Ecclesiology:The Doctrine of the Church

Ecclesiology:The Doctrine of the Church



            Within today's society there is a ringing question that resonates throughout the whole world.  The question strikes at the very heart of the subject of ecclesiology, better known as the study of the church.  Most people generally accept whatever beliefs their parents or family accepted.  If they dare to question that belief, the questions they most often pose are, "Which church is right?" or "Are not all churches the same?" 

            Dr. Rex Turner Sr. does an outstanding job identifying the church of the Bible in his book "Systematic Theology."  He shows how the church was in God's plan.  God has always had a plan for man.  Since before man, God knew that man would need a redemptive plan and the church was at the very center of that plan.  The church being identified as those who accepted God's plan and thus were added to that body of believers by him.

            To have a thorough understanding of the church one must search the scriptures from the Old Testament through the New Testament.  From the writings of the prophets we can see how God prepared mankind for the arrival of the New Testament church. He tried to prepare the minds of men to accept his teachings through these prophecies yet was met with disbelief and denial when he presented his plan to the world through his son, Jesus.

            It is with much the same disbelief and denial that we are met with today as we reach out to the world with the message of the church, that being that Christ died for the sins of man and through his blood we are cleansed and made whole and then the Father adds us to his glorious church, the greatest institution ever given to mankind by the creator of all things.



            The study of the doctrine of the church is a very comprehensive study which begins with the prophecies of the Old Testament and continues through the New Testament and the fulfillment of those prophecies.  The prophets wrote in terms and symbolism that reflected the promises that were being made to them.  Brother Turner begins by pointing out the prophet Joel spoke of an outpouring that would occur upon all, Jew and Gentile alike in Joel 2:28-29.

"And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.  (29)  And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.


 Then on the day of Pentecost, Peter declared, "This that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:16).  It was on this day the church established and with it came the outpouring of the Spirit as was promised in Joel's prophecy.[1]  This was one of the defining moments on that memorable day as Peter directed the attention of the audience to the prophecy they were all familiar with. 

            When looking at the prophecies of the Old Testament, whether those prophecies of Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Daniel, or any of the other prophets, the point of the story remained the same, that God was going to bless mankind with the establishment of the church, his kingdom.  The prophets used many different methods to describe what would take place.  Though the prophets used terms and words the people should understand, they rarely understood the gravity of their message. 

            Brother Turner concludes the chapter on the prophecies of the church in the Old Testament with three very important points that resonate strongly to the reader.  He well states that each point needs to be stated, underlined and stressed.  Students of scripture must be very familiar with these points.  The first point being that God had a plan for man long before man even existed.  He saw the need for a plan of redemption for mankind.  There was certainty that man would need redemption for the sin he would commit.[2]

            The second point he makes is the fact that God made this choice before the foundation of the earth.[3]  This fact was made known to the church by the apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians, chapters one and three.  This shows us the church was not an after thought as some would lead you to believe but always in His plan. 

            The third point he makes is that the prophets saw the visions or revelations that pertained directly to the church.  These were recorded in terms of symbols and language which were known to both the prophet and his audience.[4]  Today we can read their writings and understand what they were pointing to because they have been fulfilled with the establishment of the church. 

            The Old Testament prophets recorded their message for all to read and understand.  We read these and understand they were pointing to the establishment of the  kingdom of  God, the church of our Lord.  Edward Wharton wrote, "The church of our Lord stands firmly established in the love and eternal purpose of God."[5]  The more we study the church and see what love it took to give it to us, the more love we have for it. 

The church that was established on the Day of Pentecost was and is distinctly different from what the denominational world sees as the church.  The church must be viewed as the church that belongs to Christ.  He purchased it with his blood (Acts 20:28), showing his love for us.  With that thought in mind, we must take care in keeping it within the pattern of design he set forth in the New Testament. 

            The teaching of the New Testament clearly shows there is only one true church. Paul writes in Ephesians 4: 4-6:

Ephesians 4:4-6  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;  (5)  one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  (6)  one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.


This passage identifies the church as being one church just as there is only one God.  The student of the Bible must go to the scriptures to find this one church that is spoken of here.  It is only through study that one can truly identify the church, the body of Christ, and through this study he will find that the only way he can enter into this body is through obedience to the gospel plan of salvation as we see in Acts 2:47, "praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."  Those added to the church are those who have put on Christ in baptism (Galatians 3:27).  Paul told the Ephesian brethren that all spiritual blessings are found in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).  I can think of no greater blessing than being in Christ and being added to his church.

Brother Turner points out five guidelines for identifying the true church of the Bible.  These guidelines are grounded in the truth and apply as much today as they ever have.  You can recognize the true church by observing where it began, observing when it began, observing the founder and foundation of it, observing the names by which it is called, and by observing the law by which it is governed.[6]

            It is important to note that in recognizing there is one body, the church, we have a prescribed order of worship that must be followed as well.  If we fail to observe the pattern for acceptable worship we will worship in vain. We must not only be identified by name, we must be identified in practice as well.

            The church meets on the first day of the week as did the church of the New Testament, Acts 20:7  "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread."   Here we see they came together for the distinct purpose of observing the Lord's Supper just as we do today in the Lord's church.

            The worship of the New Testament was much like the worship that took place in the synagogues prior to the establishment of the church.  They sang, prayed, read from scripture, heard an exhortation given and gave of their means to support the financial operation of the synagogue. The only changes that were made were the day of worship from the Sabbath to the first day of the week, and the observance of the Lord's Supper. 

When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well in John 4, the conversation turned to worship. The Samaritan's concern was not only where the acceptable place for worship was, but also how and in what spirit acceptable worship was done.  The Lord replied to her, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."(John 4:24). The phrase "in spirit and truth" carries the idea of meeting God in His place and on His terms. "Without question or dispute, God has always defined what constitutes acceptable worship; this has not been left to man's discretion."[7]  The church that holds to the truths expressed in the word of God is truly the church that Jesus gave his life for.  To leave out or to minimize the true order of worship is to minimize the inspired word of God. 

            We must have biblical authority for everything we do in worship.  If the church fails to seek this authority for its actions in worship, we are guilty of innovation or neglect.  In other words, we do not honor God for who he is and resort to pleasing ourselves instead.  Mechanical instruments in worship are an example of man's desire to please himself instead of worshipping God.  We have no authority or example within the pages of the New Testament for such worship.  We are commanded to sing.  Paul wrote to the Ephesian brethren and included an exhortation to sing, "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;"(Ephesians 5:19).  When he wrote to the Colossian brethren he also told them to sing, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Colossians 3:16).  We dare not add anything to our singing when we worship.  Brother Turner ends his discussion on instrumental music with a very pertinent question.  "Shall Christians go by the authority of the Holy Scriptures in worship, or shall they presume to worship God in whatever way and by whatever means as they may personally be pleased to do so?[8]  The answer to this question is the very heart of the issue.  We must have a respect for God's word in everything we do.

The Lord must weep when he sees the religious world today.  He has set forth a pattern and we have the obligation to adhere to and obey that pattern.


Cates, Curtis A.  Worship: Heaven's Imperative or Man's Innovations? MemphisTN:

           Cates Publications, 1993.


Ferguson EverettThe  Church of  Christ, A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today, Grand

           Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996.


Nichols, Flavil.  "The Church." In Great Doctrines of the Bible, edited by M.H.Tucker,

           201-214.  Delight  AR: Gospel Light Publishing Company, 1980.


Turner, Rex A. Sr. Systematic Theology, another Book on the Fundamentals of the Faith,

             MontgomeryAL Alabama  Christian  School of Religion, 1989.


Wharton, Edward C. The  Church of  Christ NashvilleTN: Gospel Advocate Company, 




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