adapted from sermon preached by: Wendell Winkler, Bowling Green, Ky. Dec. 22, 1991
A. Our Lord’s church is under constant attack.
1. “The enemies of the cross” (Phil. 3:18) existed during the days of the apostles.
2. In the past 2000 years, the enemies of the cross have not changed their tactics.
a. Some destroy the church by killing the faithful, others just sap life from the church by criticizing the need for specifics in doctrine.
B. Jesus pleaded for unity (Jn. 17:20, 21).
1. Unity does not mean “Unitarian.”
C. From time to time we need to get focused on why we became members of the Lord’s church.
D. Today, I wish to present some ideals as to why I am a member of the church of Christ.
II. We need to recognize that the scriptures never identified the church of our Lord as a denomination.
A. Therefore to say that we belong to a denomination is anti-scriptural.
1. I do not know of a person who desires to be anti-scriptural, for then they would be anti-Christ as well.
III. Let us examine why one would want to be a member of the church of Christ.
A. I am a member of the church of Christ because of its unsurpassable greatness.
1. It is great because it was Calvary purchased (Acts 20:28).
a. Christ values that which is His. - Americans value the freedom they possess.
b. Americans shed their blood so their countrymen might remain free.
c. Christ shed his blood so we might become free from sin (Rom. 5:6-8).
d. For a man to scoff the church means he despises the blood which it purchased.
2. It is unsurpassably great because it is the very glory of God on earth.
a. God use to manifest (or show his presence) in the temple by means of the Shinika (Numb. 14:10).
b. Eph. 3:21 - When God assembles the great heavenly host to observe his glory, he does not point to the sun, moon, planets, stars or galaxies; he points down, way down to the church and says - THAT’S MY GLORY!
3. It is unsurpassably great because it is the very eternal purpose of God (Eph. 3:10, 11)
When this text is analyzed it will provide the following food for thought:
a. To the intent now - those present AD 60 - the Christian age.
b. Principalities & power - if we had time we could prove that this is speaking about the angelic host.
c. Thus far we can declare - he is making known to the angelic creation in that present dispensation - His manifold wisdom.
d. We see here God’s wisdom being modified or described by the adjective “manifold.”
1) The Greeks used this word “manifold” when they wanted to describe cloth in its brilliant design or a flower in its multiple hues.
2) Therefore, the word indicates that which is variegated or multicolored or many splendor.
d. Putting it all together this text says, “In the present dispensation, the wisdom of God that is many splendid, is being declared to the angelic creation BY OR THROUGH THE CHURCH and that it is according to the eternal purpose of God.”
e. Eternal - Let’s go on a time travel.
1) Some of us can recall 60 -70 years ago. - go back farther, all of us treasure the event of a crucified Savior 2000 years ago - go back farther, where God spoke out of chaos and created - lets go back even farther - to that endless fanthomless reality known as eternity and from that period we could point out that AT THAT TIME God intended to make the church a reality.
2) Friends and brethren, the Bible speaks of the eternal God (1 Tim. 1:17). Now watch that, what was the eternal purpose of God - to make the church a reality, that by such, through such and because of such he could make known his very splendid wisdom.
3) I would never sign a proposition for a debate which said, “Resolve that the church of our Lord came into existence on the day of Pentecost AD 33 - but rather in an established state.”
f. Now lets consider some biblical church history:
1) We shall examine a text which shows the church in a state of PERFECTION (Acts 2:47).
2) Now we will examine it in a state of PREPARATION (Lk. 16:16).
3) Then according to Daniel 2:44 and Matt. 16:18, 19) it existed in a state of PROPHECY.
4) Then according to Gen. 22:18, Gal. 3:16 the church existed in the days of Abraham and Isaac in a state of PROMISE.
5) Then according to the passage under consideration (Eph. 3:10, 11) we notice the church has ALWAYS existed in a state of PURPOSE.
g. When we take all this information under consideration you might as well talk about God having a beginning as to talk about the church of the Bible having a beginning.
h. Ladies and gentlemen the church of the Bible never had a beginning - that boggles the mind!
i. Now lets look at it in this reality, since the church of our Lord never had a beginning and now since it has come into its established state, there never ever will come a time in eternity in the which the church of our Lord will not exist in the glorified state.
j. When a man gets hold of that:
1) When he becomes a member of it he will thank God with a sincere heart as he never has before for the marvelous privilege of being part of that eternal institution which is so unsurpassably great.
2) And if a man is not a member of it he will never say the church of our Lord is not essential to my salvation.
a. Also when a non-member grasps hold of that, he will say such an institution as this demands my sincere and undivided attention.
3) And finally we will never more hear today “Christian” preachers, evangelist say, “What we need is more Christianity and less churchianity.” Brethren that doesn’t match the teaching of the Bible concerning this issue.
4. Yes, when I read about it being Calvary purchased, being the glory of God and the eternal purpose of God I can clearly understand why it is so unsurpassably great.
B. But secondly, I am a member of the church of Christ because you can read about it in the Bible.
1. Question - How can something be biblical and you cannot read about it in the Bible?
a. 1 Pet. 4:11
2. The church we are discussing is designated by these terms:
a. Eph. 1:22, 23 - the church; 1 Cor. 1:2 the church of God; Acts 20:28 (ASV) the church of the Lord; Rom. 16:16 the church of Christ.
b. Now you will never find anywhere in the Bible where the church was designated by any other term or named any other name which man has placed above its doors.
c. Restate the question above (1.) How can something be scriptural and it not be inspired?
C. Third, I am a member of the church of Christ because it is the ONLY one you can read about in the Bible.
1. Act. 17:11 One is given the perfect formula for spiritual success - an open Bible and an open mind.
2. In Matt. 16:18 Jesus promised to the apostles, “I will build my church.”
3. Now what did the text not say:
a. I will build “A” church.
b. I will build one of many churches.
c. I will build churches.
4. It simply says “I will build my church.” Now what does that mean? I believe it takes a lot of help not to understand that.
a. Permit me to offer this illustration: Upon this table I will lay my watch.
b. Wouldn’t it be foolish of me to say, “Bill come up here and take the watch of your choice.”
c. According to the latest data there are appx. 3000 different denominations espousing to be “the church, or a part of the church.”
5. Now lets look at the Book concerning the topic of one church.
a. Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18 and 1:21 - three times we are told that the church IS the body.
b. Rom. 12:4, 5; 1 Cor. 12:13, 20; Eph. 2:16; 4:4; Col. 3:15, 16 - Six times we are told there is one body.
c. Now since the Bible declares that the church is the body and six times we are told there is but one of them, could we not deduct that there is but ONE CHURCH? If not why not?
6. Now with this in mind Jn. 17 becomes more meaningful.
a. Lets take another time travel: Christ is in the garden lying prostrate on the ground praying so fervently for his disciples and you and me that they all be ONE.
b. Now lets return to the present day ____ and turn on the TV and see some man pray this prayer - “Father I thank thee for all the different churches today, so man can worship you in the church of their choice.”
c. May I kindly ask - To which do you subscribe.
1) You can’t subscribe to both because they are contradictory in nature, thought and intent.
d. You might say, you know preacher, this is right and it HAS disturbed me. But you know I have come to a conclusion that surly it must be that all the denominations make up that oneness in which our Lord prayed.
1) As much as you know I’d like to say such could be the case, it can never be so - Why? That one word ONE. As thou Father art in me. Can you see Jesus and his Father disagreeing about any one point concerning doctrine, activity, mission of the church which was in the eternal mind of the Father?
e. “That the world might believe”
1) A preacher once told about a meeting he was holding. During the day, he would invite people to come to the tent revival and then preach that night. One particular man came and attended five nights in a row. One night he did not show. Thinking the man might become ill, the preacher sought out the man. When he finally found him he asked why he missed attending. The man responded, “Preacher I came and heard your message about salvation. Yesterday, another preacher confronted me about Christ and told me a different message. Sir, I cannot read. So tell me preacher, who am I to believe?”
f. We must believe what Jesus said when he promised to build his church in the singular tense.
1) Let’s say one Sunday morning I stood before this great audience of exceptional intelligence and preached it was a terrible evil to baptize babies. The following Sunday, I preached all babies must be baptized. The next Sunday I preached we should baptize by sprinkling, the next I stood and said, baptism is by immersion only. Again the following Sunday I preached that one is damned to a devil’s hell if they are not baptized then that Sunday night I preached you don’t have to be baptized to enter heaven.
Friend, what would you think of me?
2) Friend, if I cannot preach six opposing doctrines under the roof of one building and be right, how is it that six different preachers can stand in six different buildings and they all be correct? - ITS THAT ELEMENTARY!
IV The scriptures reveal why this problem of many churches exist.
A. 2 Tim. 2:1-5
1. God’s preacher is under obligation to preach not only the life and hope of Jesus, but the specific teaching for holiness and order and acceptable worship.
2. This text informs the reader that many do not wish to come under authority of Jesus and his apostles concerning holiness, order or acceptable worship.
B. It is your challenge to prove your faith - 2 Tim. 2:15.
1. If you cannot prove what you believe by a thus says the Lord, you must take a stand one way or the other, deny truth, or gather yourself with people who will believe like you and fight against truth.
V. What a terrible situation man puts himself in because of arrogance.
A. Rev. 22:15 - all who practice a lie will suffer eternal separation from God.
B. You nor I wish to be in that class of people.
A. NEXT WEEK we will discuss that I am a member of the church of Christ because it is the one the apostles were members of and it is the one which has the right terms of entrance to get in it.
B. We have learned today that The church of Christ is unsurpassably great because:
1. It was Calvary purchased - think about that for a moment.
2. It is that institution which exposes the glory of God on earth today.
3. It is in the eternal mind of God at all times.
C. We also have noted, that, grammatically speaking:
1. The church of the Bible has always been described in the singular case.
2. Jesus prayed for all believers to maintain that unity until he returns.
3. That men who do not wish for biblical authority to reign in their life will change, alter or substitute truth so men might be made happy rather than right before God.
D. What you and I do with this lesson depends on what kind of heart we possess.
1. An open Bible and an open Mind is the perfect recipe for spiritual success.