The Principle of Identifying God’s Church
John 4:21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
Christ says neither in this mountain nor in the other mountain but in spirit and in truth will we worship Him. He identifies so clearly the change of position of place of worship and manner of worship. He comes down to our time through Old Testament prophecy and identifies our position the same way.
God has a church, it is not the great cathedral, neither is it the national establishment, neither is it the various denominations. It is the people who love God and keep his commandment, where two or three are gathered in my name there am I in the midst of them. When Christ is even among the humble few this is Christ’s church for the presence of the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity can alone constitute a church. Upward Look p. 315.4
I would like to contemplate the very important ingredient in understanding the principle of identity of God’s Church. Not identifying God’s church, but the principle of the identity of God’s Church. If we believe that our church is the right church and we haven’t got the identity right then we can believe all we like that it is the right church when it isn’t at all. What is the principle that identifies God’s Church on earth? Let us observe the encounter that Jesus Christ had with the woman of Samaria;
John 4:19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth.
Jesus handles this question with the woman at Samaria because she asked the question. She was one of many Samaritans who felt that their church was God’s church and the right place to worship was there. Yet the Jews thought that it is in Jerusalem. This same argument has been going on for years and years. Where is God’s church? Jesus makes a very important point here. In today’s church affiliations we are meeting something more perplexing than the Samaritans and the Jews. Today we have so many denominations and so many derivatives of the denominations and then numberless independent companies. The dilemma of today is so much worse than the woman of Samaria. She only had two churches to make a decision on or maybe a third. How can you find God’s church in this confusion? Jesus foretold us exactly what our situation is right now in making choices of where we are going to worship and where we are going to be exercised by God’s creative operation. In a previous study entitled ‘The Church the Theatre of God’s Grace’, we saw that God’s church is where he is operating on hearts. We saw we need to be a part of the theatre of God’s Grace. Jesus lets us know that we are in a terrible dilemma. It may be untried ground for us but it is not untried ground for him. If we follow Jesus in Matthew He shows us our particular situation. Here Jesus is covering a world history from the time of the fall of Jerusalem when Rome surrounded Jerusalem and destroyed it and how after that it launched the church out into great tribulation first under pagan tribulation and then under the papal persecution.
Matthew 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
We identify that Jesus is making reference to God’s church being persecuted first by pagans and then by Papal Rome. He says that if that period of persecution would not have been shortened then there would have been no Godly person left they would have all been destroyed. But for the elects sake they shall be shortened. We know that the persecution was staved by the reformation and was no longer as heavy as it was until in 1798 the Pope was taken prisoner. We see here that those days were shortened. Note that these verses take place after the days have been shortened in verse 22.
Matthew 24:23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25Behold, I have told you before.
A lot of people read this statement to mean the actual visible coming of Jesus but if you read this passage carefully, we remember that God’s church is always identified by Christ in his church, isn’t it? And the body of Christ is the church. So every church, every false prophet, every false teacher comes along and says Here is Christ this is the church where you have to worship to be with Christ. Isn’t that what we say? We come to worship and to be where Christ is. Jesus warns after this terrible time of persecution there is going to be an unleashing of all kinds of false prophets and teachers. For there shall arise false Christs, false churches, and false prophets and shall show great signs and wonders.
Revelation says one of those false prophets is America. Apostate Protestantism is a false prophets and is identified as such and amongst them all are many other false prophets. They will do miracles and that is exactly what we read in Revelation about him [the false prophet] doing these miracles so that the whole world will wonder after the beast. All the other ones are also false prophets doing miracles in so much that if it were possible they would deceive the very elect. The very elect of God can be in danger of being deceived and confused. Here is what Jesus foreshadowed.
Confederacies will increase in number and power as we draw nearer to the end of time. These confederacies will create opposing influences to the truth, forming new parties of professed believers who will act out their own delusive theories. The apostasy will increase. Some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1). Men and women have confederated to oppose the Lord God of heaven, and the church is only half awake to the situation. 2 SM 383
What are we surrounded by? An increase of confederacies. What are they doing? They will create opposing influences to the truth, forming new parties of professed believers who will act our their own delusive theories. Can you identify with this statement? Isn’t this exactly what we are seeing today? Jesus has warned us of it. As He spoke with authority regarding where the true worship and salvation was to be found back in the time when he spoke to the woman at the well, he will be able to tell us with as much authority where we are to stand today if he has the authority and knowledge to be able to identify where we are to worship. What did Jesus say to the woman?
John 4:21:Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
He said the day is coming. In other words He is preparing her mind – it is very close now that the church where we are to worship is folding up. He then says you worship you know not what. We know what we worship. For salvation is of the Jews. If you were to meet Jesus today He would say to you ‘Salvation is of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.’ That is what people are saying isn’t it? Salvation is of the church and it is the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He said back in His time that salvation is of the Jews but the day or the hour cometh and now is when the true worshipers shall worship the Gather in spirit and in truth. He says that ultimately we shall neither worship in this mountain nor at Jerusalem and at the present time the true worship is at Jerusalem but there is a change coming.
We know so well when they rejected Jesus Christ that there had to be a change of place of worship. Some people read this statement and conclude that after the rejection of Christ by the Jews, worship wasn’t in any particular church any more. We are not to conclude that because the Scripture is clear and we will see this as we go on. Jesus is saying that there is an element to focus on if you are going to worship the Lord correctly and at the right place. What are you to look for? Those that worship Him in spirit and in truth. Why? Because God is a Spirit and He wants us to worship in the understanding of Him being a Spirit in the meaning of this it is not that He is an ethereal mass of nothing. He is an intelligence that is what the word is there because we are to worship him in spirit and in truth. He is an intelligent being and the Holy Spirit is a person. There is a problem today where many people today think that the Holy Spirit is just a force. The Holy Spirit is a person. He is a person with intelligence. He is not just some disassociated personal force. He is a person so you worship Him as someone who is an intelligent being and you worship Him in truth. Christ says neither in this mountain nor in the other mountain but in spirit and in truth will we worship Him. He identifies so clearly the change of position of place of worship and manner of worship. He comes down to our time through Old Testament prophecy and identifies our position the same way.
The Woman of Song of Solomon
In Song of Solomon you know so well how a woman in the Old Testament is symbol of a church. God’s people in Jeremiah and Isaiah are represented as a comely and delicate women. All through prophecy you have got the pure woman and the impure woman. We see here in prophecy with what authority Jesus speaks to us today as to the fact there is a right place and a right way. What a perfect description of our dilemma today;
Song of Solomon 6:8. There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number.
There are threescore, or sixty, main line churches and fourscore derivatives of them, or concubines – that is eighty, and then little companies, virgins, without number. Find your way through them all. But what does Christ say? Does He leave us in sort of a lurch?
Song of Solomon 6:9 My dove, my undefiled is [but] one; she [is] the [only] one of her mother, she [is] the choice [one] of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; [yea], the queens and the concubines, and they praised her. 6:10 Who [is] she [that] looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, [and] terrible as [an army] with banners? 6:9 My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.
Here is a summary of Revelation 2 & 3. As you look through the history of the church you see the derivatives of the church as they became mothers and daughters and the daughters became the mothers of another one and so it goes right through until we come through to the very end. Now you have a conglomerate of all those churches that were once in favour with God but then fell away. Then another one was raised up fell away until finally there is all these numbers and my dove is undefiled and is but one at the end of all that. The dove is known to be as it says there the little company of the remnant? Where are they? That is the question. Jesus has the authority to say there is a church. He told the woman that it was Jerusalem but it is just about ready to change hands and now you are going to have to be alert to that. He identified the Jews, but as he identified them he revealed the focus on them phasing out. Here He identifies the principle for our consideration. To find His dove, His undefiled, there are two identification principles that he gave in this passage.
John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers [my dove, my undefiled, the true worshipers] shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Here are the two identifying principles of understanding the principle of identity of His undefiled church.
Spirit and Truth
I ask you the question: why did Jesus say salvation is of the Jews? Why did he point to the Jews and say we know what we worship for salvation is of the Jews. Why did he say that? Did He have a good reason? You know Jesus was as much dependent upon the Scriptures as you and I are. He would have read Genesis.
Genesis 49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
Until Shiloh Come
Samaria was the leftovers of the 10 tribes that had gone off the rails. For a long time theirs was not the place where you worship God because they had become pagans. The law giver would not pass from between Judah’s feet, and the sceptre would not depart until Shiloh come. Who was Shiloh? The Prince of Peace. That is Jesus isn’t it? So why is salvation from the Jews? It is written that the Jews would continue with the law giver with the government that is identified from God and he would continue until Shiloh came and that was Jesus. Therefore, salvation comes from the Jews. Now to whom will the people gather? To the Jews? What does it say? Unto Shiloh shall the gathering of the people be. That was what Jesus was referring to. Neither at this place nor in Jerusalem but the true worship of the gathering around Jesus. Shiloh declared to the minds of those around Him when He was here on earth and again to our own minds.
John 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, [then] are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
You shall worship God in spirit and in truth. Where will you find the truth? He says to the people if you follow in my word and continue in my word. It is by continuing in the word that you will find the truth and the truth will set you free. The truth will give you salvation. That is the way God wants us to worship him. We see here the truth that we need to understand in the words of Jesus again in John 17:3. Where will we find salvation? Salvation is of the Jews. Yes! That is where Jesus came from and as he comes through the Jews you will no longer worship in Jerusalem anymore because I am about to depart from Jerusalem and you are going to gather to me and that is the truth. I am the way, the truth and the life.
John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Salvation is of the Jews because He was sent to the Jews and it is the reception of Him that would identify them as a continual place to worship or as reject of the place to worship. What is the identity of God’s church? Jesus in the truth. This is what we want to understand and what is becoming clear here. If you want to have eternal life you need to know God and Jesus whom he has sent and if you abide in the truth and in the words he gives, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. You will have everlasting life. With that there before us we see then that the Jews rejected him and therefore He said you will not any longer worship in Jerusalem either. When they rejected Him, what did He say to the Jews?
Matthew 21:42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
Did you hear what He said? The kingdom of God will be taken away from that nation which was God’s source of salvation, God’s place of worship and given to whom? Another nation. When you read in Peter, what is his church? A royal priesthood, a holy nation. We have a plain statement from the words of Jesus as to whom he gave the kingdom to. The kingdom shall be taken from you and given to others.
Luke 12:32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
What does Jesus say? I am taking the kingdom away from the Jews and I am passing it into the hands of the disciples, the little flock. That was the little remnant, twelve. How many people say – What can a little company like that do when they look at a little church. How many were there? Twelve and they turned the world upside down because God had given them the kingdom. Why were they receiving the kingdom? They were following Jesus Christ as He really was. They recognized Him.
In Spirit and In Truth
Ever since the time where God’s kingdom is in spirit and in truth, the people would be able to identify where and how to worship. They identified that it was where Jesus (Shiloh) was. It would continue with the Jews, it would come out from the Jews and continue with Shiloh. It is where Shiloh is, that constitutes the church. This Jesus, this Shiloh hailed Peter with joy because he identified that. What did Jesus say about His church when Peter expressed who Jesus was? Jesus was thrilled with Peter because Peter understood something that constitutes God’s church.
Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Mark what Jesus said to them ‘who do you say that I am?’ The people say it is someone else and so on because all that the people saw was a man. The people saw a man and they never recognized that in that man was God. Therefore Jesus says to the disciples but who do you say I am? What was the key issue that made Jesus so happy?
Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Shiloh is passing His church into the hands of whom? Those who recognize Jesus the Man as being God and He says upon this foundation, of those who recognize Jesus, the son of God, upon this foundation do I build my church. You see why the Jews were once God’s church, because they all hailed Jesus in their symbolisms of worship and Jesus came unto his own and his own received him not so he passed away from them and now those who did receive him? The little company, the little flock and that company was now his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against that church. Are you beginning to pick up what is God’s church?
What is God’s Church?
It was once the Jews, then it was the early Christian church and then when the early Christian church became worldly it changed hands again and when that church became worldly it changed hands again. You notice that the little company that keep the commandments and love God is the church that never dies and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it. Yet we see that one church after another seems to have died and they become denominations, national establishments and then they become the big denominations. What does Sr White say? It is not them, it is the people of God who keep His commandments and love God, among whom Jesus is. There lies the criteria and on that church or on that foundation, Jesus Christ, the church is built. That church will not perish. The right hold on Jesus is the foundation which His church is built upon. Through centuries we have seen the churches changing hands and consequentially there are so many of them today. Do we need to be confused?
How Are You Going To Find God’s Little Dove, His Undefiled Today?
Notice what Sr White says what true salvation is. Salvation is of the Jews. Salvation is of his church but don’t get confused too much here. What is salvation in relation to his church?
Salvation is not to be baptized, not to have our names upon the church books, not to preach the truth. But it is a living union with Jesus Christ, to be renewed in heart, doing the works of Christ in faith and labor of love, in patience, meekness, and hope. Every soul united to Christ will be a living missionary to all around him. Selected Messages Book 2 p. 381.3
The church is the society that houses the missionaries who are in touch with Jesus Christ and that is why amongst all the churches who have once had Jesus in their midst and have pushed him out. He is only with those who have not pushed Him out. Who are they? Those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Just as Jesus was rejected by the Jews, each successive generation of church did the same. In Desire of Ages there is a vivid description of this. This phenomenon of God’s church going through based upon the foundation of Jesus Christ while the other ones continue as organizations without Jesus because of this fact. Here is the verification of what we have already been meditating on straight from the Bible;
As the light and life of men was rejected by the ecclesiastical authorities in the days of Christ, so it has been rejected in every succeeding generation. Again and again the history of Christ’s withdrawal from Judea has been repeated. When the Reformers preached the word of God, they had no thought of separating themselves from the established church; but the religious leaders would not tolerate the light, and those that bore it were forced to seek another class, who were longing for the truth. In our day (we are talking about now) few of the professed followers of the Reformers are actuated by their spirit. Few are listening for the voice of God, and ready to accept truth in whatever guise it may be presented. Often those who follow in the steps of the Reformers are forced to turn away from the churches they love, in order to declare the plain teaching of the word of God. And many times those who are seeking for light are by the same teaching obliged to leave the church of their fathers, that they may render obedience. Desire of Ages p. 232.2
You shall neither worship in this mountain nor in that one, or this or that one, worship God. You will have to find His dove, His undefiled who today is worshipping Him in spirit and in truth. This principle of Jesus being forced out of each company until you have just got a little company that stays with him and that one continues as a organization of its own. This principle Sr White applies directly to the Seventh-day Adventist Church;
The Lord Jesus will always have a chosen people to serve Him. When the Jewish people rejected Christ, the Prince of life, He took from them the kingdom of God and gave it unto the Gentiles. God will continue to work on this principle with every branch of His work. When a church proves unfaithful to the word of the Lord, whatever their position may be. Upward Look p. 131.2
What did the Pharisees say? ‘We are Abraham’s seed, we are God’s church and in the time of Ezekiel the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these, we have a high position’, but it does not matter. No matter how much the word of God says you are the church of God today, tomorrow you may not be. Why?
When a church proves unfaithful to the word of the Lord, whatever their position may be however high and sacred their calling, the Lord can no longer work with them. Others are then chosen to bear important responsibilities. But, if these in turn do not purify their lives from every wrong action, if they do not establish pure and holy principles in all their borders, then the Lord will grievously afflict and humble them and, unless they repent, will remove them from their place and make them a reproach. Upward Look p. 131.2
Is there any room here for any church to say this is the remnant church we are going to go through to the end? None what so ever. Our proof of identity of God’s church is present relation to the Spirit and the Truth. It is this church that so engages in the spirit and truth that God identifies as His undefiled.
A Focus Test
Here is a focus test as you face with me the choice of what church am I going to join up with in spirit and in truth. Let’s examine the churches in one foul swoop. This text in Isaiah is so relevant to our search and our quest. Which church are we going to join up or confederate with? How are we going to identify it?
Isaiah 8:12 Say ye not, A confederacy, to all [them to] whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
Don’t go along and join in with the people and say ‘come on, you have to join up with us, we’ll confederate. Don’t join in with that. What do you concentrate on? Don’t just listen to peer pressure. What do you concentrate on?
Isaiah 8:13 Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and [let] him [be] your fear, and [let] him [be] your dread.
Focus on Jesus. He is the one that constitutes the church.
Isaiah 8:12:14 And he shall be for a sanctuary;
Praise the Lord a sanctuary!
Isaiah 8:15 And he shall be for a sanctuary but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel,
To whom? Both the houses of Israel. Look down to modern Israel today, you have got two houses of Israel. He will be a stumbling block to both the houses of Israel.
Isaiah 8:15 ..for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.
See the deceptions of all the false prophets?
Isaiah 8:16 Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.
Do you want to find God’s true church? Here is the truth, the law.
Psalms 119:142 For Thy law is the truth
Psalms 119:151 Thy commandments are the truth
If we are going to worship him in truth we are going to be identified by people who keep the law and the commandments.
Isaiah 8:16 Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.17and I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.
Isn’t that relevant? Are you looking and searching for Jesus for the true place of worship, where He is.
Isaiah 8:17 …and I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. 18Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me [are] for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.
Isn’t that relevant? Here he says here I am with my children. They are for signs and for wonders.]
Isaiah 8:19 And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?
Today we know so well that there are so many churches that are caught up with speaking of tongues and they will say come and join with us, the Lord has given us power. He has given us signs and wonders. They point to the speaking of tongues as signs. We are the people of God look here are the signs, miracles etc. He says No! When they shall say unto you, ‘seek unto them, seek for God there’, you will not find Him. Why?
Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, [it is] because [there is] no light in them.
If you are looking for His dove, His undefiled which is but one, you must find the church that proclaims and practices God’s holy law that is sealed among them. But that is not the only way in which we can discern where God should be worshipped. They must worship him in spirit and in truth. You can have Pharisaic law keeping and they haven’t got the right spirit. So how can you find out God’s church by the right spirit? It is written down for us. There are all these false prophets and they all come with a spirit. Which spirit are we going to worship?
1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
4:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God:
Worship Him in Spirit
Do you want to find the worship of the Spirit of God? Do you know what that word in the flesh is in the original Greek language? It is the word sarx and do you know what it means? It means Sinful flesh. Any spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in sinful flesh is of God. That is the real Jesus.
1 John 4:3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that [spirit] of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. 4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 5 They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. 6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
That narrows it right down for us. How many churches can you identify that really keep the Ten Commandments and teach man so including the Sabbath? Not very many. You have scaled it down to a few so then worship him in spirit and in truth. Combining the knowledge that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, in sinful flesh, in the true understanding of that you will identify the true spirit of that church. God is helping us in today’s atmosphere of so many churches, virgins without number, that we can find our way through the miasma and the labyrinth of paths to walk in and we can find the church that is His dove, His undefiled. His dove, His undefiled, His body of believers as a church needs to be understood a little more deeply because while they are undefiled, they may still have some problems amongst themselves and we are not to become confused if we see a church that is faulty.
The undefiled are not necessarily those who haven’t got sins but those who have the right attitude to sin like David and confess their sins and keep on upholding the pure message of the law as they humbly bow before Him in true repentance and confessions for their sins. May God help us to take with us the appreciations that Jesus has laid down before us that we do not forget His truth and teachings in our past history and identify with His people at this time.