Iglesia ni Cristo
Theo was a Roman Catholic and had once been a priest, but left the priesthood. One day he was starting a new job. As a man was showing him how to do the job, Theo found out that he was a member of Igesia ni Cristo. Theo said, “I just hold to Jesus; He is my God.”
The man said to him that Jesus was not God, and that his pastor could prove from the Bible that Jesus was only a mediator. They showed Theo many scriptures, and he was confused, but they convinced him that Jesus is not God.
Origin and Influence
The name of this organization is translated Church of Christ. There are other organizations that use the same words in their name.
Iglesia ni Cristo was started in the Philippines in 1914 by Felix Manalo, a former Seventh-Day Adventist. At his death, his son became the leader, then a grandson after him.
Iglesia has more than 5,000 congregations in 112 countries. Most are in the Philippines. They are the largest professed Christian organization in the Philippines except for the Roman Catholic Church. Their approval is sought by political leaders. They own radio stations. They work for community improvement. They are building the largest indoor domed auditorium in the world.
The cult is very involved in politics and tells its members who to vote for in elections. They supported the Marcos regime in the Philippines.
Iglesia is a wealthy organization. They emphasize elaborate church buildings. Though many of their members are poor, many of their leaders are professionals such as doctors or lawyers.
They publish two magazines, Pasugo and God’s Message. The magazines constantly attack Roman Catholics and evangelical churches. Many of their converts are former Roman Catholics who already believed the Bible is true but did not have good knowledge of the Bible.
Iglesia members show them Bible verses that make them give up the doctrines they were taught. Iglesia has congregations in major cities around the world. Most of their converts outside of the Philippines are Filipinos who have immigrated to those countries.
Doctrine of the Church and the Atonement
The most important belief of Iglesia is that they are the true church, restored by Felix Manalo. This doctrine is so emphasized that their gospel seems to be the doctrine of their church and its origin.
Iglesia believes that Felix Manalo was God’s last special messenger. They believe Manalo is mentioned specifically several times in biblical prophecy, such as Isaiah 41:9-10, 43:5-7; 46:11, and Rev. 7:2-3.
Isaiah 41:9-10 is about the specially anointed servant of God. Christians believe that it refers to Jesus, the Messiah, but Iglesia says that it refers to Felix Manalo. They say that the phrase “ends of the earth” means the last times of the earth. They believe Manalo fulfilled that prophecy because he registered his church on the same day that World War I began, which they call the beginning of the last times of the earth. The term ends of the earth in the Bible actually means a place that is geographically distant.
In Isaiah 46:11, God said that he would call for a bird of prey from a distant country of the East that would accomplish his purpose. Christian scholars have usually understood this verse to refer to God’s use of foreign powers to punish Israel, which is consistent with the symbol of a bird of prey.
Iglesia believes that the ministry of Felix Manalo was predicted by that verse. Iglesia believes that the Christian church became apostate soon after the death of the apostles. They believe that all churches except their own are apostate, and that Manalo restored the truth that was lost after the apostles died.
Iglesia has a unique doctrine of the atonement. It is based on the Old Testament command that a person should not be punished for another person’s crime. They say that Jesus could not die for the sins of others because that would violate God’s law. But, because the Bible says that the church is the body of Christ, if a person joins the church he is not another person, but part of Christ.
Therefore, Jesus was not dying for anyone else when he died for those who are in the church. This doctrine of the atonement makes their church absolutely necessary for salvation, because they are the only true church. They do not believe that a person is saved by putting his trust in Christ after hearing the gospel preached or reading the Bible. According to their doctrine, a person is not saved without joining their church.
Many of their hymns are about the church. Here is an example of a hymn entitled “The True Church of Christ.”
The glorious and divine truth
Only in the church of Christ
Embrace in our hearts the gospel
Words of God so powerful
We are the members of the true church
Oh the church of God prophesied
Be steadfast abiding firmly
In the teaching we receive
Brethren dear do not abandon
The true church loved by the Lord
Cast away all doubts from our minds
And be faithful evermore
Other Beliefs and Practices
Iglesia is very zealous to convert people to their religion. They urge their people to work at spreading the message of the church.
Men and women are seated on separate sides of the sanctuary during worship services. The door is locked at starting time. Subjects emphasized in their hymns are the church, enduring the hardships of life, and prayers for forgiveness. They pray that God would help them to keep the commandments and become worthy of receiving forgiveness.
Iglesia claims that the Bible is the source of their beliefs. Their usual style of teaching is to use many verses throughout the Bible that seem unrelated. They use a variety of versions of the Bible and may quote from six different versions in one sermon. They try to answer any question with Scripture. Many of their members claim that they were persuaded to join by the cult’s use of Scripture.
Iglesia does not believe in the Trinity or in the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Iglesia constantly attacks the doctrine of the deity of Christ in their publications. They say that if a person thinks that Christ is God, he really does not know Christ and is not saved.
They believe that at death the soul dies and will not continue to exist unless God resurrects and recreates the person. They do not believe in hell. Iglesia does not believe that faith alone is the condition of salvation. It is necessary for a person to be baptized into their church and keep their requirements. However, they do not guarantee that a person is saved by church membership. They believe that salvation is a process. They believe that a person must keep God’s requirements to be worthy of forgiveness.
They believe a person will lose his salvation if he does not live right. Because of these doctrines, many of their members are in fear that they are not saved.
You may have noticed that the doctrines of Iglesia ni Cristo are very similar to the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their members live in fear that they are not yet saved.
It is important to emphasize basic gospel truth. Remember that you are talking to people who are depending on the doctrine that they will be saved by being in the right church. Emphasize the scriptures that teach personal assurance of salvation. Show them that unless they can put their trust in Christ for salvation, they can never know for sure that they are saved.
In this course, we will explain the basic beliefs and history of selected cults and religions, contrasting them with Christianity and evaluating their doctrines and practices by the Bible.
You will be better prepared respond to the errors of wrong religions and to protect Christians from deception.
Without a doubt this is one of the most practical course SGC has developed and we believe it will make you a more informed, discerning and redemptive spiritual leader.