My in-laws are in the process of building a house right now. It is being built on land that they purchased. If the Lord wills and if things go according to schedule, the house should be complete in a few months. As far as I know, the land that they are building on has never had a house built on it before. They only plan to build this one house. The reason that I am sharing this with you is to ask this simple question: When that house is complete, how many homes will my in-laws have built on that land? The answer is obviously one.
A hundred years from now, it may be the case that the land that they owned is subdivided off and many homes are built on the land. Looking at the same acreage we may then see 50 different homes instead of just one. Let me ask you this simple question: If we go forward in time and see 50 different houses on the land where my in laws built their house, how many of these houses did my inlaws build on their land? The answer is still one.
The point is simple. Around the year 33AD, Jesus promised to build His church (Matt 16:18). He was going to build the church that was planned in eternity (Eph 3:10-11). Jesus planed on building one church (Eph 4:4). Do you know what Jesus did? He built the church on the day of Pentecost, beginning in Jerusalem, just like it was prophesied and commanded (Isaiah 2:2-4, Acts 1:4,8). The church was made up of congregations that believed, taught, and practiced the same things in different locations, but there were not a bunch of different churches like there are today (Rom 16:16). There was one (Acts 2:42-47).
Here we are, around 2000 years after Jesus built one church, and there are thousands of different churches. One source says there are 40,000 different churches on the same plot of land (earth) that Jesus originally built one. Even in our community we can look around and see many different churches. But let’s ask the question: How many of these churches did Jesus build? The answer is still one.
We all must realize that Jesus only built one church. The simple illustration that I used is un-get-aroundable but think about how God illustrates it himself in His word. As you think of these things, ask the question how could God have made it any clearer that Jesus only built and owns one church?
In Ephesians 1:22-23, we learn that the church is the body and Christ is the head. In Colossians 1:18, we learn that the body is the church. There are many lessons to learn from thinking about the church as the body of Christ, but one of them is so obvious and simple that we can read right over it without appreciating it. God wants us to know that there is one body. In the same way that our own heads only have one body, Jesus only has one body. In fact, God says it explicitly, there is “one body” (Eph 4:4). How could God illustrate the point that there is one church any better?
In 1 Timothy 3:15, the church is called “household of God.” Paul is using the picture of a family. In the Church, God is the Father, Christ is the older brother, and members of the church are adopted children (Gal 4:4-7). Again, there are many wonderful lessons to glean from the idea of the family of God, but there is also a very simple point to be understood as well. God is not a polygamist and he is not an adulterer. The reason we are upset when we hear about a man who has multiple secret families is not because we are so holy and righteous. It is because God is against these things. Our standard for the home is based on God’s character. But if God has multiple different churches, it is likened to a father having multiple families. It is contrary to God’s own holiness and character to have different churches. When the church is referred to as the family of God, it is illustrating that there is only one church.
Finally, consider the tender prayer that Jesus offered to the Father before he would be betrayed and crucified. The great love of Jesus is shown in the fact that as He is about to endure the greatest humiliation and unjust murder of all time, the majority of His thoughts are centered on His church. Among the last request of the Lord are these words, “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me” (John 17:21).
Please consider these things sincerely and honestly and recognize the simple truth. All of these churches around us cannot be the church that Jesus built. It is not possible logically, scripturally, or historically. Either one church is right today, or no church is right today. But it is impossible for multiple different churches to be right.
I am a member of the church of Christ because Jesus only built one church and I want to be a member of his Church.
Ben Shafer preaches for the LaFollette Church of Christ. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.