E. R. Harper
In the discussion of denominationalism and its evils, I am discussing the question, “Is it possible for one to know for certain when he is in the church the Lord had in mind when He said in Matthew 16:18, ‘I will build my church’?” If I can find that church, and how to enter it, then I will have paved the way for the destruction of all denominations, for they will be of no more use in this world.
It is common to hear people say, “How can you know which one is the church the Lord built?” They say, “Since you cannot know which one He built, then we just get in a branch of the church.” The Lord said, “I will build my church.” He never said, “I will build branches of my church.” Now for one to know that the “branch” of which he is a member is a “branch” of the church the Lord built, he would have to find the church the Lord built. If he could not find the one the Lord built, how could he know that the thing he is in was a “branch” of it? Well, if he found the one the Lord built, then why not just come down out of the limb and get in that which the Lord said He built?
Now turn with me to Acts 2, and find out just how we become members of the church of the Lord. It is the day of Pentecost. The promise of the Lord to His disciples of the Spirit has been fulfilled (2:33). They are now speaking as moved by the Spirit (2:1-4), Who came to guide them into all truth (John 16:13). That truth is now being spoken. It is from heaven, and not from men.
On that day, Peter told them they had crucified the Lord of Glory, and that they did it by wicked hands. He brought the Old Testament prophets to witness that the things taking place there that day were the things spoken of by them, that Christ was raised in fulfillment of them, and that He was raised up to sit on the throne of their father, David. He declared that Christ was at that time exalted at the right hand of God, and commanded them to know assuredly that this same Jesus whom they had crucified was then made both Lord and Christ.
They were cut to their hearts by this message. Nothing but faith, or belief, in that message would have cut them to the heart and made them inquire, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Thus, faith comes before repentance, Baptist preachers notwithstanding. Then, guided by the Holy Spirit, Peter answered that question in these words: “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” (2:38). Not a denominational preacher that I know will give that answer and stay with it all the way through. Did you ever hear a Methodist, Baptist, or Presbyterian preacher give that answer? Why do they not give it? It is not the doctrine of denominationalism. The Lord is the author of Peter’s answer. Man has made an answer to fit his denomination. God did not build a denomination, branch, or limb of the church, and neither has He given the various doctrines that govern those limbs. He built the church and gave the terms of admission into it, and here those terms were given.
How do I know that to believe the Word of the Lord, repent of sins, and be baptized for the remission of sins are the conditions of membership in the church of the Lord? Hear the Book as it speaks in verse 41: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Verse 47: “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
Now we have a question or two to ask. The Lord said in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church.” In Acts 2:47 the record says “the Lord added to the church.” To which church did the Lord add them? He said He was going to build His church, and here we find Him adding to the church. To ask that question is to answer it. He added them to the church He built. What had they done? Those who believed what Peter preached were told to “Repent, and be baptized…for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). So they were not members of a church that will not preach that same thing. But those who did that back there were members of the church the Lord built, and it looks like all preachers could see this.
Did you know that the Lord did not take 500 of them and add them to the Baptist Church, then add 500 to the Methodist Church, 500 to the Nazarene Church, etc., until He got them all situated? There were no such denominations then. These denominations are the products of error taught in our land, and if all taught today just what Peter taught then, there would be no denominations, and we would all be one. Someone is teaching error, and that is the Church—or Churches—that deny what Peter preached as being necessary today. If you are in one that will not teach what he did, then you are in the wrong one. It could not even be a “branch” or “limb”—if there were such a thing—for you would have the branch trying to destroy the trunk!
What is the danger in being in that which the Lord did not build? In Matthew 15:13 Jesus said, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” Be it remembered, He never did say, “I will build branches of the church as warring denominations.” He said, “I will build my church,” and it was one body (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 2:16).
Now, since He never promised to build “branches” of the church—one teaching one thing and the other denying it—but since He promised, and built, His church, and has definitely said He will root up all He has not planted, do you not think you had best be thinking whether you are out on a limb that has no connection with the Lord’s building program, or whether you are in that which the Father sent His Son to build?
Friends, get out of denominations now and come to the sermon preached by Peter and obey it, and let the Lord add you to the church, as we of the church of the Lord beg you to do. We have done just what they did on Pentecost. Since God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11), He has added us to the church He built, just as He did those on the day of Pentecost, and will add you to that same church if you will obey Him.