God's Complete Word
Matthew 16:18
Does It Matter Which Church You Belong To?

Introduction - There are those who will ask, "Why do you examine the doctrines and practices of different denominational churches?" After all, there are many who say "It does not matter what church you belong to, we are all going to the same place, we are just taking different routes." This may sound good to many, but is this true? Does it matter what church you belong to, does it make a difference?

I. Jesus Dealt With Many Denominations & Doctrines

A. When Jesus walked upon this earth he had to deal with a variety of different religious "denominations" and doctrines.

1. There were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Samaritans and the Essenes.
2. Each of these religious groups had their own religious doctrines and practices.
3. Did Jesus believe that it made a difference which of these groups his disciples belonged to?

B. The Essenes

1. The Essenes were a group of Jews that isolated themselves away from the rest of society and built their own communities and formulated their own religious doctrines in the desert near the Dead Sea.
2. We know of the Essenes from some historical records and from the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, which are Essene documents discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea just a few years ago.
3. What did Jesus think about the Essenes?

a. The New Testament makes no mention of the Essenes.
b. While Jesus was surely aware of this religious group, we have no record of what he said concerning them.
c. However, we do know that Jesus' lifestyle was the opposite of the Essene practices.
d. The Essenes believed that they had to remove themselves from the rest of society and isolate themselves.
e. Jesus neither lived nor taught this doctrine. Jesus was not an Essene and he did not accept their religion.

C. The Samaritans

1. The Samaritans formed a religious group that purported to worship Jehovah and follow the Law of Moses.
2. Yet Jesus did not endorse or accept the Samaritan religion as pleasing to God.

a. Jesus told an inquiring Samaritan woman her religion was inadequate.
b. "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John. 4:22-24).

D. The Sadducees

1. The Sadducees were religious and professed to worship God, however some of the religious doctrines they taught were not acceptable to God.
2. The Sadducees believed and taught that there was no resurrection (Mark. 12:18) nor angels, nor spirits (Acts 23:8).
3. Jesus warned his disciples, "Take heed and beware of the leaven (the doctrine) of . . . the Sadducees" (Matthew 16:6, 12). "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29).

E. The Pharisees

1. The Pharisees were a very prominent religious group among the Jews in the time of Jesus.
2. Jesus certainly did not encourage his disciples to join the Pharisees for he repeatedly condemned their religion and their doctrines.
3. Jesus warned his disciples to beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees, just as he had warned of the Sadducees' doctrine (Mt. 16:6, 12).
4. Jesus strongly condemned the Pharisees' religion, "Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: `These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men'" (Matthew 15:7-9).
5. When Jesus was told that the Pharisees were offended by what he had said concerning them, Jesus replied, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch" (Matthew 15:12-14).

II. Jesus Built One Church, His Church

A. Clearly, Jesus believed and taught that it makes a difference what church one belongs to.

1. Jesus rejected all the human denominations and doctrines of his day.
2. Jesus warned his disciples not to be a part of any religious denomination or accept any human religious doctrines. Instead, Jesus proclaimed he would build His church (Matthew. 16:18), not another religious group or denomination.

B. Did Jesus reject the numerous religious groups of his day only to approve of the numerous churches with their numerous human traditions and doctrines today?

1. Surely not. Jesus said, "I will build my church," (Matthew 16:18) he did not say, "I will build my churches." Surely Jesus knew the difference between "my church" and "my churches."
2. In the Garden of Gethsemene, Jesus prayed for "those who believe in me" "that they may all be one" (John. 17:20-21).

a. Did Jesus pray for unity and then build many churches? No.
b. Jesus prayed for unity in one church, not for division in many denominations.
c. Likewise, the apostle Paul wrote that "there is one body" (Ephesians 4:4), which is his one church (Ephesians 1:22-23).

III. Many Denominations Do Not Make Jesus' "One Church"

A. Some will argue with this and say, "All denominations are one.'"

1. Most denominations claim to belong to Christ, but are they "one," "unified" as Christ prayed for?
2. It is a good thing that Christ went on to explain how believers are to be "one."

B. Jesus prayed "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us" (John. 17:21).

1. Christians are to be "one" as the Father and the Son are "one."
2. The Father and the Son were "one" because they spoke the same doctrine (John. 3:34; 8:26, 28, 38; 12:49; 12:50; 14:10-11).
3. Likewise, Christians are to be "one" by speaking the same doctrine

a. "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians. 1:10).
b. "Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing" (Philippians. 3:16).

4. Can you imagine Jesus and his Father teaching two different doctrines and yet claiming to be "one" and unified? Then many human denominations teaching many different doctrines cannot be "one" as the Father and Son are "one."

IV. Many Doctrines Are Not Christ's Doctrine

A. Again, some will object and say, "It does not matter what doctrine a church teaches and practices."

1. The apostle John said it mattered, "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds" (2 John. 9-11).
2. Jesus said it mattered, "And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men . . . Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted" (Mt. 15:9, 13).
3. Those denominations who teach a doctrine or doctrines that are not part of Christ's doctrine do not have God, they worship God in vain and they will be uprooted.

V. It Does Matter What Church You Belong To

A. Since Jesus built only one church and the apostles taught that there was only one church, then it does make a difference to which church one belongs.

1. Although there are many different churches, only one church belongs to the Lord.
2. One does not want to belong to any church, but only to the one church that belongs to Jesus.

B. Belonging to the Lord's church is not like joining a social club like the Lions' Club or the Elks' Club.

1. The church of Jesus Christ is not a social club, it is a divine institution bought with the precious blood of Jesus (Acts 20:28).
2. One cannot "join" the Lord's church like becoming a member of the Lions' Club.
3. The Scriptures tell us that the Lord adds to his church those who are saved by obeying his will in faith, repentance and baptism (Acts 2:47, 37-41).

Conclusion-After examining the Scriptures an honest heart must conclude that there is only one church built by and accepted by Jesus Christ. Which church is the one church that belongs to the Lord? You may skeptically say, "So you all (the church of Christ) are it, the one church."

Whether the church of Christ is the one church built by Christ is not the point of this lesson. The point is there is only one church and thus it does matter which church you belong to. If you understand this then perhaps you will search for the one true church of the New Testament. But as long as you believe that one church is as good as another and that it does not matter what church you belong to, then you will not spend 5 minutes looking for Christ's one church.

The only way to answer which church is the Lord's church is to examine the doctrines and practices of various churches in light of the doctrines and practices found in the New Testament church. Each one of us must carefully read and search the scriptures. Above all, if you discover that you are a member of a church that is not the New Testament church, then please have the courage and faith in God to leave that church and become a part of the Lord's church. Obey the Lord in faith, repentance and baptism and the Lord will add you to his one true church (See, Acts 2:37-47).

by Wayne Greeson
wayneg@ucsinet.com
1308 N.E. 2nd Street
Bentonville, AR 72712

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