There are hundreds of thousands of congregations in the United States alone, and very few of them present the exact same version of Christianity. From congregation to congregation and from denomination to denomination, you’re going to encounter wildly different interpretations of what Christ did and what He said.
That’s a problem.
Christ promised, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). If we believe that, then the Church Jesus built must still be out there today—but where? In a sea of congregations each claiming to trace its roots back to the Church founded by Jesus, how are we supposed to find the right one?
We can narrow the field quite a bit just by looking to the words of Jesus Himself. He told His critics, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27, emphasis added). Later, He told His disciples, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love. … You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:10, 14).
The apostle John emphasized that point, telling the early Church, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. … He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:3, 6). Conversely, John warns, “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (verse 4).
It’s a simple but important truth: Those who intend to follow Christ must follow His example and keep His commandments. If we’re looking for the Church Jesus built, it’s vital we start by looking for those who are walking as He walked.
Strange as it might sound, that actually crosses quite a few possibilities off the list.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18).
A jot is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and a tittle is a small marking on a letter. Christ was making it clear that the Law and the Prophets—that is, God’s instructions and judgments regarding right and wrong, good and evil—weren’t going anywhere. In fact, as we read through His famous sermon, Christ makes it clear that the Law and the Prophets were more important than ever—that they were filled with more depth and meaning than the Jews realized (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44). That’s a problem for any church claiming that Jesus did away with God’s law.
Here’s another problem: Jesus didn’t go to church on Sunday. All throughout the Gospel accounts, we see Him observing the seventh-day Sabbath. Luke even tells us that it was Christ’s custom to go into the synagogue to worship on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16). It’s what He did—and it’s what His disciples did too. In the book of Acts, we are given multiple examples of Paul keeping the Sabbath—“as his custom was” (Acts 17:2; see also 13:14; 16:13; 18:4).
Christ and His disciples kept God’s feast days too. They kept the Passover together (Luke 22:15); the Church began while the disciples were gathered to observe Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4); Paul wrote about keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread (1 Corinthians 5:8)—the list goes on. Never once are we given any indication that Christ intended for His followers to stop observing these days.
There’s more. Throughout the pages of the Bible, the Holy Spirit is described as the power and essence of God (Micah 3:8; Luke 1:35; 4:14; Acts 1:8; Romans 15:19)—but never as God Himself. There’s no reference to the Holy Spirit as another person in the Godhead. Christ never taught that; His disciples never taught that—and yet the majority of Christian churches today do teach that.
In the span of only a few paragraphs, we’ve established some vital criteria for identifying God’s Church today. His followers will be walking as Christ walked, which means they’ll be living by God’s commandments. They’ll be keeping His law, observing His Sabbath and feast days, and viewing His Holy Spirit as the divine power that binds them all together and gives them strength.
That’s not an exhaustive list, but it is a start. How many denominations and congregations don’t meet those requirements? Quite a few—in fact, the question we have to start asking now is, “Are there any groups who do meet those criteria?”
You might be interested to know that behind these Journeys you’ve been reading—actually, behind all the content on Life, Hope & Truth—is a church. We’re called the Church of God, a Worldwide Association (or COGWA for short), and we have congregations all over the world. Our goal is to continue the mission entrusted by Christ to His followers all those years ago—to spread the good news of the coming Kingdom, to teach others how to follow God and to provide an environment where those followers can grow.
We’re doing our best to follow in the footsteps of our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ—to walk as He walked, to live as He lived, to share in His vision and His values and His character. We treasure God’s law. We gather together to worship on His Sabbaths and His feast days. We submit ourselves, as best we can, to be led by His Holy Spirit as we continue to travel the path set before us.
If that’s what you’re seeking to do as well, we’d love to have you walk with us. You can visit cogwa.org/congregations to find the closest congregation to you, along with the name and contact info of a local pastor you can talk to about attending with us.
But the story doesn’t stop here. The prophet Amos asked, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). The answer, of course, is no. For two people to walk together, they need to be in agreement about where they’re heading—and why.
So—where is the Church heading?