Keith G. Ball - Minister, the church of Christ at Delaware, Ohio

Jesus was a builder.  In childhood, He would have learned the craft of working with wood.  His guardian and earthly father, Joseph, would have passed on the skills and instructions to Jesus in the art of cutting, shaping and constructing as a carpenter.  Just as Joseph was noted for being a carpenter, so was Jesus (Mark 6:3).  We can only speculate as to what Jesus might have made as a carpenter; a chair, a cart, or a wagon.  What ever it was, we can be certain that it would have been made with the utmost quality and excellence.   While we cannot and do not know what Jesus made as a carpenter, we can know all about the most important thing that Jesus built.  That most important thing is the CHURCH. 

In Matt. 16:13, Jesus asked the disciples a probing question, “…Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” The disciples told him what the talk of the people was.  Then Jesus asked  “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter’s reply was most wise and profound when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16).  Jesus was impressed with Peter’s answer and told him that the truth he spoke was and would be the solid bedrock foundation upon which His church/kingdom would be built.

In some ways it is unfortunate that we do not have a chair or table to admire that was built by Jesus, the carpenter.  However, we do have his beautiful glorious church and we can do more than admire it, we can be in it!  Someone could foolishly spend a lifetime trying to find some wooden artifact made by Jesus, all to no avail.  Yet many are overlooking the most spectacular work of Jesus.  It is unfortunate that the church remains undiscovered by so many.  It is no fault of the builder that some do not find the church.  The church is big, beautiful and well within the reach of everyone. 

One of the primary reasons the church that Jesus built is undiscovered by so many is that many have discovered a counterfeit.  It has been said that anything with any value has its counterfeit.  This is true with everything from money, to watches and jewelry.  It is also true with the church.  Even Jesus warned of false prophets and teachers that would lead people astray, leading unwitting followers unto counterfeit churches  (Matthew 24:24).  It is unfortunate that today there are hundreds of different religious bodies claiming to be the church.  Did Jesus really build all of these bodies?  Is this what Jesus had in mind when He said, “I will build My church?”   It cannot possibly be what Jesus intended because of the vast diversity of doctrines and practices.  Our God is not the author of confusion and double standards.  One group teaches we must worship on the seventh day and another says on the first day.  One says faith only saves while another says obedient faith is what saves.  One assembly of worshipers partakes of the Lord’s Supper quarterly, another monthly and a third weekly.  One baptizes by sprinkling and another immersion.  One baptizes infants and another baptizes only those mature enough to believe and repent of their sins.  Again, is it possible for all of these religious groups to be correct?  The answer is a resounding no!

Jesus promised to build ONE church, not many, not different faiths, but ONE faith.  In Ephesians we read of one body and one faith.  Eph 4:4-6 states, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”  What is the body? The body is the church.  In Colossian 1:18 we read that Christ is the head of the body and that the body is the church. “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” We find these same truths reiterated in Ephesians 1:22-23.   Since we cannot deny the existence today of so many different groups calling themselves “churches,” we must ask how we got to the point where there are so many.  The scriptures warn us that this would happen.   1 Timothy 4: 1-3 informs us that, Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.  Diligence and careful study is encouraged that the seeker should find the correct church that Jesus built

Suppose that we actually had a chair that Jesus the carpenter made.  Let us suppose that this chair was a straight-back chair with four legs and arm rests. Let us suppose that this beautiful piece of craftsmanship was made from the finest rosewood.  If we were to replicate this elegant chair, would we make it a rocking chair?  Could we remove the arm rests and say that it was an exact replica of what Jesus made?  Or even if we copied its form exactly and then we substituted cedar for the rosewood, could we say that we had a chair exactly like what Jesus built?  The answer is NO!  Why then do so many alter the pattern that Jesus has given us for His church?  The answer to this question lies in the fact that man has made these changes because of his likes and wishes, and not Jesus’ wishes.  Isaiah prophesied of this kind of spiritual deviation and Jesus pointed out the fulfillment of this digression in Matthew 15:8,9. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.   And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”  

If we are going to find the most important thing that Jesus built, the church, then we must begin our search carefully.  We must make sure we are looking in the right place.  The place to look is the Bible. If individuals really want to find the church that Jesus built, it is essential that they have a respect for the authority of God’s word and not add to nor diminish anything from this sacred book (1 Peter 4:11: Rev 22:18).  The Bible, God’s holy and inspired word, contains the “blue print” or pattern for the church (2 Timothy 3:16,17).  When Moses constructed the tabernacle, he followed very carefully the pattern that God gave him (Exodus 25).  If we want to be in the church that Jesus built and a part of the church that Jesus built, then we must not deviate from the pattern. 

We can know about how the church today should be by taking a look at the church recorded in the scriptures in the first century.  Remember that in the first century there were not a multitude of denominations. In fact, there was not one single denomination, but only one church.   Today, there are many “kinds” of churches.  In the first century, there was only one.  Today, there are many kinds of computers, cars, and airplanes.  When the first computer was invented, no one would have asked what kind of computer it was.   There was only one at that time.  When the Wright brothers invented and flew the first airplane, no one would have asked what kind of airplane it was.    There was only one at that time.  We are not advocating the need to replicate the first computer or the first airplane, but we are advocating and insisting that the church must be replicated, just as Jesus built it, else it will not be the church that Jesus built.  

The church that Jesus built can be identified by its name, by its worship and by its practices.  Jesus said, “I will build My church.”  If Jesus said He would build it and He called it His, to whom does it belong to?  The answer is simple, it belongs to Jesus.  Thus it is the church of Christ (See Romans 16:16). It would not be the church of Peter, nor would it be the church of Thomas nor any of the other apostles.  Yet many religious bodies calling themselves the church have the unscriptural practice of recognizing the name of a denominational founder.  This practice was actually an early departure from the truth that Paul rebuked in 1 Corinthians 1:11-13.    

It was vital in the first century and vital today that Christians follow a standard regarding practice and worship.  Paul encouraged the early church at Corinth to all speak the same things and to not allow any divisions among them (1 Corinthians 1:10).  The Corinthian brethren would find in the scriptures the unity that Paul was stressing.

In the scriptures they would find truth regarding what one must do to enter the kingdom of God. In John 3:5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”  To be in the kingdom of God is the same as being in Christ  (Colossians 1:13). The way to enter Christ is to be baptized into Christ. Gal 3:27 tells us, “ For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”   Thus if one has not been born again they have not been baptized into Christ for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).

The first century church assembled on the first day of the week for a formal worship, and so should we (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1,2).  The early church came together on the first day of the week to partake of the Lord’s Supper, to give as they had been prospered, to pray, to be edified by the preaching of God’s word, and to sing praises (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).  In all of these areas of worship, every Christian was to stay within the guidelines of God’s word.  When man did not respect God’s authority and did not stay within His guidelines, many errors within worship began.  The Lord’s Supper began to be partaken of on a quarterly basis and even partaken of on days other than the first day.  Some in the 7th century added instrumental music, which was a deviation from a cappella singing.  Sprinkling for baptism was added in approximately 250 A.D. for those very ill, within as short time this practice was common.  Infant baptism had become a customary practice by 450 A.D.  With each of these major departures, man was getting further and further from the glorious church that Jesus built. 

Yes, the church that Jesus built can be found.  It does not need to be hidden from anyone.  When Isaiah prophesied of the day that the kingdom/church would be established, he likened it unto a highway, “the Highway of Holinesses” (Isaiah 35:8).   Jesus likens it unto a straight and narrow pathway (Matthew 7:13).  The word that Jesus used for narrow means “difficult to be entered, a compressed way.”  You see the church that Jesus built is not difficult to find, however it is difficult for man to set aside his pride, his own notions and his ideas in order to find it.  Isaiah 55: 8 tells us, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,'' says the Lord.   Access into the church is not denied to those who are humble, repentant and obedient.  However, man by refusing God’s simple requirements, will keep himself out of Christ’s church. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”(2 Peter 3: 9). Let us have that humble, repentant and obedient heart that will seek the church that Christ built.