By Kenneth D. Sils
Within each community in America, there seems to be some type of church building at every major intersection. There are well over 2000 differing denominational churches across the land. If one would look hard enough, he could really find “the church of his choice.” There was one particular denominational church in my area which advertised for men and women to come and worship with them for just half an hour one Thursday night because they knew people didn’t like to sit for an hour on Sunday morning!
With all of this religious confusion and competition how can people distinguish a “godly church” from an impostor? How can people know which church is pleasing God by their activities and functions? How can I be sure that the church I belong to is one which is in God’s good graces? Many people have simply given up amidst the confusion, thinking one church is just as good as another, and have their religion at home with TV evangelists as their guides. Some, instead of contributing to denominational churches, are giving money to various “good” causes because of their distaste for man’s religious divisions. It is a proven fact that leading atheists, evolutionists, and humanists developed their ungodly theories because of denominational doctrines, prophets, and problems that led to one division after another.
The only way to solve all of these problems and divisions created by modern denominationalism is to return to the old paths of God, the Bible. The Bible, God’s word, gives us the instruction needed to find the church which Jesus purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28). Paul wrote to Timothy and told him the value of God’s word by saying in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for re-proof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Friends, God has supplied all “the doctrine” or teaching necessary for us to find the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has given us the Scriptures to serve as a blueprint for the building of the church. For us to please God, we must study the Scriptures and use only its instruction concerning what the church is, who is to control the church, how one enters the church, how the church is to worship and function, and what is the relationship of the church to the world. Throughout the next several articles, I will attempt to give book, chapter, and verse answers to these very important questions with a plea for you to “ex-amine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Prove yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5). John also instructed us to “test the spirits, whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone into the world” (1 John 4:1). Knowing this admonition, I will “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Only the word of God can lead us from the confusion of error to the old path, the path of truth on this issue or any other spiritual matter.
To begin understanding the church, we must first under-stand who it belongs to. In Matthew 16, we are invited to read a conversation that Jesus had with his chosen few. He asked them in verse 15, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responded by saying, “You are Christ, the son of the living God.” As a result of this confession, Jesus told him in verse 18, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” Nowhere in this passage is Peter called a pope, nor was he ever bestowed executive headship over the church. Jesus told us plainly that, “I will build my church.” Jesus was going to build his church. The church we read about in the Bible is Jesus’ church. It belongs to him, hence it is the church of Christ. The apostle Paul tells us, “And he (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that is all things he may the have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18).
The church of Christ is content with Jesus being the only head. It has no earthly headquarters, for Jesus, our only head, lives and reigns in heaven at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33). Jesus is the head of the body, the church. According to the Bible, the church is not a brick and mortar structure, but it is the people who are, “as living stones, being built up a spiritual house” (1 Pet. 2:5). The apostles of Jesus were members of his body, the church. Today, Christians are members of his body, the church. Paul told the church of Christ in Corinth, “Now you are the body of Christ and members individually” (1 Cor. 12:27). In the first century, men and women accepted God’s conditions for one’s soul salvation and God added them to his church (Acts 2:47). Jesus came to this world, not only as Savior but also as the Lord of men. He told the apostles in Mat-thew 28:18, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” Man must respect his authority to be a part of his church, his body, which avails them the opportunity to come into contact with his soul saving blood. Remember, Jesus purchased the church with his blood (Acts 20:28). Friend, this is where all of us need to be, in the blood bought body of Christ, his church.
To help us understand the basics of the church of Christ in the Bible, consider what Paul told the Ephesians, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the house-hold of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19-22). This section of inspired Scripture makes it very clear that Jesus is the chief and his apostles and prophets were the rest of the foundation for his church. This being the case, there is no room for the doctrines, dogmas, creeds, and theologies of uninspired men in the church of Christ. The foundation of the church has been laid just as God wanted it; to add or take from this foundation laid in the first century is to reject the very headship of God.
Peter tells us, “His divine power has given to us all things for life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). Can man add any teaching for godliness if God gave all things for godliness to Peter and the rest of the apostles in the first century? No. Things added by men to build churches of men are an anathema to God. To understand the church that Jesus built, we must rest upon the fundamental instruction for its building, the gospel of Jesus Christ, as revealed for us in the New Testament. Paul told Christians in Galatians 1:8-9, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”
To build a great house, one needs to follow a great blue-print. To build on the house of God today, we must completely follow the only blueprint with God’s hand- writing, the New Testament Scriptures. Any other direction, my friend, will take us down the paths of modern division and denominationalism. Before Jesus died, he prayed to his Father for the apostles and us, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (John 17:20). The church of Christ can be found today if we will believe and accept the apostles’ word as God’s building blocks for his church. Search the Scriptures for only within them lies the true foundation for the building of the church of Christ.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 19, p. 12-13
October 5, 1995