ONE TRUE CHURCH?
The first article in The Watchtower, 1 September, 2003 poses the question, “Is there only one true Church?” This short article sets the scene by showing the errors of the Catholic Church,inclaiming that this does exist, and the reaction of the Protestant Churches to such a claim. They finally pose the question, “Does it matter what church we belong to?” which will lead them on to the second article. This seeks to look at Scripture to discover, “One True Christian Faith – a reality.”
The conclusion of this second article is very interesting and something that every Jehovah’s Witness should take to heart, but I suspect, like so many Christians listening to a powerful sermon, they just know it is for someone else!
“Note this however. Jesus Christ definitely foretold that his one true congregation would be restored during what he called a conclusion of a system of things… Maybe you feel you have already found that church, or congregation. It is important that you make sure. Why? Because as in the first century, there can be only one true church. Have you taken the time to make sure that your church closely conforms to the pattern set by the first-century Christian congregation and that it loyally adheres to the teachings of Jesus Christ?” – p.7.
That is a massive statement for all Churches including the group known as the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. If their Kingdom Halls do not match up to that standard then they are not the true church of God. I wonder if any of their members studied this article carefully (it did not have questions to answer) and checked the statements made in it, that are said to prove whether a church is true or not?
Let’s look at some of the issues they raise,
“No one can rightly disagree with the fact that the early Christian congregation bore no resemblance to the institutionalized church systems we see today. But it was organized. Individual congregations did not operate independently of one another. They all recognized the authority of a governing body in Jerusalem.” – p.4
True, the early church does not resemble the institutionalised systems we have today, but it is not true to say that they all recognised the governing body in Jerusalem. To claim that, you have to ignore several chapters in the book of Acts and most of the letter to the Galatians. The church in Antioch disagreed with the way the Jerusalem leaders were acting and said so in no uncertain terms. Antioch had its own government and its own missionary programme – it did operate independently of Jerusalem. To say it didn’t is totally misrepresenting the development of church growth in New Testament times.
Added to this, Paul, who of course had much to do with the establishing of the churches in Europe, such as Corinth and Thessalonica, makes some very relevant points. He makes it very clear as to how he feels in Galatians 1 & 2
“For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ… I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.” – Galatians 1:11-19
1. He did not receive the gospel from any man.
2. He did not go to Jerusalem at first.
3. After 3 years he went to meet with Peter for 15 days and also met James but not the governing body.
This is not the behaviour of a man who brings the churches he starts, under the authority of Jerusalem.
“Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain… But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) – well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me.” – Galatians 2:1-6.
1. Next trip to Jerusalem 14 years later.
2. Did not put himself in subjection to the governing body.
3. Didn’t have any time for reputations.
4. The governing body contributed nothing to Paul.
These verses show the lie of the statement in the Watchtower article.
The article next goes on to find out what happened to this one church, which as we see from the beginning was never one under the authority of the one governing body. What the Society fails to see, or probably does not want to seriously consider, was that the oneness of the churches had nothing to do with submitting to a one man/body leadership but was everything to do with living out the teaching of Christ in their area.
As the article develops, they show that Jesus Himself says that there would be tares amongst the wheat. However, the only example they actually give of this is the claimed apostolic succession of the Roman Catholic church which is dismissed in one sentence, by saying that there is no credible evidence (how many Watchtower claims could we say the same about?)
Then drawing to a close, they ask about other churches from the Reformation,
“Did they return to the model of the early Christian congregation? Did they restore the purity of the original Christian congregation?” – p.6
All this, of course, leads to the conclusion that the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society is the only one who has done this.
Yet, it must be noted, that the only claim in the article made that we can judge against is that there was one Governing Body – something we have already shown to be totally non-Scriptural.
We must then come to the inevitable conclusion from the Watchtower’s own writings that they are not the one true church.