Where can we find the church that Jesus built?

Christendom is in confusion.

Those who claim to be Christians are divided into thousands of denominations with conflicting doctrines and practices. Faced with such confusion, how can we find the church that Jesus built?

Israel was told: “You will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).

Jesus promised: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).

God will help us find His church if we diligently search, and really want to do His will.

God told Israel, when they had gone astray:
“Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’”
(Jeremiah 6:16).

This explains the confusion in Christendom today! Many people insist on going their own way rather than walking in God’s way.

Jesus said false teachers would arise. “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many” (Matthew 24:11). “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).

Paul warned: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4).

Many false teachers misuse religion for dishonest gain. Already in the first century Paul wrote about “men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself” (1 Timothy 6:6).

We must base our search on the word of God.

To find the church that Jesus built, we must go back 2000 years to when Christ established the church. The teachings and practices of the original church are defined in the Scriptures. The New Testament tells us how the church ought to be. Using that pattern we can find the church that Jesus built!

Jesus built an everlasting church.

When Jesus promised to build His church, He said: “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

In Ephesians 3:20, 21 Paul says the church will praise God forever. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

This means that the church Jesus built, is praising God now, in our generation!

The church that Jesus built is visible.

Many years ago, when I spoke with a Protestant preacher in Kortrijk, he told me he was offended that we call our congregations churches of Christ. He said, “That name should be reserved for the invisible church that consists of Christians in all denominations.”

Some claim that the church of Christ is only an ideal that can never be accomplished in reality. They speak about an “invisible church” that supposedly consists of believers in all denominations, and about a “visible church” that, according to them, can never be more than a human, historical and cultural phenomenon, a denomination in other words.

The church Christ built was visible in New Testament times! Paul wrote letters to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1). He sent greetings from churches of Christ (Romans 16:16). Those churches were not invisible!

The false claim that it is not possible to be the church of Christ, is just an excuse for having denominations - based on human traditions and teachings - that are different from the New Testament church. Their names, worship activities, and types of leadership are not found in the Bible.

By definition, the church is precisely Christ’s visible presence on earth! Christians are living, active members of the body of Christ (Romans 12:4-6; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 3:30).

The church shares in the suffering of Christ. Paul persecuted the church (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13). Did he persecute an invisible church?

Paul told Timothy: “These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:14, 15).

The church was visible in New Testament times. And the church that Jesus built is visible in the world today.

“I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

This confession of faith is found in Matthew 16:13-19, where Jesus promised to build His church.
13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
14 [They said to Him], “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (verses 13-17).

God revealed to Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God! This is the confession of faith of New Testament churches.

Before the Ethiopian Eunuch was baptized, he confessed: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). Timothy confessed “the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12). Jesus Himself “witnessed the good confession before Pilate” (1 Timothy 6:13) when He told him, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world” (John 18:37).

Jesus said: “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). And Paul wrote: “With the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).

Before someone is baptized into the church that Jesus built, he must confess his faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus is the builder of His church.

In Matthew 16:18, 19 Jesus continues:
18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

The thousands of churches built by someone else through the centuries are not the church that Jesus built. We may eliminate all of them from our search.

Do not be a member of some church that is not in the Bible! The church that Jesus built, follows the New Testament pattern.

Jesus built His church on a rock.

Jesus gave Peter the keys of the kingdom. Peter used those keys to open the door to the kingdom of heaven when he preached the first gospel sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Three thousand were baptized. They became citizens of the kingdom of heaven, “For our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). They continued steadfastly “in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42).

The apostles and prophets in the New Testament are the foundation of the church Jesus built, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).

The teaching of Peter and the other apostles came from heaven by inspiration of the Holy Spirit! That is why Jesus said: “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).

The church that Jesus built is the church that “continues steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). That is the rock on which His church is built!

Jesus built one church.

He said, “I will build My church,” singular! He did not say He would build 45,000 denominations.

“There is one body” (Ephesians 4:4). “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

A Pentecostal preacher once told me he thought it was good that there were many different denominations, so people could pick out a church they liked. Do not look for a church you like. Look for the church that Jesus built!

Christ is the Head of His church.

The Father gave Christ “to be head over all things to the church, which is His body” (Ephesians 1:22, 23). Christ “is the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18).

Referring to His church, Jesus told the people of Israel: “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16).

Jesus informed the Jews that believing Gentiles would also be in His church and that He would be its only Head.

Our search can eliminate all groups that have some head other than Christ, or that have a central ecclesiastical organization. In the New Testament each congregation was directly under the headship of Christ being led by His word and the power of His Spirit.
23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed (Acts 14:23).

One distinguishing mark of the church Jesus built, is that congregations are led by elders who meet the scriptural qualifications, and who serve under Christ, who is the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4). They do not join any man-made ecclesiastical organization. Christ is their only Head. Their headquarters are in heaven!

The church Jesus built preaches the original gospel.

Even in the first century, some were preaching a perverted gospel. Paul warned the Galatian churches: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9). A church that preaches a message different from the original gospel, is not the church that Jesus built.

After He rose from the dead, Jesus told His followers to preach the gospel to everyone in the whole world.
14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. 15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:14-16).

His church preaches that same gospel in the whole world today.

The church that Jesus built believes what Jesus says about salvation.

It is not enough to believe in Jesus, we must believe Jesus. Many people who claim to be Christians do not believe Jesus when He says: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16).

False teachers who preach salvation by faith only are unbelievers. They do not believe Jesus. Nor do they believe James who wrote that one is not justified by faith only (James 2:24).

The church that Jesus built, believes Jesus when He says that faith and baptism are both required for salvation.

Before His ascension Jesus repeated this command.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19, 20).

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the apostles proclaimed the gospel “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Obeying Christ’s command in Mark 16:16, they preached that people must believe and be baptized to be saved.

The church that Jesus built preaches that same message today.

Baptism is for the forgiveness of sins.

In 1971 a group of people in Antwerp were searching for the church that Jesus built. Although they knew of no group that correctly followed the Scriptures, they were convinced that the Lord’s church existed somewhere because He promised that the gates of Hades would not prevail against it.

The first question Richard Amssoms Sr asked when I visited him was: “Do you baptize for the remission of sins?”

I opened my Bible and read Acts 2:38.
38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

I said, “Yes. We obey that verse and baptize for the remission of sins.” He replied, “Then, I want to be baptized.” He, his wife Gilda, his father Gust, and several others were baptized, and started worshiping and serving God as a church of Christ. From their Bible study they had learned that the Lord’s church baptizes for the remission of sins.

After being baptized, Richard said, “Now this doesn’t mean that I’m going to accept whatever you say! You must prove everything with the Bible!” I replied, “That is what we do!”

Sins are washed away at baptism.

Jesus appeared to Paul while he was on his way to persecute Christians at Damascus. When Paul asked: “What must I do?” Jesus told him to go to Damascus where he would be told what to do. Ananias, the preacher sent to him, told Paul: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

Even though Paul saw the Lord on the road to Damascus and believed, even though he had fasted for three days, his sins had not yet been washed away. That happens only when we are baptized into the death of Christ.

Paul explains this in Romans 6:3, 4.
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

The immersion of baptism depicts the burial and resurrection of Christ. We are baptized into His death. Then we rise to walk in newness of life, having been born again by the power of God’s Spirit.

Our sins are atoned by the blood of Christ (Romans 3:25). Baptism provides access to His blood. That is how our sins are washed away at baptism.

The church that Jesus built, preaches that same message today: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord!”

The church that Jesus built, worships according to the New Testament.

Worship is a conscious glorification of God flowing from an inner attitude of lowly submission to His authority and awe at His majesty.

Submission to God’s authority means that we worship Him the way He tells us to, not according to our own traditions and desires.

Our worship must be as commanded by God. In Mark 7:6-8, Jesus said to the superficially religious people of His time:
6 Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 7 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men.

This condemnation applies to millions today who worship with their mouths according to traditions and doctrines of men, while ignoring the word of God. Such self-willed worship is vain. God does not accept it.

Through the centuries, worldly rituals have been introduced to entertain people who do not have the spirit of Christ. Countless denominations have arisen in which worship is superficial and vain. Materialistic people are impressed by pomp and ceremony, by costly garments and images, by flickering candles and mechanical instruments of music. How foreign these things are to the spirit of Christ.

The worship prescribed in the New Testament is simple and spiritual. It includes preaching, the Lord’s supper each Lord’s day and prayers (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:20- 34), giving each Lord’s day as one has been prospered (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2), and singing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” without instrumental accompaniment (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19).

The church that Jesus built, worships God according to His word.

Leadership is provided by men in the church that Jesus built.

Jesus, the Head of the church, is a man. The twelve Apostles are men. Elders and deacons are men - since they must be “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2, 12).

Women have extremely important tasks in the church, but because God has appointed men as leaders, certain restrictions are placed on the activity of women: (1) women are to remain silent in the assembly, (2) they are not to teach men, and (3) they are not to exercise authority over men in the church.
34 Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church (1 Corinthians 14:34, 35).
11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression (1 Timothy 2:11-14). According to this passage, God’s appointment of men as leaders is based (1) on the order of creation and (2) on the Fall, not on temporary cultural circumstances as is sometimes claimed.

By appointment of God, men provide leadership in the church that Jesus built.

The church that Jesus built, preserves the original faith.

Jude wrote: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

The Christian faith was delivered once and for all in the first century. Any church with a set of beliefs different from the original faith, is not the church that Jesus built.

The true church follows the Scriptures. Paul emphasized this when he wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:13-17.
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The Lord’s church does not go “beyond what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6). “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9).

A church that does not follow the Scriptures, that goes beyond what is written, that does not abide in the doctrine of Christ, is not the church that Jesus built.

What are Biblical names for the church that Jesus built?

In the New Testament there is no one “official” name for the church. Since there is only one church in the New Testament, it is usually simply called “the church”.

A few of the New Testament designations for the church are “the church of God(Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 3:5, 15), “churches of God(1 Corinthians 11:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:4), “churches of Christ(Romans 16:16), “the body of Christ(1 Corinthians 10:16; 12:27; Ephesians 4:12) and “the household of God(Ephesians 2:19). All scriptural designations apply to the church that Jesus built.

Most denominations have names that are not found in the Bible, which clearly indicates that they are not the church that Jesus built.

Yet, just because a group wears some scriptural name, does not guarantee that it is the church that Jesus built. A congregation’s doctrine and practices must correspond to the New Testament pattern for it to be a church of Christ.

The church that Jesus built is known for its love.

The Lord’s church keeps itself in the love of God (Jude 21) by obeying His commandments (1 John 5:3). The true church abides in love (John 4:16), walks in love (Ephesians 5:2) and speaks the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). True Christians love one another. Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34, 35).

Churches of Christ throughout the world strive to be the church that Jesus built.

Some congregations do better than others, and we do not claim to be perfect. Yet, we believe that we have achieved this goal by having New Testament leadership and worship, and by faithfully preaching the same message of salvation that was preached by Christ and His apostles in New Testament times.

We welcome questions because we want to back what we do and teach with the Word of God.

Jesus died on the cross for your sins so you could be forgiven. He rose from the dead to lead the way to eternal life. We urge you to obey the gospel: to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, to repent of your sins, to confess your faith, and to be baptized into the death of Christ so you can rise to walk in newness of life, born again by the power of God’s Spirit, and then to worship and serve God in the church that Jesus built. Amen!
Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from The New King James Version. ©1979, 1980, 1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers, unless indicated otherwise.

Published in The Old Paths Archive