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07.10. 2012

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

By Gabriel Baicu

 

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, which can make a lot of light in the hart of Christianity. Because, almost accidentally, I found that there are few other teachers who present the same thesis, I consider that detailed explanations of how the unity in the Body of Christ has to be understood are needed. I quote from the New Testament:

“And now I am coming to you; I am not longer in the world, but they are in the world, Holy Father keep them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one just as and I are one.” (John 17; 11)

Another quotation:

 “I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I gave them the same glory you gave me, so that they may be one. Just as you and I are one. I in them and you in me, so that they may be completely one, in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me.” (John 17; 21-23) I am using for these quotes the “Good News Bible – New Testament, edition 2005” 

First of all, one can be able to see that the unity among the Christians is the condition of the viability of the Christian message to the world. “May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me” The unity of the Church is the most important message given by Christ, regarding the relations between his followers. In order that the world believes that Jesus was sent by the Father, the Christians must be one. In fact they are one, but their unity it is a spiritual unity not an institutional unity.

Secondly, speaking about unity, Jesus didn’t emphasis a natural, worldly unity, based on compromises but a perfect one. What is the pattern of this unity, requested by Jesus, in His prayer? It is the unity which is characteristic for the inner reality of the Trinity. “Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you.” Inside the Trinity there is a perfect unity, and we speak about ‘consubstantiality.’ Between the Father, the Son, and the Holly Spirit there is unity in essence, in ‘ousia,’ and the same unity is desired by Jesus to exist between the Christians, who are members of the true Church of God. In fact, this fundamental unity, this unity “in substance” exists between the members of The One Spiritual Church. It is not a unity in the future; it is a unity existing in the present times. It is a unity which binds together all Christians who are guided by the Holy Spirit, and of whom human nature is amended by their spiritual regeneration. It is not possible to be otherwise, because we don’t have, in the Bible, any example of prayer, made by Jesus, which was not answered by God. Let me quote again form the New Testament:

“They took the stone away. Jesus looked up and said, <<I thank you, Father, that you listen to me.  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)

Why were then these words, between Jesus, and the Father, recorded, and noted? It is for our sake, that we can understand that all Jesus’ prayers were answered by the Father. The bound between Father and Son is perfect. The Son doesn’t need to plead to the Father, in order to persuade Him to do something. The Son, and the Father are one, and all that was done, and that was said, by the Son, was in perfect agreement with the will of the Father. In other words, not a single initiative was taken by the Son, before to be decided together with the Father. All the words said by Jesus, in His earthly life, were given to Him, by the Father. Let me take another quotation:

“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 the disciples, do not come from me. The Father, who remains in me, does his own work.” (John 14; 10)

We can safely affirm that all words uttered by Jesus were, in fact, said by the Father, through the Jesus’ mouth. The Father and the Son is one God, even if they are in two different ‘hypostasis.’ When Jesus prayed Father prayed, in the same time, because the Father was in Jesus. Not to answer to the Jesus’ prayer, concerning unity was equal with the situation in which Father would not listen to His own prayer, but that is an absurdity. Concerning the unity of the Christians, we can easily notice, at a first glance, that almost 2000 years melt away, and the prayer of unity was not positively answered. When then can we hope for unity, considering the fact that in the present there is more divisions, than in the past? More and more Christian denominations were added, in the history of Christianity, and the trend is an increase in their number. It seems like we are going in the opposite direction. Why were all the Jesus’ prayers answered positively, but not the unity prayer, which is essential for the Church?

It is true that if we look around us and see the divisions among the religious institutions we can be tempted to conclude that Jesus’ prayer was not answered, in a positive manner. But may be we don’t look where it should. If we look carefully, we can se that behind the institutional Churches there is a spiritual reality, the Christ’s Bride, constituted by spiritually regenerated Christian, who don’t always know each other, personally, and who are spread amongst many Christian denominations, and some of them are outside all such denominations. Some Christians are totally independent in their faith, and are not members to any institution or Christian organized religion. The perfect unity among Christians existed in the past, exists in our days, and will exist in the future, but this is a spiritual unity, not an institutional unity. In the midst of obvious tensions, and visible divisions among institutional Churches, The One Spiritual Church enlightens the paths toward eternity of those who believe in God.

The unity between the Christians, born from God, is a unity “in Christ.” I will try to clarify this aspect. The Church of the elect is the Body of Christ. I quote:

“God put all things under Christ’s feet and gave him to the church as supreme Lord over all things. The church is Christ’s body, the completion of him who himself completes all things everywhere.” (Ephesians 1; 22-23)

The place of the born again Christian is “in Christ,” and this situation can happen only when He dwells, through the Holy Spirit, in the human beings. Another quotation:

“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.” (Ephesians 2; 6-7)

In order to be able to understand the unity of the Church of God, as a present, not a future reality, we have to start we the fact that Christ is not divided. (1 Corinthians 13) In the same time, we have to see the complexity of the Christian phenomenon, and the inherent polarity of the Church of God. On the one side we have, the high spirituality taught by Christ, and on the other we have, the organized religion. The true Church of God is constituted by those known by Christ, before the foundation of the world. (Romans 8; 29) All the members of the true Church of God will be saved, because their salvation is prepared by God, in Christ, beforehand. What I am saying is that the true Church of God is made by the elect, and it is not an institution or another, but it is a spiritual reality. On the other side, we have many religious institutions, and organizations, which we call them Church. In this type of institutions one can find many types of people, spiritual, and carnal, and many type of interests. What is the relationship between them? In fact, many members of the true Church of God are members in one or in another religious institution, and that is the connection between the One Spiritual Church of God, and the many institutional Churches.

Is the Church of God, in the same time, one, and many, or is it one in essence, and many in manifestations? I reckon that what divides The Body of Christ are the doctrines, the human understanding, which is by nature limited, and finite, and what unite the One Spiritual Church is the presence of God in the human persons. When God is present in us, our relationship with Him is not based on the acceptance of a doctrine or another, but is based on His Holly Spirit, that is, it is based on real, vivid experience with Him. God doesn’t communicate to us any particular dogma or doctrine of faith, but He makes us feel His presence. If you know God in you, and experience His presence, you don’t need any doctrine to confirm or contradict that kind of spiritual experience. For this reason we can find authentic people of God in any Christian confession. With Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodoxies, Protestants, Baptists, Pentecostals, and so an, we find everywhere great experiences with God, and great people of faith. God doesn’t make any difference between Christian confessions when He gives tremendous spiritual experiences to people of faith.

God doesn’t make any difference amongst His people, and He doesn’t condition His relationship with one person or with another, by the appurtenance of that person to a certain Christian confession or to another. Only humans make this difference. Why is that? Because is humanly to do it. God saves persons, individuals, and not religious institutions. We have to understand that. The affiliation to a certain Christian confession or to another it is not a guarantee for our salvation, and on the other side the formal attachment to a certain Christian denomination or to another, it is not a handicap for our spiritual trajectory. There are not institutional Churches saved as such. That is, there are not institutions which are saved, but persons, and each, one by one, that means, in a personal manner. God didn’t embody Himself, in a certain religious institution or another, but in a Person, in Jesus Christ. Salvation is for humans, who understands God, and feels how God feels, and thinks, how God thinks. Religious institutions don’t have feelings, they have rules, they don’t love us, they organize us, never forgetting their own interests, and their survival. Religious institutions have their own agenda, sometimes very different from God’s agenda. For example, a humble, unnoticed person, for a religious institution can be very precious for God. Why is that? Because the institutional Churches function manly on the basis of the theatrical spectacle, and silence, and contemplation, doesn’t find there any place.

The true Church of God it is not One and many, it is One, but the manifestations of Christianity are very diverse. What I am saying is that while there is only One true Church there are, in the same time, many institutional Churches, with doctrines, which contradict each other. I cannot maintain that the Church of God is One in essence, and many in manifestations, because not all the manifestations of the institutional Churches are real exterior manifestations of the true Church of God. Rather, I should say that the true Church of God’s manifestations are not identical with all the manifestations of the Christian institutional Churches. For example, when people were burned to the stake by the official Christian institution, the true Church of God was not there. When seek persons were considered witches that was not an authentic manifestation of the true Church of God. The antifeminism, the hostility to the development of modern sciences are not the manifestations of the true Church of God, which is The One Spiritual Church. All of the above are manifestations of an organized religion, named Christianity, which was not intended to become a powerful institution or many, by Christ. Jesus was in conflict with institutionalized religion, with its incapacity to understand the human personal aspirations. Why then do we introduce the same religious institutions, and we empower them, on the back of Jesus’ teachings? It is probably because sometimes we don’t have access to the authentic, the spiritual teachings of Christ. They cannot be understood but only by people who are spiritually regenerated, who are born again. Jesus said that unless we are born again, we cannot see or enter in the Kingdom of God. (John 3; 3-6)  In other words, if we are not born again, meaning, spiritual regenerated, transformed, becoming a new creation, we cannot understand or ‘see’ God. With natural human minds, it is impossible to understand God.

      The One Spiritual Church is not another Christian denomination, it is the spiritual status and unity of Christianity. Jesus prayer was answered positively by the Father because the true Church of God is in perfect and complete unity despite so many divisions of the visible Churches or rather of the Christian religious institutions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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