Biserica din Om

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

Content of messages

Model of the first Christian communities (12. 03. 2013)  The distinction between institutional and non institutional Christianity, consists in the fact that, in the early Christian Church, the spiritual element was more present than the institutional one. It was a time when the institution was not there, it only started to be formed gradually. The Christians were persecuted and their communities were based on the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, rather than on the exegesis of the written texts of the canonic Bible. There was a risk being Christian. I refer to the risk of martyrdom. During the apostles’ era, only people truly called by God came to God. ... (read more!) Knowledge puffs up, while love builds up (12. 03. 2013)  Although the existence of a single Church of God is a fact well demonstrated in the Bible, we can not accept the principle of the uniqueness of the Church of God if we don’t accept the validity of the water baptism of the young children. Why? This is because, otherwise, we have to ask all Christians to be baptized at maturity, and where, most likely, that this does not happen, many Orthodox Christians and not only would remain on the outside. If our own salvation through faith is a gift from God, what right have anyone to judge whether a person is saved or not, regardless of the age when the water baptism took place, as long as that person has personal faith in God? ... (read more!) Faith without love is dead (12. 03. 2013)  Jesus died for us on the cross. What does this mean? He sacrificed Himself voluntarily for us and for our benefit. What for? This is the big question: What we gain from His sacrifice? We gain a justification, a grace, not depending on us, but which becomes effective for us when we believe in this grace. From this point of view, grace is universal in that it applies to all those who believe in God. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." (John 3, 16 NRSV) In other words, we have access by faith to God, free and guaranteed full access. This access does not mean automatically that all they have it is using it correctly. The gift of God is dependent on our faith, but we have to receive correctly what we are given ... (read more!) It is more blessed to give than to receive (12. 03. 2013)  What kind of God do we have? It is one who believes that "giving" is more satisfying than “receiving.” (Acts 20: 35) From this we can draw many conclusions. Firstly, the image that God is an absolute master, requiring blind obedience from us, proves, once again, to be a false one. God does not expect us to give him anything, but he wants to give us its treasures of wisdom and knowledge. God needs people who know how to accept and appreciate what they get. The heavenly Father is not a selfish Person who expects us to give him glory, praise and other forms of recognition that they produce complacency. ... (read more!) Turning to Christ (12. 03. 2013)  I advocate a return to Christ, not only to the Bible, not just to the first Christian communities, the so-called apostolic Church. Why? I found that it takes a continuation of the Reformation, a New Reformation even, in order to deepen what others, in the past have started. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and others reacted correctly to the development of Christianity in its almost one and a half millennia of history. The problem is not how far they went with their Reformation, but from where they started it. In the mean-time almost another half millennia passed away and many things have changed in the way that humanity perceives the possibility of the existence of God and the right approach to Him, but most importantly in the interpretation of the biblical texts ... (read more!) Born from above or sinners (12. 03. 2013)  No man on earth can stop sinning as long as it is still motivated by his human nature. Why? This is because every man is a sinner in God's sight precisely because of his human nature. Sin dwells in us, in our genes, in our most profound structure. I don’t refer here to facts considered criminal or offensive by the society, which are also sins in God’s eyes, because all this can be prevented by education. There are many citizens all over the world, who never performed any crimes or offences, in their entire life. Nevertheless, this time I want to speak about the interior movements of any human being and to the visible sins. Hard to be seen from the outside, some sins, such as: malice, hypocrisy, envy, greed, indifference, selfishness etc. ... (read more!) Looking for the true Church of God (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. ... (read more!) Is the Church One or many? (Part I.) (07. 10. 2012) The unity of the True Church of God is not only a past or future event, it is a present, and actual reality. This is one of the best demonstrate teachings, in the New Testament, but also one of the most neglected. Why is so neglected? Because many see a possible threat to the stability of the religious institutions, and prefer not to speak at all about that. What are then the biblical foundations for the thesis that, in the present time, there is in fact One true Church of God, and many religious institutions? The whole development starts with the text existent in the gospel of John, chapter 17, where we learn that, before being crucified, Jesus prayed to the Father that all Christians to be one. I have to say that there are at least 15 years that I maintain that this is a very important set of teachings, ... (read more!) Is the Church One or many? (Part II.) (03. 11. 2012) The relationships which binds together the born again Christians, from all over the world, and all times, it is not a conventional or organizational one, in the sense of the religious organizations or institutions, it is not even a connection based on the same cultural values. I will try to describe this relationship through an analogy. Let’s say that a very influent, and reach person organizes a party. The reach person knows many people, but the guests themselves don’t know each other, at least not all of them. All the guests will arrive at a certain point to know each other, when the party will be on, but this was possible by the initiative of the influent person, not by the actions or decisions taken by the guests themselves. Something similar happens with the Church of God. We don’t know each other, but Jesus knows every one of us. ... (read more!) Real Christianity and New Reformation (part 1) (11. 11. 2012) This reform involves replacing institutional authority with the principle of Christian love which is the exact opposite of this type of authority, enjoyed by institutional churches. In other words, religious institutions, as such, will not disappear but will be counted in, more and more, as a secondary factor for human salvation. The main factor is very God, direct and personal relationship with Him and He shall occupy the chief place in the life of the believer and not institutional churches. Church is not an intermediary between man and God. The true Church of God is constituted by all the saved and all individuals are firstly saved, than members of the true Church of God, and not the other way around. The path to salvation is Christ, but not only as a mean but also as a purpose. In order to be saved, one has to be like Christ, willing to live and to die for the ‘other.’ The church is not giving us salvation, but Christ, who lives in us, leads us to His only Church and gives us salvation. ... (read more!) Religious intolerance in Christianity (11. 11. 2012) I can not say, with absolute certainty that the best option for water baptism is the child or the adult, but I can safely say that we must respect the beliefs of everyone in this and in all other aspects of spiritual life. Christian faith is based on their beliefs and not "absolute truths." Certainly any Christian believes that Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life, for them, that is a truth with absolute value. But I do mean to relative doctrinal truths that claim to be "absolute truths." Latter does not exist and everyone who says that he or she has such "absolute truths" lies. In the Bible, in Mark 16 to 16, says that he who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the text does not exist in the first manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark and hence in the original manuscripts, after which, receive copies were made. The original text of the Gospel of Mark was lost. As there are no other NT texts to confirm that Jesus said these words, those in Mark 16 to 16 must be put in question. We know we have to go through water baptism, but to be honest, outside our inauthentic text of the Gospel of Mark 16; 16, we have no Biblical basis requiring firmly the principle that water baptism of adults is the norm. ... (read more!)

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Slova omoara dar Duhul da viata

Nu doresc să descurajez pe nimeni să citească Biblia, dimpotrivă, încerc să încurajez o analiză atentă, profundă, critică și mai ales spirituală a V.T. și a N.T. Când cineva insistă pe o citire literală el sau ea poate să fie întrebată: Tu de ce nu ți-ai tăiat mâna sau nu ți-ai scos ochiul, atunci când ai păcătuit, căci doar literal așa scrie în N.T. că ar fi bine să faci? (Marcu 9, -48).....

uploaded: 16. 10. 2014

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