<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Untitled Document The One Body of Christ and Many Churches of Christ.

The one body (church) of the New Testament (Ephesians 4:4; 1:22,23;) is not a brotherhood of churches, but a brotherhood of Christians. It has no earthly headquarters, earthly organization, earthly overseers, or earthly spokespersons. It is a spiritual kingdom within God’s people (Luke 17:34). It only functions as each Christian operates under the headship of Christ. It never assembles as a group. It never works as a unit. Those making up this body have a common bond because of the spiritual blessings they share – a common authority and fellowship, a common faith, a common newness of life, a common love, a common salvation – thus an interest in all the others that have these things around the world, most of whom they have never seen nor heard.

It is indestructible by reason of its nature. It is that kingdom that shall never be destroyed (Dan. 2:44). It is indivisible by reason of definition. Since it is simply defined as the number of the saved (Acts 2:47), it cannot be split into separate numbers of saved people. The number of the saved can be added to through conversion, or it can be subtracted from through apostasies. The number can even be multiplied (Acts 6:1, 7), but it cannot divide into two bodies of saved people. When people leave the Lord they are no longer among that only number of saved people. Those who leave the church leave the Lord. Those who leave the Lord leave the church. It is like trying to make two mountains without a valley between them. It impossible by reason of definition.

The many “churches of Christ” spoken of in the Bible are divinely ordained local organizations ideally composed only of people who are also in the one body of the saved. These organizations are instructed to receive folks desiring to be one of them – if they can verify their discipleship (Acts 9:26). They are also taught to expel those unwilling to practice discipleship. Though they are operating under the instructions of God’s word, those who must choose whom to receive (or retain) and to reject (or expel), sometimes make mistakes. The church at Corinth retained at least one that should have been expelled (1 Corinthians 5). Diotrephes led a church in expelling some that should have been retained (3 John 9-10). Hence, all those on local churches’ membership lists are not always the same as on God’s list of members of the one church (“the book of life”) and vice versa. When we speak of the work, worship, and organization of “the church” we generally are speaking of the work, worship, and organization of each of these “churches of Christ.”

The one church is not a confederation of local churches. Nor is it an institution after political and business models where there is a corporate entity with satellite branches (congregations). This concept of the church evolved after the death of the Apostles. This concept became the “church” of historians and thus the concept of many people. Hence, many of the noble efforts to correct “error” and “division” in “the church” have been aimed at bringing the “faith and practice” of the “federation” nearer to the Bible and bringing the local “branches” all back into line with the federation.

As one of God’s saved number, one is to individually carry the gospel of Christ to the lost and to build the saved up in the faith as he worships and serves his Master in the present world. He is to also join himself to a local church (described above) to collectively carry the gospel to the world and to mutually edify one another in the faith. He is also to regularly come together with them to worship and work together. Having a common authority with all other such groups (1 Corinthians 4:17; 7:17), to extent that they follow that authority they will be alike.

Unfortunately, local churches, ordained of God but administered by humans, often fall short of the ideal. They sometimes divide. They sometimes die. This was true in the first century and is true in the twenty-first century. As I heard someone say, “Local churches are temporary, while the universal church is permanent.

It just seems to me that a clear understanding of the difference between the one church of Christ and the many churches of Christ would go a long way in solving a lot of problems of brethren.

Ed Bragwell

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