Since reading the "One Faith" theme articles in the October-December 2000 issue of Manna, Iâ€™ve thought much about our role as messengers of the perfect gospel in the world today. How, for example, do believers in the True Jesus Church bring the Lordâ€™s message of water baptism to men and women who truly believe a person is saved when she confesses that Jesus is Lord and accepts Him into her heart? How do we explain that, as in the days of the apostles, they too can now see and hear for themselves when a person has received the Holy Spirit? And how do we share that "it is clearly the will of God to have only one church on earth rather than many Christian denominations or groups?" As you can see, a difficult task awaits every one of us.
The Christian church, as we know it, has a two-thousand-year history. Though today a confusion of many denominations and non-denominations, it did begin as one body of believers who shared one doctrine and one faith. With the Holy Spirit in their midst, the early believers "devoted themselves to the apostles? teachings and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42, NIV). This took place in Jerusalem, where the apostles had gathered following Jesus?return to heaven. But as we read in the Bible, this one doctrine and one faith would, as time went by, be challenged by folks who added to and/or subtracted from the apostles? teachings that had been taught them by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Unfortunately, this challenge was not just confined to the pages of the Bible. As Christianity spread, this one doctrine and one faith very quickly got lost in the course of human history. Confusion in the church has reigned ever since. This is a sad commentary because all through history, devout and God-fearing men and women have longed to obey God and do His will. This is also true of devout and God-fearing men and women of our time. They love the Lord with all their heart and would, if it were demanded of them tonight, give up their lives for their faith; setting for us an example of which we can only admire from afar. The fact remains, however, that the Christian church today is not the one body she appears to be.
Our Lord never meant for this to happen. He very specifically taught the apostles that He only has one flock. As was pointed out in one of the theme articles, Jesus had told the apostles, "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 NIV). The Lord our God does not make promises He cannot keep. In the time of His favor, devout and God-fearing men and women will hear His voice. All those who have been appointed for eternal life will stop wandering around in circles. No longer will they lead or be led astray.
We find an example in the apostolic church in the person of a man named Apollos. A Jew, he was a native of Alexandria, a large city in the Roman Empire renowned as a great center of learning. The author of Acts describes Apollos as an "eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures." He writes, "This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John" (Acts 18:24-26).
Today, there are many Apolloses in the Christian church. Eloquent and mighty in the Scriptures, these devout and God-fearing men and women devote themselves to the speaking and teaching of Jesus Christ. Having understood that God sent His only son from heaven to suffer and die for the sins of the world, they cannot help but speak boldly of Godâ€™s great love for all men. But like Apollos before them, they have one need, as we read: "When Priscilla and Aquilla heard [Apollos], they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately" (Acts 18:26). Notice the words "more adequately." This act was of no small significance for as we learn in subsequent verses, Apollos became a most effective messenger of the Lordâ€™s perfect gospel. "When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ" (Acts 18:27,28). This example could be repeated again and again in our time.
Still, in a sea of denominations and non-denominations that span the globe, the True Jesus Church is small and insignificant. While much of the Christian world elbow for position and recognition on the worldâ€™s stage, we go about our lives quietly, worshiping God and minding our own business. While they turn their heads and lean their hearts toward new teachings added to and/or subtracted from the one doctrine and one faith, we remain unaffected. Secure in the one doctrine and one faith as revealed by the Lord Jesus Christ to the earliest workers of His church in 1917, we shut our doors behind us upon entering the sanctuary of our homes and chapels. We say our prayers and sing our hymns. We listen to our sermons and read our Bibles. And all is well.
But all is not well when men and women are left to sink or swim in this sea of many denominations and non-denominations. When the Lord was on earth, He told His followers that they were obligated to be the light of the world (Mt. 5:14). Light, by its nature, draws attention to itself. It offers light to those in the dark and warmth to those in the cold. Even from a distance, light fills the weary and confused traveler with hope, perks up his spirit, and encourages him to make that one more step in the right direction. It carries the message that tells him where he is at and shows him which way he must go.
A light was, in essence, what Priscilla and Aquila became to Apollos. Without drawing attention to themselves and stealing the spotlight, this couple worked behind the scenes. Sensing a devout and God-fearing man, Priscilla and Aquila reached out to this newcomer in their midst. Though fully equipped with the knowledge of God and certain of His way, they were careful not to dampen Apollos?spirit and snuff out his faith. Mindful of Godâ€™s grace, they sought only to explain "the way of God more adequately." In that sense, they shone like a beacon in the night to guide Apollos and help him stay on course while he was navigating his spiritual journey.
>As followers of Christâ€™s one doctrine and one faith today, we too must shine like beacons in the night. Beacons exist to warn or guide ships that navigate the seas as they make their way from their place of departure to their place of destination. Theyâ€™re an especially welcome sight to the navigator on rough waters and in times of distress and foul weather. Today many devout and God-fearing men and women are navigating the rough waters of many denominations and non-denominations even as they are battling the winds of increasingly fierce relativism. The time has come when we must reach out like beacons in the night. Anchored ever so securely in the one doctrine and one faith, we shall be an especially welcome sight to the multitude of weary and confused navigators before us.
Make no mistake. The challenge before us is no small matter. And we will be tested and tempted. But none of this should deter us. Remember the Lordâ€™s exhortation, "Freely you have received, freely give" (Mt 10:1-8). Take it to heart.
Take this statement to heart as well: "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few." Heed the advice that follows, "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field." (Mt 9:37). There is no more urgent plea than this today. Though we do not always know it, devout and God-fearing men and women present in our midst are watching and waiting for a way out of the confusion of many denominations and non-denominations of this world. Who among us will bring them the message of the perfect gospel? Who among us will reach out to explain the way of God "more accurately?" Let every one of us begin by asking the Lord for the strength and courage to emulate Priscilla and Aquila. Let us ask Him, not tomorrow or the day after, but today. Surely He will hear our prayers and fulfill His promises in the time of His favor.