Question: When did the Church begin?

January 2, 2020
George T. Ferrier

Isaiah prophesied that the coming Messiah would be a “light to the Gentiles” and bring “salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isa. 49:6). In the New Testament, Simeon having been promised by the Spirit that he would see the Messiah before his death, recognized that the Child Jesus was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Lk. 2:26-32). Though both Isaiah and Simeon understood that the Messiah would bring salvation to both Jews and Gentiles, they knew nothing of the Church.

The Bible classifies the Church as a mystery (Rom. 16:25-26; Eph. 3:9). In Colossians 1:26 we read that it is “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.”1 Though always part of God’s eternal purposes, a mystery was a truth concealed in the Old Testament but now made known by revelation after Christ’s resurrection. The Church, a previously hidden truth began after His resurrection and ascension. The Greek word ekklēsia means an assembly, those called out to a gathering. The Church has been called out to gather together around the Lord Jesus Christ, the ascended glorified Son.

In its first mention, Christ prophesied in Matthew 16:18, “I will build My church,” speaking of it in the future tense. Though hearing the Lord’s words, the disciples would not understand the significance of this statement until after Christ’s ascension to heaven. The Lord would later tell them in the upper room that He was going back to His Father and would send them another Comforter (Jn. 16:7). Then just before His ascension, He affirmed that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days (Acts 1:5).

The baptism of the Spirit spiritually unites believers to other members of Christ’s body (the Church) as well as uniting them to Christ our Head. Both the universal Church and individual believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). The Lord told His disciples, “the Spirit of truth…you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (Jn. 14:17). Before Pentecost the Holy Spirit dwelt with them, with the birth of the Church He would now indwell them. In the interim, they were to wait in Jerusalem because it was only after the Spirit’s baptism with His accompanying power and spiritual gifts that they could effectively serve Christ (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:8).

Ten days later, the Holy Spirit came at the Feast of Pentecost, indwelling Christ’s disciples and baptizing them into the body of Christ. Those that believed that day received the baptism of the Spirit as well, initiating the Church with Jewish believers from all over the known world (Acts 2:1-41). Soon, there were Samaritans who believed (Acts 8); then Gentiles like Cornelius and his household were saved as well (Acts 10-11). As Peter says in Acts 11:15-16, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them (Gentiles), as upon us (Jews) at the beginning (Pentecost).” Since then, everyone who places their faith in Christ is immediately indwelt by the Spirit who baptizes them permanently into the body of Christ.

The mystery of the Church is not that Gentiles would be saved through the Messiah – that was revealed to Isaiah in the Old Testament. Rather the mystery was that the Church is an organism, one new man comprised of Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14-15). It is a distinct body, separate from Israel and the nations. Christ has broken down the previous barriers. Gentile and Jewish believers are now united together through, and in Christ. The completion of the Church or what is referred to as the “fullness of the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:25) will commence the rapture when the Lord comes for His bride to take her home to heaven. •
All references are in the NKJV
If you have a question for this column please submit it to [email protected]