What Is The Church Of Christ?

There is only one true church, and that is, the church which Christ built (Matthew 16:18) and established on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41). It is true in the sense of being sound, or pure, in doctrine and practice. Let us examine briefly some important concepts about the church.

The word church is derived from the Greek word ekklesia which means the called out ones. Peter says that the church is 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," (I Peter 2:9). There other descriptions that the Bible uses in reference to the ekklesia. These include "kingdom" (John 18:36), "children of God" (Galatians 3:26), and "sheep" (Matthew 25:33).

God's word makes a clear distinction between the universal church and the local church. Whenever we speak of the church in the universal sense it means that all of the saved make up the church. An example of this distinction is found in Romans 16:16, where Paul uses the phrase "churches of Christ." Using the plural noun, "churches", he alludes to all the saved in every city. The saved are called Christians (Acts 11:26). When an individual obeys the gospel through hearing (Romans 10:14), believing (Romans 10:17), repenting of his sins (Romans 10:9, 10), confessing the name of Christ before men (Romans 6:4), and being baptized(immersed) in water(Acts 2:38), God adds him to the church.

The Bible also uses the word church in the local sense. When the early church was established at Jerusalem, it was the universal church. There were no local churches until after they began to be persecuted. The Scripture says, "And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word," (Acts 8:1, 4). Examples include the church at Rome (Romans 1:6, 7), the church at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1), the church at Galatia (Galatians 1:1, 2), and the church at Macedonia and Achaia (I Thessalonians 1:7).

Another important concept about the church is its governmental oversight. Each local church is ruled by its elders and deacons. The qualifications for both offices are given in I Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9. Every qualification must be met before certain men who have been selected can be appointed. Sometimes, a local church will not have any men who are qualified. Elders are not to be lords, but shepherds. Peter says, "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away," (I Peter 5:2-4). Deacons fulfil the same duty as that described in Acts 8:2-4. "Serving tables" refers to meeting the needs of the flock such as providing food, clothing, or shelter.

Also significant is the worship of the church. Each local church meets on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:25) for worship. The worship service consists of hearing word of God preached (Acts 2:42), singing "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs," (Eph. 5:19), praying (Acts 2:42), partaking of the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7), and giving to the Lord as we have been prospered (I. Cor. 16:1-2). Regardless of the order of worship, we assemble to edify, rather than entertain, one another.

The last important concept about the church is fellowship. The act of fellowship is based upon unity in one mind and in one spirit. This means that the church must be united in the same faith, doctrine, and authority. Paul, in Ephesians 4:4-6, said, "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." There are times, however, when opinions should be respected, but differences in doctrine are not (Romans 14).

by: Ira Mikell

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