A gracEmail subscriber heard someone say, “I don’t think you can be converted to Jesus without being converted to his church,” by which the speaker mean the particular religious movement of which he was a part. The subscriber wants to know if the statement is true.
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It is true that everyone who belongs to Jesus is also a part of his ekklesia or church (literally, congregation or assembly). This Greek word which Jesus uses in Matthew 16:18 is the same word used throughout the Greek Old Testament for the gathered people of God. Today, God’s congregation finds its identity through the common confession that Jesus is God’s son and the promised Messiah or Christ. No religious movement, denomination or nondenomination that contains fewer than all believers in Jesus since Pentecost can rightly claim to be “his church” exclusively, inclusively or uniquely. Any group that does claim that is guilty of sectarianism, for which the biblical word is “heresy.”
The world is full of would-be true churches, each of which has preserved or restored some aspect of apostolic teaching, experience or practice that other believers in general have overlooked, rejected or ignored. These true churches share two things in common: (1) They all are wrong in their exclusive claims, and (2) They all are correct in some doctrine or practice but they are not nearly so unique in that regard as they like to imagine.
The day has come to stop playing the “Guess the Right Religious Organization and Win a Trip to Heaven” game. Now is the time to put all our trust in the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. To do that is to be “converted to Jesus.” Whoever has done that can claim with integrity to be part of Christ’s congregation or ekklesia and a member of the present-day people of God.