, Jesus went on to say that He
would give this church the keys of the kingdom of heaven. These keys confer the
authority to open up heaven. Whoever holds these keys to heaven will have the
authority to lead people into heaven. Such authority was not given to Peter
alone. Rather, Peter accepted this authority on behalf of the church. Since the
Lord Jesus has entrusted the church with the keys of heaven, she has the
authority to mete out judgment and salvation.
Some claim that judgment and
salvation is the sole prerogative of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, they teach that
we only need to believe in Jesus and not the church, because Jesus has the sole
authority to forgive or condemn us of sin. This is in direct contradiction to
Jesus’ unequivocal statement: He has given this authority, these keys of
heaven, to the church.
In particular, this authority
refers to the true gospel that allows man to be saved so that they can enter
into heaven. The Lord Jesus established the church so that the gospel of
salvation could be preached to all man through the church. The church conducts
the baptism that washes away sins, the footwashing sacrament that allows
believers to have a part with the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Communion so that
those who partake of it can share in the life of Jesus; the church also teaches
the believers to pray to the Lord for the promised Holy Spirit. All these are
Jesus’ instructions and are directly related to salvation. Rejecting the
church’s role in conducting these is akin to rejecting the truth. The following
Challenge 1: The TJC maintains that a person who does not receive
baptism conducted by the church will not have his or her sins forgiven, and
thus cannot be saved. Some challenge this by saying that their faith is
established on Jesus alone, and that should be sufficient. Since different
denominations have varying interpretations of the Scriptures, baptism in
Christendom is conducted in many different ways. Hence, belief in Jesus is all
that is needed for salvation. The church has no authority.
Clarification: It is crucial to recognize that the baptism
sacrament conducted in the TJC was not invented by her ministers. Jesus Himself
was baptized as an example for us. Moreover, Jesus instructed the church to
carry out baptism, saying, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; Go
therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all
things that I have commanded you…” (Mk 16:16a; Mt 28:19–20).
All these are instructions from
the Lord Jesus that allow us to be saved. If we believe, our sins are removed
and we are saved. If we do not believe in the baptism that saves, our sins
continue to be pinned on us and we are bound to them. The church’s possession
of authority does not arise because the church elders or preachers have such
authority. Instead, the church’s authority is established on the truth and on
the Lord Jesus.
Challenge 2: The TJC maintains that footwashing is a prerequisite
for a person to have a part with Jesus. Otherwise, the person cannot be saved.
Some challenge this by claiming that the TJC invented the importance of the
footwashing sacrament. They describe footwashing as superfluous to salvation.
Clarification: If footwashing were merely a TJC invention, we would
have to explain why Peter reacted so frantically when he heard Jesus say, “If I
do not wash your feet, you have no part with me.” Peter had initially rejected
his Teacher’s attempt to wash his feet, but now he accepted it. What was the
reason for this dramatic turnaround? Peter realized that this was no ordinary
footwashing custom. Instead, this was an important truth concerning salvation,
and so Peter accepted the footwashing conducted by the Lord.
More generally, the TJC’s five
basic doctrines—baptism, footwashing, Holy Communion, Holy Spirit, and
Sabbath—are all instructions given by the Lord Jesus for salvation. Even our
nearest and dearest cannot be saved if they adamantly refuse to believe in
these doctrines. Our faith cannot save them.
It bears repeating that no
individual has the authority to decide who can be saved or not saved. It is the
church who has been entrusted with the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Hence,
the church must carry out Jesus’ instructions to preach the gospel of
salvation. A church that does not carry out the Lord’s instructions, e.g., they
do not conduct baptism or they do not carry out footwashing, cannot be saved.
It is not the TJC who has judged them. Instead, such a verdict is based on what
the Lord Jesus has entrusted to the church and on His teachings.
Only One Holy Spirit Promised and Given to the
Finally, there is only one true
church that is saved because there is only one Holy Spirit who has been
promised and given to the church.
“Therefore being exalted to the
right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy
Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:3)
“Therefore let all the house of
Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both
Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36)
On the day of Pentecost, the
promised Holy Spirit descended. When the believers received the promised Holy
Spirit and spoke in tongues, everyone was astonished. Peter then explained to
the people that what they had seen and heard was the promised Holy Spirit of
the Lord Jesus. Furthermore, he testified that Jesus is the Messiah, the
Savior, and that the gospel that the disciples believed in is true and leads to
salvation. The Jews were moved, because they had personally seen the promised
Holy Spirit descending upon the disciples. So on that day, three thousand
people were baptized into the one true church. This is the church that the Lord
Jesus has established. This is the church that is saved.
Today, the gospel that the TJC
preaches is the same as the gospel that the apostles preached. The Holy Spirit
that we receive, evidenced by the speaking in tongues, is exactly the same
Spirit that the apostles received. Hence, we believe that the true church today
is the same as the church of the apostolic times; she is the one true church
that is saved.
How can Christians in search of
the truth that saves recognize the true church? Acts of the Apostles provides a
model that allows us to see that the apostles preached the instructions of our
Lord Jesus. They preached the truth that saves.
The Holy Spirit has already
revealed that in the last days there will be deviant teachings and straying
away from the truth. Indeed, we have seen for ourselves that some have deviated
from the truth. Paul exhorted Timothy: “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to
your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what
is falsely called knowledge-by professing it some have strayed concerning the
faith. Grace be with you. Amen” (1 Tim 6:20–21). Today, all of us have this
responsibility. We must hold fast to the pure word of God that saves. We must
never allow this word to be changed or contradicted.
A modern ploy is to appeal to
relationships, feelings, and “love.” Love is an important tenet in
Christianity, but only the gospel, the word of Jesus Christ, can save us.
Without the truth, all talk of love is meaningless. Therefore, we must hold
firm what we believe in so that our faith is an unchanging faith.