Seventh Key: We Need the Guidance of God's Church
All the biblical keys and helps in the world are no substitute for the guidance of qualified teachers in our quest for Bible truths. A faithful servant of God can help us tremendously to properly understand the Scriptures. As Paul asks: "And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things?' " (Romans 10:14-15).
Christ distinctly said He would build His Church, "and the gates of Hades [the grave, or death] shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). He instructed His disciples: "Go therefore and make disciples [students] 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" (Matthew 28:19-20).
What is the church? The Bible describes it not as a building or physical organization, but as people led by God's Spirit. Fellowship with these people can help us learn these spiritual truths spoken of by Jesus Christ.
God tells us to "test all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We have a part to do, but He has provided His Church, which is "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). He has provided faithful teachers in His Church to teach God's Word without distorting it. Paul instructed Titus: "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you . . . For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God . . ., holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine both to exhort and convict those who contradict" (Titus 1:5-9).
Christ predicted that deceivers would use His name and claim to represent Him: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits . . . Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' " (Matthew 7:15-16, 22-23).
A minister must faithfully teach and obey God's laws. As Scripture states: "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20).
Therefore, once equipped with the keys God has provided us in the Bible, we need to search the Scriptures to see how they describe God's Church and His ministers. What are some of the characteristics of His people? Here are some, but by no means all, of the ways the Bible describes them.
Obedient to God's laws: The people comprising God's Church are described collectively as the obedient bride of Christ. " 'Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife [the Church] has made herself ready.' And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints" (Revelation 19:7-8). The "saints," the people of God, are further pictured as "those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12). Those in God's Church will be faithfully keeping God's laws and yet rely on "the faith of Jesus" for their salvation.
A small flock: God's Church, as described in Scripture, is not a large and popular organization or denomination. Christ said of those comprising His Church, "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). They are also described as following a narrow and difficult way of life that few are willing to follow in this present evil age (Matthew 7:13-14).
The apostle James warned his readers throughout the ages not to succumb to the world's values when its values are not in harmony with God's commandments. "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).
As a consequence of not following the ways of this world–which is in reality Satan's world (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19)–the Church will ultimately be forced to flee from the persecutions of others before the return of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:13-17).
These descriptions should help us understand how to seek and find members of God's Church. May God help you in your quest to understand the Scriptures and, through the keys He has given, find His faithful and obedient followers. To learn more about the United Church of God, request your free copy of "This Is the United Church of God."
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