Who’s Church is it, really?
This article is the first of two, the latter being called What is the Church, really? I think it might be more beneficial to present the title of this study first as to some degree it helps answer the second question. Without going into detail about the word “church” itself being in the Bible (it isn’t in the original manuscripts) I’m going to use the Greek word Jesus used when talking about what we call church. That word is “Ekklesia.”
Before we delve into this matter far, I would like you to think about this term “church” and what you presently believe in relation to it. Take a few minutes and write some things down. Afterwards, turn your Bible to Matthew chapter 16, verse 18. Here we find Jesus’ first use of the word Ekklesia.
And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock [Jesus speaking of Himself, not Peter] I will build My Ekklesia; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
Without a doubt some of you have been taught that God’s Ekklesia was built upon Peter himself although that isn’t possible. First, Peter means petros [a stone] while rock means petra [a massive rock]. Secondly, Peter himself shares these words in his first letter:
“BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNERSTONE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNERSTONE,” “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were appointed.” (1 Peter 2 :6-8)
Obviously Peter is not referring to himself here as the cornerstone, nor is he asking people to believe in him or else. He is plainly referring to Jesus Christ. The cornerstone is the foundation stone of a structure. It is the foundation stone that all the other stones are built upon and connected to. In other words, Jesus is the cornerstone of His spiritual house, His Ekklesia. The apostle Paul also speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 3:11;
“For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid [already] which is Jesus Christ”
It is vital that we understand and accept the fact that Jesus is the Head of His Ekklesia and not Peter or any other man for that matter. The origin of something affects the manner in which that something functions. In 1 Corinthians 15:47 we read of The first man [referring to the first created man, named Adam] is from earth, earthly; the second man [referring to Jesus Christ] is from heaven. Each man is a representative or head of a particular race. This is vital for one very pertinent reason: Jesus says in John 18:36;
“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”
What is Jesus saying here? He is plainly saying that His kingdom is not of this world [earthly] but rather is spiritual [heavenly]. Therefore Pilate said to him, “So you are a king? Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this reason I have been born, and for this reason I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:36, 37)
Jesus is indeed a king. Not just any king but the king of a heavenly kingdom. Just as Jesus is not the king (head) of an earthly kingdom, neither could Peter be head (king) of a heavenly kingdom. It could not be otherwise. There are two kingdoms, a heavenly and an earthly although only one qualifies as God’s kingdom.
You may want to consider the manner of Jesus’ birth as it relates to His origins.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed [fancy word for engaged] to Joseph, before they came together [had sexual intercourse] she was found to be with child [she was pregnant] by the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18) Think about that for a minute. “Jesus was born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” He was not born twice (by water and the Spirit) as we must be, but simply born into humanity as an already spiritual [heavenly] person. As such, Jesus although human, did not share the sinful nature all others born into humanity do and will. Therefore, everything He did, does and will do through His spiritual sons and daughters [those born of Him] can only have a spiritual [heavenly] source. It cannot in any way be tainted with sin. He was born above and beyond the realm of sin altogether.
The origin of your church
Have you ever thought about the origins of what you call church? Who started it? Who chose the name if there is one? How did it come to be organized and structured as it is today? How were the leaders chosen and upon what criteria? Do the leaders have either religious positions or spiritual titles? Why do they? What qualifies them as leaders?
How did you come to meet where you do and why? Do you have a building and how was it built? Upon what authority does your church exist and rest? Who makes the decisions, those great and small? How is the church supported financially and by what set of guidelines?
One last question. Do all of your answers to these questions have an earthly or a heavenly origin? “As is the earthly, so also are those who are earthly…….”
The Substitute for Jesus on earth
There is a religious figurehead on earth who claims to be the substitute for Jesus Christ after His resurrection and ascension to heaven. This is a very serious and bold claim for a man born with a sinful nature like all other men. Can an earthly man [one who originated from the dust of the earth] take Jesus’ place on earth? Many, many, many people believe so. But if so, how can a sinful earthly person lead Jesus’ heavenly Ekklesia? Furthermore, what do we do with this promise of Jesus Himself:
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, [people yet to receive Jesus as Lord] because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” [when Jesus sends Him in His absence] I [Jesus] will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” [not just when He returns to earth in His glory but also through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst] (John 14:16-18)
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. [in My absence] Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” [because I told you I’m leaving you]
“You heard that I said to you, ‘I will go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced because I go to My Father, for the Father is greater than I. Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.” (John 14:26-31)
Then immediately prior to His ascension into heaven he answers a question from His disciples with this;
“It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)
Without question this was in relation to the promise Jesus gave them in the verses above. The promise was realized a few days afterwards in an upper room in Jerusalem.
What is important to notice is why the Holy Spirit was sent to the disciples. In just the few verses above we find the Spirit teaching all things, empowering them for service and bringing to their remembrance all that Jesus had previously said to them. Note that this spirit is called the Spirit of truth and will be with them forever.
If you’re still thinking this through then you’re likely not hearing His voice. The Holy Spirit is Jesus Christ’s Substitute on earth in His absence! It is not, and could never be a man, any earthly man that is. Once again, only like can produce like as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly.
“And He [God the Father] put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as Head over all things to the Ekklesia, which is His [spiritual] body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22, 23)
Every body needs a head, even a spiritual one. The head controls all else and is the brains behind all operations. The spiritual and heavenly Ekklesia is called the Body of Christ and is made up of living stones [individual Christians]. These spiritual stones make up a spiritual house to which all born again believers are a part;
“And coming to Him [Jesus Christ] as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, [because of Jesus’ life, the Spirit of God within us] are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4, 5)
“For the husband is head of the wife, [note, not a tyrant or ruler] as Christ also is the head of the Ekklesia, He Himself being the Savior of the body.” (Ephesians 5:23)
“He is also the head of the body, the Ekklesia; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself might have first place in everything.” [including His Ekklesia] (Colossians 1:18)
Yours, Mine or His Church [Ekklesia]
Exempting definitions, each mans church is exactly that, his. If it’s founded by man, named by man, built by man, lead by man, organized by man, structured by man, financed by man and ruled by man, well then, it’s mans church. There’s no other way around it, a heavenly Ekklesia cannot be built with bricks! God says plainly, as is the earthly, so also are those who are earthly; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. “That which is born [originates ] of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6)
King Jesus has a heavenly body filled with heavenly children called saints. They are individual spiritual stones that make up a spiritual house, a house He is building. “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God” (Hebrews 3:4)
Furthermore, the faithful Steven, just prior to his martyrdom exclaimed;
“David found favor in God’s sight, and asked that he might find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon [David’s son] who built a house for Him. However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says:
‘HEAVEN IS MY THRONE,
AND THE EARTH IS THE FOOTSTOOL OF MY FEET,
WHAT KIND OF A HOUSE WILL YOU BUILD FOR ME? Says the Lord,
OR WHAT PLACE IS THERE FOR MY REPOSE?
WAS IT NOT MY HAND WHO MADE ALL THESE THINGS?
What is called “church” today is altogether different from God’s Ekklesia found within the pages of Scripture. Man, in most instances well intentioned, has attempted to build Christ’s Ekklesia for Him as a visible enterprise. That is clearly both impossible, unacceptable and disobedient to God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
I hope each of you thinks long and hard about the implications of what I’ve been sharing herein. Despite the hundreds of thousands of what people are calling “church” these days littered throughout the globe, God says there is only one Ekklesia for there is only one body of Christ. Yes, there are various expressions in diverse locales although they each represent only a part of the whole. But one thing cannot change nor will it ever change. Jesus’ Ekklesia is heavenly, and that’s what makes it and those who comprise it unique. It is not of this world, nor are they.
As we delve into what God’s Ekklesia is, really, I hope you discover the blessing of not merely learning about our God’s one true Church, His Ekklesia, but find a heart that refuses to fall short of entering into all that He has purposed through it. Only He can build that which will last for eternity, by His truth, through His Spirit, within His Ekklesia.