Vol. 8, No. 7
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So who owns the church? One can hear the phrases "my church" or "our church" and these are good when they indicate a church at a particular location to which that person or persons are members. If the phrases indicate actual ownership, as in "it is mine," then those persons are wrong.
First then, who is the church? It is Christ and the members of the church, you and me, on earth. Though God owns everything on earth, the building is not the church, and the building might be considered the only thing about the church that its leaders and members can consider as owning. Even that is questionable since it is likely that the church treasury, Christ's money, bought the building. Then it is more his than that of the members.
Christians make up the church on earth. Christians do not own each other but God and Christ do. Christ owns us and is the ruler of Christians. He bought and paid for us on the cross. Christians are his.
His church is his body (Ephesians 1:20-23), Paul telling us, "Which he (God) wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." He is the head of his body, the church. He owns his body, the church. Not sure. Then look at the phrase "hath put all things under his feet" for that makes it clear that Christ is the ruler of the church--and there are no ruling partners on earth!
We need to remember, however, Paul's statement: "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named" (Ephesians 3:14-15). Was Paul denying Christ, committing blasphemy? Of course not. Paul was pointing out that God is still there, active and in control.
God owns everything in heaven and on earth, and Christ shall deliver up the church to God one day (1 Corinthians 15:24), once again returning all things to God (verse 28). Until then, Christ owns his body the church.
Today, we are fortunate that God's love and grace is kind to us in that he has not destroyed people as he did in the days of Noah and the flood. We are further blessed because he sent his Son (John 8:18) to provide a way for us to avoid destruction now and in the Day of Judgment. Jesus the Christ is called "the Word of God" in Revelation 19:13, and it is that Word that directs the way of Christians. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). And Jesus warned us, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). Christians have those directions from Christ, which is the New Testament.
Jesus the Christ established his church (Matthew 16:18) on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapters 1 and 2), and Jesus began adding to his church (Acts 2:47). His church became a reality. And Jesus is Lord and Master of it having every right to expect reverent obedience to God's Word, just as he did while on earth. The apostle Paul tells us, "For he [God] hath put all things under His [Jesus Christ] feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him" (1 Corinthians 15:27). The apostle Peter said, "Who [Jesus] is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject to him" (1 Peter 3:22). We see that God is alive and active, and that Jesus the Christ is the ruler of the church he established as well as in other areas.
The words and actions of Jesus contrasted the worldly and heavenly, and repeatedly showed that he would not barter his spiritual kingdom, his church, for anything the world had to offer. Any kind of departure from that example and obedience to it by Christians, or a congregation, should be viewed as suspect at best and unacceptable at worst to Christ and God.
Jesus granted the desires of the crowds when their desires harmonized with his teachings and mission to teach and save the world, which is also the christian's mission to the world. Church leaders and Christians need to keep in mind that Christ is the ruler of his church. He warned the twelve on occasion by his words and actions that he is in charge, that it will go his way, and that all who alter his way will be rebuked, and will be at high risk of being turned away by Christ. The few that will be saved are those who know his voice, his Word and obey.
The church formally began on Pentecost at Jerusalem (Acts Chapter 2). This was as Jesus had promised and stated in Matthew 16:18. In John 14:16, Jesus promised the twelve that he would send the Holy Spirit to be with the apostles and guide them. The Holy Spirit arrived as promised. After Acts 2:1-4, the apostles began to teach, convert and baptize, according to the guidance given them by the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and then Christ added to his church daily those that should be saved (Acts 2:47). His church was established, Paul calling it the church of Christ (Romans 16:16), for Christ is the owner ruler.
Those early converts were called Christians first at Antioch (Acts 11:26). They are the called out, "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Which in time past were not a people, but you are now the people of God which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10). Obedient Christians are a special people who God has forgiven for Christ's sake (Ephesians 4:32).
Now we have the church and its members, Christians. It is for the glory and praise of God through Christ. Paul said, "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:11). The church is owned by God and Christ, and God gave Christ the rule.