The New Testament Church

(BASED UPON A SERMON BY NB HARDEMAN)

 

Introduction¾ Matthew 16:13-20

 

 What could be more worthwhile for this period of assembly, than to spend time studying about church we read of in New Testament. The very fact that we read about it in the Bible makes it worthy of our time and consideration..

 

With all kinds of different religious organizations in the world,  one has to but choose the church of his personal choice. Isn't it refreshing to know that we can turn to the Bible, God's Holy Word and Will for us, and read of the beginning of the New Testament Church.  We turn to Acts chapter 2 ¾ we begin reading in verse 1 and as we conclude the chapter, we read in verse 47¾

"Praising God and having favor with all the people, and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."

 

 In an age when many  have   forgotten   the   simplicity   and beauty of Christianity, there is a great need of having our minds refreshed by viewing it untarnished and uncorrupted by departures that have crept in through the centuries .

 

In making our observations concerning the New Testament church,  let it be observed first that it was built by Jesus Christ the Son of God. No mere man had the honor of being its founders. Not John the Baptist, nor any man but Christ. In verse 18 of our text Christ said¾ "I will build my church."

 

 As great as Peter, Paul, James, John the apostle and John the Baptist were, they did not build the New Testament church.  There have been great religious leaders in modern times, who have been instrumental in beginning new churches¾  none of these started the New Testament church, for it was begun before their times.  Thus those churches bearing their names and creeds, are not the church we read of in the New Testament. Christ was its founder,  in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after His resurrection. AD 33.

 

 When the Lord said¾  "upon this rock I will build my church" What did he mean? Reading the whole passage as we have, it is not difficult to see.  Peter had just confessed  Him as the Son of the Living God.   And "upon this rock" this great truth that He was the Christ, he intended to build His church.

 

He was not ready for that truth to be preached just yet, as is evidenced in verse 20¾ for He charged the disciples "that they should tell no man that he was the Christ."  this was not done until he was risen from the dead, according to Matt.17:9 and after the  disciples should be clothed with power from on High, the Holy Spirit.  Luke 24:46-49  Acts 1:6-8

 

But on the Pentecost after His resurrection for the first time this truth , the great rock upon which the church was to be built, was preached. Peter filled with the Holy Spirit, began his argument concerning Christ in Acts 2:14 concluding in verse 36 where we read¾ "Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ."

 We are not surprised to find that this was the day the church started. It could not have begun prior to this occasion, for the very truth upon which it was to be built could not have been preached earlier than this time.

 

It is to be regretted that a great number of sincere people have been led to believe that it was founded upon a man named Simon Peter, This of course comes from a misunderstanding of our text. petrov" and petra two Greek words meaning stone or rock.

Still others have been led to believe that any church founded by anyone, at any date, and upon any creed is ok as long as we are sincere in what we believe. The church of the New Testament was not built by man, through teachings of man, but by Christ, upon this foundation of truth, and continues to thrive today, only through the preaching of truth.

The truth is the only thing that can save the world from wreck and ruin.  Christ Himself said  John 8:31-36  [ Please read]

"and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

 

At this point I would like to mention 4 things about the NT. Church  of which we all agree. 1st- It was the true church.

 

Surely no one will deny this. Peter and Paul, James and John all were members of the right church. They rejoiced in knowing that they had membership in an institution which had come from God and existed with His blessings resting upon it.

 

2nd- The New Testament church was one. Christ did not promise to build the great system of religions and varying churches among us today.  He declared that he would build but one. The church is declared to be the body of Christ. and we read in  Eph 4:4-6

 

4There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

 

3rd-  the saved were all added to the one body. Acts 2:47. The  church had been bought with a price, a dear price too, "with the precious blood as of a lamb, without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ."    1 Peter 1:18.

 

In Eph. 5:23  we read:

"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, and He is the Savior of the body.

 

A Fourth observation relative to the church worthy of sincere consideration: Is that Christ never intended for anyone else to start another church, to compete for the souls of men with His own.  His church was to be good enough for all people until the end of time.  Daniel speaking to old Nebuchadnezzar concerning this great church, said "It shall be an everlasting kingdom".   And from the prophet Isaiah   Isaiah 2:2

 

2And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

 

In  Summary¾  we all agree that the New Testament church was THE RIGHT CHURCH,  that IT WAS ONE CHURCH, that  ALL THE SAVED WERE ADDED  or put into that one body, and that THE LORD NEVER INTENDED THAT ANOTHER SHOULD BEGIN.

 

This being true there is only one thing for us to do, we should be anxious to learn all we can about the New Testament church, not another,  Our heart's desire should be to learn every characteristic every truth of that Heaven born organization,  know how men became members and see if we are truly members of the Lord's church.

 

 We now turn our attention to some of the characteristics of that church.

 

For some of us, this is a review of what we already have been taught and know, for others, we hope you will take note and think on these things. I pose the question ¾What were members of the New Testament church called?

 

It is interesting that after the church began on Pentecost day, members were called "BELIEVERS" Acts 5:14  "DISCIPLES"  Acts 9:1   "BRETHREN"  Acts 6:3   and "SAINTS"   Acts 9:13.   But none of these names was new. As soon as the Gentiles had come into the church, we find God fulfilling His promise and in Acts 11:26 we read.

              26And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch

 

The occasion of this name was in fulfillment to a promise of Jehovah made thru the prophet Isaiah. 

2And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. Isaiah 62:2

 

 At last a new name was given, never before had the followers of Christ been called "Christians"  it was new, But many years later Peter admonished these same disciples¾

15But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. 16Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. 1 Peter 4:16

 

They were just Christians, not some particular kind of Christian, just Christian.

 

The next question is,  what was its guide in all matters religious?   It took the word of God as its guide.  Paul said to Timothy that the Scriptures were sufficient for every need.

     2 Tim 3:16-17

6All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.  No  wonder Peter could   admonish          1 Peter 4:11

        11If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;

 

Thus, to no creeds, confessions of faith, or manuals written by men did the church submit.  It was governed by the Word of God alone.    Note what the church was called in those days of inspiration.

 

Remembering the words of our text, Jesus said "I will build my church."   Paul described the church as "the church of God Acts 20:28, (Lord)  1 Cor. 1:1-2  and  "the churches of Christ".  Romans 16:16.   It had no denominational name. It was the church of Christ, the church belonging to Him who died for it and reigns as its only head.

 

I call your attention now to the prominence it gave to the 1st day of the week.   Every Bible student knows, Pentecost the day of the church's origin, came on the 1st day of the week.  This was very appropriate, for the Lord had been raised from the dead on the 1st day of the week. Mark 16:6.   Thus the Holy Spirit  directed them to meet regularly on this day, as is seen in 1 Cor. 16:1-2

1Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

 

 We read further in Acts 20:7

7And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread    It was on the 1st day as we've just noticed, and called by the Holy Spirit through the apostle John as "the Lord's day" from the Greek   ejn th'/ kuriakh'/ hJmevra/  or belonging to the Lord. Rev. 1:10

 

Some things  particularly about the beauty and simplicity of its worship should be observed. - We noted a moment ago from Acts 20:7 that the Lord's Supper was observed. The example of the church breaking bread on the first day of the week is what we would have found in all the churches in the first century.   Concerning this meeting, the writer of the book of Acts says

7And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight .      Acts 20:7

 

 The Lord’s Supper and the Lord’s Day were joined together. When the first day came, the disciples gathered around the table of the Lord, in loving remembrance of Him. What God has therefore joined, let not man put asunder.

 

Also, when they worshipped it is quite clear that the only kind of music made by the church was vocal.  To the Ephesians Paul wrote¾ Eph 5:19-20

       9Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

 

Several centuries passed before instruments were used in Christian worship, and of course has no authorization in the word of God.

 

In their worship the finance for carrying on God’s work was raised.  This I might add, in quite a different way from how so many do it today.   2Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him,   

1 Cor 16:2     High pressure methods and novel schemes were unused. Men were not coerced or taxed. Bingo games and selling cookies or anything else was not used to finance the Lord’s work.

7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver    2 Cor. 9:7

 

A brief look at the organization of the early church reveals ¾

Christ was and is the head of the church. The scriptures say in Col. 1:18

18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

Nothing is said in the Bible about His having some man to be His vicar or second on earth.

 

 In every local congregation there was a plurality of elders. Acts 14:23 states¾

23And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, 

 

The terms elders, bishops, and overseers are used interchangeably in the New Testament as seen in Acts 20:17-28 and Titus 1:5;7.  - There was never one bishop or elder over a church or a number of churches, but always several bishops or elders over each church. These men were to acts as shepherds over their congregation, watchers in behalf of our souls. 

Heb 13:17

 

The early church also had evangelists or preachers, They were not called Pastors, for that is the word used of Elders. Paul urged Timothy to ¾

2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.   2 Tim 4:2,

And deacons  ¾ 1 Tim 3 gives their qualifications.

 

How did one receive the benefits of the blood of Christ and membership into the church of the Lord?

 

  Acts chapter on the day the church began¾ men were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins Acts 2:38   these same were added to the church by the Lord Acts 2:47.

 

Is it not reasonable to conclude that if men render obedience to the gospel as in the 1st century, God will forgive their sins and add them to the church?   The Bible is the seed of the kingdom (Luke 8:11) and when obeyed will yield only a New Testament Christian.

 

It is our plea for men to return to the Bible and the Church of the 1st Century.   one is a member of some church unknown to the Bible, would it not be wise to become a member of that church of which the Bible speaks. you may do so now, why not render obedience to the gospel of Christ, and be simply a New Testament Christian. Are you ready to do that now?  Please Read Acts chapter 8:26-39.

 

contact:: Ron Cope minister

email:  RonCope@chestnutmtchurchofchrist.com

phone:  (678)617-9658