The Distinctive Nature of the Lord’s Church
by Tom McLemore
Few, if any, outside the Lord’s church understand its distinctive nature. Sadly, an increasing number of members of the Lord’s church are unaware of the distinctive nature of it. Though they are members of the Lord’s church, their lack of understanding of the church’s distinctive nature allows them to be led to join denominations, to view involvement in the worship, corporate life, and work of the church as unimportant or nonessential, and to accept erroneous doctrines and practices that corrupt the Lord’s church. Consider with me some of the distinctive characteristics of the Lord’s church.
The Lord’s church is the only church of which one becomes a member in the process of being saved by Christ. “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’ So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls....And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:37, 38, 40, 47). The process of being saved does not make one a member of any other church. There is no denomination of which I am aware that considers one to have become a member of that denomination in the process of being saved. Every denomination of which I have knowledge will admit that they believe that one can have been saved and yet not be a member of that denomination.
The Lord’s church is the only church that the Lord is building and of whom the Lord is savior. The Lord is building his church by saving people, and everyone whom he has saved is in the Lord’s church. Jesus declared, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (Ephesians 5:23). “Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4, 5). All other churches are being built by human beings. They may claim to be a church that is being built by Christ, but that claim is false because the membership of their church is constituted on some other basis than the result of people having been saved by Christ.
The Lord’s church is the only fraternity of which God is Father and Christ is brother. One comes to be a member of the Lord’s church only by being born into it. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12, 13). “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26, 27). “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mark 3:35). Of no other church is one a member by this spiritual birth. One may be born anew and still not be considered by a denomination to be a member of that denomination. That shows that such denominations are no part of the family of which God is Father and Christ is brother.
The Lord’s church is the only church that is not the result of teaching that was developed by some human being, that is not the result of emphasizing a particular practice or characteristic of Christianity, and that is not the result of an interpretation of Scripture. Every denomination exists as the result of one or more of these things. In contrast, the Lord’s church is the result of hearing the gospel as presented in the New Testament, believing it, and obeying it. The Lord’s church emphasizes, and its members strive to practice, ALL things the Lord commanded his apostles. The Lord’s church EXHIBITS all of the characteristics of Christianity as revealed in the New Testament. Rather than teaching interpretations of Scripture, and drawing lines of fellowship on the basis of such interpretations, members of the Lord’s church teach, and draw lines of fellowship on the basis of, what the Scripture itself SAYS. The Lord’s church is the result of fulfilling 1 Peter 4:11. “Whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God....” The oracles of God are the Scriptures. The Lord’s church exists on the basis of what the Scripture SAYS without addition, subtraction, substitution, or interpretation. It is characterized by, and practices, what the Scripture SAYS without addition, subtraction, substitution, or interpretation. The Lord’s church in every respect is the result of the fulfillment of the Great Commission. “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’” (Matthew 28:18_20). The Lord’s church exists because people are baptized in the name of the Sacred Three, and the life of the Lord’s church is simply a putting into practice of all that Jesus commanded without addition, subtraction, substitution, or interpretation.
The Lord’s church is the only church that needs no name. While there are many descriptions of the Lord’s church in the New Testament, one will search in vain to find a name for the church. It is simply “the church” (Acts 8:3; 9:31; 20:28; 12:28; Ephesians 1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23, 25, 27, 29, 32; Philippians 3:6; Colossians 1:18, 24). The New Testament refers only to the Lord’s church, and there is not another church within its pages from which it must be distinguished. The essence of the term “denomination” is the practice of assuming a name for the purpose of distinguishing. Every denomination has a name and must have a name, because none of them is the church of the New Testament. They are distinct from the church of the New Testament, and they must distinguish themselves from the church in the New Testament by assuming a name. In contrast, the Lord’s church is the church of the New Testament distinct from all denominations, and therefore needs no denominational name.
The Lord’s church is the only church made up of people who had no choice to make with respect to the church of which they would be members. In contrast to the cry, “Be saved, and join the church of your choice,” those who have chosen to obey the gospel of Christ had no choice to make between churches. In the process of saving them through their obedience to the gospel, those who were being saved were being added by the Lord himself to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:41, 47). Distinct from the notion, “I want to be saved, but I am not interested in being a member of any church,” those who have chosen to obey the gospel had no choice to make. In the process of saving them through their obedience to the gospel, the Lord added them to his church. In the New Testament, there is no such thing as a saved person who was not a member of the Lord’s church. On the other hand, all denominations distinguish being saved from being members of their particular denomination. To them, one church is as good as another. Not so, to the Lord!
The Lord’s church is distinct in nature. It is unique. It is the only true church. It alone is exclusively divine in origin, existence, direction, and destiny. If you will obey the gospel, you will be added to it as the Lord saves you, and as a faithful member of it, you will be precisely where the Lord would have you to be for the rest of your life on earth!
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