TEACHINGS OF THE IGLESIA NI CRISTO (A QUASI-CHRISTIAN SECT IN THE PHILIPPINES, NOW CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF FOUNDATION) AND COMMENTARY (MATERIAL THANKS TO THE CBCP).
(FOR THE GUIDANCE OF THE CATHOLIC FAITHFUL WHO ARE ALWAYS TARGETED BY THE GROUP FOR CONVERSION TO THEIR RELIGIOUS BODY)
PART I: Basic Teachings of the Iglesia ni Cristo
I. The Bible (p.13)
The Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) believes that the words of God are written in the Bible; that when the Bible speaks, God Himself speaks. So, when the Bible is silent, the Iglesia ni Cristo is silent, too, for it recognizes no other basis and authority in serving God except the Bible.
II. God (p.15)
There is only one God. He is unchangeable: “For I the Lord do not change” (Mal. 3:6, RSV). He did not and will not, become man or anything. He is immutable: contrary to the belief of those who teach that Christ is God that became flesh. Christ is man, not God. And God is not man. “For I am God”, He emphasized, “and not man” (Hos. 11-19).
He alone is God (Ps. 86:10). “For I am God, and there is no other” (Is. 45:21-22; Is. 46:9-10; Dt. 32:39, RSV). The INC interprets these as proof against the Trinity of Persons in one God.
III. Man (pp. 17, 19)
Indeed to fear God and to keep his commandments is the whole duty of man (Ecc. 12:13). It is man’s duty to serve God. In return, God will bless “the bread and water” (symbols of man’s livelihood) of those who serve Him (Ex. 23:25). To them, the goodness and mercy of God will abide (Ps 23:6), above all the blessings of salvation and life everlasting.
Because of sin, man was separated from God thereby losing his right to serve and deify (sic) God (Is. 59: 2). It was God Himself who provided the means by which man could return to Him: the precious Blood of Jesus Christ which served as atonement for man’s sin (Eph. 2:13; Col. 1: 20-21).
The members of the Church of Christ which our Lord Jesus Christ purchased with His own Blood (Acts 20:28) are the only ones benefited by His death. To them alone, the right to serve and deify (sic) God is restored.
IV. The Church (pp. 19, 27, 29, 34, 37, 39; 61; 63)
God’s law requires that every man shall suffer death for his own sin (Dt. 24:16). Christ, as Savior, took upon Himself what the divine justice demands by creating the one new man (consisting of Him as the Head and the Church that He built as the Body) thus, assuming accountability for the sins of the redeemed (Eph. 2:15).
Christ died on the Cross for His Church. And His death signifies the redemption only of the members of His Church, and not of anybody else (Eph. 5:25).
Just as Christ died on the cross and after death He was buried, so also is he who receives baptism is buried. And just as Christ did not remain but in the grave but rose from the dead by the glory of God, so also those who are baptized do not remain immersed in the water (Rom 6:4). To effect such “burial” the one baptizing and the one who is to be baptized must both go down into the water (immersion).
(b) Membership in the Church of Christ is necessary for salvation
Any man can enter Christ (“I am the door…” – Jn. 10:9) by becoming a member of Christ’s Body which is the Church that He built, or the Church of Christ (Mt. 16:18; I Cor. 12:27; Col. 1:18; Acts 20:28, Lamsa Version). So the Church is necessary. But not just any Church; only the Church which is the Body of Christ wherein God’s will is fulfilled that all men be gathered in Christ as members and consequently attain salvation and eternal life. This is God’s plan of salvation.
(c) Faith is not enough: one must be part of the Church of Christ
Therefore, to reject the Church is to reject our Lord Jesus Christ. Because to reject the Body is to reject its Head. It does not suffice therefore to accept Christ alone and disregard the Church to attain salvation. The faith-alone-in-Christ-and never-mind the-Church concept is a false doctrine and a dangerous one at that.
Faith is made perfect if it is accompanied by works (James 2:22). A man may wholeheartedly believe in God and in Christ but so long as he is outside the Church of Christ – meaning he has not complied with the command of Christ and therefore his faith is without works – he remains condemned to the lake of fire.
Evidently, the place of reconciliation is the Church of Christ. To be reconciled to God and be saved, one must become a member thereof. Unless he becomes a part of the Church of Christ or Body of Christ he is not embraced by the redemptive death of Christ; he is imperiled by the impending penalty for sinners (Jn.8:24). He is, in short, doomed.
(d) The true religion should be called “Church of Christ”
Our Lord Jesus Christ called the Church that He built, “My Church” (Mt. 16:18). Any Church not built by Christ would not be called by Him “My Church”. The true Church built by Christ is called by name. It is the mark set by Christ Himself to identify His sheep (Jn. 10:3). What’s in a name? So far as the true Church is concerned, salvation is in the name (Acts 4:10, 12). To adhere to any religion not bearing the name of Christ does not belong to Him.
The Apostles aptly called the one and only true Church that Christ built, Church of Christ (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Version) or Iglesia ni Cristo, in Pilipino. This is the only true Church, the one upon which the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ is called (Acts 15:17-18).
(e) The new chosen people of God
Man cannot be saved by his own works much less by his faith alone. Rather, God elects the people on whom He shall bestow the gift of salvation. He sets them apart to be godly before His sight and hears them when they call upon Him (Ps 4:3).
After the fall of Israel, a new and chosen generation was elected by God to a royal priesthood, bestowed with the right to offer praises and homage to Him. They were called to the Kingdom of His Son – the Lord Jesus Christ (I Pt 3:9; Col 1:13). These chosen people are the members of the Church of Christ. They, being in Christ, are “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).
V. Jesus Christ (pp. 21, 23, 25)
The Lord Jesus Christ has unique attributes which cannot be found in any other human being. Christ is the God-appointed Savior of mankind. Such exclusive office is the very purpose for which Jesus Christ was born. Not only is Christ appointed by God as Savior and Mediator, He is to be reverenced by all: “But in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord” (I Pt 3:15). He is the only man who is sinless, as Apostle Peter testifies: “He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips (I Pt 2:22, RSV). He is the only advocate of the sinner (I Jn 2:1, RSV).
(a) Jesus Christ is not God
Despite His uniqueness when compared to all other men, Christ remains man in His state of being. Christ is never the true God. He is a true man (“But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God” Jn. 8:40). When Apostle Mathew gave his account of the birth of Christ, he said that in the womb of Mary was a child (Mt 1:18), not a god.
Christ, since birth, was subjected to the experiences and circumstances of human life, inherent in all men (sin, of course, excluded). The true God has no beginning nor is He a son of man (Ps 90:2; Num 23:19). He is Spirit (Jn. 4:24); He does not grow weary (Is 40:28), does not sleep (Ps 121:4). The true God is immortal (I Tim 1:17).
So Christ could not be God. Neither could He be God that became man, nor could He be both true God and true man at the same time. Christ is a man. But God is not man (Hosea 11:9). Therefore Christ is not God.
VI. The Apostasy of the Church (pp. 43)
The Church established by Christ Jerusalem in the first century did not continue to exist. It has apostatized. But it does not mean that those who were responsible for the apostasy established another Church; that same Church strayed away from the pristine Christian faith.
(a) The doctrine of demons
Apostle Paul foretold (sic) the Christians then that there will be a departure from the faith because some will give heed to “deceitful spirits or doctrines of demons” (I Tim 4:1). According to him, after his death, men will arise who will speak perverse things to draw away the disciples of Christ after them (Acts 20:30). The perverse things which they will speak are the doctrines of demons, two of which are “Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats” (I Tim 4:3).
Apostle Peter called them false prophets who will bring in destructive heresies denying the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, by rejecting Him as Head of the Church, as the stone foundation and by rejecting His name (2 Pt 2:1; Acts 2:36; 4:10-12; Eph 2:20).
Another distinguishing mark of the apostates is the one described by Apostle Paul: “the man of sin … showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4).
(b) The Catholic Church: apostate Church
One does not need to go too far to learn that the Catholic Church upholds and teaches the two above-mentioned doctrines of demons. The Catholic Church denied the Lord Christ’s Headship by putting Peter and the Popes in His stead. It denied the Lord’s position as the stone foundation, again by putting Peter in His stead. It rejected His name, Christ by sporting such an unscriptural name as Roman Catholic Church. And the Pope’s usurpation of the Fatherhood of God (God being the Father of Souls) fits well to Apostle Paul’s description, of the man of sin. So now the Catholic cannot evade the accusing finger of his biblical revelation. The Catholic Church is the apostate Church. This also proves beyond doubt apostasy was a fact.
VII. The Re-establishment of the Church (p.47)
The sheep of Christ with promise belong to three groups. The first and second groups – the Jews and the Gentiles – were already called and already in the fold during the time of Christ and the apostles. The third group was still “far off” and they are not yet called then; they are yet to be called by God (Acts 2:39) to become one flock or one Church of Christ (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Version).
So when the Iglesia ni Cristo appeared in the Philippines in 1914, a prophecy was fulfilled, a prophecy which God Himself told: “From the Far East will I bring your offspring” (Is. 43:5, Moffat).
(a) Iglesia ni Cristo: the Church from the Far East
The north (Protestant Church which came to the Philippines from North America) will give them up, and the south (Roman Catholic Church which came to the Philippines from Rome in southern Europe) cannot keep them back. For God said, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth” (Is. 43:6).
These children of God from the Far East (Apostle Peter said they are the ones who “are afar off”) belongs to the third group of Christ’s sheep. They are called by the name created by God for His glory: the name Christ. This name is called upon the children of God in the Far East. They are called Church of Christ because they are the one flock (Church) of Christ (Is. 43:7; Acts 2:36; Phil. 2:9; Rom. 16:16).
(b) Significance of July 27, 1914
They are the other sheep of Christ who will be called “from the ends of the earth”. The ends of the earth signify the time before the end of the world or the second coming of Christ which is signaled manifestly by “wars and rumors of wars” (Mt 24:6). This war occurred in 1914 and was better known as the First World War. It was during that time that the children of God in the Far East or in the Philippines were called. Indeed, at the outbreak of the war on July 27, 1914, the Iglesia ni Cristo was concurrently officially registered in the Philippine government.
VIII. The Messenger (“Ang Sugo”): Felix Manalo
Felix Manalo was the messenger of God instrumental in the re-establishment of the Church of Christ after it was apostatized.
Isaiah 46:11 articulates one of the prophecies on the Last Messenger of God: “Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed and I will do it” (RSV). In this prophecy, the bird is from the east and the man, who is also the bird, is from a far country. So this bird of prey who is a man of God’s counsel or who does the counsel or word of God (Ps 107:11) is from the Far East or the Philippines. (Note: In INC doctrine, the Philippines is the Far East; it is not merely in the Far East.)
He is called bird of prey because the sons and daughters of God from the Far East or the Philippines are being hindered by the north and the south (representing Protestantism and Catholicism) and the messenger of God has to bring them out of these two religions (Is. 43:6).
Felix Manalo also fulfills the prophecy in Revelation 7:2-3: “Then I saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God…”
IX. The Resurrection of Christ and of His members (i.e., of the Iglesia ni Cristo)
To redeem the members of His Church (i.e., the parts of the Body of the one new man He created) Christ being their Head, died for them. He died on the Cross, was buried, was resurrected by God on the third day, and after forty days He was gloriously taken up into heaven.
Those who will resurrect into life everlasting are those who died as members of the Church of Christ, and since they are Christ’s they will experience the first resurrection (Rev. 20:6) for “the dead in Christ shall rise first” (I Tim 4:16). Then shall come to pass that which is written, “I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18, RSV).
X. Felix Manalo
He was born on May 10, 1886 in Taguig, Rizal province. After the death of his mother (Bonifacia Manalo) he decided to use her surname instead of his father’s (Mariano Ysagun). With the introduction of Protestant teachings at the turn of the 20th century, he first joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was trained in the Methodist Theological Seminary and became an evangelist. In 1907 he moved to the Presbyterians, and became a pastor after attending the Union Theological Seminary. In 1910, he joined another group called “Christian Mission” because he preferred their way of baptizing by immersion. The following year he joined the Seventh-Day Adventists, eventually becoming a pastor. But soon after, he left the group.
Unsatisfied with the various Christian groups, he set out to examine the different teachings he was exposed to. In 1913 he isolated himself in his room for two days and three nights, and compared all those teachings with what is found in the Bible. He emerged from that isolation convinced that he had found the truth, and that he felt obliged by God to proclaim it.
He died on April 12, 1963.
PART II: Some Comments on the Teachings of the INC
1. While professing reverence towards the Bible, the INC interprets it to suit its doctrines, no matter how arbitrarily it is done (the “proof-text approach” abused). It selects a version of the Bible as long as the name “Church of Christ” comes out. For instance: Acts 20:28 (for this, the Lamsa version is used; the majority of Bible translations say “Church of God”). And as a scriptural basis for the mission of Felix Manalo, the INC uses the translation of Isaiah 43:5 according to the Moffatt version).
a) George Lamsa (1892-1975), the author of “The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts” based his translation of the New Testament on Aramaic, not Greek. Even Protestant Bible Scholars question Lamsa’s orthodoxy. Lamsa’s Bible is accepted by the INC, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christadelphians. Based on his other writings (he wrote 21 books), his beliefs on the Holy Trinity, on Jesus Christ as a divine Person with a true divine nature and a true human nature are not in accord with the Christian faith. He is considered a follower of Nestorianism (declared erroneous in AD 431 in the Council of Ephesus). For him the Holy Spirit is not a Divine Person but “influence”, “effectiveness”, “hidden power”. The INC follows this teaching on the Holy Spirit.
b) James Moffatt (1870-1944), A Scottish scholar, later on a professor of Church History at the Union Theological Seminary, New York, he published his Bible translation in 1926, known as the “Moffatt, New Translation”. In his desire to make the Bible readable, he freely translated and paraphrased many passages, and even changed the established order of the Chapters. Thus, Moffatt renders Isiah 43:5, that Felix Manalo used as source of the identify of God’s last messenger (Felix Manalo) as: “from the Far East will I bring your offspring”. The Revised Standard Version (RSV) says: “I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you”.
2. While the INC frequently says “Our Lord Jesus Christ” in its official publications, it denies His divinity. But in the Greek Old Testament, “Lord” stands for the divine name Yahweh. From the early beginnings of the Church the name “Lord” (Kyrios, in Greek) has been used as an expression of faith in Jesus Christ’s divinity. “So then, as you received Jesus as Lord, and Christ, now live your lives in Him…” (Col. 2:6); “… and every tongue should acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:11). See also 2 Peter 1, passim.
The INC’s teachings on Jesus Christ are a mere repetition of the “heresies”of the early centuries of Christianity, in particular, “Monarchianism” of the second century. Monarchianism taught that God is only God the Father; thus, it denied the Trinity, the eternity of the Logos (the second Person),and reduced the Holy Spirit to a mere “force” of God the Father; consequently, Jesus Christ is not God. This is the same belief held by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Unitarians.
How does INC interpret John 1:1? –-- “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. “Word” refers to God’s “purpose” that Christ would be created, and this was fulfilled at his birth in Bethlehem. Using Moffatt’s translation (“and the Word was divine”), the INC says that the “Word” had a divine quality, but it is not God.
From the beginning of her history, the Church has always defended the mystery of Jesus Christ’s being “true God and true man”; the Church never wavered from asserting Jesus’ true and complete human nature (with a human body and a human soul) as much as it has defended His being a divine Person (“consubstantial with the Father”, as we say in the Creed).
3. The revelation about the Holy Trinity is at the heart and source of the entire Christian Faith. The “Creed” that was formed as a result of the Ecumenical Councils of Nicea (AD 325) and Constantinople (AD 381) stress the divinity of the Second Person (“The Word”) and of the Third Person (“The Holy Spirit”) of the Holy Trinity. When the INC denies that there are three distinct Persons in one God it closes its mind to the obvious statements of the Lord Jesus Christ about this mystery (e.g., Gospel according to John; Mtt.28:19).
Consequently, the baptism in the INC is not equivalent to a Christian baptism.
4. The INC claim that the Church committed apostasy in the 1st century (after the death of the apostles) is indefensible:
(a) Carefully study the History of the Church, from the 1st century up to the present. The INC implies that the numerous Christian martyrs of the first 300 years were mistaken in their beliefs.
(b) If the Church had apostatized that early, then the Holy Bible that the INC is using as the only source of its teachings does not merit the INC’s reverence and faith. For, which authority decided which books should be considered divinely inspired and thus deserved to be part of the New Testament? ---- The Catholic Church. It was in the Synod of Hippo (North Africa) in AD 393 ---- that St. Augustine participated in ---- that the Canon of 27 New Testament books as we know it now was formally accepted.
5. In the past centuries, every “new prophet” who claimed to be a messenger of God --- in order to strengthen his credibility ---- would say the same thing: the Church committed apostasy in the early centuries. Thus, they consider themselves founders of a “Restorationist church”. If in the 21st century, a new messenger would accuse Felix Manalo of having committed apostasy (by using the same Bible texts used by Mr. Manalo), what defense would the INC offer? If each “new prophet” interprets the Holy Scriptures according to his own mind, then the cycle would be endless, and the biggest loser would be God Himself (non-believers would scorn the Bible even more).
6. The INC’s claim that the Catholic Church apostatized because it changed its original name (“Church of Christ”) ignores that part of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed: “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”. It is obvious in this sentence that the word “catholic” is an adjective (from the Greek katholikos: universal), expressing an essential characteristic of the Church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ. The use of the name did not begin in the 4th century: “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr, a discipleof St. John, apostle; died at the end of the 1st century).
7. Like all “exclusivist” doctrines, the INC appropriates as its own Revelation 7: 3:8 --- the “sealed ones”, the 144,000 members of the twelve tribes of Israel, are the only ones to receive salvation. In contrast, the Catholic teaching is this: yes, every person has the obligation to seek the truth and embrace it; however, “those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know in through the dictates of their conscience ---- these too may achieve eternal salvation” (lumen getium, 16; CCC 846-848).
8. In the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (2010) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote: “Where the faithful are not helped to know the Bible in accordance with the Church’s faith and based on her living Tradition, this pastoral vacuum becomes fertile ground for realities like the sects to take root” (no. 73).
a) In order to reach out to all souls (those already part of the Church as well as those who are not), he added: “The Holy Spirit, the protagonist of all evangelization, will never fail to guide “Christ’s Church in this activity. Yet is important that every form of proclamation keep in mind, first of all the intrinsic relationship between the communication of God’s word and Christian witness (no. 79).
b) “For this reason, the priest himself ought first of all to develop a personal familiarity with the word of God. Knowledge of its linguistic and exegetical aspects, though certainly necessary, is not enough. He needs to approach the word with a docile and prayerful heart so that it may deeply penetrate his thoughts and feelings and bring about a new outlook in him --- ‘the mind of Christ’ (1 Cor 2: 16)” (no. 80).
These teachings are from the book This is the Iglesia ni Cristo (‘The Church of Christ”), an official publication of the INC; thus, this text is a faithful copy of the book (the page numbers indicated refer to the same book). Some subheadings have been added.