Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 12, 1956
NUMBER 48, PAGE 6,10b

The Church — The Greatest Institution

Ernest A. Finley, Carlsbad, New Mexico

"Why do you suggest that the Lord's church is the greatest institution in the world?"

The church which we read about in the New Testament, spoken of by Paul as the church of the Lord, is the greatest institution in existence for several reasons. For one reason, it is a great institution because it was purchased by the blood of Christ. "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28.)

It is the greatest institution also because Christ is its head. "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Col. 1:18.)

The church of Christ is the greatest institution on earth because it is the only body with perfect and everlasting laws. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (Matt. 24:35.) James calls it the perfect law, "But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing." (James 1:25.) This is the law which was once for all delivered to the saints, closed with the warning that man should not add to the things written herein lest he bring the curses of God upon him. Even in the face of this warning, there are those today who assume to add to the things which are written, binding them upon men as though they were the will of God.

Further, it is the greatest institution because its members are honored by being granted the privilege of wearing the greatest name ever worn by men. Peter said, "For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer or as a meddler in other men's matters: but if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name." (1 Peter 4:15, 16.) When man is honored with the privilege of wearing the name of Christ, why should he wilfully choose to wear a name that was conceived by man?

The church of God, as it is also called in the scriptures, is the greatest institution because it is the only body in which salvation is promised to lost men. "For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace: and might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." (Eph. 2:14-16.) Paul says that Jew and Gentile alike are reconciled unto God "in one body." The word "in" shows where, that is location, the reconciliation is found. The cross is the instrumentality for the reconciliation. The body is the place of reconciliation. This body "in" which one finds reconciliation is unquestionably the Lord's church. Paul himself defines the body for us in this same epistle, "And he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Eph. 1:22,23.) Bearing in mind that Paul says that the body is the church, let us notice next his statement relative to the salvation of the body, "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the Saviour of the body." (Eph. 5:23.)

"The church doesn't save," says one. No, this I have not contended, but it should be evident that Christ saves the church. The church is composed of saved people, for we learn that the Lord adds people to his church as they are saved. Following the establishment of the church which is recorded in Acts 2, Luke tells us that "the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved (or were being saved)." (Acts 2:47.)

The church of Christ is the greatest institution in existence because it is the only church which was built by the Lord. Jesus said, "And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." (Matt. 16:18.) If you are not in the church which Jesus built, then you should endeavor to find that church and be added to it by the Lord through faith in him and obedience to his will.

"Am I correct, then, in thinking that you are opposed to Protestant denominationalism? What is your reason for opposing these churches?"

Denominationalism is also sometimes called "sectarianism." The word "sectarianism" within itself presents a reason why I am opposed to denominationalism. This word carries with it the idea of "divisions" and "parties." Most assuredly the scriptures condemn these evils. I am not opposed to the system of Christianity that was delivered by the Lord, but I am unalterably opposed to all perversions of that form of doctrine, such as we have in the world today.

The condition of denominationalism mocks the prayer that the Lord uttered shortly before he ascended back to the Father. In John 17:20,21, Jesus prayed that we might "all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me." When we are divided into warring factions, wearing different names, teaching different doctrines, and worshipping in different ways, you can be assured that the Lord's prayer is not being answered. But it is not God's fault that we are divided. Man is to blame for not accepting simply that which the Lord has revealed.

Jesus prayed that we might all be united "that the world may believe that thou didst send me." The Lord knew that religious factions and conflicting doctrines would breed skepticism. If the world were united under one leader, the Lord Jesus Christ, seeking a thus saith the Lord for all things they do and say, there would be more faith and fewer skeptics and infidels. When people say, "Oh, we are all serving the Lord, but just doing it in different ways. We all believe in Christ, but we don't see everything alike," they are simply not facing the issue. When all of us begin to truly serve the Lord, and not the doctrines of men, there will be no "different ways" for Jesus revealed only one way. We must all walk in that way to serve him.

Denominationalism, within itself, makes Jesus a contradictory Lord, for they suggest that the Lord called one man to deny that which he called another to affirm. What kind of God are we serving, that people think He endorses contradictory doctrines. Friends, there is a dire need for unity.

The suggestion that we cannot understand the Bible alike would make Christ an incompetent Lord, for it would say that Christ, who knows all things, deliberately gave us something that we cannot understand. But on the contrary, Christ tells us that we must "rightly divide" it and that if we "wrest" the scriptures, we do it to our own destruction. (2 Tim. 3:15; 2 Peter 3:16.) Christ has not demanded something of us that we cannot do.

Jesus is not the author of the confusion in the religious world today. May we plead with you to come back to God's book and read it with a view in mind of determining God's will. Let us cease looking at the Bible through the shaded glasses of sectarianism and human theory, and endeavor to discern God's will in all matters.