Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 8, 1954
NUMBER 47, PAGE 8-9a

Traits Of The Lord's Church - The Church That Jesus Built

Thomas Allen Robertson, San Bernardino. California

There are many features of the Lord's church worthy of special notice, but surely no one can seriously and conscientiously seek to serve him without a close and careful study of the worship he has ordained. We read of the early disciples that they "continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and, fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:42) Their worship partook altogether of the simple, spiritual worship of the synagogue, and was entirely free from the external pomp and ritualism of the temple. Their worship was to be a worship in spirit and in understanding. (1 Con 14:16) As we turn to the New Testament we find that their worship consisted of: the assembly on the first day of the week to break bread in memory of Christ (Acts 20:7; Heb. 10: 25; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 10:16); edification by preaching, teaching and exhortation (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:12; Col. 2:7, 8); prayers (1 Thess. 5:17; 1 Tim. 2:8; Eph. 6:18); giving — the contribution (1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:7); singing (vocal music alone characterized the worship of the New Testament church). (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) This was not merely the custom at some of the churches, but characterized all of the churches until sin, error and innovations corrupted the worship of the church of Christ and led it into the great apostasy.

The Organization Of Christ's Church

As all churches look upon their organization as one of their distinctive features, it is well to inquire into the organization of this church, the church that Christ built upon his own divinity as the solid rock foundation. We find that each congregation was a little kingdom of itself, with Christ as king. When the whole body of Christ, or kingdom of God, consisted of one church in Jerusalem, it was essentially what every other congregation became when established. Hence, each congregation contained within itself all the elements of the church of Christ for all lands and all ages. There was, therefore, no governmental authority by which the numerous churches were bound into an ecclesiasticism. Each governed itself by the laws of the king. They could not make laws; they simply executed those which their king had made for them. Yet, with all this they had a common interest. They were the disciples of one Master, the children of one Father, they were cooperants in the prosecution of one great work, and heirs to one common inheritance. Hence, the interest of one was the interest of all. For this reason we find them contributing to the poor in sections distant from them, and sending messengers to bear their fellowship to where it would be wisely used. Also when the church at Antioch was troubled with false teachers, who claimed to be representing the church in Jerusalem, they sent men to lay the matter before the apostles and elders of the church at Jerusalem; and they, in turn, vindicated themselves by showing the claim to be false, and sent letters to all of the churches in regard to the matter. Hence, it appears that when a common interest was involved, and the honor of a sister church involved, there was consultation and concert of action. Thus we see that independence in that which pertained to them alone, and voluntary association in that which involved a general interest, was the practice of the early church in regards to government.

Each congregation, when fully organized, had a plurality of elders and deacons. (Titus 1:5; Phil. 1:2) The elders or bishops, which are the same, were the overseers of the church, and its spiritual teachers and guides. They were often assisted in their work by an evangelist. The work of an evangelist was general. (2 Tim. 4:15) The deacons looked more particularly after the temporal interest of the church, in conjunction with the bishops. Their duties, like those of the elders, were confined to the congregations which they served.

The Names Of Christ's Church

Every church, you know, must have a name. And frequently the name is the most particular part of it. So it is an important thing to inquire into the name of this church. One curious thing about it is that it has several names. Christ never gave it any one distinct, exclusive name. It is frequently called the church of the Lord (Acts 20:28), the church of the firstborn (Heb. 12:23), the church of the living God (1 Tim. 3:15), the church of God (1 Con 1:2; 10:23; 11:22; 15:9; Gal. 1:13; 1 Tim. 3:5), the body of Christ (Eph. 5:23), and in Matthew 16:18 Christ calls it his church; it is the church of Christ. In the plural the churches are called the churches of Christ. (Horn. 16:16) Its members were called Christians (Acts 11:26), saints (1 Cor. 1:2), children of God (Rom. 8:16; Gal. 3:26), believers, etc. All of these names both individually and collectively, indicate certain relations; hence their importance and use.

Does Christ's Church Exist Today?

We now invite your attention to a very important question; is this church which Christ built still in existence? If it is still in existence you will readily concede that all men and women should belong to it. How, then, shall we determine this question? We know of but one way.

When the Word of the Lord sounded out from Jerusalem, churches were established all over the land. These churches were all the same in that which characterized them as churches of Christ: the same gospel preached, the same faith in Christ, the same obedience to him, the same organization and worship that constituted the church of Christ in Jerusalem.

Now we ask you to take all the churches you know anything about, that is denominations, and compare them in all their characteristics to the church of the New Testament, established by Christ, and governed by the wisdom of inspiration. The Holy Spirit, through, the apostles, directed all that pertained to these New Testament churches. The Spirit knew the mind of Christ and gave it to them. Hence, all instruction was from the throne of the coronated Christ. Now, compare with them the denominations and churches of this age, and see which bears the closest resemblance. Which has the same creed that the church established by Christ had — the simple confession of his divinity; that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God? What church has the same conditions of membership? What church, the local congregations of which in addition to their meetings for prayer, praise, and preaching, meet on the first day of the week to break bread? What church, the local congregations of which have their elders and deacons as their overseers and financial agents and in their government are independent of all other congregations? What church now acknowledges the titles; "church of God," "church of Christ," and the like, as found in the New Testament; and whose members bear the name Christian, as the members of that church were called? Where do you find the people that correspond to the church which Christ built, in all of these respects? We, the people politely called the church of Christ, and impolitely called Campbellites, have been striving for more than a century to conform in all of these essential respects to the church that Christ established and developed under the ministry of the apostles. We do not claim to have reached perfection, but we are striving to bring our practice into as close conformity with the pattern as the weakness of man is likely to permit. A perfect church, in point of conduct, is not attainable on this earth. As regards the conduct of its members, not a church in New Testament times was perfect under the personal ministry of the apostles, and some were shockingly far from it. But exact correspondence as to the characteristic features, is possible. It is the duty of everyone who loves the Lord to strive to see that this correspondence is brought into existence both in the churches and the lives of the individuals.

If all of the religious denominations in this land should strive to see which could come nearest to reproducing the church of Christ as it is revealed in the New Testament, in all of its peculiarities and characteristics, what would be the results? You would see the throwing aside of party names, and conditions of membership, and organization, and government, and everything of that nature that is not clearly stated as belonging to Christ's church. When this happened how long would the division of the religious world last? How long until all who claim to love Christ would be one undivided body?

That it is right to strive to make the church now correspond with the church as revealed in the Bible, no man will deny. No matter how much we may fail to reach the perfection called for in the Bible, the principle is right, the effect is right. We invite you in the name of Christ, to commit yourself to this principle, and give your life to its development.