Saturday, 30 September 2017 14:43

Is the Church One or many? (Part II.)

Written by Gabriel Baicu
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The place of the born again Christians is “in Christ,” and this situation can happen only when He lives through the Holly Spirit inside us. I quote:

“But God’s mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace that you have been saved. In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world. He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus.” (Efeseni 2; 4-7)

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. Christ created the unity of the Church, in Himself, and for Himself. He invited us, each and every one of us, to be with Him forever, in His Heaven. The true Church of God is not based on our decision to become a member of a certain local or national community, named Church. This can be a useful organization, for a time, but let’s not allow us to be deceived; the One Church of God is not that. We should not confound the true Church of God with the religious traditions, materialized in religious institutions.

At this point I should answer to a possible question namely: “Which is the visible part, of the invisible church?” My answer is divided in two. Firstly, the visible part of the invisible Church is not a certain institutional Church or religious organization or another, it is not a Christian denomination, none of them, and it is the exterior expression of every person, who is really “in Christ.” How can we know that someone is in Christ? We can know it by his or hers spiritual fruits, and power. (Matthew 7; 15-16) Secondly, Jesus is where two or three are gathered in His name. (Mathew 18; 20) Nevertheless, where two or three are gathered, in Jesus name, this is not the Church itself but a Christian community or Christian gathering. Usually, this communities or gatherings are considered to be local Churches, and they are locally organized Churches, religious organizations, built in Jesus’ name, but they are not the unique Church of God, in which all members are in perfect unity. This is just because there is not any institution or organization, on earth, the rules of which to be identical with the principles of the Kingdom of God, and of the true Church of God. There is One Church, and many Christian organizations. Does anyone know a local Church in which all members are in complete unity one with another? There is not such a place, I reckon, a physical determined place, but there is a spiritual realm for that. It is God’s realm, He who is a spiritual Being. This place is inside us, in our spirits, and of course outside us, in God. The error in the history of Christianity is the excess of materialization, of material forms, and rules, in connection with God’s spiritual reality. Confusion occurs frequently, between the material symbolism, and the reality symbolized. 

It is a difference, and the difference is important. Where is the difference? The Church of God is One, because Jesus wanted to be One, when asking God for its unity, so the unity is the main characteristic, of the true Church of God. Uniqueness of the Church it is not something lacking importance, it is, in fact, the sign, which allows us to identify it. Jesus gave us this sign, in order to understand where we can find the true Church of God, and this sign is the spiritual unity. Where is a complete, perfect spiritual unity, there, and only there is the true, the unique Church of God. But this sign, at least for the moment is manly in us. Nevertheless, something like that cannot be found, at present time, in the physical realm, still less in the organizational, or institutional reality. The unity of the true Church of God is a spiritual reality, which is found “in Christ,” and of course in us, in our inner spirits. It is a unity of the hearts, and of the minds, of the feelings, of the spiritual love, which we carry in us, every regenerated spirit. When we find two, or more people, loving each other like Christ, and being ready to die, one for the other, is there a visible side of the One Spiritual Church? Yes it is a glimpse of that marvellous reality, which is the true Church of God. The institutional Churches are divided by their doctrines, but we are united by our love one for the other. I don’t mind if you are a Roman Catholic, an Orthodox, a Protestant or others if I meet with you, on the spiritual realm of love, und understanding, if I meet with you in Christ. Even if that is generated by Jesus in our spirits, nevertheless, has important, and visible effects in our dally lives.

None has more spiritual merits than others, and the appurtenance to a certain Christian denomination or to another it is not at all a merit of us. We were born in a certain Christian tradition, and we don’t have to leave that particular tradition, in order to be a spiritual regenerated human being. It is not a certain tradition or its doctrine which stops us to be good Christians, it is only our will. In the same time any Christian denomination has the tendency to keep us in its grips, to transform us in it’s, so to speak, clients, people dependent on their teachings, and doctrines. The Christian dogmas and doctrines are the chains with which the institutional Churches keep us tight up to them. They want us to be dependent of them, for their interests, not ours. I will use another quotation:

“But, now, in union with Christ Jesus, you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has brought us peace by making Jews and Gentiles one people. With his own body he broke down the wall that separated them and kept them enemies.” (Ephesians 2; 13-14)

Are all the Christians One body, united by the own body of Christ. Apparently they are not; they are separated by numerous contradictions, regarding certain rituals, dogmas, and doctrines. Jesus broke down the wall, but the people of faith built it again. How was then this wall rebuilt? It was by the limited human understanding. What is the best Christian set of dogmas and doctrine? None is the best. All of them are just attempts to understand a transcendental, infinite reality, who is God with finite human minds. Are they not “absolute truths” of the religion, which is in the possession of an institutional Church or another? No, they are not. All that we have are but relative truths, which can be reformulated, and must evolve in the same time with the general human knowledge, regarding the universe, and with the human understanding of its own place in it. The institutional religion is in a sharp decline, because clinging on it’s, so called, “absolute truths” it cannot answer to the questions posed by the modern man. Nevertheless, what is perennial in Christianity is the never doubtful personal experience or encounter with God. God doesn’t ask us to be faithful to a set of dogmas but to be faithful to certain values, and the most important of them is the spiritual love.

This spiritual love is not a blind sentiment but it is a principle, which has a value for us only if we are able, each of us, to find our personal arguments to sustain it as a valid principle. I cannot love just because it is a commandment of God, to do so. None can love by obligation, as a consequence of a command; we have to have reasons, personal reasons to do that. This is the authentic Christianity, to have the mind of Christ, in us, built by God through our personal experience, and personal reflection. This is the role of human culture, opposite to religious reductionism, to help us find the reasons why human beings deserve to be loved. To say that humans are evil is a tremendous over simplification, and we should keep our guard against this type of assertion. Humans are evil, and they are marvellous, in the same time, and God helps us to discern the way to develop the potential, which is inherent in us, to be like Him. Humans have the potential to be like Hitler or like mother Teresa. To be like the latter is possible but the difference is made by the presence of God, through His Spirit, in a certain person. In fact, being like Hitler means, to consider the human beings inheritably evil, and deserving to die.  Hitler considered Jews the incarnation of evil, and he was determined to destroy them. Some teachers maintain that humans are evil. We don’t need this type of propaganda, in order to make us believe in God. In the middle, are the majority of the humans, who are neither like Hitler nor like mother Theresa. I would like to say that the Christian ideal for the human person, proposed by the organised religion, is much above the humanistic one, but I cannot do that because I cannot live aside the fact that without freedom people cannot express their doubts, their thoughts or their faith, and freedom was the last thing accepted in the history of the institutional Christian Churches. Even the chance we have for much better information and communication is gained in spite of the religious institutions and not with their help. The value of Christianity is in us, not in the organized or institutionalized religion.

What am I saying here? Are they not eternal values or truths? They are. The existence of God, His presence in us, and the pattern of Christ as an exemplary Being are eternal values. On the other side, the human approximations about the understanding of God materialized in religious dogmas and doctrines are not eternal values because we will know everything about God, only when we will meet Him, face to face. (1 Corinthians 13; 12) Only then we will meet eternal and absolute truths. Until then all knowledge about God is relative, and not absolute, consequently all religious dogmas and doctrines are only partial truths, mixed with error. The human opinions about God were artificially transformed in eternal values by the religious institutions in order to give us the impression that they have the monopoly on the truths about God. But that is false. That has to stop. The Bible, the modern sciences, the human culture, search in the same direction, and this direction explicitly or implicitly cannot by other than God.

If God exists, and I maintain that He does, all human knowledge brings us to Him. God gave us unity “in Christ,” through His body, and we strive to destroy it replacing His universal truth with our truths. We are united “in Christ,” by Him, in the unity of our spiritual essence, which is our drive towards harmony, towards happiness, towards eternity. Of course that we are One if the same Absolute Being, dwells, and manifest Himself in each, and every one of us, we are One “in Christ” then, and only then when we are guided by the same Spirit. For this reason, I maintain that the unity of the God’s Church is a spiritual unity, and not an institutional one. The visible connections between the members of a religious institution are mainly determined by them being linked within the same organizational framework, and not necessarily a personal, internal, spiritual connection.

In the same time everyone, who is guided by the same Holly Spirit is united with the others by the unity created between them, by the presence of the Holly Spirit, in them. This is the Church, the unity of the Holly Spirit in us, this is the One Spiritual Church, a conventional name, which can be also replaced by others names, such as the Church of the Elect, or others. This is not at all a new Christian denomination; this is a spiritual reality existent from the moment of the Pentecost, up to the end. I will take another quotation:

“So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between man and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3; 28)

One should notice that Paul didn’t use the future tense but the present and he didn’t say that the Christians will be sometimes one in Christ, but he maintained that they are already one in Christ Jesus. He spoke about a reality existent in his dally experience of life and he emphasised the actuality of the unity of the Christians in Christ. Through their faith in God, all Christians become sons, and obviously daughters of God. (Galatians 3; 28) In the same time, God sent in our hearts His Holly Spirit, Who is He, and Who gives us the right to call Him Father. (Galatians 4; 6) It is certain, taken account of numerous biblical texts, that the presence and the manifestation of the Holly Spirit, inside every practicing Christian, it’s a condition for the appurtenance of the true Church of God. (John 16; 5-15; Ephesians 2; 18) Through the Holly Spirit, God transforms the human beings, in a profound way, and He gives us birth, spiritually. (John 3; 6)

The true Church of God is seen by Paul the apostle, in an analogy with a human body. It is a lively organism in which its members are parts ones to the others, and together they form a unity.

“Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink. For the body itself is not made up of only one part, but of many parts.” (1 Corinthians12; 12-14)

Unhappily, seeing the outlook of Christianity, at the present time, there are many bodies, and not just one. All this apparent bodies are the countless Christian denominations. Because there are so many apparent bodies, and each pretends to be the body of Christ, the conflicts, and the competition, between the parts, are thriving. Which is the body of Christ? Is it the institutional Orthodox Church, the institutional Romano Catholic Church, the institutional Greco Catholic Church, the Protestant ones, the Evangelical ones, The Baptists ones, the Pentecostal ones, or which of them? The answer is that none of these institutional Churches, taken separately or all of them taken together is the true Church of God. Why is that? Firstly, because the main trend, the distinctive sign for the identification of the true Church of God is unity, the answer to Jesus’ prayer for unity. (John 17; 21) Without unity there is not the true Church of God. Inside none of the institutional Churches can be found perfect or complete unity, and between them the disunity is obvious.

Which is then the true Church of God? The One Spiritual Church of God is formed by all the Christians born from God, who become new creations, with their name registered in the book of life, and who are known by Jesus personally, because they are in a personal relationship with Him. (John 3; 3-6; 2 Corinthians 5; 17; Revelation 20; 15) For this reason, I would say, that to know God means to be known by Him. (Matthew 7; 23)  From an earthly perspective, many of the above were in the past, are in the present, and will be in the future, but only up to a time, as members in all the institutional Churches or outside them. At a certain time all born again Christians will have to come out of the institutional Churches. I quote:

“Then I heard another voice from heaven, saying: <<Come out, my people! Come out from her! You must not take part in her sins; you must not share in her punishment!>>” (Revelation 18; 4)

The carnal Christians form huge armies, which are linked, and emotionally attached, more to the doctrines of the institutional Churches than to the Person of God. All born again Christians, but not only born again nominally, bearing this name only as a mark of a another Christian denomination, but spiritually regenerated, transformed, and becoming a new kind of human being, a new creation, regardless to what Christian denomination belong, or all born again Christians with no connections to any religious institution, constitute together the true Church of God, the spiritual Body of Christ.

      If it is true that there is not salvation outside the Church, this principle doesn’t refer to any institutional Church, but to the true Church of God. There is not salvation outside the One Spiritual Church, the body of Christ, because none can live outside the Body. If we accept that the New Testament speaks validly about a Church, and not only about the Kingdom of God, and if we accept that the concept Church is not just a late creation of a religious organization or a insertion of Paul the apostle over Jesus’ teachings, than the Church is not dependent upon an institution or another is a reality constructed by God. If we don’t accept the concept of Church as being consistent with Jesus’ teachings, but only a human construct based only on human interests, we nevertheless have to admit that there is a spiritual community in Christ, a unity recommended by Him, between His followers. We can name this reality a part of the Kingdom of God but it is what God expressed in Jesus. Is there anyone to believe that in the Kingdom of God will be divisions based on the appurtenance to a religious institution or to another? I don’t think so, and I am sure that in the Kingdom of God there are not religious institutions, of any kind, because the Kingdom of God is another order of things. In the Kingdom of God there is complete unity between the believers, but as Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within us. (Luke 17; 21)

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