WHAT IS THE CHURCH, TITHING, ETC.?
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY DENOMINATIONS?
To most people going by a building with a steeple on it would think of it as a church (building) but this is not a biblical understanding of the church.
WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
The word “church” is a translation of the Greek word “ekklesia,” which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones” – all the people who have been called out of the world by God. The root meaning of church is not that of a building, but of people. In Romans 16:5 we read, “Greet the church that is in their house.” Here we see Paul referring to the church in their house – not a church building or a denomination, but a body of believers.
The true church is the Body of Christ, made up of all believers who have been washed in the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 20:28). A person cannot “join” the true church; he must be placed in it by faith in Christ (Acts 2:47). No one has the right to call a denomination “God’s Church.” Every denomination has a man at its head, but Christ is the head of the true church (Eph. 1:22-23).”
WHEN WAS THE CHURCH ESTABLISHED?
In Acts 2:1-4 we have the record of how the Church began. It came into being when that little group of Jewish disciples were placed into Christ’s body by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). The 120 persons in the Upper Room were the first, or charter, members of the Lord’s church. On that day, 3000 souls were added to the church after Peter preached his Spirit-anointed sermon (Acts 2:41). The next day, 5000 more were added (Acts 4:4).
WHAT IS THE CHURCH AGE – THE AGE OF GRACE?
The Church Age is the period of time from Pentecost (Acts 2) to the rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18). It is called the Church Age because it covers the period in which the church is on earth. In prophetic history, it falls between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27; Rom.11). Even though “the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).” In the Church Age we find, for the first time in history that God actually indwells His creatures, permanently and eternally. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was always present and always at work, but He would come upon people temporarily (e.g., 1 Samuel 16:14). The Church Age is marked by the Holy Spirits permanent indwelling of His people (John 14:16) – born again or born from above where God’s Spirit comes to dwell in believers, permanently, and eternally.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEM THE BODY OF CHRIST AND THE BRIDE OF CHRIST?
The expression “the Body of Christ” and “the Bride of Christ” give us different aspects of our relationship to Christ. The church is called the Bride of Christ because it is married to Him (2 Cor. 11:2). It is also referred to as the Body of Christ because Christ is the head, and we are His spiritual body (Col.1:18). Just as our physical body is connected to our head, so is the church connected to its Head – the Lord Jesus Christ. That shows what a close and vital relationship we have with the Lord. We see a picture of the body and bride in Adam and Eve. God made Adam – a perfect and complete body – that out of that body God took a rib and made a bride for Adam. Paul said in Ephesians 5:23-32 that this is a type of Christ and His church.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY DENOMINATIONS?
The reason that people are not willing to accept the Bible as their final authority. The various denominations began when people started following men, deceived by Satan, instead of following Christ. Actually, there should not be any denominations. The Bible says: “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another (Rom.12:5).” Jesus prayed that we would all be one (John 17:21). All denominations are founded by men, but Christ is the Head of the true church (Eph. 1:22-23).
People need to understand that in churches there are professors and possessors or unbelievers who profess Christ but don’t have a relationship with Him and believers who possess Christ that are born again from above with the spirit of God dwelling in them. Anybody can go to a church. The church’s door is open to everyone – unbeliever and believer alike. In the church mix, you also have Satan and his emissaries. In the parable of the Wheat and the Tares, a parable picturing professing Christendom (apostasy) we see that wherever true believers are found (church) Satan will also have his counterfeits. Scripture calls Satan a master deceiver whose forte is in the realm of religion. He is the root of all religions throughout the world. He will spare no effort to infiltrate and corrupt the church. A good example of this is in 3 John 9-10 where the true Christians were forced out of congregations. Yes, as incredible as it sounds, those who were faithful to the teachings of the apostles were expelled from this congregation. Satan had succeeded in placing his minister over this congregation, expelling the faithful servants of Jesus Christ.
Let us also not forget that denominations are made up of churches, which are made up of people. People who may have legitimate disagreements about beliefs or practices – disagreements over the interpretation of Scripture – disparity in personality, passions, and just don’t get along. People with pride, selfishness, stubbornness, the desire to wield power, etc. and this often leads to debates and divisions within churches and denominations, which in turn leads to the creation of new churches and denominations. It’s an unfortunate situation but a reality, given human nature. Christianity, of course, is not alone in this; almost every religion is divided and subdivided into major groups for the same reasons.
ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE, WHAT TYPES OF LEADERS ARE NECESSARY IN THE CHURCH?
God’s Word says there should be two types of leaders in every church: elders and deacons. The elders should take care of the spiritual matters of the church, while the deacons should handle the business affairs. The word “elder” really means a preacher. All true preachers of the Gospel are elders. The qualifications of elders and deacons are given in 1 Timothy 3:1-13. The elders should not be dictators. They should rule the church by example and by testimony (1 Peter 5:2-3).
In Scripture, elders are also called “bishops.” The two words refer to the same position (compare Titus 1:5 and 1:7). Elder refers to his spiritual maturity; Bishop refers to his function. The word “bishop” comes from a Greek word meaning “over-seer.” The elder or bishop “watches over” the souls of those under him (Heb. 13:17).
IS IT WRONG TO CALL A MINISTER “REVEREND”?
Yes, it would be wrong to call any man reverend. The word “reverend” occurs only once in the Bible – in Psalm 111:9 – and refers only to God. The best titles to use for a minister are “pastor” or “elder.” If a church leader is given a title at all, it would be better to give one that emphasizes his role as a servant. For instance, “pastor” means “shepherd.”
IS TITHING REQUIRED?
No. The tithing law was given exclusively to the nation of Israel to take care of the tribe of Levi. The Levites were the only ones ever given authority to take tithes from the people (Num. 18:21-32; Hebrew 7:5). Since there is no tribe of Levi today, we can see that tithing has no place in today’s age of grace.
In Malachi 3:7, 14 we find that God refers to tithing as an “ordinance,” and here in Paul’s letter to the Colossians we have Christ’s clear-cut statement: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross (Col. 2:14).” In other words, the ordinance of tithing was abolished at the Cross of Calvary with the rest of the Jewish law.
Today, we are not under law – we are under grace (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:18). No preacher has any right to dictate or tell you how much to give or where you should give. This is strictly between you and the Lord.
HOW SHOULD WE GIVE IN THIS AGE OF GRACE?
God will accept any gift that is given out of a heart of love and in the spirit of Christ. Under the Old Testament law, people were forced to give but under grace, a person gives because they love to give. If you want to find out how to give today, all you have to do is go to the epistles of Paul.
Church truth is found in Paul’s letters (Eph. 3:8-10). Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:2 that giving is a personal matter. Then in 2 Corinthians 9:7, we read: “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Does God really need our money? No, the cattle on a thousand hills belongs to Him, but our hearts attitude is what is important to Him. He loves to see a person who is so filled with the joy of the Lord that he wants to share what he has with others. All that God asks is that we give freely, liberally, and cheerfully. Let the Spirit lead you and your giving, and you will never go wrong.