This the first installment in a series that it is hoped will benefit members of the church of Christ and non-members alike. Members will have their minds refreshed about the very essence of the church. Non-members will profit by following the scriptural and logically points made that attest to the fact that the Church of Christ exist as a body of people for the sole reason that God has willed it so. The Church of Christ is a unique body unattached and unlike any other church or religious organization that one may encounter. Various and sundry aspects of the church will be called to your attention to answer the question—“what is the church of Christ?”
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS THE CHURCH ONE READS ABOUT IN THE BIBLE
Viewing the landscape, there are many churches in the world today. Is God the author of all these bodies? Is it the will of God for ALL of these to exist? Or, on a more personal note: does God wish for me to be a member of one of these churches? The only way we can know the answer to these questions is by looking into the Bible (the word of God). We do know that there is a church revealed in scripture. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47). We do know that churches of Christ were established throughout the then known world. We read of a church in Jerusalem, Samaria, Corinth, Rome, etc. Each of these was ruled by Apostolic authority and any that did not comply were removed from communion of the Lord and other churches (See Rev. 2 & 3). We also know that each of these churches were referred to as a “church of Christ,” (Rom. 16:16). From these and many other statements made in the Scripture it is obvious that we do read about the church of Christ in the Bible. Perhaps you are aware that the many churches in the land complain about members of the Church of Christ stressing the fact that the Church of Christ is the one you can read about in the Bible, the reason being that one cannot read about the many other churches that exist in the land. What is the Church of Christ? It’s the Church we read about in the Bible.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS THE CHURCH JESUS PROMISED TO BUILD
Jesus never asked questions for the purpose of gleaning information. When He posed a question (and He often did), He purposed to teach a lesson by the answer given by others. In Matthew the sixteenth chapter He poses a very important question to His disciples, asking, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” Quickly they responded with some various and important men of the past. As grand as the men named were in the scheme of things, each of the answers was incorrect, each fell short of the glory that belonged to Christ. Surely, the disciples were aware of that. With their mind centered on the subject another contrasting question came forth. “But whom say ye that I am?” Responding was Peter; “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter asserted that Jesus was superior to any man, even great men. He is the Christ, meaning the “anointed one of Israel.” He was (is) the long looked for Messiah of the people. Furthermore, He is not just the “son of God” in the sense that humans were created as God’s off-spring, nor is He the “son of God” in the sense that the Jews claiming a relationship to God because of their Abrahamic connection. He is the “Son of God” by virtue of His virgin birth when the seed was implanted within Mary that she would give birth to a man-child although she had never known a man. It was then that Jesus made the lasting, binding and glorious promise, “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” He did not say that He would build a church for John the Baptist (who was beheaded before this time, and knew nothing about a church being built, Mt. 14). He never indicated that he would build a church for Elias, nor for Jeremiah, no, not for any of the prophets. He did not promise to build a church for Peter or any disciple. He did promise, “I will build MY church.” We know that He kept His promise as the church came into existence in the second chapter of Acts, as we read earlier, “the Lord added to the church.” “MY” church means it is the “Church of Christ.” What is the Church of Christ? It is the church Jesus promised to build.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS THE FAMILY OF GOD
“These things I write unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But, if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (I Tim. 3:14-15). The word “house” is used here of the family. It is revealed that Noah “prepared an ark to the saving of his house.” We know that does not refer to the dwelling in which Noah had previously lived and that building was delivered, rather his wife, sons and their wives were saved by entering the ark. Therefore, it means Noah’s family. The same holds true regarding the church; it is God’s family. This truth is presented in the letter to the Ephesians, chapter two at verse nineteen, “Now ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” As for as I know, there are none who would contend that one can be saved without being a child of God. All heeding the bidding of the Holy Spirit become sons (or children of God). “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God…The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” (Rom. 8:14, 16, 17). It is imperative that we are in God’s family (house, household,) to be saved. What is the church of Christ? It is the family of God.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS THE CHURCH PURCHASED BY CHRIST
The importance of a thing is often determined by the price that one is willing to pay for it. On that basis how important is the Church of Christ? If we should poll the average person claiming to believe in Christ, it would be of little value. Listening to some who make the claim of being in love with Christ and averring that they preach the Gospel that glorifies Him such statements come forth as: “the church has nothing to do with salvation,” or, “church membership is unnecessary,” or, “it does not matter which church you are a member of.” To Bible believers the opinions of men mean little. What is the testimony of the scripture? A great preacher and perhaps the most devoted follower of Christ that ever lived said, the church of God, (ASV Lord,) which he purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28). What was the price paid for the church? The blood of Jesus Christ. To the church that preacher established at Corinth, he reminded them of the great cost of the church, “ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (I Cor. 6:20). When I pay a certain amount for a coat the only way I can get the value of that dollar is by making the coat a part of my life—by wearing it. The way that we get the value of the blood of Christ is by becoming a member of the church that His blood purchased. The valuable things of this world were not sufficient to purchase the church. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversations received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (I Pet. 1:18-19). Speaking of Christ as “a lamb” has no reference to the meekness and lowliness of our Lord, rather it reminds us of the sacrificial lamb, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” (Jn. 1:29). What is the Church of Christ? It is the church Jesus purchased with His precious blood.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS THE BODY OF CHRIST
God being pleased with His Son, we are told that He “gave him to be the head over all things to the church. Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” (Eph. 1:22-23). Actually, there is not a need to go elsewhere in the scripture to determine what the church is, the definition of inspiration is clear enough. What would a body be without a head? It would be dead and ineffective. The body of Christ is not a lifeless organism. The head of the body is Christ himself. The aforementioned passage declares that God gave him to be the head over all things to the church.” To the church at Colosse the same writer said, “he is head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (Col. 1:18). Any religious organization or church that has supplemented a human head (one or a group,) is not the church of Christ. As head Jesus Christ is Lord or Ruler and has been given by God “preeminence in all things.” Members of the church constitute the body of Christ, meaning that each Christian is a member of the body. “Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular.” He was speaking of each church member NOT different denominations. The Lord declared, “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” (Jn. 15:5). To abide in Christ is to abide in the vine. But, what of those who will not be a member of the body of Christ? Listen again to Jesus, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (Jn. 15:6). It is important to remember that there is but one Christ who is the head of His (one) body. Many gainsay this truth, yet the Bible plainly says, “There is one body” (Eph. 4:4). Is that so hard to understand? If a grade school child was told “there is one body” then if the question is posed: how many bodies are there? If he answered two, or two hundred, would he be correct? Yet, some claim to be students of the Bible and say, “there cannot be just one body (church)? What shall be their fate? A sad end awaits those that refuse to abide in Christ the Vine, neglect being a member of the body of Christ, reject fellowship in the church of Christ. What is the church of Christ? It is the body of which Christ is the head.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IS THE CHURCH THAT BEGAN IN THE YEAR A. D. 33
As we have seen, Jesus promised “I will build My Church,” (Mt. 16:18), while He was in the coasts of Caesarea Philippi. There are certain facts that are obviously contingent upon these simple, plainly stated words. First, His Church was not in existence previous to that time. Second, He did not build it right then. Third, at some future date (if we believe His promise), He would bring the Church into being. Most people operate on the same principal every day. An employer promises them a wage if they engage in a particular work. The pay is not expected at that moment, nor was it paid at an earlier date, but with confidence, they work expecting the reward in the future. You may begin reading at Matthew sixteen at verse eighteen and carefully scrutinize all that is written, looking for the establishment of the church. You will find we can complete Matthew, read on through Mark, Luke and John without finding any evidence of the Church Of Christ existing. Continuing by ready the first chapter in the Acts of the Apostles without any success. Then as we come to the final verse of Acts chapter two our longing eyes fasten upon this statement, “Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47). It not only is not necessary for us to retrace our steps as peradventure the establishment of the church was overlooked, because this indeed is the first time of its mention. Nor should we burden ourselves with a search of future events, as the church is now a reality. The credibility of our Lord’s word is firmly confirmed. His promise given is now His promise fulfilled. This was approximately 33 years after the Savior was born in the city of David. This removes from our heart the various dates that are advanced by men to proclaim the time the church was established. For example, we now know the church did not begin in the days of Abraham, it was not a part of the Mosaic dispensation, did not begin in the days when John the Baptist walked and preached upon the earth. It began on the first Pentecost after Jesus was resurrected from the dead (Acts 2: 1 & 47). That date being secure we are likewise assured that any church established this side of Pentecost is not the Church of Christ. It was from the day of Pentecost that the Gospel spread and soon covered the entire world. What is the Church of Christ? It is the church we read about that began in the year A.D. 33. (More shall follow). Barney Owens 1402
If you have some unwanted task thrust upon you,
Some davit deed you must face in some way;
Shun is not, because beginning makes you blue,
Face the task, get going, do it, starting today.