Vol.III No.V Pg.5
June 1966

Which People Are The Church?

Robert F. Turner

"I know the building is not the church," a friend said. "The church is made up of people---but WHO? WHAT? WHICH PEOPLE?" That's the question!!

Let's give it a whirl. A great multitude of people gathered about the apostles, the first Pentecost after Christ's resurrection. Of that number 3,000 were "pricked in their hearts" by the proclamation of truth, and obeyed the commands, "repent and be baptized." (Acts 2:37-41) Of those people in that multitude, which ones constituted the church? If you can read you know that it was "they that gladly received his word (and) were baptized." (vss. 41,47)

What about those "good citizens, someone's father or mother, who "believed" but didn't think obedience was necessary? They just didn't make it. And what if some baptized failed to "continue steadfastly in the apostles doctrine...?" (vss. 42-f) They do not classify among the faithful. The only real question here is having enough courage to accept the record.

Antioch was a large city. Among the total population WHO, WHAT, WHICH people were the church in Antioch? It was those who "turned unto the Lord" at the preaching of Christ; those who would "cleave unto the Lord" with purpose of heart. (Acts 11:20-26) Those who failed to "turn" or "cleave" were on the outside; it is that simple.

The book of Acts is a history of the early church. Study it carefully, and you will see that TWO elements are essential to the Lord's church. There must be PEOPLE---yes; but there must also be divine TRUTH. People are the church ONLY when those people accept, obey, and abide in the TRUTH. It is not enough, therefore, that we consider a certain party of people as the Lord's church. We have a right, nay, the obligation to expect a Bible-defined conduct of those people. Just as there is no reason to call a man a Christian who does not act like a Christian; there is no reason to call a certain group of people the church of Christ if they do not act like the church of Christ given divine approval in the inspired word of God.

Their acceptance or likeness to another current group or groups does not prove identity with the Lord's church. Those other groups are subject to the same test as the first group. And since our friend knows the building is not the church, he surely understands that staying with a certain building does not prove a group acceptable with the Lord.

This is no easy way---like name worn, building occupied, or even the people (old bro. John Doe) by which we can prove a church acceptable. We must examine their faith and practice in the light of God's word. That will prove difficult for people who refuse to study the Bible....and it may necessitate some brotherly discussions on the part of people who differ in their understanding of the word; but there is no other way. It places control of such matters in the hands of God, who gave the word; and keeps it there where it belongs. The true CHURCH OF CHRIST welcomes this sort of investigation!!