I am told that there are presently over 45,000 denominations on the planet. When Jesus said that He would build His church (Matthew 16:18) is this what He wanted? He did want 45,000 different varieties or different brands of Christianity? Or did He want something else?
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world my believe that You sent Me”.
Jesus was praying for His apostles (17:14), then He prays for those who would believe in Him because they either heard what the apostles preached or read what they wrote (John 20:30-31). He prayed that these believers would be united, just like Jesus and the Father are united. He then noted the ultimate purpose, that the world would be convicted by this united front.
The world is not impressed by over 45,000 varieties or brands of Christianity. Rather, the world says:
- Such proves that the Bible is impossible to understand.
- Such proves that the Bible is too confusing.
- Such proves that you can prove anything by the Bible.
- Such proves that the whole thing is just a scam, and it is all about gaining power and money.
The religious world has a lot of different views about the church, yet instead of listening to men, why don’t we just set human opinion aside and listen to what Jesus said about the church. Could it be that the reason why we currently have over 45,000 denominations is because people are not listening to Jesus?
“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church”.
- When Jesus made this statement the church was not in existence as yet. So the church did not exist in the Old Testament.
- Some claim that Peter is the rock upon which the church was founded, yet this violates other passages. In Ephesians 2:20 all the apostles and prophets are said to be part of this foundation, and then Paul notes that Jesus is the chief corner stone. Actually, the church was not founded upon Peter, but rather it rests on what Peter said in Matthew 16:16, that Jesus is the Son of God. This agrees perfectly with 1 Corinthians 3:11 “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”.
- People who believed what the apostles were teaching about Jesus (2:36) were told to repent and be baptized to have their sins forgiven (2:38). The people who embraced this message were baptized and were added by the Lord to the church. Observe that people who balked at baptism were the same people who did not receive what the apostles were teaching (2:41).
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood”.
- Contrary to those who claim that being a member of the church is not necessary, this says that the church is incredibly valuable. For the church was purchased with Jesus’ blood.
- Contrary to those who claim that one can be a Christian without being a member of the church, this says the opposite. How can one be saved and not be part of what has been purchased with Jesus’ blood? Especially when we realize that it is the blood of Jesus that removes our sins (Revelation 1:5). Remember in Acts 2:41, upon being baptized one is automatically added by the Lord to His church. At the point your sins are forgiven, you are automatically part of His church.
- A point of clarification here. Upon baptism we are automatically part of Jesus’ church, and yet Jesus expects us to be an active member of a local congregation. Paul had been baptized and thus part of Jesus’ church, and yet Paul is always found working and worshipping with a local congregation (Acts 9:26; 11:26; 13:1). Being part of the universal body of believers does not exempt me from being a part of a local congregation (Hebrews 10:24-25). It is in the local congregation that we are able to fulfill the over 50 “one another” passages in the New Testament. We also have elders that watch over our souls (Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17). We equally always find the observance of the Lord’s Supper in an assembly context (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:20ff).
- Ephesians 5:23 views the church as the bride of Christ. This means that the church is to wear the name of her husband, thus the church in Scripture is called either the “church of God” (Acts 20:28) or the “church of Christ” (Romans 16:16). This makes perfect sense, for the church belongs to Jesus who is God.
- When a local church is mentioned, it is mentioned by location, that is, “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2).
“And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church”
- The church that Jesus founded has no earthly head or headquarters. On the local level we find a plurality of elders (bishops/overseers) who shepherd the flock of which they are members (1 Peter 5:2).
- In Scripture, we find that the church is either mentioned in a universal sense (all Christians everywhere) or in a local sense, the church at Ephesus, etc… We never find anything between those two. What that means is that we never find a denomination, which is a collection of churches (a big or small collection), which might have a different name, doctrine, or practice that sets them apart from other churches.
1 Corinthians 1:10; 4:17
- I know that the world is filled with people who ridicule the idea that we can understand the Bible alike. If we are selfish and rebellious, we cannot understand the Bible alike. Yet in the First Century good and honest hearts did understand it alike. Observe that each local congregation was expected to follow the same teaching and practice. Christians who deviated from the teachings of the apostles, and who did not repent, were no longer viewed as faithful Christians (1 Corinthians 5; 2 Thessalonians 3:14).
- Each local congregation was expected to be a pillar of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), and each local congregation was held to the same standard of truth (1 Corinthians 14:37; Jude 3; 2 John 9). For example being lukewarm was condemned in Laodicea (Revelation 3:16), and it would have been condemned everywhere else as well.
- Nowhere was a congregation allowed to develop it’s own brand of Christianity.
The church belongs to Christ, it is His bride. The true church will submit to Jesus in all the required areas. Let us remember that the church belongs to Him, and therefore let us determine to keep the church the way He wants it to be.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017