In the Bible, there is a ground, parameter, and boundary for what makes a genuine church, namely the city. God does not recognize the denominations and divisions made by men. In a simple way, you can say that a church consists of all the believers in a particular city. For believers to meet on any other ground, be it a particular doctrine (such as predestination, the presbyter, etc.), practice (such as immersion baptism, tongue speaking, etc.), name (such as Lutheran, Calvinist, Wesleyan, etc.), constitutes a division and sect, not a church as defined by Scripture.
Now I hope to get into why this matter is so vital, how it has definite implications in regards to a believer’s spiritual growth, warfare against the enemy, and the accomplishment of God’s eternal purpose. I also will discuss what we can practically do about it in today’s situation.
No Back Door
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24
Among believers today, there is a tendency to “church-hop.” For those who don’t know, “church-hopping” refers to the practice of moving from “church” to “church” in an attempt to find a place that best fits a person’s preference. With the revelation of one church, one city, this option is no longer available, and that is for the best.
God has arranged the parameters of the church as such, so that now we are forced to actually practice Matthew 16:24. When you are “stuck” in a church, you are forced to deny yourself. This is where the real iron sharpens iron (Pv. 27:17). When we are around people whose beliefs, styles of worship, personalities, etc. differ from ours, we are brought to naught and God is able to transform us.
“Every kingdom divided against itself becomes desolate, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” Matt. 12:25
This is the principle that the Lord has revealed. If we, as the kingdom of God (Rm. 14:17; Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:9), are divided, we cannot stand against the enemy. The situation in Christendom today is a direct result of Satan’s operation. If God’s goal is to make us all one, then Satan’s must be to divide us.
“But avoid foolish questionings and genealogies and strifes and contentions about the law, for they are unprofitable and vain. A factious man, after a first and second admonition, refuse, knowing that such a one is perverted and is sinning, though he is condemned by his own self.” Titus 3:9-11
“That we may be no longer little children tossed by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching in the sleight of men, in craftiness with a view to a system of error” Ephesians 4:14
“As we overthrow reasonings and every high thing rising up against the knowledge of God, and taking captive every thought unto the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
This is the crux of the matter, Satan has introduced doctrines, teachings, and practices that have divided God’s children. We are foolish to think that the enemy is what we see on the outside of Torchy’s, a red devil sending ailments, deception, death and all other evils our way. No, the enemy is the subtle serpant who appears as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), who twists and misconstrues very true and biblical doctrines to deceive God’s children (see Matt. 4).
We must resist Satan and be one with each other in a practical, visible way that will shame the enemy. He is only crushed under the church’s feet (Rm. 16:20), not individual spiritualists.
“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.” John 17:21
“Until we all arrive at the oneness of the faith and of the full knowledge of the Son of God, at a full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” Ephesians 4:13
God is trying to build His Church. There is a stress among Christians of having a personal relationship with Christ. This is true to an extent, but God desires a corporate Man, a glorious Bride, a built up Body! This Body is God’s expression, the means by which God is glorified (Eph. 3:10, 21). As God’s expression, the primary characteristic of this built-up Church will be that it is one, even as God is one (Jn. 17:21). Because God is one, we must be one! Not in a superficial, pseudo-spiritual way, but in a practical manifestation that the world can see!
As denominated sects, nothing of God’s purpose is fulfilled. True, many may be saved in these places and there may even be some spiritual progress, but this is all man-centered. God has called us, not according to our need, but His purpose (2 Tim. 1:9; Rm. 8:28).
So What Do We Do?
“Be careful that you do not offer up your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which Jehovah will choose” Deuteronomy 12:13-14a
“Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him; and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and let him build the house of Jehovah the God of Israel” Ezra 1:3
God has chosen a place. He has established a ground. Ezra did not coordinate with Jeremiah in Egypt to make sure that everyone got back to Jerusalem at the same time in order to build the house. The call was for anyone whose spirit God had stirred up to go to Jerusalem (v. 5)! Only a remnant left, and we must be the same.
The fact is, there are probably already believers meeting like this in your city! If you don’t believe me, try typing in http://www.churchin_____.org, filling in the blank with your city. To say “the church in Dallas” is not to give it a name, but is rather a description: the Church, universally, that is in the city of Dallas, locally. This is how the early church used to meet, and it is how we should.
If there is no one meeting like this, then there is a need to start! If this is your case, reach out for more fellowship.
What if the Church in my City isn’t that Good?
“To the church of God which is in Corinth” 1 Corinthians 1:2a
Anyone familiar with the Corinthians knows that they were fleshy, immoral, immature, abusive believers that excessively exercised spiritual gifts and practiced much sin. What was Paul’s view of such a people? They are the church of God, which is in Corinth. A church is not according to spirituality, doctrine, condition, or practice. So long as they hold the common faith and are meeting on the proper ground, they are the church.
Obviously this is a very heavy topic. If you disagree with what I have said, I encourage you to look up the verses and to do some searching on your own. Regardless, if you have believed into the Lord Jesus, we are still brothers and sisters in the Lord. What I’ve written about is not the ground for fellowship among believers, but is only the ground of the church in a particular locality. If you have any questions or thoughts, please feel free to ask. And may we all have the same attitude as David:
“I shall not go into the tent of my house; I shall not go up onto the couch of my bed; I shall not give sleep to my eyes, slumber to my eyelids; until I find a place for Jehovah, a tabernacle for the Mighty One of Jacob…For Jehovah has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. This is My resting place forever; Here will I dwell, for I have desired it.” Psalm 132:3-14