Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 10, 1963
NUMBER 23, PAGE 4,10b-11

Which Church?


Homer Hailey There are many religious bodies today, but the Bible knows only one, over which Christ reigns as head. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build my church," singular, as you notice, and belonging to Him. When we speak of the church of Christ, we are speaking of that very institution which, upon that occasion, He declared He would build, and which should belong to Him. According to Scripture, the Lord has but one church.

In speaking of the unity of God's system, the apostle said, "There is one body, and one Spirit" (Eph. 4:4); and again, "He put all things in subjection under his (Christ's) feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22,23) Since the Spirit says "there is one body" and "the body is the church," each time it is stated that there is "one body," it is being declared there is but "one church." Now note, "So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another." (Rom. 12:5) And again, "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body being many, are one body; so also in Christ." (1 Cor. 12:12) Since the body is the church, and the apostle repeatedly says there is one body, he is just as repeatedly saying there is one church.

This one church, comprising the family, house or household of God, is as properly called in other passages "the church of God." (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:2, etc.) The term designates relation to God as God's children. But in its relationship to Christ it sustains the relation of a bride to her husband. This the same apostle teaches in such passages, "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great! but I speak in regard of Christ and the church." (Eph. 5:22-33) Therefore whenever the Bible speaks of "the body of Christ," made up of regenerated individuals, it is speaking of "the church of Christ."

Universal Church Composed Of All Saved

The church in the aggregate, of which we have just been speaking is made up of many local congregations; the congregations making up the body in its entirety. This thought was in the apostle's mind when he wrote, "In whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are banded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit." (Eph. 2:21, 22) It is the general consensus of opinion that Paul wrote the Roman letter from Corinth; at which time there were numerous congregations throughout that section, extending on north into Macedonia. In concluding the letter to the Romans, the apostle included these numerous congregations in the salutation, "All the churches of Christ salute you." (Rom. 16:16) All such "churches of Christ" constitute "the church of Christ" built upon the rock.

Considering another thought contained in Jesus' statement when he said to Peter, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church": we ask, What was the rock upon which the church should rest? It was not Peter, as is clearly seen by the two different words used by Jesus, "Petros" and "petra," one a stone the other a ledge of rock. The answer is found in a statement from Paul, "For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 3:11) The church of Christ, therefore, rests upon the deity, divinity, sonship of Christ, as its foundation; not upon some man or group of men.

Having made this statement, Jesus charged the apostles "they should tell no man that he was Christ." (v.20) Note this point: The church was to have been built upon that ledge, the fact that Jesus was the Christ. But they were not at that time to tell men that Jesus was the Christ. Therefore, until Jesus could be preached as Christ, the church could not be built. The first time Jesus was preached as Christ was on the Pentecost after His resurrection, recorded in Acts 2. In that sermon, Jesus as the Christ was Peter's theme throughout. By his resurrection from the dead He was proved to be Christ. Peter concluded his argument with this statement, "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified." Here, for the first time, Jesus was preached as Christ. In proving Jesus to be the Christ the foundation for the first congregation of the church of Christ was being laid. When asked by the assembly of Jews what they should do, the apostle responded, "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Here, for the first time, men are told what to do "in the name of Jesus Christ"; His name — authority — is directly connected with the command.

Lord Adds Saved To Church; It Is Not "Joined"

However, here is the particular point of our study: "They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls." (v.41) Nothing is said about their joining anything. But it is said they "were added."

The question might arise, Who added them? The answer is found in verse 47, "And the Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved." Or, according to the King James Version, "And the Lord added to the church daily, such as should be saved." There can be no mistake as to what the Lord would add them: He added them to the church built that day, the church of the Lord Jesus, built upon the rock. If today one will do the same as those people did that day, the Lord will add him to the same church.

From this incident it can be seen very easily that the same thing which saves one makes him a member of the church. These people heard the gospel, believed it, repented of their sins, and were baptized for their remission; therefore they were saved. But these same people who heard, believed, repented and were baptized were added to the church. Therefore, that which saves one adds him to the church. There is nothing for him to join once he is in the Lord's church. The Lord saves, the Lord adds; but the Lord saves those who comply with the law of pardon; and the Lord adds these same to the church, the body of the saved.

But notice again, "The Lord added unto them such as were being saved." (Acts 2:47) But who were being saved? "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16) Therefore those hearing, believing end being baptized were being saved; and those being saved were being added to the church. Therefore those believing and being baptized were being added to the church. Again, that which saves adds to the church.

How Different Is This Simple Bible Way To The Ways Of Men! One Sometimes Hears It Said, "I Was Saved At A Certain Time, And Joined The Church Six Months Or A Year Later." Certainly, Such An Experience Has No Scripture Precedent. Another Practice Is For Some "Churches To Have Candidates Come Before Them, Make Their Statement, Give Their "Experience,' And Then Their Reception Is Decided By A Vote Of The Members. And While They (The Candidates) Cannot Become Members Without Baptism, Yet It Is The Vote Of The Body Which Admits Them To Its Fellowship On Receiving Baptism." No Scripture Can Be Appealed To For Such A Procedure As This. In This Method God Is Left Out Completely; He Has No Voice Whatever In The Matter, Since It Is "The Vote Of The Body Which Admits Them To Its Fellowship On Receiving Baptism." Yet Acts 2:47 States, "The Lord Added To Them Daily Such As Were Being Saved." Again, "And Believers Were The More Added To The Lord, Multitudes Both Of Men And Women." (Acts 5:14) Of Course, Should A Body Of People Vote One Into Its Organization, That Organization Could Not Be The Church Of The Lord, For The Lord Adds To That. Certainly One Would Be In The Wrong Thing.

Penitent, Baptized Believers Saved For a moment let us consider this practice just mentioned as compared with the case of the eunuch, of Acts 8. Here we find Philip, an evangelist under divine guidance, preaching to a certain eunuch who had been to Jerusalem to worship God, but who was now returning to his own land. Beginning with verse 35, it is said, "And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on the way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch saith, Behold, here is water! what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believeth with all thy heart thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, for he went on his way rejoicing." Now does anyone deny that this man was saved? Certainly not. But was he a member of the church, and if so, of what church? Surely there was no one there to "vote him into" it; did he then go on his way outside the church the house or family of God? No, we believe not; but that he went on his way as much a member of the Lord's church as was Philip. Why should we draw such a conclusion? From these premises: Jesus had said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16) The eunuch had believed, for he said he did, but gave no "experience" and was baptized, therefore saved. But Acts 2:47 affirms, "The Lord added to the church daily such as were being saved." Therefore the Lord added this Ethiopian nobleman to the church, for he was saved on the same terms of pardon upon which those in Acts 2 had been saved. He went on his way a member of the Lord's church, saved by Christ Jesus when he complied with the Lord's conditions of pardon.

The members of the church in New Testament days were known simply as Christians. That is all the same truth will make of one today. "That the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch" is stated by Luke in Acts 11:26. At the conclusion of his defense before Agrippa, the king said to Paul, "With but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make me a Christian." (Acts 26:28) Or, as the older version renders it, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Whether Agrippa was sincere in this or not we do not know; we do know Paul was in "dead earnest" about it. He sought to persuade Agrippa to become a Christian through faith in Jesus Christ; a member of the church by expressing that faith whereupon God could add him to it. Peter says, "If a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name." (1 Peter 4:16) All God wants you to be, neighbor, is a Christian. He wants you only in His church, the church purchased with the blood of His own Son.

Out of regard for your soul, so precious and of such intrinsic value in the eyes of our Lord, will you not obey the gospel of the New Testament, let the Lord add you to His church, serve Hint faithfully, standing upon His exceeding precious promise that He will save you?