Chapter 7 - How to Find the Church Jesus Built
In the United States of America there are more than 2,000 different churches. Most of these churches claim to be the church Jesus established, or at least one of the “branches” of the church. We have already studied that Jesus came to the earth to build His church. He only built one church. He did not build hundreds or thousands of churches. If Jesus only built one church, why are there so many different churches?
Where Did All These Churches Come From?
The New Testament tells us that people would leave the truth (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Timothy 4:1-4; 2 Timothy 4:1-4). Since the church began, people have slowly gone away from the truth. This has resulted in the hundreds of denominations that are here today. Jesus does not approve of these churches. He did not build them.
Many people make the statement, “churches are all alike.” Is this statement true? We agree churches seem to be about the same, but they are not the same!
How do we find out which church is the one Jesus built? We find the church Jesus built by looking for the characteristics that are recorded in the New Testament. We all use characteristics in our lives. We identify people by using characteristics. People are identified by name, description, social security number or identification number. People can be identified by fingerprints. No fingerprints are the same.
If your child became lost, how would you find him? You would ask for the help of the police. When the police help you, they will ask you what the child looks like, and for a recent picture. For example: your child is a ten year old boy with blue eyes, blond hair, weighing about 75 pounds. Would you be satisfied if the police brought you an eight year old girl with brown eyes and red hair? Why not? She’s a child isn’t she? Are not children all about the same? You would not be satisfied until the child with all of your child’s characteristics was found. Also, once a child with all of your child’s characteristics was found, you would stop looking for your child. You would not keep on looking for your child. The child found would have to have all, not just a few, of the characteristics of your child.
Just as children are not all alike, cars are also not all alike. We identify automobiles by characteristics. If you paid $50,000 for an automobile, would you want that automobile to be a small, cheap car? It had better be a Cadillac, Mercedes Benz, or BMW. What is the difference between a Cadillac and a small cheap car? They both have engines, windows, doors, tires, etc. They are about the same, right? No. They are similar, but they are not the same. If we pay that much money, we will not be happy with a small cheap car.
The same is true with the church. There is only one church that Jesus built. Even though it may seem to be like other churches, unless a church has all the characteristics of the church we read about in the New Testament, it cannot be the church Jesus built. The New Testament tells us the characteristics of the church. Once we know these characteristics, we can compare the churches in the world and see which one has the same characteristics as the church Jesus built. The angel Gabriel said,
he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:33). The church Jesus built still exists. By using the characteristics found in the Bible, we can identify that church and become a part of it.
Jesus only promised to build one church, therefore, the rest of the churches that are here today were started by men, not by God. The way we can be sure the church we are in is the church Jesus built is to look at the characteristics.
The Characteristics of the Church
When It Began
When was the Lord’s church built? We can learn the answer to this question by studying the following scriptures:
And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:18-19). Jesus tells us in this passage that at this time, the church had not yet started, because He said, “I will build my church.” At the time Jesus made this statement, the church had not yet started. Also, in this passage He tells us the kingdom and the church are the same.
And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There are some here of them that stand by, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God come with power (Mark 9:1). The kingdom had not yet come when Jesus made this statement. It was still in the future. It was also still in the future when Jesus died on the cross because Joseph, who buried Christ, was still waiting for the kingdom (Mark 15:43). Jesus told his apostles to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the power to come (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:5-8). As the first chapter of the book of Acts closes, the church (kingdom) had not yet come.
In Acts 5:11, the Bible records:
And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all that heard these things. We see in this passage the church had already started. Later, Paul wrote:
who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love (Colossians 1:13). In this passage Paul tells us the kingdom is already here. Even later, the apostle John wrote:
I John, your brother and partaker with you in tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus... (Revelation 1:9). The kingdom had not yet started at the death of Christ, but from Acts chapter five, the church (kingdom) was already here.
The church started sometime between the death of Christ and Acts chapter five. To find the time, we can turn to Acts chapter two. It was the first Pentecost after Jesus rose from the dead, in about A.D. 30 that Christ kept his promise to build his church. If a church had its beginning at any other time, it cannot be the church Jesus promised to build (Acts 2:1-4, 36-42, 47).
Where It Began
Upon learning when the church began, it becomes very easy to see where it began. We just have to see where the apostles were when the church began, and we will have the answer. In Acts chapter two, they were in the city of Jerusalem. This was according to prophecy (Isaiah 2:2-3; Luke 24:47). The church Jesus built began in Jerusalem. If a church started in a place other than Jerusalem, it cannot be the church Jesus promised to build (Acts 2:5, 14).
The Name Given to the Church
Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). He used His own blood to buy the church (Acts 20:28). The apostle Paul called it “the churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16). It has to have the right name to be the church Jesus built. Of course, it could have a Bible name and not have the other characteristics. Remember, a church must have all the characteristics to be the church Jesus built.
Some say the name is not important. We do not believe that in other areas of life. We do not give bad names to our children. But if names were not important, it would not matter. We do not name our children Jezebel or Judas, because names are important!
Jesus is the founder of his church and the only foundation (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:11). If a church has a founder other than Jesus, that church cannot be the church Jesus built.
Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). His church does not have any earthly headquarters. Instead, Jesus’ church is organized into independent, self-ruling congregations. Each congregation has a group of men to lead the congregation under Christ. The names or titles given to this group of men is: elders, pastors, and shepherds (Acts 14:23; 20:17-18, 28; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). These congregations also have deacons to serve the congregation (1 Timothy 3:8-13; Philippians 1:1). The Bible says nothing about one man ruling over one or more congregations, nor does it mention a conference or a pope. If a church has a headquarters here on earth, conferences and councils, it cannot be the church Jesus built.
Please remember, just because things are similar does not mean they are the same. All churches have some of the same items of worship, but they are not exactly the same as the church Jesus built.
Most churches pray and preach in their worship services. What they pray and preach might, on some occasions, be right. But it is not enough just to be right in some areas only. We have to do things the way the Bible teaches (John 4:24).
Jesus commanded us to observe the Lord’s supper (Matthew 26:26-29). When are we to partake of the Lord’s supper? We are commanded to assemble (Hebrews 10:25). The church partook of the Lord’s supper when they assembled (1 Corinthians 11:33). They ate the Lord’s supper when they assembled on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Just as the Jews kept every Sabbath, Christians partake of the Lord’s supper every first day of the week. If a church does not partake of the Lord’s supper every first day of the week, they cannot be the church Jesus built. We use unleavened bread and fruit of the vine when we partake of the Lord’s supper. We do not have the authority to use anything else.
The Bible clearly teaches us we are to sing in worship (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). There is no authority found in the New Testament for using instrumental music in worship. Yet, almost all religious groups use instrumental music in their worship. The church Jesus built does not use instruments of music in worship. If a church adds instrumental music to the worship, it cannot be the church Jesus built.
Paul taught us to contribute of our means “upon the first day of the week” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). These contributions were to be free-will offerings (2 Corinthians 9:5-7). This is the way the church Jesus built gets the money to do its work. If a church uses any other method, it cannot be the church Jesus built.
God’s Plan for Saving Man
The Bible teaches us to hear, believe, repent, confess Christ, and be baptized (Romans 10:17; John 8:24; Acts 17:30; Matthew 10:32-33; Acts 22:16). The Bible clearly shows us that baptism is essential to salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21; Romans 6:3-4). Bible baptism is immersion (Acts 8:35-39; Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12). The purpose of baptism is to wash away our sins (Acts 22:16), and cause us to enter Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27), where all spiritual blessings are found (Ephesians 1:3). If a church does not teach this way for man to be saved, it cannot be the church Jesus built.
Jesus built only one church. We must be a member of that one church to be saved. We can identify His church. If you are in a church that does not have these characteristics, you are not in the church Jesus built. May God help us all to be a member of His church and not of any man-made church.