by Steven Chan,
26 June 2011
Some say that any church is okay so long as the church makes us feel comfortable. Others say that there’s no perfect church so any church will do so long as we feel welcomed in that church. There are also those who say that the church is not important – what’s really important is that we have a good personal relationship with Jesus. One church is as good as another, so they say. No wonder there are thousands of different churches in the world.
But what does the Bible say about this subject?
In Matt 16:18 Jesus said: “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.” The church that Jesus would build would be founded on the rock of Peter’s confession (in v 16) that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”(1 Cor 3:11) The Bible says that Jesus bought the church with His own blood: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”(Acts 20:28). The Bible tells us that “Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (which is the church – Eph 5:22-23) and that “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.” (Eph 5:23, 25-26).
Does the Bible agree with the opinion that the church is not important? Did Jesus die to purchase something that is unimportant? Did Jesus shed His blood to save an unimportant thing such as the church?
Did you know that when the 3,000 were baptized on the Day of Pentecost in AD33, they were added to the church: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41) and since then, the Bible says that “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) Does not the fact that the Lord adds the saved to the church declare to us that the church is important as far as God is concerned? Who would you believe? The Bible, or your friendly religious adviser?
Now, let us ask the question: to which church did Jesus add those who were being saved?
Which church is mentioned in the Bible?
Let’s read what the Bible says:-
In Acts 20:28, reference is made to “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood”;
1 Cor 1:2: “To the church of God which is at Corinth,” – was the apostle Paul to a universal church of to the local congregation at Corinth?
1 Cor 10:32: “Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God,”
1 Cor 11:22: “do you despise the church of God”
1 Cor 15:9: “I persecuted the church of God”
Gal 1:13: “how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.”
1 Tim 3:5: “how will he take care of the church of God?”
1 Tim 3:15: “the house of God, which is the church of the living God”
The church is referred to as the church of God because God is the One who planned for the church to be established: “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Eph 3:10-12).
Rom 16:16: “The churches of Christ greet you” – they are known as the churches of Christ because Jesus bought His Church with His own blood (Matt 16:18; Acts 20:28) and He is the Head of the Body, the church (Eph 1:22, 23).
How is it that one does not read of any denomination in the Bible? Can you find the names of these churches mentioned in the Bible – Roman Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Community church, Pentecostal, Charismatic, etc…? As far the Bible is concerned these denominations are not known in the Bible. Why then does any man want to be a member of a so-called church that is not even mentioned in the Bible?
Today, can one be a member of the church that the Bible talks about? Does one need to trace the unbroken history of the church all the way to the day it started in Acts 2?
Let’s consider what the Bible say on this matter?
Who are the members of the church of which Jesus is the Head (Col 1:18; Eph 1:22, 23)?
In Acts 2:47, the Bible tells us that “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” So, everyone who is saved will be added to His church. How is one saved? According to Acts 2:37-38, in reply to their question: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”, Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So, as recorded in Acts 2:41, “then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” In order to be saved, one needs to obey the terms of the gospel as stated in Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” When one does that, then he is saved, and the Lord adds him to the church. The church comprises of all who are being saved. So, when one does exactly what those in Acts 2 did in order to have their sins forgiven, then one would be saved, and the Lord adds him to His church.
The Bible says that the seed is the Word of God (Luke 8:11). So, when the seed which is the gospel (“the power of God unto salvation – Rom 1:16) is sown in the hearts of men then those who obey the gospel would be saved (I Pet 1:23), and would be added to His Body, His Church. The Bible tells us in 1 Cor 12:13: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free–and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” We get into the Body of Christ – which is His Church (Col 1:18; Eph 1:22,23) when we are baptized – this is the same way we get into Christ: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”(Gal 3:27-28). The seed which is the Word of God produces Christians only – and no denominations.
There is no necessity to trace the unbroken history of the church all the way to Acts 2. As the apostle Peter puts it: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”(Acts 10:34-35). Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). “We need to “receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls.”(James 1:21). So long as we obey the same gospel unto salvation as those in the New Testament did, we can be assured that the Lord will be faithful with His promise of forgiveness of sins, receiving of the Holy Spirit and being added to His Body, His Church: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”(Acts 2:41-42)
It is important to note that after their addition to the church, they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”(Acts 2:41-42) Once baptized and having been added to the church, one needs to continue to be faithful in obeying all the commandments of the Lord as otherwise, one would not gain the crown of life: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”(Rev 2:10) In Acts 8:20-23, Peter said to a new convert Simon who had failed to remain faithful to the teachings of the Lord: “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” Hence, if one is not faithful to the Lord, but return to worldly living, then his condition is described in 2 Peter 2:20-22 as follows:-
“For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
To the church at Thyatira, our Lord said: “I know your works, love, service, faith, and
your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. (Rev 2:19-21) The afore-stated passage implies that disciples of Christ have a responsibility to ensure that false teachers are not allowed to continue to teach and so influence the church to do that which is not permitted by God: 2 John 9-11: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”
To the church at Laodicea, the Lord said: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth….As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent”. (Rev 3:15-16, 19). The case of the church at Laodicea implies that the whole church in a locality may be “vomited out” by the Lord if their works are lukewarm.
So, if one is added to the Lord’s church and then subsequently if the entire congregation with which he assembles, fails to walk faithfully and/or fervently, then he along with the entire congregation in that locality is at risk of being “vomited out” by the Lord unless they repent – this was the case with the church at Laodicea.
In both of his epistles to the preacher Timothy, the apostle Paul warned of those who will depart from the faith through false teachings:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim 4:1-2)
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”(2 Tim 4:3-4)
Over the centuries, many so-called believers have departed from the “once for all delivered faith” (Jude 3) and have turned aside to teachings which are not in accord with the Bible. Churches have been influenced to tolerate, accept or embrace these false teachings and thereby risking the wrath of God as shown in His letters to the churches at Thyatira and Laodicea. Why would one to remain a member of a church that does not respect the teachings of its Head (Christ)? Why would one want to “encourage” those who teach falsely by continuing to support their work or alternatively, refraining from refuting them of their false teachings?
Today, we can all be members of the church that Jesus built IF we love Him and keep His commandments (John 14:15) and obey the terms of salvation in the gospel by believing that Jesus is the Son of God, repenting of our sins (Luke 13:3), confessing Him as Son of God (Rom 10:9-10), be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins – at which time He adds us to His church (Acts 2:41, 47) – and then remaining faithful in keeping His teachings and commandments(Rev 2:10) as well as being fervent in our service to Him all the days of our lives (Rev 3:15-16). Being faithful to His teachings mean that we speak where He speaks and are silent where He is silent (Deut 18:20) as we seek to speak as the oracles of God (I Pet 4:11). We will respect His Lordship by calling Bible things by Bible words/names (I Cor 2:13) and doing Bible works in Bible ways (Lev 10:1). Thus, we shall be called the church of God or the church of Christ and thereby honor Him. We will be one in Christ, speaking the same thing and being of the same judgement (John 17:20-21; I Cor 1:10). You can become a member of the church that Jesus built by obeying the same commandments that all those in the first century did – and the Lord will add you to His church (Acts 2:47). The Bible declares that there is only One Body, ie. One church (Eph 4:4; 1:22-23). You can become a member of that One Church today.