GOOD NEWS FOR A MODERN WORLD
DOES GOD HAVE AN ORGANIZATION?
February 11, 2013
Many religions today claim to be the one true organization of God, the one channel God is using to communicate with man. But the idea that they alone are God’s representative is the very idea that will prevent them from realizing the grand destiny held out for mankind.
So we encourage all who carry this idea about the religious superiority and being the sole representative of God’s sovereignty on earth, to take a fresh, unbiased look at the matter. We believe such an investigation will reveal a much larger picture with greater blessings than currently realized.
God’s True Organization
Yes, God does indeed have an organization. The entire grand Universe is God’s organization! It is a universal family and every created thing is a part of God’s organization.
“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”
– Isaiah 40:26
Outside of God’s creation, there is nothing. There is no rival power or rival god who has created a separate universal organization. There is no one like the Father.
“The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?”
– Psalms 113:4-6
But what about Satan? Is not Satan called “the god of this system of things?”
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
– 2 Corinthians 4:3-4
Satan is called ‘a god,’ but he is a false god. He is not true Deity.
“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
– 1 John 5:19-20
Satan is a creation. Since everything in our universe was created by and through Jesus, Satan is also one of Jesus’ children. Though rebellious, he is still a part of the universal family:
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”
– Colossians 1:15-16
Satan is called ‘a god’ because he has influenced and confused so much of mankind. Rather than being a rival god with his own organization, Satan is more like a disgruntled, disruptive, rebellious older child who is trying his best to poison the younger children. He is sarcastically called a ‘father’ because he is the originator of the lie, the first child to rebel:
“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
– John 8:44
Satan rebelled against the Creator and manipulated Adam and Eve to turn against the divine will. As a result, our world has been tainted with error and is spiritually retarded. For an in depth discussion of this fall, see Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering? But know that this temporary state of retardation is being corrected through the administration of Christ Jesus as discussed below.
Also, Satan continues to be subject to the authority of God. He has limitations on his activities, and soon he will be devoid of activity.
“I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”
– John 14;30-31
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
– James 4:7
“ Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.”
– John 12:31
“A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.”
– Psalms 37:10
In the days of the prophet Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar was given a dream which Daniel interpreted. This is the lesson of the dream:
“The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.”
– Daniel 4:17
True to the prophesy, King Nebuchadnezzar learned this lesson and was humbled. After his period of humiliation, he acknowledged this truth:
“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?"
– Daniel 4:34-35
The apostle Paul likewise made this clear:
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
– Romans 13:1-4
So in spite of what appears to the eyes, this entire planet is a part of God’s organization, and is subject to His ultimate authority. Whatever other authorities exist, they are relative authorities – they exist by God’s patience, tolerance or appointment. God retains the authority and ability to remove any and all such authorities at will. This includes all secular and religious authorities. King Nebuchadnezzar learned this the hard way. Many modern day authorities, both religious and secular, may have to learn this the hard way as well.
Though the ‘existing authorities’ are not fully carrying out the divine will, that time will come. Those relative authorities who allow themselves to be fashioned and molded by the divine will of God will continue. Those that do not will cease to exist. As to when these things will occur, we do not know exactly. But we are counseled:
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.”
– 2 Peter 3:8-10
God has been exercising patience with mankind. But not only patience, He provided guidance and direction by means of his prophets. And lastly God sent his Son, Christ Jesus, to effect a gentle but positive change in mankind’s affairs.
“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”
– Hebrews 1:1-2
Jesus revealed to mankind its true destiny – eternal life in the heavens – and showed us how get there.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
– John 14:6
He also set up a plan on earth with the purpose of bringing all of mankind back in harmony with the divine will:
“God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.”
– Ephesians 1:9-10
This plan is religious in nature, but universal in its effect. In other words, while it originates in religion, its effect can, and will, extend beyond the borders of religion and throughout secular society. This plan is the spearhead of God’s sovereignty on earth and the means by which our planet will settle into its rightful and peaceful place in God’s universal organization.
However, when Jesus left the earth early in the first century, did he leave behind an earthly representative of this divine plan? And if so, how can we identify it?
God’s Representatives on Earth
At the end of his earthly career, Jesus advised his apostles that authority for all matters within our universe had been given to him.
“Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.”
- Matthew 28:18
The Apostle Paul confirmed this when he explained that after Jesus completed the work he came to do on earth, he was exalted to the highest station:
“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
– Philippians 2:5-11
At the same time that Jesus revealed his enhanced sovereignty, he laid upon his disciples this command:
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:19-20
Again, the Apostle Paul, expounded on this commission:
“And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ's ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, "Come back to God!"
– Corinthians 5:18-20
This ministry of reconciliation is the means by which Jesus’ administration will spread throughout the earth. Those conducting the ministry of reconciliation are called “ambassadors substituting for Christ.”
An ambassador is defined as:
“a diplomatic official of the highest rank, sent by one sovereign or state to another as its resident representative;”
“a diplomatic agent of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government or sovereign as the resident representative of his or her own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment;” and
“a diplomatic official of the highest rank appointed and accredited as representative in residence by one government to another.”
Each of these definitions carry three common ideas: (1) that an ambassador is of high rank; (2) that he is sent to a foreign sovereign as a representative of his own sovereign government; and (3) that he becomes a resident in that foreign nation, often temporary. This definition aptly describes the sons and daughters of the Father:
(1) They are sons and daughters of the highest authority in the universe, the Father of All, and heirs to the heavenly kingdom:
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”
– Romans 8:14-17
(2) They are citizens of a foreign sovereignty, the heavenly government:
“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control."
– Philippians 3:20-21
(3) They are temporary residents on earth,
“This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.”
– 1 Peter 1:1-2
“Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.”
– 1 Peter 2:11
Accordingly, the sons and daughters of God are the ambassadors of the heavenly kingdom and therefore the earthly representatives of God’s sovereignty on earth. But are all the ambassadors to be found in only one religion?
The Location of God’s Representatives
Without being judgmental and maintaining an open mind, let’s ask some questions about your religion: Is your religion perfect? Are all of your teachings infallible? Are all of your teachers infallible? Are there no members within your religion that are hypocritical and commit gross error? Is your religion a perfect imitation of Jesus? An honest hearted person would have to say, “No” to each of these questions.
In fact, isn’t it true that all religions have a lot right and a lot wrong? For example, one may be known for generosity; one may be known for faithfulness; one may be known for righteous conduct, etc. Think, too, If every religion was Jehovah’s Witness, who would run the hospitals? And if every religion was Catholic, who would preach? Who would feed the homeless? Who would assist those in poverty? One religion cannot do it all!
Likewise, those who chose to accept their sonship with God and take up the ministry of reconciliation are found throughout Christianity. So is one particular religion the earthly representative of God’s sovereignty on earth? No, not as a whole. But many members within those religions who accept their sonship with God and promote the kingdom of the heavens as Jesus taught it, they are the ambassadors and earthly representatives of God’s sovereignty.
This understanding creates a ‘level playing field,’ so to speak, such that no particular Christian religion is superior to the other. For many, that’s a hard pill to swallow because of the claims of its shepherds that they are the only channel of God. But if we humble ourselves before the Father, we will be exalted. Jesus made this clear when he said:
“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
– Matthew 23:8-12
The sons of God are led, not by men, but by spirit.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God."
– Romans 8:14
They accept the relative authority of their religious shepherds, but they understand that such men are merely fellow workers, not masters over their faith. Each of us stands alone before the Father on our own faith.
“But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.”
– 2 Corinthians 1:24
The Father is not, and has never been, concerned with the earthly status of a person:
“Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.”
– Acts 10:34-35
“For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
– Galatians 3:26-28
Understanding the unity of Christ’s brothers and the relative position of religious authorities, we can better apply Jesus’ exhortation:
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
– Matthew 7:1-5
In fact, the days of God requiring formal worship has passed. What is relevant to the Father now are the hearts and minds of the individuals, not a particular religious group. As he said to the Samaritan woman:
“Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
– John 4:21-24
Accordingly, in this 21st century, the ambassadors who are substituting for Christ – the earthly representatives of God’s sovereignty – may be located throughout Christianity. No, all roads do not lead to God, but God can be found on any road. And when you find Him, head north – toward the heavenly kingdom!
The Purpose of Organizing Together
The real purpose of organizing ourselves into religious groups is not to set ourselves up as a superior religious authority, but to show by example the benefits of godly devotion, to enhance the service of unselfish fellowship, to provide wise counsel and spiritual guidance, and encourage group worship.
Religion is supposed to encourage friendship and morality, not judgment and condemnation. And primarily at this time, it is supposed to facilitate the spread of the good news of the kingdom as Jesus taught it. As a reminder:
Jesus taught that the time had come when mankind could enter, actually and literally, into the Kingdom of the Heavens:
“From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
– Matthew 4:17
“Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.”
– Matthew 4:23
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”
– Matthew 5:3-12
He taught that God is our Father:
“Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
– Matthew 6:9-15
He taught that we are all brothers:
“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father.”
– Matthew 23:8-9
He taught that from the very beginning of time, the Father wanted mankind to have an ownership interest in the heavenly kingdom:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.”
– Matthew 25:34
He taught that in order to enter the Kingdom of the Heavens, we must be born again:
“Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
– John 3:3
He taught that we must strive to imitate him as he imitated our Father:
“But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
– Matthew 5:48
He taught that we must endeavor to know him and the Father:
“And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.”
– John 17:3
He taught that we only need to keep two ‘commandments’ in order to please God:
“One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
– Matthew 22:35-40
He taught us to seek forgiveness of our sins and to forgive others:
“May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
– Matthew 6:11-15
He taught us to stop judging others:
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, `Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,' when you can't see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye.”
– Matthew 7:1-5
He taught us the supreme law of fairness:
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”
– Matthew 7:12
And he gave us a work to do:
“ Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:19-20
Representatives of God’s sovereignty should be heralding the same messages and seeking the Kingdom’s increase.
But when religion becomes institutionalized, its power for good is greatly curtailed, while the possibilities for evil are greatly multiplied. It diverts us from the service of God to the service of the organization. It inclines leaders to become administrators instead of ministers.
Over-organizing tends to establish oppressive ecclesiastical authority, creates the aristocratic “chosen-people” attitudes, and becomes an intolerant judge of its adherents and those who do not adhere. And it fails to hold the interest of adventurous youth who are the future proclaimers of the good news of salvation, and the hope for continuing Jesus’ work on earth.
A religious organization can give directions in the dark, but the ambassadors who substitute for Christ are light bearers! (Matthew 5:14-16) Rather than needing men to lead us, ambassadors help the individual to find his own way to the Father. Ask yourself: Would you prefer someone to shout out directions to you in a dark room? Or would you prefer to have a flashlight?
To the extent that we have joined ourselves together into an organization, we must make certain that the organization does not overtake us or usurp the authority of the Christ. We must practice the religion of the spirit, rather than a religion of the mind. Otherwise, we will become nothing more than institutionalized slaves instead of the free children of God according to the grand purpose that Jesus Christ lived and died for:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
– Luke 4:18-19
“Jesus said to the people who believed in him, ‘You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”
– John 8:31-32
“ And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia,[h] because she and her children live in slavery to the law. But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother.”
– Galatians 4:25-26
“Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.”
– Romans 8:20-21
“Your Brothers in Faith”