Over the course of this article series, we’ve discussed God’s word as the only worthy foundation for our lives. We’ve looked at sin, who is guilty of it, what it does, and what it is. Last week, we looked at God’s plan of salvation and how one gets into Christ according to the Bible. This week’s article will focus on the church.
Today especially, many want to leave off the church and just take Christ. They want all He has to offer, but refuse to accept the church. The thing is, baptism into Christ is also baptism into His body, which is the church (Colossians 1:17, 18). If you want Christ, you must also accept His body. He is the head of the body and decides what that body does and believes (more on that further down). Consider Ephesians 2:19, which says that we are part of God’s household, His family. When you become a daughter of the Father, you also become the sister of everyone else in the family and no one else can say no. None of my sons had any say so when we added our four-month old to the family. He was born and became part of the family. Likewise, baptism is a rebirth (John 3:3-5), this time not into a physical family, but into God’s spiritual family or household. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 speaks of baptism as the means of entering the body.
Okay, so we’re baptized into the church… but what church? Let’s look at Matthew 16:16-18 (you do have your Bible out, right?). The disciples are sitting around, talking with Jesus in Philippi when He asks them who people are saying He is. They give varied responses and Jesus asks who they think He is. Peter speaks up and says that Jesus is the Christ (Matthew 16:16). Jesus praises him for his answer and continues on. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Who’s building the church? Jesus. Who does it belong to? Jesus. How many is He going to build? One. (You probably caught on to the fact that we’re not talking about a building here… in the Bible “church” is not a building; it’s a group of people who belong to Christ.) So what about the rest of the so-called churches? They’re not His.
How do we know which of the hundreds of thousands of churches is Jesus’ church? Let’s look back at Ephesians 2:19-21. “Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” In essence, the household of God—the church—is built on the words of God. The apostles are those who were sent by Christ to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8) and the prophets are those who spoke and wrote God’s words. All of it centers on Christ and He is the head (as mentioned earlier). That’s how you can know if a church is the one Jesus built or not: if they’re following His word. If they’re not, then they aren’t His. If, for example, they’re teaching another way to be saved than what we’ve discussed, they’re not His. If they’re worshipping differently from what the New Testament prescribes, they’re not His. It’s really that simple.
What about denominations? First, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 1:10-13. Paul here pleads with the Corinthians that there should be no divisions among them. Reading on, we see that they’re dividing up over names. Isn’t that what denominations are by the very definition of the word? The word breaks into two latin roots: de (of) and nomen (name). Denominations are “of” a certain name! Isn’t that exactly what Paul is pleading with the Corinthians not to do? It is. Let us choose not to be of this name or that name. Let’s not be Baptist this or Methodist that. Let’s simply be of Christ.
Where do the divisions come from? One thing is for sure: they don’t come from God. Rather, they come from us. Paul warns Timothy of this very thing in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, saying, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables.” This time has come and now is. Many would rather believe a lie than accept the truth and change their lives. We must make sure that we are not counted in their number.
What about other religions? Look at John 14:6. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (emphasis added). Did He say you can find the way to God through Buddha? Nope. Through being “spiritual” rather than “religious”? Nope. He said it’s through Him. Here we have two options: 1) Jesus is lying and/ or crazy. 2) He’s right. If Jesus is lying or crazy, chuck the whole book and move on, but I wouldn’t recommend it; there’s plenty of evidence that the Bible is what it claims: the inspired word of God Himself. If He’s right, then we’d best listen up.
None of this is particularly popular or politically correct, but as Paul said in Galatians 1:10, if I sought to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. With the conclusion of this article, I ask the same as I asked with the last: do you believe the Bible or not? Is the Bible your foundation or is it something else? If the Bible is your foundation, then look in your heart and ask yourself if where you are attending church fits this bill.