The Church which Belongs to Christ
The language the New Testament was written in is koine Greek. Greek is a case based language, and by that we are referring to a grammatical category determined by the syntactic or semantic function of a noun or pronoun. The case value reflects the grammatical function performed by that word in a phrase, whether of the noun, pronoun, adjective, participle, or numeral. For example, in Rom. 16:16, Paul states “All the churches of Christ greet you.” In this instance, the prepositional phrase “of Christ,” is a possessive genitive. The head noun (church) is owned by the genitive noun (Christ). Thus, Paul speaks of the church being owned, belonging to Christ.
While this may seem like nothing more than a lesson in grammar, it is of vital importance in how we view the church. Jesus had previously said He would build His church on the truth of Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Son of God (Matt. 16:16, 18). The purchase price of the church was the blood of Christ, shed on the cross (Acts 20:28). Because of who He is and what He has done, Christ is head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23). He has all authority (Matt. 28:18), and so it is His will, which is in harmony with that of the Father (John 3:35; 6:38), that the church must follow (Eph. 5:24).
It is totally and completely logical, and appropriate, that the church should wear the name of the Lord. For religious groups to identify their denomination by something other than He who died for it and possesses it, shows it cannot be the one true church Christ established. One example of such is a group called the Church of the Apostles. The apostles, as important as they were, and as significant as their work was, never referred to the church as belonging to them. Paul actually addressed this principle when he wrote the church in Corinth. “What I am saying is this: One of you says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in Paul's name?” (1 Cor. 1:12-13). What does it say about people’s attitude toward Christ and His church when ownership is attributed to someone or something else?
There is something else we have to consider in this, as well. The language of the New Testament itself tells us the church is owned, belongs to Christ, and so it must be in submission to the will of Christ if it is to offer us life and salvation in Him. Paul was clear what the consequences are if we alter His message of truth. “As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him!” (Gal. 6:9). It is not in our purview to change what our Lord in Scripture has defined the church to be, or how the church is to function, or what life in the church is to be like. We can say, “Well, I believe,” or “I feel,” or “I want,” but the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter. It goes back to whom does the church belong? Did we die for the church? Are we divine so we know what the church needs or how it should function? Is there any evidence in Scripture that we are granted the authority to shape the church according to human sensibilities?
The church offers us the greatest blessings when we submit to God’s will, when we allow Christ to be our head and lead us in His way, when we seek to glorify Him and find our purpose in Him. The church was not established for our enjoyment and entertainment, but for the glory of God in Christ. Being added by the Lord means we seek Him to mold us in His image, to help us fulfill His purposes for our lives, to find the goal of eternal life. These things transcend the short-term goals of fleshly pursuits. They are the only way for us to be part of His kingdom, for our Lord to perfect holiness in us and assure eternity (2 Cor. 7:1). We must be sure we are of the church that is Christ’s possession. We must live as He has prescribed for us to live. Only His people, who today are His church, will gather around His throne in heaven. “But if I should be delayed, I have written so that you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice.”