The word "church" is very dear to "churched" people. The "church," whatever the word means, and it is a word of many meanings, is vital of the "church world" of today. In fact, it is likely the most commonly used word in religious circles. Probably even used more than the name of Jesus Christ! You see it everywhere; and clergy and laity alike cannot talk long without talking about their "church." As a "member," they are proud of their "church," but it is usually not clear what they mean when they speak of their "church."
Over and over in this paper, we have shown that the English word "church" should NOT be in Scriptures at all. The word "church" does not translate the Greek word "ekklesia" (often spelled "ecclesia"). It was put in King James' translation because he ordered it put there! Everywhere the Greek word "ekklesia" had any religious reference, the translators substituted the word "church" rather than give an actual translation. The word "ekklesia" occurs three times in Acts 19 (verses 32, 39, 41), but they did NOT use the word "church" in these verses. In two instances it has reference to an unlawful mob and in the other to a lawful assembly. The word "assembly" is used as the translation of the word "ekklesia" in these three cases. And this is an accurate translation and nobody will deny it. Why only in these three cases did those translators correctly render the Greek word? I gave the reason above.
King James was the Head of the CHURCH of England and he was going to ensure that his "Church" got some biblical recognition. It was a terrible mistake that has been a source of great error ever since. Most religious people actually think that there is some kind of "church" in Scripture, but they are deceived. There is no CHURCH in God's word. I want to deal with this matter in two or three studies.
The picture you see here is a (reduced) reproduction of the title page of a tract written by Paul McClung, a C of C Church Minister. It is just one of many such tracts circulated by C of C Church people.
Look at this picture carefully. What does it really set forth? What message does it convey to the reader? You see the design of a building that has the name "Church of Christ" written on it. Is the C of C a material building? That is what that picture says! Not only that but the title of this tract is "Restoring the NT Church." Is it the BUILDING known as the C of C that needs to be "restored?" Are McClung and others in the business of restoring buildings called "churches?"
The English word "church" is probably most often used to refer to a building. Example: "The Bammel Road C of C is located..." The sign out front of the building says that here is the "Waterview C of C." Hence, when you find the building you have found that particular C of C. That's the confusing, even ridiculous, message that C of C churches give out to the world. Does that building belong to Christ? Did Christ build the building at 10th and Vine Streets? If not, then who gave any group of people anywhere the right to build a material structure and stick up a sign out front that claims that that building is a CHURCH OF CHRIST?. Do you believe that the building belongs to Him? The audacity of such is incredible. Churches of all brands play this same deceptive, confusing game. But they are all alike; all of them are CHURCHES, whatever is meant by that.
Look again at the picture. Doesn't that drawing convey the idea that what needs to be "restored" is a building?
Now take a look at the cover (reduced) from this tract by Perry Cotham. See the lovely material BUILDING. You can tell at a glance that IT is a CHURCH because the BUILDING is built like a CHURCH is supposed to be built! The church architecture or design tells us that it is a church. Note the stained glass windows, the steeple, and the cross on top of the steeple. If you should go inside you could tell immediately that you were in a church because the pews, the elevated pulpit, the communion table, and the usual material requirements are in place.
Now note the question that hangs over the picture of the building. You have heard it from C of C preachers many, many times. It is: "Must One Be A Member of the CHURCH to be Saved?" Does Perry Cotham mean to ask if one must be a member of the CHURCH pictured there to be saved? You may say, "Of course not, no one can join or be a member of a building-church." Then why the mixed or confusing message? Why feature a CHURCH BUILDING in such a fashion? Besides the implication is that the building is indeed the CHURCH under question. Our language is very often a lot of inconsistent, ridiculous gobbledy-gook! No wonder so few people understand the truth of Christ.
Now look at the cover (reduced) of a tract by Roy H. Lanier. This cover is a classic for promoting the building as the church. Not only does it proclaim the C of C Church to be a building, but by implication all the other churches are material buildings also.
Note that the C of C building is at the top, towering over the others, and that it is the largest building! That should prove right off that the C of C is not a denomination and that it is indeed the Lord's one and only true church-building! Isn't that what the picture says? Indeed C of C churches and their clergy are presenting a confusion of language just like all other denominations.
Incidentally, on the back page of one of these tracts there is this statement: "You are always welcome at the Church of Christ." This says that "AT the Church of Christ," at that PLACE or BUILDING, "you are always welcome." Is the C of C a place or building that if you are "at," you are always welcome? Have you ever been "AT the Church of Christ?" Do we need to wonder why there is so much confusion in the religious world?
But look at one more tract front page (reduced) that pretty well puts it as the Lord intended. See the "saved people" standing on the "rock"--Jesus Christ, as illustrated in the picture? Jesus did say "upon this rock"--the fact that He is the Son of the living God, that "I will build My ekklesia," meaning God's people. That is what the ekklesia is--God's redeemed, holy people; and they do stand, they are established upon that great demonstrated reality that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God.
Obviously God's people are not a material building and we all know that. Then why do we write and talk like His ekklesia is a material building? Why do we build a material building and hang out a sign that announces to the whole world that this is the Church of Christ? Why? Is it because all other denominations do that? Surely we know that such a building is NOT the Lord's ekklesia. You must recognize that it is that English word "church," with all the confusion it brings, that causes so much misunderstanding and trouble. When will the C of C people have the faith, courage and will to correct their speech and stop using this confusing word that promotes so much error and misunderstanding? My prediction: THEY WILL NOT DO SO! C of C churches are CHURCHES, just like all other denominations, in whatever sense that word may be used, and they are going to stay in this pattern. They will even become more and more like the other churches around them.
The Lord Jesus Christ did not establish a CHURCH. He did not die for a CHURCH. He is not the Head of a CHURCH. Christians are NOT "members of any CHURCH," at least not by the authorization of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no CHURCH in God's word. Do you understand what I am trying to show you? The English word CHURCH should NOT be in the Scriptures! Understand that truth.
In the next installment, I hope to deal with the word CHURCH as meaning an institution, organization, or corporate body. That is another meaning of that deceptive English word "church." - CAH