The First Church

Which is the right church? Who created church? Must someone attend church services for God to save that person? Has the church of Jesus Christ died or ceased to exist? Did Jesus intend for so many different churches to exist? Are most churches a part of the church of Christ as a whole? Anyone seeking these answers can find that Christ’s words answer them. People can recognize Jesus’s church today.

The Definition of Church

What is a church? The word “church” is from the Greek word ekklesia and the word’s original meaning “called out” comes from its etymology. However, the word means assembly or congregation. The original idea consists of those people called out of their homes for the purpose of meeting together. The  writers of the Scriptures use the word is used to refer to a Christian congregation (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 1:2), a meeting of a congregation of Christians (1 Cor 11:18), all who follow Christ (Matt 16:18; Eph 5:23), a rioting pagan mob (Acts 19:32, 41), or an assembly of civil government (Acts 19:39). These references reveal the meaning of church in the first century.

The Creator of the Church

The church is no accident or invention of men. The apostle Peter reveals that Christ’s church are the people of God (1 Pet 2:10). The church of Christ is the whole of everyone who God has saved and they have obeyed the Gospel through baptism in Jesus’s name. By baptism, the Lord adds being added to the church by God Himself (Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Pet 4:17). Jesus commanded belief and baptism to be saved (Mark 16:16). Those who believed and were baptized were added to the Church. Acts 2:41 and 47 records, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them […] And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Christ built His own Church (Matt 16:18). His church should bear His name since Jesus calls the Church “My church.” The apostle Paul referred to “the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). The church of God is the church of Christ, who is God.

The Institution of the Church

The words of Christ teach that the church is the greatest institution ever. The Church is from Christ and established by Him. Like any building, this spiritual building’s architect, Christ, has a design in mind. This building is the spiritual house of Christ, Christ’s Temple, and it is made of “living stones,” which are Christians (1 Pet 2:5). This Temple, the Church, is served by priests, who are all Christians (1 Pet 2:5; Rev 1:6). Its cornerstone is Christ and its foundation are the apostles and the prophets (1 Pet 2:7; Eph 2:20–21). Make no mistake there is only one Temple, the Church, and this spiritual building has a blueprint that is presented by the words of Christ through His apostles and prophets in the Bible.

Do churches today follow Jesus’s design and blueprint for His church? Are today’s churches man-made rather than made by Christ? Is there still only one church of Christ (Eph 1:23; 4:4; 1 Cor 12:12)? Can you recognize Christ’s one church today? Let’s answer this after further establishing Christ’s purpose for His church.

The church was no mistake, and the church is not a parenthesis or an accident as many corrupt preachers teach today. The church being the temple of Christ can absolutely not be an accident. Christ’s words teach that His church is a part of God’s eternal purpose and that the church is His eternal kingdom for which the gates of Hades will never prevail (Dan 2:44; Matt 16:18; Eph 3:8–11; Col 1:13; Heb 12:28; Rev 1:6). The church is not dead, will not die, and has not died. The false belief that the church is an accident affirms that Christ had to settle for the church. They say that Jesus did not accomplish His mission in establishing His eternal Kingdom when He first came. Now, one may agree that the idea of Jesus failing is severely flawed, but most believers of Christ do not realize that their preachers and teachers believe and teach this. Many allow and even accept this belief when they accept the most common beliefs regarding the last days when they teach about Christ’s kingdom is coming after a rapture, which includes the belief that the church is an accident and, or parenthesis before Christ’s kingdom really comes. Put this belief and its teachers to the test. Most teach and believe that the church is not the eternal kingdom of Christ, and in this belief, they contradict the Jesus who they claim to serve.

The Kingdom of the Church

Before the church, Jesus taught to pray “Your kingdom come” (Matt 6:10) and the kingdom did come. Jesus revealed, “There are some here of them that stand by, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1). The Holy Spirit says that “He,” Christ, “made us to be a kingdom” (Rev 1:6). Christians have been translated into this kingdom (Col 1:13), and they have received the kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb 12:28). Jesus’s eternal kingdom is the church — God’s people. Jesus’s kingdom has come. The Bible teaches that the church is the everlasting kingdom of God and it is the “holy nation” (1 Pet 2:9). Who can withstand Christ? No one can (Dan 7:14, 27). Who can stop the church? No one can. For the kingdom is everlasting and it will break in pieces and consume all the nations (Dan 2:44; 1 Pet 4:11; 5:11; Rev 1:6). However, the church has no physical standing army for the church itself does not battle against flesh and blood (Eph 6:12). The church will consume the nations for it is Christ’s kingdom that has already come (cf. 2 Cor 10:4–6).

There is only one King over the eternal kingdom. “And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, ‘All authority has been given unto Me in heaven and on earth'” (Matt 28:18). There is one man who is head over all things in the church, and that is Christ (Eph 1:22–23). Jesus is the Head, and to separate Jesus from the church or the head from the body is to attempt to spiritually decapitate Christ. Tragically, such attempts are the unintentional result of ignorance and false faith. Now, Christ is the Head of the body, the church. Jesus is also the High Priest and Cornerstone of the Temple of Christ (Eph 2:20; Heb 9:11).

Jesus is the Head and His words will judge the world on the last day (John 12:47–48), and only His words are spirit and life (John 6:63). Jesus said that He would be ashamed of those who are are ashamed of His words when He comes back (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26). Jesus gave these words to His apostles who wrote them in the Bible and His words will never pass away (Mat 24:35; John 15:20; 17:8). These words of Christ make up the New Testament of the Bible. The New Testament is Christ’s Testament, which is written so that each person can know that one has eternal life and so that person can be complete and equipped to do every good work (2 Tim 3:16–17; 1 John 5:13). No one needs creeds or traditions of men and creeds of churches. Christians need just the Bible.

The Organization of the Church

In Jesus’s church, there are no special priests known as “Reverend Fathers,” “High Priests,” “Senior Pastors,” “Archbishops,” or “Pope.” Jesus said, “Do not call anyone your father” (Matt 23:9). The government of the church in the Scriptures is very simple. Each congregation is self-governed with no earthly headquarters. Each congregation was established with elders (Acts 14:23). These elders were only men who met specific qualifications (1 Tim 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9). These elders are the church pastors not the preachers. For the Bible only mentions once “pastors” in Ephesians 4:11, and the only ones in the Bible who pastor were the elders (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:2–3). These elders are neither to lord over a congregation nor to stray from the words of Christ. Christ governs the church by His Word. The church is not the authority for beliefs and practices, but she is the pillar and ground of Truth who upholds the Word of God (1 Tim 3:15).

The Salvation of the Church

How does Christ feel about the Church? What most people do not realize about the church and salvation is that Jesus is the Savior of the church (Eph 5:23). Jesus came to save the lost, but that does not mean those who do not obey the Gospel are saved (2 Thess 1:7–9). He gave His life for the church out of love (Eph 5:25). Did Christ die for everyone? God wants all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4), A person believes and obeys the Gospel then that person is joined to the church of Christ (Rom 5:6–10). The church is Christ’s greatest purchase. Christ bought the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). This shows the great value of the church and that it was no accident.

Christ cleansed the church by the washing of water with the Word (Eph 5:26). There is only one washing of water in the New Testament, and this is the immersion of believers in water in Jesus’s name (Acts 10:47–48; Eph 4:5). “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Jesus said that those who believe and are baptized will be saved. At baptism, one’s sins are forgiven (Acts 2:38). It is by baptism, an act of faith, that we are raised with Christ, saved by grace, and appeal to God for good consciences (Eph 2:4–6; Col. 2:12–13; 1 Pet 3:21). The church is described in 1 Corinthians 6:11 as “you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.” Know this that there is only one baptism to enter the church (1 Cor 12:13; Eph 4:5), and this baptism is water baptism and not any other “spiritual baptism,” because there is only one baptism, which is the one that Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:18–20.

The Work of the Church

What does the church do? The Church is not a stagnant mass of people. The work of the church is to glorify God especially in worship (Rom 15:5–6; Eph 3:21), to evangelize (Matt 28:18–20; Eph 3:10–11; 1 Tim 3:15), to edify itself (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph 4:16), to do benevolence to everyone who is truly in need (2 Cor 9:12–13; Gal 6:10), to restore those who are sinning (Gal 6:1–5; Jas 5:19–20), and to discipline the openly sinful person and oppose the divisive person especially false teachers (Rom 16:17; 1 Cor 5). The church makes disciples and teaches everyone to observe all things that Christ has taught (Matt. 28:18-20). Ask those preachers among the denominations if it is important to the observe all things that Christ taught? Most will teach that this is not that important to them and they will credit Jesus’s with forgiving those who do not repent from neglecting this command. May God bless the church in her mission to glorify Him in all these things.

The Assembly of the Church

A characteristic of the church, that is lost among many churches, is the assembly. The church’s gathering in assembly is the weekly meeting that is in the name of the Lord on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). This assembly, “the assembly,” is the most important meeting in existence. Paul instructed that the assembly be kept decent and orderly in the purposes of edification and encouragement of the church and praising God.

The assembly begins with the break of bread also called “The Lord’s Supper” and “communion.”  The Lord’s Supper is the great memorial meal of the death of Christ consisting of eating unleavened bread representing Christ’s broken body and drinking unleavened fruit of the grapevine representing Christ’s blood in the new covenant (Luke 22:17–20; 1 Cor 11:17–34). The Lord’s Supper is commanded to be kept every time the church assembled on the Lord’s Day (1 Cor 11:20, 33). 

The assembly consists of two or three men speaking one by one unto the congregation. The congregation speaks to one another with one accord in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Acts 4:24; Rom 15:6; 1 Cor 14; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). The assembly also consists of the purest music of congregational singing (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16), the complete teaching and reading of God’s written Word (1 Cor 4:17; 14; Col 4:16; 1 Tim 4:13), and the honest prayers unto the Father (Gal 4:6; Eph 5:20; Phil 4:6). There is no other meeting like it until the Lord comes. This is the highest meeting of the church being the greatest institution to have ever been established. However, many desire to add rituals of men and entertainment to the assembly as though Christ’s assembly is not complete already and not entertaining enough as Christ established it.

The Unity of the Church

Christ’s church is neither “Protestant” though protesting sinful traditions of men; nor “Catholic” though “catholic” in being composed of saved souls throughout the world; nor “Orthodox” though correct and right in following the Truth in Christ’s Word. The church is not to be divided and denominated, Jesus prayed “that they may all be one” in the shadow of His own cross (John 17:21). The apostle Paul expressed that “there be no divisions [denominations] among you; but that you be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor 1:10). The unity of the church is in observing all of Christ’s commands. Those practicing “factions, divisions [denominations], parties” will not inherit the kingdom of Heaven (Gal 5:20). Therefore, such has no part in the churches of Christ.

The Spirit also instructs the church that “you be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through faction and conceit” (Phil 2:2–3). The church is one in the faith and was established in the first century apart from all dividing sects of centuries past. There should only be one body and fellowship of the church apart from denominations. All believers can all united again by putting aside creeds and traditions, and observing only the words of Christ given to His apostles and prophets. There should be no misunderstanding of the Scriptures since the Scriptures are complete and the Holy Spirit revealed every word (1 Cor 2:13).

The church is “giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). The church is united in there being one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God the Father (Eph 4:4–6). These seven ones are foundational to unity. There is only one church with only one faith, with one belief and consisting of teachings and practices according to God’s Word. There is only one Spirit guiding them in the Truth of the one Faith. There is one hope to reach one eternal life in Christ Jesus. There is only one Lord who has saved the church by His death on the cross. There is one baptism into the forgiveness of sins and to enter the church. There is one God and Father of us all who has established the church as a part of His eternal purpose (Eph 3:10–11).

Finding the Church

Does this description of the church resemble the churches that you know? Are you a member of the church of Christ? Only those of the church of Jesus Christ are the saved. The Scriptures are clear that the church is alive and well, and no one can destroy it. The Spirit presents in the Scriptures that the one church is to be sought today not by any division in creeds or names of men, but only by what the Scriptures establish. Will you seek to be a part of the church of Christ or a part of a church established by men and their philosophies?