Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 14, 1952
NUMBER 40, PAGE 2-3b

Identifying The New Testament Church

Jesse M. Kelley, Jacksboro, Texas

The distinguishing and identifying characteristics of the New Testament church are so vividly and prominently set forth in the New Testament that the honest seeker of truth is left without a doubt as to what the church of Christ is. Multitudes of people have taken the New Testament, and without the aid of a gospel preacher or any outside influence whatsoever have read themselves out of denominationalism and into the church for which Christ died, and purchased with his own blood. And why not? Is not the Gospel of Christ complete, thoroughly furnishing the man of God unto every good work? (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) Certainly it is not strange or unique for an honest seeker after truth to take the New Testament and in the quiet of his own parlor, learn that the denomination of which he is a member is not the true church of Christ. The Bible is designed not only to present truth, but to combat error; and when one takes this Book of books and begins to honestly seek after truth, his erroneous ideas will naturally be refuted. Too, the New Testament church in all its fullness and organizational simplicity, free from all ecclesiastical hierarchies and human traditions will come clearly into focus so that he will be led "by the Spirit" to become a "son of God." He will learn that the church of Christ is a spiritual institution that existed in the mind of God from time immemorial to its actual existence upon the earth; that in and through it the eternal purpose of God is made known and exemplified in that "all are one" within its borders.

What are the identifying characteristics that distinguish this institution from all others? This is an all-important question that should be paramount in the minds of all men. The way it is answered and practiced in the life of the individual will determine the destiny of the soul. We purpose to set forth what the New Testament says the characteristics of the church it upholds are. Please keep in mind that we are not necessarily speaking of that church around the corner or down the street that may be known as the "Church of Christ", but rather the one about which we read in the New Testament. The chances are that the one in your town designated by the above name can be identified by these characteristics, but if it cannot do not become alarmed, many have lost their right to scripturally wear that God-given name.

First, the New Testament church was built by Christ and belongs to him. After Peter, in answer to the Lord's question had said, "Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God," Jesus replied: "Upon this rock I will build my church." (Matt. 16:18) Jesus is the builder of that divine institution and by virtue of that fact he is its head "that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Col. 1:18) To say that Jesus built and sanctions the multiplicity of churches in the world today is either a plain perversion of scriptural teaching or an expressed ignorance of what the Bible teaches concerning the church. Religious history is replete with instances of the founding of religious bodies by uninspired men that were then and are now foreign to the teaching of divine inspiration and the characteristics of the New Testament. It is freely admitted by denominationalists that Wesley, Smyth, Calvin or some other man started the movement which resulted in the particular church of which they are members.

Religious history records these various movements and the dates which marked their beginning, setting their beginning seveal hundred years away from the actual beginning date of this divine institution. Then if the records of unbiased historians mark the church of which you are a member as being started several hundred years this side of the death of Christ, and as being inaugurated by some uninspired man and not Christ how can you conscientiously remain in it? Did Christ build the church of which you are a member, or did Wesley, Calvin or someone else?

We are aware of the fact that many are led to believe that the "rock" upon which Jesus promised to build his church was and is the apostle Peter. In other words Peter is the foundation of the church and not Christ, but true Bible teaching does not uphold such an idea. To the honest seeker after truth it is unnecessary to go to the original Greek text and ferret out the meaning of the words from which the terms "Rock" and "Peter" are translated. When Paul said, "Other foundations can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Christ," (1 Cor. 8:11) that will be sufficient for a man who is not blinded by prejudice.

But let us look at the statement of Christ as recorded in Matt 16:18. After Peter had made the statement that "Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God" Jesus said, "Upon this rock..." Upon what rock? The fact or truth that he is the "Son of the living God!" Had he not been the Son of God he would not have had the authority or power or the means wherewith to build his church. But this fact—his being the "Son of God" gave him the authority and power to do so. Therefore he said, "Upon this rock"—fact or truth—"I will build my church." Upon that truth the church stands or falls today. If Jesus was not "Christ the Son of God," the kingdom of God is not yet a reality and we are "without hope, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." (Eph. 2:12) But Jesus being "Christ the Son of God," the Christian's hope is sure and steadfast. "Having received a kingdom which cannot be moved" he can lay up his store of faithfulness and service in the kingdom of God upon the same foundation on which that church was built and is standing today, "Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God."

Not only is Christ the foundation of the New Testament church, but he is also its head and it is his body. Paul says that God "hath put all things in subjection under his feet and gave him (Christ) to be head over all things to the church which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." (Eph. 1:22, 23) Many have been led to believe that Peter was the head of the church from its inauguration till his death, and that the Popes are his successors in whom God has delighted the powers to legislate and bind upon the church those things which are foreign to New Testament Christianity. Such has led thousands to bow down before and pay homage to one who has set himself up as the "vicar of Christ and the head of the church on earth." It is blasphemy of the darkest hue! Christ said "all authority hath been given unto me in both heaven and earth." (Matt. 28:19) There is no record of where this or a part of this authority was ever delegated to anyone, Peter included. He retains that power or authority in both heaven and earth, and for one who is wholly ignorant of Christianity and scriptural teaching to permit himself to be styled "Lord God the Pope and vicar of Christ," and who "exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God," (2 Thess. 2:4) is blasphemy against God and a reflection on the intelligence of thinking man.

These are some of the things that distinguish the New Testament church from all other religious bodies. Others are forth coming.