What is the church of Christ?

Standing in the doorway of the church building in Asuncion, Paraguay, I positioned myself to greet everyone coming to worship that Sunday morning. One gentleman, whom I had never met before, stepped in and opened up his Bible as he looked at me. He pointed to it and said, “I am looking for the church that I read about here in Scripture. Is this it?” With a smile, I replied, “Well sir, come in, worship with us, and see for yourself. Afterward, I will be happy to answer any questions you have.” He stayed. He worshiped. He then had a bunch of questions! His name is Vicente Martinez and he has been a member of the church of Christ for many years now. His question is an extremely important one. Is this the church that I read about in the Bible? Let’s look at what constitutes “the church.”

The One Body. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “… I will build my church …” There are several things to note about this passage. First, it would be built by Jesus. Second, it would belong to Him. He called it “my” church. Thirdly, notice He said church, in the singular sense, not plural, as in “churches.” All of this harmonizes perfectly with Ephesians 4:4-5, which says, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

So, any church that was started by someone other than Jesus, or who carries some other name that is not His or His Father, cannot be the church described in the Bible. The fact that there is only one church (also called “His body” in passages like Colossians 1:18) teaches us that there is a singular institution that He established. Thus, it is impossible to have some 45,000 different “churches” all claiming to be His one true church! There is only one. His. The church of Christ strives to follow that very principle. Jesus is the head of the church and we call it by His name (Rom 16:16).

An Acts 2 Church. So, when and where did Jesus build His church? The answer is found in Acts chapter two. After Jesus had ascended back to heaven, and Peter preached the first Gospel sermon, many people wanted to become a part of this new church. Acts 2:37-47 shows us the beginning of Jesus’ church. “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47). That was the day that the church of our Lord was inaugurated. From that day forward, until today, people are still being added to that same church, in the same manner as those first converts were. It started in Jerusalem, on that Day of Pentecost (around 33 AD), and then begin to spread all around the world (cf Acts 8:4, 13:3ff). Many of the epistles of Paul, Peter, and John address people who belonged to the Lord’s church but were part of congregations in various locations (Acts 11:26; 1 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:2; Rev 3-4).

New Testament Christianity. All throughout the New Testament, there are commands, descriptions and examples that help us identify the church that Jesus built. The religion of the Old Testament was Judaism, which was intended for the Hebrews (the children of Israel) and they adhered to the “Law of Moses” (1 Kings 2:3). Jesus did away with that Old Law (cf Gal 3:24; Col 2:14) and Christians now follow the “Law of Christ” (Gal 5:18, 6:2). It regulates everything about Christianity and the church. The church of Christ that exists today, such as the one that meets at Margaret Street, is simply trying to follow the New Testament and example of the first century Christians.

If the first Christians, having been led by Jesus’ apostles and the Holy Spirit, demonstrated what to do as His church, then we can confidently respond by replicating what they did. Therefore, we meet to worship and partake of the Lord’s supper on “the first day of the week” just as they did in the first century (cf Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2). We have various members who serve as elders (1 Tim 3:1-7; 1 Pet 5:1-4), as deacons (1 Tim 3:8-13), evangelists and teachers (Eph 4:11). We try to do ALL religious things in Bible ways and call Bible things by Bible names. So, what is the church of Christ? It is the church that you can read about and identify in your Bible. We’re trying to be that church!