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Church Unity and the Apostolic Faith

Many of us involved in world wide christianity are upset by the divisions in the church, but divisions in the churches are not new. They have occurred throughout the entire history of the church from the time of the apostles up to our contemporary age. We will try to explain the cause of this within the context of our faith.

Some of the differences may be that various churches are seeking reconciliation to God through human “works” or because of the “prideful ambitions” of leaders insist on absolute authority and unconditional obedience. But this is not the faith and practice of the apostolic churches which follow the faith as delivered to them by Christ Himself.

These churches we are speaking of have departed from traditional beliefs and do not offer peace, assuage the conscience, or lead to a satisfactory physical life.

We need to be ruled by our inner belief, in a living faith, in practicing our faith in the world. We cannot be a part of the world or make concessions to it. If we do our faith suffers. Christ tells us that the Kingdom is not of this world, not of the physical world, and it is completely set apart. Those values are not of this world. Those values are to worship God completely mind, body and soul, and to love one another.

The church likewise cannot follow the inclinations of a fallen nature in humankind. It needs to teach true faith and practice or it is deceiving itself. It will lose its savor as denatured salt does. And Christ tells us we cannot have two mansters -- we will accept one and deny the other. We must choose Christ and leave the world to follow its own path to destruction, because it is finite, and all matter is headed to eventual destruction. Spirit is the only thing which survives, and eternal life is only found in God and through His Promises to us.

Although we believe in a certain amount of human goodness, we also believe the world is continually growing worse. People are losing love of one another, their zeal of faith is growing cool, and they today are uneducated in faith, and we see a growing renewal of older pagan practices. This apostasy is important because it demonstrates the times we live in. We do not want to dilute faith with any of these, we must remain apart in order to be zealous for God and for souls. So any human works, we have to admit, do not save us. Nor does belonging to any one physical church save us. Revelation demonstrates that there are seven churches which are all in the hand of Christ, all belong to Him.

The ONLY salvation is when we accept the "gift" of God. This gift as the word implies, is completely and utterly "unmerited" by us in ANY WAY by our condition, our works, our prayers, our desires, our urges, etc. — God offers this gift to us based on the Redemptive work of Christ, and makes it available to everyone who believes God’s Word and acts upon it. With free will we grasp salvation and accept what God is offering. Since this is a gift we need to have the intention of taking it from Him.

We must surely know that no matter how often we fast, give up meat, kneel to pray, or give our body up to uncountable suffering or even do the most austere works of asceticism, — these do not save, nor do they improve our "salvation" perspective. We must constantly remind ourselves and others that it is not our behavior which opens the doors of Heaven but only our willingness to accept God’s offer --- ONLY then do the works of Christ have power to save us and to reconcile us to God.

The nature of Divine Sacrifice is such that atonement for sin committed against the Law of God needed a suitable victim to effect it. However it could not be just any substitute victim, but according to God’s Sacrificial Law it had to be one who was without blemish, who would die in our stead, upon whom our sins would be heaped, and then the victim would be immolated in sacrifice, and die. That is what the sacrificial system is all about. It continued from the time of Moses up until the time of Christ. There was a formality to it, which needed to be kept strictly for it to work. God allowed no deviation from it in the faith because many things which were instituted were direct relationships and typs of what is existing in Heaven at the Throne.

When Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God in the Garden, they were shown that an innocent victim had to be chosen and a blood sacrifice effected to remedy the situation. God took a suitable innocent animal victim and clothed them with the skins to show what the system could teach them. Only the blood of innocents had the power to set aside punishment. Yet in spite of the sacrifice, they still lost Paradise and incurred the curse of God's Anger. God informed them they would labor for their bread, tilling the soil that would be prone to thistles and thorns, and that childbirth would inflict pain and misery. But there were another penalty also, DEATH. Sin had brought death into the world, and the human nature as a result of it had fallen, and would be susceptible to sin ever afterwards.

The eating of the fruit brought death but God promised that "in time" He would send a Redeemer born into the lineage of Adam who would rectify this and restore what had been lost. The initiation of animal sacrifice according to God’s Plan was kept in force all the time from Adam to Noah when all life but for a very few was swept away. From Noah to Moses the promise was still effective. But from Moses’ time the Plan was elaborated on more completely and given to the people as laws and commandments.

The Messiah was born into the human line so that "the heel of the seed of the woman" would crush the "head of the serpent" forever. The serpent in the Garden had been the tempter, the adversary and the accuser of humans and God allowed the Devil to accuse as he desired because he was the former covering cherub, but in the last days this would cease.

Christ would crush the head of the Serpent with his heel for all time, and temptation would cease. This system which was given to Moses was in detail, and continued until the people would recognize and accept Jesus as the "Promised Messiah". Christ’s Sacrifice thus ended the entire system of animal sacrifice...
When Christ came, He was the "Lamb of God", the chosen "Victim", the "Son of God" and after His death animals no longer were effective in any transference or appeasement of sin. Under the New Covenant which Christ’s death ratified only the Body and Blood of the Lamb was valid for forgiveness of sin, wiping it away, and for reconcilition to God the Father by imputing to the sinner the righteousness of Christ. This is why Christ is our ONLY Mediator and Advocate with the Father. He is not only the High Priest Forever, but is the Offering.

Jesus Christ the “anointed one” is after 2000 years still our bloodless sacrificial offering -- both a memorial until He comes again, AND as the REAL Body and Blood of Christ the Messiah (Yeshua Ha Mashiah) which must be eaten to have life eternal. As members of the "Mystical Body of Christ" which is of ALL believers we partake of the Sacrifice at Communion. This ensures that we are continuing members of the "one, holy, universal and apostolic" church and we are grafted onto the Vinestock Christ so that we bear fruit, nourished and fostered in our growth and fruition.

What the Old Testament system did annually was “transfer” the sins from the individual to the Sanctuary by the work of the High Priest. This lightened the burden of sin on the people yearly but did not “forgive” sin, nor did it “appease” God or do away with sin. Christ needed to die in our place, so that ALL sin could be forgiven, by the ratification of the New Testament Covenant, and the Sanctuary emptied of its burden. This resulted in a reconciliation back to God the Creator. This done, ONLY ONCE by Jesus who was both "Victim" and "High Priest". He offered it once and then sat down at the right hand of God His Father in his throne. Jesus as the proper Lamb of Sacrifice was the Victim of Infinite Worth. He followed the Old Testament system to the letter to fulfill all the conditions. The work completed, He said on the Cross “It is Finished” and died in order to ratify the New Covenant’s effectiveness. To demonstrate to us that the Sacrifice was accepted, God the Father raised Him from the dead after the third day in a glorified body of Pure Light. But Christ to show that it was still Him in His Body, although He was not subject to physical conditions any longer, still broke bread and ate with them. Even Thomas was allowed to put his finger into the wounds to show there was "substance" even though the body was glorified.

What did the Law teach us? Saint Paul tells us in his Epistle to the Romans, scripture teaches that after mankind’s fall, people still had innate knowledge of the Law, yet hadn’t the same law which was delivered to the Israelites and consequently to us as christians. Still they knew in their hearts what should have been truth, but reason turned the mind aside into corruption. Reasoning faith was the equivalent of “theologizing” and “philosophizing” which ruins by contorting truth, perverting it, and by trying to bend belief into understanding. It is like the Balaam who had an underlying desire which corrupted his faith.

Paul explains that the sin of pagans was attempting to reconcile their self proclaimed "God" made in their own image to be a "Deity" who accepted good works, self devised worship, inneffective sacrifice, along with pagan morality. Pagan morality allowed of human flaws and perversions, and they proclaimed their own "God and gods" equally human in the same things. Their gods had the same flaws and emotions as humans and the pantheon was filled with stories of their scandalous escapades, both shocking and humorous too.

In Acts we are told they inscribed upon their altar the words “To an Unknown God” to indicate that they believed in an unknowable god whose name they didn't know. Many of them called God Ya, and the son of God was called Ya-Zeus or "Ya-The Father God."

A religion of the Law was inscribed in written form through Moses but after Christ’s appearance God promised it would be inscribed directly on the heart, or the feeling mind of the individual, -- meaning that only after Christ would we know instinctively what was right and wrong and follow it from the dictation of our hearts. The heart informs the individual a differentiation between good and evil, showing right living and setting apart examples of living in error. This is the work of the Holy Spirit that we receive when we enter the faith at our baptism. The Law and the Gospel explain that “ NO ONE” is without sin, and all Law is ineffective since we can never keep all of it, it can never save us, and we cannot do any good works without God’s help or God’s grace. Christ’s Sacrifice reconciles but first the law teaches that we are sinful, partake of a fallen nature inherited from our first parents, and are prone to sin.

"Works" are a demonstration of the fruition of faith. They only have validity for showing who is fruiting and who is not -- or who bears good fruit and who bears bad fruit. Fruition is like trees that bear good or bad fruits, some are good to eat others are unpallatable or wormeaten, and by this them divides up those who are to be judged by God. We may then observe and avoid bearing bad fruit. Although we are allowed to “discern” good from bad we cannot "judge" in any way since we don’t understand the inner nature of the individual as God does. God knowing all things then judges rightly and justly in each individual case.

The Christian Church is governed by the Word of God, so it seems odd that there should be divisions in the “one, holy, catholic (meaning universal), and apostolic” church. Yet if we look more closely we see who has separated from the path and who still keeps to it. We are supposed to learn what to do or not to do or believe to remain faithful in the church.

We are supposed to be of one Body, which is of course the One Mystical Body of Christ in our communion. We partake to show we are One but also to be strengthened by partaking of Him who Redeemed us. We are one even as Christ and the Father are One. So no matter how many divisions appear in the physical churches, we know there is only “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” church. The word “Holy” is used to indicate that the Blood of the Lamb covers us and also imputes to us the Righteousness of Christ as promised in Sacred Scripture, and also sanctifies us in the process. The book of Revelation reveals symbolically that there are seven churches which Christ warns, admonishes or praises. The church of the philadelphians is one which “loves mankind”... but each church is told where its faults lie, or where its strengths are, and what they must do to be given their own special crowns when Christ rewards them.

Since the “Body of Christ” IS the church of all believers — as the word “ekklesia” means, a gathering of the people — then it is not the building, or the physical membership, or the physical structure which is the “church” -- but the individual believers together as a WHOLE who are the church.

A physical church can have many members but like wheat and tares growing together until harvest, the two will not be separated until judgment comes. It is only when we are believing rightly that we are in the faith, and only when we try remain faithful in good lives which are the result of belief that we come to see the deeper pattern of God’s love.

. Sacred Scripture tells us Abraham was considered “righteous” by his faith in God, his belief in God’s Promises and his obedience to God’s will — “he believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” This is also how those before Christ come to be considered “righteous” because they believed God and the promises that God had made, even though they were not fulfilled within their own lifetimes. The terms since the establishing and ratifying of the New Covenant are that we are justified by the “imputing” of Christ’s Righteousness to us by God, because we accept the Redemption and have faith in it as being effective to our salvation, but also our blood covering.

What is “imputing”? — It means that we have it as a gift, without merit and we are righteous even though we are all sinners because Christ's Blood is applied to us. Christ’s Righteousness is all that God sees when He looks upon us then. We are under the Blood just as the blood of the passover lamb protected the Israelites from the Angel of Death before they left Egypt. God does not see our sins but 'passes over' them because when He looks upon us all that He sees is the Most Precious Blood of His Son. He imputes then to us Christ's own Righteousness. For us to remain under the Blood, we need to work at being christians and producing good fruits by our calling in faith.

Yes but some will say, "look at the sinners who are in the church!" Well St. Paul tries to teach us that "before" we had faith we were all thieves, liers, gossipers, etc. -- all manner of sinners. But "after" we have faith, we "STILL ARE" but only then we are living by SPIRIT and not bound by flesh any longer. The sinful habits have no hold on us any more. We still have them but they have no power over us any longer.

We are righteous in God’s sight because we have the Blood of the Lamb over us. How does this continue in us? It does so only after baptism when we continue to confess our sins and to receive forgiveness for those most recently committed through the official channel of authentic ministry. Christ told the apostles "whose sins you forgive they are forgiven, whose sins you retain they are retained." Only those who descend from the gift to the Apostles have this validity, and it is an indication that faith is kept intact although there are some variations within belief. The variations are considered to be typical of the work of the apostles whose work was not homogenous or unified, but varied according to local customs, practices, or societal idiosyncracies.

The faith is simple. It is not complicated. All the rules and regulations of the church are man-made laws instituted for good government, but they are not God's Commandments. Variations in this respect are called 'Ekonomie' in the church, to indicate that the bishops decide what is to be kept and what may be dispensed. Theological reasoning if it broaches the Word of God in any way is avoided. In our jurisdiction we do not make lots of laws, we feel that most understand from their heart what is required, since they are educated in the faith and as adults must be responsible for their own conduct before God.

If a church becomes overly theological, it will also lose its way. Some things cannot be explained in theology, and so many will say that it is entirely unexplainable or a mystery. It is like trying to explain the change of substance in the offertory gifts into the REAL Body and Blood of Christ. We know they are changed because Jesus Himself said “ THIS IS MY BODY”. He did not say “this is bread and it is symbolically my body”. No He said “ This IS MY BODY.” So since he is not concealing anything from the apostles at the Last Supper as He might in parable to the public at large, we must believe that the sacrament which He instituted IS the very real Body of Jesus Himself — it is the REAL Jesus there after the words are said over the bread. Being the second person of the Holy Trinity He could do what He likes to effect what He wishes even to set aside physical laws. If we look at Genesis we will see that God said “Let there be light” and it was so. The light appeared at God’s WORD, — Christ Himself is God’s Word, even as He is God’s Word as an enfleshment of Sacred Scriptures.

If we look at other churches we will often find that the hierarchy insists that only they have the authority and the power to change what is written in Sacred Scriptures. This has never been the case, even the Apostles themselves did not tamper with Scripture, but always explained it and taught from it. They didn’t change the Old Testament, and they never altered the New Testament once it was composed and accepted as the Word of God. It is because Christ is the Head of the Church and the Head of the Mystical Body that we read and study the Bible, so that we will know Him and understand the work which He wrought in the world during His “tabernacling” with us in the flesh. And by the giving of the Holy Spirit, He teaches us all truth. Not only do validly ordained priests and bishops have this, but the people have it from their baptismal anointing and laying on of hands in chrismation and confirmation. The gifts of the Spirit then are given variously to the people who use it for the good of the whole 'ekklesia' and for the increasing of faith in the Body of Christ. These gifts do not reside in any 'one' church exclusively but are in the “entire” Body of Christ. God does not segregate this only because He favors one church over another. All churches are in the hands of Christ just as all the stars are in the hand of Christ in the book of Revelation.

The work of the hierarchy of the church is to teach and to guide the faithful in the faith, to maintain it correctly among them, and to be a means for consecrating the sacraments for distributing to believers. They perpetuate the faith in others, accept new converts, baptize and offer the sacrament of the altar, ordain to Holy Orders, preach, offer example of life, role model, etc. The faith has never changed from the time of the Apostles and it never will until the end of time. That is Jesus’ promise that He will never abandon the work of His Mystical Body, and He has sent to His people the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to teach and to guide always. We run into problems when we think we have a new revelation which changes the nature of our faith into something new and man made, making God in our image instead of accepting Him in His Own Image. God has inscrutible ways which we often times don’t understand, but we believe He has a Plan devised from the beginning of the world to effectively help all His people with His loving care and concern.

In many divisions of the church the reason often can be personal ambitions, pride or other matters which interfere with physical unity. Or it may be a desire to subjugate others to their own rule or to a system of power. When one body thinks it is justified to govern and rule over another, that too is a cause for disunity. Our apostolic traditions tell us all bishops are equal, no matter what unique honor they have as to the age of their see meaning their territory. We may elect suitable hierarchy, but we cannot guarantee that they will follow the original apostolic faith and we must understand that any organization within the church is merely attempting to work more efficiently for the benefit of all, excluding personal ambitions, pride, attitude, sin, etc. If this happens that a church falls away and becomes separated by belief or practice from the main body much to its own distress, we are warned not to follow them into error, but to stay the course just as if we had not been affected by the waves they are making in their distress. Even reformers who think they are applying necessary balm or preserving elements intact are doing neither. If anyone falls away from the faith we must leave them behind, even though we love them sincerely. Our only intercession is to try to reason with them and if the situation remains unremedied then to part from them and continue our journey alone, but to pray and intercede for them with God as part of our christian duty. Our religion is a “concensus” faith, we are equally yoked together, but if one changes from the equality, then we must leave them in order to keep our equilibrium. We are all traveling together, but we need to be more understanding of one another and forgiving and accepting, as Christ tells us to love our neighbor being a christian duty. But we do not compromise the faith or it endangers our own existence too.

Many reformers deny there is a REAL presence of Christ in the sacrament. They insist on theological hair splitting over what is or is not reasonable. Their faith then becomes a reasoning faith which we are told that our faith is largely “unreasonable” if we cling to faith closely. To admit that salvation is only available to those who hold membership in a particular jursidiction likewise is absurd because this is limiting God’s Providence to only one avenue. Christ even informed his apostles that He had other sheep of which they knew not. For Redemption to be applicable universally it must offer all human descendants the same free gift and not restricting it by saying it only belongs to those who are members one jurisdiction or who are predestined in some way to enjoy salvation for themselves alone.

We know the path it must take, since Christ Himself outlined it. To accept the gift of Salvation one must accept Christ as the method of reconciliation to God, and to be baptized, continuing then as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ Himself. Admitting to the universal character of God’s grace then must be a primary factor in understanding the nature of the Redemption. Anyone who says that we all cannot be saved has limited God in his Plan to offer forgiveness, atonement, and eternal life to whomever He wishes equally. We see further flaws in the doubts coming as a result of not believing Sacred Scripture as God’s Word on any subject. We find we need to admit that only in the simplicity of crushed human hearts that faith may enter and redeem. This is not found in any intellectual reasoning or theological disputation.

In any event we are told that even if faith were accompanied by many irrefutable miracles many still would not believe. Faith comes by hearing. When we hear the faith preached we open up to the sowing of the seed. This perhaps leads to our right hearing, a cure of our deafness, restoration of sight from our blindness and the sowing of the mustard seed which bursts open promising in the future a tree of gigantic proportions in its place.

For us to remain in the church we need to understand the faith common to us all, and to hold together with love and understanding, through frequent communion of the REAL Body and Blood of Christ.

This is how we remain grafted to the Vine and how we bear fruit worthy of a good harvest.