One of the most profound statements in the Bible is Matthew 16:18. "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Not many things are as misunderstood as the church. The church in the Bible was never a physical building, nor was it a denomination. The church in the Bible was always people saved by the blood of Jesus.


     The church in the Bible is made up of saved people. The church is a spiritual body of Christ composed of those that have heard the gospel (Romans 10:9-10), believed in Jesus as the Christ (John 8:24), repented of all sins (Acts 17:30), confessed Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10), and been baptized for remission of sins (Acts 2:38). The church is Christ's spiritual body made up of baptized believers.


     Some question the importance and place of baptism. Read these Bible words and then decide on the necessity and purpose of baptism:


     "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen." (Matthew 28:19-20)


     "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:15-16)


     "Then Peter said to them, Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)


     "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized." (Acts 8:12)


     "Then Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him." (Acts 8:37-38)


     "And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days." (Acts 10:48.)


     "And he brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? So they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized." (Acts 16:30-33.)


     "Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized." (Acts 18:8)


     "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16.)


     "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Galatians 3:26-27)


     "There is also an antitype which now saves us -- baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 3:21)


     Those who gladly received the message of the crucified Lord were baptized. "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them." (Acts 2:41.) These saved ones were added to the church. "Praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:47)


     You never join the Lord's church. You can however, join churches established by men. You can never be saved outside the Lord's church. He adds the saved to the church. (Acts 2:47) You can, however, be saved outside of any and all denominations.


     The church in the Bible is referred to as “one body.” The church was located in different places but it was the same church. The Bible speaks of "the church of God at Corinth." "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." (1 Corinthians 1:2) It also speaks of the church in many other locations, for example Galatia. "And all the brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia." (Galatians 1:2)


     Jesus prayed for unity to exist among His followers. "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." (John 17:20-21) What are you doing to protect and promote that unity?


     God plan for unity involves "seven ones" which Christians must endeavor to keep. "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:1-6) Among these seven is "one body." We are not left to wonder what the "body" is for God identifies it as "the church." "And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (Ephesians 1:22-23)


     God's plan is simple -- all believers united in one spiritual body, the church. It is in the church that one finds salvation through the blood of Christ. "For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her." (Ephesians 5:23-25)


     The church in the Bible is neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish. Its members are not some "kind" of Christian. They are just Christians. "And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." (Acts 11:26)


     There is no privilege greater than that of be­ing a member of "the church of Christ." (Romans 16:16.) This is the body over which Christ rules as head. "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." (Colossians. 1:18)


     This is the body which worships in "Spirit and in Truth." "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:23-24.) New Testament wor­ship consists of prayers (Acts 2:42), giving (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), The Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:26-28), teaching (Acts 20:7) and singing (Ephesians 5:19). The only instrument used in the singing is the "Heart."


     The design of worship is to please God. Most want worship that pleases self. True Christians worship so as to please God.


     Churches of Christ today have as their goal the practice of New Testament Christianity. "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 4:11) It must be scriptural or churches of Christ refuse its practice. "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8-9) We invite you to join with us in the practice of first century Christianity in the twenty-first century.


By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, P.O. Box 551, Greenville, Alabama 36037 USA