The early “infancy period” of the church is fascinating to read about in the book of Acts. In just a few years’ time, local churches of baptized believers were established in dozens of cities in the Mediterranean region.
They had no steeples or stained glass, no buildings, no busses, no organized Sunday school, no media advertising, no youth groups, or kids clubs. No gospel tracts, no Bible-study books were available. Their only written Bible was the Old Testament.
In spite of their lack of many tools that churches use today, notice what happens in Acts 2:47: “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
We see something magnificent for the cause of Christ. The assembly of believers did not have all of the “stuff” we are accustomed to churches having. But, what they did have was the power of God at work in their individual lives—through the indwelling Holy Spirit—channeled through their local church.
Let’s consider the central figure of the church.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.—Acts 2:38
Peter’s message in Acts 2:14–36 articulates that Jesus Christ is the central figure, the primary thrust, the key Person of all that is happening. Sadly, much of what is done in the name of religion, today, has little or nothing to do with Jesus Christ.
Let us be clear: Jesus Christ must be the central figure of each local church.
1. Jesus Is the Founder of the Church
I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.—Matthew 16:18b
Jesus speaks of His identification with the church when He says, “My church.” He is not talking about just any group. Rather, He is identifying with His assembly, His “called-out” ones.
Jesus speaks of His relationship. He says, “I will build.” We are energized by His activity, by His power. He is engaged with His people and He propels them to progress.
Jesus is speaking of His victory, “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The church will victoriously endure—not because of those who are in the church. It will victoriously endure because of He who founded it!
2. Jesus Is the Foundation of the Church
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;—Ephesians 2.19–20
The church is not only founded by Jesus Christ; it is founded upon Jesus Christ. It is specifically on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that the church is based. Without Jesus’ work of redemption there would be no need for a church.
3. Jesus Is the Framework of the Church
In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.—Ephesians 2:21–22
Your life is a work in progress. God is building you in Christ. Our church is a work in progress. God is building us together in Christ. Just like the simple song says, “He’s Still Workin’ on Me.” Our churches can sing “He’s Still Workin’ on Us.”
Who we are is all about Jesus. So, what we do should be all about Jesus.
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.—Titus 2:13–14
4. Jesus Is the First Officer of the Church
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,—Ephesians 1:20–22
The Founder of the church is not dead. He is not in a grave with a memorial monument to Him and to His vision. We serve a living Saviour! Our Founder is alive and still leading as, the Head of the church.
And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 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.—Colossians 1:17–18
It may come as “news” to some people, but let it be clear: the Head of the church is not the membership. The Head of the church is not the Deacon Board. The Head of the church is not the Pastor. The Head of the church is JESUS CHRIST!
Any and all human leadership within the church is under submission to the authoritative Head—our Lord Jesus Christ!
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.—1 Corinthians 11:1
5. Jesus Fashions the Church
So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.—Romans 12:5
A great pastor from a generation ago, Dr. Jack Hudson, used to say, “You make much of Jesus; He will make much of you.” If our Church will make much of Jesus, He will make much of our church.
That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.—2 Thessalonians 1:12
The disturbing trends we see in many churches today seem to indicate that they want to present themselves less and less like Jesus, but more and more like the world and the culture. (The same world and culture that Jesus came to save people out of.) You can certainly draw a crowd by putting on a show and making people feel good about themselves. But, that is not a New Testament church.
The measurement of a church is not in its size, or its buildings, or its offerings. The true measurement of a church is in its likeness to Christ.
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.—John 12:32