In May 1886, a pharmacist named John Smith Pemberton, invented a new medicine that would “be a remedy for ailments including heartburn, nausea, and headaches.” He began selling it at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia on May 8, 1886. Within a few years Coca-Cola was a household name. Today it is the standard of cola. There are many imitators but there is only one Coke.
One of the things that makes Coke what it is is the history of it. There are many different brands of cola out there, but only the one established by John Pemberton in Atlanta in May 1886 is Coke. This illustrates a very important point for the Lord’s church.
Many people think that since the church is a spiritual institution that this means it is also a mystical institution. Meaning, the church is not something that can be observed or understood with intelligence. Many people think we feel things about the church, but we can’t really know anything about it for certain. This cannot be further from the truth. The church, while spiritual, is a historical institution. It is real and can be observed in history and understood in scripture. The Church has a place and a time in which it was established. Just like every other institution that exists.
Two of the things that makes the church of Christ the church of Christ is that it was founded at the scriptural place and at the scriptural time. These are historical facts.
Approximately 700 years before Jesus came to the Earth, Isaiah prophesied about the church. In Isaiah 2:2-4 the prophet said, “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it.”
Note the phrase “the Lord’s house”. This is an identifier for us that this is a prophecy concerning the Lord’s church (1 Tim 3:15).
We also see that this prophecy is concerning the establishment of the church by the phrase “shall be established”.
Then Isaiah gives us the location of where it will be established in verse 3, “… Out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
According to this prophecy, it is crystal clear that the church was to be established in Jerusalem.
It should be no surprise that when Jesus was giving instructions to his apostles about the establishment of His Church, that He told them “not to depart from Jerusalem” (Acts 1:3-4). Furthermore, on the day that the church was established, the Bible says the gospel was preached first in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5). Just as God had promised.
Consider how important this detail must be. The location where the church was established serves as an identifier. If a church was not founded in Jerusalem it cannot be the authentic church of Christ.
It must be pointed out however that having an institution start in Jerusalem does not automatically make it the Lord’s Church. I imagine there are quite a few organizations that got their start in Jerusalem. Another important detail is when the Lord was going to establish his church in Jerusalem.
In the same prophecy in Isaiah 2:2, the prophet tells us that the establishment of the church would occur in “the latter days” or the “last days”. Many people have abused this phrase over the years, but biblically speaking it is in reference to the beginning of the religious system that the Messiah would usher in (Heb 1:1-2). Joel used this terminology in his prophecy of the reign of the Christ (Joel 2:28ff). Peter said that the events of Pentecost in Acts 2 were the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel concerning would happen in the “last days” (2:17).
The events of Acts 2 happened during the early 30’s AD in Jerusalem. This is the scriptural time and place for the church of Christ to be established.
There are so many churches that have been established through the years. But what is thier history? When and where were they established. Don’t you think that would be something worth looking into?
It also needs to be noticed that apostasy among the Lord’s church was prophesied (2 Thess 2:1-4). This means that we don’t need to be concerned with finding a chain of historical succession back to Jerusalem and Pentecost. What matters is finding the same church that was established in Jerusalem on Pentecost.
Thinking back to Coca-Cola, they have a secret recipe that allows them to make the same product throughout all the world. As long as that recipe is sent out to the world, you have Coke.
Jesus’ plan for his church was based in history, but its great brilliance is found in the fact that Jesus has a recipe as well. It is conveyed by the picture of a seed. The seed is the word of God (Luke 8:11), and whenever that seed is planted in the hearts of individuals it makes a Christian only. People have manipulated the seed and have grown all sorts of things. They look like a church, they act like a church, but they are not the church of Christ. They are denominations that were founded by men in different times and in different locations. It may be that you are a member of one of those denominations.
The seed will only ever grow the church of Christ (Romans 16:16). It will only ever make a Christian (Acts 11:26). Today, if one wanted, they could be a member of the same church that was began in Jerusalem in the early 30s AD.
I am a member of the church of Christ because it was founded at the scriptural time in the scriptural place.
Note: This series of articles dealing with the reasons to be a member of the Lord's church is highly influenced by the book "Why I am A Member Of The Church of Christ" by Leroy Brownlow.