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Which Church is Right?
by Elder Mark E. Petersen
When Jesus Christ lived in mortality he established a Church.(Mat. 16:18; Mat. 18:17; Acts 2:47; 5:11; 8:1; 11:26; 14:23) It was not the Church of John the Baptist who had prepared the way before him, nor was it the Church of Peter, nor of Paul or Apollos, nor of any other of his followers. It was his own Church. He was its head. (Eph. 5: 23) It was his to formulate and direct.
The Church was an organization through which his followers could work out their salvation (Phil. 2:12) and receive help and comfort, for they were not to be left in an unorganized condition. The Church was a necessary help and guide for each individual seeking to walk the narrow way which leads to life.
Admission to his Church was by baptism in water (Mat. 3:1-17; 28:19-20; Mark 16:14-16; John 3:5) and he himself set the example by receiving baptism at the hands of John. Those who joined his Church became heirs of salvation in that they were given the opportunity to accept his way of life and become like him. (Mat. 6:33; 5:48) He placed various officers in his Church with specific duties to perform.(Luke 6:12-16; 10:1; Eph. 4:11-14) They were commanded not only to preach the gospel in all the world, (Mark 16:15) but also to watch over those who joined the Church, even as shepherds of the flock (Eph. 4:11-14: John 21:15-17) guiding them in the way of salvation and guarding them from "wolves" who might enter the fold. These officers were headed by the Apostles, (Eph. 2:19-21) and from the scriptural record it was obvious that the Lord intended that living Apostles should continue in the Church, to provide constant inspired guidance.
Prophets in Christian Church
There were prophets in the Church also.(Acts 13:1; 15:32; I Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:20; Rev. 18:20) In fact, the Apostles themselves were prophets. It had been customary for God to deal with ancient Israel in Old Testament times through prophets, and at one time he said that he would do nothing without first revealing himself to his servants the prophets.(Amos 3: 7) These prophets received revelation from God as the people needed divine help, and the revelations thus received form a large part of the Old Testament.
The Savior had no thought of leaving his newly organized Church without the guidance of heaven. He realized that he soon would leave mortality and ascend to his Father in heaven.
So prophets were placed in this new Christian Church. Their function was the same as that of the ancient prophets, that is to receive current revelation from the Lord for the direction of the people as their needs arose. Without such guidance from heaven, the Church might go astray.
Therefore, Paul taught the Ephesians: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body (Church) of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.''(Eph. 4:11-14)
There was no indication that such an organization ever would be changed, or that any part of it would become unnecessary.
Paul went still further in the next verse and declared that these Church officers were to protect the members of the Church from false doctrine, "that we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine."
Earlier in his epistle he spoke to the Ephesian converts to the Church who had been gathered in from the world, and comforted them by saying, "ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the Saints (the members of the Church in that day were called Saints) and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in which all the building (the Church) fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.'' (Eph. 2: 19-21)
To teach the Corinthians also that the Church was a carefully organized unit, with all parts necessary, he compared the Church to the human body. He taught that all converts are baptized into one Church or body, whether Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, and all partake of the same spirit. But, he writes, "the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body, is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body, is it therefore not of the body?'' (I Cor. 12:12-28)
And then he taught that as each part is essential, no portion can say to another, "I have no need of thee." All must be there, fitly joined together.
So the original organization of the Church, with its officers, ordinances and doctrines, was intended to continue unchanged until such a time as he explained to the Ephesians, as we all come to a unity of the faith, and reach perfection in Christ.(Eph 4:11-14)
The events following the ascension of the Savior also make it clear that the organization of the Church was intended to continue on. Judas, it will be remembered, died following his betrayal of Jesus. That left a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Only eleven remained.
Was that quorum to go on as a quorum of eleven or was it to be restored to its original number of twelve? And if no one was named to succeed Judas, and still another Apostle died, leaving only ten in the group, was the quorum to go on with only ten? And if another, and another and another died, was the quorum so soon to disappear? What was the intention of the Lord?
It was made manifest soon after his ascension. A meeting of all the disciples of Jesus was called. They engaged in prayer and supplication. They were in number about one hundred and twenty.
Peter stood in their midst and spoke of the prediction of David concerning the betrayer Judas. He told the saints then that a successor to Judas must be chosen as a "witness with us" of the Saviour's resurrection.
A New Apostle Is Chosen
Two of their most devoted associates were mentioned as possible successors. The Apostles did not take upon themselves the sole responsibility of choosing this new member of their council. They prayed and said, "Thou Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, that he may take part of this ministry and Apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots and the lot fell upon Matthias and he was numbered with the eleven Apostles.''(Acts 1: 15-26)
The Church had twelve Apostles again. There was a great significance in this action. It demonstrated beyond all doubt the fact that it was the plan and purpose of the Lord that the Quorum of Twelve should continue to be a Quorum of Twelve and not a Quorum of Eleven, or a Quorum of Ten, or Nine, finally to disappear.
It gave meaning to all that Paul told the Ephesians. It gave encouragement to the Saints. It proved to them and to all men that the Church organization as provided by the Savior was to go on without change as long as men were willing to hear and accept the true gospel.
Were any other Apostles chosen in that day? Everyone thinks first of Paul and usually the average person never links his name with the Quorum of Twelve. But why not? Were there to be thirteen Apostles in this Quorum of Twelve? Or did Paul succeed to the position of some other member of that sacred council who may have lost his life?
The scripture records the death of James the brother of the beloved disciple John. (Acts 12:2) That made at least one vacancy before the appointment of Paul.
Is the selection of any other new Apostle mentioned in sacred writ?
The thirteenth chapter of Acts tells of a meeting of the prophets and teachers of the Church, some of whom are named.
"As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands upon them, they sent them away.'' (Acts 13:1-3; Battifol, L'Eglise naissante et le Catholicisme pp. 50-51; Schaff, Hist. Apostolic Ch., p. 50l.)
Current Revelation in Church
This was a case of current revelation to direct the work of the Church. The revelation was addressed to the prophets and teachers who were there, and was obviously received by those prophets, again showing the need of continuous revelation in the true Church of Jesus Christ, through living prophets.
The scripture then goes on to say: "So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost departed."
In the next chapter of this book of Acts we read of some of the experiences of these two who had thus been appointed. Verse 14 of chapter 14 reads: "Which, when the Apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of."
Note that: "The Apostles Barnabas and Paul." The name of Barnabas preceded that of Paul. The name of Barnabas was included among those of the prophets in the meeting in Antioch in which Barnabas and Paul were chosen for this mission by direction from heaven. Would Barnabas have been a thirteenth or a fourteenth Apostle? Would Paul?
The pattern established by the Savior provided that there should be twelve Apostles and new men were appointed to succeed the original members as they passed away.
A careful reading of the nineteenth verse in the first chapter of Galatians is interesting. There Paul says: "But other of the Apostles saw I none SAVE JAMES THE LORD'S BROTHER." No further information is given on this point.
To anyone who reads and accepts the divine word, there can be no doubt that steps were taken in those days to perpetuate and maintain the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as leading officials of the Church, with world-wide jurisdiction.
Part of the divine commission given the Twelve was to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.(Mark 16:15) This they undertook to do. They travelled throughout the known world. Paul's journeys are most often noted in the sacred word, but evidently all travelled.
As they went from city to city, they preached the gospel of Christ and him crucified. Converts were made, despite severe persecution which at times ended in death.
Bishops Were Local Officers
Since the Apostles were commanded to go into all the world and preach to every creature, they could not stay in any one city to supervise their new converts. That would have been contrary to the nature of their call. They depended upon local Church government to carry on the work in their absence. After converting a group of believers, the Apostles therefore appointed local officers, known as presiding elders or bishops to conduct the affairs of the Church in each locality. The bishops or presiding elders thus appointed had purely local jurisdiction. Bishops were usually appointed in the larger congregations, presiding elders in the smaller ones. (Battifol, L'Eglise naissante, p. 153 and page 144. Cyprian Letter LXVII:3.)
The names of some of these bishops or presiding elders are known today. Titus, to whom Paul wrote the epistle by that name, presided in Crete and is so designated in the footnote at the end of the epistle. Timothy, to whom also Paul wrote epistles, presided in Ephesus as its first bishop, as is also mentioned at the end of the second epistle to Timothy in the Bible. Linus was named the first local presiding officer in Rome.
Since the Church grew rapidly at first, there soon came to be many small branches in as many different cities, and in each case a bishop or presiding elder directed the work in his own locality. Each bishop was equal in authority to every other bishop. The office was purely a local one since the Apostles were the general authorities. There was no thought in that day that a bishop would preside over any other bishop. (Bardy, La Theologie de L'Eglise de Saint Clement de Rome a Saint Irenee, p. 14.)
Repeated visits by the Apostles to many of these branches of the Church is recorded in scripture. Using the pen also to assist them in their responsibility of Church-wide supervision, they wrote epistles to the various branches, and hence we have in our Bibles today the epistles of Paul, Peter, James, John and Jude.
The picture of the early Church, then, was one of many branches in many cities, presided over by local officers known as bishops or elders, with men of general authority or jurisdiction, namely the Twelve Apostles, having over-all supervision.
Persecution Interrupts Process
But evil men raise obstacles to the work of God. This was true even in the life of the Savior, who regretted the rebelliousness of the people in the city of Capernaum. (Matt. 11:23)
It was so with the work of the Twelve and the spread of the early Christian Church.
Persecution became severe, first from the Jews, then from the Romans. Numerous members of the Church lost their lives. One by one the Apostles became martyrs. The severity of the times prevented the surviving ones from communicating with each other or holding meetings to carry on the work of the Church. This also prevented the filling of vacancies as had been the original intent.
At last only one Apostle remained. He was John. Seized by his persecutors he was subjected to vicious treatment. It is reported that at one time he was thrown into a vat of boiling oil. But he had been promised by the Savior that he would live until the Second Coming of the Christ. (John 21:22-23; Mourret, Les Origines chretiennes, p. 92, 147-151; Funk, Kirchengeschichte, p. 28 and 46) Therefore his tormenters could not kill him.
He was banished to the Isle of Patmos where he remained for some time, directing the work of the Church as the last of the general authorities on earth.
John Outlived Peter
Peter and Paul had died at approximately 68 AD, probably at Rome. In that year John was ministering in Ephesus. It was after that he was sent to Patmos, where he remained until the death of the Emperor Domitian in 96 A.D. (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. Vol. 3, ch. 23.)
Then the Lord took John out of the ministry. Nothing is heard of him after about the year 101.
Why was John not permitted to tarry longer in that place? Because wickedness had nearly taken over the Church. Doctrines and ordinances were changed, authority was ignored, sin became rampant, even among the membership of the Church.
It will be remembered that nearly every one of the epistles of the Twelve had been written to combat some form of apostasy in the Church. A careful reading of them will reveal this fact. Some members denied the Christ, others no longer believed in a resurrection, the doctrines of the Jews had corrupted much of the Christian procedure, the glamor of the pagan rites crept into the Christian rituals. The true doctrine of God was lost. Philosophy from Greece had almost argued away the simple truths of Divinity. Man was rejecting the Christ and his Church and setting up teachings and forms of his own.
But this all had been predicted. The Lord foresaw this apostasy. (Matt. 24:9-12; Acts 20:29-30; 2 Thess. 2:11; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Tim. 4:1-3) As he would not perform further miracles before the unbelievers at Capernaum, neither would he leave his anointed Twelve in an apostate group. So John was taken from among men.
Drifted Without Direction
This left the Church, drifting as it was, without any general authorities. It left the several branches in the scattered cities of the known world with only local authorities to direct them. There was no longer on earth a court of last appeal. Each bishop or presiding elder was left to his own devices. (Bardy, La Theologie de L'Eglise de Saint Clement de Rome a Saint Irenee, pp. 19, 34, 31 and 144.)
The Church now suffered from a three-fold attack:
1. A great intensified persecution, during which the government itself became the chief aggressor, branding Christians as disloyal, and treating them as traitors. This resulted in wholesale massacres, and in forcing the surviving Christians underground.
2. The influence of philosophy on the simple truths of the gospel, resulting eventually in a completely different concept of the existence of God and the introduction of many of the Greek mysteries as doctrines and practices in the Church. As a result of this we see a new and completely different interpretation of the doctrine of deity which eventually led to the adoption of the Nicene creed. From Egypt came the adoration of the Mother and Child, Gnosticism and Neoplatonism obscured the true Christian creed; from Phrygia came the worship of the Great Mother, and from non-Christian dramatic rituals came a mass with its congeries of prayers, psalms, readings and recitations.
"Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. The Greek mind dying, came to a transmigrated life in the theology and liturgy of the Church; the Greek language, having reigned for centuries over philosophy, became the vehicle of Christian literature and ritual; the Greek mysteries passed down into the impressive mystery of the mass.'' (Durrant, Caesar and Christ, p. 595.)
3. Jealousies, intrigue and personal ambitions within the Church itself.
For two hundred years after the disappearance of John the Beloved, this condition grew. The Church became divided in many ways. No longer was there agreement on doctrine. The fundamental belief in the nature and being of God became a source of major dispute. Such a simple ordinance as baptism became a subject of debate. The mode was changed, and also the purpose. At this time too was introduced the doctrine that no divine authority was required to perform a baptism. Infant baptism was begun. Efforts of some bishops resulted in bitterness and bloodshed.
But as persecution by the government subsided, the Church again grew in membership, partly because of its acceptance of popular views and practices of pagan churches of the day, and partly because it lowered its own standards.
A Political Opportunist
Then came the days of Constantine the Great. With an eye to political advantage,'' ( Lortz-Kaiser, Hist. of Ch., pp. 78-79; Gibbon, Decline and Fall, vol. 1. ch. 16.) and not because of conversion, for he remained a sun-worshipper through most of his life and was not baptized as a Christian for 25 years, he saw personal political advantage in fostering the Christian religion.
He was of the opinion that with the renewed popularity of this now changed Christianity, it was the religion of the future. (Boulenger-de la Fuente, Historia de Ig1esia, p. 127.) Having recently fought a long civil war he felt that a state religion as popular as Christianity had become, would help him solidify his empire. He therefore took the Christian religion under his wing.
Making it the favored religion of the state gave to the emperor vast influence in the operation of the Church, which in later times virtually became a department of the civil government, placing the emperor in a position to direct it very much as he directed other departments of his government.
Noting the division which existed in the Church in his day, Constantine set out to settle the difficulty. First he turned to Africa where was developing a most bitter schism. (De Broglie, L'Eglise et L'Empire Roman, Vol. 1, p. 254.) This he attempted to set in order by his authority as emperor. He did not accomplish it as a representative of the Lord because he was not yet himself a Christian. He was still a sun-worshipper. He had no ecclesiastical authority and claimed none. But he was all powerful politically. It was by his political authority as emperor that he intervened in the African dispute.
More Civil Power in Church
A short time afterward, again by his authority as emperor and civil ruler of the western half of the Roman Empire, he called a council of all bishops of that part of the empire which was under his control. This meeting was at Arles. Certain of the clergy who were present objected to the decisions made there concerning baptism and the authority of the Church. Constantine resorted to force to bring them into line. A massacre ensued, blood flowed, a number of the objectors who escaped with their lives were banished, but Constantine had his way. In the place of bishops who opposed him he appointed other bishops of his own choice and by his political authority as emperor. But this was only the beginning of installation of bishops by civil rulers. (Shotwell and Loomis, The See of Peter, p. 451.)
He called a council of all bishops of the Church to settle the Alexandrian dispute over the doctrine of the nature of God. He listened to the arguments of the contending bishops. He favored the Athanasian side. The Arians who still objected were banished and he appointed new bishops in place of them. (Eusebius, Life of Constantine.) And by what power? By divine authority? He had none. He acted as emperor and the authority by which he appointed these bishops was political, not divine. They became appointees of Constantine, not of the Lord.
In this Nicene council Constantineuninspired, unbaptized, still a sun-worshipper, a man who had committed murder within his own familyby his political power took the steps which gave to later Christianity its doctrine concerning the nature of the God whom they worshipped.
Even then, he could not make up his mind to stay with his decision, for afterward he vacillated from one opinion to the other, part of the time supporting Arius and his view and at other times sustaining Athanasius. The persuasion of his friends alternately changed the official doctrine of the Church from one side to the other over a period of a few short years.
Let every honest Christian ask himself if God directs his Church through such a man as Constantine!
Part of State Government
Frequently after that, emperors appointed some of the clergy and deposed others, set in order various matters within the Church, called councils, and otherwise directed what was called the work of God. They did so because they had made the Church a department of the Roman empire, which made them the head of the Church, and all they did was by political but not divine power. Can anyone say then that the Church was still the Church of God? Or was it the Church of Caesar?
As pointed out on page 170 of "Historia de la Iglesia" by Boulenger-de la Fuente "The emperors claimed for themselves the right of convoking councils. They supported this pretension on the principle that the maintenance of order and tranquility in the empire devolved on them, and that, in consequence, they had to end controversies that disturbed this order. . . . It was also the emperor who confirmed the decisions of the council and gave them the force of law for the whole empire."
Another emperor who becomes a case in point was Phocas, who, in the seventh century, became displeased with Cyriacus, bishop of Constantinople, divested him of his title as the universal head of the Church, and conferred this title upon Boniface III, the Roman pontiff who accepted it. By what authority we ask? Again it was political. The record does not show whether the Emperor Phocas was even a member of the Christian Church.
In the middle of the sixth century, Justinian I assumed control of the Church as part of his empire, and took from the people their right of "common consent" in local matters within the Church; declared that only the clergy should have a voice in the affairs of the Church, and said further that the only voice the clergy could have was to accept and ratify the acts of the emperor in the direction of religious matters. If they refused to comply, they would be banished. (Fung, Manual of Church History, ch. 2.)
During this early period there developed a feeling among the bishops that those who presided in large centers of population should have pre-eminence over those in country towns and villages. (Hefele-Leclercq, Histoire des Conciles, tome 1, 2 mex partie, pp. 777-8.)
This led to the practice of bishops in metropolitan areas assuming authority over the bishops of the villages and towns, which changed the former equality that had existed among the bishops in the beginning. Also when new congregations were organized in suburbs of these metropolitan areas, the metropolitan bishops appointed others to preside there. These latter became known as bishops of the suburbs and the fields.
Rivalry Among Bishops
Subsequently there developed extreme rivalry between the metropolitan bishops, until at last there were only two remaining in the contestthe bishop of Rome and the bishop of Constantinople. The other three contenders, at Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem were eliminated by the conquest of the Arabs. Finally they parted company, after excommunicating each other, and two principal Christian Churches resulted, the Eastern Church with headquarters in Constantinople, and the Western or Roman Church with headquarters at Rome. Thus we have today two so-called Catholic or universal Churches, each one claiming to be the true Church, each repudiating the other as heretic.
The western Church developed faster than did the Church in the east. Through aggressive policies, the bishops of Rome soon became dominant in political matters, especially as the Roman Empire began to crumble. This gave them vast powers among the European nations. They directed the policies of the kings of those lands, collected taxes and interfered in the internal affairs of the nations.
This developed a resentment among some of the rulers of western Europe which added strength to Martin Luther in his fight against the sale of indulgences.
The story of Luther is well known and need not be reviewed in great detail here. As he sought to reform the existing Church he was rebuked and excommunicated.
His actions interested some of the German princes, while others were strongly opposed to him. King Henry the VIII of England likewise joined the forces in opposition to Luther, and published a book in defense of the pope for which he received the title "Defender of the Faith" which still is carried by British kings.
One of Luther's closest friends was Prince Frederic the Wise, elector of Saxony, who protected him from assassination and defended him before the emperor. Frederic was a peacemaker. But in 1525 he died and was succeeded by his brother Prince John, who was of a different temperament. (Mosheim (Murdock) Vol. 3 Book 4 Cent. xvi.)
John believed in the teachings of Luther. He clearly saw that Luther's views and those of the pope were incompatible. One or the other must be abandoned. He decided to withdraw his support from the pope and sustain Luther.
Church Formed by Civil Power
To accomplish this he decided to organize a church separate and distinct from that of Rome. He appointed Luther and his friend Philip Melanchthon to draw up the form of worship, set up the type of church government which would conform to Luther's views, and decide upon the duties and salaries of the clergy.
This the reformers gladly did, and the new Church came into being under the sponsorship of Prince John of Saxony. Ordinances were performed and sermons were preached, and the people were directed by this new Church in their religious activities. And by what authority was this new Church established? By the authority of Prince John of Saxony. And who was he? A political figure. Did he hold the necessary divine authority to establish the Church of God? He claimed none, and had none. His only authority was political.
Other German princes fell into line, although there were some who remained loyal to the pope. But the new church, called after Luther, was under way. Many of its doctrines seemed as remote from the scriptures as were those they sought to "reform," but they became popular nevertheless and the movement spread.
In Scandinavia the kings themselves also took a leading part in stripping the Catholic bishops of their power, setting up the Protestant Churches in their own countries, and bestowing authority upon them to carry on their work. They made the new Protestant faith the state religion of their realms, and the people accepted it. Was there divine authority involved in this establishment of a new Church? None. It was the political authority of the kings which brought about the change. (Milner, Ch. Hist., Vol. 4; Mosheim, Vol. 3, Book 4.)
In Switzerland, where Calvin and Fartel worked out the reformation, again the political power took a hand. The civil government (Council) of Geneva took over the religious authority of the Catholic bishop and effected the change to Protestantism. (Cambridge, Mod. Hist. The Reformation, p. 366)
"The change, though disguised in a religious habit was yet essentially political. For the Council which abolished the bishop had made itself heir to his faculties and functions; it could only dismiss him as civil lord by dismissing him as the ecclesiastical head of Geneva and in so doing it assumed the right to succeed as well as to supersede him in both capacities . . . . Because of the change the civil authority became ecclesiastical."
Another Formed by Civil Power
At about this time King Henry the Eighth in Britain wished to change wives. Although the story is denied in certain circles, history clearly indicates that he made an appeal to Rome for a divorce, was denied, and in anger seized the property of the Church; and with the cooperation of Parliament, organized a Church of his own, the Established Church of England.
Again we ask, was it done by divine authority? It was a political act. Then was this the Church of God which had been established, or was it manmade to suit the convenience and needs of the king?
Branches of the Protestant movement developed in other nations. All were efforts either to reform the existing Church or to organize a new church, based on individual views gained from a private reading and interpretation of the Bible which had so recently been given to the world.
In no case was a new revelation from heaven even claimed. In no case was any restoration of divine authority in the ministry professed. It was admitted on every hand that where the state religions were organized, they were developed and authorized by the political agencies which ruled the land, and therefore possessed only political but not divine authority.
In later periods of the reformation, even as today, certain groups formed Churches of their own entirely out of a desire to read and study the Bible and follow the dictates of their own conscience as a result. These churches had no political significance, but yet in common with the state religions, they claimed no divine authority for their acts either.
Divine Power Comes Only From God
If none of these Churches possessed any divine authority, by what right could they perform the saving ordinances of God?
The scriptures plainly teach that only those divinely commissioned may perform ordinances which are acceptable to the Lord. Many are the instances wherein the scripture shows that God rejected unauthorized ministers. (I Samuel 13:8-15; I Chron. 13:9-10; Matt. 7:21-29; Acts 19:1-6; Acts 19:13-16)
This lesson was taught well to the Hebrews. In the fifth chapter of the epistle by that name the writer discusses the priesthood and its functions.
"AND NO MAN TAKETH THIS HONOR UNTO HIMSELF, BUT HE THAT IS CALLED OF GOD AS WAS AARON."
That is the pattern of the Lord. No man can minister in the ordinances and priesthood of God except he be called as was Aaron.
How was Aaron called?
By turning to the 28th chapter of Exodus we learn the facts. In the first verse God says: "And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office."
These words were spoken to Moses, who was a prophet of God. The Lord gave him the instructions quoted above, authorizing him to call and ordain to the ministry, Aaron and his four sons.
That constituted revelationrevelation at the time, for a particular need.
The pattern for calling men to the ministry was made clear. God would give a revelation to his prophet, and the prophet under that direction would call to the work the individual thus designated.
We read in Hebrews as above quoted that no man can have this honor, that is, of serving in the ministry of God, unless he is called as was Aaron.
That means then that in the true Church of God there must be a prophet, there must be current revelation, by which men are called into the work by God himself.
As In Days of Peter and Paul
Note how this fits into the situation as it existed in the days of Peter and Paul. The latter wrote an epistle to Timothy, who evidently was a young man. Paul counselled Timothy to allow no man to despise his youth. Then he said:
"Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee BY PROPHECY, with the laying on of hands of the presbytery." (I Tim. 4:14)
In the time of Martin Luther and King Henry the Eighth, there was not a man on earth who believed that God was then giving revelations. On the contrary, they taught that the heavens were sealed, revelation was ended, there were no more prophets, all of the word of God was in the Bible.
Since there was no revelation, and since there were no prophets, how could men be called of God to the ministry? Obviously they were not. Their calls were from men in political authority, or from those who assumed the right to organize Churches of their own.
Without divine authority, man cannot officiate for the Lord.
Without a divinely approved ministry there can be no Church of God on earth.
Without revelation through a living prophet there can be no approved ministry.
Societies may be organized, and some of them may be called Churches. But if there is no divine direction according to the plan which God has provided, we must admit that the societies or Churches are man-made organizations without divine appointment.
Such groups may accomplish much good. They may be a great comfort to their members. But when it comes to saving souls in the Kingdom of God, that is a different matter.
Strait Is the Gate of Christ
Salvation comes only through Jesus Christ. In him and in him alone is there redemption. But he works in his own way. God's way is not man's way. The Lord provided that salvation should come through his gospel, functioning through his Church, wherein are prophets and Apostles for the "perfecting of the Saints, for the work of the ministry and for the edifying of the body of Christ.'' (Ephesians 4:11-13)
But where is there such a Church? How will we recognize it when we see it?'
Let us remember the lesson of Paul to the Corinthians already quoted. The Church is likened to a human body. It must be all fitly joined together." No one part can say to another, "I have no need of thee."
Is there such a Church upon the earth?
Until a little more than a hundred-forty years ago, there was not. It had been lost through the falling away we have described in this leaflet.
In 1830 the Almighty restored his Church to earth again. He has raised up modern prophets and Apostles to direct the work.
Under the guidance of heaven they organized his Church according to the pattern of ancient times. The powers of the priesthood have been brought back to earth by the ministry of angels. All the gifts and powers of former days have been restored. They did not come from any existing organization. They did not come from any manmade society, nor from any political unit. They came from heaven. Holy angels brought them to earth, pure and undefiled.
This restored Church is known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with headquarters in Salt Lake City. Its organization meets all of the specifications of the scripture. It possesses the divine priesthood of God. It is headed by prophets and Apostles as was the Church in the days of Peter and Paul.
It invites all men to receive its message, for it is a message of salvation for everyone, whether Jew or Gentile, bond or free.
(See Basic Beliefs home page; The Gospel of Jesus Christ home page; The Restoration of the Gospel home page)
Copyright by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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