Hi to all my Forum Friends,
On the TimesDaily Religion Forum, a Roman Catholic Friend began a discussion titled "Four Marks Of The True Church" -- offering a URL link to the Catholic Answers Apologetics web site. Visiting this web site, it tells us:
Among the Christian churches, only the (Roman) Catholic Church has existed since the time of Jesus. Every other Christian church is an offshoot of the (Roman) Catholic Church.
Jesus established only one Church, not a collection of differing churches (Lutheran, Baptist, Anglican, and so on). The Bible says the Church is the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:23–32). Jesus can have but one spouse, and his spouse is the (Roman) Catholic Church.
In my Religion Forum Friend's contention that the Roman Catholic Church is the only church which can trace its origins back to the days of Christ's earthly ministry, he tells us, "The (Roman) Catholic Church has existed for nearly 2,000 years, despite constant opposition from the world. This is testimony to the (Roman) Church's divine origin."
And, of course, he is speaking of the church organization we know as the Roman Catholic Church.
Note: Where the writers speak of the Church (with a capital C) it is understood that he/she is implying the Roman Catholic Church. That is why I have added the parenthetical (Roman) before each Church, to avoid confusion. Others refer to the church (no capital C) as the body of believers.
And, an agnostic Forum Friend justifiably suggests to him, "What I meant by both sides of the mouth is (you) saying the (Roman) Catholic church is the one true church, but then saying you don't have to be (Roman) Catholic to get to Heaven. If it is the one true church, you can't get to Heaven by attending other churches."
At this point, let's first clarify a few issues in the statements shown above, both in the Catholic Answers web site and the statement made by my Roman Catholic Forum Friend.
First, Catholic Answers tells us, "Jesus can have but one spouse, and his spouse is the (Roman) Catholic Church."
So, is the church organization called the Roman Catholic Church the bride of Christ? Or, is there another Biblical meaning for the bride of Christ? What does it mean that the church is the bride of Christ?
The Bible uses the New Testament Jewish image of the Bridegroom and His bride, and that symbolism of marriage is applied to Christ and the body of believers known as the church. Who is the church? The church is all those people, worldwide, who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, have a personal saving relationship with Him, and have received His promise of eternal life. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, has sacrificially and lovingly chosen the church, the body of believers, to be His bride (Ephesians 5:25-27).
When I was married to my wife, I did not marry a car, a house, or an organization -- I married a living, breathing woman I loved and still love. Jesus Christ did the same, He has betrothed Himself to a living, breathing bride -- the living, breathing body of believers.
And, my agnostic Forum Friend raises the other point, "If it (the Roman Catholic Church) is the one true church, you can't get to Heaven by attending other churches."
Jesus Christ alone, and not any church organization -- is the ONLY WAY to heaven (John 14:6), "Jesus said to him (Thomas), 'I am the WAY, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.' "
The ONLY true church is the one described in the Bible -- the worldwide body of Christian believers, the body of Christ.
Ephesians 1:22-23, "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."
1 Corinthians 12:13-14, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many."
And, when Paul was writing to the new church fellowship in Rome, he wrote, in Romans 1:7, "To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
We read more of the saints, i.e., all Christian believers:
Acts 9:32, "Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda."
Matthew 27:52, "The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised."
Acts 9:13, "But Ananias answered, 'Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem."
This is the Christian church, i.e., the body of believers, the body of saints -- which was begun on the Day of Pentecost 33 AD, when the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 faithful who had followed the instructions of Christ and remained in the Upper Room until the promise of God, the Holy Spirit, came upon them.
Then, empowered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit into each of them -- they went out and began to preach to the crowd gathered in street. During the recorded sermon of Peter, and the teachings of the many disciples, over 3000 believed that day, and became a part of that initial body of believers, the church.
So, the True Church is the worldwide body of Christian believers. It is not an organization, it is not a building, it is not a set of doctrines, sacraments, and theologies -- it is the collective body of believers, worldwide.
I don't believe anyone can explain the meaning of the true church -- better than the lyrics of this Gospel song:
IT'S NOT WHAT'S OVER THE DOOR
Chorus: It's not what's over the door Of the church that you attend,
That makes you a child of God, And a heavenly citizen.
As the eyes of the Lord look this world o'er,
There’s just one thing He's lookin’ for
Can’t you see that’s what’s in your heart, And not what's over the door.
1. Some people think today, If heaven you would see,
You must belong to their church, Or be lost eternally.
But according to God's word, What He's still looking for,
Is what He finds within your heart, And not what's over the door.
2. Does Jesus live in your heart, And have you been born again,
Has the blood of calvary's Lamb, Washed away all your sins?
Are you fully trusting in, The crucified risen Lord,
Can't you see that it's what's in your heart,
And not what's over the door.
That song is the best sermon I have ever heard.
So, just to set the record straight, the True Church is the one Jesus Christ began on the Day of Pentecost 33 AD, the church, or group of believers/saints -- and this is how they worshiped and had fellowship: "They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42).
Anyone who tells you his/her church is the ONLY, or True Church, or that their church is the church which Christ began on that 33 AD Day of Pentecost -- unless they are speaking of the worldwide body of believers; they are lying to you, or they are very confused over Christ's meaning of His church.
The church began that Day of Pentecost 33 AD -- and, later began to split into factions. One of those factions is the Roman Catholic church, another is the Baptist church, and there are thousands more. All are factions, dividing the body of Christ.
To regain the true church begun in 33 AD, we should just concentrate on "devoting ourselves to the apostles' (pastors, elders, teachers) teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer" (Acts 2:42).
We need to lay aside all the traditions, rituals, special garments, and multiple man-made sacraments, rules, and regulations -- and just concentrate of studying, and sharing, God's Word, all 66 books of the Bible, and to being obedient to the two ordinances Christ left for us to do in remembrance of Him until He returns: Baptism and Communion (the Lord's Supper).
If we want to find the True Church, one has to look within all those fellowship walls and find all the people who, by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross -- have believed and received Him as their personal Lord and Savior -- and who walk in daily fellowship with Him and all other believers. That is the TRUE CHURCH!
God bless, have a wonderful, blessed day,