Gabriel Baicu - The New Reformation
La Nouvelle Reformation - Noua Reforma

Biblical exegesis

 

Looking for the true Church of God

 

 

Gabriel Baicu

07. 10.  2012

    

In the context of the existence of so many Christian denominations the question about the true Church of God is entirely justified. Each and every Church presents us with the claim that it is the true Church of God and that its doctrine is the correct one and maintains that all other Christian doctrines are marred by mistakes. It is understandable that the universal spiritual experience of Christianity is mirrored by the cultural traditions of the receivers and that these traditions leave their marks on the particular mode of expression of faith. The forms of expression of Christianity in Brasilia, in Siberia, in Africa or in North Europe are not the same. The way I approach the subject is not so much influenced by this acknowledgement, because I am not concerned primarily by the modes of manifestation, individualised by cultural expressions, of the Christian movement. I am mostly concerned with the doctrinal differences of diverse Christian denominations, inscribed in their doctrines and dogmas and which differentiates them. The acceptance of certain specificities doesn’t affect the unity of Christianity if there is an accord on the principle of the imperfection of human knowledge, concerning the issues of faith. There are two kinds of unity, spiritual unity and institutional unity.

The only thing about God, which can be fully known when living on the earth, is His love. The human condition allows us, in a perfect way, to experiment Christian love. The personal life sacrifice, for the benefit of other humans, the financial generosity etc. don’t have applicability in the future heaven, the Kingdom of God, which will be installed on the new earth, where there will be no more poor people and where none will threaten our lives. Here and now, on the actual earth, it is the proper environment, the field, where we can experience agape, in its fullness and not only in words, but mostly by concrete attitudes and facts. God is love and whoever doesn’t love him or she doesn’t know God. (1 John 4: 8) In respect to the ontological knowledge of the infinite dimension of the cosmic reality, which is God, by finite entities, meaning us, the situation is different. At the moment we, the humans, have difficulties when we try to conceive infinity; consequently it is hard to mentally conceive God. The pretensions of the traditional Churches to possess the ultimate true about God are absurd. They just cannot conceive God and them are far from the knowledge of concrete things about Him. In spite of this, there are many institutional Churches which pretend, with arrogance, that they succeeded in fixing, in their doctrines and dogmas, the ultimate true about God.

A difficulty emerges when we compare among the doctrines and dogmas of the institutional Churches these “absolute truths” and when, as a consequence of this comparison, the conclusion is that they contradict each other, sometimes in an irreconcilable way. From a teaching made to close the gaps between persons and to unite them under the same vision about life, Christianity transformed itself in a reason for divisions, separation and conflict among them. The faith in One God, in a Trinitarian God, and its expression in a multitude of traditional or institutional Churches, which doctrines contradict each other, is a reality of which effects extend during two millennia and also with important consequences for the future.

The Christians became used with this anomaly, but if we look carefully into it, this is a fundamental problem, when being approached may give the answers for many of the dilemmas of Christianity. Which is the true Church of God? Is it the Romano Catholic Church, the Orthodox one or the Greco Catholic one, Lutheran, Calvinist, Methodist, Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal, Evangelist, Adventist, etc.? What is the explanation that even if there is One God there is also so many Churches and not just one Church, the way that would be rational. How should we see the various institutional Churches? Are they successive evolutionary levels, a natural evolution of phenomena in its dynamic, due to an increase in knowledge and understanding, or as parallel branches developed from the same tree, all we the same cognitive and spiritual value?

Was the Reformation, bringing with it, a plus in the knowledge and understanding of the Bible or of the Person of God? Undoubtedly, even if God don’t change, the knowledge about Him doesn’t stagnate. This knowledge and understanding evolves and this progress is expressed in new teachings. Nevertheless the differences and the contradictions between the teachings of the institutional Churches can’t be explained only by the evolution in the knowledge and understanding of God and of the Bible cause these are generated also by institutional interests bound to the need to perpetuate and develop the multitude of Christian institutions, named Churches. So many times, the evolution of Christianity is seen as an involution and many are those who ask for a comeback to the primitive Church. Sometimes institutional Churches name themselves in manners that even their name can be seen as a suggestion to the apostolic period, for example: “The Apostolic Pentecostal Church.” Consequently, the diverse corporatist Churches emerged from the 16 to the 20 century cannot be regarded as superior levels in the evolution of Christianity because they are born from the nostalgia of the past. ‘Superior’ in this context means a comeback to the source, to the beginnings. How far should we comeback to the beginnings and how genuine this return can be?  We need always to comeback to Jesus teachings because He is the founder of Christianity. But what means evolution for Christianity? Is it about new revelations or only about the revelation already given through Jesus and through the New Testament? It is not the drive towards Christian unity, the real evolution? Why is that? That is because Jesus urged unity from the Christians. (John 17; 21) In the same time, I will make the difference between institutional ecumenism and spiritual ecumenism. The institutional one it looks like being problematic, but the spiritual one is powerful and is a fact, it is the power and the future of Christianity. What is the spiritual ecumenism? It is manly the link between Christian faithful persons, regardless of their appurtenance to an institutional Church or the other. It is a unity in and through the Holy Spirit, in and through Christ, in a through God. It is a spiritual unity not necessarily and institutional one.

Through the Bible we are informed that there is a single Church of God.

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4; 4-6)[1]

We should note that apostle Paul referred to the times of his life, when he has spoken about the unity of Christ’s body, namely about the true Church of God. The unity is not a project in the future it is a present reality, it is fully actual. The unity of the Church of God was a unity from the times of Paul and in fact was an always present reality in the true Church of God. The first problem is to know where must be looked for this unique Church. Is this One Church of God one of the many Christian denominations? If the answer is a positive one, which one of them is the true Church of God? What are the criteria to evaluate the traditional Churches in order to know which the true Church of God is? Is one of the criteria the conformity between a certain doctrine and the Bible and who is to establish this concordance? The Bible is a collection of texts which interprets one through the others but in the context that there are so many interpretations which are the sets of criteria suitable to insure the most exact expression of its message? 

Are the texts of the Bible only a linguistic expression, a ‘enveloping’ with words of something much more profound and high, that they are able to express, an expression of the spirit of Christianity? Most probably the answer is a positive one. Which is the main or the essential message of the Bible, above the rich diversity of its interpretations? How come that all institutional Churches are quoting the biblical texts as an argument for authenticity but, in the same time, all contradict each other, in respect of their doctrines? Supposing that we compare Christian doctrines among themselves; can we establish which the correct one is, when we compare them with the Bible?  Personally, studying the teachings of the Christian denominations I reached the conclusion that none of the doctrines of the Christian denominations are in a full accord with the N.T.

All Christian doctrines reflects, in a certain degree, the truths contained by the Bible but from the moment that they get circumscribed in a fix set of dogmas, all truths loose some of their completeness, of their spirit. The dynamic of the N.T. is a lively one and to enclose it within the limits of a doctrine means to reduce its vivacity and even to suffocate it. The doctrines are the coffin of the spirit of Christianity. I would use the example of an object that must be cut in order to enter in a box. Under an aspect or another all the doctrines of the Christian denominations get away from the N.T. More than that, the divisions between the doctrines are sometimes deliberately cultivated because only a doctrine different from others justifies the existence of a certain Christian denomination and the leaderships of the institutional Churches are interested in maintaining the differences. This is only one of the motifs which explain why none of the existing Christian traditions can receive the qualification of the true Church of God. The problem is certainly not solved only by this acknowledgement. It is important to investigate also the possibility that all the Christian denominations together represent the true Church of God. Personally, I reject this possibility because from the presentation of the N.T. about the true Church of God one can see that its members are in a perfect unity. In the same time, the Christian denominations are divided between themselves; they are not in unity and their sum or totality, the compound realized by their institutional combination, or association, lacks the essential feature, which is unity that will allow the characterization as the true Church of God.

Before being crucified Jesus raised a desire to the Father that all Christians to be one, that is to be in unity.

<<I ask not only on behalf of this, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they all may be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me>>.” (John 17; 20-23)[2]

Even though Jesus asked for unity the Christians are not yet in unity, they are not ‘one,’ as Jesus wanted for them. Is that prayer of Jesus without response and in case of a positive answer how can we explain this? As a matter of fact, none of the Jesus’ prayers, to the Father, can be without answer and that is presented by the Bible.

“They took the stone away. Jesus looked up and said, <<I thank you, Father that you listen to me. I know that you always listen to me, but I say this for the sake of the people here, so that they will believe that you sent me>>.” (John 11; 41-42)[3]

Always, without exceptions the Father listen to the Son and fulfils its prayers. There is not doubt in this regard because the Father and the Son are One.

“Do you not believe, Philip, that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I have spoken to you, Jesus said to his disciples, <<do not come from me. The Father, who remains in me, does his own work>>.” (John 14; 10)[4]

If the father was the One who prayed in Jesus, when He asked for unity amongst Christians it is impossible that He would not answer to His own prayer. There are not such errors with God. In fact there is unity between Christians, but is a spiritual unity not an institutional one. There is just One Spiritual Church of God and many institutional Churches. The One Spiritual Church is constituted from all Christians, regardless of the Christian denominations which they belong, who are born again, which means that they are spiritual regenerated. God is our Father only when He gives us birth, in a spiritual manner that is to be born from his Holly Spirit. Christians are born twice, ones from a biological point of view and the second time from the Spirit, which means from God.

“Jesus answered, <<I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again>>.” (John 3; 3)[5]

<<I am telling you the truth>> replied Jesus. <<No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. A person is born physically of human parents, but is born spiritually of the Spirit>>.” (John 3; 5-6)[6]

All believers who went through the process of being born again are the true children of God, because they are born from the Holly Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is God. To be born of the Spirit means to be born from God, so to be His children. All this persons have the right of calling Him father.

“To show that you are his sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who cries out, <<Father, my Father>>. (Galatians 4; 6)[7]

The true Church of God is a spiritual entity, with no institutional organization, but which members are also, at the present, members of the institutional Churches but some of its members are outside any clerical institutions. The characteristics of the One Spiritual Church are: It is initiated by God. Its members are each and every one of them known and accepted by God. Its structure is established by Him. Its projects and its finality are determined by Him. This spiritual reality, which is the true Church of God, doesn’t possess material assets, such as buildings or other material means, doesn’t have paid clerical functionaries, and doesn’t have bank accounts. Its existence doesn’t need any license or approval from an official institution. The One Spiritual Church of God has its headquarters and its leadership in heaven. The entrance in the One Spiritual Church of God, for its members, was realized even before the beginning of the world. (Efeseni 1; 4)[8]

Jesus never intended to transform His Church in a religious institution. Jesus understood by Church a different thing than is usually understood today. In fact, Jesus came to preach the Kingdom of God and not a religious organization. Jesus saw in the Church His spiritual body, and also His own image. The members of His Church are to be considered His brothers and His sisters, all are destined by God to come to the same moral stature as Him. (Efeseni 4; 13) All members of the true Church of God are becoming like Christ, in His character and that doesn’t mean lack of personality but spiritual regeneration. The One Spiritual Church has its origins at the Pentecost. From it belongs all born again Christians from all institutional Churches. In the same time, only the Christians who are born again are also members of the true Church of God and that regardless of their appurtenance to any traditional Churches. That means that it is not enough to be a member of an institutional Church to gain salvation, one need to be also a member of the true Church of God, in the same time. All members of the One Spiritual Church are in perfect spiritual unity, through the Holy Spirit, even if they don’t know each other. They are bound by the love of God, existing in their beings, agape and they recognize each other when they meet.                  

                      


[1] The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments with Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books New Revised Standard Version Anglicized Edition Oxford University Press 

[2] The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments with Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books New Revised Standard Version Anglicized Edition Oxford University Press 

 

[3] GOOD NEWS BIBLE…The bibles Societies/Collins, a division of HarperCollinsPublishers

[4] GOOD NEWS BIBLE…The bibles Societies/Collins, a division of HarperCollinsPublishers

[5] GOOD NEWS BIBLE…The bibles Societies/Collins, a division of HarperCollinsPublishers

[6] GOOD NEWS BIBLE…The bibles Societies/Collins, a division of HarperCollinsPublishers

[7] GOOD NEWS BIBLE…The bibles Societies/Collins, a division of HarperCollinsPublishers

 

[8] GOOD NEWS BIBLE…The bibles Societies/Collins, a division of HarperCollinsPublishers

 

 

 

 

 

 

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