One lady said, I hate those Coach knockoff purses with the little G’s on them instead of little C’s. Whether it’s a Coach purse or a Rolex watch or an Apple iPad, knockoffs look a whole lot like the original designer brand, but they’re cheap imitations, fakes.
I guess that’s okay if you’re buying a purse and you want to save some money. But what about when it comes to the church? Does it matter if it’s just a knockoff? What if the church you go to is not the real thing? What if it’s just a cheap imitation? And how can you tell the difference?
Singing>> Blessed be the Lord God Almighty, who reigns for evermore.
ROBERT>> Today I want us to consider the difference between the original designer brand, the church you read about in the Bible, and the many knockoffs in the religious world today. I want to give us five important questions to consider in order to help us identify the real thing.
First of all, let’s ask who made it. You know, you can tell a knockoff or the real thing by just finding out who made it. Was it made by Coach, was it made by Rolex, was it made by Apple, or was it made by some other unknown company in China?
A church is not the real thing unless it is made by Christ. Notice in the Bible in Matthew 16:18 when Jesus spoke to his disciples about the church, he said, Upon this rock I’ll build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Nothing was going to keep Jesus Christ from building his church, not even the powers of hell. And he would build that church upon the solid foundation of Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:11, the apostle Paul said, There is no other foundation which can be laid than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ is the builder of the church, and Jesus Christ is the foundation of the church. And it cost him a lot.
It did not come cheap. In Acts 20:28, we read about the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood. In order for Christ to build his church, he had to pay the ultimate price. He had to go to the cross of Calvary and there shed his blood as payment for our sins.
Peter reminds us of how we’ve been redeemed, we’ve been bought back, we’ve been purchased, not with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without spot or blemish. Yes, it cost Jesus Christ the blood that he shed at Calvary to pay for our sins to build his church. And that’s why he loves it so much.
Christ loved the church and gave himself for it, the Bible says in Ephesians 5:25. Not just any church will do. If you want the real thing, you need to look for that church that was made by Jesus Christ, who said he would build it, that it’s built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. It’s those who’ve been redeemed by the blood of Christ, that church that he loves so very much.
And now secondly let’s ask today, what is it made of? What’s it made of? Another way to tell the difference between a knockoff and the real thing is by what it’s made of. You see, the knockoff will often use cheaper and poorer quality products, but the real thing always has the better materials.
And a church is not the real thing unless it’s made of the saved. You see, the church is made of those who’ve been saved, redeemed, bought back, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Let’s go to 1 Peter chapter 2, and I want to read with you some verses here where Peter describes the church so we can see what the church is really made of. Notice in verse 4, “Coming to him,” that is, coming to Christ, “as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
When Peter describes the church, he doesn’t speak of brick and mortar, no, he’s not talking about a building, a physical building; but he’s talking about a spiritual house. And he says that spiritual house is made up of those who, coming to Christ, are built up, lively stones, living stones.
Each of us is like a living stone in this spiritual house, the Christians, those who have been redeemed, those who have come to Jesus Christ. Look at it in verse 9 and verse 10 of 1 Peter 2. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people; that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people, but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”
You see, the church as Peter saw it were those special people of God. These were those who had been called out of darkness, called by the gospel into God’s marvelous light. You see, these are those who’ve been taken out of the world and put into Christ and his church. These are those who were once not a people, but now are the people of God, who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. It’s the saved. The saved are those who make up the real thing. It’s the saved that were added to the church by the Lord.
Notice how this is put by Luke in Acts 2:47. If you’ll turn back over there, you’ll see that we read about the beginning of the church, the church you read about in the Bible, the original designer brand. Look in Acts chapter 2, the very last verse, verse 47. We see that the church here was “praising God and having favor with all the people; and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”
Did you catch that? How that the Lord added some to the church? But who was it that he added to the church? The Lord added those who were being saved to the church. That’s who the church is made of.
You go back to Acts chapter 2, and we’ll see how they were saved that day so we can be a part of that same church, and the Lord will add us to it. Notice in Acts chapter 2 beginning in verse 22, Peter begins to tell them about Jesus Christ, that he was the one God chose to save us from our sins. He’s the Christ. He is the Son of God. And how that he died for our sins. And not only how that he died, but how that he was buried. And not only how that he was buried, but how that he was raised to live again; how the apostles were witnesses to that fact, and how that he had ascended into heaven, that he was now sitting at God’s right hand.
You see, Jesus Christ came to this earth. God came in the flesh. He became one of us, he suffered, and having lived a perfect life, he died at Calvary as an offering for our sins. But God did not leave him in the tomb; he raised him up to give us the hope, the assurance of eternal life.
When this was proclaimed to these people here in Jerusalem, they realized that they had put to death their Messiah, their deliverer, their savior; that Jesus was not an ordinary man, that he was God come in the flesh; that he had paid the price for their sins.
You might remember it wasn’t too long before this that they had been crying in the streets, “Crucify him! Crucify him! Let his blood be upon us and upon our children.” But now they realize that he was the Christ, the Son of God.
Notice Acts 2:36, as Peter comes to the end of his sermon, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” Yes, the one that they had put to death was their savior.
Realizing that, notice what the Bible says in verse 37. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.'”
Peter told them they needed to turn away from their sins and to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ upon their confession of him as the Son of God for the remission of their sins, and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Now, this is a promise that is for all who are called by God through the gospel. And there were many who answered that call that day.
Notice here in verse 41, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” When the gospel was preached in its fulfillment, how that Christ died, how he was buried, how he was raised, and when men responded to that, having turned away from their sin and given themselves to Christ in baptism, trusting him for their salvation, God added them to his church. And every day since, God is adding those who are being saved to his church.
Let’s notice this morning that when we are baptized in obedience to the gospel, that we are baptized into Christ, into communion, into fellowship with Jesus Christ. In Romans 6:3, Paul reminded the Romans of how they’d been “baptized into Christ Jesus”. And in Galatians 3:26-27, how that they “became sons of God through faith,” having been “baptized into Christ” and “putting on Christ”. It’s that same act of baptism that puts us into Christ that also puts us into his body, the church.
You see, you can’t separate Christ from his body, the church. Look how the apostle Paul describes this in Ephesians 1:22-23. Here he says, “And He,” that is, God, “put all things under His feet,” that is, Christ’s feet; “and gave Him, Christ, to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
So Christ is head over all things to the church, which is his body. Christ is the head, the church is his spiritual body. And when we’re baptized into Christ, we’re baptized into his church, his spiritual body. This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:13: “For by one Spirit are you all baptized into one body.” That’s the church. You see, the real thing is made of the saved people of God.
Now let’s ask another question. Whose name is on it? One of the quickest ways to determine if something is a knockoff is just to check the name on it. Imitations cannot legally use the name of the original designer. Those names matter, because they’re prestigious and valuable. And a church is not the real thing unless it has Christ’s name on it.
Did you know the Bible speaks of “the church of God” in Acts 20:28, “the body of Christ” in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “the house of God, which is the church of the living God” in 1 Timothy 3:15? It’s described in many various ways, but you see how it’s associated with the Lord, with God, with Jesus Christ.
Look at the various congregations you read about in the New Testament that are a part of that great church. The various congregations are identified as the “churches of Christ”. In Romans 16:16, the Bible says, “The churches of Christ greet you.” All of these various congregations that were meeting together, you see, were a part of God’s great church. They belong to him. They belong to Jesus Christ.
But there is a proper name, a name given to the members of the church, an exclusive name, and that name is “Christian”. It’s used three times in the New Testament. One in Acts 11:26, where we find, “The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch”; in Acts 20:28, where King Agrippa said to the apostle Paul, “Almost you persuade me to become a Christian”; and in 1 Peter 4:16, where Peter reminds us, “If anyone suffers”, to suffer as a Christian, and “glorify God in this name”.
So you see this name given to the people of God, oh, they’re described in many other ways, but this is the only name that they were to wear. It was the name that God gave to the disciples. It’s what we’re trying to get people to become through the gospel of Jesus Christ, Christians. It’s the name that we wear. It’s the name in which we suffer for the cause of Christ, the name Christian, because it means we belong to him, we want to bring glory and honor to his name.
Now all of this is a fulfillment of prophecy. Let’s go back to the book of Isaiah, and I want you to notice several prophecies here as Isaiah looks ahead into the future when Christ would build his church. In Isaiah 56:5 he says, “Even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I’ll give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” So there was a new name that God would give his people, an everlasting name.
Look at it in Isaiah 62:2. Notice here in this chapter what he says about this name. “The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. And you shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name.” Now what’s interesting about this passage is it tells us first the Gentiles would see the righteousness of God. That’s what happened in Antioch. The disciples were called first in Antioch, we noticed in Acts 11:26.
There was the first Gentile congregation that you read about in the New Testament. And that’s when God gave his name, this name, to his people.
Look at Isaiah 65:15. Notice here, “You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; for the Lord God will slay you, and call His servants by another name.” As we’ve seen, that other name is “Christian”. The name that God’s people wear is the name of Christ, the name Christian, because it’s in that name that we can all be united together.
Let’s notice how that other names are divisive and how they fail to honor Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, the apostle Paul pleads with the church there, “Let there be no divisions among you.” He goes on to talk about how that some are saying “I am of Paul, and I am of Cephas, and I of Christ”. He says, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?”
You see, they had formed different groups and rallied around different names. Some said “I am of Paul”, some said “I am of Cephas”, some said “I am of Apollos”, some said “I am of Christ”. But those names were divisive.
You see, Christ is not divided. It was not Paul who was crucified for us; it was Christ. We’re not baptized in the name of Paul; we’re baptized into the name of Christ. That name matters.
Peter said in Acts 4:12, “There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Salvation is found only in the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; and no one comes unto the Father but by Me,” (John 14:6). So the real thing, it’s got the name of Christ on it.
But also let’s ask this question: Who’s in control of it? You know, a knockoff might be under the control of anybody, anywhere; but you know who is in control of the real thing. And the church is not the real thing unless Jesus Christ is in control of it.
You remember Jesus Christ is “head over all things to the church”. We read that in Ephesians 1:22. He has “all authority in heaven and on earth”, (Matthew 28:18). God has not left the authority of the church to reside in any man or any group of men, but he has placed it in the head of the church, Jesus Christ.
That being so, the headquarters of the church is not somewhere on this earth. The headquarters of the church is in heaven where the head resides. In Acts 2:22-36, we looked there earlier, how that Christ had been raised and how that he ascended on high, how that he now sits at the right hand of the throne of God. There’s the headquarters of the church. You see, the real thing, the church you read about in the Bible, that original designer brand, is controlled by Jesus Christ.
But finally let’s ask this question: What writings come with it? What writings come with the church that you belong to? You know how important this is when it comes to buying products. You’re not going to get the same instructions, the same warranties and other information with a knockoff that you’ll get with the real thing. And a church is not the real thing unless it comes with the writings of the Bible.
You see, it’s the writings of the Bible that God has given to his church. This is our manual. This is our creed. This is where we go for our instructions and our directions, for our authority in all that we say and do. I read in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 how that “all scripture is inspired of God. It’s profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished unto every good work.”
You see, God has revealed to us his will for the church. We have all we need right here in the Bible. We don’t need another book. We don’t need another revelation. No, God has given us the inspired scriptures. If you want to be a part of the real thing, then you need to find a church where they take the Bible and the Bible only as their guide, because this is what God has given to us.
And this word was delivered one time for all time. Jude 3 tells us to, “Contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” God is not going to reveal his message for us today. He’s already done that one time, for all time. And so we need to go to the book. This is the basis of our faith.
As Paul said in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Yes, it’s the word of God that produces the faith that enables us to have access to Jesus Christ and access into his church.
The real thing comes with the writings of the Bible. This is what shows us how to live, how to worship. This is how we find out what God wants for us in his church today. So I want to ask you this morning, the church that you go to, is it a knockoff or the real thing?
You don’t have to settle for a knockoff. Christ paid for the real thing. He offers it to all of us. We just have to take it. Won’t you do that if you have not already? Won’t you look for that church? Not the church of your choice, but won’t you look for that church that Jesus Christ built? He said, “I’ll build my church”. Won’t you look for that church that’s built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ?
Look for that church who wears the name of Christ, not the name of some other man or of some doctrine or some practice, but one that gives glory and honor to Jesus Christ.
Look for that church of which Jesus Christ is head, that he controls, that church that looks to the Bible, the word of God for everything. Finding that church, why not become a part of it?
Some of you may have been Christians and may have come into Christ’s church, and for whatever reason have left the Lord Jesus Christ, you’ve left his people. You need to come back. You see, now the door is still open. You have opportunity. And we here at The Truth In Love, we want to help you. And so won’t you let us know this morning, whoever you are, whatever you need, how we can help you towards heaven today?
Singing>> Refiner’s fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy, set apart for you, Lord. I choose to be holy, set apart for you, my master, ready to do your will. Refiner’s fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy, set apart for you, Lord. I choose to be holy, set apart for you, my master, ready to do your will. Lord, I’m ready to do your will.
Singing>> Nearer, still nearer, close to thy heart draw me, my Savior, so precious thou art. Hold me, oh, hold me close to thy breast; shelter me safe in that haven of rest. Shelter me safe in that haven of rest.
ROBERT>> I want to thank you for watching our program today, and we would really like to hear from you. If you have any questions, comments or requests, if you’d like a personal home Bible study or special prayers, if you’d like to order today’s lesson or any other lesson on CD, DVD, or in manuscript form, let me encourage you to write The Truth In Love at P.O. Box 865, Hurst, Texas, 76053. You may e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our toll-free number, 800-819-2966. And also, please visit our web site at www.ttil.tv.
All of our materials and services are absolutely free of charge. And we want to thank the many Churches of Christ who help support this program and encourage you to visit one of them in your area very soon. Their names will be scrolled on the screen at the end of our program. We just want to do what we can to help us all towards heaven. So let us know how we can help you, and please join us next time right here on The Truth In Love.
Singing>> The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord lift his countenance upon you, and give you peace, and give you peace, and give you peace, and give you peace; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you, and be gracious; the Lord be gracious, gracious unto you. Amen, amen, amen, amen.