INTRODUCTION TO THE CHURCH
In Matt. 16:18 Jesus said, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Here the Lord promises to build His church. And this church was to become the greatest institution on the face of the earth.
The church of Christ was not limited to one nation of people, but for all people of every nation who rightfully call upon the name of the Lord. Many years before the Lord came and established His church, Isaiah the prophet records these words in chapter 2, verses 2 and 3, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord I s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go-forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."
Another prophecy about the Lord's church being for all nations of people is in Daniel 2:34-35, "Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth."
From these two prophecies we see that the Lord's church was to become a great body of people from all nations of the earth. These people would be those who would love and respect God, and obey His word of truth.
The Lord's church was to be a divine church, not a human or man-made church. This church was to follow the truths and commands of God's word, not human doctrines and philosophies. In Eph 3:10-11 it reads, "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." The plans for the church of Christ were of eternal origin - planned by God and executed by Christ, His Son.
These human organizations, called denominations, that exist in abundance today, are the product of man and not of God. In fact, they often call themselves by the very name of their founder or by the method in which they operate. This becomes a mockery of divine authority. "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body." - Eph. 5:23. Again, in Col. I: 18, "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence."
The church of Christ is governed by Christ and His Word of truth called the gospel or New Testament. Christ is the universal head. He does not have a representative on earth as some would suggest. In Eph. 5:27 it reads, "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." The Lord had such a concern for His church's welfare that He requested we walk in newness of life and lead sober, godly and righteous lives in order to safeguard the church's influence in the world. The church's mission is one of evangelism, ministry, and benevolence. To add to, or in any way change this, is to bring divine disapproval.
Our salvation is the reason that Christ came to this world. If mankind had not been hopelessly lost in sin, Jesus would not have come. But He came to seek and save that which was lost (Read Matt. 1:21, Luke 19:10, I Tim. 1:15). Because Jesus was put to death on the cross, He arose from the dead for our justification (Romans 4:25), and returned to God the Father. But He prepared the apostles for the great work of converting the world. But this work was to be done in His church. Paul writes in I Tim. 3: 15, "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." It is the duty of the church to uphold the Lord's truth to the lost. And those who obey the truth, according to Acts 2:47, are added to the church. While the church does not save by itself, it is Christ who saves, yet our salvation is in the Lord's body or church. In Ephesians 5:23 it reads, "...Christ is the saviour of the body." (Also read Eph 1 :22-23). To be in Christ is to be in His church. If any of us are saved, we must be in the Lord's church. No wonder the poet so fittingly wrote:
I love thy kingdom Lord, the house of thine abode. The church our blest redeemer saved with His own precious blood. I love thy church 0 God, her walls before thee stand, Dear as the apple of thine eye and graven on thy hand.
God bless the church!!
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