When did God purpose to build the church?
Some claim that Christ came to establish an earthly kingdom, but that the Jews rejected Him as king. Therefore, as an afterthought, He set up the church until He could establish an earthly kingdom at a later date. But the truth of the matter is that Jehovah God planned the church before the physical universe came into existence. The scripture states, “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:” (Ephesians 3:9-11). Rather than being an afterthought, the church is in separately related to our redemption through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul reveals this truth in his letter to the church at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:3-14). The inspired Word of God reveals that redemption through the blood of Christ was foreordained before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:18-20). Spiritually we come in contact with the saving blood of Christ when we obey His gospel in being baptized and are added by the Lord to His church (Acts 22:16; Revelation 1:5; Acts 20:28; Acts 2:47).
Instead of the Jews rejecting Christ to be a king over an earthly-type kingdom, He rejected their effort to make Him such a king (John 6:14-15). Actually, the church is that spiritual kingdom established on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2; Colossians 1:12-14). Jesus Christ now reigns as head of the church and is therefore king over that institution which is made-up of the redeemed (Colossians 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:15).
Prophecies in the Old Testament foretold of the establishment the church.
Although the prophets of the Old Testament era did not use the term “church”; nevertheless, they foretold of it. Isaiah spoke of the church in this manner: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3). In the New Testament, the church is revealed as being the house of the Lord (1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:6). Isaiah foretold, “all nations shall flow unto it.” After the church was established, the Apostle Peter declared: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35). When the uncircumcised Gentile Cornelius and his household obeyed the gospel, it was necessary for Peter to explain to the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem that it was God’s will that Gentiles (those of other nations) be saved under the same conditions as the Jews (Acts 10:48; Acts 11:1-18).
In the first century A. D. several Gentile congregations and other local churches made-up of both Jews and those of other nations were established and became united in Christ, which is the will of God (Ephesians 2:12-17; Ephesians 3:1-6).
The church of our Lord is responsible in carrying out the Great Commission. The responsibility for doing so has been past down to faithful Christians from the first century to the end of time. His church is to strive to reach every person in the world with the saving gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).
When was the church of our Lord established?
At Acts 7:37-38 the scripture speaks of Moses and the church in the wilderness. Question: Did the church that we read about in the New Testament begin with Moses and the children of Israel when they were delivered from the Egyptian bondage? The answer is no! The word “church” as used in the New Testament is derived from the Greek word “ekklesia,” which means, “that which is called out of.” Thus in the above scripture reference, it pertains to Moses and the Israelites being called out of Egyptian slavery by Jehovah. The church of the New Testament is made up of those who have been called out of sin into the spiritual family of God (1 Timothy 3:15).
When Jesus promised to build His church upon the truth that He is the Son of God, we know that it had not been built prior to that time (Matthew 16:13-18). Therefore, it did not begin with John the Baptist because he was already dead when our Lord promised to build it. In fact, Jesus taught at Matthew 11:11 that those who would be in the kingdom would be greater than John the Baptist. This would be true because they would have greater blessings. John taught that the kingdom was at hand (meaning that it was still future, but near, Matthew 3:1-2).
The words “church” and “kingdom”, when referring to the redeemed are used interchangeably (Matthew 16:18-19). During Christ’s personal ministry He promised that some of them living at that time would not die before the kingdom came with power (Mark 9:1). After His resurrection, Jesus instructed those who would be His apostles to remain in Jerusalem until they received power from on high (Luke 24:49). Prior to His ascension into heaven, Jesus informed His disciples that the kingdom would come with power after the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:6-8). The Holy Spirit did come upon them on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2). From that time on the church (which is His spiritual kingdom) was spoken of as being in existence (Acts 2:47; Colossians 1:13-14).
Just how does a person enter the church that we read about in the New Testament?
Or, what is required for an individual to become a Christian? The same process that brings us into a saved state is also the means of entrance into the church. The scripture declares: “…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). A penitent believer did not join the church, but was added unto it by the Lord. It was not by being voted into a church by its membership, the Lord added the saved to the church. Notice at Acts 11:26 that the disciples, who made-up the church in Antioch of Syria, were called Christians. Those in the church are God’s spiritual family here upon earth (1 Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 3:14-19).
The various metaphors of the church portray the essential relationship that we have with Jesus Christ as our Savior. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily means one thing is used in reference to something else in order to suggest a likeness between the two. For example: the church is likened unto a physical human body in such passages as First Corinthians 12:12-27. In referring to Christ at Colossians 1:18, the Bible states: “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” And also at Ephesians 1:22-23, the Apostle Paul further wrote by inspiration: “And 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 fullness of him that filleth all in all.” From these passages, the scripture reveals that the church and the spiritual body of Christ is one and the same thing. So, how do we enter into the body of Christ, which is the church? The answer: It is by being baptized into it. This truth is so stated at First Corinthians 12:13. It is as follows: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” Thus, we are baptized into the spiritual body of Christ. This baptism is not Holy Spirit baptism, but water baptism. At John 3:5, “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” The parallel passages of this verse are Ephesians 5:26-27 and Titus 3:5. These passages emphasize a washing by water according to the inspired Word. In other words, we are born of the water and the Spirit when we follow the inspired instructions of the Holy Spirit by being baptized in water for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 8:26-39; Acts 22:16).
How was / and is the church of the New Testament to be organized?
What type of governing body did it have in Biblical times? It is important for us to learn how the first century church was set-up since many of the churches of today have different types of government. For example, the Roman Catholic Church has a man in which they refer to as a Pope who is head of that church. Still other churches have conventions with representatives from the individual congregations who make laws and decide what kinds of activity that their denomination will be involved in. Still others, especially cults, have a one-man rule that makes ALL the decisions for that religious group, including laws in which they will abide by.
Almost all churches have a headquarters here upon earth or a central figure (person) in which they submit to. However, the church of Christ has NEITHER! We look to Jesus Christ who is in heaven for authority in religious matters and for our moral standard. Even though He is in heaven, Christ does not have a vicar to represent Him here on earth. A vicar, in this sense, would be someone here upon earth to be head of the church and to serve as our Lord’s representative. But the Bible nowhere even suggests that anyone other than Jesus Christ should reign over His church. Even after He was resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven, the scripture declared that our Lord and Savior is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22-23). The New Testament is the will of Jesus Christ and therefore it is to govern the church rather than the creeds of men (Hebrews 9:16-17; Hebrews 10:9-10; Matthew 15:9).
The New Testament church has no governing body here upon earth outside the local congregation. Each local church is to be autonomous, meaning self-ruled, independent. Even in the individual congregation there is no one who has the right or the authority to make laws in matters of faith. Matters of faith have to do with those areas in which the Lord has given commandments and instructions (Romans 10:17).
Within each congregation, when two or more of the men meet the qualifications for elders, the membership should select two or more of these men to serve as their shepherds (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; Acts 14:23). Those ordained in a local church are the spiritual overseers, but do not have the authority to make laws in matters of faith for those in whom they oversee, nor do they have the authority to oversee other congregations.
What was included in the public worship services of the first century church?
Or, is everything that we do worship? While serving as the local preacher at Clayton, Oklahoma in 1962 or 1963, another young preacher and his family of the independent Christian Church came by and visited my family and me on a Sunday afternoon and evening. In our discussion that afternoon he presented the concept that everything that we do in life is worship. I said, “Do you mean that when I am washing my car that that is worship?” He said, “Yes!” I did not believe that concept then and I sure do not believe it now! If everything that we do is worship then such passages at Genesis 22:5 would not make sense. That passage states: “…Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” Their worship was one thing and their traveling to and from worship was something else. Also, words of Jesus recorded at John 4:24 stresses that when we worship God there is an essential manner and way to do so. Here is what the verse says: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” Two implications of that passage are as follows: first, not everyone worships God; and secondly, some who do do not worship acceptably. The basic conditions of acceptable worship, which are stated in this context, are that we MUST worship God in spirit and in truth. That is, it must come from the heart and it must be in truth. The truth in consideration is that taught in God’s Word pertaining to worship (John 17:17).
Since we are not living in the Old Testament era then we do not offer animal sacrifice or pattern our worship as they did under that period of time (Gal. 5:4). Nor are we to go beyond the pages of the New Testament to find ways to worship God (2 John 9). Within the New Testament we learn how we are to worship God in a way and manner that is pleasing unto Him. The five acts of public worship are: Singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19; Col. 3:16); partaking of the Lord’s Supper upon the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-29); prayer (1 Thes. 5:17; 1 Tim. 2:1-4); giving upon the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:7); the study and meditating of the inspired Word of God (Acts 20:7; 1 Thes. 5:27). These are the ONLY acts of public worship! To add any other acts of worship is to do so without authority, and is being presumptuous (Psa. 19:13).
What is the mission of the church?
Just what is its purpose for existence? The mission of the church is three-fold: (1) evangelism (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16); (2) edification (Acts 14:21-23; Acts 16:1-5); and (3) benevolence (James 1:27; Acts 6:1-7). Or, the mission of the church might be stated as follows: the mission of the church is the same as that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which is to save souls. And in so doing, the three areas of involvement for the church are evangelism, edification, and benevolence. At Luke 19:10, our Lord declares concerning His mission: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
In the work of evangelizing, the church is to strive to reach out to everyone who has not obeyed the gospel with the saving message of salvation. At Acts 5:42, the scripture informs us that, “…daily in the temple, and in every house they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” And after persecution was brought upon the church at Jerusalem, “…they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Within the first century A. D., the gospel of Christ had been preached throughout the civilization around the Mediterranean Sea, especially the Roman Empire (Colossians 1:3, 23). Not everyone in whom we come in contact with the gospel will obey it; nevertheless, we are responsible to reach out to them with the saving message of salvation (Ezekiel 3:17-21).
In the area of edification, it is essential that we keep the saved saved and to continue to strengthen and build up their faith. Notice in the Great Commission that we must not only convert those who have not become children of God by teaching them the gospel of Christ and baptizing them, but we are also to teach those precious souls what is necessary to remain a faithful Christian (Matthew 28:19-20).
Benevolence is an important ministry of Christians as individuals and collectively as congregations (James 1:27; Galatians 6:10; Romans 15:24-27). The term benevolence, as used in this way, means to show kindness and generosity in looking after the physical needs of our fellowman. After all, we will be judged on the Day of Judgement in this matter as to whether or not we showed compassion in looking after the dire physical needs of others (Matthew 25:31-46). However, there have been those who place greater emphasis upon mankind’s physical needs over the spiritual. They talk about the “felt needs” of man rather than his spiritual welfare. This is wrong! Regardless of a person’s physical needs, his or her eternal spiritual welfare takes priority.
How were problems dealt with in the first century church?
The Godhead directly handled special problems and sinful conditions within an individual congregation in at least two ways. First, the Godhead dealt directly concerning such matters. Recorded in the fifth chapter of Acts, a man and his wife lied about their contribution brought before the apostles. They conspired together to claim that they were giving the entire amount of the money received from a plot of land that they had sold when in reality they were keeping back a portion of it. Their sin was not that they did not give all of the money received from the sell, but rather their deceptiveness. Because of their lying about what they gave, their lives were taken instantaneously by the Holy Spirit. Great fear came upon the church and those outside the church who heard about this phenomenon. The result, multitudes obeyed the gospel of Christ.
Not only did the Godhead deal directly in the manner mentioned above, but also by inspired epistles. The second and third chapters of Revelation consist of the letters from Jesus Christ to the seven churches of Asia. These individual epistles pertained to specific needs in each congregation, and were addressed accordingly.
The apostles handled problems directly in congregations and also by inspired epistles. In the sixth chapter of Acts a problem came up in the church at Jerusalem because some of the widows among the Jews who were not born of the native land of the Jewish nation were not receiving the food that was distributed daily. The apostles took care of this matter by instructing the church to select seven men who met specific stated qualifications to be in charge of the benevolence. Also, the First Corinthian letter is a good example of how an apostle dealt with multi-problems in one congregation, including withdrawing fellowship from a brother living in immorality. At Romans 16:17 the church at Rome was to brand (mark) false teachers as such and to have nothing to do with them. When false teachers from one congregation (the church at Jerusalem) attempted to bind their false doctrine on another congregation (the church at Antioch), representatives (Paul and Barnabas) of the church being affected went to the congregation from which the false teachers came (which was the church at Jerusalem). Study the 15th chapter of Acts for more detail.
We should make a diligent study of the New Testament for the purpose of finding how to deal with problems in individual congregations and within the brotherhood of the church of our Lord.
What should the church be called?
More correctly, how should we refer to the church in that it does not have a title or proper name? The Apostle Peter stressed, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;…” (1 Peter 4:11). Thus, we are to use Biblical terminology in referring to the church as well as for anything else discussed in the scripture. The church is of God because it has an essential place in His eternal purpose in the salvation of humanity (Ephesians 3:9-11). It should therefore be referred to as belonging to God; and in such passages as First Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; and 1 Timothy 3:15 that is exactly how it is used. Two of those references speak of “the church of God,” while the other scripture speaks of “the church of the living God.” These references depict ownership, not a proper name. The Greek word “ekklesia,” that is usually translated as “church” means, “that which is called out of.” The church consists of those called out of sin into the family of God. To speak of the church of God is to depict the church, which is the redeemed, as belonging to God.
To speak of the saints as being the church of Christ is to recognize our Lord and Savior as its redeemer. Our Lord promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18). Hence it is scriptural to speak of the church as the church of Christ. In the first century more than one congregation were called “the churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16). Jesus Christ is the savior of the church because He shed His blood and gave His life for it (Ephesians 5:23, 25).
When the New Testament has reference to the church as being “the church of God” and also as “the church of Christ,” it is not referring to two different institutions. Since the church is the saved (Acts 2:47), it is made-up of those who are in spiritual fellowship with the Godhead. The Godhead consists of the Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit (Colossians 2:8-9; Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20). We cannot have fellowship with one without being in covenant relations with the other two divine persons of the Godhead (2 John 9).
There are other scriptural terms for the church such as: “the house of God” (1 Tim. 3:15; Ephesians 2:19); “the temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17); “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27); and “the kingdom of God” (Romans 14:17).
Man has the tendency to drift away from the inspired Word of God. In doing so, he is inclined to innovate in religious matters in ways not authorized by God in the scriptures. One such obvious area in doing so is by giving unscriptural designations in naming a church after a religious practice, in the name of some person, or by some other terminology not found in the New Testament (Colossians 3:17; 1 Peter 4:11; Acts 4:12).
Is undenominational Christianity possible today?
A large percentage of people believe that it is impossible to be in a church that is not a denomination. Some talk of an invisible church and the visible churches. Obviously, they are claiming that the various denominations are the visible churches that are ultimately united in the invisible church. I do not know of any passage of scripture that even hints of an invisible church. The undenominational church of the first century was very visible. It was so visible that persecution was brought upon it (Acts 8:1-4). To speak of an invisible church is to indicate something intangible. But again, the church of the first century was very tangible.
There are those who refer to the parable of the True Vine at John 15:1-8 as representing the different denominations being in fellowship with Christ. These people teach that the branches represent the different denominations. But examine the passage for yourself to learn what the individual branches represent. Each branch represents an individual disciple who must bear fruit to remain in spiritual union with Jesus Christ.
Many in the denominational world declare, “We are all going to heaven, but taking different roads to get there.” Now, think about that for a moment, is that concept taught in the Bible? At Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” To claim that there is more than one way to heaven is to either suggest that the Bible itself teaches different ways or that it does not matter whether or not we adhere to what it teaches. Neither of these alternatives can be harmonized with the scriptures (Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 3:16; Ephesians 4:3-6).
Also, there are those who use the phrase, “other sheep I have which are not of this fold,” recorded at John 10:16 to uphold religious division. They fail to stress the latter part of that verse, which states, “they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” All who hear Christ’s voice (the new covenant) shall become one fold, not many folds. When Gentiles (those of other races) obeyed the gospel of Christ and were added to the spiritual body of Christ (His church), they became one with Jewish Christians (Ephesians 2:12-22).
Yes, undenominational Christianity is possible today when obedient believers submit to the one true standard, the Bible rather than the creeds and philosophies of fallible human beings (Philippians 3:16; Matthew 15:8-9; 1 Peter 4:11).
Does God sanction the religious division found among those who profess Christianity?
Consider the following as we seek a Biblical answer to this question. The mystery of how all mankind could be saved was not fully understood by the Old Testament prophets who spoke by inspiration concerning the suffering of Christ and the glory that should follow. Even angels were mystified about the scope of redemption (1 Peter 1:9-12). It was not fully made known until the first century A. D. when the Holy Spirit revealed it to the apostles and also to the prophets of the New Testament era (Ephesians 3:1-7). This passage and Ephesians 2:12-22 explain that redemption through Christ reconciles mankind in one body. When the Apostle Peter came to fully realize this truth, he explained, “…Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35). Keep in mind that the Apostle Paul declared that redemption for all mankind was in one body. But, what is this one body? Paul explains that the church is the body, and that the body is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18). So we can more clearly understand that “…the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). Also, at Ephesians 5:23, “…he is the savior of the body.”
There is much confusion because there are so many different religious faiths. But God is not the author of that confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). Our Savior was so concerned about those who believed on Him becoming divided that He prayed, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21).
Since its obvious from these and many other scriptures that the Godhead is not pleased with the religious division among those who believe in Christ, what should we do? How can we correct this division that turns many away from Christianity? The answer is not found in such concepts as to “agree to disagree.” Religious unity that is pleasing and acceptable unto the Lord MUST be based upon the inspired written Word of God. The creeds of men will not bring unity in Christ (Matthew 15:9). The ONLY acceptable criteria is the New Testament. And at Ephesians 4:3-6 is revealed the seven basic truths that sets the standard for the unity in which Christ prayed. None of these seven truths can be left out in achieving the unity that would be pleasing and acceptable unto the Lord. To compromise by leaving out any of these seven pillars of unity in order to unite religiously with others is condemned in the scripture.
Is the church of Christ a denomination?
And what about the church of Christ established in the first century, was it a denomination? There were those who lived at that time who thought of it in that manner. When the Apostle Paul was taken as a prisoner to Rome to be tried in the court of Caesar, he remained for two years in his hired house under house arrest (Acts 28:16-31). It was during that period of time that he had opportunity to proclaim to some Jews about the spiritual kingdom, which is the church. These chief Jews who had been invited by Paul to his house responded, by saying unto him, “But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against” (Acts 28:22). The very fact that they called the church a sect shows that these Jews thought of it as having been broken off of Judaism. But, of course, this is not true! The Jewish religion was no longer in effect; it had been nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14-17).
One definition of the word “denomination,” as given by Thorndike Barnhart Comprehensive Desk Dictionary, is a religious group or sect. This same dictionary gives a meaning for the word “sect” as being a religious group separated from an established church. But the church of the first century was not “broken off” of an existing church or religion. It was established on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ (Acts, chapter 2). There was not a single denomination that existed in the first century A. D. Some congregations of the church, such as the one at Corinth, had some factions within it that were condemned by the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). However, it was still the church of God (1 Corinthians 1:2). Among the seven churches of Asia, at least two, were drifting away from the truth and were in danger of being rejected by the Lord (Revelation 2:5; 3:3). There were warnings in Biblical times that some would depart from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10).
How do we determine in modern times if a church is a denomination or the same church that we read about in the New Testament? Church succession is not the answer since there were warnings about those who would depart from the faith. It might prove that a religious group developed from some who had already digressed. The seed of the kingdom is the Word of God (Luke 8:11). And the spiritual kingdom is the church (Matthew 16:18-19; Colossians 1:13). Thus, if we plant the seed of the spiritual kingdom of our Lord, rather than the doctrines and creeds of men, then there will exist the same church established by Him through the inspired teachings of the apostles (1 Peter 1:23; Galatians 1:6-9; Romans 1:16).
As to whether or not the church of Christ in our time is the New Testament church or just another man-made denomination can be determined by what is taught in the Bible concerning the redeemed. We invite you to study with us concerning this matter. Let us compare it and other churches with what is taught in the Bible about the church.
What should those who are in the church be called as a people?
When added by the Lord to His church, a person has been born into the family of God (John 3:5; 1 Peter 1:23; Acts 2:36-41, 47). God is the Father of those in His spiritual family (2 Corinthians 6:18). The relationship of those who are in God’s family to one another is similar to that of siblings in a physical family. Thus, the terms, “brother” and “sister” are not formal titles, but rather pertain to a family relationship. Although there is certainly nothing wrong for those in Christ to refer to one another as brother or sister, still it is not to be used as a formal address.
Just as a physical family has its family name, so do the children of God. During the patriarchal age, Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, received a new name given unto him by the Lord. That name was Israel, which means prince of God (Genesis 32:28; 35:10; and 2 Kings 17:34). He was the father of twelve sons whose descendants became known as the twelve tribes of Israel (Exodus 5:1-2). As a people the Jews were called Israelites, meaning the children of the prince of God (Joshua 13:6). In speaking of these same people as a nation, it became the nation of Israel (2 Samuel 7:23). It was during the Jewish dispensation that the prophet Isaiah foretold that the family of God would receive a new name when Gentiles saw the righteousness of God (were converted) (Isaiah 62:2). After the Gentile household of Cornelius obeyed the gospel (Acts 10), obedient believers in Christ were called Christians (Acts 11:26). This was the new name given by the mouth of the Lord. We are to glorify God in the name Christian and in no other name (1 Peter 4:16; Acts 26:28). To be a Christian is to be a follower and learner of Jesus Christ. Salvation is found only in the name of Christ in whom we honor as Christians (Acts 4:12).
There are other scriptural terms pertaining to the family of God, but these are not a proper name or a family name. For example: A man whose name is John Brown includes both a given name and a family name. If Mr. Brown’s occupation is farming, then it is correct to refer to him as farmer Brown. The word “farmer” is not his name, but depicts his occupation. In a similar manner, the following terms are descriptive, but do not fall in a category of a given name or a family name. Some of these terms are: sons of God (Romans 8:14); disciples (John 8:31,32); brethren (Ephesians 6:23); saints (2 Corinthians 1:1); children of God (Galatians 3:26); a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3); a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9).
What should the men be called who give their life to preaching the gospel of Christ?
Actually, they do not have a formal title. The terms that are used in the New Testament in reference to those men who proclaim the gospel depict their work in the spiritual kingdom of our Lord. To illustrate: for one to serve in the church is to minister. EVERY faithful child of God is a minister of the Lord (Matthew 20:25-28). The one who preaches for a local congregation is not Minister Jones (or whatever is his name), but a fellow minister (servant) along with all his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The term minister is not an exclusive designation for those who preach. Anyone in the church who faithfully performs a service in the kingdom of our Lord is a faithful minister. Therefore, the one who preaches is not the Minister! Nor should he be referred to as “our Minister”, since every faithful child of God is to minister. We are to be: a “minister of God” (1 Thessalonians 3:2); “a good minister of Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 4:6); “ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:15). Of a certainty, one who preaches has the ministry of proclaiming the gospel, but he is not exclusively the minister of a congregation.
What does he do in carrying out his ministry? He preaches the gospel of Christ; therefore, he is a preacher (1 Timothy 2:7). Also, he is an evangelist because he heralds or proclaims the truth (2 Timothy 4:5). Still, these are not formal titles, but reveal his work in the kingdom of Christ. In a similar fashion, we speak of a person as an electrician, baker, farmer, and etc. to describe that person’s trade or occupation in the secular world. Thus, the terms preacher, evangelist, and minister of the gospel are not titles, but reveals the work of those who preach.
There are many unscriptural terminologies used in the denominational world for those who preach for them. Several denominations call their local preacher their pastor. The preacher as such is not a pastor. The terms elders, bishops, and pastors refer to the same group of men who oversee a local congregation (Philippians 1:1; Acts 20:17). Elders are the pastors (shepherds) of the flock (the local church, 1 Peter 5:1-4; Acts 20:28). A local church cannot scripturally have one pastor (elder), but are to select two or more men (not women) to oversee their congregation (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). These men must be married and have believing children (those who are Christians, 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-11).
Other terms in the form of titles without Biblical authority include: “Father” (as a religious title, Matt. 23:5-11); “Rabbi”; “Reverend”; “Monsignor”; “Archbishop”; “Cardinal”; and “Pope.”
What is the future destination of the church of our Lord?
Will an earthly-type kingdom in which Christ will reign here upon earth for a thousand years, as some teach, replace it? The answer is an emphatic NO! There is nothing like that taught in the Bible. A man by the name of C. I. Scofield, who was a lawyer from the state of Kansas, promoted the false concept of a secret coming of Christ, the first resurrection, and rapture that he learned from a British preacher by the name of John Darby. The word “rapture” is not even in the Bible. Scofield used Darby’s theories in notes added to a King James Bible in 1909 and a revised edition in 1967. Men like Hal Lindsey have further promoted various false theories concerning the end of time and premillennialism. Hal Lindsey’s book entitled, “The Late Great Planet Earth” had been a best seller among many gullible people. The so-called Scofield Bible has been the tool of Satan to promote the false theories of premillennialism more than any other source. Again, premillennialism is not taught in the Bible, but is included in the added notes of C. I. Scofield in some printed editions of the Bible.
The spiritual kingdom of the Lord has already been established (Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 12:28). This is contrary to the claim of some that the people of the first century were not prepared to receive the kingdom; therefore, the Lord postponed the establishing of His kingdom. They further teach that the church was an after thought of God to exist until the Lord establishes His kingdom here upon earth. This also proves to be false because the church was within the eternal purpose of God, not an after thought (Ephesians 3:10-11). Actually, the church and the spiritual kingdom that Christ foretold would come in the lifetime of some of His disciples that were living in the first century is one and the same institution. It is the redeemed! (Matthew 16:18-19; Colossians 1:12-18; Mark 9:1; Acts 2:47).
Rather than the Lord returning to set-up an earthly-type kingdom, He will not set foot upon the earth when He returns. The Son of God will return to receive His kingdom, which already exists, rather than to establish one (1 Corinthians 15:23-24). When Jesus returns, those that are in His spiritual kingdom will rise up to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). No one knows when this will be. I repeat! NO ONE KNOWS WHEN THE END OF TIME WILL BE! Jesus saith concerning the end of time, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Therefore, anyone who sets a date for the second coming of Christ is a false prophet.