Is the Church one in purpose or in substance?

We continue our comments on the manuscript sent to us by a Mormon called Stephen.(*)

In our previous replies to this manuscript we have already answered in details the whole error which is behind this manuscript, i.e. the wrong answer that Mormons (just like all sects) give to the question of Jesus who said: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) So from now on, I will only answer the points that Stephen brings up in each chapter, and I will show how they are all against what God says in His Word, the Bible. So unless the case makes it necessary, my answers will be short and to the point, as I have already explained the details previously. In some cases, links will be given to other articles where detailed explanations of a particular point are given.

Stephen says in his manuscript:

As indicated by the lone use of bold type in this quotation, you can see I do not have many problems with the Nicene Creed as a whole. The problem is, one of the Adversary’s tools is to use a lot of truth to slide in one of his “little white lies.” The ECs will argue with the LDSs when it comes to understanding the meaning of the Savior’s words when He told the Jews, “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30) For ECs, this is proof the Father and Son are “consubstantial.” However, when Jesus gave His Great Intercessory Prayer on behalf of His disciples, He told the Father His desire, “that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:22) This is idiomatic phraseology meant to express oneness in purpose, not in substance.

Now, our Mormon friend confesses that he doesn’t fully agree with the Christian Nicene Creed which is wholly based on what the Bible says, as we have seen in our articles entitled Was the Church ignorant about the Nature of God? and Did Athanasius tell the Church who her God is? So the Mormons do not agree with what the Bible teaches.

Our topic in this article is the comparison of the oneness of the Father and the Son with the oneness of the true believers, i.e. of the Church. As you can see, Stephen says that this meant to express oneness in purpose, not in substance. But does Stephen give any proof from the Bible that says that the true believers in Christ are one only in purpose? No, he doesn’t. But he expects us to accept just like that his affirmative sentence which says that this is oneness in purpose and not in substance… Well, dear Mormon friend, have we not told you that it is not humans who interpret the Bible, but only the Bible interprets the Bible? So it’s not you who can imagine an interpretation for this passage. Only the Bible gives the right interpretation, as we will see shortly.

By the way, as this passage compares the oneness of the Church to the oneness of the Son with the Father, and as Stephen understands this to mean oneness in purpose only, then I would like to ask Stephen: Do you mean that the oneness of purpose in the Father and the Son is as weak as the oneness of purpose between the members of different denominations of Christianity?… Or maybe it is as weak and wicked as the oneness of purpose among Mormons?… Is this how you see the oneness of the Father with the Son??… Do they disagree sometimes like many members of the visible Church do? I guess these questions should awaken your mind to see how the main reason for your error is that you compare the oneness of God to the oneness of the visible Church and not to the oneness of the Church of Christ which now is invisible and only becomes visible around the Lord’s Table in the local churches. Why around the Lord’s Table? Well, this has a meaning related to the true oneness of the Church (i.e. oneness in substance), as we will see. We will now study the Word of God concerning this topic, and you will see how wrong were the teachings that your human teachers have given you.

Another note is that this Mormon uses the expressions “in purpose” and “in substance”, although they are not mentioned in the Bible. Of course, he uses those terms to express the biblical truth as he sees it. So there is no problem if he tries to find the best terms to express his truth, although they are not mentioned in the Bible. But one would ask: As Mormons use non-biblical terms to express the biblical truth as they see it, then why are they bothered if the Church uses the term “Trinity” to express the biblical truth about God’s Nature as God has revealed it?… Anyway, this has been discussed in our previous articles in this series of replies to this manuscript.

So let’s take the passages that Stephen quoted, and let’s see if the Bible teaches that the true believers in Christ are one in purpose only or in substance. Thus we will see if the argument of Stephen has any biblical basis, and we will understand whether the Father and the Son are one in purpose only or in substance as well.

The passages in question are:

Jesus said: “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)

In His prayer in John 17 Jesus said to the Father about the true believers: “And the glory which thou hast given me I have given them, that they may be one, as we are one (John 17:22)

Stephen says that this means the Father and the Son are one only in purpose, as the true believers in Christ cannot be one in substance, but only in purpose. But he doesn’t give any biblical evidence for this. So if we now show the biblical evidence that the true believers in Christ are one in substance, then the argument of Stephen falls. So let’s see what the Bible says.

How this prayer of Jesus was answered

As John 17:22, — which is quoted by Stephen, — says that Jesus asked the Father to make us be one just as He and the Father are one, so let’s first see how this was answered by the Father, i.e. let’s see how we became one. Of course, the answer will not be found in human speculations according to the method our Mormon friend uses, but in the Bible. And the Bible clearly tells us how this oneness or unity was fulfilled:

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

So on the first Pentecost after the Lord’s Resurrection, all true believers in Christ became one body when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. Thus the Church is the invisible body of Christ, and each true Christian is a member of this body. As you know, all members of a body share in the same nature of that body. As the body is the body of Christ, so all true Christians who are the members of this body of Christ share in the same nature of Christ’s body. They all are this one body of Christ, they have the same nature, i.e. the same substance of Christ’s body, and thus they not only have the same purpose, as Stephen imagines, but they have become partakers of the divine nature (i.e. substance), as they all are born of God:

“through which he has given to us the greatest and precious promises, that through these ye may become partakers of [the] divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4)

As you can see, it’s “partakers of the divine nature“, and not “partakers of the divine purpose“…

Indeed, through the indwelling of His Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ shared with us the Glory that His Father has given Him, and thus He is now in us and we are in Him:

“And the glory which thou hast given me I have given them, that they may be one, as we are one; I in them and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one [and] that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and [that] thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:22-23)

So, as you can see, it’s not true that the disciples of Jesus Christ are one only in purpose, but they are one in substance, as they all share in this new nature which they received when they were born of God, and in this indwelling of the Holy Spirit through whom the Lord Jesus shared with us His Glory.

The new birth is the receiving of a new nature, and not only of a new purpose

We have studied the details of the relation between the baptism with the Holy Spirit and the new birth in the fourth section of our article “… one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5), and in our article Jesus asks the Father to keep us from the evil one. I will not repeat the whole explanation here, so it will be helpful if you read those articles again. I remind you that only those who have the Spirit of Christ really belong to Him and thus are in the Spirit, i.e. they are spiritual by nature or by substance (cf. Romans 8:9 and 1 Corinthians 2:15). Let’s remember together this important verse:

“in whom ye also [have trusted], having heard the word of the truth, the glad tidings of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, ye have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13)

So it’s only when a person receives Jesus in his life by faith in Him as his only Lord and Savior that he is sealed with the Holy Spirit, thus joining the one body of Christ, as we have seen above. And we know that those who received Christ by faith are born of God:

“but as many as received him, to them gave he [the] right to be children of God, to those that believe on his name; who have been born, not of blood, nor of flesh’s will, nor of man’s will, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

As you see, this new birth doesn’t mean that we just have a new purpose, but we have a new nature, as we have become new creatures and we are not in the same old nature of Adam. The new birth doesn’t mean that we are still in the flesh (i.e. the nature of the Old Adam), only now having a new purpose! The new birth means that we have died to the old Adam (i.e. the old nature of Adam, or the flesh), and we are not in the flesh anymore, and we have risen with Christ to walk in newness of life, we have become new creatures, and the nature in which we are is not the old nature which was dead in sins, but we are in the new nature, i.e. in Christ, in the Spirit! We are spiritual, and not fleshly by nature. Let’s see how all what I said in this paragraph is clearly taught in the Word of God:

The one who is born of God is a new creature and not just the same old creature with a new purpose

“So if any one [be] in Christ, [there is] a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17) “For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has before prepared that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

So it’s a new nature, a new creation, and not only a new purpose.

The one who is born of God is in Christ, in the Spirit, spiritual, and not anymore in the Old Adam, in the flesh, fleshly

* In Christ and not in Adam:

“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22) “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:30). “So if any one [be] in Christ, [there is] a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17) “Peace be with you all who [are] in Christ.” (1 Peter 5:14)

Many other passages could be quoted; the New Testament Book is full of this truth! So, as you see, those who are born of God are in Christ and not in Adam; they are a new creation, a new nature called “in Christ”. They are not one only in purpose as the sectarians imagine…

Let’s see some details about what it means to be “in Christ” by nature. Romans 6:5 and its context explain that we are united with Christ in His death and in His resurrection. We form one plant with Him. As we read in Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the old plant or nature was dead, and now I am a branch of a new Tree which has nothing to do with my old nature. It is this Tree that lives in me, i.e. the life of that Tree flows in me who am a branch of that Tree, just as it flows in all the other branches. It is the same life that flows in all the branches, thus all the branches are one by that nature which is in all of them (i.e. the nature of being branches of this Tree). But if a branch is not truly new by nature and is just a branch that does not have the life of that Tree, then it is cut and thrown in fire. Outwardly, both the true branches and the fake branches may seem to be of the same nature, but in fact it is only in the true branches that the life of the Tree flows (remember here the Holy Spirit). So only the true branches have this new life or nature. They are united to the Tree and form with it a new nature, the nature called “the body of Christ” or “the Vine”. This was explained by the Lord Jesus in John 15:1-11.

* In the Spirit (i.e. spiritual by nature) and not in the flesh (i.e. not fleshly by nature)

“But ye are not in flesh but in Spirit, if indeed God’s Spirit dwell in you; but if any one has not [the] Spirit of Christ he is not of him” (Romans 8:9). “But [the] natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him; and he cannot know [them] because they are spiritually discerned; but the spiritual discerns all things, and he is discerned of no one.” (1 Corinthians 2:14-15)

These verses show that there are two natures, and that humans can be in one of them: We either are natural men, men in the flesh, and thus we do not receive the things of the Spirit of God, or we are spiritual men, men in the Spirit, and thus we discern all things.

The Lord Jesus expressed this truth in the following way:

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6)

Note that the Lord didn’t say that the one who is born of the flesh is flesh and spirit, neither did He say that the one who is born of the Spirit is spirit and flesh. The one who is born of the flesh is flesh by nature, i.e. fleshly. The one who is born of the Spirit is spirit by nature, i.e. spiritual. That’s his nature, and not only a new purpose that he received. He is not that same old flesh with a new spiritual purpose; he is not fleshly anymore, but he is spirit, i.e. spiritual by nature, and thus he has spiritual purposes. I remind you that “flesh” in this context means “the sinful old nature in Adam”. Of course, sectarians like Mormons cannot understand this biblical truth, as they are not spiritual. We have seen how the one who is born of God is not in the flesh (i.e. not in the old sinful nature), but in the Spirit (i.e. in the new spiritual nature). While the one who is a natural man by nature (i.e. the fleshly man) cannot understand what is spiritual, the one who by nature is a spiritual man understands. Of course, what the Lord said in John 3:6 about flesh and spirit is the same truth expressed in John 1:12-13. Let’s read it again:

“but as many as received him, to them gave he [the] right to be children of God, to those that believe on his name; who have been born, not of blood, nor of flesh’s will, nor of man’s will, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

Just as the one who is born of a human, a natural child of Adam, is by nature in that sinful nature of the Old Adam (i.e. flesh), the one who is born of God, i.e. of the Spirit, is by nature in that new nature of Christ, i.e. of the Spirit, i.e. he is spiritual. He is not in Adam anymore, but in Christ. He is not in the flesh anymore, but in the Spirit.

The one who is born of God has passed from being by nature a child of wrath or a son of disobedience to be by nature a son of light and of obedience

* The one who is born of God was formerly a child of wrath by nature:

“in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” (Ephesians 2:2-3) So, formerly, we were children of wrath by nature, and this implies that, now that we are saved (i.e. born of God), we are not anymore children of wrath by nature. And indeed, the same passage says that we are created in Christ Jesus (cf. Ephesians 2:10), i.e. we are a new creation, a new nature, and not that same nature of children of wrath in which we were formerly. Note also that we formerly were sons of disobedience, and in the Bible “son of” is an expression to denote a nature, as we will see now:

“Let no one deceive you with vain words, for on account of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 5:6) “On account of which things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Colossians 3:6) As you see, it is because the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience that they are children of wrath by nature. So “sons of disobedience” is a nature, the former nature of the child of God, and not only a purpose that he previously had and which now he replaced with a new purpose

It is to be noted that in the Bible the expression “son of” is used to express a nature. For instance, Jesus is the Son of God, and this means that He has the Divine Nature. Another example is the expression “a son of Adam” which simply means “a human”. We see this very clearly in the following biblical verses:

“I will sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard: My well-beloved had a vineyard upon a fruitful hill.” (Isaiah 5:1) — In this verse, the word “fruitful” in the original Hebrew is “son of oil”. This expression simply means that it has the richness of oil. It denotes the nature of this hill: it is fruitful.

– In Jonah 4:10, the plant that covered Jonah for a short time is said by the Bible in the original Hebrew to be a plant that “came up a son of a night and perished a son of a night“. What does the expression “son of a night” mean? It simply means that this plant had a short life. It denotes a character or a nature.

So the one who is born of God was formerly a son of disobedience by nature, and now he is a son of obedience by nature.

* The one who is born of God is now a son or a child of light by nature:

“for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (Ephesians 5:8) “for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5) We have seen above that the expression “son of” or “child of” denotes a nature. Those who are born of God are light by nature, and not only in purpose.

The one who is born of God is not of the world just as the Lord Jesus is not of the world

Jesus said about His true disciples: “They are not of the world, as I am not of the world.” (John 17:16)

Those who are born of God and thus are true disciples of Christ are not of the world, just as Jesus is not of the world. Now, the expression “of the world” should mean a nature, or else this sentence is wrong, because we didn’t come from Heaven like Jesus. In this verse, Jesus is talking about our nature as children of God who are by nature in Christ separated from the sinful system of the world. This is expressed in more details here:

“Thus also it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul; the last Adam a quickening spirit. But that which is spiritual [was] not first, but that which is natural, then that which is spiritual: the first man out of [the] earth, made of dust; the second man, out of heaven. Such as he made of dust, such also those made of dust; and such as the heavenly [one], such also the heavenly [ones]. And as we have borne the image of the [one] made of dust, we shall bear also the image of the heavenly [one].” (1 Corinthians 15:45-49)

In this passage we once again see the contrast between those who are spiritual and those who are natural. Those who are spiritual are in the Spirit, as we have seen above, and those who are natural are fleshly. Just as Adam was out of the earth, we also bore that earthly image, i.e. the nature of Adam, just as it is said about Seth: “And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begot [a son] in his likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth.” (Genesis 5:3) Seth had the nature of Adam, and not only his purposes… In the same way, we are now spiritual by nature (i.e. heavenly ones), and we are not of this world, just as Jesus is not of this world, and, once our bodies will be glorified when the Lord comes, we will wholly bear the image of Jesus Christ, i.e. we will be body and soul and spirit of that glorified new nature which is in Christ.

Conclusion

“thus we, [being] many, are one body in Christ, and each one members one of the other.” (Romans 12:5)

Note it well: “members one of the other“… We are so closely united in the nature of this one body that we are members one of the other. This and many similar passages (ex.: Galatians 1:22, Galatians 3:28, 1 Thessalonians 2:14, etc.) teach that the Church of Christ is one body in Christ, i.e in that new nature which is spiritual, which is in Christ and not in Adam. This body is invisible, as no one other than God knows for sure the hearts of men whether they are born of God or not. No one can know for sure whether a branch is not receiving the life of the true Vine. We can only see the fruits, but even there we’re not perfect and we cannot know the hearts; some fruits may look like fruits of life although they do not come from the life of the true Vine. But when the Lord Jesus comes back, the true Church will be revealed. For now, the only time this invisible Church becomes visible is in the bread and the cup in the local churches when the members of Christ are assembled around the Lord’s Table. Why is it so? Because the bread and the cup are the sharing in the body and blood of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16). Thus whoever eats of that one bread is a member of that one body of Christ: “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:17) That’s why the one who partakes of this bread and this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27).

Thus, we have seen how the Church of Christ is one body in Christ, i.e. all the members of Christ (the true believers who are born of God) are one in nature, and not in purpose only. But if Stephen wants to count the Mormons among the true Christians, then it is not strange that he doesn’t see how this oneness could be a oneness of nature, because Mormons are not born of God and thus do not share the same new nature in Christ with the Church of Christ… How can Mormons be born of God when they still don’t really believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God? In our article Should we associate with the Mormons?, when we explained what the doctrine of Christ is, we have seen the detailed explanation of why Mormons are not of Christ and how they don’t really believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. It will be helpful if you read that article again.

As you can see, the idea that the Church is one in purpose only was just a speculation of Stephen and of his blind leaders. They do not understand the Word of God, because they are natural fleshly men, as we have seen in this article. They need to be born of God.

Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ

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Posted in: Religious Movements / Mormonism
This is part 11 of the series: Answer to a Mormon’s manuscript

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