A rather interesting question don’t you think? After all, there are literally dozens and dozens of churches in our area and each preaches a fundamentally differing doctrine from the others. Can all of these be called churches?
Certainly society considers them churches as does the government. But our interest is in the Bible view. When is a church not a church according to Scripture?
A church is not a church when it is a man made organization.
Most all churches can point to a time when their denomination began. Most all of today’s denominations began in the last 500 years and can pinpoint the moment of their establishment. The 16th century reformers such as Luther, Calvin and Wycliffe were men of great courage you sought break away from the oppression of the Roman Catholic Church. They are to be commended for their efforts yet they did not return to the church first established by Jesus. Luther’s followers gave us the Lutheran church in 1580, the Baptists were preceded by a group known as the Anabaptists from the 16th century. Methodists arise from the 19th century and base their teachings upon the work of John Wesley. On and on we could go but in each case there was not a return to the fundamental doctrines of Scripture. Each of these churches and others often do not even bear the name of Christ in their congregational names.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that he would build his own church. That church was established on Pentecost Sunday (Acts 2) and people were moved into the church (kingdom) from spiritual darkness (Colossians 1:13). It was this church that the Bible says was purchased by Jesus (Acts 20:28) thus giving him complete ownership and control over (Ephesians 5:23). The church originated in the mind of God, was created, bought and paid for by Christ and thus belongs only to him. He established the church. It is shameful for a man to usurp that role.
A church is not a church when it teaches the doctrines of men.
Because Jesus paid for the true church with his blood, he alone is able to dictate its doctrines and commands. The Lord himself decried the substitution of men’s ideas for truth when he warned of the “doctrines of men” (Matthew 15:9).
Roman Catholics are often taught to leave the Bible study to their church leaders and doctrine will be taught and interpreted by the priests and cardinals. Within Protestantism, a very large majority adhere to the doctrines of the 16th century theologian John Calvin. Commonly known as Calvinism this system of doctrine cannot withstand careful Bible study and Scripture examination. Nevertheless, many follow its teachings with little thought that they could be horribly errant.
The church of Christ is different. It was established once almost 2,000 years ago in the city of Jerusalem as promised. Next week, we will demonstrate why it is not a denomination but the original.