My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Something referred to as “the church” is found for the first time after the ascension of Jesus in Acts 2:47 KJV, NKJV. Prior to Luke’s second book, the term is recorded twice by Matthew.

Jesus promised, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18; also Cf. Matthew 18:17 NKJV).   Paul tells us, “the church of God which he purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). This “my church” which Jesus spoke of was the saved which he purchased with his own blood (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).

At the end of Peter’s Pentecost sermon, he exhorted them to “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40). About three thousand gladly received his message, were baptized, and were added by the Lord to the saved (Acts 2:41, 47). With Acts 2, through the rest of the New Testament, the word “church” signifies those who were added to the saved. Every member in the Corinthian “church of God” were in the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27). To be in “the body of Christ” was to be “the saved.” Even the man who was living with his father’s wife was among the saved (1 Corinthians 5:1-11). Although the Corinthian church was divided into four groups, referred to as “of Paul,” “of Apollos,” “of Cephas,” and “of Christ,” they were still “the body of Christ.” This four-way split was not condoned by the Holy Spirit and was contradictory to Jesus’ prayer (John 17:20-23). Yet, Paul and the Spirit continued to address them as “the church of God” and “the body of Christ.”

Just because God added people to the saved in the first century does not mean He did so because they deserved it. They were neither perfect in doctrine nor practice. Far from it. That first assembly in Jerusalem refused to preach the Good News to a Gentile barbarian for about ten years. Peter went to the house of Cornelius, but it wasn’t until he arrived that he realized God accepted Gentiles (Acts 10:34-35). Until then, that thought never entered his thinking. The assembly in Jerusalem was not that receptive to Gentile membership (Acts 11:1-3). Later others wanted to force Gentiles to be circumcised to make them full-fledged children of God (Acts 15:1,5). Why not? Circumcision, since Father Abraham, had put them in covenant relationship with God. Shouldn’t Gentiles do the same? Proselytes did! God had earlier added Pharisees to the saved. He added slave owners. He added pagans who still believed their idols represented living deities (1 Corinthians 8). He added folks who did not believe in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). He added Jews who continued to be zealous for the Law of Moses and continued to worship in the synagogue and at the Temple. Peter realized Gentiles could be added without Jewish circumcision. Salvation was not based upon law, but upon the faith of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16).

According to the New Testament, one could not be saved outside the membership of the church. If he was saved, it was because he was in the church. God had added him to its membership (Acts 2:41, 47).. If one was in the body of Christ, he was in the church because the church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23). Only those who were in the body of Christ were referred to as “Christian” (Acts 11:26; 1 Peter 4:16). Christ is the head of the church because it is his body. If the church is non-essential to one’s salvation, then neither the body nor the head of the church is essential to salvation. Paul told the Corinthians saints that their manmade additions “of Paul, of Cephas, of Apollos,” or “of Christ” were their problems. Why? Because they were already saved by being in the body of Christ before those additions were created! Non-essential additions are worthless and unauthorized. If you were “in Christ,” it was because God had added you to Jesus’ body of believers which he is Head and Savior of. There is no such thing in scripture as a non-essential body of Christ. If one is in a church or fellowship today that is considered “not essential” to his salvation, it finds itself with those four “of” groups in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13. That membership has misunderstood the nature of the biblical church or body of Christ.

In the following chart Luke shows how individuals got into the body of Jesus or his “my church.”