The Church-The Fellowship of True Christian Believers
The church of God is not a man-made institution, but is of the Lord. Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). Jesus knew that the church was essential to God's great plan, and declared it would endure for time and eternity. The church is the spiritual home for believers while they are here on earth; heaven is the home of the saved throughout eternity.
What is the Church?
The term "church of God" refers to a visible group of people which can be located and observed, as in Acts 13:1, Romans 16:5, and Ephesians 1:1. This body is defined in the Scriptures as "the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). In the church, the doctrines and ordinances of the Word of God are taught and practiced. The kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are identical to the kingdom of Christ (Luke 17:20-21). This kingdom consists of all souls throughout the world who are the children of God, who truly have Christ as their King, even though some of them are not members of the visible church. Jesus referred to these children of God in John 10:16, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."
How Can I Recognize the Church of God?
The church of God can be recognized because she believes, teaches, and practices the Word of God. The church does not add or subtract from Biblical teachings, but holds to them even in the face of opposition, ridicule, or death (John 14:15). The foundation of the church is Jesus Christ. The saving gospel is her most important message. The new birth is required to become a member of the church. Water baptism is the door into the church. This baptism symbolizes the covenant made by members with God and the church (Matthew 16:16-19). The presence of the Holy Spirit is revealed within the church. The unity of the Holy Spirit is proven by a kindred spirit and a mutual love for one another. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). This love and humility will instil a desire in the observer to be united with the children of God. The church teaches against worldly pleasures, fashion, lust, and the pursuit of power, fame, and riches. Strife, force, and war have no place in the church of God. Ministers are chosen by the leading of the Holy Spirit from among the brethren. These ministers teach and proclaim the will of God. The church of God teaches that marriage between a man and woman is honorable and must be a life-long commitment. It is against the will of God for a believer to marry an unbeliever. Those seeking marriage recognize the importance of God's leading in their lives and the necessity of purity in their conduct.
Since the time of Christ, there have always been a people who have embraced Jesus' doctrine of living in peace and loving their enemies. These people, known by different names at different times, believed and taught that the kingdom of God is a peaceable kingdom which does not allow the use of force or violence by its citizens.
Why Do I Need the Church?
Every Christian needs spiritual food and spiritual fellowship in order to grow. He welcomes the reminders, warnings, and the encouragement of other mature believers. Jesus instructed God's children to watch over each other and to be their brother's keeper. There is safety in the company of fellow believers. Jesus wanted His children to live in unity for the same reason that a shepherd wants his flock to be close together. The writer of the book of Hebrews instructed the believers not to forsake assembling themselves together (Hebrews 10:25). This brotherly concern for one another, as taught in the New Testament, can only be carried out within a body of born-again believers. Keeping the doctrines and ordinances of baptism, holy matrimony, Holy Communion, and church discipline requires a visible, united body. Christ built the church to meet the needs of the believers and to portray God's plan to the lost world. This church is endowed with spiritual gifts to edify the believers and to bring the gospel to the world. In times of trouble, the church is a friend indeed, as Peter discovered. While Peter was in prison, the church prayed without ceasing in his behalf, and the Lord delivered him (Acts 12:4-14). When going through the valley of the shadow of death, or in other times of sorrow, it is comforting to know that God's people are caring and praying.
How Can I Become a Member of God's Church?
Those who repent of their sins and are born again shall be baptized (Acts 2:38). To repent means to find remorse for one's sins and to forsake them. Upon these conditions, God grants forgiveness and the Holy Spirit is received. This gives one a new life in Christ Jesus. If you serve the Lord by faith and are willing to believe and obey all of the doctrines and teachings of His church, then the conditions for church membership are met.
The Blessings of the Church
Believers find unity, warmth, and fellowship in the church. There is love and concern for one another, and a burden for the unsaved. The pastor and the members join in a common effort to keep sin out of their hearts, homes, and congregation. Parents love their children and teach them to be obedient and respectful. In the church, both young and old receive courage and inspiration for daily Christian living. Bible principles are taught which nurture lasting marriages and produce solid homes. Moral purity and peaceful consciences in the membership creates an atmosphere of trust and confidence. True contentment overcomes the temptation to pursue selfish pleasures, fame, riches, or power.
Where Can the Church of Christ Be Found?
Jesus will dwell in the hearts of humble, obedient believers (John 14:23). This group of Christians is identified by their adherence to all of the doctrines of the Bible and by the witness of the Holy Spirit. A seeker should carefully and prayerfully read the outline described in the New Testament and join the church that abides by Scriptural teachings and is under the anointing power of the Holy Spirit. "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are 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 4:4-6).