My Thoughts. . .
Matthew informs us about a conversation between Jesus and Peter. It begins with a question from Jesus to the group.
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:15-17).
Notice, Peter answered Jesus’ question with, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus’ response is, “on this rock I will build my church.” What did Jesus build based upon Peter’s statement “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God“? Jesus is its foundation, not Peter.
The Holy Spirit paints a picture of that “church” or “assembly.” It is described, not as a building upon a city street or corner. It was not constructed of wood, cement, or metal. It did not have a steeple nor stained glass windows. It was not furnished with pews or pulpit. It did not have a street address, offices, or a specific telephone number. People did not assemble in a specific location to study, edify, pray, or be in the presence of God. God was not far off. He was dwelling in each saint.
Neither Jesus, the Holy Spirit, nor any inspired apostle or prophet describes it as an invisible church. Although every member was without perfection, the membership of congregation like Corinth and Laodicea kind were indwelt by God. The expression “the body of Christ” is used to describe the saved in different locations (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 10:16; Ephesians 1:23, 4:4, 12). No believer was described being in “the invisible church,” then later joining a “visible one.”
Paul pictures it in the following words,
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:17, 22-23).
If one is “in the body of Christ,” Jesus is his head. Being in that saved body, one is indwelt by God and is referred to as “the temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Imperfection is found in all such assemblies, yet are saved because God added and cleanse them with Jesus’ blood (Acts 2:47). In the first century those added ones did not have “dual” membership in (1) one body that saved and (2) another that was useless in saving. When division reared its ugly head in Corinth, God did not give it His approval (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). That division occurred each time man made himself equal to God.
Jesus is the head of his saved assembly. That assembly was capable of fellowship, worship, edification, teaching, disciplining, and comforting long before man decided God’s way was not enough. Notice the differences between what Jesus’ “my church” is and what man’s additions have built.
JESUS’ “MY CHURCH” MAN’S ADDITIONS
1. Jesus is its “head.” 1. Man heads each division
2. God adds to its membership 2. Man outlines how to join
3. God adds those He saves 3. Man votes the person in
4. The added are saved by God 4. Assumes candidate is already saved
5. God & man know the saved 5. Membership assumed to be saved
6. Saved and belonged to Jesus 6. Salvation is not its purpose
7. Dividing the saved condemned 7. Division is glorified
8. Jesus is the 1 head over his 1 body 8. Multiple heads over multiple bodies
9. Identified as disciples, saved, or Christian 9. Multiple identifications by division
10. Capable of existing without denominating 10. Offers different belief systems
11. One head, one body, one faith, = salvation 11. Does not nor cannot offer salvation
12. Created and identified by God. 12. Offers conflicting doctrines
First century disciples of Christ did not seek fellowship in an organization which was not the body of Jesus. Why join something that cannot save? Can the saved not have fellowship without creating an organization which does not save? Denominations do not save. Denominations do not make the Lord favor you over others who are not in that denomination. One’s contributions goes to an organization which is not the body of Christ. One’s work in that organization is to glorify that institution which cannot save. The apostle Peter did not write, “However, if you suffer as a (your denominational name), do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that (denominational) name” (1 Peter 4:16).
Jesus promised to build his church. Did he keep that promise in the first century or wait until several hundred years later to do so? If later, what were the apostles, prophets, elders, deacons, and others have their membership in? They would not be in “the body of Christ” nor be “saved” if the church was late in being established. Do the scriptures condone or condemn dividing the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)? Did Paul lie or teach falsely when he stated that there was one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God (Ephesians 4:3-6)? If Jesus built multiple churches with different doctrines, rules, worship, and organization, why is inspiration silent on that subject? Could it be that what we read in the New Testament originates from God rather than from man?