Lesson Nine: If Jesus Were Here Today, Where Would He Worship?
By Paul R. Blake
If Jesus Christ were physically present in today’s world, where would He go for worship services? It is certainly understood that He would worship the Father, because when He was here in the flesh in the first century, He was frequently found in the synagogue and temple. From the age of twelve (Luke 2:46) until four days before His crucifixion (Luke 21:5-6; Mark 14:49), He was often in the temple or reading scripture in synagogue assemblies (Luke 4:16). Jesus faithfully attended Jewish worship assemblies while the Law of Moses was still in force as God’s covenant with His people.
But now that we live in a covenant relationship with God through Christ, where would Jesus worship if He was here today? While this question has the potential for controversy and offence, as honest and humble Bible students, we will consider it by asking more questions and accepting answers only from the revealed, written word of God. Let’s begin.
First question: What does Jesus want for humankind today? This is easy; He wants the same thing His Father wants; He wants us to be saved (2Peter 3:9).
Second question: How would Jesus bring about the salvation of penitent believers? The same question was asked in Acts 2:36-37: “…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's sermon caused the Jewish hearers to fear retribution from God for crucifying His Son, and they wanted to avoid it.
Peter gave them the very answer Jesus commanded him and the other apostles to give when asked about salvation: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38-40; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45-47). It is exactly what Jesus told him to say about obtaining salvation.
Third question: How many plans of salvation did Jesus give His disciples? The Lord did not make exceptions; all people are to be saved by the same instructions. If He had made exceptions for individuals in special circumstances, the Son of God would have been guilty of the sin of partiality; He would have a double standard that would destroy His credibility (James 2:1-9; Acts 10:34; Deuteronomy 10:17; Romans 2:11).
Fourth question: Have conditions changed since then? Do human beings still need to be saved from their sins? Certainly (Romans 3:23, 6:23). Then has God changed His word; has He given a second revealed Bible with a new plan of salvation for the world? Certainly not (Galatians 1:8-9; Hebrews 13:8). Therefore, we can safely conclude that if what Jesus commanded the apostles to preach for salvation was needed in the first century for one to be saved, then that is what is needed today for salvation.
Fifth question: Once we have been baptized and our sins washed away, what do we do next? Most believers know they must become part of a gathering of believers; it seems instinctive to become part of a church (Acts 9:24). However, this is where the Adversary has waylaid many new disciples, allowing them to leave sin only to enter into religious error instead. Many disciples sense that joining with a denomination just divides up believers, and they are correct (John 17:20-21; 1Corinthians 1:10). Different creeds written by flawed and misguided men, unauthorized and easily corrupted leaderships, unhealthy and worldly competition between denominations, ungodly prejudices between religious groups, etc. all combine to generate an atmosphere of fighting among religious groups that profess to be followers of a peaceful Christ. Little wonder that when the lost observe the wrangling between denominations that they are not convinced by the preaching of the Gospel of peace.
Question six: What choices do new believers and followers of Jesus have after obeying the Gospel? Perhaps they could join with the denomination anyway, but that would just corrupt their original good intentions of following the Lord. Maybe they could join with a denomination in the hope uniting all of them together into an ecumenical super-denomination, but those who do this are soon discouraged. A third alternative might be to give up the plan to be part of a church and worship alone, but this is displeasing to the Lord (Hebrews 10:24-25). What can be done?
Question seven: what would Jesus do; where and with whom would He worship; what denomination would Jesus belong to today? People often respond to this question with “There were no denominations in Jesus’ day.” This is untrue. There were a number of sects of the Jews in His day, equivalent to contemporary denominations. There were Sadducees who had a great zeal for the temple, but did not believe in the resurrection. There was the sect of the Pharisees who had a great zeal for scriptures, but also promoted human traditions and tended to be self-righteous. There were Herodians who obeyed the government but were morally bankrupt. The Essenes believed in abstinence and purity, but were isolationists. In addition, after the Lord’s Church was established, denominations began to form within the first twenty-one years (1Corinthians 1:12-13, 3:1-4).
Jesus did not become a member of a sect or denomination, but was simply a believer and follower of God. He did not try to organize all of the sects into one super denomination; He was never an advocate of “unity in diversity.” Jesus sought to unite Himself with God rather than with a sect of men. He just did the will of God, His Father (John 4:23-24, 34, 5:30, 6:38). As a result, He was able to say, “I and My Father are One” (John 10:30, 37-38). So, what denomination would Jesus be a part of today? He would not be part of any denomination started by men. He would be united in fellowship with God.
The next thing Jesus did after uniting Himself with God was to help others become united with God (John 17:20-21), but not by creating a super denomination; instead, He instructed them to gather together as a body of believers and followers of God united by their common fellowship with the Father (John 4:34, 5:30, 6:38). Is it possible for us to know that we are united in fellowship with God? Yes, we can when we keep God's will just as Jesus did (2John 9; Ephesians 3:3-4).
Question eight: If Jesus did not join with a denomination and did not teach us to join with one, then of what denomination should we become members? Perhaps we can answer this question with another question. In Acts chapter two when Peter preached the Gospel for the first time and three thousand people were baptized into Christ, what denomination did they join with? The answer is simple: they did not join with a denomination; they were believers and followers of Jesus Christ. And if they were simply believers and followers of Jesus Christ, why can't we be the same today?
Question nine: What sermon would Peter preach if he were here today? The same Gospel sermon he preached on Pentecost in Jerusalem in 33 AD. And if the message is the same, should not the response of the hearers be the same, too? Picture this: Peter arrives at the local high school football stadium and preaches the same sermon from Acts chapter two. Three thousand believers repent and are baptized in the nearest body of water. To what denomination would they belong? They wouldn’t be members of a denomination; they would be believers and followers of Jesus Christ.
Imagine that the next day one thousand of them separate and form a denomination led by a charismatic leader. Would that make the remaining two thousand of the faithful believers and followers of Jesus Christ a denomination? Certainly not; they are still faithful believers and followers of the Lord. Suppose again that another one thousand broke away to follow the direction of a fashionable creed. Would that make the remaining one thousand into a denomination? The existence of denominations that follow men and creeds does not imply that the faithful believers and followers of Jesus are a denomination; they are still members of the Lord’s Church.
Question ten: What should these believers and followers of Christ do after they are united with God in obedience to the Gospel? They must do exactly what the believers and followers of Jesus did in Acts 2:42-47. They are in fellowship with each other. They assemble together as a body of followers of Christ, as some of the duties given cannot be performed individually.
In the New Testament, gatherings of believers and followers of Christ in a given area were a local church (Acts 2:41, 47, 4:4). 1) That church had a doctrine (Acts 2:42). 2) That church had fellowship and sharing with each other (Acts 2:43-46). 3) That church worshipped together (Acts 2:42, 5:42). 4) That church had a treasury that enabled them to do the work of evangelism, edification, and limited benevolence (Acts 4:31-35). 5) That church had an authorized organization (Acts 6:1-6, 15:6, 11:29-30).
Local churches of faithful believers and followers of Jesus Christ were not denominations, but were simply assemblies of believers and followers of Jesus Christ. There is a profound difference between a body of believers and followers of Jesus Christ and a humanly developed denomination.
Those local churches shared a common name that is based on the inspired word of God. 1) Christ is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22-23). 2) Christ is the Builder of the Church (Matthew 16:18). 3) Christ is the foundation of the Church (Ephesians 2:19-20; 1Corinthians 3:11). 4) Christ’s blood bought the Church (Acts 20:28). 5) Christ is the Savior of the Church (Ephesians 5:23). 6) Christ’s doctrine rules the Church (2John 9-11). 7) The Church is the Bride of Christ (Romans 7:4). 8) The Church is the Body of Christ (Colossians 1:18, 24). 9) All spiritual blessings are in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). 10) We are baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:26-27; 1Corinthians 12:12-13). 11) We must preach Christ only (Acts 8:4-5, 12; 1Corinthians 2:2). 12) Salvation is only in Christ (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). Whose name should the Church wear?
Jesus Christ would assemble with the Church that wears His name. He would assemble for worship with faithful, sound churches of Christ. Where will you choose to assemble?
Scriptures Used In Text
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