Copyright © January 30, 2019
Since the inception of the New Testament church during Christ’s earthly ministry, He began to build his first assembly, his first church (ekklesia). He called out His apostles. Disciples followed Him. As he walked and assembled with His apostles and disciples, He taught them and answered their questions (See The New Testament of Jesus Christ: His Executor Named and Empowered).
An assembly of people meeting regularly for some purpose is a church. However, most such assemblies are not churches of Christ, churches under Christ. When Christ declared that “Thou are Peter and upon this rock [Himself], I will build my church” (Matthew 16.18), he knew that there were already churches (ekklesias) in existence that were not His churches and that there would be such churches in the future. He said “I will build my church,” speaking of an institution that would be made up of local autonomous assemblies under Him in all things (See Epheisians 1.22; Colossians 1.18) each following His New Testament principles as to organization, purpose, calling, make-up etc.
Only a very small remnant of churches who name the name of Jesus and give Jesus Christ and the Bible (The King James Bible) or some interpretation of the Bible lip service are churches of Christ, churches under Christ. This is easily ascertained because almost all churches are legal entities, mainly corporate and Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) or § 508 religious organizations. That alone disqualifies them as churches of Christ. Why? Because such churches have chosen to submit themselves to more than one authority. They have betrayed their first love, the Lord Jesus Christ. See What does church, inc. mean? for explanation of church incorporation.
Likewise, a church who obtains Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) or 508 tax exempt status has further betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ. Such a church chooses to submit herself to the federal government through its agency, the Internal Revenue Service and the rules that come with 501(c)(3). For more details on 501(c)(3) and 508 status, see What is 501c3?, Should a Church Be a 508 Church?
A church who submits to any authority other than the Lord Jesus Christ has betrayed her first love, the Lord Jesus Christ. She, like the church of Ephesus about 30 or 40 years after Paul wrote his epistle to the church at Ephesus, had left her first love (Revelation 2.1-7). Christ commended her on her many good works. Yet, he said to her, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:4-5). A church whose candlestick is removed by Christ is no longer a Christ’s light for the world, no matter her “good works.”
Some churches and believers are ignorant of Bible teaching on these matters. Some do not understand what church incorporation and 501(c)(3) and 508 status are. They do not understand that church legal status puts a church under an authority other than the Lord Jesus Christ. They have never been taught the principles and facts and have not studied these matters out for themselves. Once they have been enlightened but continue in their betrayal of our Lord, God holds them to a higher standard. They no longer have an excuse; and if they continue in their sin, Jesus Christ will remove their candlestick. They will be churches, ekklesias, assemblies of people, but they will no longer be churches of Christ.
Other Short Lessons and Essays:
- What is a Spiritual entity?
- What is a legal entity?
- Is a church a Spiritual entity, a legal entity, or a Spiritual/legal entity?
- Is it illegal for a church in America not to incorporate? Does a church have to be a 501c3?
- Does God Care if our Church is Incorporated?
- Should a Church Be a 508 Church?
- Does a church in America need an Employer (Tax) ID Number?
- Did President Trump do away with 501(c)(3) Requirements?
- What does church, inc. mean?
- Who Is the head of an incorporated church?
- What is 501c3?
- What is 508?
- What is the history of the First Amendment?
- What is the History and Meaning of “Establishment of Religion” in America?
- What is an established church?
- What is a First Amendment Church?
- Question from a Church Concerning Church Organization