THE CHURCH - WHEN ESTABLISHED?
We are presently engaged in a study of the church we read about in the New Testament. In this study we have found (I believe) that the scriptures say these two things; (1) That since the year 33 A.D., God has not, nor ever will, have more than one church; (2) That if our eternal home is to be with God in heaven, and not with the devil in the lake of fire, we must become members of his one church.
Now, I realize there may be different reactions to this study of the church. Some may think it is absolutely ridiculous to teach God has only one church: and that all who are to be saved must become members of it. However, I can hope; and I do, that all will say these two things are not what I teach, but what is taught by the scriptures.
My readers, whether you do or do not agree with me, I truly hope you will continue to read this article because the next few shall be devoted to a scriptural search for the identifying marks, of the one church.
When was this church established? What saith the scriptures? There are many Old Testament scriptures which say the church is coming. The Prophets Isaiah and Micah both de- clared: It shall be established in the last days (Isa. 2:1-3, Micah 4:1:2). According to Daniel 2:44, the Prophet Daniel did not write, in the days of those kings, the God of heaven set up a kingdom or church. No, he wrote "And in the days of these kings "shall" the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed." Again this same prophet by way of a night vision was permitted to see Christ being given a kingdom, (church) which was not to pass away (Dan. 7:13-14). Then finally, the Prophet Zechariah did not say (Christ) the branch "built" the temple of the Lord; but what he did say was: "And he "shall build" the temple of the Lord."
My readers, since the testimony of many Old Testament writers was the church is coming and inasmuch as not even one of them affirmed it has come, well we know it was not established before the birth of Jesus.
What about John the Baptist? Did he say the church "has come?" No. He just, as the Old Testament prophets, declared the church "is coming." Yes, his message was: "Repent ye for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. 3:1-3).
Jesus, during his personal ministry, had much to say about the church. Did he go forth saying my long promised church "has come?" "No." His proclamation was: The kingdom is at hand (Matt. 4:17), is come nigh unto you (Luke 10:9), will be given unto you (Luke 12:32), will come before you die (Mark 9:1), I will build (Matt. 16:18), and it shall be (Jo. 10:16).
Jesus from the time of his resurrection, until the day of his ascension, spoke (with his apostles) of many things pertaining to the kingdom of God (Acts 1:1-3). Did Jesus on the last day of those forty days, say anything which proved the church had not yet been established? Yes (Acts 1:1-9).
All right, since the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, and Jesus, from the beginning of his personal ministry until the day of his ascension, spoke of the church as a futuristic institution, then we know Jesus established his one church some time after his death, burial, resurrection and ascension.
We know that the Holy Spirit revealed all of God's will unto the men who recorded his Book (Jo. 14:25-26, Jo. 16:12- 14). Thus, we know that when John penned the last word of Rev. 22:21, he also penned the last word of inspired divine history. So, are there any scriptures in this Book, which refer to the church as a future institution? No. Are there any which speak of it as being in existence? "Yes." from Rev. 1, 2, and 3, we read about seven congregations of the church in Asia. Are there any other New Testament scriptures, which (by way of necessary inference) proclaim the church had been established? "Yes."
John, in III Jo. 1:9 said: "I wrote unto the church." Peter, in I Peter 5:2 wrote "Feed the flock of God which is among you." James, in James 5:14 spoke of the elders of the church. The Hebrew people had received a kingdom (Heb. 12:28). Paul, in I Tim. 5:16, taught that the church should relieve those who were widows indeed. Both First and Second Thessalonians were addressed to the church of the Thessalonians. According to Col. 1:13, the people of Colosse had been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom (church) of Jesus.
The church in Philippi sent support unto Paul (Phil. 5:15). According to Eph. 1:22-23, God had made Christ head of the church. The Book of Galatians was written to the churches of Galatia. Both First and Second Corinthians were written to the church of God in Corinth. Paul, in Rom. 16:16 wrote; "The churches of Christ salute you." Paul, from Miletus, sent for the elders of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:17). Paul saluted the church in Caesarea (Acts 18:22). Luke, in Acts 16:1-5, reports that congregations of the church were established in the faith, by Paul and Timotheus. In Acts 14:23-27, we read about the gathering together of the church at Antioch. Again in Acts 13:1, we read about the prophets in the church at Antioch. Acts 12:1 makes mention of Herod's persecuting the church. Luke, in Acts 11:22, made a statement about the church in Jerusalem. The conversion of Saul brought rest unto the congregations of the church (Acts 9:26-31). The first few verses of Acts 8 gives a report on the persecution of the church. Acts 2:47 declares that God was adding the saved to the church daily.
Oh yes, my readers, all of the above cited scriptures from the Book of Revelation all the way back to Acts 2:47 declare God's one church (of Eph. 4:1-6) had been established. Nevertheless, they do not say when this came to pass.
Hence, I ask again, when was God's one church established? What saith the scriptures?
The testimony of those from Gen. 1 through Acts 1:1-9 is that the church will be established and the proclamation of those from the Book of Revelation to Acts 2:47 is that it has been established. Consequently, the scriptural record of its arrival must be somewhere between Acts 1:9 and Acts 2:47. Thus, we know in the year A.D. 33, on the first pentecost after the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, God's one church ceased to be a promise and became a reality.
So, any church which had its beginning either before or after that time cannot be God's one church.
By: Tommy Hodge
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