Let his legacy keep on lighting our path

ON MAY 10, 1886 was born Brother Felix Y. Manalo, whom the members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) recognize as the messenger of God in these last days. God commissioned him through the prophecies of the Bible to preach the Gospel of salvation (Isa. 41:9-13; 45:5-7; 46:11-13). He faithfully fulfilled this task that led to the establishment of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ) in the Philippines in 1914. The pristine teachings of the Bible that he preached comprise the religious beliefs and practices that are upheld by this Church to these days.

Whenever the birth anniversary of God’s Messenger comes, it provides members of this Church across the world with an occasion for reminiscing our past and offering thanks to the Almighty for the birth of the man who indefatigably led this Church in pursuing its mission. Looking back to the humble beginnings of the Church and pondering on its transformation into its present glorious stature, we are assured of the abiding presence of God in our midst and inspired to move forward with full confidence that He will continue to guide this Church and bless it with more success in the future.

The first local congregation of the Iglesia Ni Cristo was organized in Punta, Sta. Ana, Manila. From that point, the Church spread all over the Philippine archipelago and eventually throughout the world. Wherever the Church went, each newly formed local congregation followed the same patterns of Church polity and activities of the pioneer congregation, such as the order of worship, group prayer meetings, missionary efforts, and the training of Church officers. Brother Felix Manalo taught Church workers and ministers in a distinct preaching style that magnifies the words of God.

Soon a well-knit and cohesive Church organization took shape in spite of severe difficulties and persecutions that it encountered during its nascent years. Never did its early critics and detractors think it would grow and flourish, much less become what one scholar observed as “... may in fact be the most successful form of ‘indigenous Christianity’ to have arisen in the Third World during the past [20th] century” (Robert R. Reed, 2001).

Today, members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo hold worship services and take part in 151 countries and territories in six continents of the world. The Church itself has been recognized by leaders of different nations and organizations for its remarkable success in its various undertakings. We cannot reflect on its accomplishments without thanking God for sending the late Brother Felix Manalo, who dedicated himself to administering, teaching, and propagating the Church Of Christ for half a century until he was laid to rest on April 12, 1963. His legacy—that of preaching the pure gospel—shall always be with us to light our path toward salvation.

Among the fundamental biblical doctrines that he taught us were the absolute oneness of God (the Father in heaven), the true nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, the authority of the Bible as the sole basis of serving God, the role of the Church in Christ’s redemptive work and in God's master plan of salvation, the insufficiency of the faith alone concept of salvation, the importance of being called by God to be counted among His elect, the love of the brotherhood, and the value of leading an upright life.

These beliefs distinguish the Iglesia Ni Cristo from other religious groups. Wherever the Church mission sets its foot, it is our resolve to uphold and propagate these Christian doctrines that the Messenger preached during his ministry. We shall always remain faithful to God and to His teachings.

In so doing, we can meaningfully remember God's messenger who similarly wished what Apostle Paul had expressed to the early Christians: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling ... that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Phil. 2:12, 15-16 New King James Version)

By teaching us the pure gospel, Brother Manalo has shown us the way and lit the path that leads us to God. What he has done for us reminds us of the ministry of Apostle Paul in the first century of this era. When he was called to extend the Christian mission to the Gentile world, he was told: “... I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in me’.” (Acts 26:17-18 NKJV)

From these verses, which enunciated God’s commissioning of Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles, we can glean the great importance of the messengers whom God sends to preach His words in the work of salvation. They are the ones entrusted with the message and the ministry of reconciliation to work toward man’s reconciliation to God. Says Apostle Paul: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (II Cor. 5:18-20 New International Version).

God’s last messenger fulfilled the mission that God entrusted to him. It is for this that we remember Brother Felix Manalo and the distinguished spiritual legacy he left us and the work he did for the Church Of Christ he loved so dearly. In all these, we keep our remembrance of him firmly in perspective. We do not idolize him; we simply want to perpetuate the memory of him who submitted himself to God’s will and dedicated his life to pointing people toward Jesus Christ as the Savior of the Church. We do this in keeping with the injunction of the apostles to “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you ...” (Heb. 13:7 NIV).

May the legacy he left us continue to illuminate our path so that we may be able to pass safely through this troubled world toward the promised land where we shall enjoy eternal life.

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