Bible Basics Lesson #5 "Jesus' Church"
Introduction. Concerned, reader, are you aware that there are thousands of different churches today with new ones being introduced every month? These churches are all distinguished one from the other in origin, founder, doctrine, and purpose or goals. Some of these churches are obviously false and evil (for instance, the "Church of Satan"). Some are admittedly based on the claim of extra (apart from the Bible) revelation such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Some are predicated on tradition and the alleged infallibility of some man, such as Catholicism and the Pope. And some have attempted to have no identity, but have absorbed the identity of all others (known as Community Churches).
Jesus promised to build His church. "…Upon this rock I will build my church…," Jesus promised (Matt. 16: 18). Jesus did build his church or kingdom (Acts 5: 11, Col. 1: 13). We read of the origin and growth of Jesus’ church in the Book of Acts (Acts 2: 14-47, 5: 11, 14, 14: 23, see Isa. 2: 2).
"And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16: 18, 19).
The term church (ekklesia, Greek). The word translated church is a compound word, "ek, out of, and klesis, a calling" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine). When "church" is spiritually used the idea is that of a called out people. Indeed, the gospel "calls" people out of "the world" (2 Thes. 2: 14, 1 John 2: 15, 16). "Church" has a number of nuances in the New Testament but the two most common are the universal and local concepts. The church universal has no geographic location, organization, or work, as such (see Matt. 16: 18, notice the singular use). The church universal is simply the saved of all the earth (Eph. 5: 27). In this respect, there is only "one body" or church (Eph. 4: 4). The Lord adds one to his church by means of water baptism (Gal. 3: 26, 27, Acts 2: 47, KJV).
"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." "Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Gal. 3: 27; Acts 2: 47, cp. Acts 5: 14, 1 Cor. 12: 13).
The Local church. The local church is God’s people in a given geographic location who have banded themselves together to constitute the local church and to perform the work assigned to the local church (Acts 9: 26). Hence, we read of the "church of God which is at Corinth" (1 Cor. 1: 2). Unlike the church universal, the local church has geographic location, organization, and work (1 Tim. 3: 15, see vss. 1-14). The baptized believer who is walking in the light must "join" the local church (Acts 9: 26, 27). Each local church is to have "Bishops…and deacons" (Phili. 1:1, Acts 14: 23). These men must meet certain qualifications (1 Tim. 3: 1-13, Tit. 1: 5-11, the pastoral system of government is not taught in the New Testament,). The church Jesus built knew nothing of governing boards or overseeing churches. Man later introduced these innovations. Each local church was autonomous or self-governing (Acts 14: 23, 1 Pet. 5: 1-3).
"And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed." "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind" (Acts 14: 23; 1 Pet. 5: 2).
Designations pertaining to Jesus’ church. The Lord’s church did not wear human names (human names such as Lutheran, etc. were introduced by man centuries after 30 AD, Acts 2, the origin of the church). As a matter of fact, the church wore no names at all. Instead, we find certain descriptive designations such as "the churches of Christ" (Rom. 16: 16, see also Col. 1: 13, 18, Acts 20: 28). We must remember, denominationalism was non-existent in the First Century, there was only Jesus' church (see 1 Cor. 1: 10-13).
The work of the early church. The work of Jesus’ church was manifestly the edification of the saints and the preaching of the gospel to the lost (Eph. 4: 16, 1 Tim. 3: 15). When there was a financial need, the church relieved needy saints (1 Cor. 16: 1, 2). The Lord’s church never engaged in effecting ecumenical unity, politics, secular education, universal and general benevolence, entertainment, the work of the family, or legislation.
"But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3: 15).
The church of the Lord submitted to Jesus’ headship and authority. Jesus, not man, any man or men, is the head of his church (Eph. 1: 22, 23). That which governs the church and that which she teaches is the word of God, the "doctrine of Christ" (2 John 9-11, Gal. 2: 14). She shuns and repudiates human creeds and traditions (Mk. 7: 6-13).
"And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1: 22, 23).
The plan of salvation is presented by Jesus’ church. The early church taught belief, repentance, confession of Christ’s deity, and water baptism for the remission of sin (Acts 16: 30, 31, 17: 30, 31, Rom. 10: 9, 10, and Acts 2: 38).
The First Century church practiced limited fellowship. The fellowship was spiritual and guarded (Acts 9: 26, 27). Only those "walking in the light" were to be fellowshipped (1 John 1: 7-9). Those who did not bring the doctrine of Christ were not to be fellowshipped (2 John 9-11).
Peculiarities of the early church. There are many characteristics, which distinguish the Lord’s church. The Lord’s church did not use mechanical music or choirs in the public worship, for instance (Eph. 5: 19). Each local church was to practice "discipline" (1 Cor. 5: 1 ff., 2 Thes. 3: 6). Each local church separately financed the local work by the offerings of the members on the Lord’s day (1 Cor. 16: 1, 2). The early church regularly partook of the Lord’s Supper on each Lord’s day (Acts 20: 7, 2: 42). Again, there were no external controlling boards or pooling of resources (such as is the practice of some churches of Christ today via the Herald of Truth organization). The early church did not build or contribute to colleges, hospitals, homes for the ages, etc., the "social gospel" is foreign to the New Testament church).
"Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Eph. 5: 19; Col. 3: 16).
Beloved, Jesus overcame death to build his church (Matt. 16: 18, 19). The church is so important and essential that Jesus "purchased the church of the Lord with his own blood" (Acts 20: 28). Forsaking the "assembling of ourselves together" is willful sin (Heb. 10: 25). To sin thus means, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" (vs. 26). Indeed, "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (vs. 31).
Conclusion. Jesus' church could be presently meeting in your area. Make plans to attend and investigate (if you need information, see the "About Us" choice on the menu bar). Do not miss out on the salvation which is experienced "in Christ," in the church (1 Cor. 12: 13, Gal. 3: 26, 27, 2 Tim. 2: 10).
"Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (2 Tim. 2: 10).
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