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What Is The Church of Christ?

by Bernie Parsons 08/17/02

What Is The church Of Christ? 

by Bernie Parsons 

Presented to the Westwood, KY, church of Christ on 08/17/02

 We hear people of all denominations talk about "the church". The Catholics speak of themselves as "the church". Protestants speak of themselves as being "the church". In the churches of Christ, we consider ourselves "the church". In fact, we often refer to the church as an organization, or an institution. Folks, that kind of talk and planning leads to denominationalism. But what does the Bible mean when it speaks of "the church"? 

Matthew 16:15 "He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16: And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17: And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18: And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." 

Jesus said that He would build His church, and death itself would not prevent Him. The word church, or kirk, is an English/Scottish word that means, "of the Lord". Unfortunately, many have equated the church to the meetinghouse, which is incorrect. For centuries, men have referred to assembly-places as the "house of the Lord", or the church. This is an erroneous statement. But even in the churches of Christ we don't always understand what the church is. 

The New Testament word for church was in Greek, ekklesia, which means, "a called-out assembly". When Jesus referenced His ekklesia, He meant His "called out assembly". His "called out assembly" was not built upon Peter in particular, as some suppose, but rather, upon the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. This fact alone gave Him the authority--the power--to build His "called-out assembly", or church. This gave Him the authority and power to overcome death and be resurrected from the grave, and to establish His called-out assembly with spiritual foundations.  

1 Corinthians 3:9: "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.
10: According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
11: For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." 

1 Peter 2:1: "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
2: As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
3: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
4: To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
5: Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
6: Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
7: Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
8: And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed."

The church is not so much an organization as it is an organism. It is a living being, the body of Jesus Christ. He, and the apostles, are the foundation of the called-out assembly, and we Christians are lively--that is, living--stones that comprise the spiritual house of God. 

Ephesians 2:19: "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20: And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21: In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
22: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." 

God lives in us as the body of Jesus Christ, of which Jesus is the head.. 

Colossians 1:18: "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." 

Ephesians 5:23: "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body." 

1 Corinthians 12:27: "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
28: And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
29: Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30: Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
31: But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way." 

As the human body is a living organism, so is the body of Jesus Christ-that called out assembly to which we refer as "the church". The time spent trying to organize the church into a denomination would be better invested in listening to Christ, who is the head of our body. When Jesus was here on earth, He stated that He must be about His father's business.  

Luke 2:49: "And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" 

We need to follow the leadership of our head, and devote ourselves to our Father's business, rather than dreaming up new business over which to fuss, fight, and argue. If we will devote ourselves to the Father's work, we will have little or no time in which to wrangle and wrestle. 

What did Jesus instruct His disciples to do? What was the Father's business? 

Matthew 28:19: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." 

I wonder what would happen if we were to follow those instructions? I hear so many of the church members whine and complain that the church is withering away. Have you ever analyzed that statement? What causes the church to wither? We find an important hint in: 

John 15:5: "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
6: If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7: If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8: Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
9: As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10: If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
11: These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12: This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." 

Is it possible that the body of Christ would be much healthier if we actually followed His lead? 

Mathew 5:13: "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
14: Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15: Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." 

If salt loses its ability to season, it is worthless, and men will tread it under foot. Have we lost our savor? Are we building the city in plain sight? Are we putting the candle up on the candlestick? 

John 3:14: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17: For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18: He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19: And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20: For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21: But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."

 We Christians carry the light of Christ in us. As the apostle Paul says, we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus, and Him crucified. Jesus is the light of the world, reflected through us into all the world, for we are the called-out assembly of God through Christ Jesus, His Son, and our Savior.

 2 Corinthians 4: 5: "For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake.
6: For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7: But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."

We are not a building of stone, or wood, or concrete and steel. We are a living building, earthen vessels that contain the light of Christ. We are a spiritual city, that new Jerusalem, the city of God, set on a hill, not to be hidden, but to give light to the world. We are the called-out assembly of God, the church of Jesus Christ.

Our goal is not to argue and fight, or condemn and destroy. Our goal is to preach the gospel to the world that is cloaked in the darkness of sin and ignorance. Our aim is to know only Jesus, and His crucifixion.

1 Corinthians 2:1: "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2: For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3: And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4: And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." 

We are not a denomination unless we act like one. If we follow men, then we are just another denomination. If we look to gatherings of men to determine our doctrines, we are a denomination. If our goal is merely to declare "our church" to be superior to "other churches", then we are a denomination. My friends, we are the called-out assembly of God, and ought to behave as such. 

Christ died to take away the sin of the world. That is our message. The power of God rests in that message. The light of God is projected into the whole world when we present that message. We are called out of the world to be a holy people, a royal priesthood. 

1 Peter 1:15: "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16: Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." 

1 Peter 2:9: "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:" 

Colossians 1: 9: "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10: That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11: Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
12: Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
15: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
16: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18: 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." 

We are snatched from the jaws of darkness, from the maw of Hell, and are translated into the blessed and glorious kingdom of light. Therefore, we are to conduct ourselves as the children of light, the children of God, whose children we are.  When we do, we give praise to God. 

2 Corinthians 6:14: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15: And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16: And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17: Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
18: And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." 

The called-out assembly, the body of Christ--that is, the church of Jesus Christ--is to depart from the ways of darkness, the ways of the world. We are to be a light to the world, and we are to walk in the light that is the love of Christ. Our love towards one another, and others, proves who we are. 

Ephesians 5:1: "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
2: And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
3: But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
4: Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
5: For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
6: Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
7: Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
8: For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
9: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
10: Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
11: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
12: For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
13: But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
14: Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." 

As the called-out assembly, or body, of Christ, we are to put sin from our lives. In this, we work to save ourselves, while showing others the way to eternal life, the way that is in Christ Jesus. It is not enough to rest within the "ark of safety", as we are fond of calling the church, but we must work tirelessly and diligently to bring others to the Lord. If we walk in sin against God, if we disobey Him, then we walk in darkness, and not in the light.  

If you are here tonight, and are not a Christian, you are not in that called-out assembly. Forsake the ways of darkness, that is the ways of sin and disobedience against the God of heaven. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the true and living God? If so, repent-that is, turn your heart from the ways of the world, and turn it over to God. Allow God to take charge of your life, to give you leadership and direction. Boldly confess your faith that Jesus is the son of God, and be buried in baptism, washing away your sins, calling upon the name of the Lord. Let the blood of Jesus wash you white as the snow. 

Isaiah 1:16: "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
17: Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
18: Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." 

The Lord will add you to His called-out assembly, His body, His church. From there, born again of the water and of the Spirit, you will be a babe in Christ, ready to learn the ways of the Lord. You will grow and mature in Him, walking in the light.  Won't you come and let the Lord add you to His church today?


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