Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Jesus' bold church (part 10)

This is part 10 of a series I’ve written this year on JESUS’ bold church. It occurred to me this weekend that I have not defined what I mean by the church. The term church may have different connotations to different people. Looking church up in my dictionary, I found the following definitions:
“1: a building for public and esp. Christian worship”
“2: the clergy or officialdom of a religious body”
“3: a body or organization of religious believers: as a: the whole body of Christians b: denomination c: congregation”
“4: a public divine worship (goes to ~ every Sunday)”
“5: the clerical profession (considered the ~ as a possible career) Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary; Tenth Edition; Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.A.; © 1995; page 205.    
     I am using the term in two senses. First, “the whole body of Christians.” I believe that is one of the two ways church is used in the New Testament. Secondly, as a local congregation or body of Christian believers as the term seems to be used in chapters two and three of the book of Revelation. Unless it seems obvious that the reference is to a local body of Christians, I am probably using the term to mean “the whole body of Christians.”
     From my study of the New Testament, I do not know of any instance where the term church is used to mean a building, the clergy, a denomination, public worship, or the clerical profession. In fact, I believe the concept of denominations is absolutely unbiblical. I know of no references to a denomination in the New Testament. I know of no instance where a Christian was allowed to pick and choose what doctrines he could or could not follow. I know of no instance where a Christian was allowed to pick and choose who he would worship with or how he would worship.
     In fact, JESUS prayed: “’My prayer is not for them (the apostles—my addition) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.’” John 17: 20-23 (NIV)  
     It seems obvious that JESUS’ bold church (“the whole body of Christians”) should be united. Complete unity was prayed for by JESUS. For Christians not to be united is to be in disobedience to JESUS’ and GOD’S will. To be a bold church, it seems obvious to me, that Christians need to be united in obedience to the WORD of GOD—the Bible. If true followers of the CHRIST are not in obedience to HIS WILL and therefore not united those who are outside of HIS WILL must repent just as was necessary for five of the seven churches in chapters two and three of Revelation.
     The apostle Paul discussed divisions within the church at Corinth in I Corinthians. “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another ‘I follow Cephas (that is, Peter—footnote a); still another, ‘I follow Christ.’
     Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” I Corinthians 1: 10-13 (NIV)
     Paul was writing to a local body of the church. Christians within the local church were claiming to follow the teachings of Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or JESUS the CHRIST. But in fact, all Christians must follow JESUS the CHRIST and not the individuals who teach the truth in CHRIST. Only JESUS the CHRIST is the SAVIOR of mankind. Paul is not. Apollos is not. Cephas is not.
Now do this—substitute the names of denominations for the names of those Christians who are following Christ. I follow Methodists. I follow Baptists. I follow Lutherans. I follow what ever organization. WRONG!!! WRONG!!! WRONG!!!. There is only one church! The church are Christians who are obedient to CHRIST, GOD, and the HOLY SPIRIT. There is not; nor can there be, according to GOD’S HOLY WILL, more than one church!!!          
     “Now I (the apostle Paul—my addition) rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his (CHRIST—my addition) body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints (all Christians—my addition). To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches to this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
     We proclaim him (CHRIST—my addition), admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” Colossians 1: 24-28 (NIV)
     What is HIS body? It is the Church! “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I (the apostle Paul—my addition) urge you to live a life worthy of the calling (being a Christian—my addition) you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all..” Ephesians 4: 1-6 (NIV) How many bodies are there? ONE BODY!!! What is that body? It is the church! THERE IS ONE CHURCH—“the whole body of Christians.” Nowhere in the Bible does it declare that there is more than one church—the whole body of Christians. Nowhere in the Bible does it mention denominations.
So, if there is only one church, why are there so many denominations? Are those multiple denominations obedient to GOD’S word if GOD demands obedience to HIS WORD and they are following different and contradictory beliefs not found in GOD’S WORD. If there is only one church and the Bible proclaims that there is only one church, why do people who claim to be Christian declare that I follow Methodists, I follow Baptists, I follow Lutherans, I follow Roman Catholics, on infinite? Where is the unity in CHRIST prayed for by CHRIST? Where is JESUS’ bold church?
Finally, note this dire pronouncement by Paul. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” Galatians 1: 6-9 (NIV) There is only one gospel just as there is only one church. Do not follow man-made lies that are contrary to the gospel as clearly given in the Bible! Be a follower of CHRIST, be a Christian, be a part of the one and only true church. Do not be a part of the perversion of the gospel. Do not be condemned. Do not be confused. Study GOD’S WORD! Learn GOD’S WILL! BELIEVE! REPENT! CONFESS that JESUS is LORD and SAVIOR! Be BAPTIZED into CHRIST! Be OBEDIENT to HIS WILL! BE a part of JESUS’ bold church!      


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