CHRIST NOT THE FOUNDER OF CHRISTIANITY
By Curtis Pugh
By Curtis Pugh
The definition of Christianity as given by the Merriam Webster dictionary is this: “the religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies.” “Christendom” is given as a synonym for the word “Christianity” by that same dictionary. Notice in that definition that Jesus Christ is not said to have founded Christianity! The dictionary says “derived from Jesus Christ.” The fact is that Jesus Christ never founded such a thing. This we shall show. Today's Christianity or Christendom is a monstrosity whose founder is the devil aided by wicked men: mere religionists. It is obvious, by the way, that there is no unity within today's Christianity. Men try to form unions in order to achieve power in the world, but their differing doctrines and practices keep them from any real unity.
What did Jesus Christ do while He was upon this earth? Most certainly He “...went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil,” (Acts 10:38). He interacted with people of all sorts, teaching some, rebuking others, etc. He was aggressive in taking the initiative in speaking the truth to those with whom He came in contact. While many men have founded religions in various places around the world, Christ never founded a religion. That He did so is taught by many and often assumed to be the case when He is compared with the founders of the world's religions. For instance we often hear that Mohamed the founder of Islam is dead, but Christ is alive thus insinuating that the two were both founders of a religion. But Christ did not found “Christendom” or the many-headed monster that is today called “Christianity.” Instead He built a congregation, prepared her and commissioned (gave authority to) her to replicate herself throughout the world after He returned to His Father. Jesus stated His intention saying, “...I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” (Matthew 16:18). By this He meant that He would finish what He had started in building His congregation.
The Greek word “ecclesia” or “ekklesia” which means congregation was translated by the King James translators as “church,” but they admitted in their introductory remarks “To The Reader” that they had kept the old ecclesiastical words – the words used by their Catholic mother. They admitted that they were not so scrupulous as others (Tyndale, for instance) and specifically stated that they did not use the word “congregation,” substituting in its place the word “church” which means “Lord's” or “of the Lord.” The English word “church” comes from a completely different Greek word, “kyriakos,” which is not related to “ecclesia” at all. By following tradition on this and other words (such as “baptizo”) and because most people have not and will not read the translators' introductory material, much confusion exists in the religious world. The point being this: Jesus said He would build His congregation: not a religions organization made up of more than one congregation nor did He say He was starting a new religion.
Jesus did not say that He would start to build His congregation and leave it to be completed by someone else. Neither did He say that He would build His congregation on the Day of Pentecost through the Holy Spirit after He Himself was absent from the world. He said He would build it! The Greek word for “build” is “oikodomeo.” This word means to complete a building or a house. This word is used thirty-eight times in the New Testament. When it is used as a verb as in the words of Christ concerning building His congregation, it always means to complete a building except in Luke 14:30 where it is expressly specified, “...This man began to build, and was not able to finish.” Any thinking person will agree that such a qualifying statement does not alter the meaning of the word “build” in any way. And so Christ built His congregation. So then, we are in step with many old Baptists and more importantly in step with the New Testament when we say, “Any church that is newer than Christ and His apostles is too new for me.”
Many have argued that Christ's congregation was not founded until the Jewish feast day of Pentecost after the Lord ascended to Heaven. Their argument sometimes is that His disciples lacked the Holy Spirit until that day and so were not His church. But that is not true. They lacked the visible evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit for they had not yet been dipped into Him by Christ as He promised in Acts 1:5. But they had the Holy Spirit for we read in John 20:21-22 these words: “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” The plain fact is this: there is not a single verse or even a hint in the Bible that the Holy Ghost would build a congregation on that Pentecost! Most Protestants and the cults generally claim that they trace their origin back to the Day of Pentecost following the Lord's ascension to Heaven. Too late! Christ left His congregation on earth to do His work – it was already here when Pentecost rolled around! Again we say: “Any church that is newer than Christ and His apostles is too new for me.”
The men and women who congregated with Christ, His baptized followers, were His congregation and His bride. Is it not simple logic to say that people who congregate in an organized way are a congregation? And Christ's congregation was organized having officers: a pastor (Christ their Shepherd) and a treasurer (Judas) and thus were organized sufficient for their needs. They did evangelistic work. Their pastor taught them and defended the truth against false teachers. That they traveled about and had no meeting house of their own did not affect their being a congregation for since that time there have been Baptist congregations who have crossed the Atlantic, moved westward from the Eastern Seaboard, etc., all as organized congregations. Their moving about did not affect their status as one of Christ's congregations one whit! That they were Christ's bride was made clear by John the Baptist when he spoke of Christ, identifying Him by His bride, saying, “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom...” (John 3:29).
Buildings are constructed of materials prepared for the builder's use either by him or by others. Trees are turned into lumber, clay into bricks, steel into nails, etc., etc. In the case of the first of the Lord's congregations the material was prepared by John the Baptist. He came preaching repentance as the Lord's forerunner preparing the way for Christ. Those who repented and looked forward in faith to the Messiah (Christ) - these John baptized. Thus the prophecy concerning John the Baptist was fulfilled: he shall “...make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” (Luke 1:17).
Modern Christianity has long been divided over John's baptism. Some say that John's Baptism is not Christian baptism. If we take the word Christian to mean “the religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies” as the dictionary gives there is no such thing as Christian baptism. Different ideas about modes, administrators, motives and candidates prove that various “Christian” groups have no single baptism. Many within Christianity think baptism to be a sacrament while others hold it to be an ordinance. There is a vast difference between those two things. Basically an ordinance requires obedience. A sacrament conveys saving grace in some measure. Scriptural baptism is a congregational ordinance to be administered on the authority of Christ as delegated to His congregation in what we often call the great commission. If baptism were a Christian ordinance then everyone who identifies as a Christian according to the dictionary definition would be qualified to administer baptism. And indeed some people think that is the case. Thus not only men who profess faith in Christ, but also women and children would be eligible to baptize.
But Christ's specific command to a specific body (His church or His congregation) forbids anyone else from administering baptism. Scripturally this is evident. And logically and in the rulings of law courts that principle is true. In law the Latin expression “expressio unius est exclusio alterius,” is defined as being “a maxim of interpretation meaning that the specification of one thing is the exclusion of all others.” Take the words of Jesus to His congregation in what is called the great commission to any just court and the ruling will be that because He gave specific commands to a specific body, His congregation, all other groups or organizations or individuals are excluded from having His authority to act on His behalf in that three-fold authorization. So then only His congregation or one(s) deriving their authority from His congregation can rightfully administer baptism! That is, of course, unless a johnny-come-lately congregation can prove that they have direct authority from Christ to initiate acting on His behalf, but as they cannot prove that the words of Christ in His commission were addressed to them they are without authority.
As has often been pointed out, John's baptism was the only baptism had by Christ or His apostles – His first congregation. Christ set the apostles first in His congregation (See 1 Corinthians 12:28). And when it came time to elect a successor to the fallen Judas the requirements are clearly given: “Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection,” (Acts 1:21-22). A qualified candidate for the apostleship must have been in company with them “Beginning from the baptism of John.” The ministry of Jesus – His building of His congregation began immediately after His baptism which was administered by John the Baptist. This John was a man sent from God (John 1:6) to baptize (John 1:33). That the first members in Jesus' congregation were first disciples of John and therefore had been baptized by him is clear from John 1:35-37 where it is recorded: “Again the next day after John stood, and two of his [John's] disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples [of John] heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.” Others of John's disciples left him to follow Jesus as well.
Just as there is no statement or even a hint that any kind of “church” or congregation was built on the Day of Pentecost, so there is no statement nor hint that someone other than John was sent to initiate a new “Christian baptism.” This is a renegade idea not to be found in God's Word anywhere!
From that first single congregation, by process of succession or replication, has come a host of congregations of like faith and practice down through the centuries to our day. There are now His kind of congregations, commonly called (local) churches, in many parts of the world. Space forbids that we list the marks of such congregations, but Christ' congregations can be known by their preachments and practices. The conclusion to which all are forced by the facts is this: those who claim to be Christians, but who are not faithful members in one of Christ's congregations – one with a valid claim to having descended or having been replicated from the one He built – are outside the very thing that Christ built. They are distinct from that thing which He prepared to do His work, which He left here upon earth to do His work of reproducing herself, and for whom He is returning. Remember, Christ's words to the congregation at Philadelphia: “I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth,” (Revelation 3:10).
Those religious entities that make up “Christianity” or Christendom, whatever they may be called, came about as perversions of what Christ left on earth to do His assigned work. They have corrupted ordinances into sacraments, grace into works mongering, liberty into license, the law of love into Judaic legalism, freedom into fear, knowledge into ignorance, faith into superstition, and the gospel into an appeal for a depraved heart to do this or that in order to be saved. Jesus Himself warned of those who would pervert His words and work. He said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves,” (Matthew 7:15). Paul spoke of the same crowd saying, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock,” (Acts 20:29). Old John spoke of those who were outside Christ's congregations in his day saying, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us,” (1 John 2:18-19). Christendom has nothing to do with biblical congregations – Christ's congregations! They went out! Some of them were cast out, failed to submit themselves to Christ's congregation, refused to repent and therefore were never restored. They are those who are “without” (outside) the congregation whom God judges (see 1 Corinthians 5:12-13) while leaving those “within” to be judged by the congregation.
The old Baptists who wrote and subscribed to the First London Baptist Confession had the following to say regarding the relationship between Christ's congregations and His kingdom: “That Christ has here on earth a spiritual Kingdom, which is the Church, which He has purchased and redeemed to Himself, as a particular inheritance: which Church, as it is visible to us, is a company of visible saints, called and separated from the world, by the Word and the Spirit of God, to the visible profession of the faith of the Gospel, being baptized into the faith, and joined to the Lord, and each other, by mutual agreement, in the practical enjoyment of the ordinances, commanded by Christ their head and King.”
By their definition and according to the doctrine of other old Baptists we conclude that at one time Christ's kingdom (the visible spiritual phase of it) consisted of one congregation. The visible phase of the kingdom accordingly being co-extensive with Christ's true churches His kingdom at first was one congregation while later it grew as this congregation replicated herself. But “Christendom” is a perverted form of Christ's kingdom. It is not what Christ built at all! It is an unnatural mustard plant grown into a huge tree in which the filthy fowls of the air that feed on carrion feel right at home, (see Luke 13:18-19). It is meal thoroughly leavened with sin, (see Luke 13:21). Jesus spoke of this thing called modern Christianity when He said: “...The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn,” (Matthew 13:24-30). The worthless tares that make up popular modern Christianity shall suffer the wrath of God which suddenly shall come upon the earth to judge unrighteousness.
In closing let us look at the biblical norm: that which was the practice of the first congregation. We read in Acts 2:47 these words “...And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Being a member of one of the Lord's congregations is not what saves, but it was the norm in Jerusalem. Those who were saved were joined to or added to the membership of that first body. Are there saved folk today who are outside the Lord's congregations? Oh! How we hope so! But it was not so in the apostolic age in Jerusalem. Our point is that the Lord's churches or congregations are the result of what Christ left here on earth to do His work: they are the entity with authority to carry out the three-fold great commission. They alone can act in His name for to act in the name of another – in the stead of another – requires authority from the one for whom the action is done.
This unnatural mustard bush grown into a tall tree which is defined as “the religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies” was not what Christ left to do His work nor did He build it. Christ is not the founder of today's Christianity. He is not the founder of Christendom!
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726