How Does the Church of the Eternal God and its International Affiliates Differ From Other Christian Churches? (Part 1)
In this new series, we will spell out in detail the identifying signs of the true Church of God, as revealed in the Bible. We will limit this discussion to Christian organizations and institutions, as the Bible teaches us that we can only inherit salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ, and that there is no salvation in any other religion or religious leader (Acts 4:12). But even when addressing Christianity, we must understand that there are many false concepts, doctrines and administrative practices within the “Christian” world and “organized religion,” which we must avoid. 1 John 4:1, 6 tells us: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God because many false prophets have gone out into the world… We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
The Bible tells us that God’s true Church is not divided. That is, there are not all kinds of different ideas and doctrines taught within the same body of believers. Ephesians 4:1-6 tells us that there is “one” body, “one” faith; “one” Spirit; “one” baptism; “one” Lord; and “one” God, and Father of all. Paul adds in Galatians 1:6-9 that there is only “one” gospel message. This is to say, if Church organizations are teaching different concepts about God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church of God, baptism and the gospel, then they cannot all be correct.
Even though God’s true Church—the body of Christ (Colossians 1:24)—is a spiritual organism, consisting of all those who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is nevertheless physically organized. Organizations which are divided amongst themselves need to strive to come to the unity of the faith (Jude 3) and to embrace the unity of the truth. It is the responsibility of every Christian to ascertain where the truth is being upheld and taught; and this can only be accomplished by comparing the teachings and practices of a particular Church organization with the requirements of the Bible. We read in Acts 17:11 about the people in Berea: “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”
We do believe that the Church of the Eternal God and its international affiliates in Canada, the UK and German-speaking areas are part of the true Church of God. While we are not saying that our organizations comprise the entirety of the Church of God, we are saying that we differ remarkably in many areas from other Church organizations which all claim to constitute true Christianity. The Bible speaks in Revelation 17 of a world-ruling “fallen” “Christian” Church organization with many “daughter” churches. It also mentions in Revelation 2 and 3 different organizations within the true Church of God, but points out that there are problem areas in many of those different organizations. Scripture warns us not to join or remain in an organization which has fallen away from true Christianity; and it also cautions us not to join or remain in an organization which might even be part of the body of Christ, but which is not practicing and preaching the full truth. If Church organizations claiming to be Christian are in defiance of God’s biblical standards, doctrines and administrative requirements, then the Bible commands us to leave those organizations, once we have discovered and proven the truth.
In a Q&A, titled, “What doctrines are unique to the Church of God?,” we stated the following when discussing mixing true Christian beliefs and practices with pagan concepts:
“Syncretism has become commonplace in mainstream Christianity and is defined by Webster’s as ‘the combination of different forms of belief or practice.’ This word syncretism does not appear in the Scriptures, but the subject is certainly addressed and condemned. We have to see the faulty trap of syncretism (combining right aspects of godly worship with wrong practices). Since syncretism has been a part of ‘Christianity’ for nearly 2,000 years, the Nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote that ‘millions of people through the centuries have little by little cheated God out of Christianity.’
“Syncretism is manifested in Sunday worship where pagan traditions have influenced ‘Christian’ thinking and practice. December 25 is supposedly Jesus’ birthday but was an adaptation of the birthday of the pagan’s sun god. Easter eggs and bunnies are derived from ancient Egypt and Persia where ‘friends exchanged decorated eggs at the spring equinox.’ St Valentine’s day is connected to ‘a pagan Roman festival, Lupercalia.’ Wikipedia states that ‘Halloween was originally influenced by western European harvest festivals and festivals of the dead with possible pagan roots, particularly the Celtic Samhain.’ These, and many more, are festivals that many churches adopt and celebrate but which are directly opposed to true Christianity.
“Deuteronomy 12:30-32 gives this warning: ‘… take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, “How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.” You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.’ That was God’s instruction then, and it is today as God does not change (Malachi 3:6).”
In addition, Deuteronomy 4:2 warns us not to add to God’s Word nor to take away from it, but to keep His commandments in the way given to us. Christ tells us that we worship God in vain if we teach as doctrines the commandments of men and human traditions, while laying aside the commandments of God (Mark 7:6-9). 2 John states: “For if you wander beyond the teaching of Christ, you will leave God behind” (Living Bible).
In future installments, we will set forth the core doctrines of the Church of the Eternal God and its international affiliates, in light of the biblical revelation, and compare those with concepts of traditional Christianity, and vice versa.
In addition, there are splinter groups claiming to be part of the true body of Christ, but important differences exist to our Church organizations. In a previous Q&A, we answered the question: “Why does the Church of the Eternal God exist? Why don’t you merge with other Church of God groups?”
We stated the following:
“The prophet Amos was inspired by God to raise the question with His people Israel: ‘Can two walk together unless they are agreed?’ (Amos 3:3)… Christ stated in Matthew 12:25 that: ‘… every… house divided against itself will not stand.’ We understand that the major problem with the Church of God, first era (Ephesus), was that it ‘left its first love’ (Revelation 2:4), and in like manner, the end-time church (Laodicea) becomes lukewarm toward God and His Way…”
In another Q&A, the question was discussed regarding those splinter groups which claim to be God’s true Church. We stated as follows:
“… a separation exists between those who keep the Truth and those who believe the deceptive lies that lead to disobeying God! Paul [says]: ‘For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables’ (2 Timothy 4:3-4)…
“Deception is at work right now!… Jesus spoke of its danger when He answered His disciples’ question about what would signal the end of the age: ‘And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many”‘ (Matthew 24:4-5)… ‘”… many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another… And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold”‘ (Matthew 24:8-12)…”
This end-time prophecy identifies the love of many growing cold as godly love (“agape” in Greek). It describes true Christians who had received the love of God through the Holy Spirit which had been poured out in their hearts (Romans 5:5). But they will begin to live in lawlessness (Sin is defined as lawlessness or the transgression of the law; 1 John 3:4; compare also the Authorized Version); and as a consequence, the love of God, which is defined as keeping God’s commandments (1 John 5:3), will begin to “grow cold” or fade away in their daily lives, due to the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13).
“Note the way [God’s] commission is relayed to Timothy—an obligation that falls to all true ministers of God: ‘I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching… But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry’ (2 Timothy 4:1-2, 5).
“Because the ministry is held accountable for leadership within the Church of God (compare Hebrews 13:17 and James 3:1), Paul also reminds Timothy that he is answerable to God, saying: ‘…Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some’ (2 Timothy 2:14-18)…”
In charging Timothy with “rightly dividing the word of truth,” Paul brings out the fact that God’s Word must be read and studied, “here a little and there a little” (Isaiah 28:9-10). All Scriptures to a given concept must be consulted, to avoid reaching a wrong conclusion. The Word of Truth must be taught honestly, while nothing is to be added or deleted. In dividing or “cutting straight” God’s Word, error and false interpretations are being cut off. As Paul admonished Timothy to preach God’s Word “in season and out of season” (compare again 2 Timothy 4:2), and not to be “ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” and the gospel (2 Timothy 1:8), so Paul also did not shun “to declare… the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
These admonitions are relevant today. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:1 that “the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” For someone to depart from the faith in the latter times or the time of the end, he or she must have known and understood and believed the Truth. The same warning is expressed in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, stating that “the Day” of Christ’s return will not come “unless the falling away comes first.” This is clearly a reference to true Christians who are falling away from the Truth. This warning mirrors Christ’s warning in Matthew 24:12: As the love of many will grow cold because of lawlessness, the falling away in 2 Thessalonians 2 will occur because of the “mystery of lawlessness” (verse 7), and because those who will fall away “did not receive the love of the truth” (verse 10).
“Departure from the Truth became a subject that the ministry of that time had to guard against, and to even identify some who were causing dissension. Paul very specifically warned the leadership in Ephesus: ‘Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears'” (Acts 20:28-31)…
“The apostle Peter urgently warned the brethren to ‘be even more diligent to make your call and election sure…’ (2 Peter 1:10). His appeal was made in light of what was then happening throughout the church. He continues in his letter: ‘But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber… They have forsaken the right way and gone astray…’ (2 Peter 2:1-3, 15)…
“Jude also wrote of the apostasy that was overtaking the church in the later part of that first century AD. In just a few decades, deceitful persons had entered the church—overturning and betraying the revealed Truth of God. Jude’s letter addresses these heretical teachings: ‘Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ’ (verses 3-4)…
“Church historian and biblical scholar Jesse Hurlbut comments: ‘For fifty years after Paul’s life, a curtain hangs over the Church, through which we vainly strive to look; and when at last it rises, about 129 A.D. with the writings of the earliest Church Fathers, we find a Church in many ways very different from that in the days of Peter and Paul’ (Hurlbut, Story of the Christian Church, p. 41).
“Historian Edward Gibbon states: ‘The scanty and suspicious materials of ecclesiastical history seldom enable us to dispel the dark cloud that hangs over the first age of the Church’ (Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Random House, N.Y., ch.15, p. 382).
“… the Church of God typified as ‘Philadelphia’ is not the only body of believers who are part of God’s church and who exist in this final generation ushering in the return of Jesus Christ! In fact, faint remnants of even earlier eras also still remain (in addition to Philadelphia, it is possible that remnants of Thyatira and Sardis still exist today; compare “Is That in the Bible? The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation,” pages 9-11), but it is the seventh, the final church of Laodicea, that faces very strong warnings and impending correction from Jesus Christ (compare Revelation 3:14-22)… Laodicea is—emphatically—a part of God’s church; they are people who have been given the Spirit of God! However, the genuineness of their faith will have to be tested and proven (compare 1 Peter 1:7). In order to attain their calling to be among the firstfruits of God, they must become fervent in their works (compare Revelation 19:7-9). Laodicean Christians have the opportunity to repent now (compare Revelation 3:20-21; Luke 21:34-36). But for those who stubbornly refuse, a time of severe correction will come upon them…”
In future installments, we will also compare in detail the core doctrines, standards and administrations of the Church of the Eternal God and its international affiliates, in light of the biblical revelation, with the teachings and administrative practices of other groups, claiming to be part of the true body of Christ.
(To Be Continued)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link, with material written by Dave Harris and Brian Gale