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                        "THE CHURCH JESUS BUILT"

                      Identifying The Church Today


1. In our last lesson we noted some of the distinctions between the 
   church "universal" and the church "local"...

         The Church "Universal"              The Church "Local"

   Composed of all Christians          Composed of Christians in one
   There is just "one"                 There are "many"
   Began on the "Day of Pentecost"     Begins when people join together
   Enter only by being added by the    Enter by "joining ourselves"
   The Lord keeps the books of         Enrolled by human judgment
   Consists of all the saved           Consists of both saved and lost
   Must be in this to be saved         Do not have to be in this to be
   Has no "earthly" organization       Has "earthly" organization
   Can't be divided                    Can be divided
   Death doesn't affect membership     Death does affect membership

2. When we are aware of the difference between the church "universal" 
   and "local" churches, we are better equipped to identify "The Church
   Jesus Built" today...
   a. In view of the high estimation placed upon the church described
      in the New Testament, I would like to be able to identify it 
      today, wouldn't you?
   b. But is our task one of being able to identify the church 
      "universal", or "local" churches?

[It is the latter question that I wish to address in this study.  Let
me begin by addressing the question...]


      1. Jesus said He would build HIS church, and we read about it in
         the Bible
      2. If today you could find that church we read about in the
         Bible, wouldn't you want to be a member of it?
      3. Well, here is a chart which shows the PATTERN of the New
         Testament church...
         a. A chart is then used which describes the beginning of the
            church (its founder, place and time of origin, and head)
         b. The chart also lists verses describing the organization,
            name, worship, etc., of the church
      4. If you can find the church that is like this in all respects,
         then it is the New Testament church today!

      1. Are we not trying to identify the one and true church, i.e., 
         the church "universal"?
      2. But charts like the one described above often make no 
         distinction between the church "universal" and the church 
         a. E.g., its founder, time and place of origin, head, etc., 
            refers to the universal church
         b. Yet passages describing organization, name, worship, etc.,
            refer to the local church!
      3. This can easily lead to confusion...
         a. Concerning the church "universal"
            1) That IT may have "earthly" organization"
            2) That IT is overseen by "elders" and served by "deacons"
         b. Concerning the church "local"
            1) That THEY all started in Jerusalem
            2) That THEY all started in 30 A.D.
      4. It is virtually impossible to identify the church "universal"
         in this way
         a. It has no "earthly" organization that can be visibly seen
         b. Only the Lord knows...
            1) Those who are truly saved
            2) Those who thereby make up His body, the one true church!
      5. At best, we can only identify "local" churches today

      1. Regarding the church "universal"
         a. Emphasize that the Lord is in the process of building His
            one true church
         b. Which consists of all the saved, for the Lord adds those
            being saved to it
         c. Now here is how you can be saved and thereby become a 
            member of the Lord's church...
      2. Regarding the church "local"
         a. Once saved, and a member of the body of Christ, the NT 
            teaches that you should "join yourself" with a local 
         b. But which one?  How can you identify which of the myriad 
            congregations are considered by the Lord as His faithful 
            churches in the local sense?
         c. Now let's examine what the NT reveals about the local 

[This approach is not only scriptural, it also has less potential for
confusing the "universal" church with the "local" church.  With this in
mind, here are a few thoughts on...]


      1. The name of a local congregation reveals much
         a. Whether the church is concerned about promoting unity in
            the body of Christ
         b. If the name is a denominational name, religious division 
            must not be a major concern of those in the congregation
      2. The "name" should therefore be a scriptural name
         a. There is no ONE scriptural name for the Lord's church in
            the New Testament
            1) The expressions "church of God" (1 Co 1:2), "churches
               of God" (1 Th 2:14), and "churches of Christ" (Ro 16:16)
               are commonly used
            2) Other terms are used also, and all reflecting an 
               association with God and Christ (body of Christ, kingdom
               of God, bride of Christ, temple of God, etc.)
         b. But the use of scriptural names instead of a humanly-
            conceived name...
            1) Reflects a desire to follow the Scriptures, and not 
               human tradition
            2) Certainly conveys a desire to honor God and Christ, and
               not some man, creed or particular doctrine
      3. However, the "name" alone is not a sure guide
         a. Just as the name "Mrs. Copeland" alone is not a sure guide
            if you were seeking to find my wife
            1) For there are a lot of  women who go by the name, "Mrs.
            2) But only one who bears the name is properly my wife!
         b. So there may be many congregations that bear the name of
            Christ or God that may not be truly honoring them!
            1) For example, there are over 200 separate denominations
               that use the name "church of God"
            2) Likewise, there may be "churches of Christ" that are no
               less a congregation of the Lord than any with a 
               denominational name!
      -- Yet I would still recommend that one begin with the name, and
         in particular those congregations that use the expression 
         "church of Christ"

      1. Remember how Christ is adding people to His church "universal"
         a. Through the gospel, He calls us - 2 Th 2:14
         b. As we heed the gospel call, the Lord adds us to His body,
            the church - Ac 2:41,47
         c. That is why it is so important that the gospel not be 
            perverted in any way - Ga 1:6-9
      2. If the gospel proclaimed by those in a local church is 
         a. By changing either the facts or commands of the gospel...
         b. ...then people are not being saved, and the Lord is not
            adding them to His church!
      3. A church with a perverted gospel...
         a. May have the nicest people, but they are still unregenerate
         b. May wear the name of Christ, both as individuals and as a
            church, but are not truly the people of God, nor a part of
            "The Church Jesus Built"!

      1. In the New Testament, we find a pattern regarding local 
         a. The NT describes the early church during its first 60 years
         b. A careful study of Acts and the epistles reveal a picture
            of the church
         c. From this picture, a pattern emerges in reference to:
            1) The worship of local churches
            2) The work of local churches
            3) The organization of the churches
         d. This pattern emerges as we see the early Christians...
            1) Continuing steadfastly in the "apostles' doctrine" 
               - Ac 2:42
            2) Being taught the same things in every church - 1 Co 4:
               17; 16:1-2
      2. Faithful churches abiding in the "apostles' doctrine" today 
         will reflect this pattern
         a. Their worship will be like that described in the New
         b. Their work as a congregation will be similar to that found
            in the New Testament
         c. Their organization as a congregation will seek to be like
            that described in the New Testament


1. If we wish to identify "The Church Jesus Built" today...
   a. We cannot point to one group of churches and say "There is the 
      One True Church!"
   b  For the One True Church that Jesus built...
      1) Is a spiritual entity, a body made up of saved individuals
         throughout the world
      2) With no earthly headquarters nor earthly organization

2. But such individuals will join themselves together as local 
   a. Following the apostles' doctrine as revealed in the New Testament
   b. Imitating the pattern seen in the New Testament regarding the
      work, worship and organization of the local church
   -- And such churches can be so identified today!

A person's first concern should be to look to the Lord through His Word
to save him, thereby adding him to His church "universal".

Having done that, he should then examine the New Testament to learn
what to look for as one seeks to locate and be a part of one of His
"local" churches.

Our focus in this series will be on the latter as we consider the
"organization" of the church in our next lesson...
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