The Bible illustrates in various ways how God’s people – those who belong to the true Church or religion -- can be recognized. One lucid illustration depicts God’s chosen people as His planting – distinct and unique from those which He did not plant or those who do not belong to Him. The prime importance of being God’s planting is underscored in these words of our Lord Jesus Christ:
“… Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.” (Matt.15:13, New King James Version)
The plants, which God did not plant, obviously, do not belong to Him and they will be uprooted come the appointed time. These are the churches or religions that were not established by Him.
They are likened to tares that will be “gathered and burned in the fire … at the end of this age” (Matt. 13:40, Ibid.) or on Judgment Day. How they came about, the Lord Jesus explains that “an enemy has done this,” referring to the devil as “the enemy who sowed them” (Matt. 13:28, 39, Ibid.)
Indeed, to be God’s planting or to be among His people is very important because on Judgment Day, those that are not His planting will be uprooted and burned in the lake of fire.
God’s planting in the ancient time
The Psalmist points out which was God’s planting during the ancient period:
“You have brought a vine out of Egypt; You have cast out the nations, and planted it.” (Ps. 80:8, Ibid.)
The planting of God that He brought out of Egypt was no other than the nation of Israel that God established to be His own people. The Prophet Isaiah explains that “the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant …” (Isa. 5:7, Ibid.).
As God’s planting, His established nation and chosen people, the Israelites were towering in importance before the sight of God over all the other peoples of the world during their time:
“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” (Deut. 7:6, Ibid.)
“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes? And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.” (Isa. 5:3-5, Ibid.)
As ancient Israel fell short of God’s expectation, He decided to take away from His vineyard its hedge, burn it, break down its wall, and be trampled down. Israel did not remain as God’s planting and God rejected them as His people.
God’s planting in the Christian era
God had prophesied, through Prophet Isaiah, whom He would send to begin a new group of people who would glorify Him and who would replace ancient Israel as His planting. The prophecy states:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim he acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isa. 61:1-3, Ibid.)
Our Lord Jesus Christ proved that He was the one referred to as God’s planting in the prophecy when, after reading this same prophecy, He declared: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:17-21, Ibid.). However, Christ is not the only planting of God; as the true vine, He has branches. Says our Lord:
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. … I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1, 5, Ibid.)
As Christ, the vine, is God’s planting, so are His branches. Christ and His branches belong to God and are recognized by God as His chosen people. As for what the branches are intended, the prophecy clarifies, thus:
“Also your people shall all be righteous; They shall inherit the land forever, The branch of My planting, The work of My hands, that I may be glorified.” (Isa. 60:21, Ibid.)
God’s planting is for His glory, so a person can truly glorify God only if he is included among God’s planting or if he is among God’s chosen people. Christ and His branches are chosen by God to give glory unto Him in replacement of ancient Israel that was formerly His planting.
The vine and the branches
The equivalent of Christ’s being the vine and those who belong to Him as the branches could be read in this illustration of Apostle Paul:
“And He is the head of the body, the church.” (Col. 1:18, Ibid.)
“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Rom. 13:4-5, Ibid.)
Christ, who is the vine, is the head, and the members of the Church, which is his body, are the branches. The Church headed by Christ is named after Him – Church of Christ (Rom. 16:16; Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation).
Christ and the members of the Church which He established in the first century were God’s planting. God expected them to glorify Him. However, Apostle Paul forewarned that the first-century Church of Christ would apostatize or turn away from the true faith, thus would stop giving glory unto God:
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; … Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” (I Tim. 4:1, 3, King James Version)
This turning away from the faith of the early Christians occurred after the “departure” or death of the apostles (Acts 20:29-30, 37-38; II Tim. 4:6-8). Indeed, when the apostles were gone, the Church that they had left behind listened to and followed the “doctrines of devils,” two of which are forbidding to marry and abstension from eating meat. These doctrines can be found in the Catholic Church, the church that prides itself to be the continuation of the Church administered by the apostles (The Unbroken Chain, p. 4). The Catholic Church forbids its “priests to marry after their ordination” (The faith of Our Fathers, p. 328), and it also commands its members “to fast and abstain from flesh meat on certain days of the year” (Manual of Christian Doctrine: Comprising Dogma, Moral, and Worship, p. 317). Upholding such doctrines clearly shows that the Catholic Church is indeed the result of the apostasy that took place when the first-century Church of Christ turned away from the true faith after the death of the apostles. Thus, just as Israel, God’s planting in ancient time, turned away from Him, so did the first-century Church of Christ which God appointed to replace it. And just as Israel continued to exist as a nation, but no longer as God’s nation, so did the Church that started in the first century, but no longer as the Church that belonged to God and to Christ, because it had turned into an apostate church.
God’s planting in these last days
With the turning away from the true faith of the first-century Church, God again planted a replacement as He had promised, thus:
“I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree, The myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the cypress tree and the pine And the box tree together, That they may see and know, And consider and understand together, That the hand of the LORD has done this, And the Holy On e of Israel has created it.” (Isa. 41:19-20, NKJV)
God’s planting in the wilderness herein referred to is the work and creation of His hand. He planted in the wilderness because the apostasy that overtook the first-century Church is illustrated in the Bible as that of a “woman [who] fled into the wilderness (Rev. 13:6, Ibid.). The woman represents a church, for the true Church is likened by Apostle Paul to a chaste virgin (II Cor. 11:2. The first-century Church when it had apostatized became “a land in which there is no man” (Job 38:26, NKJV). Although the organization has persisted and continued, it has lost its right and privilege to glorify God, and hence, the first-century Church of Christ died out as God’s planting after the death of the apostles. And so God promised to plant again in replacement to His former planting.
The beginning of God’s planting
To start out His planting in these last days, God sent a messenger whom He had “taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its farthest regions.” And to whom He assured, “You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away: Fear not for I am with you, Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:9-10, Ibid.).
The time “ends of the earth” refers to that period when the end of the world or the Second Advent of our Lord Jesus “is near – at the doors” (Matt. 24:3, 33, Ibid.), as He emphatically pointed out, giving as signs, events that had global significance, like the two world wars, World War I and World War II, that broke out in succession on July 27, 1914 and on September 1, 1939, respectively (Matt. 24:6-7; The Story of the Great War, vol. 3, p. 923). It was at the start of the first global war that God’s planting at the ends of the earth officially emerged through the instrumentality of His chosen servant whom He had given the right to serve and worship Him and to whom He promised to help, strengthen, and uphold with His righteous right hand or the gospel, which God’s righteousness for salvation (Rom. 1:16-17).
The Church of Christ believes that the chosen servant whom God has sent to begin His planting in these last days was fulfilled in Brother Felix Y. Manalo, who preached this Church in 1914. Through his preaching of the gospel, which God promised to uphold him with, God’s sons and daughters from the far east, the Philippines being the country I the far east in which the prophecy was fulfilled, were gathered together (Isa. 43:5-6, Moffatt Translation; Asia and the Philippines, p. 169), resulting in the reemergence of the true Church of Christ, God’s planting in these last days. In order for this plating to grow in the “wilderness,” as the first-century Church of Christ turned apostate and became devoid of people faithful to God’s teachings, God said in the prophecy that He “would make the wilderness a pool of water, And the dry land springs of water” (Isa. 41:18, NKJV). The water that God would cause to flow in the wilderness for His planting to grow is His words (John 4:10-15) and the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39), both of which have been received by those who believed in the preaching of God’s words by His messenger. The once desolate wilderness is now again populated with member of the true Church, God’s chosen people who firmly believe and faithfully obey His commandments. A s God’s planting, the Church of Christ is continuously nurtured with His words, which are incessantly preached in the congregational worship services of its member throughout the world, together with the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit -- all for the glory and honor if its vinedresser, the Father in heaven.
God's Message: August 2006/ Volume 06/Number 8/ ISSN 0116-1636/ pp. 12-15