By Kevin Rutherford
The word “church” translates a Greek word that refers to those who are called out from society in general to a specific group for the purposes of assembly. The church spoken of in the New Testament is that group called out from society by the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the purpose of assembling together in worship and service to God. This group that has been set aside from the rest of culture is that body which is made up of the saved. It is the church which God planned from before the beginning of time (Ephesians 3:8-13), and which Jesus Christ established at the right time (Galatians 4:4-5). It is sometimes referred to as the Way (Acts 9:2; 19:9; 24:14), the church of God (Acts 20:28), churches of Christ (Romans 16:16), house of God (1 Timothy 3:15), etc. Each of these references alludes to a particular identifying aspect of the church of the New Testament. The church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23) and Jesus Christ the Way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). The church belongs to Christ and must therefore submit to the authority of Christ (Matthew 16:18).
The church must also submit to the authority of Jesus Christ because He is the Head of the church (Colossians 1:13-18). That is, Jesus Christ has all authority over the church (Matthew 28:18). We must therefore do all things by His authority (Colossians 3:17). No man has the right to establish his own church, or to change the church which Jesus Christ established into something more suitable to the current whims and fancies of ever changing culture. The church must remain in submission to the one who established it, ad the one who has authority over it. Jesus Christ reigns as King over His kingdom (Revelation 19:16), Head over His body (Ephesians 1:22-23), Groom over His bride (Ephesians 5:22-33), and Firstborn over His house (Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 3:6).
The way for the church to remain in submission to the authority of Jesus Christ is to abide by the New Covenant given by Jesus Christ (John 14:26; 16:13-15; Hebrews 2:1-4). The New Covenant is given from the Lord for all of mankind, but it also serves as the constitution, law, authority, and guide for all true churches of Christ (2 Timothy 3:14-4:5). To love, respect, revere, and obey the New Covenant is to love, respect, revere, and obey the One who gave it. No man has the right to go against New Testament authority in matters affecting the church or anything else. The New Testament is the authority and standard for Christianity. Apart from the New Testament one cannot have the genuine, authentic, true church.
The authentic and true church is the one established by Jesus Christ, and over which Jesus Christ reigns. It is the one identified, sanctified, and made holy by the doctrine of Christ. It is the one church that has been purified and purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28). Therefore, we must make a clear distinction between churches established by men which do not follow the will of Jesus Christ as set forth in the New Testament, and the genuine, true, authentic church of Jesus Christ described and patterned for us in the New Testament (Matthew 7:13-29).
Every church established by men in opposition to the one established by Jesus Christ is a blind leader that shall be rooted up (Matthew 15:1-14). Every church established upon the wishes and whims of faddish people in contradiction to the Lord’s church that is established upon the Word of God, is the church that is entirely unacceptable to God (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). A fundamental principal regarding man’s relationship to God is that the Creator has authority over the creation (Jeremiah 10:23; Isaiah 55:8-9; Job 42:1-6; Matthew 7:21-22; Hebrews 5:8-9). Therefore, those who establish, create, and make their own church with expectation that God will just accept it are sadly mistaken. No man has the right to stand up in opposition to God and demand that God accept what man wants over what God demands (Matthew15:1-9). No man is wise enough to develop a church more perfectly suited to its purpose than God. Any man that thinks himself clever enough to outdo God and create a better church is a man that had better humble himself before God humbles him (Psalm 51:17).
The New Testament teaches us about the church by providing the record of the work of Jesus Christ in preparation for the church (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). We learn about the church by reading of the early history of the church (Acts). In addition we can learn what God wants for the church bar studying and examining the inspired letters that were sent to the early churches (Romans through Jude). From the Lord’s reports concerning the seven churches of Asia, we can learn what God commends in contrast to what God condemns (Revelation 2 & 3). We can see what God demands and commands as we study the New Testament that has been given to us by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ established the church, gave us the New Testament to guide the church, and is the head and authority over the church. No one other than Christ can establish the church, and no one other than Christ should ever be considered the authority over the church.
- Kevin V. Rutherford preaches for the Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://warnerschapelchurchofchrist.org/