I’ve heard the Roman Catholic Church referred to as the one true church. And some protestant denominations may consider themselves more Christian than others. But, what makes one church more Christian than another? What is “church,” after all?
Ask an average Christian churchgoer what church is and you may get answers like: fellowship, singing together, praising and worshipping God together, praying together, evangelism, discipleship, giving, serving. One person once told me that church is a business. And I’ve seen some churches act as if their job is to erect a wall around them to protect themselves from the influences of the outside world.
But how do God and Jesus define church? What would they say is the one true church?
First, a warning. I freely accept that the answer I’ll offer may not be popular with some people. But, as it comes from the Bible, it’s the only answer I can faithfully give.
Okay, so let’s see what Jesus says. Once, having been asked when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied:
“The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
This may not seem like an obvious answer to my question, but it’s a clue. What else did Jesus say on the topic? Well, in his final hours before his death, while praying to his Father, Jesus said:
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me.” (John 17:22-23) and …
“I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known, in order that the love you have for me may be in them, and that I myself may be in them.” (v. 26)
Finally, Paul knew what the one true church was:
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
Jesus prayed for you to be so filled with His Spirit that you and He will be one and the same person. His Spirit can so fill you that you are Him. And Jesus blazed the trail for us, setting the example and opening the door for us so that we can follow Him and have the same relationship with Him as He had with God. As He was God-as-human, you can be Jesus-as-human. You too can be fully human and fully God.
On this Pentecost, we remember that day some 2000 years ago when the Holy Spirit entered into each member of the small group of early believers, establishing His church. Jesus’ Spirit wants to share his presence with you too, so you can be God’s temple on earth. THAT, is the One True Church.
The church is not a building, nor is it an organization of similarly minded people. The church is you. If I’ve done an effective job of conveying the reality of this truth to you, then pick up your Bible and read the New Testament with the image of Jesus within you, reading along with you. And you will clearly see how the four Gospels and all the letters that follow are absolutely filled with this picture of the one true Christian church.