What is the church of Christ?
Before God ever said “let there be light” (Gen. 1:3), He had, in His mind, already purposed or set before a way in which He would redeem man back to Himself. The Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians:
“According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love”. Also reference Eph. 3:9-11; 1 Pet. 1:20; Acts 20:28; Acts 15:19 for more information.
As the Old Testament unfolded, numerous prophecies predicting the coming of the church were recorded by inspired prophets of God. For instance, God told David that after he was dead and buried one of his descendants would “build an house for my name” (2 Sam. 7:12-13). According to 1 Timothy 3:15, the house of God “is the church of the living God.” Therefore, the Bible teaches that after David was dead and buried the church would be built.
Furthermore, Old Testament prophets revealed that this house or church would be established in “the last days” in the “top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall come 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” (Isa. 2:2-3; cf. Micah 4:1-4). In summary, these passages show that the church would be established:
- After King David was dead and buried
- In the last days
- In Jerusalem
In Matthew 16:18-19, after hearing Peter confess that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus said:
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. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
From this passage we may ascertain the following things:
- The church of Jesus Christ had not yet been built
- The church would be built upon the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God
- The church is the same thing as the kingdom for it would be absurd for Jesus to build one thing and give Peter the keys to something else. Keys open doors and grant entrance. The apostles would teach and have taught what one must do in order to come into a covenant relationship with God (Acts 2:36-41).
- The church would be governed by the apostolic authority conferred upon the apostles by Jesus Christ. (John 16:13, 1 Cor.11:1, Acts 15, 1 Cor.14:37-38)
Since the church is the same thing as the kingdom, when John the Immerser prepared the way for the Lord by proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven was “at hand” (Isa. 40:3-5; Matt. 3:1ff), he was essentially saying that the establishment of the church was “at hand.” Even Jesus began traveling around the region of Galilee, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).
After calling the twelve apostles, He dispatched them on a mission to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, saying, “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:7). He sent out the seventy, instructing them to tell their hearers “The kingdom of God is come nigh or near unto you” (Luke 10:9). In fact, the coming of the kingdom was so near that Jesus promised some that they would not die until they had seen the kingdom come with power (Mark 9:1).
Just prior to His ascension Jesus commanded His disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they received power from on high (Luke 24:49). This power would come upon the apostles after the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8).
Thus, from the paragraphs above we have learned the following things about the church of Christ:
- It was in the eternal purpose of God
- It would be established after David was dead and buried
- It would be established in Jerusalem
- It would be established in the last days
- It would be built by Christ
- The time of its establishment was “at hand” during the days of John the Immerser, Jesus, and the apostles;
- It would be established during the lifetime of some of those whom Jesus addressed in Mark 9:1
- It would come with power
- The power would come from on high
- The power would come after the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles.