1. Establishment: The One True Church of Jesus Christ was established on the Day of Pentecost in 30-33 AD when the Holy Spirit came into the disciples and empowered them.

Jesus speaking: "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8 New King James Version

2. Conversion: The very first converts were added to the church on that same day when Peter went out and preached, giving testimony that Jesus is the Christ.

Then those who gladly received his {Peter's} word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. Acts 2:41 New King James Version

Added not 'members' or 'persons' but 'souls' [Greek = psuchai].

3. Expansion: The disciples began to fulfill the mandate Jesus had given them to evangelize the world.

Jesus speaking: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," Matthew 26:17 New King James Version

4. Organization: The believers who chose to follow Jesus were known among themselves and the Jews as "The Way". They were not an organization but a following who sought to live the way Jesus taught. In Jerusalem the Elders made decisions regarding doctrine and practice. The label "Christian" and its cognates was first recorded at Antioch. The label was applied by non followers in the same way as we might label people "Freedom Fighters" or "Terrorists" depending on our view of what they espouse.

Jesus speaking: "And you know the way where I am going."
John 14:4 New American Standard Bible
"I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through Me."

John 14:6 New King James Version

5. Location: The "church" had no designated geophysical location other than the entire planet Earth. It consisted entirely and only of followers who in the beginning were Jews.

Jesus speaking: "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."
Matthew 18:20 New King James Version

6. Persecution: began immediately with the stoning to death of Stephen by Jews. The religious authorities are easily identified in this verse:

Jesus speaking: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."
Matthew 16:18 New King James Version

The 'Gates of Hades' (hell, sheol, etc) are the stronghold of Satan. Satan came against the church through, of all channels, those who claimed to believe and follow God. Lest you be blinded into believing that Christ founded His church on a man named Peter, you must be aware of the Greek words and syntax. The 'rock' on which the church was founded is found in verse 17. It is the revelation by God the Father, to a human {Peter}, identifying Jesus as the Son of God. Any other interpretation of this verse is not of the Holy Spirit.

7. The Gentiles: Missionary work among the Gentiles proceeded slowly and primarily after the Anointing of Saul/Paul in Damascus.

Jesus speaking in a vision to Ananias: But the Lord said to him {Ananias}, "Go, for he {Saul/Paul} is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel."
Matthew 16:18 New King James Version

There was substantial resistance to allowing Gentiles to be considered 'members' of the Body of Christ, notwithstanding this statement by Jesus

Jesus speaking to disciples: "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be ONE FLOCK and ONE SHEPHERD."
John 10:16 New King James Version

8. False Doctrines: Almost immediately following the establishment of congregations beyond Jerusalem by Philip and Peter (see Acts), false teachers entered the arena making various claims, especially asserting that Jesus notwithstanding, Mosaic Law must be observed. Many today who believe they are faithful by observing the Law, are sadly mistaken. This concept is based on the interaction between Jesus and the 'rich young man' who asked what he must do to be saved. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. Those who are not guided by the Spirit think this is the final word on the subject. It is not. The final words are found below:

Disciples asked Jesus, "Who then can be saved?"
Jesus replied, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Matthew 19:25,26 New King James Version

You might want to read His first words again,
"With men this is impossible,"
and again and again until you get it if you ever do.
"With men this is impossible,"
"With men this is impossible,"
"With men this is impossible,"
It is not possible for men to save themselves. Not possible !.
No matter what men do or do not do, they can only be saved by the atonement of Jesus Christ. There is no other way to the Father. Stubborn adherence to false teachings can only cause you to be cast among the goats instead of the sheep.

9. Doctrinal Dispute: Paul returned to Jerusalem and reported that Gentiles received the same Holy Spirit as had he and the disciples. Peter later confirmed this. The primary dispute centered on two things: (1) the belief among the Jewish brethren that Gentiles must first be circumcised before they could be baptized, and (2) they must conform to prevailing understanding of Mosaic Law.

The Elders held a council in Jerusalem to address these issues.

After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." Acts 15:7-11 New King James Version

After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, "Brethren, listen to me. Simeon {Peter} has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,

    After these things I will return,
    And I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen,
    And I will rebuild its ruins,
    And I will restore it,
    So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
    And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,"

Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago.

Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood."

Acts 15:13-20 New King James Version

(James cited Amos, Jeremiah, Daniel and Deuteronomy in verses 16-18.)

The doctrinal dispute was resolved as the Elders determined above and the church began rapid expansion throughout the Greek and Roman worlds. Paul, Barnabas, Silas, John Mark and others traveled, preached, and encountered many adventures along the way as the 'Gates of Hades' resisted their work. The Book of Acts chronicles these activities.

With The Way attracting many adherents it was deemed necessary to appoint bishops and leaders for each of the far flung congregations. Paul did that. The nay sayers and false teachers followed on his heels as shown in his many letters to the congregations.

The core doctrine remained intact, that spiritual salvation and eternal life come to men only through the grace of God in Jesus Christ and that grace only by faith, which itself is a gift from God.

The church not only survived persecution by Jews, Romans and others, it thrived as the Holy Spirit empowered believers to be witnesses for Christ. As the multitude of believers grew, along came the desire of men to organize and control the movement. Constantine was responsible for calling the Council at Nicea about 325 AD to formalize a unified canon of Scripture. This was done.

In the centuries that followed, factions separated themselves into groups and "religions" having their own interpretations of what Jesus taught. Today there are more than 300 self styled brands of "Christianity" or denominations, sects and cults, all insisting they have it right and others don't. (When I was a child in parochial school I was taught that all Protestants went to hell and friends who Protestants told me they were taught all Catholics went to hell).

The Bishop of Rome claimed his seat as that of the Vicar of Christ on earth. As a result, the entire Orthodox church split off. Later there came a protestant revolution (commonly called reformation) which stripped the Bishop of Rome of His power over many of the believers, though he held on to many through political influence and money, mostly in the old Roman Empire.

He called his sect of Christianity "Catholic" meaning "Universal". No other group accepted this power grab so they adopted the label "Roman Catholic" to distinguish it from their branches in the same way we did with "Freedom Fighters" and "Terrorists" earlier.

Jesus speaking: Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
Matthew 15:9, Mark 7:7, quoting God in Isaiah 29:13

10. One True Church: Where then, and what, is the One True Church founded by Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit? The questions is better posed who? The One True Church is the people God has called and chosen. It is the spiritual and physical Body of Christ on Earth. It knows no boundaries of any kind. It does not live in temples or buildings. It is not a tax exempt organization. It is not a religion. It is not controlled or managed by any human being. It has no walls to either confine or exclude. The Head of the Church is Jesus, crucified, risen, and ascended.

There is but one flock and one shepherd and nothing any man claims to the contrary can be true. There is no Vicar of Christ on Earth other than the Holy Spirit sent and appointed to this work.

Jesus left nothing in writing behind Him. The only thing He is known to have written were scratchings in the sand when a group gathered to publicly stone an accused adulteress. This was deliberate. He was literate in more than one language and knew the Tanakh inside out, quoting it from memory whenever the occasion arose.

He did not instruct His disciples to write anything. They did it of their own accord, presumably inspired by the Holy Spirit. Based on what is happening, and has happened regarding Scripture, can you imagine what turmoil and consternation would run through "the church" if we had words in writing from Jesus? Similarly, no one knows what His physical appearance was for like reason.

Again and again I encounter people who say they believe yet prefer the testimony of words from others rather than the Holy Spirit whom Jesus said would lead them into all truth. The blind still lead the blind, as people try to live "good" lives and be worthy of salvation. If it were possible for men to do so, Jesus would have told us. But He did not. What He told us is

"With men this is impossible,"
"With men this is impossible,"
"With men this is impossible,"

The "good person" scenario is actually an insult to God who sent His Son to sacrifice so we could be saved, because as He has said,
"With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
So what we want to know from Him is HOW. And here is His answer:

Jesus speaking: "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." John 5:24

Once we have believed we have passed from death to life; into His Kingdom. Our bodies are here on earth but we are not except in our bodies. We are in but not of the world. We who believe are the One True Church founded by Jesus Christ. Whether or not we claim fellowship with some labeled Christian group is irrelevant. Paul was a Jew obedient to Jewish law and custom even after he was saved and given his commission. He followed and preached The Way (see Acts).

Nothing in this world which claims to be God's Kingdom actually is such. No matter who declares what, the church founded by Jesus is not of this world though men have tried, and persist in trying, to make it so. It is only in the world, for His purposes, until He returns.

Jesus speaking to Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." John 18:36 NKJV

Jesus speaking to His disciples: "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." John 15:19 NKJV

Jesus speaking to God His Father: "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one." John 17:15 NKJV

Thankfully, He is coming back. Maybe when He is here in person He'll get through to people ?

Written by © Wayne Hepburn, January 2013

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