Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

What Is The Church?

Because of the proliferation of denominations, there is much confusion regarding the nature of the church. Error serves to confuse, but truth enlightens. By turning to the word of God we are able to alleviate any misunderstandings about that blood bought institution (cf. Acts 20:28).

The Meaning of the Word “Church”

The word translated into our English as “church” is the Greek word “ekklesia.” The word was in regular use in New Testament times, and had reference to any assembly of people. The word is so used in scripture on a number of occasions, referring to a lawful assembly, and even to an unruly mob (cf. Acts 19:32). The literal meaning of the word is “the called out”, and when used by Christ and the New Testament writers referred to those “called out” of the world by the gospel of Christ.

The Context

It is always important to look to context when seeking to determine the meaning of the term in any particular verse. For example, in some verses the term “ekklesia” refers to the whole of God’s people. That is, all that have been called out of the world. An example of this is Colossians 1:18, where Paul affirms that Christ is the “head” of the church, “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” In this sense, anyone who has obeyed the gospel of Christ, in being saved, are “added” to the body of those called out, the church (cf. Acts 2:47).

On other occasions the New Testament writers refer to Christians in a particular location by using the term “ekklesia.” For example, in Acts 9:31, the historian records, “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.” Regarding such usage, Robertson L. Whiteside wrote, “…the essential idea is the same as when applied to the whole body — that is, it embraces the called out, the saved, in the territory mentioned.” (Sound Doctrine, Vol. 3, pg. 9).

Finally, the term is used to refer to individual congregations. It is in this context that the collective work of God’s people is accomplished. The clear idea in scripture is that God designed the local church, with its organization (elders and deacons, cf. Philippians 1:1), to proclaim the gospel, edify the saints, and engage in benevolent work. Identifying with such a group of Christians allows the faithful to fulfill their responsibility to God in this area, and serves to establish accountability one to another. Truly God’s way is the best way.

The Fallacy of Denominationalism

What is not found anywhere in scripture is the present day denominational model. The first “denomination” to come on the scene was the Catholic church. Digression and apostasy led to the establishment of a new, apostate religious body. Some put the date of 606 AD, the date that the bishop of Rome proclaimed himself Pope, as the beginning of the Catholic church. Regardless of the exact date, it is obvious to the most casual of Bible students that the Catholic church is not the church of the New Testament. The structure of the Catholic church, the worship of that organization, and the doctrines characteristic of it are different from those of the “ekklesia” of New Testament times.

Protestant denominations are even more modern in their genesis. For example, the beginning date of the Baptist church is 1607; the Presbyterian church 1557; and the Methodist church 1740. In conclusion we quote Robertson L. Whiteside again:

“These churches were organized by men, and are unknown to the New Testament. But one must be a member of the church of God to be saved. It is not a question of whether the church saves, for the church saves no one; but the church is the body of Christ, and he is the Savior of the body: “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is also the head of the church, being himself the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23). The Lord’s church is not a denomination — it includes all of God’s children.” (Sound Doctrine, Vol. 3, pg. 11)