Peter once referred to the writings of Paul this way, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand” (2 Pet. 3:16). Not that my opinion matters, but I know where Peter is coming from. I suspect you do, too. But just because there are some Biblical concepts that are hard to grasp, this does not mean that all of them are. As a matter of fact, some of the most important doctrines of the New Testament are just not that difficult to understand. One of those doctrines is the singularity of the church.
One of the characteristics of the religious climate of our day is the proliferation of different religions that fall under the broad heading of Christendom. It’s not difficult for most folks to find a church that fits their criteria of what a church should be. The widespread availability of churches to choose from is heralded as a wonderful blessing from God.
But is it? Did denominationalism originate with God? Did Jesus build, and therefore approve, all of the different “Christian” religions complete with their opposing doctrines and practices? No, he didn’t. Here is the simple truth:
- When Jesus was preparing his followers for what would happen after his death and resurrection, he promised, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). The word “church” is singular, not plural.
- “There is one body” (Eph. 4:4).
- Jesus is the “head over all things to the church, which is his body” (Eph. 1:22-23). Paul identifies the one body as the church.
- If there is only one body, and that body is the church, then there is only one church.
Simple, isn’t it? But that leads to the question: if there’s only one church in the New Testament, why do so many exist today? And why do they all claim allegiance to Jesus?
Perhaps this illustration will help. Suppose you gave an identical copy of the same blueprint to 10 different homebuilders with the instructions to build a home by following that blueprint. Further suppose that when the builders were finished, each home looked different from the others. What would you conclude? That at least 9 of the 10, and perhaps all 10, did not follow the blueprint. The only way to tell which builder built the right home would be to compare each home to the blueprint.
When different churches all claim to follow the New Testament, but they teach and practice things that are diametrically opposed to each other, there is only one conclusion: someone isn’t following the pattern.
The truth is simple: Jesus built one church.