Where Did The Lord's Church Begin?
Jesus told Peter, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Note that Jesus stated, “I will build My church” – not churches.
With so many religious organizations in the world, how does one identify that church – the one the Lord promised to build?
We are able to identify something by the characteristics it possesses. For instance, imagine a parking lot filled with vehicles. Someone tells you the identifying characteristics of one automobile. Could you find the one described?
Let us say those characteristics are – a Ford Explorer, blue, Alaska license plate, dent on passenger’s side near the front, with Goodyear tires and tinted windows. You locate an automobile with all of those characteristics except it has Michelin tires; is that the vehicle? No. Or, you found one that fits every description, except it does not have tinted windows; is that the automobile? No. All the characteristics must be met.
The New Testament gives characteristics that describe Christ’s church. Consider the time and place of the establishment of the Lord’s church. The Scriptures teach that the church was established in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Prior to Pentecost, the kingdom (church – Matt 16:18-19) is spoken of in the Bible as being in the future. Jesus said, for instance, “I will build My church”. “Will build” is future tense; thus, the church had not yet been established at that time. John the Baptizer, Christ’s forerunner, taught, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt 3:2). “At hand” meant it was near, but not yet present.
Jesus informed His disciples that the kingdom would come with power in their lifetime. “There are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9:1).
Hundreds of years earlier, Isaiah 2:2-3, Micah 4:1-2, and Zechariah 1:16 said that the word of the Lord would go forth from Jerusalem. Zechariah wrote, “This says the Lord: ‘I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; My house shall be built in it.” “My house” refers to the “the house of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15).
Between His resurrection and ascension, Christ told His disciples, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). He told them to preach “in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47).
Where? At Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-4). The prophecies regarding the time and place of the establishment of the church had been fulfilled. After the Day of Pentecost, the church is always mentioned in Scripture as being in existence. Therefore, any religious organization that had its beginning at some other time or some other place cannot be the Lord’s church. It must meet all the characteristics!