In advertisements and by various broadcast methods we have heard people to be encouraged to “join the church of your choice”, much like “attend the church of your choice”.
For some, this may seem to be an over simplification of something much more serious. Some wrestle with the decision of “which church to join.” In times gone by, it was common to hear people, especially young people who were urging others to use the question, “what would Jesus do?” as a means of making hard decisions. It was so common that just the letters “WWJD” was recognized by most.
Maybe this would be a good way for people to go about deciding on a church. We are not talking about a particular or specific congregation, but of a religious body in general. Could we study the Bible and determine just what church Jesus would join? Let’s give it a little consideration and see what we might glean from the idea.
First, we might seek scriptures that would tell us of any Christian joining the church. My, my, after a diligent search, we find that there is not one single verse telling us anything about someone joining a church. The closest thing that can be found is when Paul arrived back in Jerusalem after having obeyed the gospel up in Damascus and thereby becoming a Christian himself, the scriptures say that, “he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him…” (Acts 9:26).
Of course that simply referred to his trying to join in with them in their efforts to worship and serve God, not join the church they were members of. Well, can we find anything in the New Testament about how one can become a member of any church? The answer is, yes we can!. The Lord’s church had her beginning on the first Pentecost following the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord. One can read about that beginning in the second chapter of the book of Acts.
The text tells us that “they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). The question arises, “how were they added?”, and the answer is found in the last verse of that same chapter. Luke records, “Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).
There we have it, we don’t join the church, the Lord adds us to the church when we become saved people. Another passage that may well provide further assurance of that which we have just revealed is found in I Corinthians, chapter twelve. But, prior to looking at the passage in mind, we must understand that the church can also be called “the body”. The apostle Paul stated, “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body…” (Eph. 1:22-23).
To the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body…” and, “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him” (I Cor. 1:13, 18). Thus, when one is baptized “into Christ” (Rom. 6:3) the Lord adds or sets that person in the body or church.
However, another little problem comes up at this point in our search concerning which church Jesus would join. The problem is that the word “which” indicates there is at least two. However, a search of the New Testament reveals only one church into which one can be added by the Lord. When Jesus promised to build the church, He stated, “…upon this rock I will build my church…” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus promised to build “His” church, not churches.
Again, recall that the church is also the body, Paul stated, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all…” (Eph. 4:4-6). To the Corinthians he had said that God “set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body?
But now are they many members, yet but one body” (I Cor. 12:18-20). Since Jesus is the head over the body, the church (Eph. 1:22-23), Jesus would not be joining, being added to or any other means of becoming a member of any church. The church is the body of Christ.
No, we can’t look in the New Testament, asking what church would Jesus join to find out what church we should join today. However, as you can see, when we look into the New Testament honestly seeking to find how people became members of a church in the first century, we learn that they had to hear God’s word and be obedient to it. At the point they are baptized into Christ for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38), they are both saved and added to the body of Christ or in other words, the church.
Not, to the church of their choice, for any church other than the Lord’s church is nothing more than a man-made institution having no authority by God to exist and having no salvation found in it. After obeying the gospel and being added to the church, one is raised from that watery grave to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4). He or she is a new creature in Christ Jesus (II Cor. 5:17).
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.