The church one can read about in the New Testament came into existence about 2000 years ago in the city of Jerusalem. Jesus had promised He would build His church. “…upon this rock I will build My church.” (Matthew 16:18)
Three days after Jesus was crucified and buried, He was raised from the dead and appeared to various individuals over the next 40 days. Before ascending into heaven to sit at the right hand of God He told His apostles to preach the gospel to all the world. On the day of Pentecost, Peter and the other apostles began that task by preaching to a multitude of people in Jerusalem. Peter told them they had crucified the very Son of God and we are told that many were “pricked” in their hearts and asked what they needed to do. Peter told them they needed to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins We are told 3000 responded to Peter’s preaching and the Lord added them to His church. (See Acts 2:47 – King James Version)
The promise Jesus had made in Matthew 16:18 was now a reality. It is a spiritual body made up of the redeemed of all the ages through the blood of Jesus Christ. The church Jesus promised to build is His Kingdom He came to establish wherein peace with God was a reality. (See Matthew 16:18-19 and Romans 5:1-2)
This church that belongs to Christ is also an assembly of people who band together in a particular location, who are in fellowship with Jesus and God the Father. They are led by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, the Bible, which was written by men inspired by the Holy Spirit. Those who obeyed Christ’s teachings concerning salvation became members of the church Christ said He would build, Jesus adding them to His church Himself. They were simply called “Christians (Acts 11:26). They were not some “kind” of Christian, such as Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Mormon or Lutheran, but simply Christians.
These “Christians” were scattered over the then known world and yet they all believed and taught the same thing. The reason why they all believed and taught the same thing is because the apostles all taught the same thing wherever they went. In 1 Corinthians 4:17 we read, “For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” In the early church Paul did not teach “faith only” to the church at Ephesus and the necessity of baptism for salvation to the church at Philippi. He did not teach immersion for baptism at Thessalonica and sprinkling or pouring of water for baptism at Rome. Paul preached the same thing in every different congregation of the Lord’s church in keeping with Christ’s prayer that all believers would be of the same mind just as He and the Father were of the same mind. (John 17:20-21) This “local” body of believers that are part of the church Christ promised to build can be identified by comparing them as to what they teach as doctrine, the way they worship God and the work they do in service to God, patterned after the churches we can read about in the New Testament. The church of Christ is not a denomination. Denominations by nature are divided by choice to distinguish themselves from other religious bodies built upon precepts of man. Churches of Christ strive for unity and peace among its members and strive to follow Jesus Christ as Lord.
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