In this matter of salvation for those who are mentally unable to make the decision to receive Christ, let us give thanks that we have a merciful and loving heavenly Father, of Whom we may proclaim,“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25).
5. The Doctrine of the Church
In Matthew 16:16, Peter declares that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God. ” Jesus responds with, “Blessed are you … And I also say to you that you are Peter [Greek petros, small pebble] and on this rock [Greek petra, bedrock] I will build My Church” (Matt 16:17,18).
With this statement, Jesus proclaims that the Church will be built upon Jesus’ Divine Person – upon the bedrock of Peter’s confession that Jesus is truly the Son of the Living God! The Church will not be built upon any ordinary person or system of church government. The government of the Kingdom of God, which includes the Church, is upon Jesus Christ’s shoulders (Isa 9:6-7; Mark 12:10; 1 Cor 3:11; Eph 1:22; 5:23,24; Col 1:18).
What is “the Church”? The Greek word for “Church” is ekklesia, which means “the called out ones”. It describes a group of people called out for a special purpose. In New Testament usage, the word “church” refers to those who have been “born again” (John 3:3,5), those we call saved.
To better understand what the Church is, let us first look at some things the Church is not:
- The Church is not one particular denomination. Some denominational groups claim that only their members are the true Church. This is false and cannot be supported from the Bible, especially in light of how the New Testament defines “church”. Though there are various denominations with differing emphases, the Bible warns against divisiveness (1 Cor 1:11-17) and exhorts us to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:1-6). All those who truly believe in and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are part of His Church!
- The Church is not a social club or any other kind of civic group or organization The Church was divinely begun (Matt 16:18) and exists to fulfill the will of the Founder, Jesus Christ (Matt 28: 18-20; Acts 1:8; Eph 3:10; 1 Tim 3:15). The primary purposes of the Church are: to preach and teach the Word of God, making disciples; to exalt the Name of Jesus and God the Father through worship and in prayer; to serve the practical needs of the surrounding community; to carry out a consistent program of missions and evangelism to the whole world.
- The Church is not a building The word ekklesia is always used in the New Testament to indicate people (believers). There were no special buildings for the use of Christian gatherings until three hundred years after the Church began! As time passed, it became convenient to call the buildings in which Christians gathered “churches”. But a Church is the people who gather, not the building they gather in.
Essentially, the true Church of Jesus Christ is the Body of His “called out” people: Those called out from a life of sinful self-service and death, to live in the blessedness of a loving relationship with God the Father both now and through eternity. The true Church is made up of those who have sincerely put their trust in Christ for salvation (John 3:3-6; 1 Cor 12:13; Heb 12:23). Just attending a church service, or holding a position or title in a church or denomination, does not make a person saved or part of the Body of Christ (His Church). Being truly born again (John 3:3,5) – and having the transforming work of the Spirit of God active in one’s life (Titus 3:5) – is what qualifies one to be part of the Church, the Body of Christ.