THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
Matthew 16:13-18 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, some say that Thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, but whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said; Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father, which is in heaven. 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.
Within the subject text is found the first mention of the church that was to be established under God's Holy Spirit-inspired New Testament doctrine. It is a quotation from Jesus Christ saying I will build My church. At the time He spoke about the church it had not been "built," but was to be "built" in the future. On the Day of Pentecost, the apostles delivered an inspired sermon proclaiming Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. At the conclusion of their message, many in attendance asked the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Peter's recorded answer to the multitude was: Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (See Acts 2:37-38). In verse 41 we find, Then they that gladly received the word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. On the rock-solid foundation - the confession of the apostle Peter that Jesus Christ was the Son of the living God, Christ's church was established on the Day of Pentecost. The inspired writing of Luke gives us this assurance in Acts 2:47: And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. It was on this day that the Christ's church was "built," and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
It is not difficult to see this event, the founding of the body of Christ on the Day of Pentecost, as the fulfillment of Isaiah 28:16 which says, Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste. In similar fashion, and having the same teaching, the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus. Referring to them as fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, he told them, and continues to tell us today, that Christ's church was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone (See Eph. 3:19-20).
From these teachings we know that Christ's church is not a building, but rather a body of believers - citizens of the kingdom of God, of which Jesus Christ is the head. The church is made up of the saints ...of the household of God (Eph. 2:19). The word "church" is derived from the original Greek word, ekklesia, with ek meaning "out of," and klesis meaning "a calling," or kaleo meaning "to call." The root meaning is assembly or congregation. From these word derivations we know that "church" means those called out of the world; those set apart from the world; those dedicated to following Jesus Christ as their Savior; those later referred to as Christians (Acts 11:26). It was Peter, referring to the body of Christ, who wrote, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:5).
As long as the world exists, and in spite of the opposition by Satan and his followers, the church Jesus Christ died to establish - the church of which He is the chief corner stone, will firmly stand, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). The promise God made to the world, through the Seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been blessed. Satan, and the army of enemies which he leads, will not, yea, cannot, nullify, overcome, change, or in any fashion destroy this promise of eternal salvation to those that become God's children through His Son, Jesus Christ, continue to seek forgiveness when sin enters their lives, and remain obedient to His will during their lifetime here on earth. This is God's promise. His holy word, that contains this hope of salvation, has been preserved as our guide. In its pages we find that eternal life can be found only in the body of Christ, which we enter through belief, repentance, confession, and baptism. With the completion of these acts of obedience, God adds us to the same church that was founded on the Day of Pentecost - the same church, the body of Christ, to which God added three thousand obedient souls on that day.
To those with open and receptive hearts that are searching for the hope of salvation in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the task of finding His trueNew Testament church is awesome. The world today is filled with "churches" each claiming to hold the keys to the kingdom of God - each claiming to be traveling on the pathway to heaven. Although there are many, each appears different in their origin, their creeds, doctrines, and practices. With their vast differences, it is obvious that all "churches" cannot be "the church" - "the body of Christ," whose builder is the Son of God. The word of God teaches us that there are many members but only one body in Christ (Rom. 12:4-5).
Of this we are assured as we study the apostle Paul's letter to the church at Corinth. He wrote this for their edification, as well as for our understanding today: For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-13). On the Day of Pentecost, three thousand souls were baptized for the remission of their sins and were added, by God, to His church, the body of Christ. Paul told the Corinthian Christians that they all, regardless of their worldly background, were baptized into one body. All people are called by God to be in one body (Col. 3:15). Paul also told the church at Ephesus that the reconciliation of sinful mankind to our righteous God was necessary for salvation, and could only be found in the one body of Jesus Christ, through His death on the cross (Eph. 2:16). Further on in this same epistle to the Ephesians, the inspired writing of Paul fully establishes the oneness required by God for all Christians. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all (Eph. 4:4-6).
Although it is a rather lengthy text, this scripture tells us, without any doubt, that the "body of Christ" is, indeed, His church. Again, to the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote, Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 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. 1:15-23).
Among all "churches" of our day, those seeking the pathway to heaven must find that "one body" of Christ, His church; the one church that is identical to that founded on the Day of Pentecost, 33 A.D. Indeed, this is an awesome, but necessary, task as open-minded men and women search for the hope of eternal salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord. In order to find the church that practices New Testament Christianity as God authorized, we need to diligently search His inspired word. Here, and only here, will we be able to recognize, accept, become a believing member of the same church that was established on the Day of Pentecost, and worship God in a scriptural manner. This is the intent of the following study of God's word.
The New Testament church is the one whose builder is Jesus Christ
The lesson text quoted Jesus, Himself, as saying upon this rock I will build My church. The church that came into being on the Day of Pentecost; the church that the inspired apostles explained and taught to the multitudes gathered on that day; the church to which God added those that obeyed the gospel invitation and were baptized into; this, indeed, was Christ's church which He built on the foundation laid by the inspired apostles teaching that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the Savior of the world. We can say with assurance that no church can be scriptural unless it was built, or founded, by Jesus Christ. With the same surety, we can say that any church founded on another doctrine after the Day of Pentecost, A.D. 33, is unscriptural.
Churches having their origin at later dates, and having builders (founders) other than Jesus Christ, are without question human institutions, and not scriptural churches of Christ. Although they may have been sincere in their ideologies, men such as Martin Luther, King Henry VIII, John Calvin, John Wesley, Joseph Smith, Jr., Mary Baker Eddy, and many others are considered, by religious historians, to be founders of "religious bodies," and having their personal tenets, or doctrines, on which denominational "churches" were founded. This we know: these "religious bodies," as well as others not mentioned here, and the various religious principles on which they were founded, had human origin; they were devised and constructed by men based on human wisdom. Jesus Christ did not build them. Catholicism had its beginning around650 A.D. Eastern Orthodoxy separated from Catholicism as a new religious sect around 1054 A.D. Once again, relying on religious historians, here are a few of the thousands of religious bodies in the world today that were established and had their beginning in later years: Lutheran, 1517 A.D., Presbyterian, 1560, Baptist, 1605, Amish, 1693, Methodist, 1744, and Unitarian, 1793. Also, the Moravian Church had its beginning in 1727, while the African Methodist Episcopal Church was started in 1787. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began in 1830, and soon after, in 1832, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) had its beginning. The Seventh Day Adventist Church began in 1863 while Jehovah's Witnesses became a separate religious body in 1870.
Although these dates are historical approximates, the fact remains that they were founded by individual men and women of the world, or by numerous human conventions, and had their beginning at much later dates than Christ's church, which was founded on the Day of Pentecost, 33 A.D. From God's word we know that the Patriarchal Dispensation was the original religious order that God required. Later we also find the Mosaic, or Jewish, Dispensation, was established and ordained by God. The Christian Dispensation began on the Day of Pentecost. To bring salvation into the world through His Son, Jesus Christ, was God's plan from the beginning of time. The body of Christ, His church was indeed founded and built, without human hands and without human ideologies, by the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Referring to those that sought to "reform, or change" the Jewish religion from what God had originally established, Jesus said this, Every plant, which My heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up (Matt. 15:13b). God's ordinance against changing His will - against altering His church and its New Testament doctrine, is the same today as it was during all other religious dispensations ordained by God. God's will is to stand firm; to remain unchanged by mankind. Man is to neither add to, nor take away from God's will as revealed in His Holy Word (See Rev. 22:18-19). The saved, through obedience to His will, He adds to His church, founded on the Day of Pentecost, 33 A.D. This is the religious body, the only religious body, which God recognizes today. It was designed and built by His Son, Jesus Christ.
The New Testament church is the one having a scriptural foundation
Neither a building nor a religious body can be structurally sound and remain firm and unchanged, unless it is built upon a strong, unmovable foundation. It is impossible for a church tobe stronger than the foundation on which it is built. It was God that laid the foundation of the earth (Psalm 102:25b). God created the vast universe, which contains the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands (Ps. 102:25c). Its history assures us that the heavens and earth have always performed as God intended from the beginning of time. It remains constant and sure as the foundation which was laid by our Creator.
So is the body of Christ, His church. The prophet Isaiah wrote this about the future foundation of the church: Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste (Isa. 28:16). It is that sure foundation the apostle, Paul, referred to in his letter to the church at Corinth. According to the grace of God, which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:10-11).
Jesus Christ is the scriptural foundation - the cornerstone of the church. Its name reflects its builder as well as the foundation on which it is built - it is the church of Christ. A primary misconception in the religious world today is that Jesus built His church with the apostle Peter as its foundation. What a gross error. When Jesus asked Peter, whom say ye that I am, ...Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. To Peter's reply Jesus answered, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father, which is in heaven. 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 (See Matt. 16:15-18).
It is true, that the word Peter means "rock." However, the original language in which this scripture was written gives it a different overall meaning. Thou art Peter (Petros) and upon this rock (petra) I will build My church. It was God, Jesus' Father, which is in heaven, who made known to Peter the true rock that was to serve as the foundation on which the Christ's church was to be built. The rock (petra) was not Peter (Petros), but the true confession, which Peter had just made: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. One cannot read, and understand,For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11), and still maintain that Peter is the foundation of the body of Christ.
The fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, has withstood skepticism, modernism, and atheistic attacks without any signs of weakening. In this we find the assurance that this foundation is secure and unmovable, and that the church of Christ will continue to remain firm upon the tried corner stone which is a sure foundation. Of Jesus as the corner stone of His church, the Psalmist wrote this prophesy: The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner (Ps. 118:22). Jesus admitted this prophesy applied to Himself with this rhetorical question, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The Stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the Head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes (Matt. 21:42b)? After His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven; after the establishment of His church on the Day of Pentecost, Peter also applies this prophesy to our Savior. In his impassioned defense before Annas, the High Priest, Peter made this inspired statement in defense of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the Stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the Head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:10-12).
The New Testament church is the one that believes the bible to be the word of God
In today's world, disbelief in the bible is demonstrated by either accepting only portions of it, or by completely rejecting it as the true word of God. To add to, deduct from, or completely reject the bible as God's word, is to reject God as our Creator and the Author of eternal salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. Considering the 19th Psalm, it is not possible to deny the existence of God. Just look around you; the evidence of God is everywhere. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork (Ps. 19:1). The voice of God cannot be denied. Regardless of your race or ethnic background, God, as our Creator, is proclaimed throughout the world and has no language barrier. There is no speech nor language, where their voice (that of God's creation - the firmament and His handiwork) is not heard (Vs. 3).
God's word, and the importance of accepting it, is demonstrated in verses 7, 8, and 9 of this same Psalm. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. God's words, found in the Bible, should be most precious to each of us. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb (Vs. 10). His word, and only His word, should serve as our guide to life on earth and the pathway that leads to heaven. Our prayer should always be, Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer (Vs. 14).
If the bible is not true, then the creation of men and women and the promise of eternal salvation are also untrue. Mankind, the earth in which they find habitation, and the universe in which the earth exists, confirms God as its Creator. It is God's word that makes this confirmation, and it is His word that promises obedient children ofthe hope of salvation, whichHe established before the beginning of time. Although it has been attempted ever since A.D. 33, the minds of men and women of the world have not been able to conceive no other logical explanation. What is the purpose of life on earth if the bible is not the inspired word of God? It is the bible that explains God's creation, gives meaning to the physical existence of mankind on earth, and hope to the spiritual existence of mankind in the world to come. The New Testament church believes the bible to be the word of God!
The New Testament church is the one using the bible as its only creed
A creed is described as a statement of religious belief, a confession of faith, a specific statement of the guidelines under which a church is to function, or the authority that governs the conduct of a religious body. For the first century (and possibly longer), after it was founded on the Day of Pentecost, the only creed for the New Testament church of Christ was God's word. The Holy Bible was the sole authority used in guiding the purpose, establishment, and conduct of Christ's church. It describes in detail how one becomes a member of His church and how, thereafter, one is to live obediently to the will of God for the remainder of his or her life. It tells us, when we err from His will, how we can be forgiven, restored, and reconciled to God. The bible is our complete and only guide to the hope of eternal salvation through God's Son, Jesus Christ.
The completeness of the bible was described to young Timothy when Paul wrote, all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Here we can ask a rhetorical question. Why would anyone, desiring to know and inherit God's plan of eternal salvation, prefer a creed, devised by a human mind, originated in a human conference, or had its creation by men and women within a convention which was convened to establish religious doctrine alien to God's word. Why would anyone desire to have the destiny of their eternal souls determined by anything other than the bible which is given by inspiration of God? No human creed can be designed that can bring mankind to a more complete perfection than the will of God. Nor can any other creed furnish a person with a more complete description of all good works God requires of His children. God's word is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, (and) for instruction in righteousness. There can be no higher degree of spiritual profitability for all people of the world than the "creed" given to us in God's inspired word - the Holy Bible.
Yet, new "creeds" are continually being devised daily in order to alter and "humanly improve" the word of God. Benjamin Franklin said, "a creed must contain more than the Bible, less than the Bible, differ from the Bible, or be precisely like the Bible. No man is able to defend his creed on the ground that it contains more, or less, or is different from the Bible. To defend a creed that it is precisely like the Bible defeats the purpose of creating a human creed, because with the Bible already in hand, there is no need for another creed." Mr. Franklin is entirely correct. Indeed, it is impossible to explain and uphold the bible by depending on human creeds written by uninspired men to support and defend their ideologies.
The imperfections of human creeds are demonstrated by the fact that they are continually revised at human conventions, conferences, or ecumenical counsels that meets to vote on the extension of their present creed or to "legislate" one that amends that which currently exists. In the body of Christ, there is no need for man's intervention - there is no need to vote for changes in a creed to govern His church. Why? It is because God's word, the doctrine governing His church, was established in, or prior to, the first century after the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of His Son, Jesus Christ. It has never been changed because there never has, nor ever will be a need to do so. It was given by God's Holy Spirit inspiration in its current, infallible state. By His command, the inspired word of God, as found in the Holy Bible, is never to be changed by additions, corrupted bydeletions, or compromised in any manner by mortal beings (See Rev. 22:18-19). What is perfect can never be improved, which defeats any reasoning to do so. The instructions given on the Day of Pentecost for one to become a member of the body of Christ, and in every example of conversion to Christ thereafter, are as valid today as they were when first given. The sins which lead to the destruction of mankind, as described in Romans 1:28-32, and Galatians 5:19-21, cover all sins today just as they did when penned by the apostle Paul in these letters.
How can one recognize the true body of Christ? The New Testament church is the one using the bible as its only creed!
The New Testament church is the one having a scriptural organization
- In a universal sense
There are as many church organizations as there are religious denominations in today's world. Most are ecclesiastical in nature. This form of governmental structure gets its name from the Greek word ekkiesia (or) ecclesia, which originally meant "a general assembly of citizens of a state coming together for any purpose, but in this instance, it takes a religious meaning that refers to the organization of "a church and/or its clergy." An ecclesiastical government or church is one that is organized by its citizens or members, and, with majority or unanimous voting, originates and empowers the governing structure under which it is to function. From a religious standpoint, it is a self-governing body that establishes, and from time to time, adds to, takes from, or alters its governing doctrine, as it deems necessary to accommodate the current opinion of its membership. In various religious organizations, these legislative bodies are referred to as "councils," "synods," "assemblies," "conferences," "presbyteries," "delegations," or, sometimes, "general assemblies." It is from this legislative body that power and authority is vested in individuals, triumvirates, or various governing bodies that are responsible for initiating and/or carrying out the doctrine of the entire religious group.
Those that are privileged to live in a democratic society seem to have gravitated toward, and accepted, this type government in their individual religious bodies. From a broad sense, the church of Christ could be defined as ecclesiastical in the sense that it is an assembly or a congregation of God's people. However, the church does not profess to have an ever-changing doctrine that is amended from time to time to accommodate its members. The doctrine of Christ's church comes directly from the unabridged word of God,without being changed or compromised by any individual unilateral decision or by the majority voting of any "religious" democratic assembly of people. The body of Christ was not in its beginning, is not in the present age, and never, in future times, shall be an ecclesiastical body such as is found in, so-called Christian organizational bodies known to represent Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, or any Protestant denomination. The church of Christ is a monarchy, and it is the subject of the next topic of discussion. My opinion, your opinion, and the opinion of any other person during any age of history, has no authority to originate, nullify, or alter the organization of Christ's church.
- In an individual congregational sense
First of all, there can not be found in the New Testament a multi-level governmental structure in Christ's church. There are no congregations, councils, synods, conventions, boards, or any other theological organization or body that is to rule over, or determine the doctrine of the entire, universal body of Christ referred to in Romans 16:16, as the churches of Christ. Neither are there any such "religious hierarchies" that has scriptural jurisdiction over any individual congregation of God's Christian family. Each body of Christ is to be under the scriptural, shepherding oversight as originally designed by God and recorded in pages of His Holy Spirit-inspired New Testament.
There is no specific scripture that can be referenced which established the leadership of the New Testament church of Christ. However, this we have assurance: under the Holy Spirit-inspired guidance of the apostles of Christ Jesus, the oversight of Christ's church was placed in the hands of an eldership consisting of a plurality of elders. This seemed to be inherent to God's plan for the church whose Head it Christ Jesus. Certainly Jesus designated His apostles the authority to establish His church and oversee its direction. But when apostolic oversight ceased, it was replaced byelders within each congregation of Christians. Other names given to those placed in the position of elders are overseers and bishops. However, the position of an elder is inferred to also as a presbyter, due to the fact that the office of the eldership is referred to in 1 Timothy 4:14 as the presbytery.
It is possible that the basic description of "elders" was carried over from the ruling "elders" referred to under Jewish law, considered to be the members making up the Jewish Sanhedrin. However, the duties of the "elders" of the Old Testament and those termed "elders" (bishops, presbyters, or overseers) of the New Testament church had duties and responsibilities that were significantly different from one another.
In order to understand that form of church government as it is found in the New Testament, one must not be confused with the modern form of religious government referred to as episcopacy. Episcopalism refers to a hierarchical system of government which has the jurisdictional oversight over all of the individual congregations that make up the entire religious body. Such is not the case within the New Testament church of Christ. An elder is not a diocesan, or one having the authority to govern a certain district of churches termed a diocese. Elders of Christ's church have authority over, and are responsible for, only a single congregation of God's people. The eldership of each church of Christ is responsible for only the membership that makes up its own body of Christians. It should be added here also, that each body of Christ is to be governed by a plurality of elders, referred to as the eldership. This is firmly established by numerous scriptures, such as: Acts 11:30, 14:23, 15:2, 20:17, 21:18, 1 Timothy 5:17, and James 5:14, as well as other scriptures using the term bishops in the place of elders.
Using the terms elders and bishops interchangeably, the apostle Paul, in his letters to both Timothy and Titus, gives us a full description of the qualifications required for one desiring to be, and appointed as an elder of Christ's church (See 1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9). Based on these qualifications, not only must elders have sufficient wisdom gained by secular and family experience and possess an unimpeachable character both within and without of the church, but they also must have the scriptural ability to rightly teach, lead, and serve the congregation over which they are given oversight.
The only other office or position within the church of Christ is that of deacons. This title is only mentioned in Philippians 1:1 as offices within the church established in the city of Philippi, and in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 in which are found the qualifications required for this position. Although not referred to specifically as deacons, in general terms this office was first described in Acts 6:1-6. Here, a designation similar to that of deacons, was deemed necessary by the apostles of Christ in order to relieve them from serving the temporal, physical needs of the church members and allow the apostles to devote their time to instruction and filling their spiritual needs. Such are the basic responsibilities of the office of deacons in today's body of Christ, but only under the oversight of the elders of the congregation.
Preachers, teachers, song leaders, and others chosen assist in any manner within worship services and bible studies, are not considered to be under the heading of "church offices." Rather they are facilitators that are selected, and deemed qualified, by the elders of a congregation to carry out specific duties and responsibilities necessary for the spiritual benefit of the entire membership of the church over which they serve as leaders.
Note this commentary regarding this scripture: The origin of the office of deacon is usually related to the events described in Acts 6:1-6. The young Christian church in Jerusalem was experiencing growing pains, and it had become increasingly difficult for the apostles to distribute charitable gifts to its needy members without neglecting their ministry of prayer and preaching. The widows of Greek or Gentile background complained to the apostles that they were not getting their just share of food and money. To meet this critical need, seven men were chosen by the congregation and presented to the apostles (Acts 6:1-6). Although these men were not called deacons at that time, the Greek word used to describe their work comes from the same Greek root word.
While these "table servers" were appointed to relieve an emergency and their assignment may sound somewhat menial, these men possessed the very highest moral and spiritual credentials. They are described as "men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom" (Acts 6:3). They were formally installed or commissioned in a service of prayer and the "laying on of hands" by the apostles (Acts 6:6) - a practice regarded as the scriptural precedent for the ordination of deacons as church officials. (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright (c)1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
The church of Christ is a monarchy with Jesus Christ as its King!
In his inspired writing, the apostle Paul leaves little doubt tothis fact. To the church at Colosse he wrote, And He (Jesus Christ) is the Head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven (Col. 1:18-20).
To the brethren of the church at Ephesus, and to us today, Paul tells us that Jesus rules His kingdom, the church, from His throne in heaven. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 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. 1:18-23).
To the body of Christ in Corinth, and to all Christians today, Paul, explaining the Day of Judgment, tells us Jesus is to reign as Monarch of His kingdom, the church of Christ, until the end of time. Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under His feet. But when He saith, all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
As found in other religious organizations, no decisions need to be made by mankind and no majority opinions are necessary to decide the religious tenets of Christ's church. The Holy Word of God, by the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, has its doctrine spelled out in understandable terms that became effective on the Day of Pentecost by the dictates and preaching of His apostles. This doctrine was unilaterally established, unchangeably placed into effect, and solely determined by its Head, which is Christ Jesus. In light of these passages, we are assured that the kingdom of Christ on Earth is His body, the church universal. Having been given all power in heaven and earth by God, His Father, Christ began the rulership of His kingdom, His church, at its inception and currently reigns as its Monarch from His heavenly throne.
The New Testament church is the one that is non-denominational
The New Testament church, in its purity, was born on the Day of Pentecost, when, by the inspired teaching of the apostles of Christ, those in their audience gladly received His (God's) word and were baptized into the body of Christ (from Acts 2:14-41). As the apostles continued the teaching of God's word, the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:47). In the pure form in which it came into existence, this institution, the church of Christ, thrived and its teaching spread throughout the known world.
One such preacher that is credited with the rapid spread of Christianity was the apostle Paul. It was to the elders of the church at Ephesus that he warned of apostasy that would come to the body of Christ. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:28-30). Apostasy, the rending of the church, Paul said, was inevitable, due to the desire of covetous, self-serving, false teachers to bring division within the body of Christ in order to establish their own following. To do so, it was necessary for these evil preachers to pervert the will of God; to establish a "new creed;" to misuse and misapply God's word, in order to lead God's children astray and into their own personal, covetous ways. The result was apostasy - the separation of the church of Christ - the abandoning of faith in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and the placing of faith in the will of false teachers. Thus, denominations - the institutions of men were born.
The first known deviation from the New Testament Church was a denomination based on universalistic Catholicism which later split into religious organizations known today as the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. From these sprang numerous denominations that protested the teaching of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. These became known as Protestant churches. Without delving into a full description of each denomination; into their creeds and by whom they were established, suffice it to say that they were all founded at much later dates in history than on the Day of Pentecost in 33 A.D. on which God established the church of our Savior, Jesus Christ. If anyone is given credit for the establishment of any religious body other than the God of Heaven and Earth and His Son, Jesus Christ, then that organization can safely be considered as a "denominational church."
The New Testament church cannot be found in denominationalism. Any change in the organization or doctrine of the church founded on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in the word of God, is a departure from the scriptural organization of New Testament church. To find the New Testament church, one must rely on the source described by the inspiration of God - the New Testament. To establish Christ's church, and to remain undenominational there must be strict adherence to the pattern set forth in the word of God. Indeed, the New Testament church is non-denominational.
The New Testament church teaches all scriptural acts of obedience necessary to become a Christian
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). The Lord is ...not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). This is God's will. Every soul is precious to Him. It is His desire that all obey His will, become His followers, enjoy the hope of salvation, and all other blessings He designed and holds in store for His children, which Hepromised mankind from the foundation of the world. All this He has revealed in His holy word - the Bible. To gain the salvation promised to His children, one must have sufficient faith in God to search the scriptures in order to know what His requirements are to obtain it. Romans 10:14 tells us that to seek God's promises one must believe in Him, ...and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? Continuing on we find this concluding passage: So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Vs. 17).
From this introduction we know that it is necessary to hear (or read) the word of God, and, through faith, believe that it is His will. However, having knowledge of His will is still insufficient. Obedience is also necessary. Our Savior, Himself, tells us all that to hear, believe, and obey His will are likened to the wise man that built his house on a rock and was saved, while the foolish man heard God's commands but failed to believe them, failed to obey them, and was eternally lost (See Matt. 7:24-27). The writer of the Hebrew letter tells us, But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6).
Hearing the will of God, believing it, and obeying it are all necessary for one to become a child of God, a Christian, and enjoy the hope of salvation. It is from God's word that we learn the necessary acts of obedience. When the gospel message of salvation is presented, all should ask the same question as did those on the Day of Pentecost, Men and brethren, what shall we do (Acts 2:37). The Philippian jailer asked the same question of Paul and Silas, Sirs, what must I do to be saved (Acts 16:30)? The word of God has been providentially saved, and is available for our learning. A diligent search of its pages will reveal the answer to our question of eternal salvation.
To this point we know we must hear and believe God's word. Jesus told his disciples, as well as us today, ...except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:3b). To avoid eternal punishment, Jesus says that repentance is necessary for salvation. Repentance is turning away from a life of sin and disobedience and turning toward a life of righteousness and obedience to the will of God. This was one of the purposes of Christ's coming into the world. In His words He said, I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32, See Matt. 9:13). This was the message of John the baptizer as he prepared the world for the coming of Christ. God's word says that In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 3:1-2). From the inception of His earthly ministry, Jesus taught repentance to all that would listen. It is written in the gospel according to Matthew, From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 4:17). In a like manner Mark wrote, Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:14-15).
When asked what shall we do, the first answer the apostles gave the multitudes on the Day of Pentecost was repent (See Acts 2:37-38). Following this, the apostles taught, Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19). To both the Jews and Greeks, the apostle Paul taught repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). This teaching of Paul at Athens assures us that repentance is necessary for eternal salvation. Although in times past God winked at the ignorance of mankind, Paul says that ...now commandeth all men every where to repent: because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).
By example and commandment, we now know that to become a child of God we must hear God's word, believe it to the extent that we obey it, and repent of our past sinful way and turn to Him as the author of our salvation. What other acts of obedience are necessary? Again, considering God's word, notice what Jesus told His disciples and tells us today. Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven (Matt. 10:32-33). Accepting Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as our Savior is necessary for salvation. With Jesus as our advocate and intercessor before God, He will either recommend us for entry into heaven, or deny that He knows us. This truth is explained in no uncertain terms by Jesus as recorded in Matthew 25:31-46.
Among other acts of obedience, one's salvation depends on the confession that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. In his Roman letter Paul proves this point as he writes That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed (Rom. 10:9-11). By inference we know this act of obedience was exactly what Phillip taught the Ethiopian eunuch that was searching the scriptures for the hope of salvation. In response to Phillip's teaching the eunuch made this confession, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:37b).
Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch also demonstrated baptism as the next act of obedience immediately after confessing Jesus as the Son of God. When the eunuch noticed sufficient water available along the way, he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:38-39).
After His resurrection, and before His ascension into heaven, Jesus told his disciples to teach the necessity of baptism throughout the world. This was to be the core of their message: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark 16:16). This message of Christ, His apostles taught on the Day of Pentecost. Many of their audience responded to the apostles' teaching with the question, Men and brethren, what shall we do? It is recorded that Peter replied, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:37b-38). Many responded obediently to their teaching. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls (Acts 2:41). Into what were the baptized added? They were added to the body of Christ, His church, also known as the church of Christ. We are assured of this because, as the apostles continued their teaching, we find that the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:47b).
What is the act of baptism? Its root meaning is to plunge or immerse one into, or under water. This act symbolically represents the cleansing of our sins, therefore baptism is to be administered to men and women believers for the remission of their sins. As noted above, immersion is inferred when the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized. It is said that both he and Phillip "went down into the water and came up out of the water." Even the apostle Paul, when miraculously called into the service of Christ Jesus, obeyed His command to arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16b). This same apostle Paul gives a full explanation of the act of baptism. Consider his writing to the church at Rome: Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4). Immersion in water, that is to be buried with Him in baptism, is a necessary act of obedience.
To hear the word of God is not sufficient for salvation; to hear and believe the word of God is not sufficient for salvation; to hear and believe the word of God and to repent of your past sins is not enough to be saved; to hear and believe the word of God, repent of your past sins, and confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind, is not enough to enjoy the hope of salvation; to hear and believe the word of God, repent of your past sins, accept and confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, and to be baptized into His body, the church of Christ, for the remission of your sins does not assure eternal salvation.What else is necessary?
We have sufficient examples in God's word that all of these acts of faith are necessary for salvation, but there is one other duty required of mankind in order to gain the crown of life, which is eternal salvation. Notice God's message to the church at Smyrna sent to them through the apostle John. This message was directed to the body of Christ at Smyrna - those that had already heard, believed, and obeyed God's word. They had already repented of their past sins and had turned to walk in the pathway of righteousness. They had already confessed Jesus to be the Son of God - their Savior. They had already been buried with Christ in baptism for the remission of their sins. But there was an additional commandment of God given to the church at Smyrna. It was intended for their learning, but is also written for our learning as well. Knowing that these Christians would be faced with trials and temptations throughout their lives just as all Christians will be today, the word of God says, I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but) ...be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life (See Rev. 2:9-10).
From His own words, we now have God's plan of eternal salvation. These are the examples that we must follow to become a Christian, a child of God, and a fellow-heir of heaven with His Son, Jesus Christ. We must hear and believe the word of God, repent of our sins, confess Jesus to be the Son of God, be baptized for the remission of our sins, and live a faithful life while here on earth! Indeed, the New Testament church teaches all scriptural acts of obedience that are necessary to become a Christian.
The New Testament church is the one that uses God's word as a pattern for worship services
The word of God, as found in the New Testament, contains overwhelming evidence that the early church assembled on the first day of the week, which is Sunday. Very few bible scholars take issue with this fact. To Christians, the first day of the week has always held great significance. It was the first day of the week when our Savior arose from death and came from the tomb in which He had been buried (Luke 24:1). In the 21st verse of this chapter, Luke confirms this day to be the third day since His crucifixion, death, and burial. Christ, Himself, on a number of occasions, spoke of his resurrection on the third day following His burial, (See Matt. 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, also see corresponding references in the gospels according to Mark and Luke). As he preached to the church at Corinth, Paul confirms this event as occurring on the third day following the death of our Savior. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
It was on this same day, Sunday, the first day of the week that the apostles preached the gospel message of salvation to all Jews that had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Day of Pentecost. Pentecost carries with it the meaning of "fiftieth day." It was the day following the Feast of Weeks, the seven weeks (a week of weeks) that followed the Passover, which was observed, according to God's Old Testament law, on the Sabbath Day. It was, then, on Sunday, the first day of the week, when the church of the New Testament was established (See Acts 2, especially verses 41 and 47).
As a solid example of the first day of the week being the day the New Testament church assembled to worship, we find the apostle Paul preaching a gospel message to the disciples at Troas after they met to observe the Lord's Supper. It was on the first day of the week when we find that the worship service to God included the contribution by members of the church of Christ to sustain its work and contribute to those in need.Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come (1 Cor. 16:1-2).
Jesus' final instructions to His apostles, and, by example, to Christians of all ages was this: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matt. 28:19-20, also see Mark 16:15-16). Reading Ephesians 4:11-16, we find that the word of God was to be preached to the assembled body of Christ, His church. Both those outside the body of Christ, as well as those within, are to have the gospel message of Jesus Christ taught to them by preachers and teachers of God's word. Jesus Christ preached the gospel (to) the chief priests, ...scribes, ...(and) elders (of the Jewish Nation) (Luke 20:1). At His instruction, His apostles preached the same gospel message throughout the world. The same instruction, and the same gospel message, applies to all Christians today.
The apostle, Paul, tells us about the necessity of preaching the word of God. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed, and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things (Rom. 10:13-15)!
Also we find the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs required in order to edify one another when assembled to worship God (See Eph. 5:19-21, Col. 3:16). In the Old Testament we find many examples used in the worship of God that included both vocal and instrumental music. However, the New Testament refers only to vocal music. Other than the references cited above, a complete list of New Testament praise and edification, by singing, is found in these passages: Matthew 26:30, Acts 16:25, Romans 15:9, 1 Corinthians 14:15, Hebrews 2:12, and James 5:13. Only vocal music is referred to in these New Testament scriptures. Adhering to the safe principle of "speaking where the bible speaks and being silent where the bible is silent," the omission of instrumental music, either alone or as accompaniment to singing, is not given, and therefore, not to be practiced in worship services in the New Testament church of Christ.
Notice what took place after the three thousand souls were baptized for the remission of their sins and were added to the church of Christ. Immediately ...they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42). The institution of the Lord's Supper took place as Jesus, and the apostles, observed His final Passover meal together in the upper room, the guest chamber of a good man's house. And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, this is My body, which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, this cup is the New Testament in My blood, which is shed for you (Luke 22:19-20). The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are to be remembered by Christians forever. The emblems He instituted symbolically represent His body that was broken and the blood that He shed in His death on the cross of Calvary. When taken by Christians each first day of the week, these emblems serve as food and drink to sustain our spiritual bodies through the remainder of the week.
Notice Paul's instructions to the church at Corinth regarding the Lord's Supper. For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, this cup is the New Testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body (1 Cor. 11:23-29).
How often is the Lord's Supper to be observed? By example we know the church at Troas came together on the first day of the week, Sunday, to partake of this memorial service (Acts 20:7). Then the communion of the Lord's Supper is to be steadfastly observed by Christians in the worship services of the New Testament church each first day of the week.
Referring to the first sermon preached by the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, we find the three thousand souls that responded to the gospel call, were baptized for the remission of their sins, and were added to the church of Christ; Luke writes that ...they continued stedfastly ...in prayers (Acts 2:42). To the children of God, prayer a vital part of Christian worship services and during our everyday lives. Notice these examples. Prayers went out from the church for Peter's safety while imprisoned by Herod (Acts 12:5). Paul, on many occasions, admonished various congregations of the body of Christ to pray. The church at Rome was told by Paul to continue in prayer (Rom. 12:12). To the church at Ephesus Paul wrote these admonishing words: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 6:18-19). Likewise, by inspiration, the church at Philippi was told to be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God (Phil. 4:6). Other examples of prayer can be noted in 1 Cor. 7:5, Col. 4:2 and 1 Thess. 5:17-18. Indeed the New Testament church heard God's will concerning the teaching and practice of prayer in worship services.
The same passage (Acts 2:42) tells us of the importance of the church assembling together in fellowship. It is through this fellowship that Christians edify and encourage one another. There are times when one cannot assemble with the saints to worship due to physical restrictions or health problems. However, fellowship, when possible, is an implied command of God. Without assembly with other Christians in our worship services, mutual edification cannot take place to the necessary extent that God requires. Paul commended the church at Philippi For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now (Phil. For1:5). The apostle John wrote how important it is that we have fellowship one with another (1 John 1:7b).
Here we have examples from the word of God giving us the pattern for worship services in the New Testament church. On the first day of the week, Sunday, is the day God authorized the New Testament church to assemble for worship services. At this assembly there is to be preaching (teaching) from the word of God. The singing of praises to Godthat will edify one another is also required. Prayers are to be madefor all of our physical and spiritual blessings, and on behalf of all that need prayers of intercession. Remembering the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ by fellow Christians is to take place by partaking of the communion emblems, (referred to as the Lord's Supper). We are told to contribute of our means in order that the work of the church, and the welfare of it members will continue. And we are told that each member of the body of Christ will receive encouragement and edification from the fellowship with other Christians that takes place during our assembly.
With these scriptural acts of worship we can be assured that The New Testament church is the one that uses God's word as its pattern for worship services.
Paul said, in his letter to the young evangelist, Timothy, that he hoped to come visit with him soon. But before he was able to do so, he wrote this letter of encouragement, saying, 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, the body of Christ, is to be firmly grounded in the truth (God's word). It is not to amend or change it in any manner. The Church has the responsibility to proclaim the truth of God, as revealed by inspiration, to its membership and to the world at large. Paul tells us the extent to which it is to be preached: Even to the principalities and powers in heavenly places is made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God (Eph 3:10).
The world needs to find the church founded on the Day of Pentecost, scripturally become a member of its body, and remain faithful to the pure, uncompromised New Testament doctrine it teaches throughout the remainder of their lives. The church of Christ is founded solely and completely on God's word alone - His Holy Word, that has not been added to, diminished from, or altered in any manner by the earthly wisdom of men or women of the world. Christ's true church will forever uphold and teach God's word to all men and women having open and receptive hearts and who are diligently searching for eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. However, when altered by the will of mankind, all religious bodies cease to be the pillar and ground of God's truth. The church that our Savior, Jesus Christ died to establish must remain the same church that was established on the Day of Pentecost by Jesus' apostles, as found in the pages of the New Testament - the inspired word of God.
God's word gives us the full, identifiable description of the New Testament Church, the church of Christ. It can easily be recognized. The New Testament Church is the one:
- Whose builder is Jesus Christ
- That has a scriptural foundation
- That believes the bible to be the word of God
- That uses the bible as its only creed
- That has a scriptural organization
- In a universal sense
- In an individual congregational sense
- That is a monarchy with Jesus Christ as its King
- That is non-denominational
- That Teaches all scriptural acts of obedience necessary to become a Christian
- That uses God's word as a pattern for worship services
These are the tenets on which Jesus Christ built His church. In order to be a true New Testament church, it must be the same as the church established on the Day of Pentecost. It is the church through which God's eternal salvation can be found. It is the church in which Christ's apostles were commanded is to proclaim God's Holy Word throughout the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19b-20a). The New Testament Church belongs to God through His Son, Jesus Christ; it is His church; it is the body of Christ.
Scriptures reveal that one specific name is not given in the New Testament by which each congregation of God's people are to be known. By reference, it is known as "the bride of Christ" (Eph. 5:22-32, "the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12), "the church of the First-born" (Heb. 12:23), "the church of God" (1 Cor. 1:2), "the churches of Christ" (Rom. 16:16), "the household of God" (Eph. 2:19), "the kingdom of God's dear Son" (Col. 1:13), and, by inference, a number of other descriptive titles. Assuredly, any of these biblical titles can be used to describe a congregation of Christians in a specific location. Indeed, it can be referred to simply as "the church" as it is called in Ephesians 3:21, or as "the body" noted in Colossians 1:18.
What is significant is the doctrine taught within the church. To be acceptable in the eyes of God - to meet His requirements as a body of His children, the doctrine of the church of Christ must be that specifically stated, inferred, or by necessary inference, scripturally established the pages of God's Holy Spirit-inspired New Testament. The apostle John firmly established this fact in his Revelation letter he received from Christ Jesus. Notice how John closes this last book of the New Testament: I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Rev 22:16-19)