One true Church


....whys guy.... ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb
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up to my arse in alligators
Where is God’s True Church to Day?
Greetings! My first reaction is to question whether you are here to discuss or to lecture?

Pending the answer to that question, I would say G-d's True Church is precisely where He intends for it to be.

Thousands of different church denominations claim to be following Jesus Christ. Yet they teach thousands of different “gospels” and disagree on countless points of doctrine. Is Jesus Christ the Head of all these denominations? Is Christ divided? Or is there a true Church of God that stands apart from this religious Babylon? How can you recognize God’s true Church?

Perhaps it is well to get the persecution complex out of the way right off the bat...

By levelling the charge that other denominations are not following G-d and therefore are false, you are the one doing the persecuting. This is important to be seen for what it is at the very outset, so that when someone levels a challenge in your direction, you cannot lay claim to "I'm/we're being persecuted by those false denominationals (or whatever epithet is popular at the moment)." You cannot be the victim if you are the one doing the persecuting...which indeed, you are. You have already pre-judged, pre-tried and pre-convicted anyone who disagrees with you, no?

Is there a true church in the world today? And if so, how can it be identified?

Of all the religious questions facing the modern truth-seeker, this is certainly the most demanding and also the most frustrating. Conflicting voices from every quarter declare that they have the answer.
Define "truth?"

In my experience, truth seldom corresponds to reality.

Denominations, sects, and cults make strident claims based upon emotional interpretations of isolated Bible texts.
What I see here is no different.
It is very important to recognize that no church can be proven superior because its members are without sin. People are people, and all are subject to the same frailties of human nature. Yet, it is also true that every Christian has access to the same mighty power of God for overcoming those frailties. Therefore, any church today will necessarily be made up of individuals who are at varying levels of personal sanctification. The wheat and tares will still be mingled together, and no church will be made up entirely of perfect people.
To be certain I understand what you are saying...churches are made of fallible people, yet because they are fallible they cannot be trusted as "true," except of course for your church which is made of similar fallible people, yet against the trend conveniently happens to be the true church? I am confused...and the same repetitive hyperbole shouted from so many different soapboxes over the years I've lost count.

But the question remains: Is there some valid way to identify the church which is closest to the biblical standards of truth?
Absolutely! They were known as the Ebionites. To clarify, these were the remnant of the church led by James the brother of our Lord Jesus.

From that time on the church has been divided with multiple interpretations, not least exemplified by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. So schisms have been with Christianity almost from the beginning.

It must be apparent to all that if God has a special church in the world today, He will reveal it clearly and explicitly in His holy Word. The information must be couched in language that will appeal to human logic and should consist of more than just vague generalities or insinuations.
Clear? To whom? Forgive me but, competing claims of veracity merely dull the all.

I am reluctant to make any claims for what you are about to read, although I know very well that it could revolutionize your life. Do not scan or read lightly the material which follows. I ask only that you study it prayerfully and with an open mind. Then judge it on the basis of the Scriptures and your own spiritual convictions. If it is truth, the Holy Spirit will guide you into joyful recognition of it. My personal feeling is that you will find this experience to be the most exciting adventure you have ever had in God’s Word.
Your reluctance doesn't sound very reluctant to me.

Our quest for truth will focus upon the twelfth chapter of Revelation. Limited time and space does not allow for an exhaustive study, but two principles will be given priority—accuracy and simplicity. Over twelve hundred years of history must be dealt with only briefly as we follow the absorbing story of the true church to its surprising climax.
Oh, history! Yes please! But for that we must include not only the life, time and place of Jesus, but continue in that region and on over into the power politics of Rome circa 325 AD, and then view the scriptures through that lens to approach anything that remotely coincides with reality...let alone "truth."

That is...unless one wishes to remain within one of the "(d)enominations, sects, and cults (that) make strident claims based upon emotional interpretations of isolated Bible texts."

No doubt you will consider my response as persecution...hardly. Just stating factual truth.
Will all those that believe they know the truth....and most others do not, please raise your hand??

Namaste, you are in good company Pastor, welcome to I/O!!
I do not think there is one true church. There are different kinds of people, so we need different kinds of churches. For example, some people are very devotional, so they need a devotional type of church (such as Christianity). But other people are not, so we also need churches that are not of the 'overly devotional' type. (Several Buddhist traditions are of this type.)
What happened to the OP? Was it pulled for proselytizing? My reply does seem a bit out of sorts without it. It would be a shame if our "pastor" grabbed his ball and ran home because nobody played the game the way he wanted them to...
Hi juantoo 3 — long time ...
Absolutely! They were known as the Ebionites. To clarify, these were the remnant of the church led by James the brother of our Lord Jesus.
Aw, c'mon! I gotta ... I just gotta!

Actually, I think there is an element of truth, but at this distance, I think certain understandable errors have crept into play.

The term Ebionite (Hebrew אביונים Evionim, meaning "the Poor Ones") is a sound Scripture reference and could be used to signify Jewish piety. I think it was at first a common designation for Christians.

The first 'schism' in the Church was between Christians and Jews, and here we begin to see 'the Ebionites' forming a distinctive group within the wider Christian community — those who were closer to the Mosaic Law, and believed, and insisted, that one had to follow orthodox Judaism to be a Christian, that circumcision was as important as baptism.

Peter must have rocked their world when he baptised the centurion Cornelius, and then Paul comes along opening Gentile churches everywhere he goes, teaching a new Law, "But be zealous for the better gifts. And I shew unto you yet a more excellent way" (1 Corinthians 12:31). Even the anonymous Letter to the Hebrews (addressed to the Rabbis who were faltering in their new vocation) said the same: "A new and living way which he hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh" (10:20) and "And to Jesus the mediator of the new testament, and to the sprinkling of blood which speaketh better than that of Abel" (12:24).

They declared Paul apostate, and their position hardened. I think we can see that there was always an element among Christians that 'Jesus was for the Jews' and that Gentiles were second-order Christians, if you like. Allowed into the Court of the Gentiles at the Temple (the outer court), they were forbidden entry to the Inner sanctum. Paul had caused a riot when he tried to take Gentiles in with him (Acts 21).

The situation was worsened by the split between Christians and Jews. Peter and John were pillars of the Early Church. The Council had been called against them, but "a Pharisee, named Gamaliel" (Acts 5:34), an elder of the Council, took the rather pragmatic position of letting the matter go. Had not Theodas, who had collected some 400 people to his name, been killed, and his followers scattered? Had not the same thing happened to Judas of Galilee? "And now, therefore, I say to you, refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this council or this work be of men, it will come to nought; But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God" (Acts 5:38-39). Peter and John and others were flogged, but sent away with their lives.

The hard-liners gathered around James, until he was killed by Jewish zealots. ("Zealot' signified one who was prepared to commit violence in the defence of the Law. Saul had been one, before his conversion.)

When the Romans destroyed the Temple, they were scattered themselves, and broke contact with the main body. The Nazoreans were another such Jesus cult who retained their Jewish identity.

Meanwhile the designation "the Poor" was still used of Christians in its original, general sense. Origen said "for Ebion signifies “poor” among the Jews, and those Jews who have received Jesus as Christ are called by the name of Ebionites" (Contra Celsus II 1). Today, mainstream scholarship uses the term in its restricted sense.

Without authenticated archaeological evidence, attempts to reconstruct their history have been based on textual references, mainly the writings of the Church Fathers. They said that the Ebionites used an altered Gospel according to the Hebrews. Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho (c. 140) distinguishes between Jewish Christians who observe the Law of Moses but do not require its observance upon Gentiles, and those who believe the Mosaic Law to be obligatory on all.

It's not until Epiphanius of Salamis (4th century) gives a complete (but probably partisan) account in his Panarion, in which he denounces eighty heretical sects, among them the Ebionites.

The Ebionites and other sects were marginalized by the followers of Paul.
The waters are further muddied when their critics sometimes confused one sect with another. There were Carpocratians, Cerinthians (John's Gospel is traditionally held as a rebuttal of Cerinthus' dualist doctrine), Elcesaites, Nazarenes, Nazoraeans, and Sampsaeans, most of whom were Jewish Christian sects who held gnostic or other views. Initially, these ideas were rejected by the Ebionites, but Epiphanius, mentions a group of Ebionites who embraced some of these views, despite keeping their name.

Ebionites are first mentioned as such in the 2nd century, their earlier history and their relation to the first Jerusalem church remains obscure and a matter of contention. Prior to the First Jewish-Roman War, they are identified with the Jerusalem Church, led by Peter and John and later by James. Eusebius relates a tradition, probably based on Aristo of Pella, that the early Christians left Jerusalem just prior to the war and fled to Pella beyond the Jordan River. They were led by Simeon of Jerusalem (d. 107) and during the Second Jewish-Roman War, they were persecuted by the Jewish followers of Bar Kochba for refusing to recognize his messianic claims.

Scholars place the first Ebionites here, beyond the Jordan, receding from mainstream Christianity, staying closer to Rabbinical Judaism, resulting in a "degeneration" into an exclusively Jewish sect. Some from these groups later opened themselves to either Jewish Gnostic (and possibly Essene) or syncretic influences, such as the book of Elchasai. The latter influence places some Ebionites in the context of the gnostic movements widespread in Syria and the East.

After the war, the importance of the Jerusalem church began to fade. The Patriarchy of Jerusalem remained as an honorific title. Jewish Christianity was without centre, and was slowly eclipsed by Gentile Christianity. With the elimination of the Jerusalem Church during the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135, the Ebionites gradually lost influence and followers. According to one writer their decline was due to marginalization and "persecution" by both Jews and Christians.

Following the expulsion of all Jews from Judea, Jerusalem became the Gentile city of Aelia Capitolina. Many of the Jewish Christians residing at Pella (where they had fled before the war) renounced their Jewish practices and joined to the mainstream Church. Those who remained at Pella and continued in obedience to the Law were deemed heretics. In 375, Epiphanius records the settlement of Ebionites on Cyprus, but by the mid-5th century, Theodoret of Cyrrhus reported that they were no longer present in the region.

Hans-Joachim Schoeps argues that the conversion of some Essenes to Jewish Christianity after the Siege of Jerusalem in 70AD may be the source of some Ebionites adopting Essene views and practices; others argue that the Essenes did not become Jewish Christians but still had influence on the Ebionites.

What seems to be evident is that the Ebionite beliefs changed considerable over a period of time. At the outset, all Christians were Ebionites, then, for a while, the Ebionites (among others) were increasingly Judaized Christians rather than Christianized Jews. But those views were also being influenced by the Essenes, the Gnostics, and their own interpretation of the Law according to the words of Christ. Eventually they were regarded as heretics by the Jews as much as by the Christians.

The problem today, it seems to me, is popular 'Ebionism', if I may use that term, is a conflation of the early teaching, the practice of holy poverty (probably from the Sermon on the Mount which surely would have been passed around in logia or a sayings form, a common literary genre of the day), and the later sect which refused to accept any other text as authoritative. What reference we do have of the Ebionite gospel tradition is the work of the 4th century, written in Greek, and derived from both Matthew and Luke (and therefore, Mark).

In short, Ebionite covers everything from the earliest Christian communities practicing the common life and the way of poverty, to a Jewish-based pseudo-gnostic sect whose teachings do not coincide with anyone!

From a purely personal view, I could argue that not all Christians embraced poverty so avidly. Not all Christians lived the common life. And those who did reckoned themselves a cut above the rest. They would have considered themselves the elite of the Jerusalem Church. (I'm not saying they're bad, just that they're human.)

My point is, I suppose, that for a while 'Ebionite' meant everyone. The Early church also referred to themselves as 'saints', until the elders were obliged to accept that some remained inveterate sinners, and to call everyone a saint was to render the term meaningless!

From that time on the church has been divided with multiple interpretations...
That is true ... but we can also see that some interpretations had to be erroneous. Or at the very least, some interpretations were 'more true'.

So, with regard to the Ebionites, we can say that it depends whether one accepts that circumcision and obedience to the Laws and Observances of the Jews is a pre-requisite of being a Christian, and Christ is something like a glorified prophet, quite close, i think, to the Muslim understanding.

not least exemplified by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.
Well the schism that the bishops had to contend with at Nicea was certainly a much bigger affair than their issues with Jewish-Christian sectarianism. But it was one issue — the full divinity of Christ — and it wasn't of Jewish origin but Greek (Christianity interpreted through a Platonic lens). In the end I would suggest the evidence is there to affirm the tenets of faith that were affirmed was the faith of the Church from its inception — the contrary view of the Ebionites themselves point to that!

If the Creed was the invention of Nicea, what distinguished an Ebionite (and indeed the follower of any other Jewish-Christian sect) from a mainstream Christian, prior to it?

I know we have contended long about Nicea, and don't wish to drag that up between us again. But I am inspired by the words (so far) of Pope Francis — we should be a Church for the Poor, and a poor church.

If I was to locate a fault, it would not be with the Concilliar decrees on matters of faith and doctrine, but something else altogether. There is no doubt that Christianity adopted the Roman model of administration (it was, after all, extremely efficient), but in so doing we adopted too much of the trappings of empire. Too much pomp, as Wil will no doubt affirm ;), and too much circumstance. This is not all down to Roman Catholicism. Constantinople, the heart of Byzantine Orthodoxy, was so named because it saw itself as 'the New Rome' in the East, intent on eclipsing the old Rome of the West.

Pope Francis, of course, has already voiced his opinion on the changes necessary in the Church today, and I bet they've gone down like a lead balloon in certain circles. He's chosen a long, hard furrow ... but who knows, what's impossible for men ...

So schisms have been with Christianity almost from the beginning.
Almost? Always!
I'm gonna thank Pastor Franzwa for telling us what is, so Juan could ilumine, so Thomas could provide...

Quite the story....on all acounts, thanx all.
Yes, I am indebted to Thomas for illuminating this...thank you old friend!

I do see one or two minor points with which I might take exception, but overall I see nothing significant to challenge. And I too hold out hope for the new Pope. He has already made steps that do impress me...time will tell if he is able to continue that path.