IN CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIANITY there is a
heightened awareness of a need for a personal knowledge of Christ. This has
been evidenced by such phenomena as the Jesus Movement and charismatic renewal.
Most thinking Christians have come to realize something else is needed, the
rediscovery of the historic Church.
Often, in heated reaction to dated and dead
Protestant liberalism, we have heard evangelical preachers say, "All you
need is Jesus!" Such statements often get rave reviews, but just a little
thoughtful reflection quickly shows such a simplistic religion to be shallow
and unfulfilling. More and more, that kind of reasoning is being tempered with
a renewed emphasis on the whole impact of the Incarnation, the coming in the
flesh of the Son of God. If all we needed was Jesus, why would Jesus have
promised, "I will build My Church..." (Matthew 16:18) ?
The crucial question then becomes which
church is the Church? The easy answer, of course, and a correct answer is, the
"New Testament Church." But this isn't A.D. 65, and we aren't in old Jerusalem. We are in the twentieth century, and our challenge
is to find the New Testament Church in our day, being sure it is the same as
the Church of the Apostles - the one Christ established.
Starting in the twentieth century with the
abundance of choices available to us is difficult, for we have hundreds of
denominations and sects claiming to be the New Testament Church. The Roman
Catholic Church makes that claim based on its Apostolic succession. Baptist
Churches are unwaveringly confident they hold to the New Testament faith. Often
the sign outside a "Church of Christ" reads, "Founded in Jerusalem, 33 A.D.," thereby staking the claim to be the
original Church. And the list goes on. Granted, many groups have maintained, or
even rediscovered, important aspects of the New Testament faith. But who is
right? Is the pluralism crowd perhaps correct - that essentially everybody is
in and ties for first place?
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