CHURCH-01 - What is the Church of Christ?
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CHURCH OF CHRIST
The Lord Jesus Christ said, “I will build my church,” Matthew 16:18.
Welcome to our study on the church of Christ. What do you know about the church
of Christ? Maybe you've heard some things. Maybe you've been taught some things.
Maybe you wonder where the things you’ve learned are in the Bible. Maybe you wonder
what the church of Christ is. We welcome you today to this study.
We simply want to say what God says in the Bible. Our ideas are not coming from
the ideas of men and we're not trying to promote man's doctrine or man's teaching. We
simply want to go to the Bible and ask the question: What is the church of Christ? What do
we know about the church of the Bible? Our aim in this lesson is simply to speak the truth.
The Bible says in Ephesians 4:15 "Speak the truth in love." We want God's truth,
what God says, what the Bible has to say, to come to the forefront and be our guide in
every way. It is truth that sets us free. Jesus said in John 8:32, "You shall know the truth
and the truth will make you free." In John 18:36-38, Pilate asked, "What is truth?" In John
17:17 Jesus answered while praying to the Father, "Sanctify them by your truth, your
word is truth."
As we study about the church of Christ, we want God's truth found in the Bible, to
be the answer. We want it to be the source that we go to. What a great source it is. For the
Proverb writer said in Proverbs 23:23, "Buy the truth and sell it not." Our encouragement
today is to look to the truth, to buy it, and to live our lives by it in every way. Not only do we
want to speak the truth - we want to speak the truth in love.
Again, we emphasize Ephesians 4:15, "Speaking the truth in love." As we think
today about the Lord's church, we want people to know that we have a love for the Bible.
We have an absolute love for the church that Jesus died for and we have a love for souls
coming into a knowledge of that truth and living as they should. Our motivation is out of
love. Now love may sometimes say things that are challenging or things that are different.
Maybe sometimes it challenges us to think about things that we've always been taught.
That's still love. The Bible says in Proverbs 27:5, "Open rebuke is better than love
carefully concealed." Please understand that in all this series of these lessons, our aim
and our motivation is a love for God and a love for the church and lost souls.
As we think about the subject of the church, we also want to emphasize that we
need this study. There is a need for this study, because we want to clearly speak about
the things God has set forth in his word. When we come to the Bible, there's no need to
beat around the bush, there's no need to say things in a way that people can't understand.
We want to speak clearly and plainly about the Lord's church. In Habakkuk 2:2, the
Scripture says, "Run to the man, speak to him, speak to this young man." The Bible says
we're to make it so plain that he who runs may read. I'm reminded of the response of
some of Jesus' hearers in John 10:25, "They said to Jesus tell us plainly if you are the
Christ." We want to speak plainly. We don't want to beat around the bush. We don't want
to be so concerned about offending somebody that we can't speak truth. We want to
plainly say it so that there is no misunderstanding what God says about truth. In this day
and age it seems as though sometimes people are afraid to speak truth. I remember
hearing the story one time about someone who was trying to proclaim God's truth. After
hearing the lesson, the people said that he spoke for so long that you really never
understood what he was saying. We want to plainly say what God says about the church
so that there is no misunderstanding from the Scripture.
As we think about as we think about God's truth on the church, our main emphasis
is to glorify God. The church is to glorify God in everything that it does, Ephesians
3:20-21. God's spokesmen are to “Preach the word,” 2 Timothy 4:2. After the apostle Paul
had suffered so much he said, in Galatians 1:10, "If I were still trying to please men, I
would not be a servant of Jesus Christ.” Our hope and our aim is that there are hearts who
are ready to hear truth. But ultimately, we want to please God by saying what He has said,
by teaching what He has taught in His holy and divine word about the church.
As we think about this study, our aim in this study, although it is to preach truth
plainly and to please God, we're not here to make enemies by preaching the truth. Please
understand, when we speak what God has already spoken, 1 Peter 4:11, when we speak
from the Bible as the oracles of God, we're not try to make enemies. In fact, truth doesn't
by its very nature do that unless people's hearts are hardened. Paul said this in Galatians
4:16, "Have I become your enemy by speaking the truth?" We won't ever become
someone's enemy by saying what God says in His book and so our purpose is not to
make enemies. Rather we want to help people to see what God has said in His word.
We also want to emphasize that our purpose is definitely not to anger anyone. In
Ephesians 6:14-4 the Bible says, "Parents are to bring up their children in the nurture and
admonition of the Lord." We want to, “Encourage one another; stir one another up to love
and good works,” Hebrews 10:24.
As we think about the church, we notice that it's not denominational, that there is
one body; that you can only be saved in the church. Maybe that's different than what
you've heard. Please understand our aim is not to anger, rather it is to encourage and to
promote people to look to their own Bible to see for themselves what the Scriptures says,
and simply become New Testament Christians. As we think about this study, please
understand we're not saying that members of the Lord's church are the only sincere
religious people. We emphasize 'sincere' because there's no doubt, in a multitude of
denominations and religions around the world, there are sincere people.
We're not saying only those in the Lord's church are the only ones who are
sincere. But sincerity alone will not save. Romans 10:2 Paul said that his brethren, “had a
zeal for God but not according to truth.” Were the Jews and Paul's brethren of his day
sincere? Absolutely. Paul himself, as Saul of Tarsus, was sincere persecuting Christians,
wreaking havoc on the church, he was there when Stephen was stoned. Are there sincere
people in denominations today? Absolutely. Let's realize sincerity alone is not enough. It
is possible to be sincere and be sincerely wrong. Truth must be of a premium. In Romans
chapter 6:17, the apostle Paul said, "God be thanked that though you were the slaves of
sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered."
We want to emphasize God's truth that all men can know. It's very plain when you
come to the Bible. Even as we think about the subject likened to the church, that anyone
who wants to know God's truth can know that truth and be right with God. Jesus said in
John 8:31-32, "If you continue in my word, you are my disciples indeed and you shall
know the truth and the truth shall make you free." Paul said in Ephesians 5:17, "Do not be
ignorant but understand the will of the Lord." When you read you can understand
Ephesians chapter 3:4. Anyone, who will take their Bible, who will study that with an open
and honest heart, can know God's truth and do what he says about the church.
As we think about God's church, and as we think about God's truth, there is a
serious responsibility placed upon every person who hears truth. What is that
responsibility? First and foremost our responsibility is to demand to know and hear truth
plainly taught. In John 10:24 they said to Jesus, "Tell us plainly." A sad thing was
happening in Jeremiah 5:30-31, "The prophets prophesy falsely, the priests rule by their
own authority and God said, 'But my people love to have it so,'” and then he asked this
question, “'But what will you do in the end?'" There are way too many who are wanting to
tickle the ears. There are way too many hirelings who are only saying things because
that's what they've been hired to do. Our responsibility is to demand to know truth. Don't
tell me what you feel. Don't tell me what you think. Tell me "is there any word from the
Lord?" Jeremiah 37:17 and Romans 4:3.
Then there is a second powerful responsibility to every person who hears truth and
it's this: we must listen very carefully to what the Bible has to say. Luke 8:18 says, "Take
heed how you hear." In Zephaniah chapter 3:2, people are taught to listen carefully to the
word and the will of God. In Acts 17:11 the Bereans were nobler because they searched
the scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Listen with a view toward eternity. One
day I will leave this life. One day you're going to leave this life and only acceptance of and
living by God's truth can save us, John 8:32. The responsibility to each of us in hearing
God's word is this: we must apply God's word to our everyday life. Paul said in Philippians
chapter 4:9, "The things which you received and heard and saw in me, these do and the
God of peace will be with you." It's not enough to know and to hear truth I've got to take
that truth and apply it to my heart, apply it to my life, and live by it each and every day.
Jesus said, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, but do not do the things which I say?" Luke
6:46. Why do you call me your Lord and not follow me? It's not enough to look up and say
I believe in Jesus. You've got to follow His teaching. I've got to follow His teaching. Jesus
is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.
Let's turn our attention to what God's word has to say about the Lord's church.
What is the church of Christ? Or what isn’t the church of Christ? To get a full grasp of
something, we need to look at some things that the church is confused with sometimes;
that the Bible says it is not. What the church is not, is a very important idea. When we look
at the Scriptures and the world around us today, let's notice this: the Lord's church is not
Sometimes we will say I go to church, but the church is not cinderblocks and walls
and stained-glass. It's not a location on the street. That's not the church. There's a
building there. The church meets there. The church is not the building. How do we know
that? Acts 7:48-50 the Bible says, "God does not dwell in temples made with hands as the
prophet says heaven is my throne earth is my footstool what place shall you build for me
says the Lord." God doesn't dwell in the buildings made with hands that's not the church.
The church was never intended to be the building. That's a major misconception today. In
fact the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 12:27 to Christians, "You are the body of Christ and
members individually one of another." Think about it this way, Acts 20:28 says that Jesus
purchased the church with his own blood. What are we talking about there? Did Jesus die
for a building? Did He die for stained-glass windows and maybe a nice front door and
cinderblock and walls and two by fours? Of course not. Jesus didn't purchase the
building. Jesus purchased us, those who've obeyed the gospel; those who've been called
out of the world. The church is the people indeed, not the building.
Let's also realize that church is not the same as worship. Sometimes will say, "Are
you going to church this morning?" And we can understand what people are saying: Are
you going to meet with the church and worship God? Let's not equate the church with
worship. I think sometimes we do that. I've been to Bible class. I've been to worship. I've
been to Sunday night and Wednesday evening services. I have been to church this week.
You don't go to church, you are the church. There's no doubt that the church worships.
John 4:24 the Scripture says, "God is a spirit and those who worship Him must worship in
spirit and truth." Along this same line of thinking, there's a major problem or misnomer that
arises that I think does great harm to the cause of Christ. Sometimes, our religion
revolves around the building. Our religion revolves around coming to worship. When in
reality, Christianity is something you do all day, every day, every moment of our life. It's
not where we go or what we do. It's who we are as well. Christians are the body of Christ.
The church is neither the building nor is it equated with worship.
Let's also realize the Lord's church is not a denomination. The word denomination
means to name after another and it carries the connotation of division. Is naming the
church after another or division something God authorizes? Absolutely not. Paul said in 1
Corinthians 1:10, "I plead with you brethren by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you
all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you. It is declared to me by
you concerning those in Chloe's household that there are contentions or divisions among
you that each of you says I am of Paul or I'm of Apollos or I'm of Cephas or I'm of Christ.”
Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? Of course not.
What's the point there? Don't let division occur. What do you mean don't let division
occur? Don't name the church after Cephas or Paul or Apollos or anyone other than
Jesus Christ. This idea is clearly and plainly identified in 1 Corinthians 1:10 as contrary to
the will of God. Neither division nor naming the church after another man just are found in
the Bible. Realize we are not talking about a modern-day denomination. What are we
talking about? We're talking about the church you read about in the book of Acts. We're
talking about the church Christians were a part of in the first century.
Wouldn't it be so great to leave all the denominational chaos and confusion and
just simply be a member of the church that Peter and Paul and all those first century
Christians were part of? That is exactly what the church of Christ is in the Bible and the
principle that we’re trying to instill from Scripture today. Let's realize the church is not a
humanly devised not a man-made institution. In Isaiah 2:1-4, Isaiah prophesied that
God's house would be established in Jerusalem. Daniel 2:44: it was to be that eternal
kingdom that was set up during the Roman period. Did that happen by God? Absolutely.
In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul said, "These things I write to you though I hope to come to you
shortly, but if I am delayed I write so that you may know how to conduct yourself in the
house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth." Who
promised the church to be built? Jesus; God. Who said that it would last forever? God
himself. Whose institution is the church, who started it? Not men. They don't have that
power or that ability. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is not a human institution. It was
designed and founded by Almighty God with those things in mind.
Let's now direct our attention for the remainder the time to the question: What is
the church of Christ? The church of Christ is simply the "called out of God". The word
church, eklesia in the Greek language, literally means "called out". We're called by the
gospel, 2 Thessalonians 2:14-15. Paul said to those who were called by the gospel
meaning that, when we understand what Jesus did, when we hear about God's plan of
salvation, when we obey that gospel, the gospel message plays on our heart. We hear it.
We understand it. We want to obey it and when we respond to that and obey just as they
did "those who gladly received the word were baptized" in Acts 2. What happened to
those people? Acts 2:47 says, "The Lord added them to the church." What's the church?
It’s those called out of the world by the gospel to become members of the Lord’s body.
When we think about the church, we emphasize again the church is the saints. The
church is the people, the saved. 1 Corinthians 12:27, "You are the body of Christ and
members individually one of another." In fact, Paul would say in 1 Corinthians 12:20,
"There are many members, yet but one body." In the one church of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the members are the people those who have responded to God's call.
Notice this is the church that you read about in the Bible. It belongs to and is
possessed by Jesus Christ. Jesus says in Matthew 16:18, "I will build my church and the
gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Who does the church belong to? Did Jesus said
I'm going to build John Calvin's church? That's not what he said. Did Jesus said He would
build John Wesley's or John Smith's church? That's not what He said. What did Jesus
say? Jesus said, “I will build my church.” In everyday language, we understand that. For
example, let's say that you buy a home. When you make the final payment on a house
and the deed is yours, would you say that that house belongs to your neighbor? Of course
not. That's my home, that's my car. Why? I paid the debt, I paid the note; it belongs to me.
Why do we think any differently about the church? In Acts 20:28 the Bible says Jesus
purchased the church with His own blood. Who does it belong to? It doesn't belong to
men today. It doesn't belong to people who had some kind of religious ideas in years past.
Who does it belong to? The church belongs to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Are you a member the Lord's church? Have you obeyed the gospel of our Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ? “Have you heard the word?” Romans 10:17? Do you really believe
Jesus is God's Son, John 8:24? Would you believe it enough to change your life and
repent, Acts 3:19? Would you make that good confession and be immersed in water so
that you can be saved, Acts 2:38? If you've never done that, we encourage you to in view
of the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Study Questions for: “What is the church of Christ?”
1. According to Ephesians 4:15, how should we speak the truth?
2. John 17:17, tells us what is the truth?
3. According to Galatians 1:10, if you are trying to please man, are you a servant
of the Lord?
4. In Ephesians 5:17, what did Paul say was important for us to understand?
5. According to 1 Corinthians 12:27, what is the church?
6. Acts 20:28 tells us Jesus purchased the church with what?
7. According to Acts 2:47, what happened to the people that were baptized?
8. What will not prevail against the church, according to Matthew 16:18?
9. According to 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul pleaded that there be no what among
10. According to John 4:24, we must worship in spirit and in what?