The situation in Christendom today is quite sad. Deadness, confusion, and division reign, while the Lord waits for some who would be for His interests on earth. While I would really like to discuss the problems of deadness and confusion, for now we need to continue our discussion of division.
To recap from my last post (see:One Church, One City (I)), the term “going to church” is an unbiblical term that completely misrepresents what a “church” is. The church has both a universal aspect as in Matthew 16:18 and a local aspect as in 18:17. The ground or parameters of the church, according to the Word of God, is that there is only one church in one city (Rev. 1:11; 1 Cor. 1:1; Acts 8:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; 1 Thes. 1:1; 2 Thes. 1:1).
The reasoning Christians have for dividing, consisting of numbers, doctrine, and preference, are not allowed according to the Word, and the so-called “churches” that everyone “goes to” are not churches, but are rather brick and mortar buildings where some believers go to hear a sermon, sing, etc. on improper ground, the ground of division.
The Church in Corinth
“Now I beseech you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be attuned in the same mind and in the same opinion. For it has been made clear to me concerning you, my brothers, by those of the household of Chloe, that there are strifes among you. Now I mean this, that each of you says, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul?” 1 Corinthians 1:10-13
It has been made clear to the world that there are strifes among christians today. Now I mean this, that each of you says, “I am of Calvin, and I of Wesley, and I of the Anabaptists, and I of Luther, and I of Pentecost, etc.” The fact of the matter is, today’s situation in Christendom is divisive and a shame. We associate ourselves with a particular teacher, doctrine, practice, etc. as if we are allowed to do so!
The Lord is speaking this same word to us today. Is Christ divided? This is a striking question. The Body of Christ is Christ Himself:
“For even as the body is one and has many members, yet all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12
For us to divide and meet on any other ground than that which the Lord has ordained, we are declaring that Christ is divided.
Does How We Meet Matter? Isn’t the Church Invisible?
“And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to hear the church also, let him be to you just like the Gentile and the tax collector.” Matthew 18:17
“That they all may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that You have sent me…I in them, and You in Me, that they may be perfected into one, that the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.” John 17:21,23
Where is “the church” here in Matthew 18:17?? That’s why how we meet matters. If there is no practical expression of “the church,” but only “a church,” then the majority of church governance and guidance for such is actually irrelevant in the Bible. We have no need to know how people should conduct themselves in “the church” if there is no definite church in each city. All we have today is a bunch of sects, divisions, and clans.
The second verse gives a loud “no” as an answer to the second question. This oneness that I am travailing to describe and convince you of is something that will be visible and moving to the world. Moving enough to cause these unbelievers to believe the Jesus was sent from the Father! This was the Lord’s final prayer to the Father. This is what the Lord desires most on the earth, and it is what He seeks in order that He may return! What a shame it would be if Christ came back and Satan had ground to accuse Him saying, “Where is Your church? You have no expression! No group of people meeting as one! You only have divisions and sects. My world does not see what you desired. You have failed.”
Isn’t the Church Just the Two or Three Gathered in My Name?
“But if he does not hear you, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church…” Matthew 18:16-17
“For this cause I left you in Crete, that you might set in order the things which I have begun that remain and appoint elders in every city, as I directed you” Titus 1:5
I included this section for my friends who have little care for the definition of a “church” and who have told me that it’s just wherever the two or three are gathered. Where two or three are gathered might be where some in the church are gathered, but it is not “a church” or “the church.” The two or three in Matthew 18:16 is different from the church in verse 17.
I added Titus 1:5 to further solidify this line of thought. This post should really be titled “One Church, One City, One Eldership!” Elders were appointed in each city, i.e. each church.
To Be Continued…
I have so much more to say. In my next and last post on the ground of the church being One Church, One City, I will be talking about why this really matters, why this system of meeting reveals the multifarious wisdom of God, and what we should do about it practically. May the Lord cause us all to be stirred up for His Church and what He desires on the earth!
Is it really “sad” where Christianity is today? Many Christians need somewhere to start…how would you approach that. Some Christians are not ready for what God’s purpose has for them and are comfortable where they are at…not making them less of a Christian …where does that leave them?
Thanks for the question Jason! Christianity is not suppose to conform to peoples’ needs. It is solely for God’s purpose, and the accomplishment of His heart’s desire. To those who “are not ready,” I would refer you to Luke 14:25-35 and 2 Timothy 1:9. We are suppose to count the cost of following Christ. It is hard! It actually will cost us our very life. But, we were saved according to God’s purpose and for God’s purpose (Rm. 8:28). We can’t be deceived to think that our Christian life is our own. We were bought with a price, and we are not our own (1 Cor. 6:19-20). If God’s Word says this is how we should meet, then we should say “Amen.”