The church is essential in God’s eternal plan of redeeming man. God’s wisdom is shown through the eternal plan He had for the establishment of Christ’s church, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11). Jesus came to the earth to fulfill this plan and promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18). Jesus functions as its foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11) and head (Colossians 1:18). The church was so essential that Christ shed His blood to purchase it (Acts 20:28). Jesus gave Himself, His very life, for the church (Ephesians 5:25). When He returns one day He will present her to His heavenly home as a husband who brings home His bride (Ephesians 5:27).
However, many have a concept that removes the church from being essential to salvation. A common teaching that has circulated throughout the religious world for years is the concept that one is saved and then joins the church of one’s choice. In Acts 2, there were not multiple denominations with various beliefs and practices that served as options for those wanting to follow Christ. There was but one church: Christ’s church. When men felt the guilt of their sins, they asked what to do (Acts 2:37). They were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). Those who gladly received this instruction were baptized and added by the Lord to the number (Acts 2:41); after all, the Lord adds the saved to the church (Acts 2:47). This one church “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). Multiple doctrines and fellowships were not a part of the Lord’s plan; His plan was for His followers to be one, united in one body (John 17:20-21; Ephesians 4:3-6).
Today when many people think of a church, they think of a building or a denomination; however, the New Testament never alludes to the church in these ways. It speaks of the church being a body of people: men and women. When Saul persecuted the church, he was entering into houses and dragging of men and women to prison (Acts 8:1-4). To do this to Christ’s saved body was tantamount to doing this to Christ Himself (Acts 9:4). First Corinthians 12 uses the illustration of a physical body to highlight the roles of individual members in the body of Christ. As the head controls the body, Christ rules over the church. God’s eternal plan called for such and He fulfilled it in that He, “hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23). God did not design different churches for the Jews and Gentiles, different though they were, but rather designated that reconciliation to Him would be found in the one body, the church of Christ (Ephesians 2:16).
Instead of pulling down the church from its essential place in God’s plan of salvation to an optional matter to suit one’s personal desires, the exalted and essential place of Christ’s church as revealed in God’s Word ought to be recognized. We are not here to “improve” upon God’s plan for the church, but to recognize how His plan is superior to the mess men often create.