Free Online Bible Study Course – Lesson 8

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The Church

In this lesson we will see that the idea of the church is not a new concept, but was prophesied about hundreds of years before it began.  We will also see different names for the church and what those names tell us.  Finally, we will see the exclusive nature of the church.

The Church in Prophecy

We have examined man’s problem of sin.  We have also examined God’s solution to the problem of sin, Jesus the Christ.  While Jesus was on the earth, He prophesied that He would do something.  “And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  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.”  (Matthew 16:18-19 ASV)  Jesus predicted He would build His church, the kingdom, and Peter would be given the keys to open the doors and let people in.  This was not the first prediction of the church.

The church was prophesied about hundreds of years before Jesus came to the Earth.  Daniel was interpreting a dream of a king of the Babylonian Empire.  The dream involved a statue made of different materials.  “This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.”  (Daniel 2:32-33)  God let Daniel know that the different materials represented the different kingdoms that would be on the Earth.  The gold was the current Babylonian kingdom.  We know from history that after that came the Medo-Persian Empire, then the Greek Empire and the last kingdom was the Roman Empire.  Daniel prophesied, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.”  (Daniel 2:44)  Daniel had narrowed down the time of the coming of the church to sometime during the Roman Empire.

The prophet Isaiah spoke about the coming church, too.  “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 this case, Isaiah calls the church “the Lord’s house.”  He also says it will be “established in the top of the mountains,” and the word of the Lord would go “from Jerusalem.”  Jerusalem is on top of a mountain and would be the beginning place for the Lord’s house, the church.  Also, note that “all nations shall flow unto it.”  In the Old Testament times, the Jews were God’s chosen people.  But, when this new house is established, any member of any nation will be able to enter.  We will see the church called “the Lord’s house” again later when see the names of the church.

When John the Baptist was preaching before Jesus started His ministry, he said the time of the kingdom was close.  “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  (Matthew 3:1-2)  This occurred during the Roman Empire, which was the time Daniel had prophesied.  John said that it was so close that it was “at hand.”  Imagine if you had a drink “at hand,” it would be close enough to reach out and grab it.  The kingdom was about to appear!

When Jesus started His ministry, He repeated the message of John.  “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  (Matthew 4:17)  In fact, the ministry of Jesus was telling people about the kingdom that was about to appear.  “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.”  (Matthew 4:23)

Jesus even went so far as to say that the kingdom was going to appear during the lifetime of some of the people that were with Him.  “And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.”  (Mark 9:1)  The kingdom was very close!

Notice that Jesus said the kingdom would come “with power.”  So, whenever the power came, the kingdom would come with it.  Jesus told His apostles when they would receive the power.  “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8)  The apostles would receive power from the Holy Spirit, and whenever that power came, the kingdom would arrive, too.  That was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost after the ascension of Jesus.  “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  (Acts 2:1-4)  So, the power would come when the Holy Spirit gave the apostles power, and whenever the power came, the kingdom would come, too.  We see the Holy Spirit giving power to the apostles in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, therefore, that is when the kingdom was established, too! 

We can know for sure that the kingdom had been established.  Later in that same chapter, there is a description of those who were believing and being baptized.  “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”  (Acts 2:47)  When people obeyed the commands of Jesus, they were added to God’s church.  You can’t be added to something that doesn’t exist.  Also, later writings of the apostles confirm that it is in existence.  Paul knew it had come.  “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:”  (Colossians 1:13)  John said that he was a member of it.  “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”  (Revelation 1:9)  These writings occurred in the 1st century AD.  The kingdom has been here since that time.  People are described in the 1st century AD as being in the kingdom.  Those that are waiting for some future kingdom to be established by Jesus, including one to be established on this Earth, are waiting for a kingdom to come that has already been established!

Names for the Church

The Called Out

The Greek word translated “church” means “the called out.”  The conversion of a Christian means leaving the life of sin and the ways of the world and turning to follow Christ.  “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. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”  (2 Corinthians 6:16-18)  Paul told the Christians in Corinth not to be like the world, but rather to be different.  He said that God would be a Father to them and they would be sons and daughters.  Here we see the idea that Christians are the family of God.  We will see more about that later when we look at the household of God.  But, he also said that they, the church, were the temple of God.  We will look at that idea next.

The Temple of God

A temple is a place of worship.  The church is referred to as the temple of God.  We saw that before in 2 Corinthians, but Paul says it again in Ephesians 2.  “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”  (Ephesians 2:19-22)  This describes the worship aspect of the church.  The tabernacle and the temple were a place to worship God and the place where God dwelt.  God dwells among His people today in the church, which is the current temple of God.  It is there where Christians gather to worship God.

The Household of God

In 2 Corinthians Paul said that the Christians in Corinth would be sons and daughters of God.  Then in Ephesians he referred to the Christians in Ephesus as “fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”  (Ephesians 2:19)  Christians are saints, and when the people in Ephesus obeyed God’s plan of salvation and became Christians, they became “fellowcitizens with the saints,” or members of the same spiritual kingdom, the church.  But, notice Paul also says “of the household of God.”  Someone’s household really refers to their family.  A census taker might ask you, “How many people are in your household?”  They are trying to find out how many people live in your family.  The household of God is the family of God.  That’s why Paul referred to the Christians in Corinth as “sons and daughters” of God.  The house of God is another name for the church of God.  “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”  (1 Timothy 3:15)

When we are saved, God adopts us into His family.  “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”  (1 John 3:1)  Those that believe in Jesus and are baptized into Jesus are children of God.  “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  (Galatians 3:26-29)  Do you see that all nations can come into God’s family, like Isaiah prophesied?  There is no longer a separation between Jew and Greek, or Jew and Gentile.  Whoever believes and is baptized can be saved and be a part of God’s family.  “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”  (Mark 16:16)

The verses in Galatians also call Christians “heirs.”  An heir is someone who receives an inheritance.  Once we are in the family of God, we are eligible to receive an inheritance of eternal life in Heaven with Him.  “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”  (Romans 8:17)

The Kingdom of God

We saw earlier Jesus talking about building His church and giving keys to open the doors to His church, the kingdom.  “And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  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.”  (Matthew 16:18-19 ASV)  We also saw that the kingdom would come with power, and the power and kingdom came on the Day of Pentecost.  Then, in Acts 2:47, we saw that God was adding people to the church.  Did you notice who preached the sermon recorded in Acts 2?  “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  (Acts 2:38)  It was Peter!  Just as Jesus prophesied, Peter was opening the doors to the kingdom of Heaven by telling people how to go in.  Those that repented and were baptized, were added to the church by God.  (Acts 2:47)  The kingdom of God is another name for the church, and it was established on the Day of Pentecost.

The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, not a physical kingdom.  Some people in the days of Jesus were expecting Him to set up a physical kingdom and overthrow the Roman Empire.  “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”  (Acts 1:6)  Some people today are still expecting Jesus to come back to Earth in order to set up some physical kingdom with a physical throne in Jerusalem.  But, notice that Jesus tells us what kind of kingdom He will have.  “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”  (John 18:36)  Jesus was going to have a spiritual kingdom.  The house of God, the family of God, the called out, and the kingdom of God would all be spiritual, not physical!

The kingdom of God tells us about the government of the church.  A kingdom is an absolute monarchy and is ruled over by one king.  The king is a ruler with supreme authority that is not limited.  Jesus is the king that rules over His church.  “And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.”  (John 12:14-15)  He is a ruler with supreme, and unlimited authority.  “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”  (Matthew 28:18)  This is why the church does not have a hierarchy and bureaucracy with a regional board of governors, or a district chair, or even cardinals and a pope!  Each individual congregation exists in their own location and answers to one ruler, the King, Jesus the Christ.  They do not need to answer to another congregation, or to another committee, or to a conference.  The King has delegated authority in local congregations to elders, which may be appointed if there are men who meet the qualifications.  (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1)  However, those elders will answer to Jesus and to Jesus alone for their actions.  No congregation has the authority to dictate to another congregation what they must do, for they all answer directly to the King, Jesus!

The Body of Christ

When one is saved, God adds them to the church, which is the “Body of Christ,” another name for the church.  “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 fulness of him that filleth all in all.”  (Ephesians 1:22-23)  The church is the Body of Christ and Jesus is the head!

The Body of Christ emphasizes the fellowship within and the idea of a cooperative unit.  A body has many members but they all function together for the support of the body.  The same should be true for the members of the church as they are different members supporting the body of Christ.  “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”  (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)  When we are baptized, we are put into the one body.  Of course, we are not literally put into the body of Christ, we are talking about a spiritual kingdom.  A “body” is another name for a group of people.  But they are to function and work together like a physical body does, with all its various parts.  We may be different people, but when we come together in the church, we are to be united, like a fully-functioning body!

The Body of Christ is also the group that is promised salvation.  “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.”  (Ephesians 5:23)  This makes sense.  When one believes and is baptized, they move from the lost position to a saved position.  They move from following the ways of the world, to being called out of the world.  They move from outside of God’s family to inside of God’s family.  They move from a lost and wandering soul to a citizen of the kingdom.  They move from outside the church to inside the church.  They move from outside the body to inside the body.  There would obviously be a line of demarcation for those that are lost and those that are saved.  Since the Body of Christ is another name for the church, and God adds the saved to the church, then it makes sense to say that God adds the saved to the Body of Christ, and the Body of Christ is the group of the saved.  Therefore, the promise of salvation lies to those that are inside the body, because that’s where the saved are put!  However, just because you are saved and put into the Body of Christ, doesn’t mean that you can’t fall from grace.  Not everyone who is put into the kingdom will make it to Heaven, if they don’t continue to live faithfully.  “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”  (Matthew 13:41-42)  In other words, you have to be in the kingdom, the Body of Christ, the church, in order to have the promise of salvation.  (Ephesians 5:23)  But, even if you are put in the Body of Christ, you can lose your salvation if you don’t live faithfully.

All spiritual blessings are in the Body of Christ.  Therefore, all spiritual blessings are in the church.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”  (Ephesians 1:3)  When we believe and are baptized, we are baptized into Christ.  We are added to the church.  We are put into the Body of Christ.  Why would God take the trouble to put us into His church?  Because that’s where all the spiritual blessings are.

Some people mistakenly think the church is not important, or that “one church is as good as another.”  But, God said, all spiritual blessings are in Christ.  Do you want salvation?  Do you want to be a son or daughter of the Father?  Do you want an eternal inheritance in Heaven?  Do you want the ability to pray to your Father?  If you want all these spiritual blessings, then you had better be “in Christ,” in “the Body of Christ,” in “the Household of God,” in “the Temple of God,” in the “Church of Christ!”  The church may not be important to some people but it was important enough to Jesus to shed His blood for it!  “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”  (Acts 20:28)

The Exclusive Nature of the Church

Spiritual Adultery

What would you call a woman married to one man, who then starts a family with another man?  The Bible calls her an adultress.  “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”  (Galatians 5:19-21)

In the Book of Hosea, God made an analogy between physical adultery and spiritual adultery.  “The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.”  (Hosea 1:2)  Hosea was to take a wife that was an adultress in a physical relationship.  Hosea could see what it meant to be cheated on.  God said that His people had done the same thing to Him, spiritually.  They had departed from Him as God, and went to serve other gods.  They had committed spiritual adultery.

We have seen that the church is the household of God.  It is the family of God.  What would we be called if we promised to be faithful to God’s family, but then we went and joined ourselves to another family?  Would we not be called a spiritual adulterer?

We have seen that the church is the kingdom of God.  We serve Jesus as our King.  What would we be called if we promised to be loyal to the king of one nation, but then we went and promised loyalty to the king of another nation?  Would we not be called a traitor?  If we were added by God to the church of Christ and then went and joined another religious group, would we not be called a spiritual traitor?

The church is called the temple of God.  We worship God in it.  What would we be called if we started to worship God in His temple, but then decided to go and create our own place of worship and expected God to accept it?  Would we not be called a heretic?

The point is that God has established His kingdom, His family, His temple, His church, etc.  Why would we want to go and try to worship and serve God in some other body or in some other way?  Would we not end up being a spiritual adulterer?  If God created a church and purchased it with His own blood, shouldn’t that be good enough for us?  The question is often asked, “Why are there so many churches?”  Indeed!  Why?!  Why are there so many churches when a perfect God has already created a perfect one?!

If we use simple logic, we can understand that a church was either created by God or by man.  If a church is not the one we read about in the New Testament, the one created by God, the one purchased by God, then it must therefore be created by man.  That would explain why there are so many churches.  The more men you have, the more ideas for what they want out of a church.  The more ideas for what they want out of a church, the more churches you have.  In short, we have so many churches because they were built to serve what man wants, not what God wants!  That also explains why their doctrines change from year to year.  Since they were built upon the desires of men, they must change their doctrines to accommodate the desires of men as the desires of men change!  Whatever is desirable or popular determines the doctrine of these churches, not truth!  Men have not stayed loyal to God.  Just like in the days of Hosea, they have skipped away to play the whore with other gods and religions.

The One Church

If we then propose the idea that there is only one church, we may appear heretical, intolerant, or just silly.  That’s because we look at things through our “modern-day glasses.”  But, if we go back to the beginning and look at things through “1st century glasses,” how many churches do we read about in the Bible?  How many were established on the Day of Pentecost?  Yes, there were different congregations in different geographical areas.  It would have been physically impossible for everyone to meet at the same location all the time.  But those congregations believed the same doctrine, practiced the same things, and answered to the one King!

God established the rule of the seed bringing forth after its kind right from the beginning of Creation.  “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.”  (Genesis 1:11)  An apple seed brings forth an apple tree, a corn seed brings forth corn, and so on.  The same is true for the word of God.  “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.”  (Luke 8:11)  As the apostles and others went forth teaching the word and sowing the seed of God, it would produce after its kind.  They sowed the teaching of Christ, which brought forth Christians, followers of Christ.  Nothing more, nothing less.  When those people were saved and added to the church (Acts 2:47), they were added to the church of Christ, the one that belongs to Jesus because He purchased it.  Nothing more, nothing less.  When saved people in a geographical area got together, they worshiped God in His temple, the church of Christ.  Nothing more, nothing less.  When they lived their life, they lived it according to the doctrines and teachings of their King, Jesus.  Nothing more, nothing less.  When the seed of the word of God is planted, it brings forth a Christian, who is added to the church Jesus built and purchased.  This is the church you read about in the New Testament.  When we sow the seed today it will accomplish the same thing.  When we find a group of Christians who have been saved according to the seed of the word of God, and living and worshiping according to the King’s laws, we have found the church of Christ, the one established and started on the Day of Pentecost.  The same seed always bring forth the same fruit!

Denominations

What if you could go back in time and ask Peter on the Day of Pentecost, “These people that are repenting and being baptized, of what denomination will they be?”  Peter would likely respond, “What is a denomination?”  The people being saved on the Day of Pentecost were not joining a Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, etc. denomination.  Those things did not exist!  And since they were not established by God on the Day of Pentecost, they are not the church of prophecy, and the church built and bought by Jesus.  They must therefore be inventions of man!

Exclusive Nature

If it seems strange to think that there is only one church, answer these questions:

  • How many kingdoms does a king rule over?
  • How many families does a man rightfully have?
  • How many bodies does a head have?
  • How many Gods are there?

The answer to all these questions is, “One.”  A king rules over one kingdom, a man has only one family, a body has only one head, and there is only one God.

So, how many churches are there?  Will we say that Jesus as the King rules over multiple kingdoms?  Will we say that Jesus as God has committed adultery and spawned multiple families?  Will we say that Jesus as the head of the church has mutated into having multiple bodies?  Will we say there are multiple Gods to explain why we have so many churches with doctrines that contradict each other?  Let’s not portray God as a traitorous King, an adulterous family member, a mutated monstrosity, or a multiplicity of Gods!  The Bible only tells us of one King, one kingdom, one family, one body, and one God.  “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”  (Ephesians 4:4-6)  Why would one God need more than one temple, more than one kingdom, more than one family, and more than one body?  He doesn’t.  He only established one church.  Man committed spiritual adultery to satisfy his own desires and built all the rest.

Jesus said there was an exclusive nature to life eternal.  “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”  (Matthew 7:14)  The steps to salvation that move someone from the lost state into the exclusive saved state were in a previous lesson.  Once we are in that exclusive saved state, we are added to the exclusive body known as the church.  Not just any church will do!  Jesus is the savior of one body!  “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.”  (Ephesians 5:23)

NOTE: This lesson was written and developed by Truth for the World and is used here by permission.

Online Bible Study Course Lesson 8 Quiz

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1. The church was prophesied to appear during the:
2. Jesus said the kingdom of God would come:
3. What event would accompany the coming of the kingdom?
4. The church is called the “temple of God” because:
5. The church is called the “family of God.” Only members of God’s family can get:
6. The ruler(s) over each individual congregation of the church is/are:
7. All spiritual blessings are in the:
8. How many churches did Jesus say He would build and the Bible says He purchased?
9. How many denominations existed on the Day of Pentecost?
10. We only need one church because: