The Origin of the Church

(Acts 2:37-47)

SOME say that the church was established in the
Garden of Eden; others, at the time when God
called Abraham to become the father of a chosen peo-
ple; others, when the Jews were given the law under
the shadow of Mount Sinai ; others, when John the Bap-
tist preached the coming of the kingdom and baptized
people on condition of their repentance; and there are
some who maintain that the church has not yet been
established, neither will we be until Christ shall come
again and call the saints unto Himself. We are going
to search the Scriptures in order to find out when and
where the church was instituted. We shall study this
subject under three different captions:

1. The church in prophecy.

a. There was no church under the old covenant.
There is no mention of a church in the entire Old Tes-
tament. In Acts 7 : 38, Stephen speaks of the “church”
in the wilderness, in the Common Version. The Bible
Union renders this “the congregation” in the wilder-
ness. The children of Israel in the wilderness did not
constitute the church in the New Testament conception
of the term. They constituted a commonwealth, into

which people could enter without any spiritual require-
ments whatever, and were governed by the Mosaic law,
a system of civil enactments.

b. We read of a kingdom to be set up by the Mes-
siah, in the prophecy of the Old Testament (Isa. 2:
2-4). In this prophecy, we find that it is to be set up
at Jerusalem in “the last days” of what? In every
instance the phrase “last days” refers to the period
of the Christian dispensation; while the phrase “last
day” refers to the end of the world. Consider also Isa.
9 : 6 and Dan. 2 : 44. The time mentioned by Daniel
when this kingdom should be set up was the time of
the supremacy of the Roman Empire.

c. Typified in the giving of the law to Moses. It was
fifty days from the slaying of the paschal lamb in
Egypt until the giving of the law on Mount Sinai.
“When the law was given, three thousand were slain
(Ex. 32:28). Jesus Christ is our passover (1 Cor. v.
7). It was just fifty days from the crucifixion until the
day of Pentecost, when the gospel was proclaimed in
Jerusalem for the first time; and three thousand be-
lieved, obeyed, and were made alive (Acts 2:37-42).

2. The church in preparation.

a. The message of John the Baptizer — “the kingdom
of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). The Messiah intro-
duced (Matt. 3:13-17).

b. Jesus Christ came to establish a kingdom. Called
by Matthew, “the kingdom of heaven;” by Mark and
Luke, “the kingdom of God.”

c. The first intimation that Gentiles shall be allowed
citizenship in the kingdom (Matt. 8:5-13).

d. The twelve sent out to preach that “the kingdom
of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10: 5-7).

e. The conversation at Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16 :
13-19). .Here the word “church” is used for the first
time. Notice that the Master says “will build,” not,
“have built.” Here the church is spoken of as a thing
of the future; consequently, it could not have been
instituted in the time of Adam, Abraham, Moses, or
John the Baptizer.

f. The words “kingdom” and “church” are used
synonymously. Jesus came to establish a government.
This government is the “church,” or the “kingdom.”
In the narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,
the word “church” is used only three times, while the
word “kingdom” is used frequently. In the Book of
Acts, and in the Epistles, the word “church” is used
almost exclusively. Both terms have reference to citi-
zenship under the authority of Christ.

g. The parables of the Master, deal with various
things concerning the kingdom.

h. The seventy sent out to proclaim its nearer ap-
proach (Luke 10 : 8, 9) .

i. Humility as the road to greatness in the kingdom
(Matt. 18:1-6).

j. Forgiveness in the church (Matt. 18: 15-17).

3. The church in fact.

a. Jesus speaks of the church as a thing of the
future in Matt. 16 : 18. In Acts 2 : 47 it is announced
as a reality. It must have been instituted during the
interim.

b. Salvation through Christ was to be preached first
at Jerusalem. And the apostles were not to preach
until endued with power from on high (Luke 24:
46-49). Such power was necessary to qualify them to
be trustworthy witnesses.

c. The forty days following the resurrection were
spent by the Master with His apostles, teaching them
the things concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
In this respect He is the antitype of Moses, who spent
forty days in the mountain, receiving the Jewish law
(Ex. 24:18).

d. A few facts to consider. 6 6 First, as a new cov-
enant, it was ratified by the blood of Jesus Christ; as a
testament, it was not of binding force while the testator
lived; as a kingdom, it was not established until the
King ascended and was crowned; as a church, its his-
tory shows that it was not organized while Jesus lived
on earth; as a great salvation, it was only ‘ begun to be
spoken by the Lord and was confirmed unto us by them
that heard him.’ “—”The Church of Christ,” by T. W.
Phillips.

e. A few more facts to consider. Christ could not
claim all authority in heaven and upon earth until He
had conquered death. It was necessary for Him to
suffer and die and rise from the dead before repentance
and remission of sins in His name could be preached.
Therefore the kingdom could not have been set up until
after the coronation ceremonies in heaven. According
to type, this had to be fifty days after the resurrection.

f. The day of Pentecost. The apostles endued with
power from on high. The gospel preached in fact.
The charter members of the church of Jesus Christ.
The kingdom instituted (Acts 2).

Pentecost [is] a glorious day in the annals of religion.
The culmination of the old and the ushering in of the
new institution.