One point I want to make in the beginning of this article is that the church and the body of Christ are one in the same. There are a number of passages that make this clear but one should suffice. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”
This passage says that the church is Christ’s body. Every scriptural church is owned by Christ (His) and has Him as its head. The word translated head comes from a Greek word meaning to seize or take hold of. Christ is the one who seizes control of each scriptural church.
The English definition that best fits this idea of Christ as the head of the church is “A chief; a principal person; a leader; a commander; one who has the first rank or place,and to whom others are subordinate; as the head of an army; the head of a sect or party.” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)
I am not going to spend a lot of time in this article proving that the universal church doctrine is a fraud. If you are interested in detailed proof you can get my book “Universal Church: Fact or Fiction” which is available here.
Let me start by saying the phrase “church of Christ” is not mentioned in the Scriptures, but the phrase “churches of Christ” is. The phrase “church of God” is found eight times and always in the context of a local church. It is used twice to refer to a specific church in a specific location. Finally the phrase “churches of God” is found three times.
So, what do we learn from the above?
- The Scriptures never speak of THE church of Christ
- Christ has churches, not a single church
- The church of God is a local church like “the church of God which is at Corinth.” (I Corinthians 1:2)
- God has churches, not a single church
Next I would like to establish that there is only one body. Listen to Ephesians 4:3-6 “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
This passage tells us we are to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. To begin with, the doctrine of a universal body does just the opposite. Instead of unity it promotes diversity. You can be part of the “body” and believe pretty much whatever you want.
This passage gives us a list of ones. The first of these is one body. Those who believe in a universal body use this to try to prove that the one body is universal. Does this stand stand the test of proper interpretation?
In this list we find two types of ones. First there are the one and only, such as one Spirit, one Lord, one faith (doctrinal system), and one God and Father. Secondly there are the ones in type such as one body, one hope, and one baptism.
There is not one big universal hope that all Christians have. There is one type of hope, the hope based upon faith in Christ alone for our salvation.
There is not one big universal baptism, There is one type of baptism by which all become members of the local church (Acts Chapter 2).
Many will try to make the body universal by using I Corinthians 12:13 which says, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
This passage tells us what happens to make one a member of the body, but do we have an example where we see this in action? The answer to this question is yes we do. It is found in Acts 2:41 “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”
Those who gladly received the word that had just been preached would be those who received Christ. They were not added until they were baptized. Only those who want to make the body universal would take this to mean anything other than water baptism.
To whom or to what were they added? In Acts chapter one we have a church meeting to elect a replacement for Judas. Chapter two begins with a church meeting with the members gathered in one accord. The chapter ends in verse 47 stating that God added them to the church.
Acts 2:42 tells us what they did when they were added. “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” These are all local church functions.
It is quite obvious that Acts Chapter two is talking about a local church. There is no reason be believe that I Corinthians 12:13 is talking about anything other than a local church. This is supported by the description of a physical (local) body in the verses that follow. It is further confirmed when Paul tells them that they, as a church, are the body of Christ (verse 27).
The answer to our question is quite simple. The body of Christ and the church are one in the same. The body of Christ is, therefore, a local assembly of baptized believers who are called together to learn the precepts of God and then to live them out in the world, thus doing the work of the ministry (see Ephesians 4:11-14). The body of Christ is a local church that is His in that He owns it and it belongs to Him as His possession. Since He owns it His is the head as its leader.