H. Osby Weaver
If we are to abide by the old adage, “Give the devil his dues,” then we should hang a blue ribbon on the Old Scratch for having been such an excellent salesman in duping the masses into believing that one church is as good as another. If we are wrong in ascribing this idea to the devil, we shall be most happy to learn of such and will welcome the opportunity to repudiate our own mistakes. However, our investigation of the word of God fails to reveal one single verse that even implies that such is true, on the contrary, we find ample evidence that leads us to brand such an idea as false.
If the Lord Jesus Christ built a church, it must be a better one than man can build, unless man is as proficient in such things as the Lord. But did the Lord build a church? In Matthew 16:18 after Peter had confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus said, “Upon this rock (the fact that he was the Son of the living God) I will build my church.” If the Lord never built his church, then he did not do what he promised that he would do. Did he break his promise? No, for in Acts 2:47 we find those being saved were added to the church. The saved could not be added to something that did not exist, hence the church was in existence at the time the things of Acts 2:47 took place. Some time between Matthew 16:18 when Jesus said, “I will build my church,” and Acts 2:47 the church of Christ was established and people were being added to it. Yes, Jesus kept his promise.
Acts 20:28 says the Lord “purchased the church with his own blood.” Would you say that the church which Christ built, which cost him his own blood, is no better than one built by man? To say that the church of Christ is no better than a man-made church is to reflect upon the intelligence of Christ and accuse God of trickery.
God sent His Son into the world to purchase man’s redemption. The church was in God’s divine arrangement for man’s salvation. According to God’s purpose, Christ died a cruel death on the cross, and purchased the church with his shed blood in order that man might be saved. And after all this had been done, he suddenly learned that God had deceived him, because his church was no better than a man-made church and his blood was shed for nothing, if indeed one church is as good as another. Believe it who can!
The only way one church could be as good as another is for Christ to have built all of them or none of them. If he built all of them, then of course one is as good as another. If he built none of them, then we would also concede that one is as good as another, since we have no reason to believe one, left to human wisdom, would do any better job in building a church than another. But we have already seen that Jesus did build at least one, so that eliminates the second alternative by which one church could be as good as another and leaves only the first.
Did he build them all? There are about hundreds of different churches, different religious bodies in America. Is Christ responsible for all of them? Did he build them all? Since we know that the Lord did some church building, if he did not build them all, how many did he build? Any attempt to answer these questions on the basis of opinion, or what we think, or what we believe about it, is as worthless as no answer at all. The only consideration of value is, “What does the Bible say?” Let us see.
Ephesians 4:4-6 says, “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.” You will note the oneness emphasized in this passage. How many Gods? Just one. Which Christ do you worship? There isn’t but one. How do you know? Well, how many does that mean? It means, just one! Could one Lord mean three or perhaps 300? Of course not! Get this: The same book, the same chapter, and the same verses that say there is one God and one Lord, also say there is one faith and one body. Not hundreds of faiths and bodies. Only one—just one. Now, this passage does not say what the body is, but it certainly tells s how many there are. There is one, just one. There are no more bodies than there are Gods. There are exactly as many bodies as there are Lords to serve. Since this passage does not tell us what the body is, we must learn that from some other passage or passages, but we do not have to learn how many from any other source.
What is the body? Ephesians 1:22-23 reads: “And hath put all things under his (Christ’s) feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” What is the body? It is the church. Listen again: “And he is the head of the body, the church…” (Col. 1:18.) The church is the body; the body is the church. How many bodies. Just one. How many churches? Just one. Since there is one body and the body is the church, the Lord does not have but one church. He never built but one. He never promised to build but one. He did not say, “Upon this rock I will build a church.” He did not say, “I will build my churches” or “one of my churches.” But he did say, “I will build my church”—singular. In Ephesians 5:23-25 the relationship between Christ and he church is likened to that of a husband and wife: “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.” How many wives is a husband supposed to have?” We are not asking how many some have, we are asking how many is he supposed to have? Well, that is how many churches the Lord has. He is no spiritual polygamist. Verse 25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” He did not give himself for them. He gave himself for it. Now, how many are “it”? Well, that is how many churches Christ gave himself for. We may never believe this, but we cannot keep from understanding it.
If there are 500 different churches in this country, and Christ built only one, then if any one of the 500 belong to Christ, 499 are not his and men are responsible for them. They are not as good as the Lord’s. Salvation is in Christ’s church. There is no salvation in man-made churches. They are not as good as the Lord’s church. He adds the saved to His church.
Since Christ has but one church, and there are about 500 others, how may we know which one is His? We are in sympathy with the honest inquirer and know he can find no help from denominational preachers. If he made the rounds, asking each preacher if the church of which he was a member was the Lord’s he possibly would receive all affirmative answers and would be no better off than when he began. The way to find out which is the Lord’s church is to take your Bible and get acquainted with the church of the New Testament. Learn about its builder, its name, its creed, what people did to become members of it, its worship, organization, and mission. Then find the one today exactly like it, and you will have located the Lord’s church. If, in your investigation, you find the church of which you are a member has in its worship things which the New Testament church did not have, wears a name unknown to the New Testament church, and offers salvation on terms which the New Testament did not offer, then you will know that you are not a member of the church of Christ.