Whose Church Is It Anyway?

by Tom Wacaster

It has been a few years since I passed that little church building, but the sign certainly caught my attention. It read: “Evangelical Spirit Filled Orthodox Catholic Church of St. Thomas the Apostle.” It was likely a spin off from the Catholic Church that had been influenced by the charismatic movement of the 60’s and early 70’s.  Eleven words without a single reference to God or Christ.   One can only wonder what they believed, and since my schedule would not allow it I did not take the time to inquire. Were I a “non-Christian,” I might read the title on that church sign and wonder, “Whose church is it, anyway?”

While that particular title may be a little out of the norm, so far as the number of words used to identify the “church” that meets in that place, there are many “names” and “designations” being used to “denominate” the large number of small, independent, and novel churches cropping up all across our land.  We now have the “Cowboy Church,” the “Community GLBT Church” (in case you did not get the GLBT, it stands for “Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender”), and the “Liberated Theological Free Thinkers” church (which by the way, is an amalgamation of atheists who have banned together to form a church for non-believers...really!). I have seen the “Harvest Church,” the “Palm Tree Church,” the “Fruit of the Spirit Church,” the “Little Country Church,” and the “Holy Spirit Filled Church” (all here in east Texas). In the past twenty years or so there has been a virtual explosion of independent churches cropping up and with them an attempt to come up with a unique name for a banner of identification. The most recent count of denominations in America has exceeded the imagination, not to mention the strange doctrines being taught and the so-called “worship” that takes place on any given Sunday. In fact, our society has become so inundated with these new churches that one wonders if the Lord has a church at all. 

The Bible tells me that Jesus clearly promised, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt 16:18b).  I am interested right here in three simple, but profound words. The first of these is the word “I.” This simple pronoun suggests the builder, and since it is Jesus Who is doing the speaking, then the builder is Jesus Himself. Any religious institution designed, organized, and built by someone other than Jesus is bogus and exists without divine authority.  Joseph Smith may have organized and built the Mormon church, but he did not build the church about which I read in the New Testament; in fact, he was not even alive when the church came into existence. The same could be said about every single denomination in existence today.

The second word for consideration is the word “church.” Our English word translates the Greek word ‘eklesia,’ and means the “called out.”  Those who make up the church are no more and no less than the saved and redeemed. Why men cannot grasp the force of this simple concept is a mystery to me. If one were present on the Day of Pentecost when the Gospel was first preached to that multitude, and were he to be among the number who, in obedient faith, responded to the Gospel, he would have been added to the church that they were added to in Acts chapter two (Acts 2:41, 47). Here is a sobering question that begs consideration by anyone seeking the truth of the matter: “If I do exactly what they did in Acts chapter two, what would I be? Would I be a Baptist? Would I be a Methodist? Would I be a Mormon, a Seventh Day Adventist, a Pentecostal, a Presbyterian, a Catholic, or any other of the myriad denominations that exist today?” The answer to any of these is a resounding, “No!” Those who obeyed the Gospel were Christians only, and they were added to the church of Christ (Rom. 16:16, Acts 2:47).

The third word for consideration may very well be the most impressive word among the three. It is the word “my.”  The church belongs to Jesus.  He planned it, purchased it with His blood (Acts 20:28), and will save it in that final day (Eph. 5:23).  If it is the case that it is HIS church, would it not be proper to say it is “Christ’s church”?  Who would suggest otherwise? By the same token it is proper to speak of those congregations that are made up of the saved as “the churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16). Where, then, is the authority [either by example, inference, or command] for any designation the likes of which we see on church buildings in our city, not to mention across this land and throughout the world? Dear reader, will you take just a moment, pick up your Bible, and search its pages? Is there just ONE reference in the Holy Book that contains the name of that religious organization to which you have entrusted your eternal soul? Why not pick up your Yellow Pages, turn to the section on “churches,” and put a scripture by every name that appears in the New Testament. You may find yourself asking the same question I have asked: “Whose church is it, anyway?”

Don't Neglect God's Book

by Tom Wacaster

For many years the Bible has been the bestselling book, not only in America, but in every country where God’s word is allowed to have free run. Non-profit organizations such as the American Bible Society have devoted untold man hours, and millions of dollars to see to it that the Bible is made available to anyone and everyone who desires to feed on the Book of books. The fact is, the Bible is the most widely printed, the most sought after, and the most influential book the world has ever had the blessed privilege of reading. The Bible is, without doubt, the greatest book ever written. 

Consisting of 66 books, it stands as a monumental representation of heaven’s love for mankind. From the moment that God’s word has gone forth to man, Satan has scrutinized, criticized, de-emphasized and sought to minimize the Holy word. Critics have assailed its “contradictions” and “inconsistencies,” but the honest seeker knows that all such attempts to find fault with Scripture are mere subterfuge and a whistling in the wind. The Bible has survived the onslaught of critics, and the more scrutiny and examination the Bible receives, the more it shines. It has withstood the hammers of infidelity, and weathered the howling winds of higher criticism. Within the pages of the Bible the reader can find explicit statements as to its indestructibility. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). “The grass withereth, and the flower falleth; But the word of the Lord abideth forever. And this is the word of good tidings which was preached unto you” (1 Pet. 1:24b-25). The word of God is pictured as an “incorruptible seed” (1 Pet. 1:23), and something that cannot be bound (2 Tim. 2:9). William Hendriksen is credited with having said, “Others will carry on when I leave this earthly scene. The authorities have put me in the dungeon, but they cannot imprison the gospel. It will triumph and no enemy can thwart it.” This book will be preached until our Lord returns, it will be opened at the Judgment scene, and it will be honored throughout eternity. While history books become outdated, and science books re-edited, the Bible remains as fresh today as when it was written and needs no addition, subtraction, or rewriting. So long as men hunger and thirst after righteousness, the Bible will find a place in their hearts.

In view of the indestructibility of the word, why do so many neglect a serious study of its contents? Surely it is not because of it’s lack of availability. Have you ever thought of the amazing availability of Scripture in our modern age? We have ready access to God’s word in print and on the internet. If you have an iPad, you can download free Bible software from Olive Tree. If you have an Android phone, an iPhone, or a simple Trackphone, applications are available at no charge. Software is available for those who prefer studying at the keyboard of a computer, providing dozens of translations, dictionaries, commentaries, maps, illustrations, and study helps. I have on my computers two Bible software programs, both of which are absolutely free. At the click of a button I can look up words, search the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek words, consult the wisdom of brethren who blazed the trail in our country in order to restore the church of the New Testament and provide generations to follow a sound and solid footing in the word, and scour the internet for literally thousands of websites and blogs by faithful brethren. The sheer amount of material available to the serious Bible student overwhelms me. So you see, it is not a matter of some lack of availability of God’s word that causes us to neglect study of His word. Yes, what an amazing age we live in! And yet, sadly, far too many saints still neglect their sacred responsibility and privilege of studying the word. In a time when our world needs a strong church to counteract the onslaught of the devil, it seems that we are the weakest we have been in decades; all because of negligence and apathy on the part of members of the Lord’s body. Some years ago I came across the following poem that addresses the problem of which I speak:

by Cleah Boaz

I am a Bible proudly displayed
     for all the world to see.
With my leather cover and gilded pages
     I am open at Psalm 23.

But no one ever picks me up
     and lovingly turns a page,
And the place that is open at Psalm 23
     is growing brittle with age.

I am a Bible proudly displayed
     On a beautifully carved teak stand.
But no one ever reads the words
     that were penned by an inspired hand.

My owner thinks my presence
     is his ticket to Paradise,
But he has never consulted me
     or heeded my advice.

I am a Bible proudly displayed
     open but never read.
My owner’s soul will starve to death
     for lack of its daily bread.

I don’t know if you have ever heard of William McPherson. After a tragic accident Mr. McPherson found himself with no hands and no eyes. In his despair, he turned to the Word of God. However, he could not read Braille with artificial hands. He attempted to read the Braille with his lips, but the dynamite had exploded in his face and he had no feeling left in his lips. One day he tried to read the dots with his tongue and discovered that he could distinguish the Moon system of dashes. Unfortunately, his tongue became sore and bled constantly. Sometimes he would stay up the entire night just to learn a single letter of the alphabet. Eventually, he mastered the entire alphabet and read the entire Bible with his tongue four times before his death. This man’s example ought to shame those who complain that they don’t have the time or who do not want to put forth the effort to read the Bible. Their neglect will face them in the judgment, and the very words of Christ that they neglected will judge them in the last day (John 12:48).

This year is rapidly drawing to a close. How did you fare in your daily Bible reading this year? In sixteen days you will be provided a clean slate of time: 365 days, 52 weeks, 12 months! Pick up your reading schedule for the year and don’t neglect God’s Book.