Vol. 3, No. 10
Remarkably, the church nobody wanted is man's only hope for true happiness in this life and a blissful eternity in heaven above. The kingdom of prophecy is the church of prophecy, too. Yet, the first century Jews overall rejected the spiritual kingdom in favor of a merely physical kingdom, although, God did not offer them a physical kingdom. In essence, the Jews and the Gentiles (through the Romans) formed a conspiracy to thwart God's plan for the establishment of his kingdom or church; they crucified the Son of God and sealed his tomb. Of course, mortals are incapable of overcoming the immortal. God used the wickedness of men to accomplish the sacrifice purchase of fallen men and establish his church anyway.
That the Jews longed for the restoration of a physical kingdom similar to the kingdom over which Solomon reigned is evident. Because of his miracles, many Jews realized Jesus was the Prophet of whom Moses spoke, the Messiah. Therefore, the Jews desired to take Jesus by force and make him king over a physical kingdom (John 6:14-15). The close disciples of our Lord also harbored grave misconceptions regarding the nature of the kingdom or church, even after Jesus' resurrection and immediately prior to his Ascension (Acts 1:6). Ironically, one of the few persons to understand Jesus did not aspire to reign over a physical kingdom was the very man who officially condemned him to death (John 18:36-38). Neither the Jews nor the Gentiles wanted a spiritual kingdom or church in the first century. Nobody wanted the church!
Catholicism and Denominationalism
Even while the New Testament was being written, deviations from the Gospel were occurring, which if left unchecked would change the church God gave mankind into something else. The apostle Paul corrected such departures among the Corinthians and the Galatians. He further warned the church at Ephesus about corruption of the Lord's church from abuses within the eldership (Acts 20:29-30). The apostle John also cautioned against false teachers (1 John 4:1). Even the qualifications of elders include the ability and inclination to withstand error.
Anti-biblical changes in the eldership, as Paul prophesied, eventually gave rise to the Catholic Church. (No unkindness is here intended. Biblical and secular history document differences between the first century church and what in A.D. 606 developed into the Roman Catholic Church with Boniface III as the first universally recognized pope.) With an organization and name different from the Lord's church, an earthly headquarters and human doctrines, the Catholic Church was not a spiritual, but a physical kingdom or church. Most men did not want the Lord's church (a spiritual kingdom).
Reformers, attempting to make certain modifications of the Catholic Church, eventually saw their efforts result in the establishment of Protestant churches or denominationalism. Since these churches were initially splinters from the Catholic Church, they also were physical rather than spiritual in nature. Further division among Catholicism and Protestantism produced the denominationalism that prevails today. Virtually no one wanted the church of the Bible, a spiritual kingdom.
Many denominational preachers in the Eighteenth Century made an earnest effort to restore the church of the Bible. Their labors saw the removal of Catholic and Protestant tradition and the adoption of the New Testament alone as creed. The church of the Bible, that spiritual kingdom, was the result of their toil and prayers. Anywhere the seed of the kingdom (the Word of God) is planted in the honest hearts of men without admixture of human wisdom, the harvest is Christians only and the church of the Bible (Luke 8:11).
However, from the middle of the nineteenth century through the beginning of the twentieth century, assaults against Bible authority resulted in a division of brethren. Today, the churches of Christ (seeking Bible authority for every precept) and the Christian Church (possessing a human name and practicing doctrines foreign to the New Testament) continue as separate fellowships. The former earnestly seeks to be identical to the spiritual kingdom or church that Jesus died to establish. The latter and its cousin, the Disciples of Christ, continue to demonstrate their disregard for the church of the Bible.
Apostasy from Bible-truth is an ever-present danger. Today as throughout the past 20 centuries, even true Christians sometimes opt for a physical kingdom instead of the spiritual kingdom over which Jesus reigns. Fortunately, God designed his church to be comprised of independent congregations, each guided by the Gospel. Thereby, when congregations stray from the New Testament pattern, other congregations that yet abide in the Word are not directly affected.
The slightest reorganization of the church after human whims and the fallible wisdom of men transforms the Lord's church from a spiritual to a physical institution. Loosing where God did not loose, and binding where God did not bind also threaten the spiritual nature of the Lord's church. Secularization of the church to make it merely one more denomination or social organization further opts for the physical in place of the spiritual. Sadly, many brethren today do not exhibit the common sense of wicked Pilate to discern between a spiritual kingdom and the physical kingdoms of men. Many brethren do not want the church of the Bible!
It seems many brethren today are embarrassed over truth and the church of the Bible. Further, whenever the church surrenders its mission to apprise the lost world of divine redemption offered exclusively in the Gospel, the church transforms from a spiritual kingdom to a physical kingdom, such as men have always wanted anyway. Christians must not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16). Evangelism is still the primary mission and reason for the existence of the church of the Bible (Mark 16:15-16).
There remain thousands of brethren who have no intention of idly allowing the Lord's church to be pulled from its lofty, spiritual height. We must never forget the spiritual nature and purpose of the Lord's church. We must resolve never to surrender the spiritual in favor of the tangible, physical world in which we live. We will fight a good fight regardless of from whence the enemy comes, from without or within the church. We will persevere through our Lord! We want the church of the Bible, as God gave it! May we ever be valiant for the Lord. As good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we must close up the ranks!
Throughout the religious community, liberal theology continues to be popular. Frequently, denominational dogma is changed according to contemporary thought, which itself is ever evolving. Surely, though, there are many people who have grown tired of whimsical religion that pays homage to man rather than to Almighty God. If you are such a person, and the thought of being a Christian only and a member of the church of the Bible only is appealing, you are cordially invited to investigate the churches of Christ. I would like to hear from you personally.