The Bible plainly predicts: "For the time will come when [men] will not endure sound doctrine " but "they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Timothy 4:3,4). This prophecy has been fulfilled, resulting in many man-made denominations nowhere mentioned in the Bible. Since this is true, we ask whether it is possible for the church to exist today as it did in the New Testament; and if so, how?
Tracing a succession of church leaders back to the first century would prove nothing. For if, as the Bible predicts, a church departed from God's way somewhere in history, that church would displease God, even if it could trace its leaders back to the first century.
Actually, God has provided a very simple means to guarantee that His church can exist in any age. That means is the power of the gospel. The New Testament often refers to the gospel as seed. Just as plants and animals reproduce by means of seed, so people become Christians - members of the New Testament church - by means of God's seed, the gospel.
When seed from a plant is planted into good soil, that seed sprouts and produces a plant of the same type as that from which the seed came. Likewise, 1 Peter 1:23 teaches that we are "born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides for ever." It is by the seed of God's word, then, that we are "born again" to become children in God's family, which is the church (1 Timothy 3:15). The gospel seed is preserved by God's power so it will exist in every age, having power to make true Christians of those who are willing to obey it.
In this way, New Testament Christians can be formed in any age and any place. All we need is to plant God's Word in people's hearts by diligent teaching of God's true gospel without any human changes. When people obey, they are born again into God's family, the one true church (Acts 2:47).
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 9/2007
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