I received the following question:

Here is an interesting one to ponder.  There are many churches who try to validate themselves by ‘researching’ out a church lineage tracing back to the first century church.  So one has to ask, “Is there any promise in the bible which mandates that the ‘true’ believers must always exist somewhere, even if in small numbers?”  I’m thinking the answer is ‘No’.

As far as this goes, I would refer to I Timothy 4:10, written during the start of our dispensation.

For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.

Lots of people like to relate the word “save,” whenever it appears, to salvation from sin. Yet this is not the truth regarding this word. In this verse, many try to see universal salvation. Yet I believe that “Savior of all men” means that He is the Savior of all mankind. During this dispensation of grace, God does not act, like He did in the past, to remove particularly abhorrent behavior that would threaten to wipe out mankind. There are no floods, no Sodom and Gomorrahs. In such a situation, it would seem that mankind could wipe itself out, and remove itself from the face of the earth. Yet from this verse, we know that this will never happen, 50s and 60s science fiction not withstanding. Mankind will never destroy itself, for God is the Savior or all mankind, and He will not fail in saving us.

Moreover, when God does not speak or act directly to maintain truth and sustain it upon earth, it would seem that those who believe would likewise be wiped out. What could keep the light of truth from going out forever when God does not openly manifest Himself to maintain it? Yet God is the Savior especially of those who believe, and He will see to it that there are always true believers upon the earth.

That said, there is no guarantee that those who are “true believers” at any one point will be joined together in a common organization. This is clearly not the case. Trying to find “the group” that has carried the truth throughout the centuries is a pointless attempt. Those who carried it may have been scattered into many groups. There may have only been a few individuals at one point. No one can really point to their faction as being “the one” that kept the truth alive. God kept it alive, when men would have wiped it out.