The Bible is clear: God desires salvation for all men (1 Timothy 2:4). When He says all, He means every single person who has ever lived. God is no respecter of persons, favoring some over others (Acts 10:34). God has proved, by giving His own Son, just how deep His love is for all mankind—including you (John 3:16).
This does not mean, however, that God is offering salvation to everyone at the same time. Consider that many—billions even—have lived and died without ever knowing God. They are not lost. Their opportunity for salvation will come in due time according to God’s plan for them.
A little-understood but plain teaching of the Bible is that God’s plan of salvation involves each man in his own order (1 Corinthians 15:22-23). Many people mistakenly believe that this is the day of salvation—the only opportunity for salvation—when in fact it is a day of salvation (e.g. compare the translation of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:2 with the passage he was quoting in Isaiah 49:8). The truth is that a resurrection is coming when the great majority of people who have ever lived will be raised again to physical life, and their eyes will be opened to God’s truth for the first time. This is a crucial Bible truth you can prove; start by reading “The Three Resurrections.”
Misunderstanding this truth drives many churches to try to draw in as many members as possible, to “save” as many as possible, even if that requires compromising or watering down the truth of God to appeal to more people.
This exposes a fundamental misunderstanding of the reason for the Church that Jesus Christ personally founded (Matthew 16:18). The Church is a “little flock” (Luke 12:32), personally and carefully called by God the Father (John 6:44) in order to fulfill specific work in preparation for the time when He will carry out His plan of salvation for all mankind. Its members did not individually choose to join the Church; rather they responded favorably to being invited and set there by God.
Only when you understand why Christ founded the Church does the logic and order of this process become clear. You can read all about it in Chapter 6 of Herbert W. Armstrong’s book Mystery of the Ages, “The Mystery of the Church.”
When Jesus Christ walked the Earth, He was not trying to draw as many disciples as possible, or to bring as many into the Church as He could. In fact, He deliberately obscured the truth from most people to whom He spoke (Matthew 13:10-16). Christ worked closely with only 12 disciples, and by the end of His ministry He had only 120 followers (Acts 1:15). God’s Church today is not trying to pull in as many members as possible. It preaches His Word as a witness and allows God to do the drawing.
The answer to the question, “Can I attend services with the Philadelphia Church of God?” depends on God’s purpose for you at this time.
Is God calling you into His Church? Many churches encourage people to visit and see if it “feels right” to them. They may even put on emotional pressure to make an altar call and “give your heart to Jesus.” A great many people have been drawn into commitments they didn’t truly understand based solely on feelings, which can be fickle, even deceptive.
God’s calling is based on truth—and obedience to the truth—not on a feeling or a swell of emotion.
How can you know if God is drawing you? This is a question that takes prayerful contemplation and deep Bible study, which needs to be done in private. Yes, the Church has ministers who can help you. But it does not invite people to attend services to “test it out.” God wants you to study the doctrines, prove them from your own Bible, and be convicted by Him and by His Word, not by feelings or the persuasive words of any man.
Study the entirety of Mystery of the Ages along with your Bible, and you will gain a superb overview of the foundational doctrines of the Philadelphia Church of God. Ask yourself whether you believe God is working in your life. Is He opening your mind to understand the plain teachings of the Bible—even where those teachings may differ from what many churches preach?
Do you think God is drawing you nearer to Him? Are you reciprocating and drawing near to God by striving to obey His laws, or are you shying away from God’s call? Do you feel compelled to act on what God is teaching you? Are you putting the truths you learn into practice? These may be indications that God does, in fact, want you in His Church today.
If God is calling you, He is calling you for a purpose—and you should strive to make that your purpose in life. God’s call is not something to take lightly. If you believe He is calling you, you ought to take action. To look into this more deeply, definitely read “The Mystery of the Church” from Mystery of the Ages, if not the whole book. If you have done this study and want to speak with a Philadelphia Church of God minister, you can e-mail us by clicking here: firstname.lastname@example.org.