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Vol.  9  No. 5 May 2007  Page 11
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What Is the Importance of Identifying the Church?

By D. Gene West

D. Gene West

    Since we live in a world of “you go to your church and I will go to mine,” and since we are so touchy about anyone’s judging anything we do, including which church we attend, we thought it important to ask the question that stands as title for this article. Many are not at all concerned with such things as finding Christ’s church in our world, but are deeply concerned with finding a church they like, or one that preaches what they want to hear, or conducts a worship after the style that they call worship. If they are partial to rock ‘n roll music, then they want a church that uses a rock band to entertain them as they carry on what they call worship. Such persons usually do not make any spiritual connection with the church and what is going on; it is a matter of finding one (if they are seeking one at all) that does or says something they like. Now, such attitudes are neither new nor novel inasmuch as they have been around for hundreds upon hundreds of years. However, for those who are deeply interested in the Bible and the things that pertain to it, for those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” there is an entirely different attitude regarding the question we have before us. It is to these people we dedicate our answer today.

    Firstly, it is of vital importance that we identify the church for which Jesus gave his life because he did that only once and he purchased only one church. The church about which we read so much in the New Testament was not one of many from which men could pick and choose as they do with sweat shirts in the clothing store. People were not called to be followers of Christ in a way that allowed them a great many choices. They either chose Christ or they stayed with what they had been. They had many, many heathen choices, and among the heathens gods a plenty. But when it came to Christ they either chose or rejected him. We have lived in a divided religious world so long with all manner of choices so far as churches are concerned that we have come to believe that it has always been that way, when the plain fact of the matter is that in the 1st Century such choices did not exist. Furthermore, those who did choose to follow Jesus were intensely loyal to him, because in all reality they had nowhere else to go. In the age in which we live, one might search for years to find that church, but it is worth the search.

    Secondly, it is of vital importance that we identify the church for which Jesus gave his precious life because it is the one to which the saved are added at the time of their conversion to our magnificent Master. When one turns to the Book of Acts and studies all the cases of conversion, he is impressed with the fact that these Christians were gathered into an assembly of saints in every place in which conversions were made. The final verse of Acts 2 reports that fact in these words, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). If those who were saved day by day as they became Christians were added to the church, then it must follow that the church was the called out assembly of the saved. This was/is a very special body of people in the sight of God and should be in the sight of man. This body of saved people was known in apostolic times as “the church.” Notice the language of Colossians 1:18 in which Paul, by the Spirit’s inspiration wrote,  “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” It is clear that the “He” in this passage refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is equally clear that he has a divine body of people made up of those who are saved from sin and ready to live in service to him. Furthermore, it cannot be denied that this divine body is the church. Therefore, any reasonable person would rightly conclude that if the Head of the church is Christ himself, and if he is the divine Son of God, then the church which is his body must be equally divine. If one wants to be truly saved from all past sin, he will strive to find that body of people to which the Lord alone adds those who are saved by his blood. In 1 Corinthians 15:24, Paul, referring to the church under its governmental feature of a kingdom, said that Christ will one day deliver the kingdom up to God the Father. At that time, salvation will be totally completed and the glorified bodies of the saints of God will forever live in the heaven of heavens.

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