|O. E. Shields||The Church of Christ (1945)|
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|VOL. XXXIX.||SEPTEMBER, 1945.||No. 9.|
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
By O. E. Shields
In these days of many denomination we have no means of finding the right church except by stopping our ears to men's claims and to their plausible argument, and turning back to the Bible to learn from God only.
"Upon this rock I will build my church." (Matt. 16:18.) Jesus said that, therefore the one true church is that which He established. It is also plain that at the time Jesus spoke, the church of Christ was not yet builded. Read through the rest of Matthew, and through Mark, Luke, and John, following the course of events to the death and resurrection of Christ, and even to his ascension. Have you found there the slightest intimation of the church as being in existence? Absolutely none. When then was it established? The following passage will help us to determine that point: "When he raised him from the dead, and made him to sit at his own right hand in the heavenly places. . . and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body." (Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:18.) The church is here called "the body." Over it Christ is head. This passage alone shows that the risen Christ was made the head of the body. Previous to Christ's resurrection the church could not have been in existence, for its most essential part was lacking. It would have been a body without a head. The church was completed by Christ's becoming its head, after his ascension and exaltation.
The church is also called "the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth," (1 Tim. 3:15), a spiritual house built up of living stones (1 Peter 2:5), a holy temple builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit. (Eph. 2:21; 1 Cor. 3:16.) But the Spirit was not given until Jesus was glorified (John 7:39). The Holy Spirit came down after Christ's ascension and exaltation, on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2.) Only after that day is the church of Christ mentioned as being actually in existence (Acts 2:47; 5:11), 50 days after the Passover Feast on which Christ was crucified.
HOW MANY CHURCHES ARE THERE?
The word "churches" in the New Testament, as used in Romans 16:16, is never used to mean various denominations, but congregations of the one true church which Christ established. (Gal. 1:22; 1 Thess. 2:14; Rev. 1:4.) These all being of "one faith, one hope, one baptism," constitute the one body. "There is one body." (Eph. 4:4.) So Christ predicted, "they shall be one fold, one shepherd." (John 10:16.)
The splitting up of the church into factions, parties, denominations, and the consequent use of names to distinguish these parties from one another, is severely condemned in the Bible, for it is flatly against Christ's will, and teaching of the word of God. Christ prayed over and over that his followers might be one, "that the world may believe that thou didst send me." (John 17.) And far from considering that to be an impossibility, the apostle solemnly enjoins it upon the factious brethren at Corinth.
"Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no  division among you, but that you be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been signified unto me . . . that there are contentions among you. . . that each one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized into the name of Paul?" (1 Cor. 1:10-13.)
In chapter three (verses 1-3) he shows them this denominationalism among them came of the carnal mind. Read in the Revised Version Galatians 5:19-21.
HOW CAN I FIND THE TRUE CHURCH?
First Called Christians at Antioch
One cannot find the true church by asking men--for each one will say, "My church is the one." Neither worry yourself with genealogies and church histories, creeds, claims of apostolic succession, etc. All these show only the folly and confusion of human wisdom. Go to God's word.
You will find in Acts 2, that on the day of Pentecost sinners in obedience to the gospel, repented and were baptized (Acts 2:38-42). These were afterwards known as members of the church--the one only true church, for there was no other. Take the same steps they took, in the same way, to-day and--has the gospel changed? (Gal. 1:8, 9), has Christ changed? will not the same teaching and obedience today cause you to be added to the same church of Christ? (Acts 2:47.)
Why let men impose on you with great claims in this thing? Why subscribe to creeds and doctrines which are "after the commandments and ordinances of men"? Deal directly with God through his word. Enter the church of Christ, as men did 1900 years ago; be nothing but a Christian, and "glorify God in this name."
["The Church of Christ." The Word and Work 39 (March 1945): 211-212.]
ABOUT THE ELECTRONIC EDITION
The electronic version of O. E. Shields's "The Church of Christ" has been produced from microfilm of The Word and Work for 1945.
Pagination in the electronic version has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. Inconsistencies in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and typography have been retained.
Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.
Created 8 February 2003.
Updated 22 June 2003.
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