What is a New Testament Church?

What is this church? What is the Forum Terrace Church of Christ? Is it a cult? Is it just one of many denominational churches in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex? Is it the church you read about in the New Testament? Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you” (Rom. 16:16). The Forum Terrace congregation claims it is not a cult or a denomination but like the church you read about in the New Testament. How can this be proven? Many churches have made the claim they are just like the church of the New Testament. But at least ten things are necessary for a church to be like the church you read about in the Bible. If these are not an aspect of a church, then that congregation is not the church of Christ found in the first century.

If a Church Is Not Purchased with the Blood of Christ, it Cannot Be a New Testament Church.  Paul commanded the elders of Ephesus, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Many churches have been established with the blood, sweat, and tears of their founders, but only the church of the New Testament could be purchased with the blood of the innocent Son of God.

If a Church Was Not Built by Christ, it Cannot Be a New Testament Church. After Peter made the confession that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus claimed, “on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18b). Again, many men, such as Joseph Smith, have built churches. But only Jesus has built His church. All others have been founded by mere men.

If a Church Was Not Built on the Right Foundation, it Cannot Be a New Testament Church. Some suggest that the Catholic church has been built on the foundation of Peter. The belief is that Peter is the one whom Jesus calls “rock” in Matthew 16:18. However, “Peter” is from the Greek word petros meaning a pebble or small rock while “rock” means “a solid, slab of rock” coming from the Greek term petra. Jesus was making a play on words to demonstrate that His church would not be built upon a mere small rock like Peter a mere man. But it would be built on the substance of Peter’s confession: Jesus was the Son of God. Paul says the church was “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).

If a Church Does Not Have Jesus as its Head, it Cannot Be a New Testament Church. While comparing the church to a bride and Jesus the husband, Paul wrote, “for the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23). Denominations have popes and leaders who are mere men and are the heads over their churches governed by a headquarters here on earth. The church is one body with one Head. The New Testament church cannot have more than one head and that Head must be Christ. Not only are these churches without Christ as its head, but He is only the savior of the body. These man-made churches have no head and no savior.

If a Church Is Just One of Many Brides, it Cannot Be a New Testament Church. Again, when Paul was comparing the church to a bride, he wrote, “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). Christ only has one bride or one church or one body. Christ is not a polygamist with 2000 brides or churches.
If a church is just one of many bodies, it cannot be a New Testament church. God gave Christ “to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22,23). Later in the same epistles we are told “there is one body” (Eph. 4:4). Christ is not the Head of 2000 bodies or denominations, just one body.

If a Church Has Not Been Planted by the Father, it Cannot Be a New Testament Church. Jesus said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted” (Matt. 15:13).

If a Church Was Not Established in Jerusalem, it Cannot Be a New Testament Church. Isaiah prophesied that the Kingdom would begin in Jerusalem. “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3).

Jesus promised His apostles, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9:1). After Jesus’ resurrection and before His ascension into Heaven, He told the apostles, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:46-49).

Before He ascended into Heaven the apostles asked, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:6-8). As they waited ten days in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, “they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4). A Church founded in Salt Lake City or Rome or England, is not a New Testament Church.

If a Church Was Not Established on the Day of Pentecost, it Cannot Be a New Testament Church. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter stood up with the other apostles. Being guided by the Holy Spirit he preached and explained why they were speaking in various languages which they had not learned: “but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:…. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:16,33). All the Kingdom prophecies of Joel 2, Daniel 2, and Isaiah 2 were fulfilled in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost about 30 AD. A church founded in 606 AD or 1836 is not a New Testament church.

If a Church is Not the Household of God, it Cannot Be a New Testament Church. The church is called “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). If it is not the household of God, it is not part of God’s spiritual family. Such a church does not have a living God. And furthermore, it is not the pillar and ground of the Truth.

If the Church is a Denomination, it is a Sinful Division and Cannot Be a New Testament Church. Paul commanded “that there should be no schism [division] in the body” (1 Cor. 12:25). Instead, the church at Corinth was told to “speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).

The church of the New Testament was purchased, built, headed by, planted by the Son of God. It was founded upon Jesus as the foundation and was established on the Day of Pentecost after His death in the city of Jerusalem as prophesied. He is the only Savior of this one body and Head of His only bride. You should be in it. You need to be added to it. Beginning on the Day of Pentecost, “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved: (Acts 2:47). These were saved when they repented and were baptized. Peter told those on the Day of Pentecost to “repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Paul would explain to the church at Corinth “for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). The saved have never been added by God to a denomination.

A popular country-western song says: “I don’t believe that heaven waits for only those who congregate.” Others will argue, “where is the passage that says one must be a member of the Church of Christ to be saved?” It is found in Ephesians 5:23: “…and He is the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23). If you think you can be saved without a Savior, then you do not need the church. You cannot be saved outside of His body, the church. You need to be a faithful member of a New Testament Church. You do not have to be a member of a denomination to be saved, but you have to be a member of Christ’s body to have a Savior.

– Daniel R. Vess

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Categories: The Forum