When Church Becomes the Messiah

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One of the biggest issues I have seen over the years in Churches of Christ is that in some corners of our movement the church replaces Jesus as Messiah and Savior. That is never taught in an overt manner but it is the logical conclusion of some of our arguments.

Jesus is the only savior…the only name by which we must be saved. But you have to be in a church with the right (biblical) name to be and/or remain saved.

Jesus is the only savior…it is by coming to only Jesus to find salvation and no one else. But you have to be in a church that worships correctly for his salvation to “stick”.

Jesus is the only savior…he is the only way to have your sins forgiven. However, if you are in a denomination that means you are in error and that means you are perpetually in sin so you can’t be saved. Jesus can’t save that!

Many more examples can be cited but the result is the same…being in a church other than one labeled a church of Christ is insurmountable for Jesus to save.

This line of thinking results in this conclusion – the church you are in trumps Jesus’ salvific efficaciousness.

This is a false teaching of another gospel – that the gospel is that salvation comes through the work of Christ + joining the right kind of church. Anything short of that makes Jesus’ work a moot point.

Israel wasn’t looking for a church. They were looking for a Messiah. The church is not to be confused with the Messiah nor is the church a trump card over the salvific acts of Jesus. That doesn’t lessen the importance of the church. It just keeps everyone in their proper lane with their proper (biblical) purpose.

If neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus? Can being in a non-church of Christ church condemn us? Can our participation with denominations put us in a position Christ is powerless to work with?

23 Responses

  1. I guess you will get a lot of comments on this one. You are right: Affiliation does not equate salvation.
    There is a flaw in your thinking, though. Jews could not continue following the law, making the sacrifices, the trips to the temple, etc.
    So can one continue honoring he Pope as head of the church? Keep following the WBTS (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society)? Remain loyal to the ELS? Artemis?

    1. It’s a good question…certainly it isn’t “anything goes” but the problem is minutia has been equated with salvation issues that Jesus is incapable of handling…makes for quite a small Jesus…not the Jesus of the Bible.

    2. THAT I understand! One of the interesting differences between Western Europe and the US was the “flavor listed” congregations. With the change in the kinda, sorta annual directory from just a name/address/phone # to listing the kinds, one almost had to have a PhD to remember all the distinctions!
      For the longest time, those differences were minimalized in mission areas. The “instrumental” side of the family would invite some of the on-instrumentalist as speaker, and respect the difference enough not to use the piano, organ, whatever… Or to demand the presence when the invite was extended to them.

  2. Amen! I was converted in 1978 and all I heard was, live for the church, serve the church, support the church, don’t hurt the church. When the brethren said, the church they meant an organization instead of a living organism. I was about to pull out the last 3 hairs I had on my head!

    Thanks brother, appreciate all you and others are doing to serve Jesus. God Bless

  3. Awesome post- “Church” is a terrible translation of “ecclesia”… if we actually study the prophets (rare to do so in the CoC) we find overwhelming evidence that Elijah’s return, Messiah, the New Covenant and resurrection life (and much more) were all promised to Israel (not the “Church of Christ”!) When Messiah came, all twelve tribes of Israel were to be restored by gathering in the nations to which they had been scattered from the four corners of the earth. I would suggest the “ecclesia” refers to the in-gathering of Israel from all nations and it corresponds to the kingdom which came without observation. Messiah reigns on the throne of David- who was king of Israel, not the CoC!

    All that to say “Assembly of God” is actually more accurate than “Church of Christ” yet our congregations still contain many who believe that salvation depends more on the (erroneous) lettering on the building than JHVH’s eternal purpose to recreate Israel as a perfect spiritual bride/kingdom by healing her sin on the cross.

    Yet I have been accused of heresy and impugning Christ’s church for even hinting at these truths.

    1. If you are referring to “Israel,” you need to remember that TO THEM was also promised a New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34) and that promise contains no “land” promise or physical elements. We do find a new definition for “Israel” in Rom 2:28-29 NAS77  “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.  (29)  But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” That promise is said to have come to fruition in Heb 8:8-13.
      It is Messiah/Christ that makes us all one and brings us to the REAL, not the physical. He compares the physical with the spiritual and tells us: Heb 12:22-29 NAS77  “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels,  (23)  to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect,  (24)  and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.  (25)  See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.  (26)  And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN.’  (27)  And this expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.  (28)  Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;  (29)  for our God is a consuming fire.”
      He will draw us together….Those who have passed from physical life with those still alive (1 Thes.4:14) for even our struggle here is a spiritual one (Eph. 6:12)

    2. Just what I was saying!- we have been gathered into the spiritual Jerusalem v. 22. I join with the eastern church in asserting that Christ emptied Hades as he fulfilled the old covenant and dedicated the new temple with a great spiritual feast per Mt. 8:10-12 & Is. 25:6-9

    3. It is very strange to interprete the Bible in a way not scripturelly supported. The bible Indeed teachers us that Jesus Christ came to gather the scattered sheep of Israel which of course he did by calling the Israelites first to be part of the kingdom of God which is the Church of Christ as Jesus combined the two by giving Peter the symbol of authority to open the door for the Jews first Romans 1:16-17 and Romans 3:9-10. The church which Jesus promised the apostles in Mathews 16:18 was a single Church and later on the day of pentecost the church begun and just as Jesus said the Church will be his personal property to fullfil the words of the psalmist that if God builds not the house those who build labour in vain to build a church with no authority from above. All powers are given to Jesus and the power of Jesus was to build a church in order to bring both the Jews and the gentiles together as one new man in Christ John 17:20-22 and John 11:49-52. it is unscriptural to state that the church of Christ is different from the kingdom of God. I submit

  4. I totally agree Matt! I have tried to state this in some of my previous comments to your articles, but haven’t been able to articulate it the way you have.

  5. Well said, Matt.

    Thank you for articulating clearly that just because a person has “left the building” (i.e., one of the corporate churches of Christ) they have not necessarily left Christ.

    To equate leaving the church of Christ to abandoning the faith is to discount the saving grace of God.


    1. Thank you Guy! We did an end around on the term Church of Christ. We claimed the phrase then used it to create exclusivity in a way that goes leaps and bounds anything found in the Bible. Appreciate you Guy!

    1. The problem is people say you leave the body when you do things the Bible never says causes you to leave the body.

      Denying Jesus would be leaving the body.

      Clapping hands would not.

      The Bible should define for us what matters.

    2. “The Bible should define for us what matters…”
      A lofty ideal. But whose interpretation of what the Bible defines??
      Is that not what our ACTUAL problem is? We went by CENI for many, many years, and it was found to be faulty. Then we turned the Bible into a love letter – which did not change things, either.
      Our biggest problem, from my perspective? We preach autonomy – but do not preach it. My first impression of American congregations came through reading the “journals” like Gospel Advocate and Firm Foundation. The articles where one congregation (author) read the riot act to another congregation (author), and warned everybody else NOT to fellowship that particular congregation, or you, too, would be disfellowshipped.
      The Bible defining – by which expositor? Many preachers preach “topica;.” A bunch of passages (Preferable from the translation that supports my particular point of view).
      We have “learned” people with advanced degrees whose opinions surely must be better than the average person in the pews, right? BTW: I AM ALL FOR education!!!!!
      Our Bible studies are based more on what OTHER people say about the Bible than actually limiting ourselves to that actual Bible.
      And often we do “topicals,” rather than contextual studies.
      So let’s go back to THAT Book, thank our scholars for their work, and focus on the actual Bible rather than the latest publication from XYZ publishing company, maybe?

  6. I must say, this is one of the most ridiculous articles that I have read recently! You have created a fantasy accusation from false understandings and assumptions.

    1) “the church replaces Jesus as Messiah and Savior”
    I am almost 80 years old and have been affiliated with numerous congregations of the Lord’s church, world wide, and have NEVER heard of this before.

    2) “That is never taught in an overt manner but it is the logical conclusion of some of our arguments.”
    No, it is not a “logical” argument at all. It is nothing more than another to discredit the Lord’s church with erroneous insinuations. The teachings of the Lord’s church, relative to its relationship is that Jesus died for the church and when one is baptized into Christ he/she is then added to the church. Jesus saves but the saved are in the church, as they are in Him.

    3) “Jesus is the only savior…the only name by which we must be saved. But you have to be in a church with the right (biblical) name to be and/or remain saved.”
    Yes, Jesus is our savior, our only savior. And, yes indeed, one must be in (not “a” church), “the” church. That’s because Jesus add one to His church when one is baptized into Him. “Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” (Eph. 5:23). It is not a matter of being in “a” church, it is a matter of being in His church. In your erroneous accusation, you fail to take into account that just any man made group, calling itself “a” church, is, in fact, not the Lord’s church. One is baptized into Christ and added to His church. The denominational churches, which you refer to a “a”, do not baptize for the remission of sins nor are they added to the Lord’s true church.

    4) Jesus is the only savior…he is the only way to have your sins forgiven. However, if you are in a denomination that means you are in error.”

    This is true. One in a denomination is in error. They are not in Christ, nor are they in His church since they are not baptized for the remission of sins and to be in Christ. If you know of just one denominational church that does so, I would like to be informed.

    5) This is a false teaching of another gospel – that the gospel is that salvation comes through the work of Christ + joining the right kind of church. Anything short of that makes Jesus’ work a moot point.
    I’m not sure exactly how to respond to this point since if is not clear. I will just say that we, in the Lord’s church, have no such teaching relative to “joining the right kind of church.” When one obeys the gospel, one is then added to the Lord’s church by the Lord Himself.

    I feel that these points (teachings of the Lord’s church, are very clear. The charges rendered against these teachings are simply erroneous charges that have been dreamed up in the minds of those who want to discredit the Lord’s church trying to tell others that we teach things that we, very clearly, do not teach.
    Needless to say, I am very disturbed by such idiotic charges that we teach things that are very definitely do not teach. It has me wondering, just what kind of grudge bearing group you are a part of that would create such outright lies in order to discredit the Lord and His church and His teachings.

    1. I am ecstatic that you have never encountered this. Praise God!

      Many have and it is ugly.

      Not everyone goes to the same congregation.

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