“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Greeks, whether we be bond or free; and have been made to drink into one Spirit” (1Corinthians 12:12 – 13). This body has been called out during the Church Age from every tongue, tribe and nation throughout the entire world. The belief that some denomination or local church is the epitome of perfection is a fallacy. Organizations created by mankind are not the true church of God, as it is presented biblically. It is true though, that many of the people who belong to these organizations are part of the called out (Ecclesia), and are on their way to heaven. A personal relationship between the believer and Jesus Christ that lives inside the soul, spirit and body sets us apart from the world. It is the sum of these true believers that makes up the church of God. The Ecclesia has existed throughout the entire Church Age. The mystical Body of Christ is the true church. The hands of man cannot make it. The sheep know the shepherd’s voice.
The term “church” can take on many connotations. The word “church” as used in modern language carries many preconceived ideas and understandings. Cultural conceptions often do not mesh with biblical reality. Mankind has continually looked for some epitome and model of the perfect local church or denomination. Seekers become frustrated when they do not find it or come to the belief that their search has been in vain. Many think that they have failed and that their walk with God is incomplete. Others think that they have found perfection. They have a tendency to become radical, judgmental and condemning towards all other works and organizations. This kind of idealism can create circumstances that result in a rebellious spirit the devil can use. It is very important for the individual believer to understand that there is no perfect local church or denomination that exists in the world today.
A believer may leave a particular church or denomination when their conscience convicts them to join another group. We must be extremely careful that we do not leave in a rebellious spirit of criticism, strife, gossip or dissention. The work we are leaving may be ministering to a lot of good people who are being fed there. Their salvation is assured in the light as they have received it. Our salvation is assured in the light as we have received it. One is not better than the other. God uses many ways to reach people and we must be careful that our search does not hurt others. We have a right to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling and participate in a multitude of ministries. We have a responsibility when we leave ministries that are no longer feeding us to leave them in humility and meekness. Our individual walk with Christ is full of many choices and decisions. We must consider the well being of others when making them.
God did not give elaborate instructions in the Gospel on how to start a local church. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD and the church first spread to parts of Europe and Asia. It eventually encompassed the entire world. God intended the church to work in diverse cultures and in different countries. There is no set architectural plan or a diagram of where things are set in the building. The importance of the gathering together of the saints is what is emphasized, not the buildings or organizations. God uses these buildings and organizations only in the sense that he works in the hearts of the people who gather there. Mankind’s culture is transitional. God never intended to interrupt it by forcing certain models and templates of design or organization. God’s truth is universal and his word transcends space and time. He is able to work in space, time and culture without taking the culture over. We can clearly see where “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36) works. It allows culture, traditions and countries to flourish while still working in them to make them better.
The church throughout history has evolved into diverse organizations that reflect the traditions and cultures of where they were established. Often the religious leaders were working hand in hand with the established political and ruling class. At times these traditions and cultures seemed to appear as if they were the universal truth of God. This religious and cultural structure was passed from generation to generation throughout the centuries.
Over time movements formed against these hardened systems and even wars were fought because of them. God still worked in all these movements and systems in spite of the traditions and doctrines of man. Many movements throughout history have claimed to be the true and only church while condemning the beliefs of others as false and heretical.
We believe God’s love is universally reaching for believers in any system that acknowledges Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures. Different organizations and denominations have varied doctrinal positions. If their basis is Jesus Christ and him crucified according to the Scriptures we are not going to point fingers at them and tell fellow believers that they cannot go to these churches.
During the ministry of Jesus Christ a certain person was preaching and casting out demons in his name. The disciples noticed it and confronted the Lord concerning it and Jesus said, “Forbid him not” (Luke 9:49). He also said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, their am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). The Apostle Paul said, “Some, indeed, preach Christ even of envy and strife; Christ is preached and in that I do rejoice” (Philippians 1:15 – 18).
This perspective enables a local church or organization to utilize the benefits of many organizations, scholars, books or ministries. We are not required to agree with everything they say or believe. We do not expect them and their organizations to agree with everything we say or believe. This tolerant attitude must always be with us without compromising the first tier doctrines of salvation. The first tier of doctrines and belief in Jesus Christ can never be compromised. How can one be saved by Jesus if he doesn’t believe he even existed, is not divine, etc.?
The second tier of doctrines is where the real squabbles begin. If one does not believe that the Great Tribulation comes after the dispensation of the Church Age, are they lost? No, of course not.
The local church cannot have some ministers preaching a doctrine one way while others are preaching it another way. This will only create division and disunity. If you’re going to have open communion where a believer examines their own conscience, then it should be preached and practiced by all the ministries in the local church or organization. If the pastor preaches water baptism by immersion, the elders and ministries in the local church should be in agreement or you will have real confusion that eventually will lead to division. The local church and organization must have unity among its ministries because a house divided cannot stand.
A tolerant attitude towards Christendom at large must be maintained at all times. We can strive to preach the Gospel to the best of our ability and knowledge while knowing that many other organizations still have true believers. We must be careful by not condemning them with our second tier doctrines. When disagreements arise over beliefs and perspectives that are not pertinent to salvation, we can try to help someone find another fellowship.
Table of the Lord believes in tolerance and love. Though we stand up for what we believe the Bible says, we are tolerant to other works. Our work is not for everyone. We are not the perfect church and we are open to spiritual love and growth and want to give the same to other works.