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The New Testament Church of God began on the Day of Pentecost after the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven. God poured out His Spirit on the disciples who were assembled together on that day in obedience to Christ's command to remain in Jerusalem (Luke 24:49 Luke 24:49And, behold, I send the promise of my Father on you: but tarry you in the city of Jerusalem, until you be endued with power from on high.
American King James Version×
; Acts 2:1-4 Acts 2:1-4 1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat on each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
American King James Version×
; 5:32). Over the next several days, God “added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47 Acts 2:47Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
American King James Version×
).

The word church is used to translate the Greek word ekklesia. At the time of the writing of the New Testament, ekklesia was a common word for civic gatherings, formed from the noun form of the verb kaleo (meaning “to call”) and the prefix ek (meaning “out of”). From kaleo also comes klesis (“calling”) and kletos (“called”).

The compound ek-klesia, then, means a body of people “called out” to assemble together, just as ancient Israel was called out of Egypt to assemble before God as “the church [ ekklesia ] in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38 Acts 7:38This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spoke to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give to us:
American King James Version×
, King James Version)—or “the congregation in the wilderness” (NKJV). The word ekklesia was used in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament for many instances of the Hebrew kahal, usually rendered “assembly” or “congregation” in English Bibles.

In the first New Testament occurrence of ekklesia, Jesus during His ministry promised, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18 Matthew 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
American King James Version×
) or “I will build my assembly” (Young's Literal Translation). He was referring to establishing a summoned gathering of people sharing a common identity.

The aspect of calling here is vital. The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:2 1 Corinthians 1:2To the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s:
American King James Version×
referred to “the church [ ekklesia, or the called out] of God … called [ kletos ] to be saints [sanctified ones—those set apart].” It is the special calling of God, as well as the presence of the Holy Spirit in the minds of those who heed that call, that identifies the Church of God as a unique assembly of people (Acts 2:38-39 Acts 2:38-39 38 Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
American King James Version×
; Romans 8:9 Romans 8:9But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
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, 28-30; 1 Corinthians 1:9 1 Corinthians 1:9God is faithful, by whom you were called to the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
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; 2:12-13; Ephesians 4:3-6 Ephesians 4:3-6 3 Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
American King James Version×
).

In referring to this calling, Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×
) and unless “it has been granted” by the Father (verse 65). Therefore, no one can become part of the Church on his own, as an act of himself. Rather, God initiates and guides the process by leading a person to repentance and baptism for the remission of sins and giving the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×
), through which a person becomes a member of the Church.

Since it is the indwelling presence of God's Spirit that identifies and unifies God's people (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 12 For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 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.
American King James Version×
), the Church is a spiritual organism. Its members are, figuratively, “living stones … being built up a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5 1 Peter 2:5You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×
). God the Father and Jesus Christ live within this “house” of believers through the Holy Spirit (John 14:23 John 14:23Jesus answered and said to him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our stayed with him.
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; 1 John 3:24 1 John 3:24And he that keeps his commandments dwells in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he stays in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.
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).

Likewise, Ephesians 2:19-22 Ephesians 2:19-22 19 Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together grows to an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom you also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
American King James Version×
describes the Church as a “holy temple … built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” The physical body of each individual member is also called “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19 1 Corinthians 6:19What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own?
American King James Version×
).

The imagery of a unified spiritual organism is more directly brought out in the fact that Jesus Christ is referred to as the living Head of the Church, which is described as “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27 1 Corinthians 12:27Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
American King James Version×
; Ephesians 1:22-23 Ephesians 1:22-23 22 And has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all.
American King James Version×
; 4:12; Colossians 1:18 Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
American King James Version×
).

The Bible refers to the entire Body of Christ or an individual congregation by the name most English versions translate as “the church of God,” and to more than one congregation as “the churches of God” (plural). In 12 instances in the New Testament, the name of the Church occurs with the distinction “of God” (e.g., Acts 20:28 Acts 20:28Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood.
American King James Version×
; 1 Corinthians 10:32 1 Corinthians 10:32Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:
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; 11:22; 15:9; 1 Timothy 3:5 1 Timothy 3:5(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
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). This is in keeping with Jesus' prayer on the night before His death, “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me” (John 17:11 John 17:11And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to you. Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom you have given me, that they may be one, as we are.
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).

Yet because the Church is the Body of Christ and He referred to it as “My church,” we also see the description “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16 Romans 16:16Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.
American King James Version×
). Still, “the church of God” is the common name. And we also see place names used to signify particular congregations. For example, we read of “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2 1 Corinthians 1:2To the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s:
American King James Version×
; 2 Corinthians 1:1 2 Corinthians 1:1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:
American King James Version×
), “the church in Cenchrea” (Romans 16:1 Romans 16:1I commend to you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:
American King James Version×
) and “the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2 Galatians 1:2And all the brothers which are with me, to the churches of Galatia:
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). Again, the reference is to a called-out gathering of people.

From the very outset God determined to call His people of this age: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son … Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called” (Romans 8:29-30 Romans 8:29-30 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
American King James Version×
).

These are intended to be God's “firstfruits” in the spiritual “harvest” of mankind—an initial gathering of people into God's family prior to bringing the rest of humanity into this relationship following Christ's return (compare Matthew 9:37-38 Matthew 9:37-38 37 Then said he to his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; 38 Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.
American King James Version×
; John 4:35 John 4:35Say not you, There are yet four months, and then comes harvest? behold, I say to you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.
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; Romans 8:23 Romans 8:23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
American King James Version×
; James 1:18 James 1:18Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
American King James Version×
). 

The faithful patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament are among these firstfruits in the formation of the Church as God's spiritual temple—it “having been built on the foundation of the apostles [of the New Testament] and prophets [of the Old], Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20 Ephesians 2:20And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
American King James Version×
).

There are many parallels between the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and the New Testament Church of God. The Israelites were considered firstfruits, but they disobeyed God (Hosea 9:10 Hosea 9:10I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first ripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves to that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.
American King James Version×
). Israel was God's “firstborn” (Exodus 4:22 Exodus 4:22And you shall say to Pharaoh, Thus said the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:
American King James Version×
). And the New Testament Church is the “general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23 Hebrews 12:23To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
American King James Version×
).

Israel was initially, as mentioned, God's ekklesia (called-out assembly or church) in the wilderness (Acts 7:38 Acts 7:38This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spoke to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give to us:
American King James Version×
). The nation was to be a “special treasure” to God, “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6 Exodus 19:5-6 5 Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6 And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.
American King James Version×
). And the Church is now to Him “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people” (1 Peter 2:9 1 Peter 2:9But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
American King James Version×
).

Paul in Romans 11 explained that, despite nationwide disobedience, there would always be a faithful remnant of Israel—and that the Israelites who repent, along with gentiles (non-Israelites), could be grafted in to Israel. He told gentile converts to Christianity, “If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29 Galatians 3:29And if you be Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
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).

In Romans 2:25-29 Romans 2:25-29 25 For circumcision truly profits, if you keep the law: but if you be a breaker of the law, your circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge you, who by the letter and circumcision do transgress the law? 28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
American King James Version×
he explained that being reckoned as a Jew is a matter of obedience through a right heart in the Spirit: “He is a Jew who is one inwardly.” He also referred to the Church as “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16 Galatians 6:16And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and on the Israel of God.
American King James Version×
).

Thus the Church is spiritual Israel. And some prophetic references to Israel, Jerusalem and Zion apply to the Church. This is not a replacement theology claiming that all prophecies and promises to Israel are fulfilled in the Church. For clearly there is still a role to play for the physical descendants of Israel. National promises and prophecies still apply to them. Rather, the Church is a forerunner in the covenant relationship God promised to Israel.

The physical nation of Israel broke God's former covenant, the lesson being that a nation blessed with abundance, the best laws and even God's visible presence and intervention would not succeed in sustained obedience to Him. Only through a change of heart would this be possible.

So God said He would “make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31 Jeremiah 31:31Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
American King James Version×
; Hebrews 10:16-17 Hebrews 10:16-17 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, said the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
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)—a covenant in which there would be forgiveness of sins and lawful obedience evermore through God's law being written on the people's hearts (accomplished through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit).

This covenant has been initiated with the Church. It is in fact a marriage covenant (see Jeremiah 31:32 Jeremiah 31:32Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was an husband to them, said the LORD:
American King James Version×
). The Church is betrothed to Christ as a bride to a husband and will spiritually marry Christ at the time of His return—this relationship being the spiritual reality upon which human marriage is to be modeled (Ephesians 5:22-33 Ephesians 5:22-33 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
American King James Version×
; 2 Corinthians 11:2 2 Corinthians 11:2For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
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; Revelation 19:7 Revelation 19:7Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready.
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, 9).

In preparation for that time, God has called us out of the evils of this world (John 17:15-16 John 17:15-16 15 I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
American King James Version×
) and sets us apart by the truth of His Word (verse 17). Jesus has also directly commissioned His disciples to proclaim the gospel, or good news, of the Kingdom of God to the world as a witness (Mark 16:15 Mark 16:15And he said to them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
American King James Version×
; Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×
). He further told them to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19 Matthew 28:19Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
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), feeding Christ's flock (see John 21:17 John 21:17He said to him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, Love you me? And he said to him, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. Jesus said to him, Feed my sheep.
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) and, in the footsteps of John the Baptist, “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17 Luke 1:17And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
American King James Version×
).

The proclamation of the gospel is to be accompanied by a call to repentance (Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
American King James Version×
). As part of that, Jesus and His disciples set an example of warning about the consequences of sin—including destruction prophesied to come on nations and individuals.

The preaching work of the Church, coupled with the combined testimony of individual lives of Church members, provides a powerful message of hope and illumination to a darkened world (Philippians 2:15 Philippians 2:15That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the middle of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world;
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; Matthew 5:14-16 Matthew 5:14-16 14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
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). Members of God's Church are transformed by the renewing of their minds through the power of God's Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
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).

The Church also provides a haven for fellowship (Acts 2:42 Acts 2:42And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
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; 1 John 1:7 1 John 1:7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin.
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), encouragement (Hebrews 3:13 Hebrews 3:13But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
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; 10:24) and spiritual nourishment (Ephesians 5:29 Ephesians 5:29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church:
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; Colossians 2:19 Colossians 2:19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increases with the increase of God.
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). God has given spiritual gifts to every member for the edification of the body (Romans 12:3-8 Romans 12:3-8 3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; 7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teaches, on teaching; 8 Or he that exhorts, on exhortation: he that gives, let him do it with simplicity; he that rules, with diligence; he that shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
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; 1 Corinthians 12:4-30 1 Corinthians 12:4-30 4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit with. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these works that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 12 For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 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. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now has God set the members every one of them in the body, as it has pleased him. 19 And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20 But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22 No, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24 For our comely parts have no need: but God has tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked. 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
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; Ephesians 4:7-8 Ephesians 4:7-8 7 But to every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Why he said, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.
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, 11-16). These gifts are to be exercised with love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing.
American King James Version×
). Loving one another establishes members' credibility as disciples of Jesus Christ (John 13:34-35 John 13:34-35 34 A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.
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).

As an organized body and spiritual nation, the members of the Church have different roles and responsibilities. Some are placed into positions of leadership, preaching and teaching to help members reach their potential, promote unity and protect against false teachings (see Ephesians 4:11-16 Ephesians 4:11-16 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: 14 That we from now on be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love.
American King James Version×
). The ministry of Jesus Christ is to exercise its spiritual authority for the service and benefit of God's people. Christ said to let “he who governs [be] as he who serves”—following His own example of selflessly serving and giving (Luke 22:26-27 Luke 22:26-27 26 But you shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that does serve. 27 For whether is greater, he that sits at meat, or he that serves? is not he that sits at meat? but I am among you as he that serves.
American King James Version×
).

Part of the ministry's responsibility, along with proclaiming the gospel, is to baptize and lay hands on new converts for the receiving of the Holy Spirit.

As part of their work, they have also been authorized to, in Jesus' name, cast out demons and lay hands on the sick with anointing oil and pray for healing (Mark 16:17-18 Mark 16:17-18 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
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; James 5:13-18 James 5:13-18 13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
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). Yet, while God has established this authority and practice and often intervenes according to it, He may require further conditions such as faith, repentance, obedience and persistence in prayer.

Even so, there are times when in His infinite wisdom God chooses to not intervene at the time or in the manner prayed for. Still, we trust that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
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). The personal duty of every Christian is to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” in which case all other needs will ultimately be taken care of (Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:33But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
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; see verses 25-34).

With the Christian faith having been “once for all delivered to the saints” during the first century (Jude 13), Church members were encouraged to hold fast to the teachings and traditions of Jesus Christ and the apostles as found in Scripture (2 Thessalonians 2:15 2 Thessalonians 2:15Therefore, brothers, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our letter.
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). Yet they were also warned against false teachers proclaiming a different gospel and a different portrayal of Jesus (2 Peter 2:1 2 Peter 2:1But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privately shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
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; Galatians 1:6-9 Galatians 1:6-9 6 I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ to another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel to you than that you have received, let him be accursed.
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; 2 Corinthians 11:4 2 Corinthians 11:4For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him.
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).

Paul warned that apostasy would arise from within the Church and draw people into error (Acts 20:29-31 Acts 20:29-31 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
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). And he wrote of a “mystery of lawlessness … already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7 2 Thessalonians 2:7For the mystery of iniquity does already work: only he who now lets will let, until he be taken out of the way.
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). Historically, the original apostolic Church, which adhered closely to God's law, faded from view as a great false Christianity assumed prominence. Most of what goes by the name of Christianity today is saturated with teachings and practices originating in ancient pagan religion and philosophy. This is a major aspect of what the Bible calls “Mystery, Babylon the Great” (Revelation 17:5 Revelation 17:5And on her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
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).

Yet in spite of persecutions and periods with very small numbers, true Christianity never disappeared. Jesus promised that His Church would never die out (Matthew 16:18 Matthew 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
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) and that He would never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5 Hebrews 13:5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.
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). He promised to be with His people “even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 Matthew 28:19-20 19 Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
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), empowering them to do His work. We believe that we in the United Church of God, an International Association, are carrying on in this same tradition.

When Christ returns to the earth to establish the Kingdom of God over all nations, the called-out ones of His Church will be glorified and made perfect through resurrection and instantaneous change to rule with Him (Revelation 2:26 Revelation 2:26And he that overcomes, and keeps my works to the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
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; 3:21; 5:10; Daniel 7:22 Daniel 7:22Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
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, 26-27), having become teachers and judges over men and even angels (1 Corinthians 6:1-3 1 Corinthians 6:1-3 1 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Know you not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?
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).

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