“The Search for the Church Built by Jesus” (Matt 16:18)
by Steven Chan
- The present situation in Christendom is rather confusing: There are numerous “churches” in our community.
- They are known by different names and although they all purport to follow Jesus Christ and the Bible, they have different beliefs and practices.
- People are confused. Is one church as good as another so that we can join the church of our own choice?
- How do we decide what to do?
1 . God has given us His Inspired Word which serves as our only guide for searching for the church built by Jesus.
a. Tim 2:14-18: we need to study the Word of God and handle it accurately; otherwise, we may be deceived by teachers of errors.
There were two major Jewish Denominations when Jesus came into the world:
The Pharisees and the Sadducees; and they both believed in Jehovah God and claimed to follow the Jewish Scriptures but they differed from each other in their beliefs:-
i. The Sadducees believed that there is “no resurrection of the dead, no angel and no spirit” and probably no future punishment or reward – nothing beyond this life (Acts 23:6-9; 5:17 – aligned with the high priest); they came to those beliefs because according to Jesus,
- they relied on their own human logic/reasoning (not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God) instead of trusting in the Almighty God, and so, Jesus said that they were in error: Matt 22:29; Prov 3:5
2. The Pharisees believed that the “traditions of their forefathers or elders” were equally as important as the Scriptures and so, according to Jesus,
- they added their own ideas/human traditions into their teachings and because of that, their worship was not acceptable.
- They were also hypocrites and majored on the minor and minored the majors: Matt 15:3,9; 23:3, 23, Prov 14:12; Isa 55:8-9
b. Today, there are many denominations; the major ones being the Catholic and the Protestants. Are they all acceptable to God?
i). God is not the author of confusion: I Cor 15:33
ii). The Bible exhorts all believers to be of the same mind and of the same judgement: I Cor 1:10-13
iii). Jesus said that He will build His church: Matt 16:18. The church was in the eternal plan of God: Eph 3:10-11
iv). And there’s only One Church because there’s only One Body: Eph 1:22-23;4:4
v). Jesus is the Saviour of the body, the church: Eph 5:23.
vi). Since Jesus is the saviour of the church, is it not important that we become members of the church that Jesus built?
2. The Search for the Church that Jesus Built must necessarily be guided by the Scriptures:
a. According to the Bible when did the church come into existence?
i. Was it in existence when Jesus was born? No, because Jesus said that He was going to build His church in Matt 16:18 – and that implied that the church had not yet been built by Jesus.
ii. What would it cost Jesus to build His church?
Acts 20:28: Jesus purchased the church of God with His own blood. That implied that the church would only be built after Jesus had paid the price by the shedding of His blood on the cross.
iii. When was the first time that the church was spoken of as being in existence?
Acts 2:47: In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, after the gospel was preached for the first time and 3000 were baptized, the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
iv. Since the church built by Jesus was in existence in Acts 2 (around 33 AD), any church today that has its beginnings later than that date, cannot possibly be the church built by Jesus Christ as it came into existence too late.
- Did you know that the Catholic Church came into existence around AD 606 when the first pope was installed?
- Similarly the Protestant churches came into existence after the 1500s – they came much later than the church built by Jesus.
BAccording to the Scriptures, who may become members of His church? In other words, who would the Lord “add” to His church? Acts 2:47: “those who were being saved”. This makes sense because Jesus died to save those who would obey the gospel (I Pet 1:18-19; Mark 16:15-16). On the Day of Pentecost (7 weeks after the Passover; also known as the feast of weeks, celebrating the harvest) those obeyed the gospel were saved and added to His church.
No one has the freedom to choose which church he wants to be a member of. The Lord died to purchase His church, and on a daily basis, He adds those who are being saved, to His church.
God adds each member in the church so that:-
i.) 1 Cor 12:18: “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.”
ii.) 1 Cor 12:24-25: “But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.”
So, when one obeys the gospel, then one is made a member of the Body of Christ, the church of Christ, by the Lord Himself.
There were many congregations of the believers in the first century, and Paul referred to them as “the churches of Christ” in Rom 16:16. They do not bear the names of any human beings (not even the names of the apostles) – for Christ is the Head of His church (Col 1:18).
3. With the Bible as our Guide, today we can be members of the church that Jesus built, by obeying the gospel and teaching and practising exactly what the members of the early church did.
When the “seed” which is the “word of God” is planted in the hearts of men (Luke 8:11), those obey the gospel will be born again (John 3:3-5; I Pet 1:23) and thereby become members of the body of Christ, His church: 1 Cor 12:13: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free.”
If we continue in His Word, then will we be truly His disciples: John 8:31: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.”:
- Therefore we must speak as the oracles of God (I Pet 4:11) and speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. We must not add nor subtract from the Word of God (Deut 4:2; Rev 22:18-19).
We must walk in the “old paths” of the early Christians (Jer 6:16) and call Bible things by Bible names and do Bible things in Bible ways.
We must plead for unity in all matters of faith (for there is only One Faith (Eph 4:5) which has been delivered once for all time – and for which all of us must contend earnestly for – Jude 3); liberty in matters of opinions (Rom 14 where God has granted us freedom for personal preferences) and charity/love in all things (Col 3:14).
We must avoid the errors of the Denominations of the Sadducees and Pharisees and modern day’s denominations:
- We must not add nor subtract from the Word of God: Deut 4:2; Rev 22:18-19
- Note the seriousness of straying from the truth: If one does not abide in the teaching of Christ then one does not have God: 2 John 9; Straying from the truth will cause death: James 5:19-20
Just like one looks for the identifying marks of a genuine currency note, there are identifying marks of the church as described in the New Testament.
You will have found the church built by Jesus when you find the following in the church:-
- It’s name suggests that it belongs to its Head, Jesus Christ (Matt 16:18;Col 1:18; Rom 16:16) and not to some others (I Cor 1:10-13 – as Christ is not divided) just as the church during the times of the apostles
- It accepts as members, those who are being saved just as the church during the times of the apostles, i.e. those who obey the gospel of Christ by believing in Jesus, repenting of their sins, confessing Jesus as Lord and having been baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38); – and not declare as “saved” those who have not fully obeyed the gospel such as “accepting Jesus into your heart” without having been baptized for the forgiveness of sins
- It shows love for one another (John 13:34-35) and are spiritually-minded (Rom 8:6) just as the church during the times of the apostles.
- It adheres to the teachings of Jesus Christ and those of the Apostles just as the church during the times of the apostles (Acts 2:42; John 8:31-32; 14:15; 2 John 9), and not man-made doctrines in all aspects of its teachings and practices, such as:-
- The organisation of the church as prescribed in the Bible (elders and deacons just as the church during the times of the apostles: Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5-9; I Tim 3:1-13) – no organisation greater than the local church; no earthly Headquarters. No one called religiously addressed as “father” Matt 23:9; not just one individual as “priest” for all Christians are priests (I Pet 2:5,9); elders or pastors who are qualified by God’s criteria such as 1 Tim 3:2: “the husband of one wife”; 1 Tim 3:4-5: “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” – an unmarried man will not qualify.
- The work of the church just as the church during the times of the apostles: evangelism (Matt 28:18-20); edification (Eph 4:11-17) and benevolence (I Tim 5:8; Rom 15:25-27; Gal 6:10) – not in political or other earthly activities.
- The worship of the church in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) just as the church during the times of the apostles, on every first day of the week (Acts 20:7), in acts of praying (I Cor 14:15); singing (I Cor 14:15; Heb 13:15); preaching the Word for edification (I Cor 14:26); partaking the Lord’s Supper (I Cor 11:23) and Giving as God has prospered each one (I Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 9:6-8)
Glorifying God in everything just as the church during the times of the apostles: Eph 3:21; I Cor 10:31; I Pet 4:11
Jesus died to purchase His church and He will come again to receive His glorious church (Eph 5:27)
Have you found the church that Jesus built?
Are you a member of the Church that Jesus built?
You can be a member of the church of Jesus Christ today – by obeying the gospel and be added by the Lord to His church, which is His body.
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