Tag Archives: one church

Soul-Winning For Jesus: The Oneness of the Church — Jon McCormack

Clark Stanley stood before a large crowd in 1893. The self-proclaimed Rattlesnake King held a burlap sack in his hand and pulled out his namesake, a live rattlesnake. He sliced into the fanged creature and tossed it into a waiting pot of boiling water. In little time, the fat from the snake rose to the surface. Thus the world was introduced to a concoction that Stanley referred to as Snake Oil. He sold his mixture to the unsuspecting masses and made a considerable amount of money. In 1906 the United States passed the Pure Food and Drug Act in order to protect the consumer from fraudulent claims and potentially harmful concoctions. Stanley’s Snake Oil was inspected and found to have no snake oil present in the mixture. It was a combination of mineral water, cayenne pepper, turpentine, and a little beef fat. Clark Stanley and other copycats that followed gave us a term that is still used today.

A snake oil salesman is someone who offers a solution to a problem, but in reality brings harmful consequences. Snake oil salesmen still abound in the world today peddling their “miracle” cures. Other hucksters operate on a religious level pushing their spiritual hoaxes on the unsuspecting masses. One such spiritual hoax, perhaps the biggest of them all, is that one church is as good as another. The 38,000 plus denominations in this country are a testament to the effectiveness of this hoax. Phrases such as, “All that matters is the crucifixion,” and “We are all headed to the same place, just on different paths” proliferate religious conversations. Is this true? Is a multitude of denominations what God envisioned when He established the church of our Lord? The biblical answer is no.

The situation is made all the more serious when we consider our own mortality and the frailty of life. The Hebrews writer confirmed, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Likewise the brother of our Lord declared, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14). Death is a reality for us all, and how devastating for someone to die in a church that cannot be found in the New Testament. Counter to that John wrote, “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on…” (Rev. 14:13). How sweet it is to die in a right relationship with God in the one true church. Yet spiritual snake oil salesmen are spreading the error that the church you belong to does not matter. Consider these three important warnings.

Don’t Die In A Church That God Did Not Plan

In his introduction to the church at Ephesus, Paul writes of the wonderful spiritual blessings we have in Christ Jesus. He continues that thought by writing, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4). How comforting to know that church was planned by God before the world was even formed. The church of our Lord was not an afterthought or a “Plan B” but rather a masterfully calculated project from the divine Architect Himself, God.

We see His divine planning in the fact that He had His prophets talking about the church centuries before He established it. Isaiah prophesied of the place of establishment (Jerusalem, Is. 2:1-4), Daniel foretold of the time of establishment in the days of the Roman Empire (Dan. 2:44), and Joel portended the activity of the establishment day which was baptism of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32). If you are part of a church that wasn’t established under these conditions then you are not a part of the church God planned.

Don’t Die In A Church That Jesus Did Not Build

The Lord speaks to the oneness of the church in His very promise to build said church. He told His apostles, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Consider the possessive nature of the church. Jesus said, “My church.” This eternal truth is seen in the name we carry. We are the church of Christ (Rom. 16:16), that is, the church which belongs to Christ. If you are part of a church that does not honor His name then you are not in a church that He built. Likewise, consider the singleness of the word church. The significance of this cannot be overstated. Jesus did not say that he would establish multiple religions but just one soul saving institution.

To a religious person who has spent years listening to spiritual snake oil salesmen this truth may seem shocking, even arrogant. Yet the Bible is clear on the fact that Jesus only established one church. The Ephesian Christians were taught, “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). Notice that the church is the body of Christ. When we combine these verses with the truth found later in the same book we see the singularity of the church. Paul wrote, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling” (Eph. 4:4). Jesus only has one body; therefore, Jesus only has one church.

Don’t Die In A Church Jesus Did Not Die For

Think back to a truth that has already been revealed in this article. Jesus owns the church. He owns it because He bought it. Acts 20:28 reveals, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” He paid the price for the church when He died for the church. That blood He used is the same blood in which we in the church have been washed (Rom. 6:3-6). Those in denominations (churches not built by Jesus) have no access to that soul saving blood. How sad to die in a state of separation from Jesus. This is the fate of all those who have not been added (Acts 2:47) to the one true church that Jesus died to save.

Snake Oil promised to cure many ailments. It pledged to fix your rheumatism, sciatica, toothaches and sore throats. It did not fulfill its guarantee. Denominationalism promises to send you to heaven. It won’t. It is spiritual snake oil. Please do not let a huckster convince you that there is more than one true church.

Jon is the preacher for the Lord’s church in Atlanta, TX. He is a 2002 graduate of the Southwest School of Bible Studies in Austin, TX. He and his wife, Holly, are the parents of three children.

Is There Only One Church? — Stephen Scaggs

This is an extremely pertinent question with a surprisingly simple answer. Jesus gave a satisfyingly simple answer when He replied to Peter, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:16; emp. added). That should settle the matter — the Lord only built one church, just as He said He would. However, for the rest of this article, we wish to ask: (1) “What is a church?” (2) “What do we mean by church?” and (3) “How does this affect me?”

There is a lot of confusion over such a simple question. Much of the confusion is simply because “church” is an ambiguous word in modern English. Many associate church with a building. On some cities in America, there are church buildings on every corner. One need only open a Yellow Pages for one’s town and see several entries under the subsection of “churches.” Some cathedrals have the most beautiful architecture.  However, when Jesus said that He would build His church, did He have a cathedral in mind?

What Is A Church?

It should come as no surprise that God did not write the Scriptures in modern English. Usually when one reads the English word church, this is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia. In the first century, ekklesia was a common noun. Luke uses this Greek word referring to an angry mob that was in an uproar against Paul and his teachings (cf. Acts 19). This word was everyday street language in the Greco-Roman world. Ekklesia is a compound noun; that is, it has two components.

The first part “Ek” is a preposition in Koiné Greek. It is the same preposition for Exodus. It means “out of.” The second part “kaleo” is a verb in Koiné Greek. It means “to call.” In a literal translation, an ekklesia was a “called-out” assembly. It never refers to a building; in ancient times, the Greeks had a separate word for the place where an ekklesia met: the ekklesiasterion. In ancient times, city-states called out to the people to assemble for a task.

This word would develop in Christian usage. The New Testament writers use this word exclusively to refer to the called-out saints, with a few exceptions. Peter wrote that God has “called (kaleo) us out of (ek) darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). It seems that Peter was making a play on words of ekklesia. However, when used as a compound, we opt for an exact translation like “assembly,” “gathering,” or “congregation.” God has called us together into one body out of darkness for glorying in Him; He has formed us into the ekklesia (i.e., church).

What Do We Mean By Church?

When we assert, “There is only one church,” we are not asserting that there are not individual congregations. A clear example of this is in the book of Revelation. When Jesus spoke to the seven ekklesias of Asia Minor, He was speaking to seven literal groups. In his Roman letter, Paul basically wrote, “The various individual congregations of Christ greet you” (16:16; emp. added). However, there is only one church.

When we assert, “There is only one church,” we are not talking about church buildings with an exclusive designation as “Church of Christ.” James used the word synagoge for “assembly” (2:2), which described a building designated for worship and instruction (called “synagogues” by the Jews); thus, we know some first-century believers assembled in buildings designated for such.  However, it’s highly unlikely they had signs for their buildings. Often early believers used a fish symbol to signal their meeting places during times of persecution. Some also met in each other’s houses (Acts 2:46). However, there is only one church.

When we assert, “There is only one church,” we are not referring to denominations. Indeed, while there were factions in the various congregations (see 1 Corinthians), the church is not a conglomeration of various groups. We cannot be united until we lay down our interpretations and bias. However, there is only one church.

When we say, “There is only one church,” what we mean is that all believers who have responded in faith to the gospel by repenting of their sins and being baptized in water collectively form one group of people – the “called-out” of God. Then the Lord adds these people to His church (Acts 2:47).  These people spend the rest of their day following learning and following the pattern of the New Testament, living daily conformed to the Lord’s will (Eph. 5:17).

How Does This Affect Me?

It means that instead of turning to find a church in our Yellow Pages, we ought to turn in our New Testaments to find how to be like the church of the New Testament.

How do we become part of this one church?  We read several conversion stories in the book of Acts, perhaps the most famous of them being found in chapter 2.  When those who had heard the gospel responded in faith by repenting and being baptized in water for the forgiveness of sins, then and only then did the Lord add them to His church (Acts 2:47).  Those who are in the church are people enrolled in heaven (Heb. 12:23).  Jesus is the head of the church and the Savior of the body (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18).

Despite giving our various congregations proper names, the one church does not have a fixed, proper name. Many writers attached descriptors to describe them: those who belong to the firstborn, namely Jesus (Heb. 12:23), or those who belong to the living God (Acts 20:28). If one has multiple trees, they might need to differentiate maple, elm, or pine. However, the Lord only had one church, so it had no purpose to do so.

We must not divide the church. Our society is permeated with denominationalism, the idea that somehow the one church is segmented into smaller denominations like a giant pie. However, the New Testament warns against division, whether in petty squabbles or in a larger factitious way. Jude condemned those who divide as those devoid of the Spirit (Jude 19). Those in Corinth were people of the flesh because they divided (1 Cor. 3:1-4). Why do we not stop all this denominational foolishness and simply be Christians—members of Christ’s church? Isn’t that what He wants? Isn’t that what He laid out? To be Christians only and only Christians?

Jesus desired that His followers that would come to believe on Him through the apostles’ teaching would be united.  His prayer was, “May they be as one…” (John 17:20-23).

Conclusion

A local church is “of Christ” is if is practicing New Testament Christianity.  A local church is “of Christ” if the membership and the leadership are committed to being Christians only.  A local church is “of Christ” if Christ and His Word are the foundation.  There are plenty of buildings with signs that say a church is “of God” or “of Christ,” but their practices say they are not.  And there may be churches which do not use the phrase “Church of Christ” on their sign, but they are “of Christ” because they are trying to follow New Testament Christianity.  A sign does not choose whether a church is “of Christ” or “of the devil.”  One must conform to the pattern of the New Testament to have salvation in Christ (Eph. 1:3).

My goal as a Christian is not about figuring out who is saved and who is lost.  I have a hard-enough time worrying about my salvation than worrying about other’s salvation. My goal as a Christian is to preach the simple message of Jesus, teaching the whole counsel of God, and to live my faith with simplicity so that when people see me they will say, “That’s a truly God-fearing individual. I want to have the kind of faith that lives.” Certainly, there are people who have swerved from the truth and whose teaching is gangrene, upsetting the faith of some, but the Lord knows those that are His (2 Tim. 2:14-23). As a Christian, I must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting my opponents with gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

The Lord only built one church.  If you would like to know more about it, the answers are in your New Testament.  The writers of the Carolina Messenger would love to help you answer any question with a biblical book, chapter and verse, and encourage you to open your Bible and see if such things are so (Acts 17:11). 

Stephen preaches at the Collinsville Church of Christ in Collinsville, VA.  He is a 2012 alumnus of the Memphis School of Preaching in Memphis, TN.  He is married to Rebekah and they have two children.