The following article is a selection from the General Overseer’s Annual Address to the 114th General Assembly in 2019.
The devil will stop at nothing to cause rifts in the Church, I know he can’t destroy it, you know he can’t destroy it, he knows he can’t destroy it, even so we dare not be ignorant of his evil devices and his relentless work to try and cause divisions in the Church of some sort or another. Through technology, digital media and social platforms the size of our world has been significantly reduced and they have brought nations and peoples closer together like never before. The Church is not exempt from this reality; we also have been brought closer to one another through these same means. In both cases, the “closeness” mentioned does not necessarily mean “greater unity” but simply that we have been brought into closer proximity in the sense that communication with one another and observation of one another is more common and frequent. The diversity of the Church regarding culture and ethnicities has never been is such plain view to the Church as it is now through these means. I believe that those of us who use these means will decide whether they shall work to the Church’s benefit or hindrance.
In the Solemn Assembly a Holy Ghost message and interpretation was given to the Church which stated in part “If I will choose you, and if I will not turn to another, then I must teach you to love one another. Yea, My little flock, you know not what it is that you desire…It will be hard for you to learn to love one another, but I must bring you to that if you will be Mine.” With the love and unity that was prevalent at the Solemn Assembly it may be difficult to imagine that folks did not love each other, but God’s message of loving one another was not just for the Solemn Assembly but to the Church as a whole. Sometimes we may go along like Peter who felt his love for the Master was unquestionable, but when he was tested, he was found wanting. We want our love for one another to stand when we are tested so that we are not found wanting. The Church’s spiritual well-being depends on our unfeigned love and full acceptance of one another.
A wonderful declaration was made by the apostle Paul in Acts 17 to the men of Athens, that God “…hath made of one blood all nations of men…” (vs. 24-26). Starting from Adam to Noah and from Noah to the present all mankind has this one thing in common, that God made all men of every nation under the sun of one blood. God destroyed all mankind from off the face of the earth by the flood save Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives, and from them descended all peoples of the earth today. If perused, we would find that the ancestry of mankind can be traced back to Noah.
When mankind observes one another, the external differences are readily noticed through such things as skin color, stature, customs, language, culture and other characteristics. While these external differences exist, according to the Word of God, there is only one blood from which we all are made. The blood that runs through the veins of a white man or a black man works just as well in the veins of my brown skinned body as that of another brown man and vice versa. This one blood is compatible in our bodies because we are one race—the human race.
In the eyes of God, no one man or group of men, no one nationality, tongue or culture has more worth to Him than any other, all men have the same worth to Him. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The love of God is the highest degree of love and it encompasses the largest number—the world—and it gives the broadest invitation—whosoever will. We who are saved today and are now covenanted members of the Body of Christ are glad to have been included in the number of “whosoever.” We are blessed and glad that in these last days God’s universal appeal was spoken to us by His Son and that under His invitation of the gospel all men are covered regardless of culture, color or ethnicity.
The early Church preachers preached that “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 20:43). “Whosoever will” means everyone without difference, all are included because Jesus is the one and only source through whom mankind’s provision for salvation is made. Think of the isolated tribes of Brazil and India, the rich billionaires of the world and the helpless, poor neglected people in the slums of Haiti, the MS 13 gang member and the Harvard law student, the prostitute of Mexico City, the homosexual of New Orleans, the Muslim of the Middle East, the educated and uneducated of our Nations.
“Come unto me, all ye…” (Matt. 11:28), was the worldwide call of Christ without preference to any individual and He gives opportunity to all that come to Him with a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart to be saved. He said, “…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).
The Head of the Church has made a worldwide appeal and has invited all nations of the world unto Him, and the Church, which is His Body and Bride, in whom His heart “doth safely trust” (Pr. 31:11), and who “will do him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Pr. 31:12) makes the same appeal and invitation to all nations, tribes, tongues and people of the world to come to the Body of Christ. The Church of God believes that the ultimate and eternal plan of God is the unification of all of God’s children into His exclusive Body; that“…he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11:51, 52), without distinction to culture, color, nationality or language.
In the time of Noah, when the animals were gathered into the ark, which is a type and shadow of the Church, they were not all the same shape and size, neither were their habits the same. They didn’t look the same, they didn’t sound the same, they didn’t eat the same food, they didn’t move the same, they didn’t come from the same places, but God gathered all of them into the same place and they lived together in perfect harmony and peace. Shall they be better than us? No, it is impossible if we are guided by His Spirit.
As the Church continues her forward advance in our worldwide mission to “Go ye therefore…” (Matt. 28:29) and “…preach the gospel to every creature…” (Mark 16:15), rest assure that we will continue encountering people from different walks of life, different cultures and different ethnicities. They will sound a little different, they will look a little different, they will pray a little different, they will worship and praise God a little different, however our concern is not in the way they pray, sound or worship God but that when they do it they do it in Spirit and in Truth. How wonderful it is that at times even when we have these differences and don’t speak the same language or conduct our worship to God exactly the same we can still worship together and feel His presence when we do it in Spirit and in Truth!
I’m conscious, that we are mindful of these differences in the Church but being mindful of these differences is not good enough in preparation for the rapture, we must truly strive to understand and accept these differences among us. We must in order to keep and continue effecting unity throughout the Body of Christ. I’m sure that you know me by now and you recognize that I am not referring to accepting anything that violates scriptural guidelines, nor anything that would inhibit godly living and complete obedience to God.
I don’t believe we have a problem in the Church regarding this subject, but if I am to be honest with you I also must confess that I have known of some who in the recent past were leaders in the Church, that are not with us today, that thought nothing of referring to their fellow Christian brothers and members of the Church in a derogatory way. I realize that this is a shameful and awful thing to confess, but on the brighter side of things I can gladly say that this kind of spirit and attitude won’t be allowed in His Church and God will make sure of that. This ought never be the case in The Church of God because we fly the All Nations Flag, and sings “Come under the banner of love, The standard of the great Church of God. Oh, come to the beautiful fold, the begotten whom Jesus chose; The great speckled bird.”
Speaking of the Church the Bible says, “…ALL NATIONS SHALL FLOW UNTO IT” (Isa. 2:2). “…And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee, thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because THE ABUNDANCE OF THE SEA SHALL BE CONVERTED UNTO THEE, THE FORCES OF THE GENTILES SHALL COME UNTO THEE” (Isa. 60:1-5).
They will come to the Church from all nations of the world and as we see this take place with speed our heart may fear but I want to encourage you to fear not and have faith, God is in control. The aforementioned verses say that our heart will not only fear but it will also be enlarged, which seems to indicate that there will be great love in the Church for all men without respect to national origin or culture. Our love, care, compassion, understanding and acceptance of one another should never be dictated to us by the prevalent spirit of this world that works to divide people into groups based on their cultural and ethnic differences. This world is steeped in division, but the Church stretches forth unto perfect unity!
In Deuteronomy 10:17 the Lord had plainly told His people that He “…regardeth not persons…” In 2 Chronicles 19:17, king Jehoshaphat reminded the judges that there is “…no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons…” A young man by the name of Elihu in the book of Job recognized God as “…him that accepteth not persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor? For they all are the work of his hands” (Job 34:19).
“…Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34), were the words of brother Peter, a Church of God member and minister, who apparently seemed to have some prejudice toward the Gentile people but that after his experience in the work of the Lord became highly convinced that God was no respecter of persons, and so neither was he to be. Of course, the tradition of the Jewish people was that they were better and had great advantage over everyone else and some of this carried over into the fellowship of the early Church. The Lord would have none of it as it was He who inspired Paul to write, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). In Romans Paul wrote, “Fore there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (Rom. 10:12). In the eyes of God no one group of people has the edge on another in the Church. What we all found at the foot of the cross was level ground and it is no different in the Body of Christ, we all have equal status before God.
Christ Jesus “…hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us…” (Eph. 2:14), and has “…reconciled us all unto God in one body by the cross…” (Eph. 2:16). If we have been saved by His blood, regenerated by His Spirit and have taken our covenant, we are neither Jew nor Gentile, nor any other combination of people, but we are The Church of God. We are one Body, made that way through the covenant, baptized into it by the Spirit, blended together in worldwide fellowship with equality one to another under God.