Editor’s note: The first article in this series,
published in Manna 84, discussed how to build the church on the solid
foundation of truth, to ensure that she will overcome any storms that may come.
In this concluding article, the author outlines the central role of the church
in God’s salvation plan, and the need to attain perfection through the
cleansing of God’s word and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.
Where does the concept of the true
church and false churches come from? Is it from the Bible, or is it mere
fabrication? If we care about our salvation, we need to carefully study this
matter to identify the biblical truths of God’s church and how to enter it.
Only then can we avoid being misled.
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives
you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive
many.” (Mt 24:4–5)
Here Jesus warns that there will be
many false christs. It follows that the churches they establish will be false,
and if we put our faith in them, we will forfeit our salvation. Hence, it is
critical we remain vigilant, to distinguish between false churches and the one
true church belonging to Jesus.
RELEVANCE OF THE CHURCH
Within Christendom, people hold
different views about the relevance of the church. Some argue that the church
plays a vital role, and that we should anchor our faith therein; others say
that we should place our faith in God alone. What does Jesus say?
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. 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 16:18–19)
Jesus makes three key points: firstly,
He will personally build His church; secondly, He will build it on “this rock”;
and thirdly, He will grant this church the authority to bind and to loosen. We
can use these three principles to determine whether we have found the church
belonging to the Lord.
“I will build My church”
His church to proclaim the gospel message:
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching
the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the
kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mk 1:14–15)
Jesus’ proclamation forms the crux of the
gospel. The purpose of His ministry was not to heal illnesses or deliver souls
from demon possession. These were miracles He performed out of compassion, to
confer physical peace and wellbeing; but physical healing was not the message
Jesus preached. So what is the key gospel message? It is that the kingdom of
God is at hand. This kingdom refers to the church of God. We have to enter the
church of God and, in order to enter, we have to repent and believe in the
gospel. This is the gospel message that Christians should still be preaching.
Today, there are
many who proclaim a variation of the gospel, saying that we need only believe
in the Lord to enter the kingdom of God. They cite Paul’s teaching: that we
should confess with our lips and believe in our heart to be saved (Rom 10:10).
They argue that it is not necessary to undergo baptism. But did Jesus not teach
us how we should demonstrate our repentance and belief?
And He said to
them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who
believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be
condemned. (Mk 16:15–16)
instructing His disciples to preach the gospel, Jesus said that those who
believe in the gospel and are baptized will be saved; but those who disbelieve
will be condemned. In other words, repentance and belief go hand in hand with
water baptism. The effect of the latter is to wash away sins (Acts 22:16), so
that we can enter into God’s kingdom and be saved.
So now we arrive
at a very important point: since baptism is critical for the forgiveness of
sins and entry to the kingdom of God, who should perform the baptism? Once
Jesus had accomplished His work of salvation on earth, He needed to pass on His
gospel ministry and, more importantly, the work of forgiving sins. So He
commanded His disciples:
has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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;
and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Mt 28:18–20)
It is clear from
Jesus’ words that He established His church for a distinct purpose—to not only
preach the gospel, but also to baptize and save those who believe. Therefore,
the church established by the Lord is the only one qualified to perform
In this present
time, many churches preach and implement the word of God partially and
selectively. Yet the Bible is clear that the full gospel entails the
Baptism should be performed in
the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
Foot washing should be
performed to enable believers to have a part with the Lord (Jn 13:8).
Holy Communion should be
undertaken to enable believers to partake of Jesus’ flesh and blood, so that
they may receive eternal life (Mt 26:26–29; Jn 6:53–58).
The workers of God should lay
hands on the believers, praying for them so that they may receive the Holy
Spirit (Acts 8:17; 19:6).
The church should observe the
Sabbath on Saturday, the seventh day of the week, as this is one of the Ten
Commandments (Ex 20:8–11; Mk 2:27; Mt 5:19; 19:17).
teachings are those of the Lord Jesus and His apostles, and are hallmarks of
God’s church. They have been carefully documented in the Bible for those who
care to study its word objectively.
“I will build My church on this rock”
The Lord Jesus
established His church to proclaim and implement His teachings. If we heed the
word of our Lord, and preach the word according to His teaching, then we will
truly belong to the church established by the Lord. But if we do not completely
carry out the word of the Lord, then we do not belong to the church of the Lord.
Why are we so
sure and confident of this? Jesus said, “And on this rock, I will build My
church”—the “rock” being Himself. How is the church established on Jesus? Does
it only require a community of believers to proclaim their faith in Jesus? On
the surface, this sounds logical, but what does Jesus say?
“But why do
you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to
Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is
like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.
And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and
could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did
nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation,
against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin
of that house was great.” (Lk 6:46–49)
Many believe in
Jesus and call Him “Lord,” but does it mean they are all established upon the
rock? Jesus says no. If we believe in Him, we ought to obey His words
completely, which Jesus likens to building our house upon the rock. But if we
only selectively obey His words, this is like building on the sand. On the day
of judgement, our house will collapse. The Lord will ask, “Why do you call Me
‘Lord, Lord’ and not do the things I command?” To be the true church
established by God, the church must preach the complete gospel proclaimed by
Jesus and the apostles.
“Keys to the kingdom of heaven”
“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. 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 16:18–19)
The Lord Jesus
has given the keys of the heavenly kingdom to the church, which means the
church has the authority to open the doors to the heavenly kingdom. Those who
believe in the complete gospel, as preached by the true church, will be able to
enter the kingdom of heaven and escape the clutches of Hades.
What are the
keys to the kingdom of heaven?
On one level, it
is the word of God, entrusted to the apostles. This word has the authority to
open the gates of heaven. The apostles passed this word of God, the complete
truth, to the saints, and they, in turn, have passed it to subsequent
generations. This word carries the power to save, but it also brings judgment,
closing the door of heaven. Therefore, the church preaching this complete truth
has been given the power and authority to judge, so that those who believe can
enter the kingdom of heaven, and those who go against the truth will be denied
level, the keys to the kingdom of heaven refers to water baptism. Jesus
explains, saying, “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.”
to “loose on earth” is the power of the church to perform water baptism. When
the church conducts baptism, men’s sins are washed away, and they enter
salvation and freedom from the bond of sin. The church also has the authority
to “bind on earth,” meaning that she has the mandate to pass judgment, such as
removing a person from office or carrying out excommunication.
We need to
realize that the church will not pass judgment on a whim; her duty is to judge
according to God’s word. The criteria she uses is whether a person has
transgressed the word of God. This being the case, the church has both the
responsibility and authority to pass judgment. No distinction is made between a
regular believer, a worker or an ordained minister—everyone is treated in an
equal manner. In this way, the church affirms what is right and wrong according
to God’s standard in the Bible, and the congregation knows the boundaries of
Is the church or
the Lord Jesus overly strict? We know that the Lord died for us and established
the church through His blood to bring salvation to humankind. From this, we
understand the great love of Jesus. He established the church on the rock,
which is Himself, and has given her His authority to pass judgment, so that
those who believe can be saved, and those who go against the truth shall be
condemned. It follows, then, that if we believe in Jesus, we should also
respect His church.
HOLY AND UNBLEMISHED
Aside from preaching and safeguarding
the gospel of salvation, the believers must also strive to be adorned and
prepared to meet the Lord Jesus.
Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of
the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. (Rev 19:7)
We rejoice because we are betrothed to
the Lord, and we know that one day He will come to receive us. So have we
prepared ourselves, and are we suitably adorned?
Indeed, as we encourage or correct one
another, as the need arises, are we not preparing the church for the Lord’s
[T]hat He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water
by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having
spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without
blemish. (Eph 5:26–27)
The Bible speaks of cleansing the
church by the word of God, so that she can be holy and glorious. By Paul’s
definition, a glorious church is one that is without blemish or wrinkle. To be
without blemish means being untainted by the outside world. To be without
wrinkle means not losing strength and vigour. As time progresses, the church
may grow old and weary, so we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to renew our
strength and use God’s word to cleanse us. We should heed Paul’s message to be
renewed in our spirit day by day (2 Cor 4:16), for this principle applies not
only to our physical bodies, but also to the church as a whole.
The true church has long been
established, but her construction is an ongoing process. As members, we need to
draw on the power of the Holy Spirit to pursue holiness, so that we can remove
our blemishes and wrinkles. In doing so, we can uphold our faith to the end,
and present ourselves to the Lord as a glorious church—a beautifully adorned