the church of Christ?
What is the church of Christ? It is the church you read of in the New Testament which
belongs to Christ. It is described by the apostles and prophets in the Gospels, Acts, the
Epistles and Revelation. These books describe the church's origin; they give the definition of
what the church is; they show what part the church plays int he scheme of redemption; and,
they show who is a part of the church.
The church's origin
The origin of the church goes back to God. From the beginning of the world God planned that
the church would come into existence: it is part of "the eternal purpose which He purposed in
Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:8-12). Thus, the prophets of the Old Testament
predicted the coming of the church (Psalm 118:22-24; Isaiah 2:2-4; 9:6-7; 11:1-16; 35:8-10;
42:1-12; 46:12-13; 56:5; 62:1-4; Daniel 2:44; 7:9-14; Joel 2:28-32); Jesus promised to build
the church (Matthew 5:13-16; 16:18,28; John 10:15,16; Luke 24:25-27,46,47; Acts 1:6-8); and,
the apostles and prophets of the New Testament revealed the church by the Spirit which God
gave them (Acts 1:6-9; 2:1-4; Ephesians 3:1-11; Romans 16:25,26; 2 Timothy 1:9-11; 1 Peter
1:10-12; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; John 20:21; 1 John 5:13). This is the church which we speak of,
when we speak of the church of Christ.
The church began in the city of Jerusalem, or Zion of prophecy, upon the day of Pentecost
recorded in the second chapter of Acts. Before that time, the church is spoken of in prospect;
and, after that time, it is spoken of in reality. The first reference to its existence is found in Acts
2:47 when the Lord added to the church. This is the church we speak of, when we speak of
the church of Christ.
The church of Christ was built by Jesus. He promised "...upon this rock [the fact that He was
"the Christ, the Son of the living God" as Peter had declared in verse 16 -- compare 1
Corinthians 3:11] I will build my church..." (Matthew 16:18). This is the church we speak of,
when we speak of the church of Christ.
The churches, which came into being in the first century as a result of the preaching of Paul
and the rest of the apostles and evangelists, were imitators of the churches in Judea in that
they accepted and followed the word of God in making them what they were (1 Thessalonians
2:12-14). Thus, any and all churches which accept and follow that same word of God,
fashioning themselves according to the pattern which is revealed there, are the same church
as that spoken of in the New Testament. This is the church we speak of, when we speak of
the church of Christ.
What the church is
The word "church" is sued in three different means in the New Testament: 1) the universal
church (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28; etc.); 2) the local church (1 Thessalonians 1:1; Romans
16:16); and, 3) the worship assembly (1 Corinthians 14:34). In each of these instances the
word "church" is not used int he sense many use it today: that of a denomination. A
denomination is a group of local congregations that is smaller than the universal church.
Thus, a denomination is too small to be the church spoken of in the New Testament,
because it is smaller than the universal church; and, a denomination is too large to be the
church spoken of in the New Testament, because it is larger than the local congregation or
worship assembly. This is the church we speak of when we speak of the church of Christ.
The Greek word translated "church" in the New Testament is the word ekklesia
(ekklesiasia). This word means "called out." The church is the people of Christ called out
to be His own possession (Titus 2:14; Colossians 1:18-24). Sinners are called out of sin
unto salvation and righteousness (Luke 5:32; Acts 2:40,41; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Jews are
called out of the Old Covenant, or Testament, into the New Covenant, or Testament, of Jesus
Christ (Acts 2:5,41,47; 3:25,26; Hebrews 8:1-12). Gentiles, or those outside the Old Covenant
or Testament, are called "out of darkness into His marvelous light" (Acts 10:34,35; 11:18; 1
Peter 2:9,10; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Idolaters are called out of idolatry to serve the living God (1
Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 12:2; Acts 17:22-31). Sincere, truth-seeking souls are
called out of error into the truth (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Revelation 18:4). This is the church
we speak of when we speak of the church of Christ.
What part the church plays in the scheme of redemption
The church plays an integral part in the scheme of redemption. God, having planned the
church since before the creation of the world, has revealed throughout the Bible that the
church is "part and parcel" of the eternal scheme of redemption. This is the church we speak
of, when we speak of the church of Christ.
The church was bought with the blood of Jesus (Acts 20:28). The scheme of redemption
depends upon the blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18-21; Ephesians 1:7). All of the sacrifices of the
Old Testament pointed forward to the time of the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross (Hebrews
9:1-10:18). The blood of Christ is our redemption. If the blood of Jesus bought the church,
and if the blood of Jesus is our redemption, there is an integral connection between the
church and salvation. This is the church we speak of when we speak of the church of Christ.
The church is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22,23). Salvation cannot,
then, be separate and apart from the body of Christ. Jesus is the Savior of the body
(Ephesians 5:23). The body is what Jesus will save. That connects the scheme of
redemption and the church. This is the church we speak of when we speak of the church of
The church is the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:23ff). It is adorned as a bride awaiting the
bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-10). When Jesus comes again, he will take His bride home to
heaven. If the church is the bride, and the bride will go to heaven, then there is a connection
between the church and the scheme of redemption. This is the church we speak of when we
speak of the church of Christ.
The church is the kingdom (Hebrews 12:21-28; Colossians 1:13). The kingdom will be
delivered up to the Father at the second coming of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:23,24). If the
church is the kingdom, and the kingdom will go to God, then the church must be connected
with the scheme of redemption. This is the church we speak of when we speak of the church
The church does not save anyone. However, the church is composed of those who are saved
(Acts 2:47). Thus, the church does not save, it is the saved. Jesus Christ is the Savior, the
church is what He saves. This is the church we speak of when we speak of the church of
Who is a part of the church?
The Lord adds people to the church (Acts 2:47). It is up to Him to determine who will be in the
church, and who will not. It is up to God to say what one must do in order to become a part of
the church, not man. This is the church we speak of when we speak of the church of Christ.
The church is composed of believers (Hebrews 11:6). Therefore, one must believe in order to
become a part of the church. One must believe that God is, and that He rewards those who
seek him. Believing that God is, is not enough. "You believe that there is one God; you do
well: the devils also believe and tremble. But will you know, O vain man, that faith without
works is dead being alone? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had
offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Do you see how faith wrought with his works, and by
works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed
God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of God.
You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was
not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she received the messengers, and sent them
out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead
also" (James 2:19-26). This is the church we speak of, when we speak of the church of Christ.
The church is composed of those who repent of sin (Acts 17:30,31) Repentance is more than
sorrow for sin, it is the result of godly sorrow. "For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation
not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death." (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Repentance is "a change of mind that results in a change of action." That resolution of mind
that admits to sin and determines to follow righteousness is necessary for those who are to
be a part of the church. The message of the gospel is believe in Christ, "Repent you
therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19). Repent is the first
thing Peter commanded those who cried out, "What shall we do?" on the day of Pentecost
(Acts 2:38). This is the church we speak of, when we speak of the church of Christ.
The church is composed of those who confess their faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of
the living God. "For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth
confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10). This confession of faith was the only
thing standing between the Ethiopian eunuch and baptism. "...And the eunuch said, See,
here is water, what does hinder me from being baptized? And Philip said, If you believe with
all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of
God" (Acts 8:36,37). This is the church we speak of, when we speak of the church of Christ.
The church is composed of those who are baptized. On the day of Pentecost, Peter said,
"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of
sins..." (Acts 2:38). It is baptism of which Paul writes when he says: "...Christ also loved the
church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water
by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle,
or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Baptism is the place where sins are washed away by the blood of Christ (Acts 22:16;
Colossians 2:11-12). "...Verily, verily, I say to you, Except a man is born of the water and of the
Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). No man can be a part of the
church of Christ without having been immersed in water in order to obtain the forgiveness of
his sins. This is the church we speak of, when we speak of the church of Christ.
The church is composed of those who remain faithful. It is not enough to have been baptized
once up;on a time; in order to be a part of the church, continued obedience is necessary.
"This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare to you, that God is light,
and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in
darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have
fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin"
(1 John 1:5-7). Jesus said: "If you continue in My word, then you are My disciples indeed; and
you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31,32). Paul said, "And
you, who were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He
has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable
and unreproveable in His sight: if you continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not
moved away from the hope of the gospel, which you have heard..." (Colossians 2:21-23). The
letters to the seven churches of Asia plainly sow that acceptance with God is not dependant
upon what you were, but what you are (Revelation 2-3). Those who continue in sin are
removed from the church by God, and are no longer to be in the fellowship of the church here
on earth (1 Corinthians 5:1-13). However, it must also be realized, that those who depart from
the church can return to the fold of God through repentance, confession and prayer (Acts 8:18-
24; 1 John 1:8-10). This is the church we speak of, when we speak of the church of Christ.
What is the church of Christ? It is the church which belongs to Christ. It is the church which
began in the second chapter of Acts on the day of Pentecost. It is the blood bought body of
believers which Jesus will deliver up to God. It is the church which was a part of God's
scheme of redemption since before the foundation of the world. It is those individuals who
have obeyed from the heart the doctrine of Christ. This is the church owe speak of when we
speak of the church of Christ.
"And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build
you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." (Acts 20:32).