The word “church” has become so corrupted in today’s common usage that it has been stripped of most of its Biblical meaning. Almost any doctrine or practice can find a church that will condone it. Cynicism has blanketed the religious world. Instead of trying to sort out the truth, we have, “attend the church of your choice.” Pluralism reigns while devotion to absolute truth wanes.
When we seek to find a church to attend, what criteria do we use? Man’s common markers are location, size, programs, and relationships with the members of a particular church. Is this the best plan? No! We must have a more Biblical approach.
Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). We find that the Lord adds those who are saved to his church (Acts 2:47). But that is not surprising since it is his and he can do with it as he pleases.
“The church of Jesus Christ is a divinely planned, heavenly established, sacredly purchased organism.”/1 It is the kingdom of God (Matthew 16:18,19); the temple of God (Ephesians 2:21,22); the family of God (Ephesians 2:19); the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15); the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22,23).
Jesus built, owns, and leads the church. He establishes its doctrine and demands obedience to it (John 1:1-4; John 12:48; John 14:15; 1 Corinthians 4:6). God gave Jesus the kingdom and he desires that it will remain “without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26,27) Jesus will return the spotless kingdom back to God (1 Corinthians 15:24).
Man has no right to try to alter or damage the Lord’s church. To try and organize it as we wish, abandoning the plan of God, is to be found “fighting against God” (Acts 5:39). We are guests, not owners in the kingdom. We serve at the pleasure of the Father.
The ark is a powerful illustration for understanding the church./2 God had Noah build an ark and placed the righteous in it and sealed the door (Genesis 7:1-16). The rain began and everyone else on earth, the unrighteous, died. Only those who were in God’s ark survived (1 Peter 3:20,21). God had added them and they lived because of their faithful life.
God adds those who have come to him humbly submitting themselves to Christ, repenting of their sins (Romans Luke 13:3,5), confessing Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9,10) and being immersed for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16). God adds them and they decide whether to remain or leave (Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26-31).
Since the righteous were in the ark and lived, only the righteous are in the church if they wish to live. The Psalmist warns, “Unless the Lord builds the house, [t]hey labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1). If others had built their own arks, they would have perished since they were not built by God. Likewise, those who are not in the church the Lord built will also perish.
The church is the Lord’s body and Jesus is its head (Ephesians 1:22,23). Jesus is the savior of the body (Ephesians 5:23) and he nourishes and cherishes it (Ephesians 5:29,30). It constitutes his household and family (Ephesians 2:19). Clearly, his body, the church, is where the saints reside because they are in Christ (Ephesians 1:1; Galatians 3:27).
When the judgment comes, those set aside in his body will be saved and everyone else, no matter how sincere, will be lost (Matthew 25:46).
So, does one have to be in the church Jesus built? They do if they actually want to go to heaven!
1/ Wayne Jackson, “What is the Church? Spiritual Sword 24:3:6.
Christ does what he wishes with his church