1] The greatest truth of the Bible is that God is
reproducing Himself through mankind. Hence, humanity's goal and purpose
for existence is, ultimately, to enter God's family and to become
literal sons of God. Human beings are physical beings with no inherent
immortality, but they can receive eternal life as a free gift from God.
Man was created by God to be wholly flesh and blood, yet in God's image
and with a spiritual component added to his brain to create the human
To understand that God is reproducing Himself through
mankind is absolutely essential for understanding the nature of man. The
fact that human beings were made with the potential and the destiny of
entering God's family as His literal children and thereby actually
sharing His God-level plane of existence is fundamental to our knowledge
of who and what we are.
The New Testament Church was originated and developed through Jesus
Christ and the preaching of His twelve disciples who were later called
apostles. The Church dates its origin from the first Pentecost
following Christ's ascension as explained in Acts 2. Here Luke records
the assembling together of Christ's disciples, the outpouring of God's
Holy Spirit upon them, and the consequent conversion of 3,000 of them
who believed in the gospel and person of Jesus Christ. From this point
on, "the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved" (Acts
4] A number of metaphors or
analogies are used by the Bible to clarify the organization of the
Church and to explain the place of the members within it. I Corinthians
12 describes God's Church as a unified organism with the various members
depicted as various parts of the body with various responsibilities,
administrations and duties. Each member has an important contribution
to the overall well-being of the whole body; each has his own unique
part in enabling the whole body of the Church to accomplish its ultimate
objectives. The Church is also referred to as a spiritual building (I
Cor. 3:9-17) and as a family-the members being spiritually related one
to another (Eph. 3:15). They are called the siblings of Christ (Rom.
8:29) who, as their elder brother, leads them and directs them in their
way (Heb. 2:10).
5] The name most often used
by the Bible to refer to God's Church is "the Church of God" (1 Cor.
1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:13; 1 Tim. 3:5; etc.). In accordance with this
biblical example, we are named the "Church of God"-adding the
description "Intercontinental" to form our official corporate name,
"Intercontinental Church of God" in order to differentiate ourselves
legally from other groups who call themselves "Church of God." Our name
also delineates the scope of this Church.
6] The Church is also
pictured as Christ's bride. The members live in a state of expectation
and preparation for the return of the divine bridegroom (Eph. 5:22-32;
Rev. 21:9). The bride is striving to prepare herself to be acceptable
to Christ by the process of spiritual growth, in order to become perfect
and to measure up to the full stature of the bridegroom, Christ.
7] Becoming a part of the
Church of God is not an incidental matter. A person is first called of
God (John. 6:44), given an invitation as it were. Before accepting,
Jesus said a person should "count the cost" (Luke. 14:28), because the
Christian life is often difficult. When a person accepts this calling,
he must repent of his past sins and go through the ordinance of baptism
by immersion. This symbolizes the washing away of all his past sins.
Then, with the laying on of hands by the ministry, the person receives
the begettal of the Holy Spirit. His covenant with God is now signed
and sealed. At this point a person becomes a full-fledged member of the
Church of God. He becomes a Christian, a "saint," a begotten child of
God reserved for the resurrection.
8] Members of the Church
are exhorted to become a cohesive family unit. Judging each other (Rom.
14:13), making spiritual comparisons among themselves (2 Cor. 10:12),
forming cliques, favoring one minister over another (1 Cor. 1:11-13),
gossiping, etc. are all divisive and counterproductive of collective
goals. What Christians should strive for is working together to further
the preaching of the gospel, serving the poor, helping weak brethren,
encouraging the dejected, visiting the sick, aiding the elderly, bearing
each other's burdens; these are the fundamentals of Christianity and
produce a strengthened church.
9] The Church constitutes
the body of Christ, a spiritual entity (Col. 2:19). As such, "the
Church" is not merely a building, or even strictly speaking a physical
organization of persons who have "joined" the Church by having their
names placed on a computer listing. It is rather that group of persons
in whom dwells God's Holy Spirit. "For by one Spirit are we all
baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be
bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one spirit" (1 Cor.
12:13). Likewise, Romans 8:9 states that "if any man have not the
spirit of Christ, he is none of His." Although any person in whom God's
Holy Spirit dwells is by definition a member of God's Church, it is
nevertheless erroneous to assume that any and all nominal Christians are
actually part of God's true Church. The Bible also maintains that:
"There is one body and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of
your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism..." (Eph. 4:4-5).
10] One area where the
Intercontinental Church of God has been accused of deviating from the
early New Testament Church ironically demonstrates just the reverse.
The claim is sometimes made that while the early church preached the
doctrine of grace through Christ, the Intercontinental Church of God
preaches the doctrine of obedience to the Law of God. Though often
distorted-e.g. the Church does not preach that salvation can be earned
(see the appropriate doctrinal statements in this ICG Correspondence
Course)-there is an element of truth here, and a significant element
at that. To understand the critical parallelism, it is necessary
to first compare the religious environments of first century Judaism in
which the early church began with twentieth century Christianity in
which the Intercontinental Church of God began. Judaism of the first
century was extremely strict by modem standards; its teachings were well
known and stressed the enormous importance of keeping not only God's law
but numerous additions to that law as well. In this environment, it
would have been ludicrous for the early apostles to emphasize the need
to keep God's Sabbath, for example (see Sabbath). They stressed what
was new and revolutionary-that salvation was a free gift and could not
be earned, that Christ's death paid the penalty for sin, that
forgiveness and grace was available through Christ, that Christ was
resurrected, etc. Today, the religious environment is almost
diametrically the reverse, necessitating a change in the emphasis of
doctrinal teaching in order to produce the same overall result. The
prevalent Christian message for centuries has been about the person of
Christ, His shed blood, grace, salvation, etc. to the exclusion of the
importance of keeping God's law which Jesus and the apostles knew so
well. Consequently, owing to opposing religious situations and
circumstances, in order for the Church of God to clearly present to the
world precisely the same overall concept of God's total revelation as
did the early New Testament church, it is essential that more emphasis
be put on keeping God's law. What we preach and practice today is, in
the final result, as close as possible to what the apostolic church
preached and practiced. Whatever differences there may be only reflect
either cultural disparities and/or shifts in stress or accent needed to
generate the desired doctrinal identity.
11] Another demonstration
of God's Church is its fidelity to the Word of God. While recognizing
that it has developed a certain body of traditional beliefs,
interpretations, and practices, the Church of God is unique in its
willingness to abandon tradition when it becomes convinced that such is
out of harmony with the Bible. The biblical teachings rather than church
tradition are considered the absolute standard of right and wrong. Many
other churches make this claim as well. However, our own history over
the past decades has backed up the claim with decisive action. When
certain understanding's and beliefs were examined and found to be
incorrect or lacking, they were changed or modified. This fact has
produced some astonishment in certain students of religious history
because churches as a rule are quite reluctant to go against established
tradition and usually greatly resist any movement for change, no matter
how much they may also claim to follow the Bible as their ultimate
Church of God is administratively organized in accordance with general
biblical guidelines and in a manner viable in this 21st century society. The
head of the Church is Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:22-23), who leads and
inspires the Church and its leadership through His Holy Spirit. Under
Christ in authority are the ministers, theologians, and Church
executives who fulfill religious and administrative responsibilities
respectively in accord with such scriptures as 1 Corinthians 12:28-30
and Ephesians 4:11-13.
13] Throughout biblical
history, God's Church has had a relatively unified basic commission-that
of carrying God's message to those who have yet to hear and accept it.
Two scriptures which outline this commission are Matthew 24:14 and
Matthew 28:29-30: "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in
all the world for a witness unto all nations;...Go ye therefore, and teach
all nations, baptizing them...(and] teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever I have commanded you. . ." (v. 19-20).
14] This message may at
times be delivered through speaking, writing, by one's very life or any
combination of these and other possible means. But regardless of the
means, to preach the gospel to the world is the express purpose, goal,
commission and very reason for being of the Church. Consequently, the
central thrust of the leadership of God's Church today is towards
preaching the gospel which is referred to both as an "announcement" and
as a "witness and warning." The membership realizes that the purpose of
the Church is for the preaching of the message and not merely for its
own spiritual sustenance. The membership is wholeheartedly and
enthusiastically behind this effort; indeed they recognize that the
purpose for their own calling now is to help do the Work of God in
addition to growing in their own Christian development.
15] Although the Church is
described as a comparatively small group or flock (Luke. 12:32; Mt. 7:14),
Christ nonetheless assigns it an awesome task to fulfill. The members
are to be worthy ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20)-i.e. effective
representatives of the godly way of life-and proclaim to the world God's
plan for mankind. They are required to let their "manner of life be
worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Phil. 1:27), i.e. they should be a
positive example of Christianity in presenting the gospel to the world.
16] The Church recognizes
that its local congregations are a powerful means by which the gospel
may be preached both through the example set by the membership of true
Christianity and through the effect that the local congregation should
have on the community it serves.
17] The objectives of the
local congregation include more than just the spiritual development of
its members. Every congregation supports the work of preaching the
gospel worldwide. Every congregation also serves as a nucleus for new
converts. It also fosters educational programs to help all from the
very young to the very elderly to grow in the knowledge of Christ.
18] But "pure religion"
involves more than preaching; it is a way of life exemplified by the
biblical teachings of "love of God" and "love your neighbor as yourself
." The local congregations of the Church of God endeavor to bear the
burdens of the needy and be a light to their communities through service
to their fellow man and by the example of their personal lives (James.
19] Since the first
qualification for being able to help others is for the individual
himself to be a living success, the Church actively seeks to develop the
potential of each member through nationwide programs for its adults and
its youth. These programs are designed to aid each individual in
sustained, personal growth and development so that all might better
reflect God's way of life to those around them.
20] But personal
development is not satisfying unless it can be channeled in a productive
and creative way. Jesus exhorted His disciples to come to the aid of
those in need (Mt. 25:34-36). Such humanitarian activities are the
highest expression of love for God and one's fellow man (v. 45).
Therefore, the Church of God recognizes this God-enjoined responsibility
and strongly encourages each local congregation "as we therefore have
opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are
of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10). And though the Church does not
promote a lay-ministry concept it is firmly believed that each member
can be a powerful witness for Christ by living a truly exemplary life of
service and growth (1 Pet. 2:9-17).
21] Members of the Church
of God are encouraged through weekly Sabbath services, periodic Bible
studies and other religious and social events, to learn the true
qualities of Christianity that are expressed in love for God and love
for neighbor. This love for one's neighbor means that a true Christian
will help his fellow man both in and out of the Church in every
reasonable way. A true Christian will set an example of hard work on
his job, during recreation and in all aspects of daily life. His
example of leading a godly life should positively influence those around
him and serve as his personal and individual witness of the truth of the
gospel of Christ. Historically, the example of the membership of God's
Church in the community has had a powerful effect on those with whom
they came into contact.
22] Likewise, as a group,
the combined membership of a local congregation-led by its minister-may,
as a the opportunity arises, serve its local community during disaster
or time of special need. Once again, the positive Christian example of
such a local congregation in the community will be a great testimony to
the proper principles of God. Thus the working nucleus of the Church of
God, letting its "light so shine before men" (Mt. 5:16), is the local
23] Members of God's Church
are therefore exhorted to attend the religious activities of the
Church. These are not ends in themselves but directives of God,
designed to spiritually strengthen the individuals and the local
congregation as a whole so that the light of their Christianity might
burn more brightly. This policy is in accordance with the command of
God that Christians should not neglect to meet together (Heb. 10:25).
This scripture is actually a warning from Paul to Christians "not to
forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is"
(Heb. 10:25). This warning was made in the realization that daily cares
can distract us from God and His plans for us. Meeting together
regularly on God's weekly Sabbath and His annual holy days provides
Christians with the opportunity to have spiritual goals reestablished
and spiritual vision renewed. One who would habitually neglect Church
services, with the exception of circumstances beyond his control, is
neglecting an important aspect of his spiritual life. Local Church
services also provide the community, as well as the membership, with an
open meeting to hear the truths of God that the minister expounds from
24] As already mentioned,
the Church of God traces its spiritual history back to the apostolic
church of the New Testament. This claim is founded on the fact that
what we believe and teach in the twentieth century are the same basic
doctrines that the original Church believed and taught in the first
25] Jesus said, "I will
build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it"
(Mt. 16:18). Consequently, we believe that God has always had, from
Christ's time to this, some faithful group which He has used to
perpetuate and propagate His truth.
26] Although the Church of
God recognizes that its recent history is short, it sees many spiritual
and doctrinal predecessors through the last two millennia and traces its
history genealogically as well as spiritually to the New Testament
27] It has never been the
responsibility of God's Church to evangelize for the express purpose of
proselyting new members. God is the one who calls persons to His Church
by opening their minds to His gospel (John. 6:44; Rom. 9:15-16).
Nevertheless, as a result of the preaching of Christ's disciples, new
converts-as called by God (John. 6:44) and in numbers God chooses (Acts
2:47)-are brought into the Church. Here they are nurtured through God's
Word and helped by the ministry and each other to grow in grace and the
knowledge of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).