When something exists for a long time, we start thinking that it’s always been that way, even when it hasn’t. And we just assume it’s right, even when it isn’t.
Look around at all the churches that exist today, all claiming allegiance to Jesus Christ. Now look at the church in the New Testament. There’s a vast difference.
The church of Christ described in the book of Acts and in the epistles—Romans through Revelation—was not denominationalized. It wasn’t cut up into different groups, wearing different names, teaching different things, and practicing different worship.
When Paul wrote to the church at Rome that “The churches of Christ salute you” (Rom. 16:16), he wasn’t talking about different “community” churches or denominations. He was talking about different congregations of the same church.
When John wrote the words of Christ in the book of Revelation, they were addressed to the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 1:4). Those were congregations of the same church.
Which church? The one Jesus built. The one He promised (Matt. 16:18), the one He bled for (Acts 20:28), the one that came into being the same time that the Good News of salvation—the Gospel—began to be proclaimed (Acts 2).
So why are things different today? Because men—not God—decided to change them.
Part of the confusion comes from misunderstanding of the role that Christ’s church plays in salvation. No, the church does not save. The church is the saved. In Acts 2, as people obeyed the Gospel, the Lord simultaneously added them to His church (Acts 2:37-47).
That’s why Paul says that the church is the body of Christ, and that Jesus is Savior of the body (Eph. 5:23). He saves the body, the church.
Christ has only one body, one church. The churches mentioned in the New Testament differ only in location. Sure, some were more faithful than others in keeping the Word of Christ, but they were all expected to follow the Word of Christ.
Today, churches may be as different from each other as night and day, yet claim to be part of the body of Christ. That is both illogical and unscriptural.
But does it matter? Answer this: Does it matter whether you’re a part of the church Jesus died for and which He saves, or part of a church established by some man?
Trifling with God’s plan of salvation is serious business. Jesus died to redeem those willing to submit to Him and become part of His body. Treating His church lightly is to treat His death lightly, because He bled and died to make salvation possible for that church.
Since the first century, men have left the Word of God and begun their own churches. Don’t settle for churches of men. Obey the Gospel, let Christ add you to His church, and be saved from your sins (Acts 2:37-47).