By Kenneth Sils
The book of Romans in the New Testament is one of the most informative books in the Bible. Paul told them that he was ready to preach the gospel of Christ to them for it was the power of God to salvation for all people, whether they be Jew or Greek, slave or free, and male or female. This theme resonates throughout the book as Paul encourages all of them to see themselves as the people of God, united in the body of Christ, saved by the grace of God through obedient faith. Towards the end of the letter, Paul lists a series of salutations. The object of our study today is the expression found in Romans 16:16 when he told the Romans, “. . . The churches of Christ salute you.” Allow me to make three important observations concerning the term “churches of Christ” that is found in this passage.
The first observation from this God-given name is the section “of Christ.” When one says church “of Christ,” one is showing who the owner is of that which is called the church. Jesus Christ is the owner and possessor of the church. In Matthew 16, Jesus asked his disciples whom they thought he was. The answer Simon gave was correct. He said in Matthew 16:16, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In response to his confession of faith, Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “… on this rock, I will build my church.” The church belongs to Jesus and Jesus alone. The headship of the church was never left to Peter, Paul, or any other man on this earth. In Colossians 1:18, we learn that Jesus “is the head of the body, the church.” The church of the Bible is truly the church “of Christ.”
A second observation from the inspired phrase, “the churches of Christ salute you” points out the truth that the word “church” could never refer to any arrangement of man-made buildings. It’s impossible for a stone or brick building to salute anything! In the New Testament, the word church means “called out” or “those who are called out.” Acts 5:11 states, “So great fear came upon all the church.”
Only people have the ability to fear and those who were the “called out” of Christ expressed in unison reverential fear due to the awesome power they witnessed through the hands of the apostles. No physical building (cathedral, synagogue, sanctuary, meeting house) was ever referred to as “the church” in the New Testament. To do such today shows a gross ignorance of God’s way taught in Holy Scripture.
A third observation we should learn from the God-breathed phrase, “the churches of Christ salute you” refers to God’s use of the plural for the word “church.” The term “churches” simply meant “the called out” in reference to a variety of locations around the world. This is a phrase of common sense. Paul was currently instructing the “church of Christ” which was meeting in the city of Rome. There were the “called out” in Jerusalem, Ephesus, Antioch and the list could go on and on. Consider the seven “churches” of Asia which had letters sent to each one in the book of Revelation. It is vital to understand that the only distinction between these churches is in respect to their location. They were not denominations with differing doctrines, organizations, and allegiances. Their doctrine was the same for all as Paul commanded as he was sending Timothy to them in 1 Corinthians 4:17, “… who will remind you of my ways in Christ as I teach everywhere in every church.” The same doctrine that Timothy must preach to Corinth would be preached before every church of Christ he spoke to, regardless of their location.
The Caroline Street Church of Christ proposes to be a group just like you read about in the New Testament. We give our total allegiance to Christ and his inspired message just as the churches of Christ did in the fust century. Our mission is to teach the gospel of Christ for the salvation of your soul. If your interested in being a part of a church who loves the Lord and his inspired message, let’s study together. 1827 Caroline St., South Bend, Indiana 46613
Guardian of Truth XLI: 18 p. 20
September 18, 1997