Imagine Jesus Christ physically living on Earth today. He decides to do some sightseeing while visiting a large city. Walking past a church building, He hears a piano playing softly and decides to step inside the church’s entryway to take a look.
Would this church hold up to scrutiny from the Person whose name is used by Christianity?
In the world of churchgoers, adherents are encouraged to attend the congregation of their choice. Among the kaleidoscope of options are traditional, evangelical, charismatic, full gospel, healing gospel, Pentecostal, freewill, “spirit-led,” outreach ministries, mega-sized and non-denominational. Millions attend thousands of these different sects and denominations, which share certain beliefs but have many more disagreeing and competing teachings.
As with most things in life, an individual shopping for a church bases his decision on the church’s appeal and desirability. He also bases it on whether he agrees with the church’s beliefs, purposes and goals. He considers whether he identifies with the church, and seeks out parishioners of like mind. Location is also a major factor.
But what if you could know which church Jesus would choose? This would make all the difference. Christ’s own words recorded in the Bible reveal the only logical answer.
Setting the Criteria
In deciding, Jesus Christ would be presented with a myriad of different churches, all claiming to represent Him, profess His teachings, have His appointed ministers, and be His Church. Yet most of these have disagreeing doctrines.
A few key scriptures build a foundation on which the search would begin. The Bible records Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8) and does not change (Mal. 3:6). Therefore, He would have the same beliefs—doctrines—today as He did when He walked Earth, now almost 2,000 years ago.
At the end of Christ’s earthly ministry, just before His ascension into heaven, He gave a command to the soon-to-be apostles:
“Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy [Spirit]: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).
The disciples received instruction from Christ, in words (John 5:24; Luke 6:47-48) and by example (John 13:15; I Pet. 2:21).
Whatever Christ taught the original apostles, He would expect to find in His Church.
From Church to Church
Walking into the church’s dimly lit entryway, Jesus sees a series of tracts laid out on a table. He picks up one titled “Which Church Saves?” The text reads: “The Christian church is divided into many denominations. While there are differences in how each church worships and operates, they are unified because they all profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”
Jesus recalls His words, “I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). He knows that He did not say churches and remembers what He inspired the apostle Paul to write in I Corinthians 1:13: “Is Christ divided?” (The context of this verse reveals the answer is an obvious “No.”)
Shaking His head, Christ replaces the tract. He knows He must look elsewhere for the Church He established on Pentecost AD 31.
Continuing on, Jesus happens upon a building with a spired bell tower. He ascends a series of concrete steps and sees the structure is apparently named after one of His apostles. In the foyer, He finds an unassuming library with a sign instructing to “Browse and Borrow.” He flips through the pages of a book explaining the church’s catechism and finds that its doctrines teach there is only one church and that it has a hierarchical government.
“Well,” He thinks, “This church understands there is only one true church” (Matt. 16:18), “and it is not divided into many groups or organizations” (I Cor. 1:13).
Upon further investigation of the church’s government structure, He finds there are the ranks of pope, cardinal and bishop.
“This is incorrect,” He thinks. “In establishing government within My church, which is from the top down, I had Paul record that I ‘gave some [to be], apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ’” (Eph. 4:11-12; I Cor. 12:28).
Jesus hears footsteps as a man in a long black robe with a white-collar approach a mother holding a small baby, who has also just entered the building.
“Hello,” the man says while patting the baby’s head. “I am Father Smith, the priest assigned to this parish. Can I help you?”
Christ recalls telling His disciples to “call no man your [spiritual] father”—including ministers—“upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Matt. 23:9).
Continuing along a city sidewalk, He sees a sign affixed to a plain-faced brick building that catches His eye, reading Kingdom Hall. Opening the front door, He is immediately stopped by two members of this church, who begin explaining their beliefs.
Jesus learns that this church does not keep the popular religious holidays of Christmas and Easter, a point of doctrine with which He agrees.
He asks the two men if their church teaches its members to observe the seven annual Holy Days, which He kept, and instructed His followers to keep (Lev. 23; Matt. 26:17; John 2:23, 4:45, 7:2-8, 10, 14, 37).
“No, we do not,” one responds.
Christ politely tells the men He must be on His way, and exits the hall.
Entering another church, Jesus quietly slips into the back of the sanctuary during the middle of a service.
The preacher reads from I Corinthians 11:
“That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me” (vs. 23-24).
When the minister finishes reciting these words, ushers begin passing wicker baskets filled with bread to parishioners. Everyone quietly takes a piece.
The pastor continues:
“After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood: this do you, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (vs. 25).
As the churchgoers all drink a mouthful of grape juice from tiny plastic cups, Jesus heads for the door. A pamphlet in the foyer details how this church takes communion many times a year, by eating bits of bread and drinking juice.
Christ knows this is not what He taught. The ordinance of eating unleavened bread and drinking wine was meant to occur only once a year on Passover (Luke 22:7-8, 14-20; I Cor. 11:23-26).
Next, He finds a church of “latter-day saints.” Inside, a well-dressed young man greets Him and eagerly explains some of his church’s beliefs. He quickly lists that the church practices tithing because it is an ancient command, that baptism is by immersion, and the Holy Spirit is received by the laying on of hands. The young man also talks about how they adhere to the same organization of apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists as existed in the early Church, and that the principles and ordinances of the gospel are faith, repentance, baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit.
“I did place ministerial ranks and various offices in My church, which this organization seems to understand,” Jesus thinks. “I certainly commanded that tithes should be paid, telling people ‘this ought you to have done’ (Matt. 23:23). And baptism is by immersion, and the Holy Spirit is received through the laying on of hands.”
The young man continues, talking about celebrating Christmas and Easter, and how wonderful those days are.
“This church keeps manmade religious holidays, instead of the Holy Days outlined in the Bible. I do not agree with celebrating Christmas and Easter, as they have pagan origins.”
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