by Matt Slick
Different people in different religious groups who affirm the Bible, believe their particular church is "the true church" that was founded by Jesus and the apostles. They often identify their ecclesiastical organization as the only way the church can be understood to exist. Unfortunately, such groups such as Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, etc., fail to consider the biblical definition of church.
The word for church in the New Testament Greek is ἐκκλησία, ekklesia. It has at least five different meanings: 1) body of Christ, 2) gathering of people, 3) local churches, 4) people of God, and 5) ecclesiastical body. The focus of this article will deal with the church being the body of Christ, those who are regenerate.
The Church is not just an organization. It is the body of Christ
The Christian church is not just an earthly organization. The Christian church is comprised of those believers who are regenerate (John 1:12-13; 3:3-8; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 Peter 1:23; Titus 3:5) and justified by faith (Rom. 3:28; 4:5; 5:1; Gal. 2:16-21). They have trusted in Christ as their Savior.
The church is properly called the body of Christ. That metaphor is used to signify us being in Christ and all having different purposes, different functions within that body. Since Christ is everywhere, the members of his body can be everywhere as well.
- 1 Cor. 6:15, "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!"
- 1 Cor. 12:12, "For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ."
- 1 Cor. 12:27, "Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it."
- Eph. 1:22-23, "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."
- Eph. 4:11–12, "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ."
- Eph. 5:29–30, "for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body."
Unfortunately, within groups like Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, the members of the body of Christ must also be members of their particular church organization. They conflate the biblical concept of the body of Christ being the regenerate with their ecclesiastical church and then they elevate their own church's authority. They claim they have apostolic succession and the right to interpret Scripture, administer sacraments, forgive sins, etc. Then, in light of their narrow understanding of what the church is, they often ask, "Who founded your church?" as though theirs was founded by Christ and ours cannot be because we are not associated with their particular group.
Jesus founded my church
Jesus founded my church 2000 years ago and his church is comprised of the regenerate, the saved and they are in multiple denominations. You see, the church is not just an earthly organization. It is the members of the body of Christ and those members are everywhere, all over the world (1 Cor. 12:12, 27; Eph. 1:22-23). Different denominations may disagree on nonessentials (charismatic gifts or not, pre-trib rapture or not, etc.) and that is okay because Scripture says we can have disagreements on debatable issues (Rom. 14:1-12). But, those different denominations agree on the essentials of the Christian faith: the deity of Christ (Exodus 3:14-15; John 8:24; 58; Col. 2:9); salvation by grace (Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 5:4; Rom. 3:20), his physical resurrection (1 Cor. 15:14, 17; John 2:19-21); the gospel (Gal. 1:8-9; 1 Cor. 15:1-4); monotheism (Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8); the Trinity (Matt. 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 13:14 ); the virgin birth (Matt. 1:23-25). It is the essentials that unify us in the faith we have in Christ.
There are people who are so thoroughly entrenched in their denominational loyalty, that they often interpret Scripture in light of their earthly church organization. They then require those outside of their particular church to justify their church's existence by asking who founded "their church." But, when they do this, they fail to understand that the church is not merely an ecclesiastical organization. The church is the members of the body of Christ who are across denominations, nations, continents and time: 1 Cor. 12:12, 27; Eph. 1:22-23; 5:29-30. They are those who are justified by faith in Christ (Rom. 3:28; 4:5; Gal. 2:16-21), and therefore earthly church membership is not a requirement for their salvation or necessary for their relationship to Christ. Furthermore, it is Jesus who founded the Christian church 2000 years ago and that church, which is his body, is comprised of those who are saved, not merely those who belong to an earthly organization.