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Lesson 1 Building the New Testament Church


Devotional Reading:   Isaiah 2:1–5


Memory Verse:           Matthew 16:18


And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.




Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.


Ephesians 5:25–27 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.


Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.


Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.


1 Corinthians 12:12–13, 18 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 18But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.


Acts 2:47 And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.




Matthew 16:18. This text presents Christ as the builder and owner of the church. There is but one church and it is to withstand all opposition. The time of building is represented as the future, so it is not the church of the old dispensation.

Ephesians 5:25–27. The church is here pictured as a spotless bride whom Christ purchased for himself through his death.

Acts 20:28. The name of the church is here given and also the fact that it is blood bought. The way elders are supplied is also given.

Colossians 1:18. The church is represented as the body of which Christ is the head. If Christ was head thirty years avert his ascension he is still head.

1 Corinthians 12:12. The body with its parts is taken to represent the church and its members. 13. We become members of the church through the action of the Spirit in regeneration. Throughout the same spiritual birth all are inducted into one spiritual body—the church. 18. It is God who makes us members of the church.

Acts 2:47. The same truth is again stated plainly.






1. The Meaning of the term.


This is not to be determined by modern usage but by the Bible use of the word. A) Not a house of worship. The word is once so used (Acts 19:37) though the correct translation is not churches but temples. B) Not a religious faction. There were sects among the Jews, and the church was sometimes called a sect (by its enemies). But the church is not a mere religious faction. C) It is the assembly of God’s people or the congregation of the Lord. This includes all of those who are truly God’s and excludes those who are not. D) It sometimes means the public worship (1 Corinthians 14:19, 28). This is a natural use of the idea of the assembly, though the members of an assembly are not always assembled.




1. A divinely chosen membership.


A) Men cannot “join” this church as they join other institutions. The desire and consent of the person is necessary, but God alone can make men members of the church. B) Members are added by the Lord (see Acts 2:47).  Neither a minister nor the vote of the congregation can make men members. C) Become members through a spiritual birth (see 1 Corinthians 12:13). As salvation is the mode of entrance, all truly saved people, and only the saved, are members of the church. D) Members are a called-out people. This is the meaning of the word. God has called them from sin and false religion. There is first a separation from all that is evil. God works this separation. E) Members are a gathered people. There is first the separation that there may be a gathering. This is not merely a voluntary association but a union effected by God who, through the Spirit, baptizes all into one body. The mutual relation of Christians in the church is a divine relation.


2. Divinely organized.


A) Christ built the church. This he promised to do. The church existed in embryo before Pentecost, though its organization was not completed till after that dates. Like the teachings of Christ, the organization of the church took form under the labors of divinely inspired apostles. B) God places the members. Each person is given his place in the church by the Lord himself. Thus the members are “fitly framed together.” C) The officers are divinely appointed. Not only has God decided what officers there shall be, but chooses the men whom he will have to fill these offices. D) the rules are divinely given (see 2 Timothy 3:16, 17). God has given through inspiration the doctrines and rules for his church.




1. What it is not.


A) An autocracy. It is not the form of government in which the supreme authority is vested in one man as in the Roman Catholic Church and a few others. No apostle assumed to exercise such authority. B) It is not episcopal, or governed by bishops. This idea of government by bishops who are separate from and above the ordinary clergy is held by certain sects but is not scriptural. C) It is not a Presbyterian form, or government by the elders. This form bars any superior clergy and makes all ministers equal. Thus far this is correct, but by what authority do the elders assume the government of the church? D) It is not congregational, or the democratic rule which makes each congregation an independence not justified by the Scriptures. E) It is not independence, or religious anarchy. This can scarcely be called organization, yet many professed members of the church do much as they please and recognize no authority other than their own interpretation of the duty. We do not discuss the relative value of these forms for their differences are only superficial. Fundamentally they are all alike, for all proceed from the same source—the human will.


2. What it is.


A) Holy Spirit government. The Godhead governs the church through the third Person of the Trinity—the Holy Spirit. B) He works through men in whom he dwells and to whom he has imparted spiritual gifts.




1. What they are.


A) Not the organization of the church. The church is divinely organized by God, who sets in the members and officers and governs the body. B) They are organizations to carry on phases of church work. Cooperation is needed to accomplish some tasks committed to the church and such cooperation calls for system. C) They are not universal or permanent. They are intended to be helpful but are not essential to the church or to the individual. Their permanency depends on the need and the service they render.


2. Examples of such organization.


A) The financial committee at Jerusalem. These men were chosen to care for the widows (see Acts 6). Their appointment was to fill a local and temporary need. Later two of these were noted evangelists. B) The council at Jerusalem. This was not a periodical assembly that formed a constituent part of the government of the church. It was a conference called to consider vital questions. To this conference representative men were sent. C) Relief work. The funds raised for the poor saints in Jerusalem were systematically collected and committed to chosen trustees.