A survey of the Bible must of necessity deal with the purpose, establishment, and organization of the Lord’s church, for it was in God’s eternal plan (Eph. 3:9-11). The presence of a multitude of different churches attests to the fact that there is much confusion and disagreement as to the question of the church. Which church is right? Of which church should we be members? These questions must be answered, not on the basis of our own feelings or wisdom (Isa. 55:8-9), but rather on the foundation of what the Bible says concerning the church.
1. God did not make the church the savior; Christ is. However, this must not be misunderstood to mean church membership is unimportant, for it is.
2. The dividing factor between the saved and the lost is stated by Jesus: “HE THAT DOETH THE WILL OF MY FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN” Matt. 7:21-23.
a. Obviously, not everyone will be saved, Matt. 7:13-14.
b. Who do you believe will be lost? Would you agree with Jesus, “NOT EVERYONE THAT SAITH UNTO ME, LORD, LORD, SHALL ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN”?
1. Many people have the feeling that one church is as good as another. Had the N.T. revealed more than one, this conclusion would be justified.
2. However, the N.T. teaches of only one body, Rom. 12:4-5; I Cor. 12:27.
a. The body is the church, Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18, 24.
b. There are as many bodies as Lords, Eph. 4:4-6.
1. God is not the author of confusion, I Cor. 14:33.
2. The Lord prayed for unity that the world may believe, John 17:20-21.
3. Christians were reproved for division, I Cor. 1:10-13.
4. We should seek only that men be added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:47), and our efforts should be to preserve unity in this body of believers. This is the way to practice undenominational Christianity. To accomplish this, denominational traditions which divide us must be abolished, and in their place we must unite on a “thus saith the Lord” for every belief and practice.
II. Is It Possible For The Lord’s Church To Exist Today As It Did In N.T. Times?
A. To Use A Bible Illustration, Consider The Church As A Plant Reproduced In Seed.
1. The Lord describes the Word of God as seed, Luke 8:11.
2. When seed is sown and properly cultivated, a plant will grow which is in characteristics like the one from which the seed came.
a. God’s law is that every seed reproduces after its own kind, Genesis 1:11-12.
b. Acorns will always reproduce oak trees, never apple trees.
B. When The Word of God (Seed) Is Planted It Will Reproduce Only Christians.
1. These are purified (I Pet. 1:22-23), hence added to the church (Acts 2:47).
2. These new Christians will be non-denominational. Their only desire will be to pattern themselves in the organization, work, and worship that Christians practiced in the days of the apostles (I Cor. 12:12-13).
3. Having been added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:47), they will be banded together in the church (plant) by their common faith and practice.
4. In order to be sure they are members of the New Testament church (plant) they test its fruit. If it is in all qualities like the church of the first century, it is the same. However, if it lacks any one of these qualities it is a perverted plant, for seed reproduces after its own kind.
C. This illustration is also found to be in Biblical context in the statement used by Jesus in Matt. 15:13 when he said, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” <br /></h4>
III. Characteristics Of The New Testament Church (The Plant Of God)
A. Creed, Romans 1:16-17
1. The only rule of faith and practice is the Bible, Gal. 1:6-8.
2. The Scriptures are all sufficient, 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3.
3. We must neither add to nor take from God’s word, 2 John 9; Rev. 22:18-19.
Plants of men - Human creed books and manuals are guides for what a particular denomination believes about the Bible. Following a human creed book will make one a member of that particular denomination and none other, thus causing division. (Example: If one follows the Catholic catechism he will be a Catholic not a Methodist, Mormon, etc.) We need to follow the Bible only and become Christians only.
B. Name, Acts 4:12
1. The church has no proper name, but is referred to as “the church,” Acts 2:47. It needed no name to distinguish it from others for no other churches existed in the days of the apostles. All of the terms which are found in the Bible are descriptive of what the church is and to whom it belongs.
a. Body - Eph. 1:21-22 d. Kingdom - Col. 1:13
b. Family - I Tim. 3:15 e. Church of God - I Cor. 1:2
c. Temple - Eph. 2:21 f. Church of Christ - Rom. 16:16
2. The members wore the name “Christian” - Acts 11:26; I Pet. 4:16; Acts 26:28.
a. Described also as “saints” (ones set apart); “disciples” (followers) and “brethren” (members of the same family).
b. There is no N.T. reference to “kinds of Christians.”
Plants of men - Various human names are worn which neither describe the wearer as belonging to the Lord, nor do these names give honor to Christ. We are divided by names which are not found in the New Testament.
C. Organization, Phil. 1:1
1. Universal head of the church - Christ, Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:22.
2. Overseers of local churches - Elders (Bishops, Pastors), Acts 20:28.
3. Deacons, as their name indicates, are special servants, I Tim. 3:8-13.
4. Members, Acts 2:41-47; I Cor. 1:2 Plants of men - Very few denominations can give scripture for any part of their organizational structure, hence we become divided over ways of men.
a. Denominations which seek to improve on God’s plan by having a central headquarters on earth, either as a pope or as a group of men, are divided from the simple N.T. plan of equal, autonomous local churches.
b. There is no example of one bishop (pastor) over many churches, but always bishops (plural) over one local church, and they were so appointed upon having proved themselves qualified according to the Scriptures.
c. The N.T. reveals no organization other than local churches set up to perform the work of the church. Circles, societies, or institutions which are not churches themselves, but which are organized and maintained by the church as improvements on God’s plan are mere blemishes to the church planned by God’s eternal wisdom.
D. Worship, John 4:24
1. Prayer, Acts 2:42; I Thess. 5:17
2. Lord’s Supper (Communion), I Cor. 10:16
a. In remembrance of Christ’s death, I Cor. 11:23-30
b. On the first day of the week, Acts 20:7
(1) Unleavened bread, Luke 22:1,19
(2) Fruit of the vine, Luke 22:18-20
3. Singing, Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Matt. 26:30; I Cor. 14:15
a. There are only two forms of music - vocal and instrumental.
b. Instrumental music was available in N.T. days, for David used it 1000 years earlier, but when Christ established the church instruments were not used. In fact, authoritative historians have recorded that the earliest use of instruments in worship was in the 7th century and then it was under the influence of the Roman Catholic pope.
c. Though the Bible nowhere says, “thou shalt not use instrumental music,” such is forbidden by the silence of the scriptures.
(1) Upon what basis would it be wrong to add lamb as one of the emblems of the Lord’s Supper?
(2) Upon the same basis it is wrong to add to God’s pattern of worship in music.
(3) His word is sufficient (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and there is no need for God to list “Thou shalt not” for a thing to displease Him. We must be satisfied to do what He has said, and leave off every thing else.
4. Contribution, I Cor. 16:2
a. To be given on the first day of the week.
b. As every man purposeth - cheerfully. 2 Cor. 9:6-7. Plants of men - Religious people are divided through many human traditions of worship. We are divided over: the Lord’s Supper as to how often (quarterly or weekly); music (vocal or instrumental); giving (tithing, pledges or freewill as every man purposeth). To be united, we must be satisfied with a thus saith the Lord. This way is simple but there is no doubt whether or not it is pleasing to God. Worship in any other fashion leaves room for doubt (Matt. 15:7-9).
E. Mission, I Tim. 3:15
1. Evangelism - Preaching the gospel to the lost, Mark 16:15-16.
2. Edification - Building up converts by further teaching, Matt. 28:20.
3. Benevolence - Ministering to needy members, Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-34; 6:1-6. Plants of men - Churches that have set goals for a social or recreational nature have digressed from the higher and nobler purpose of the church, which is spiritual (I Peter 2:5). We are divided when men with a social gospel attitude sap the church of her funds and energy to promote human programs and organizations. Though social activities may be needed, they are the work of the home and government. The church should be given wholly to the task of saving souls, keeping them saved, and providing the necessities of the saved in cases of emergency.
F. Terms Of Admission, Acts 2:47
1. Hear the gospel. Rom. 10:17.
2. Believe in Jesus Christ. John 8:24
3. Repent of sins. Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30
4. Confess faith in Christ. Rom. 10:9-10
5. Baptism into Christ. Gal. 3:27; Acts 2:38 Plants of men - We are divided when men offer assurances of salvation on an unscriptural basis. The idea of salvation in one act and joining the church in another act is human in origin. Why not seek to be saved, knowing that the Lord will add you to His church? After becoming a Christian, work and worship as N.T. Christians did, preserving the unity of the Spirit through “speaking as the oracles of God,” I Peter 4:11.
I. Answer The Questions:
1. What are the seven foundations in keeping the unity of the faith? (Eph. 4:3-6)
2. What did the apostle “beseech” the divided church of Corinth? (ICor.1:10-13) <br /> 3. What is the basic difference between religious people who are lost and those who are saved? (Matt. 7:21-23) <br /> 4. What will happen to plants God has not planted? (Matt. 15:13-14) <br /> 5. What is the condition of one who preaches a perverted gospel? (Gal.1:6-8) <br /> 6. How many “kinds” of Christians are found in the New Testament? (Acts 4:12; Acts 11:26; I Pet. 4:16) <br /> 7. What is the real condition of heart and worship of those who teach the commandments of men? (Matt. 15:7-9) <br /> 8. Who has the only right to make a creed for the church? (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:22) <br /> 9. What is the incorruptible seed by which we are born again? (I Pet. 1:22-23) <br /> 10. How does the Bible describe the mission of the church? (I Tim. 3:15;I Pet.2:5)</p>
1. One church is as good as another, for the Bible teaches of many (Matt. 16:18; Rom. 12:4-5).
2. Jesus encouraged believers to join the church of their choice(John 17:20-21). <br /> 3. All saved people are in the church (Acts 2:47). <br /> 4. The spiritual seed is the word of God (Luke 8:11). <br /> 5. It makes no difference what one believes, just so he is sincere (Matt 7:21-23; Isa. 55:8-9).</p>