MILLIONS OF PEOPLE worldwide think that they have come to accept the Lord Jesus Christ because they profess faith in Him. This is evident in the vast number of religious organizations, many of which are affiliated to major “Christian” churches. While there are those who have warped motives in practicing religion, there are also those who genuinely want to serve God and Christ and attain salvation.
However, the intent to serve God and Christ is not enough in order for such devotion to be accepted. This is made clear from the pronouncement of the Savior Himself:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21, New King James Version)
BECOMING A TRUE DISCIPLE
Christ dispels the notion that just because a person believes in Him, claims to have accepted Him as Savior, and considers himself as a Christian (or followers of Jesus,) he is automatically accepted as one and can attain eternal life.
So the issue is, how can one become a true disciple of the Lord Jesus? How can one be counted among those who are of Christ? It is by obeying His teachings:
“So Jesus said to those who believed in him, ‘If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’.” (John 8:31-32, Today’s English Version)
If one refuses to obey Christ’s teachings, even if he claims to have faith in Him, will he be accepted by the Lord? No, as He emphatically pronounced:
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’, and yet don’t do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46, Ibid.)
Thus, anyone who wants to be recognized by Christ has to obey His instructions. What is one teaching of Christ that a person should comply with in order to be accepted by Him? The Savior Himself states: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” (John 10;9, NKJV).
Those who have entered Christ are on the right path to salvation and, hence, are recognized and accepted by Him. How can these people be identified? To whom does our Lord Jesus Christ serve as the door? In John 10:7 it is written: “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep’ “(Ibid.).
Our Lord Jesus is the door of the sheep, who are gathered in only one flock (John 10:16). Which is the flock? It is none other than the Church of Christ:
“Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.” (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation)
Membership in the Church of Christ is, thus, of paramount importance. This Church is what Christ recognizes as His own. Its members are the true Disciples of Christ.
DISMISSING THE WRONG NOTION
Others may say that even though they are not members of the Church of Christ, they still belong to Christ. The Lord Jesus says the following to those who are not in the flock or Church of Christ:
“But you do not believe and trust and rely on Me because you do not belong to My fold [you are no sheep of Mine]. The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed]. And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:26-28, Amplified Bible)
Christ dismisses those who are not within His fold or flock as “no sheep of Mine.” Those who truly belong to Christ listen to His voice and follow Him, thus Christ says, “I know them.” They whom Christ acknowledges as His sheep because they are members of His Church, are the ones who have the sure hope of receiving eternal life, as long as they remain in Him and endure until the end (Matt. 24:13).
IDENTIFYING THE TRUE DISCIPLES
For some people, however, the idea of the Church of Christ being a single religious body or organization seems preposterous and unacceptable. To them, Christianity and the Church during the time of Christ and the apostles has mushroomed into the numerous religious organizations and denominations in existence today. But before the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven, did He make mention of anything concerning His Church? In John 10:16, Christ stated: “I have other sheep too. They are not in this flock here. I must lead them also. They will listen to my voice. In the future there will be one flock and one shepherd” (Easy-to-Read Version).
Notice that Christ mentions “In the future there will be one flock.” “In the future,” Christ promised when He was still here on earth, “there will be one flock” or Church of Christ. How can this time frame be more accurately ascertained? Acts 2:39 reveals this:
“For it was to you that the gift was promised, to you and your children, and to all those in distant times and places and whom the Lord our God calls to him.” (Rieu Translation)
In this pronouncement of the apostle Peter, he makes known the three groups of people that comprise the one true Church of Christ. The Jews who believed in the preaching of Christ and the apostles made up the first group to whom Apostle Peter said, “for the promise is to you.” The Gentiles or non-Jews at that time who also entered the Church comprised the second group, “and your children” – not children of the Jews in the flesh (all Jews who entered the Church were included in the first group – Acts 2:36) but rather children in the faith. The first two groups were called during the time of the apostles (Rom. 9:24). On the other hand, the third group were yet to be called, because their calling would happen at a “distant time and place” from that of the apostles.
Which is this distant time being referred to? In a related prophecy, the Lord God proclaims the following:
“I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’ Bring My sons from afar, And My daughters from the ends of the earth – Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” (Isa. 43:6-7, NKJV)
What the prophecy refers to as “My name” is the name given by God to Christ (John 17:11, TEV; Acts 2:36). Those whom God called and recognizes as His sons and daughters at the time “ends of the earth” would be called by the name of Christ, or as members of the Church of Christ (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation). The expression “ends of the earth” refers to the time when the end of the world is near (Matt. 24:3, 33). It began with the outbreak of the prophesied war which would be rumored or news about it would spread the world over (Matt. 24:6-7). This prophesied war was fulfilled in the First World War which broke out on July 27, 1914:
“The first great campaign on the southeastern battle grounds of the Great War began on July 27, 1914, when the Austrian troops undertook their first invasion of Serbia…” (Francis J. Reynolds, et al., The Story of the Great War: History of the European War From Official Sources, vol. 2, p.291)
If the “distant time” referred to by the apostles is the time “ends of the earth”, what about the “distant place” from where the third and final group of those to be called into the true Church of Christ would originate? In the preceding verse, Isaiah 43:5, we can read the following:
“From the far east will I bring your offspring, and from the far west I will gather you.” (Moffatt Translation)
THE DISCIPLES OF TODAY
There is only one Church that passes all the criteria for being recognized as that which belongs to Christ – the Church of Christ or Iglesia ni Cristo. It was officially registered with the government of the Philippines (a country in the Far East) on July 27, 1914, on exactly the same day when the war prophesied by Christ almost 2,000 years ago broke out. The gathering of those to be called as sons and daughters of God would eventually reach the Far West, with congregations of the Church being established firstly in Ewa, Hawaii on July 27, 1968 through the instrumentality of the late Executive Minister, Brother Erano G. Manalo.
That is why the invitation of Christ that He uttered two millenniums ago is still open for those who want their acknowledgment and acceptance of the Savior to be reciprocated by Him:
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, … 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 10:9, 16, NKJV)
Those who enter the flock or Church of Christ and remain until the end are the ones assured of salvation (Matt. 24:13).
Some take risk in various arenas of life, but no one should take chances when it comes to the future of the soul. Inside the Church of Christ, one’s sacrifices and labors in pleasing the Lord by obedience to His will are not in vain. All will result to his salvation.
Source: IGLESIA NI CRISTO, Pasugo: God’s Message, October 2008, Volume 60, Number 10, ISSN 0116-1636, p.12-16, by DONALD PINNOCK