Series: Fundamental Lessons on the Church. Lesson One,


By Bob W. Lovelace

            Being members of the church of Christ we desire to share with you some fundamentals concerning the church He promised to build (Matt. 16:18; Rom. 16:16). We make an earnest appeal for all to turn back to the New Testament, the Bible, for what they believe and practice. This is based upon the all-sufficiency of God's word (2 Peter 1:3; Jude 3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Rom. 1:16). Our plea is that all go back to the Bible and simply practice what was given through the inspired apostles and prophets of the first century. By doing such we are assured that we can be today what they were, simply Christians being members of the church or body of Christ (Matt. 16:18; Mark 16:15-16; Eph. 1:22-23). Luke who wrote the book of Acts tells us the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26).


            There are many within denominations that believe the “church” was somewhat of an afterthought. They refer to our time as the "church age," as they call it, believing that the church came into existence only because Jesus was rejected by His own, the Jews. For many the church, they think, is just a temporary thing since they have been taught that Christ will return here again to establish His kingdom. Thus they reason like this: 1. God sent His Son. 2. The Jews rejected Him. 3. The kingdom was "not" established because they rejected Him. But the truth goes like this: 1. God sent His Son. 2. The Jews, His own people, rejected Him. 3. The kingdom "was" established in spite of His rejection and the efforts of His enemies (Ps. 2; Matt. 16:18-19; 18:18; Mark 9:1; John 18:36; Col. 1:12-14 where Christians were "in" the kingdom). Moreover, as we will see, that very rejection was foretold in prophecy. What they fail to understand is the place of Christ's church in relation to His kingdom. Consider carefully the following points.

Jesus’ rejection was foretold in prophesy,

            Dear reader it is important that you understand why the rejection of Jesus as the Christ by His own, the Jews, was clearly set forth long before He came in the first century. ("Messiah is translated “Christ” in the New Testament, see John 1:41-42.) The apostle John tells that Jesus came to His own, and His own did not receive Him (John 1:11). What the apostle John stated as having already taken place (John is writing in the first century after Jesus’ ascension.), the prophet Isaiah foresaw many centuries before. Isaiah 53:2-5, 10 is one of many such prophecies of Jesus' rejection as the Messiah. Here are those exact verses, "For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. [3] He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.    [4] Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. [5] But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed…Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand."

In John’s Gospel, as elsewhere, Jesus is set forth as being God (John 1:1-14). And His words were the word of God (John 7:16; 14:24). Both Jesus' rejection and death were foreknown (foretold in prophesy) and planned in actuality according to God’s eternal plan. This plan was formed in eternity before the world began (Ephes. 1:4). Jesus' death for the sins of the world was planned in the sense Peter makes known in his sermon in Acts 2:23. He preached, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:” (Acts 2:23; cp. Acts 4:27-28). Although Jesus' own people the Jews did what they intended to do with Him, i.e. crucify Him, it was nevertheless God’s eternal plan that Jesus would suffer and die as a result of their rejection. And that plan goes back to eternity before the beginning of the world. Let’s read Jesus’ own statement in Luke 22:22, “And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!” Jesus is saying that Judas would betray Him, but he is stating "more" than that. Who determined His death? Peter to his Jewish brethren said, “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. [18] But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled” (Acts 3:17-18). Peter spoke the truth in saying God "has" fulfilled the very things foretold by the prophets concerning Jesus' rejection and death! 

            Jesus' resurrection was also foretold in prophecy (see Ps. 16:8-11; cp. Acts 2:23-36). Following His resurrection from the death He rebuked His disciples for being slow to comprehend it was God's plan for Him to die on the cross. He said to them, “... O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: [26] Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? [27] And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27). Luke tells us at this time He “... opened...their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, [46] And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: [47] And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. [48] And ye are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:45-48).

            Just as we have stated, the rejection (See Isa. 53:3-5), crucifixion with thieves (See Isa. 53:9, 5-12), resurrection (See Ps. 16:8-11; cp. Acts 2:23-32) and ascension (See Acts 2:30-35; cp. Ps. 110:1; Ps. 68:18) of Christ are all foretold in the Scriptures. And all these had taken place by the time recorded in Acts Chapter Two concerning the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. In addition to charging the Jews with having crucified the Christ or Messiah, Peter tells them that all of Israel is to know “... that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Those who then believed in Jesus as God's Son asked Peter what they should do to be saved (Acts 2:37). Why not just read now what transpired and notice the answer Peter gave? Luke records, "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? [38] Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:37-38).

            Peter's reply is what men are still to be told to do "today" to be saved. Dear reader the significance of Acts chapter two is that it is records the beginning of the church. The day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 is the day upon which the church was established. And the date of this recorded event is generally put at about 33 AD.


The Church’s establishment was planned in eternity as well as foretold in prophesy,

            The scriptures teach that the church has been purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28). During His ministry prior to His death Jesus said, “I will build My church...” The church was yet in the future when Jesus made this promise in Matt. 16:18. This statement (promise) of Jesus is itself a prophesy concerning the church. One might ask, "When was the church “first” planned by God?" The apostle Paul explained the church as part of God’s eternal plan when he said to christians, “...just as He choose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4). And again Paul says in Ephes. 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Moreover, Paul placed God’s plan for the church in the eternal purpose of God when he wrote, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, [11] According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:” (Ephes. 3:10-11). Dear reader if there ever was a plain Gospel truth it is this: The Church is the product of God’s planning and wisdom from eternity before the world began! Moreover, we learn that the church is tied with the eternal foreknowledge of God who planned Christ's rejection by His own, the Jews.

Both the kingdom and establishment of the church was foretold by Christ,

            We have already pointed out, briefly, that when Jesus promised to build His church the church was yet in the future. Matthew records this event during the ministry of Christ. He says, “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? [14] And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. [15] He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? [16] And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. [17] And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. [18] And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [19] And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-19).

God did not prolong the kingdom because the Jews rejected Jesus as the Christ. God foretold their rejection! Moreover, the building of Christ’s church and the giving of the keys of the kingdom to the apostles belong together. What Jesus said to Peter in Matt. 16:19 he said to all the apostles in Matt. 18:18, “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” This statement concerning the "keys of the kingdom" refers to how God’s word was given by the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, thus enabling them to bind that law upon mankind (John 16:13-15; Lk. 24:46-49; Acts 2:4-8). Having God's word delivered to them by the Holy Spirit they, the apostles, would preach the terms of entrance into the kingdom.

            The apostles received Christ’s word from the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). Jesus promised that He would send the Spirit to guide them into all truth. Jesus declared that the truth which was be revealed by the Holy Spirit was both His and the Father's (John 16:13-15). Thus, to reject the word of the apostles was to reject Christ. Jesus said to the apostles, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Luke 10:16). Moreover, Jesus made it plain that to reject the apostles and Himself was to reject the Father who sent Him (also Luke 10:16). The simple fact of the matter is no one has a relationship (fellowship with) with God while rejecting His Son, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, being the Son of God (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). Yet many today claim belief in and fellowship with God, while still denying the deity of Jesus as God's Son. One who denies the Son does not have fellowship with God the Father, Jesus said. Jesus said to Thomas, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).        

Going on now concerning His church Jesus' promise was “I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus' statement was, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The church was yet in the future when Jesus made this statement for Jesus had not yet died. He said “My” church. "My" is possessive indicating that the church belongs to Christ. Jesus is the Head of the church and the Savior of the body, which is the church (Eph. 5:23; 1:22-23). Paul said, "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body." (Ephes. 5:23) The word "church" in Matt. 16:18 is singular. There is but one church that Jesus is the head of (Eph. 4:4; 1:22-23). The book of Ephesians teaches the body is the church. Eph. 1:22-23 says, "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, [23] Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." The church is that which was purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28). The apostle Paul told the elders (overseers) in the church at Ephesus to "… to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:27).  The church is the purchased possession of Christ and Christians belong to Him (I Cor. 6:19-20). Thus Peter can say, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; [19] But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18-19). Concerning His blood Jesus said, "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). Thus remission of sins comes through the blood of Christ (Matt. 26:28). (In the lesson on "Membership" you can read and learn at what point one receives the remission of their sins through the cleansing power of  Jesus' blood.)

When Jesus made His statement in Matthew 16:18-19 the Kingdom had not yet come, for He was yet to give the apostles the keys to the kingdom. Both the building of the church and giving of the key of the kingdom to the apostles were yet in the future at the time recorded in Matthew chapter sixteen. In Mark 9:1 to a gathering of people Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.” Dear reader notice that the Kingdom had not yet come when Jesus promised some here that they would live to see it come with power. Either the Kingdom has come or there are some mighty old people living yet upon the earth! But it did come just as Jesus said that it would here. And when it came not long after His promise just as recorded on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, many Jews who had come to Jerusalem from all over the Roman Empire heard, believed and were baptized for the remission of their sins. Those who believed and were baptized were added to the apostles that day and constituted the church (Acts 2:41). From then on Luke records that “… the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).

            One gains more understanding about the keys of the kingdom and the word given to the apostles by studying Paul's statement in Col. 1:13.  Here we learn that one is translated out of the power of darkness and "into the Kingdom" upon their obedience to the Gospel. Hear Paul as he says, "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: [13] Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: [14] In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” (Col. 1:12-14). Moreover, this takes place when one is baptized for the remission of their sins. Those in the church at Colossae had been baptized for the remission of their sins just as those on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:41 where we read, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Paul spoke of their having been buried in baptism (Col. 2:12). Here is what Paul says, "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: [12] Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. [13] And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col. 2:11-13; cp. Rom. 6:1-7).

When one properly puts "together" the promise to both build the church and give the apostles the keys to kingdom, then they understand that "the church" signifies those who have been translated from "darkness" into the kingdom of Christ!   And what a kingdom it is! When there is a comparison such as this of "darkness with light" and "being in the kingdom," then the kingdom here on earth refers to the church. Read again now what Paul said to the church at Colossae. He said that God "hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:12). To the church at Ephesus Paul said, “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:” (Ephes. 5:8). Belonging to the church our “citizenship” is in heaven where Christ reigns over all things (Phil. 3:20; I Tim. 6:15-16, Eph. 1:20-21). As members of Christ's church we eagerly await for Him to return and take us to ever be with Him (Phil. 3:20; I Th. 4:15-18).

            At His trial Jesus told Pilate that He did not come to establish an earthly kingdom. Jesus said concerning His kingdom, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. [37] Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” ( John 18:36-37). Dear reader, the kindgom of Christ is a spiritual kingdom not an earthly one. There are no physical boundaries for Christ’s kingdom. There is no such thing as a “christian” nation. Throughout this world men can hear, believe and obey the Gospel of Christ and thus be translated from darkness into the light of the kingdom of Christ. And upon one's obedience through baptism they belong to Christ’s church!

The “time” of the kingdom and church is spoken of in prophesy in Daniel 2,

            Since we stated in this particular heading that the “church” was spoken of in prophesy it is befitting that we give a few passages where such is so. Remember that Jesus “foretold” that He would build His church thus His very words were prophesy concerning the establishment of the church. The “time” of the church is spoken of in prophesy in Daniel 2. Here Daniel a prophet of God interprets a dream that king Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of the Babylonian Empire has dreamed. The king has searched but has failed to find one among his wise men who has the ability to do what Daniel through God did.  King Nebuchadnezzar saw a great image. The image’s head that was of fine gold represented Nebuchadnezzar’s Kingdom, the Babylonian empire (Dn. 2:32 compared with 2:37-38). Its chest and arms of silver represent the next world kingdom, the Persian (Dn. 2:32 compared with 2:39). Next Daniel explains that its belly and thighs of brass represent the Grecian Kingdom (Dn. 2:32 compared with 2:39). And last the legs of iron with feet partly of iron and partly of clay represent the Roman Empire (Dn. 2:33 compared with 2:40-45).

            Daniel prophesied of the kingdom of Christ here and said it would be established during the days of the Roman kings (Dn. 2:44). In the Gospels it was because of the decree of Caesar Augustus that Joseph went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his bethrothed wife, who was with child (Luke 2:1-5). While there she brought forth her firstborn Son, Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God. His name would be called Immanuel which means “God with us.” His very name Jesus means "Savior" (Matt. 1:21). Before His birth the angel told Mary, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. [31] And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. [32] He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: [33] And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33)

            When Jesus began His ministry Mark tells us, “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, [15] And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). The words “at hand” mean that the Kingdom is near. Again in Mark 9:1 Jesus told certain people gathered to hear Him that there would be some who would not die until they saw the kingdom come with power. And in Matthew 16:16-19 just as we have studied, the church was yet in the future when he promised that He would give the keys of the kingdom to the apostles (Cp. Matt. 18:18). And so, according to God’s eternal plan the apostle Paul would later (It is not really that much later for Jesus began a ministry at about thirty years of age and it only lasted three or four years, Lk. 3:23.) say that Christians had been translated from the power of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s Son. Here is that important verse once again: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:” (Col. 1:13). Notice that by the time Paul wrote Colossians the Kingdom had come! The church had been established!

            Dear reader, from Acts chapter two onwards Christ’s church is always spoken of as being in existence. And there is a reason for the “time” being so exact as to the establishment of the church. Being christians we do not concern ourselves with the time that “any” denomination has started in history nor do we belong to a denomination. As members of the church we are not a part of the community churches which sprang from discontentment with denominational patterns. We delight in having confidence in knowing about the beginning of Christ’s church to which we belong.

The purpose of this brief study,

            The purpose of this brief study has been to acquaint you with the church Christ promised to build. The church of Christ was established in Jerusalem, on the day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts chapter two. To introduce the events of that day Luke records, "When the day of Pentecost was fully come…" (Acts 2:1). The date is generally stated as being about 33 AD. The apostle Paul says that christians “... are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;” (Ephes. 2:20). There is no other foundation upon which to build the church for Paul also says, “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. [11] For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:10-11). We hope that you will desire to study the next lesson, Lesson Two "The Head and Authority of the Church."  



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