THE CHURCH - HOW MANY? #5
How many churches does God have? What saith the scriptures?
My readers, if you have read the previous four articles, well you know that I believe they say: He has only one church.
However, there are many good, honest, and wonderful people who do not believe as I do. Some believe that God in the beginning of this dispensation of time had more than one church. Because say they: There are scriptures which speak of a plurality of churches. True, some of the writers of the New Testament addressed letters to churches; and made statements about the churches (Acts 9:31, Rom. 16:16, Gal. 1:1-2, Rev. 1:4). Nevertheless, in the past four articles of this publication, I presented scriptures which by a multiplicity of ways said: There was only one church from 33 AD to AD 90. So have we in this study, found scriptures which contradict each other? Oh no, my friends, let us never conclude that we have a Bible full of contradictory statements. Because to do so would be to destroy the very rock to which even our belief in God is anchored. No, let us not do this; but rather, let us seek a way to harmonize the scriptures.
Let us consider the statements made by the Apostle Paul. According to Rom. 1:7 and Rom. 16:16, he said unto to all the saints in Rome, "The churches of Christ salute you." Then too, it is written in Gal. 1:2 that he addressed this Book unto the churches of Galatia. Yet, just as sure as this same apostle, in Eph. 4:4-6 declared there is one God, he also declared there is one body or one church.
So you see my readers, if Paul by writing the churches of Christ in AD 57, and the churches of Galatia in AD 58, proves the existence of different churches at that time, then in AD 63 he contradicted what he had previously written in AD 57and 58. Because if what he wrote in AD 63 does not prove there was only one body or church, well neither does it prove there was at that time only one God (Eph. 4:4-6). Jesus built church (A) (Mat. 26:18); and the writers of the New Testament referred to it as: the church of God's dear Son (Col. 1:13); and the church of God (I Cor. 1:1-2). However, neither the writers of the New Testament nor any writer of ancient history wrote that Mr. (X) established church (B); and then referred to it as the church of Mr. (X). So, no there was not more than one church, until after the year 90 AD. Yea, even until some time after 90 AD. Therefore, when Paul wrote about the churches of Christ and the churches of Galatia, he was writing about more than one congregation of the church of God's dear Son.
You see, one congregation of the one church Jesus built, could be referred to as either the church of God or the body of Christ. This is proven in I Cor. 1:1-2 and I Cor. 12:37. So, Paul in speaking of a plurality of such like congregations, could and did, write "The churches of Christ salute you" (Rom. 16:16).
Again, some say: Jesus in John 15:1-7 taught there was to be more than one church. First, let me say, if this be true then he contradicted what he said in Jo. 10; 16. This I say because in that scripture, he said: There shall be one fold or one church. Yet, unless we want to pitch our tent with the unbelievers, we must not believe that the teachings of Jesus are contradictory. No, we must come to one of two conclusions. Conclusion #l-If Jesus, in Jo. 10:16, said: There shall be one fold or one church, then Jo. 16:1-6 does not prove Jesus said: There shall be many churches. Conclusion #2--If Jesus, in Jo. 15:1-8, taught there shall be many churches, then, in Jo. 10:16, he did not say there shall be one church. All right, did Jesus according to Jo. 10; 16 say there shall be one church?
In order to fully understand and appreciate that which is taught in some scriptures, they must be considered in light of what is also taught in others. This I proved in previous articles. So before we decide to either say Jesus did or did not say,Thcre shall be one fold or church, let us recall the following five scriptural facts.
(1) The law of Moses (the first written covenant) was for the Jews only (Det. 5:4, Rom. 2:14); and the rest of God's people or sheep continued to serve him according to the patriarchal law.
(2) The law of Moses remained in force until the death of Jesus (Mat. 23:1-2, Mat. 5:17-18, Acts 13:29, Eph. 2:11-16). Therefore until that time. God had two flocks; and two shepherds.
(3) Jesus while here preached to the Jews only (Mat. 15:24, Mat. 10:5-6). Consequently all his followers during that period of time were Jews.
(4) After the death of Christ, the new covenant, which God gave through him replaceahe two previous covenants (Jer. 31- 34,Deut. 18: 18-19, Heb. 1:1-2, Heb. 10:9).
(5) The one new covenant was to be for both the Jews and the Gentiles (Mark 16:15, Acts 10 and 11).
All right, with these five scriptural facts in mind, let's take another look at John 10:16. The fold which Jesus had were his Hebrew followers. The other sheep which he was to bring were the Gentiles, who would accept him as their shepherd. After having said these two things, he then said, "And there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." Now when he said that, well what did he really say? When we consider it in the light of the above five undeniable scriptural facts, these are the things which Jesus declared.
(1) After my death, the two old covenants will be discontinued.
(2) Then, the one promised new covenant will be given.
(3) This new one, God will give through me; and it shall be for both the Jews and the Gentiles.
(4) Therefore, the people of the world shall no longer be divided into two groups, with a different shepherd to follow; but the two groups will become one group all following the one shepherd. No wonder then, in Eph. 2:11-16, we learn that one reason why Jesus died, was that both the Jews and Gentiles might be reconciled unto God in one body or one church.
All right though, what about JO. 15:1-8? Does it teach There are to be many churches? No. The word church is not to be found in that scripture. What Jesus taught in Jo. 15:1-8 was not, I am the vine and ye (the churches) are the branches; but I am the vine and ye (my disciples) are the branches (Jo. 15:5 he and him, Jo. 15:6 man, Jo. 15:8 disciples-and in no verse, churches).
By; Tommy Hodge
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