Ok—you should know by now I am not referring to the building, a service or a time slot on our Sunday schedule. I am writing about the people! We, who are in Christ, are the church of Christ! Jesus, referring to Peter’s confession that He is the Christ, said in Matthew 16: 18, “Upon this rock I will build My church”. Paul would later greet the Roman Christians by writing in Romans 16:16, “All the churches of Christ greet you”. I am honored to be part of the church of Christ! It is His church!
But what does it take to be the church? Let me suggest a few characteristics of the church as taught in the New Testament. This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully will be enough to help us identify the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If we want to be the church that Christ built, we must have the right Lord. When Peter made the good confession in Matthew 16:16, he identified the right Lord. When Jesus asked who do you think I am, Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Later in Peter’s first Gospel message he said, “God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you have crucified” (Acts 2:36). Later Paul would plainly write that there is only “one Lord” (Ephesians 4:5). In the New Testament church we must only have one Lord. It is not the eldership as a group. It is certainly not me, your evangelist. It is Jesus! He is the Christ! He is Lord! He is the Savior! He purchased the church with His own blood. That is why we insist on identifying ourselves as His church—namely the church of Christ!
If we want to be the church that Christ built, we must also have the right faith. Biblical faith does not have varieties or flavors. Don’t you love going to a nice buffet restaurant? At the buffet we pick and chose what we want to eat. Many would have you believe that biblical faith is like that. Pick a little doctrine of the New Testament here, and a little there, maybe throw in a small dash of the Old Testament and load on the opinions!
That is not what Paul taught when he wrote to the Ephesian Christians that there is only “one faith” (Ephesians 4:5). The Apostle Peter would word it this way in his third recorded gospel message: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Peter was referring to the one Lord and the one faith needed for our salvation and to be identified as His church! He of course was referring to Jesus and His way. The right faith involves both our trust in the message of the Gospel (the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus) and our obedience to that message (repentance, confession of our faith, immersion into Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and faithfully living with Jesus as Lord). When we have the right faith, and we teach the right faith and we live the right faith, we can be the church of Christ!
If we want to be the church that Christ built, we must have the right remembrance, and may I add, on the right day! Each and every Lord’s Day, the church gathers for at least four reasons. Luke wrote about the early church devoting themselves to “1. the apostles’ teaching and to 2. fellowship, to 3. the breaking of bread and to 4. prayer” (Acts 2:42). Luke would later write about the apostolic practice of “breaking bread” on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Besides the Gospel accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, we have Paul’s teaching in I Corinthians 11. The breaking of bread is a great weekly reminder of what saves us—the death of Jesus on the cross. This is why when you visit South Side, we have the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. It is His church and we certainly want to be the church!
If we want to be the church that Christ built, let me suggest one last thing: we need to have the right attitude! The church exists for two main purposes. We exist to seek and save the lost (not the unchurched, but the LOST). That is why we insist on bringing the lost (churched or unchurched) to the New Testament position. We also exist to encourage and build up each other. In meeting both of these purposes, we must have the right attitude. Paul wrote to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). We must believe that we have the truth (the faith), but be willing to present the truth in a loving, humble way. The Apostle Paul knew the importance of love as he was dealing with the problems in the Corinthian church (I Corinthians 13). If we want others to know that we are the church of Christ, we need to show love toward one another (John 13:35). As the church, we need each other. I never quite understand the person who thinks they can be the church without being part of the assembly.
Jesus built His church! He died for His church! One day He is going to present His church (his bride) “in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27).
Joshua made the commitment to serve Yahweh. I pray that we will make the same commitment. And in doing so, we will be committed to being His church, the church of Christ! I am thankful to God to be the church along with you here at South Side. Let us be His church to the best of our abilities!