This week, we continue our series on “Fundamentals of the Faith.” This week’s topic: What is the Nature of the Church?
Want to be confused? Read these quotes:
“The church is a purely human institution created by man to control the minds of people.”
“The church is a divinely given institution created by God to bring people back to Him.”
“The church is a divinely given institution created by God when His first plan goofed up.”
“The church is comprised of every denomination that claims to believe in Jesus.”
“The church is comprised of some denominations, but only those who believe Jesus is eternal.”
“The church IS a denomination.”
“The church is comprised of those who come to God in faithful obedience to His commands.”
“The church is something you can join (choose the church of your choice).”
“The church is something you have to be voted into.”
“The church is something that God puts you in.”
All these things are said by people about the church. Most of them are things said by various denominations about the church. All you have to do is look across the religious landscape of our country to see that there is a lot of confusion about the nature of the church.
But we’re not interested in what people say about the church; we should only be interested in what the Bible says about the church.
What does the Bible says about the nature of the church?
Who created the church and why?
Who is in the church?
How do they get into the church?
These are the questions we will examine from the Bible today.
Who created the church, and why?
Matthew 18:16 – Jesus said, “I will build my church.” It is absolutely true that there are some churches that were created by man—many of them for the purpose of getting rich (like the Mormons). But the church of the Bible was created by Jesus Christ, at the direction of God the Father.
Daniel 2:44 – In the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom (the church) which shall never be destroyed. The church of the Bible—the ONLY true church—was created by Jesus Christ, and was in existence beginning in Acts 2.
Acts 2:47 – And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. We covered this in the last lesson, but just to repeat it, the church of the Bible was created by God through Jesus Christ. This is why Scriptures refer to it as the church of God as well as the church of Christ.
But WHY was it created?
To fulfill prophecy.
Isaiah 2:1-4, Joel 2:28-32, and Daniel 2:44 were all fulfilled when the church was established in Acts 2.
Joel 2:28-32 was quoted by Peter, and he specifically said that the things which were taking place on Pentecost were fulfilling that prophecy (Acts 2:16).
Isaiah 2:1-4 said that in the last days of Jerusalem, God’s kingdom would be established and His law would go forth from Jerusalem.
On Pentecost, 40 years before Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, God’s kingdom (the church) was established in Jerusalem, and the new law of God went forth from there.
Daniel 2:44 prophesied that the kingdom would be set up in the days of the kings of the Roman Empire—which is exactly the time that the church was set up.
To replace the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people.
Read the parable of the householder in Matthew 21:33-43. Jesus said that the kingdom would be taken away from the Jewish nation and given to a nation that was bringing forth the fruits of the kingdom (21:43).
To the Christians, Peter wrote “You are a chosen generation, a holy nation, a royal priesthood” (I Peter 2:9). Christians are the nation of God that brings forth the fruit of the kingdom—and they do that by spreading the word of God (Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 8:11).
Acts 4:12 – Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved. This was spoken to Jews – and they were told that salvation only comes through Christ. The Jews were basically told that being a Jew meant nothing anymore, because salvation is only through Jesus Christ.
God made the final rejection of the Jews permanent when He sent the Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70. It has been physically impossible to follow the Law of Moses since that date. There’s no temple to worship in. There’s no altar to offer sacrifices. There’s no priesthood—let alone a Jewish high priest. There’s no genealogical records—no one could even prove that they are from the tribe of Levi.
The church is God’s only chosen people.
To proclaim God’s word, and to reveal the great wisdom of God.
Ephesians 3:10-11 – To the intent that now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jude 3 – contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. The faith, the wisdom of God, the PLAN of God which He purposed in Jesus Christ has been fulfilled in the establishment of the church. And it the responsibility of the church to make that message known to the world (II Timothy 2:2, Mark 16:15-16).
Why is it important that we understand why the church was created? Because the Scriptures say that it was in God’s plan…
- In the 500’s BC (when Daniel prophesied).
- In the 700’s BC (When Isaiah prophesied).
- In the 800’s BC (When Joel prophesied).
- Before the creation of the world (Ephesians 3:10-11 – the “eternal purpose of God which was purposed in Christ Jesus,” the “Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world” – Revelation 13:8).
Yet a very prominent teaching in some denominations is that Jesus came to set up an earthly kingdom, but somehow God goofed and had to quickly come up with an emergency back-up plan because Jesus got rejected. They teach that the church was put in as a temporary measure until God is ready to send Jesus back to try again.
So, which one is right? Man or the Bible?
What is the church?
The word “church” is used different ways today. Is it the building (there’s my church…)? Is it the worship service (“going to church”)? Is it one specific denomination (the Catholic Church…)?
What does the Bible say?
The word “church” is used in two ways to describe God’s people.
The universal church, comprised of every saved person everywhere in the world. Ephesians 5:23 – “Christ is the head of the church.” This refers to all Christians everywhere, not just a certain group of them. And it doesn’t refer to anyone who isn’t a Christian.
The local group of Christians, comprised of those who meet together in one certain location. “To Philemon our dearly beloved and fellow-laborer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church that meets in thy house” (Philemon 1-2). Paul wrote “to the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2).
Who is in the church?
Truthfully, this is quite plain from the Scriptures.
Acts 2:47 – and the Lord added to the church daily, those who were being saved. The church is composed of the people who have been saved.
Acts 20:28 – …the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. The church is composed of the people who have been bought with the blood of Christ (another way of saying “the people who have been saved”).
The church is made up ONLY of saved people, but just as important to remember, EVERY saved person is in the church.
There are no saved people outside of the church.
People who claim to be saved, but say they’re not part of the church are actually saying they aren’t really saved.
How does one become a member of the church of the Bible?
There’s lots of different ways to become members of man-made churches. But we’re not interested in man-made churches; we’re interested only in the church of the Bible.
As we’ve seen, one becomes a member of the church of the Bible by being saved. When you are saved, God adds you to His one true church (Acts 2:47).
So, the question that we really need to ask is this: How can I be saved? And when we answer the question, “How can I be saved?” then we have the answer to “how do I become a member of the church of the Bible?”
In order to be saved, there has to be a Savior. That Savior is Jesus Christ, and He has already done His part in dying on the cross so that we can attain forgiveness of our sins.
In order to be saved, we have to hear about his offer of salvation. If you’re drowning, and you don’t know about the life-preserver that has been thrown out, you’re going to die. But when you hear about that life preserver, you can start trying to find it. You can’t be saved by Jesus Christ without first hearing about Him (which is made clear in Acts 2:22-24).
In order to be saved, we have to believe in Jesus Christ, and that He died and was raised up (Romans 1:16, 10:9).
In order to be saved, we have to repent of our sins (Acts 3:19).
In order to be saved, we have to confess Jesus Christ (Romans 10:10).
In order to be saved, we have to be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
After, and only after we do those things, we are saved, and God adds us to the church—His church.
There are some denominations who say that being saved isn’t good enough to be part of their church—they have to vote on you, whether or not they want you as part of their church. Any church that does that is not the church of the Bible.
When you are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ through baptism, you are a part of the church of the Bible, the church that belongs to Christ. Period. There are no extra steps.
The church is the spiritual body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23), the chosen people of God who have been saved by the blood of His dear Son (Acts 20:28).
Have you been saved?
Salvation is easy, and it is within your reach.