One of the basic truths about the New Testament Church is that the Lord Jesus Christ alone is the owner of it. When He spoke of the establishment of Church in Matt 16, the Lord emphatically said, “I will build My church”. That means church belongs to Him and He is the one who is going to build it. In many other passages also we can notice such expressions that categorically declare that church belongs to God alone. Cf. 1Tim 3:5, 15; 1Peter 2:9 etc. Consider three things that underline this truth:
a. Church is part of God’s eternal programme. Eph. 3:4, 5, 6, 9.
Scripture reveals that God saw the assembly of Christ even before its formation on the day of Pentecost. We should never see church in a casual manner. For example, it’s not just a gathering of few like-minded people; it’s not a club where people come for some common purpose or entertainment.
b. Church is the fruit of Christ’s labour. Isa 53: 11
Consider the cost the Lord Jesus had to pay in order to separate His assembly. He gave Himself for her. Eph 5: 25. The pain and agony the Lord Jesus suffered for us is beyond human comprehension. We can never claim the ownership of the congregation of Christ, for it was He who suffered for her. Any effort to control the Lord’s assembly, directly or indirectly, is an insult to the Lord Jesus who suffered for her.
c. Church is still under the care of Christ.
The Lord who told that, “I will build My church’, began it on the day of Pentecost and the building up of the church is still continuing. Cf. Matt 16:18; Mark 16:20; Act 2:47; Eph 2: 22; 1Cor 3:9.
We should not forget that it is the Lord who is adding each member to the congregation. Act 2:47. He is actively engaged in the building up of His congregation. Even as the servants of God are working for the expansion of His kingdom, the Lord is the Master Builder; it is His work, and we are only fellow-workers with Him. Mark 16:20; 1Cor 3:9.
This truth is very much evident in the letters to the seven local assemblies of Asia Minor. The Lord Jesus unveils His present glory to Apostle John in the Isle of Patmos. There He reveals Himself as the one who holds the assembly leadership, walking among the churches and carefully watching the affairs of each congregation. Reve. 1: 13, 16, 20; 2:1, 2.
Apostle Paul was very much aware of this truth. He refers to church as Christ’s own possession. Act.20:28; Eph 1:14; Tit 2:14; 1Cor 3:23. Further He says, The Lord Jesus still loves His church and does everything for her well-being. Eph 5: 25ff.
What a wonderful privilege it is; we are the object of His love and affection, for the church belongs to Him. No local assembly can be considered as the property, inheritance or possession of an individual or family.
We may have done so much for the beginning and progress of a local church. We may have contributed financially and in many other ways too. Even then, we cannot claim the ownership of Christ’s possession. The congregation should acknowledge and yield to the headship of Christ. Any effort to show otherwise is tantamount to taking away the rightful place of Christ in the assembly. He must be preeminent in all things.
Sad to notice that there are places today where individuals or families hijack the churches of Christ. Autonomy of the local church, priesthood of all believers, divinely appointed eldership etc are not popular truth for them.
One or few individuals control churches against the clear and plain teachings of the New Testament. They think they are the sole authority for these congregations. Such attitude towards the church of Christ is an open rebellion against the Lord of the Church. Cf. Col 1:18; 3Jn v.9
In such a scenario the Spirit of God will be grieved. The smooth functioning of the church will be in trouble. The full potential of the congregation cannot be used for the glory of God. Ultimately the purposes of God through His church will be hampered.
Even as we serve the Lord sincerely and sacrificially, let us not forget the fact that we are just stewards, under-shepherds, and workers together with the Lord. He is the Chief Shepherd, the Lord and the owner of the Church.
All glory and honour belong to Him alone. Not any individual, Christ alone must be glorified and honoured in the Church of God. Cf. Col 1:18; 1Cor 3:9; 4:1; 1Peter 5: 2 – 4. By words, deeds or even by attitude never show that we are more powerful than the Lord in His Church.
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of the church.