The World Tomorrow

What Is The True Church Like? - Part 1

by Herbert W Armstrong


And greetings, friends. This is Herbert W Armstrong with the Good News of the World Tomorrow.

And once again I say, "What’s wrong with this world today?" The thing that’s wrong is that the churches have not had the true medicine to save this world. They haven’t provided the stabilizing influence; they haven’t had the knowledge; they haven’t set the example to change this world into what it should be and to lead this world into the way of peace and into the way of happiness and all that we ought to have. I wonder if you realize that God Almighty and the Bible holds the religious professing people and the preachers and the ministers responsible for the condition.

Now where is the true Church today? Jesus Christ had said, "I will build my Church" (Matthew 16:18). He did build His Church. Which church is the true Church of God today – that is the true Church that Jesus built – the Church of which He is the Living Head? Where are you going to find that Church among all of these hundreds of different sects and denominations; or are you going to find it among any of them?

They all disagree; they all claim to get what they believe out of the same textbook, the Bible, which simply is another way of saying, my friends that they all claim that the Bible says something different. One says the Bible says this; another says, "No, you’re wrong; that church is wrong. It says what we think." And another says, "You’re both wrong. Here’s what the Bible says."

Should One Interpret The Bible? (PLAY from 01:40)

Now what does that mean? Well it means that they are not reading the Bible like they read any other book. You hear that you can prove anything by the Bible. You hear a lot about different interpretations of the Bible.

Now you take some book on science. You take some book on ancient history. And do you find that this professor has his interpretation of this book on science or history or something of the kind and in another college there’s another professor that has a different interpretation of that book? And over here in another is a different one.

You take a textbook on chemistry. Do you find that one professor in one college says, "Well I teach this book a certain way. This is my interpretation of this book of chemistry. Now my interpretation of H2O is so-and-so." But another man thinks H2O is something altogether different. Why of course not. Wherever you go H2O is just water. And they all see it the same way. They don’t have different interpretations.

But when you come to the Bible, my friends, they don’t read it like any other book. Now do you know why? There is a reason. Everyone has to try to change the Bible and try to pretend that it doesn’t say what it does but says what he wants to make it say. And that is his interpretation! That’s where we get interpretations.

Now the Bible shouldn’t be interpreted. Someone says, "Well Mr Armstrong, what’s your interpretation?" I say, "I don’t have any," that’s my reply. I accept the interpretation of Jesus Christ. He’s the Author of the Bible; He’s the Divine Architect of the Bible and the plans and the blueprint of the life we ought to be living and that which we should be building. And we should be working according to the plans and the blueprint.

If you’re employing a contractor to build a building for you and you’ve employed an architect, he’s drawn up the plans. And you furnish the blueprints, now, to the contractor and you’ve approved it – you’re the builder and it’s just the way you want it. The architect has done a wonderful job – it’s absolutely perfect. You approve everything he’s done.

But the builder says, "Well, this is my interpretation of those plans". Where it says, 'This is to go two feet this way,' he interprets that to mean six feet. And in another place he interprets it to mean two-and-a-half inches.

What are you going to do with a contractor like that? You’re going to fire him. And you know we’re the builders that are building something. And God supplied the Architect – Jesus Christ. And He wrote out the plans and the blueprint of what we’re supposed to build – and that’s the Bible.

And we twist it around. We don’t take the plans as they are. We try to twist it and change it. Well I hope - I shouldn’t say, "We." But some people do. What about you? Are you doing it that way? Or are you doing it some other way?

Assume Nothing (PLAY from 04:34)

Now if you’re going to look for the true Church, let me tell you who the - what the true Church is and where you’re going to find it. You have to know what to look for first.

You know the trouble is, my friends, we have been assuming something. We have been assuming that the Church is the organized political religious body or bodies that will profess that they’re Christian, that’ll put a Christian label on the outside of the bottle or the package or whatever it may be. And we accept it and we just believe it; we swallow it absolutely. We never look inside to see whether it is genuine and whether the label is truthful or not.

And so we just look at organized bodies that have the name, 'Christian,' and suppose that that must be the church. You know the Bible said that "many false prophets would go out into the world" (Matthew 24:11,24 paraphrased). That’s what Jesus Himself foretold.

And in the book of Revelation you will find – and Jesus is the Revelator and the real Author of it – that all the nations have become drunk on the false teachings of paganism – on the wrong spiritual teachings. And they’re so drunk about it today that when you begin to give truth and to get a certain piece of truth – and most of you out there, my friends, you get a certain piece of truth on a certain broadcast that I bring you. It’s a challenge. Perhaps it offends you at first. You look in your Bible. You see, "Well that’s true. What this man said is true. And what we have always been believing and supposing the Bible said is not true."

But then right away you think of something else you have been taught and that you believe that contradicts that. And "Yeah, but how do you explain that?" And then something else comes up – a thousand and one errors that you have been taught – you have been inoculated with. And wrong teachings come up to your mind until you can’t see the truth. And most of you are exactly in that fix today. And it’s almost a hopeless case.

And unless you can do what I had to do years ago when God struck me down as certainly as He did the apostle Paul and when He was calling me into His work; and I came to see that the Bible said exactly the opposite of what I had been taught in Sunday school. I had to lay everything that I had ever believed and swallowed and accepted and been inoculated with upon the shelf so to speak – on the figurative shelf. I laid it up there; I put it out of my mind. I said, "I won’t trust anything that I had supposed was true. I’m going to prove everything now. And not just try to prove what the other fellow says is false. I’m going to prove whether what I believe is right or false."

Well a few of the things I laid on the shelf I was able to bring back down because everything I had been taught wasn’t wrong. And I hope you understand me. I don’t say that everything that any church or every church or any church teaches is all wrong because in this world we have a mixture of good and evil – a mixture of truth and error. And I don’t know any church that doesn’t have some truth.

Now you may want to contradict that. You may think you know of some church somewhere that you don’t like and you may think they don’t have any truth. But I know most of the church denominations and most of their doctrines and every one of them has some truth somewhere. Some have more and some have less. But I don’t know any that has all truth.

Now we’re all human and we’re living in a world that’s very greatly mixed up and a world that’s drunk spiritually. And its spiritual eyes are so blurred that it sees double and it can’t see sharply and clearly. And I tell you my friends you can never get to the real truth unless you can undergo the process of unlearning. And you have so many things, that you have accepted, to unlearn.

How did you come to believe what you believe? Well there are four processes, but the main one and the way in which you have come to believe most of the things you believe is simply that you have just accepted and memorized what you’ve heard or what you’ve read. You’ve just come to believe like other people. You want to be popular; you want to be one of the crowd; you like to conform. And we’ve all been conforming to this world.

The Bible says, "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). And our minds ought to be renewed. We need to sweep out and clear out the rubbish and clean house in our minds. And that goes, my friends, for most of you listening, I know, because nearly everybody is in the same boat.

Now the true Church is composed – if you want to find God’s Church, the Church of which Jesus Christ is the Head in the first place – it is not a political organization. It’s a spiritual organism. And it is composed of certain individuals. And they may, and they may not, know one another. They may, and they may not, be organized. That is not the thing. There is no place in the Bible that said that the Church would be an organization all of whose names are written on some ledger or some book kept by some human secretary or some person or man – or woman. There is nothing of the kind.

Led By The Holy Spirit (PLAY from 09:52)

The Church is composed of those who are the begotten children of God and who are led by the Holy Spirit. And to be led of the Spirit you must not be led around by your own carnal nature. Your mind resides up and over and above the natural human carnal nature that is in you. It’s in every one of us. And you can come to see where the pulls and the impulses and the strong desires of human nature and of the carnal mind are wrong. And you can reject them. And you can have the will to direct yourself in the way that you see you should go if you use your mind to see what is right and sift out the wheat from the chaff.

Now the true Church, then, are those individuals that are begotten of God and led by His Holy Spirit. And I mean really led by the Spirit and not led by other people. They’re not led by tradition. They are not led by the crowd. They’re not conformed to this world. They’ve come out of this world and they are separate.

Jesus said that His Church would be those that come out of the world. I don’t mean live away from it. He said He didn’t pray that they should leave or go out of the world, but that they should not be OF the world (John 17:14-16). And we have come out in the sense that we are no longer of it. Yet Jesus commissioned His Church to go into the world and to preach the gospel to the world, but not to partake of its ways, its beliefs, its ideas.

Again, I’ve been quoting so often lately that passage in Isaiah 55 that tells you how to find God! Everybody’s been seeking God. I read of one man that started to seek God as a little bit of a child. He was taken to Sunday school one time when he was just a little child. He’s a very famous writer. You’d know his name if I’d mention it. He’s nationally known, has been a very famous editor of a great magazine and has written on a number of religious subjects. And this very famous editor – I’m not mentioning his name because I’m not sure I have all the details just exactly correct. I read his book on this subject some time ago and don’t try to retain it exactly.

But approximately this was his experience: that he was taken to Sunday school. And he was impressed with the sanctity and with great awe of the church building in which he was and was told it was the house of God. He was just a little child and well, if this was God’s house that meant the house belonged to God. And he says, "Well now I want to see God, then. Where’s God?"

Well they couldn’t show God to him. And he was just a little feller. And so he started going away from the others. And he remembers, now, that later they found him back behind a lot of things. He was looking into closets; he was looking everywhere trying to find God. He thought, "Well, if this is God’s house, God must be in it somewhere. He must be around here." And he was going to try to find God. Well that was the beginning of his search for God. And he kept on searching for God ever since.

Now a lot of people are trying to find God. They’re searching for God. But they just want to search for God in their own way, in their own human reasoning. And the God they search for – that they finally wind up with – is one of their own invention by their own human mind. In other words the God they finally produce is a god of their own creation. And they become God’s creator. And God is merely a figment of their imagination and is far less than they are because He’s nothing but a phantom that they originated.

Now most of the gods that are described to you today – and many famous people have come out with a new conception of God. They say, "I have a new concept of God. I’ve been searching for God and at last I have found God." Oh have you?

Well if you want to find God I’ll tell you how: "’ll have to forsake your ways and you’ll have to forsake your thoughts. And you’ll have to return to God whose ways are not your ways and whose thoughts are as high as the heavens are above the earth over your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:6-9 paraphrased). They’re not like yours at all. And yours are just like other human beings. And you go along with the mob and the crowd and just like sheep you want to be along with everybody else.

You like to be popular; you want to be well thought of. Women want other people to think they’re pretty. And men want other people to think they’re important. And you all go along wanting to be well thought of of other people. You want the pleasures of other people. And you care more about what other people think than anything else. So you want to conform. You’ll never find God that way. No one ever did find God until they can forsake all that sort of thing entirely.

Now God is the Creator, my friends. He created us; you can’t create Him. Anything that you create isn’t God. It’s only something imaginary that - you know God did give us a mind something like His. Only it isn’t as all-encompassing and as all-powerful or as perfect as His.

And the way we’ve used our minds – inventing engines of destruction and using our minds to beat the other feller, take advantage of him and to destroy and to tear down – it’s a good thing God limited our power and the amount of mind power that we have, isn’t it? Because man has turned his mind to wrong pursuits entirely too much.

Well the true Church are those who believe the faith once delivered – that is the message by Jesus Christ. The faith once delivered was delivered by Jesus Christ. He taught it to His disciples. They became apostles; they taught it to the Church. And the faith once delivered is the faith that was believed by that Church during the first 38 years of its existence after the resurrection of Christ. (Jude 3)

The true Church are those who have the doctrines and the teachings of Jesus. They believe what He taught. The churches today believe exactly the opposite. You can go through the New Testament as we’ve been doing; you can see what Jesus taught. Today they teach almost diametrically the opposite.

Now when I say they teach the opposite, here and there will be a church that doesn’t teach opposite on that point, but will on another. I realize that. And yet I have to mention what is more or less is generally and popularly taught by various churches today. You’ll have to see whether the shoe fits any particular church or denomination or not. I’m not trying to do that because my purpose isn’t to say anything against any church. I’m not here to run churches down. That’s not the purpose. Some people seem to think it is; it isn’t.

Enslaved to Sin (PLAY from 16:22)

My purpose, my friends, is to WAKE YOU UP AND TO OPEN UP YOUR MIND AND TO GET YOU TO SEE THE TRUTH and bring you into the wonderful truth of God which is the only thing that can ever make you free. And you’re not free. Most of you are slaves. You’re slaves to passion; you’re slaves to sin, but you don’t even know what sin is. Very few preachers know what sin is.

You think sin is doing what you think is wrong or what your crowd says is wrong and condemns. And that’s not God’s definition of sin at all. God set laws in motion. Those laws are LIVING THINGS. THEY ARE POWERS; THEY ARE FORCES; THEY ARE ENERGIES. And they are in motion. There are spiritual laws and there are physical laws. And sin is the transgression of the laws that God created and set in motion – inexorable, LIVING, POWERFUL LAWS!

And the whole world is violating those laws. And that’s why the world is bringing unhappiness on itself. You violate one law it’ll give you a headache. You violate another law it’ll bring you a heartache. You violate another law it’ll bring you a stomach-ache. And we’re just full of all kinds of aches and pains because we’re violating laws.

You know WAR IS NOTHING BUT THE PENALTY OF VIOLATED LAW! AND THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN EVER END WAR AND CAN EVER BRING US PEACE IS THE ONE WHO CAN PAY THE PENALTY OF SIN and turn us away from our ways and into the righteous ways of God’s law. War has come from violating the law of God. If all the nations had kept the Ten Commandments, according to spirit of those commandments, there would never have been any war. Jesus Christ is the only One that can bring us peace.

Let me tell you God has told us what to do and it’s in the prophecies. And He warned us what not to do. And you’ll find it in prophecies like Hosea and Amos in your Bible, if you ever know how to apply it and know where the United States is mentioned in prophecy, and if you understand what prophecies are intended for us and have any understanding of prophecy at all.

And the one thing God tells us not to do is to rely on foreign powers as allies and to try to ally with them. And that’s all we ever do. We don’t rely on God. We make some empty platitude prayers to God, but we don’t put our hearts in our prayers. We don’t really believe that God is there listening and that He’s going to answer, do we? I mean the nation as a whole doesn’t – maybe some of its individuals. But it’s going to take more than one or two individuals before God will answer and save this whole nation.

Now the true Church are those that are begotten of God and led of the Holy Spirit – those who believe the faith once delivered which is the faith of Jesus Christ that Jesus taught and that the early Church did believe – the doctrines and the teachings of Jesus and those who follow the example and the customs of Jesus as He did.

Well today they all follow exactly opposite doctrines and customs and ways and everything of the sort. The true Church will be exactly the same as the early Church under Apostolic times.

Now again the true Church is composed of those who have been corrected, those who have been reproved, and have been changed by the Word of God, those who have forsaken their thoughts and their ways, those who have come out of the world in the sense that they no longer are OF the world – even though, of course, they’re still in it. And those that have become UN-conformed to the world, who are no longer conformed to the world, but have had their minds changed by the Spirit of God which is the Spirit of a sound mind.

That Which Condemns The World (PLAY from 20:16)

And now the minute you begin to do that - and the minute you begin to believe what Jesus taught, and the minute you begin to do what Jesus did they’re going to call you a fanatic. Now they called Him one. They hated Him. They sought to kill Him and they finally did. And Jesus said, "If they’ve hated me, they’ll hate you also. If they’ve persecuted me, they will persecute you also. The servant is not greater than his lord." (John 15:18-20 paraphrased)

The Church then – is the Church greater than its Lord? Do the churches today think, "Well we’re not persecuted." Jesus was – are they greater than He? Jesus said that His Church would be persecuted! Why? Because His Church is composed of those that have forsaken their own ideas and the customs and the ways of society and they’re living by every word of God. They’re the people who look on the Bible with respect and with awe and as the Supreme Authority and who recognize the authority of the Word of God, who look upon God as the Supreme Authority.

What do most people do? Well they look on their own conscience as authority – or they look on the proclamations of men or the decisions of their church board. No one who looks at anything like that is a member of the true Church.

Now they’re the same as the early Church and that Church was persecuted. They are they that have forsaken their ideas, their ways, their thinking. And that means they’ve forsaken the thinking of the world because the world are like so many sheep all going along in the same pattern, all trying to be, well to conform with whatever is the accepted pattern. Yes - no originality. You know the right way to be original is to find God’s way and follow it.

Now when you forsake the way of society and when you follow the way of Jesus and the teaching of Jesus and the customs that He observed, as I say, you’re going to be called a fanatic.

Now here is what brings on the persecution. It’s because this changed life in the true Spirit-begotten Christian, well it just sort of convicts and condemns those who won’t forsake their thoughts and who won’t take this correction and reproof, because the Bible is "...profitable to correct us and reprove us and instruct us in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16 paraphrased). And righteousness is not the way of human nature. That’s a different way. And so it begins to condemn these other people that won’t forsake their thoughts and their ways, that won’t take any correction or reproof. And what is the human, carnal way of reacting to that? Well it’s to begin to persecute the person who is living the right way.

Now a person living the right way may not even try to tell anybody else about it or argue about it or even talk about it. But the very life of that person accuses and condemns the other people that know they’re guilty. And they begin to feel uncomfortable and miserable. And so they’ve got to start saying things against the person that’s living as he ought. And they start to persecute.

And so the true Church, my friends, is that body of individuals – whether organized or scattered – that have ALWAYS BEEN PERSECUTED AND BEEN UNPOPULAR! And Jesus called them, "the little flock." (Luke 12:32)

Now I was showing you in the Bible where very early in their history a great persecution arose and they were all scattered. Later there was another church at Jerusalem, but later that was scattered again. And I read you the scriptures prophesying that the Church would be scattered. And it has been scattered.

Lying Children (PLAY from 23:57)

Isaiah prophesied of these days. And this is what he said in the thirtieth chapter of Isaiah beginning with the eighth verse.

"Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever [it’s a prophecy for the time to come, not in his day] that this is a rebellious people [that is, rebellious against God. They’re not rebellious against their own consciences. They’re not rebellious against the doctrine that they say, "That our group or our church believes"]. But they’re rebellious against God] lying children. (Isaiah 30:8-9)

Now who are, 'lying children?' If you turn over to I John, the second chapter and the fourth verse, you will see:

"He that saith, I know him [the person that claimed to know God, the people that have the form of godliness, but deny the power thereof, the people that are so sanctimonious and go to church and all that sort of thing] he that saith, I know him and keepeth not his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him." (I John 2:4)

Now here they are, 'lying children,' and they’re a people that won’t hear the law of the Lord.

"Go write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be [way for the future] the time to come for ever and ever: that this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Eternal." (Isaiah 30:8-9)

There you are: the people that won’t hear the law of the Eternal, yet they profess to be religious and Christian. And, in I John 2:4 four, God calls them, 'liars.' And here in Isaiah 30:9, God calls them, 'lying children.'

"Which say to the seers, See not; and to the preachers, Preach not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, preach deceits." (Isaiah 30:10)

I know a church where the people had a pastor that used the Word of God. "And the Word of God is profitable to correct and reprove" (II Timothy 3:16). And finally there came a time where this preacher preached something on faith that didn’t seem to correct or reprove anyone. It was merely an instruction in faith. And they all took it as a sentimental sermon. And one of them said, "Oh I did enjoy that sermon this time." They said, "For once you didn’t lambaste at us." And they’re a people that just want peace among themselves. They don’t want a preacher that will lambaste at them and strike out at them and use the Word of God to condemn them and make them feel miserable. They want to come and, well, get solace and rest from their week’s work. And a preacher that will flatter them and tell them they’re doing just right and make them feel good so they can go back home feeling fine and very well pleased with themselves. Yes that’s the way it is.

"They say to the preachers, Preach not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, preach deceits" (Isaiah 30:10). There you are and that’s the church today. Now you find that church recorded – and all of its divisions and denominations – in the seventeenth chapter of Revelation - the true Church of God in the twelfth chapter of Revelation. And in the next broadcast in this series we’ll try to go through the description of what was to happen and the prophecy of the true Church and what was to happen to it. And it may tell you where you can find it and something about it in the twelfth chapter of the book of Revelation.