THE BEGINNING OF THE LORD’S CHURCH
Because glory is given to God “in the church” (Ephesians 3:21), and since the Christ is the Savior of His body or church (Ephesians 5:23), the Lord’s church is one of the greatest blessings that God has made available to mankind. The church of the living God had a starting point on the planet earth, and its start was different from the start of every man-made religion in human history. Let us look at some clear facts in connection with the start of the Lord’s church.
The beginning of the Lord’s church did not come about by accident – it was planned and foretold by God Himself. First, God planned His church before the creation of the world. What the Bible calls “the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4) was “hidden in God” from the beginning of the ages (3:9). That mystery, identified as “the eternal purpose” (3:11), included the Christ, the gospel, and the body or church (3:6). The church was part of God’s eternal purpose. No, God’s church was not an afterthought! God planned it, including its start.
Second, after Peter confessed Jesus as the Son of God and Christ, Jesus promised to build the church, saying, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Third, the Christ “loved the church and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). What a price He paid that the church might come into existence: He bought it with His own blood (Acts 20:28). That purchase-price sets the church of the Christ apart from everything else that is called “a church,” because no denomination or man-made group can claim truthfully that it was planned, promised, and purchased by the Lord. Those characteristics belong only to the church of the living God that is described in the New Testament.
The Lord’s church began at a specific time – on the first Day of Pentecost after Jesus rose from the dead. One common description of the church that is assigned to it by inspired speakers and writers is “the kingdom.” It is known in the Scriptures as “the kingdom of the Son” (Colossians 1:13), “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:18,19), and “the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14,15). John the Baptizer (Matthew 3:1,2), Jesus (Mark 1:14,15), the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:5-7), and seventy other disciples (Luke 10:9) all foretold that the kingdom’s coming was near.
About one year prior to His death, Jesus specifically stated that some who heard Him speaking would not die until they saw the kingdom come with power (Mark 9:1). At that point, Jesus did not explain the power, but after His resurrection, He told His disciples, “Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). So, the promised power would come from above, but when and how? Just before the Christ ascended, He told His apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the Father’s promise (Acts 1:4), then said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem . . .” (Acts 1:8).
The apostles received that power from above – from the Holy Spirit, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues or languages which they had never studied (Acts 2:4). When did that occur? On the first Jewish Pentecost after the death of Jesus. So, on that Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to the apostles, the apostles received divine power from above, and the kingdom or church came with power.
In simplest terms, the Lord’s church began in the first century A.D. For a historical date, it was about 33 years after the birth of Jesus. And, based on the timing of the Day of Pentecost (Leviticus 23) and the fact that Jesus remained on the earth for 40 days following His resurrection (Acts 1:3), it would appear that the church of God had its beginning ten days after Jesus returned to heaven. By the time one reads Acts 2:47, then Acts 5:11, and again Acts 8:1-3, it is plain that the church that God planned and foretold already existed on earth.
The Lord’s church began in a specific place – in the city of Jerusalem. Remember, Jesus told the apostles to tarry in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4), for it was there that they would receive power from above (Luke 24:49). In fact, the incredible events on that Day of Pentecost took place in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5,14). That place, and that place alone, was the beginning point of the church of the Christ. Thus, it began in an Asian setting, not in Europe and not in North America.
All denominations and man-made groups exist today solely because men founded them. Not so with the Lord’s church – God planned and started it! Every man-made religious group exists by the authority of humans (Matthew 21:25). Not so with Jesus’ church – it alone exists by the authority of the Godhead.
In our excitement for what God has planned, we raise our eyes to look ahead and look up. You see, the church that the Lord planned, promised, purchased, and put into the world – it has a great eternal destiny, as it will be delivered up to the Heavenly Father (1 Corinthians 15:24). Who said all churches are alike?!
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.