|Vol. 2, No. 3||Page 15||March 2000|
I was looking for info on the doctrines of the “Church of God” and it’s various branches, and came across your site. I read a good article explaining the faults of Calvinism, which, although I am not college trained, I have studied in scriptures and find to be imbalance (Calvinism). You go on about “The name of the true church” in one article, citing examples from scripture. Doesn’t it occur to you that none of the apostles ever had a sign in front of a building? They were meeting in synagogues and homes, and were for the most part underground and persecuted. You seem very sincere, brother, but also not seeing the forrest for the trees. The church is a group of people all over the world who are born again and follow Christ to the end. The church manifests itself whenever 2 or more gather in Jesus’ name. What I am saying is that the sign on your building has nothing to do with the church! The apostles were not saying “If you call your gathering yada yada it is a true church”! It is the Spirit of God in His people manifesting in fruit and gifts, worship and service that make a group of people a church! ~ Matthew W. Pittaway, Mt. Juliet, TN
The querist comments on a short article in a series of articles that discuss the divine characteristics of the church which Jesus died to establish. Those divine characteristics appear in the Bible and contrast with many of the characteristics of contemporary churches. For your convenience, that article appears on this page following my response to Mr. Pittaway.
The point of the article in question (and the series of articles of which it is one) is that the church Jesus built is one and his. Jesus only promised to build one church ¾ his church; “. . . I will build my church . . .” (Matthew 16:18). The apostle Paul identified the church and the body as being the same institution (Colossians 1:18) and taught there is only “. . . one body . . .” (Ephesians 4:4). Hence, the characteristics (including the appellations by which it was addressed) are divine in origin.
The church, as it is used in the Bible and as I refer to it, is composed of saved souls. The church, strictly speaking, is not a building. The fact, then, that the early church did not own buildings and therefore had no signs before them is immaterial. The church, the body of the saved, in any community was known by several designations that were divine in origin. Those biblical names, most of which glorify deity, contrast greatly with most denominational names.
While a biblical name does not guarantee that the group known by that appellation is faithful to God, any religious group that adopts a sectarian name, at least to that degree, is not faithful to God. The principle involved here is the same as is found in Luke 6:46, where Jesus said: “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” ‘Following Christ to the end’ includes obedience, whereas disobedience promises a different, unwanted future (Matthew 7:21-23).
“If ye love me, keep my commandments . . . He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me . . .” (John 14:15, 21).
“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).
Divine reaction to one’s faithfulness (Revelation 2:10) differs significantly from divine reaction toward those who carelessly handle the Word of God (Revelation 22:18-19). When people impose their wills in the realm of religion over what is written, they practice “will worship” (Colossians 2:23). Let each of us follow the admonitions of the two following verses. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God . . .” (1 Peter 3:11). What one says in religion must conform to what God has revealed and caused to be preserved for us in the Bible. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
The church of the New Testament is known by several biblical names. These names are divine in origin and glorify God or Jesus Christ. Once the biblical names for the Lord’s church are learned, one can easily see the difference between churches or religions with man-made names and these divine names for the church.
Each of the divine names for the Lord’s church describes the nature of the church or its relationship to God or Jesus Christ. Man-made religious names describe churches or religions which men have established. Man-made names for churches is one of many important differences between churches of human origin and the church of the Bible.
Jesus promised to build one true church when he said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). The descriptive names applied to his one church include: “church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2), “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16), “body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12), “the house of God which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15), “the temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16) and “the kingdom of his dear son” (Colossians 1:13). Wearing a divine name is an identifying mark of the one true church of the Bible. Due to confusion resulting from the existence of man-made churches (denominations), and from a desire to exalt Christ who is head of the church, most congregations of the Lord’s church today wear the biblical name church of Christ (Romans 16:16).
There are other essential divine characteristics of the church of the Bible in addition to a divine name (such as divine worship, doctrine, redemption and church government). It is certain that any religious group that lacks a divine name (or any other divine characteristic) is not identical to the church Jesus promised to build. With Jesus, the churches of Christ invite you to further study about the one true church of the Bible.