Sermon Thursday – The Establishment of the Church

Today, we continue our series on “Fundamentals of the Faith.”  Today’s topic is the establishment of the church.  Enjoy!

Introduction:

Everyone knows what the church is! Well, not exactly. Just like baptism (which we discussed in the last lesson), there is a lot of confusion about the church. This is even true about people who are parts of the many different churches that exist!

What kind of confusion, you may ask?

There is confusion about who founded the church (was it Moses? John the Baptist? Jesus? Peter? Joseph Smith? Alexander Campbell? Or one of the many other people since Bible times?)

There is confusion about when the church was founded (was it in the Old Testament? Did Jesus found it while He was on earth? Was it founded when Jerusalem was destroyed? Pentecost perhaps?)

There is confusion about where the church was established (Jerusalem? Rome? Mt. Sinai? England?)

And those questions all deal just with the “founding” of the church. With all these questions and disagreements, can we know the answers?  We can if we stop listening to what people say and let the Bible speak for itself.  Today, we will look at these questions and be able to come to a Bible-based conclusion, free from all opinions.

But before we do that, we have one thing that we must look at.  The church is the kingdom that was promised in the Old Testament. This is a subject of debate among some people, but the Bible is actually quite plain on it.  Some argue that the kingdom won’t exist until Jesus comes again, but we will prove that theory false with a few plain statements from the Bible.

First, look at Matthew 16:16-19.  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 has 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. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven…”

Notice that Jesus told Peter, “I will build my CHURCH,” and “I will give you the keys to the KINGDOM of heaven.”  Jesus was using the two words (church and kingdom) interchangibly. But, lest someone objects, let’s go a bit further.

Keys are for opening things (like doors) so that someone can enter. Peter was given the keys to the kingdom, so that means Jesus expected Peter to be able to open the door to the kingdom.  If the church isn’t the same as the kingdom, then Peter never got to use those keys—because he’s been dead almost 2,000 years.

It’s also worth noting that Jesus said Peter would do this while Peter was still alive—on earth.  “Whatever THOU (Peter) shall bind ON EARTH…”  Without any doubt, Jesus’ kingdom existed on earth while Peter was still alive.

The kingdom is the church—and we’ll see that even clearer as we go through the lesson.

Who founded the church of the Bible?

There are many different religious groups, all with different founders—can we know which one is right?  If we look to the Bible, we can.

Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.”  We will look at “the days of these kings” a bit later, but right now I want you to concentrate on the words “the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom.”   Who set up, built, or founded this kingdom? God did.

Matthew 16:18 – “I [Jesus] will build my church…”  Who did Jesus say would build the church? Himself.  Whose church did He say it was? His church.

This seems so simple that it ought to be obvious, but the fact is there are a lot of religious groups who claim to be the church (or part of the church) who claim different founders than Jesus Christ.  Joseph Smith is the founder of the Mormons.  Charles Taze Russell is the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Ellen G. White is the founder of the Seventh-Day Adventists.  John Wesley is the founder of the Methodists.  John Calvin is the founder of the Presbyterians.      Martin Luther is the founder of the Lutherans.

The Baptist Church claims that their founder is John the Baptist.  But if you read Matthew, you’ll see that John the Baptist was dead in chapter 14. And in chapter 16, Jesus said “I will build my church.”  This is in future tense, as in the church isn’t built yet, but it will be built. If John had founded the church, then one of two things must be true:  (1) John’s church isn’t Jesus’ church (because Jesus hadn’t built his yet). Or (2) Jesus was lying about the building of the church still being in the future.  Neither one of these options match with the Bible.  The fact is, John never established a church—Jesus did.

There is only ONE church in the Bible, and it didn’t come until after John the Baptist was already dead.

When was the church of the Bible founded?

Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.”  When Daniel said this, he had been explaining the meaning of a dream that the king of Babylon had.   It was of a big statue with a head of gold, chest of silver, belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay. He said that the head represented Babylon (2:37-38). He said that the chest of silver was another kingdom that would come after them (Which, historically was the Persian Empire) (2:39).  And a third kingdom was represented by the belly and thighs of brass (historically, this is Alexander the Great and the Greek Empire). Then a fourth kingdom that would rule the world and break them like iron (historically, the next world empire was Rome) (2:40).\

And then Daniel says “in the days of THESE kings, God will set up a kingdom.”  So, based on Daniel’s prophecy, the kingdom (church) would be set up during the days of the Roman Empire.

Just for historical reference, the Roman Empire began around 100 BC (or thereabouts), and fell in the year 476.  The church—God’s kingdom—had to have been set up before that date.

Matthew 3:1-2 – 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.”  If something is “at hand” that means that it is near—very close.  In the days of John the Baptist (which was during the time of the Roman Empire), the kingdom was very near—but it hadn’t come yet.

Matthew 4:17 – From that time, Jesus began to preach and to say “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  This was said during Jesus’ life on earth—the kingdom was very close, but it hadn’t come yet.

Matthew 16:18 – “I will build my church…”  This is close to the end of Jesus’ life, and the church still hadn’t come.  Well, we’re seeing that it hasn’t been built yet at these points, but when did it actually begin to exist?

Acts 2:47 – “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”  This is on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus died.  This is when Peter started preaching (Acts 2:14)—giving people access to the church (using the “keys of the kingdom”).  According to this verse, the church existed at this point.  After all, you can’t be added to something that doesn’t exist.

Some people still say, “well, the church existed, but the kingdom still hasn’t come yet.”  Let’s let the Bible speak to answer this objection.

Colossians 1:13 – “[God] has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.”      This is spoken in the past tense, describing something that has already happened.  God had already transported people INTO the kingdom of his dear Son.  You can’t be put into something if it doesn’t already exist.  The kingdom existed already when that was written.

Revelation 1:9 – “I, John, am your companion…in the kingdom.”  John said he was in the kingdom—and he died over 1900 years ago.   The kingdom had to already exist for him to be in it.

The church was established after Jesus died, and people began entering it on the Day of Pentecost (which was during the days of the Roman Empire).

Where was the church of the Bible established?

Isaiah 2:1-3 – “Concerning the last days of Judah and Jerusalem – and it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it…for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

According to this prophecy about the kingdom of God, where would it be established? Jerusalem.

Acts 1:4 – [Jesus] commanded them [the apostles] that they should not depart from Jerusalem.

Acts 2:5 – And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men out of every nation under heaven.

Acts 2:14 – Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted his voice and said, “Ye men of Judea and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem…”

This is the chapter we looked at earlier where we saw the church was established.  Where were they? IN JERUSALEM.

Any church that was established somewhere other than Jerusalem cannot be the church of the Bible.

Conclusion:

Any church that was founded by someone other than Jesus Christ is not the church of the Bible.

Any church that was founded after the day of Pentecost is not the church of the Bible.

Any church that was founded somewhere other than Jerusalem is not the church of the Bible.

I could spend a lot of time going through the various churches and when/where they were established and by whom, but the important thing to ask is “Am I a part of the church talked about in the Bible?”

The church talked about in the Bible was founded by Jesus Christ, and follows the laws given by Him.  If you want to be part of the church talked about in the Bible, then you have to do the things that the people in the Bible were told to do in order to be a part of it.  Hear about Jesus (Acts 2:22-24).   Believe (Acts 8:37).  Repent (Acts 3:19). Confess (Acts 8:37).  Be baptized (Acts 22:16).

When you do what they did, you will be added to the same church that they were added to, for God’s church will never end, never be destroyed.

The way into the church has never changed!  Come join the church of the Bible today!

-Bradley Cobb

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