The Bible states Jesus Christ was sent to do the will of God, the Father, and to accomplish His work (Jn. 4:34). This work includes building and developing his church–those whom God is calling out of this world (Rom. 2:4; Jn. 6:44; 17:9; Jas. 2:5; Rev. 18:4). It’s not a physical building often referred to as “the church”, but the people who are called by the Father for a particular work leading up to the return of Messiah.
Jesus Christ did not come to build multiple churches; he said, I will build my assembly; and the gates of hades will not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18, RNT).
He did build it–one assembly, commissioned to spread the good news, the very message of God, to the entire world (Mt. 24:14; Ac. 2:1ff). This church would not come to an end due to the natural death of its people, nor be taken over by deceit (Mt. 10:22; Mk. 13:13), despite the Adversary’s attempts to corrupt the truth, which Paul said some people were already trying to do in the early church history (Gal. 1:6-9).
But what do we find today? The Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary regularly publishes and updates the Statistics of Global Missions online. Here you will find the current number of Christian denominations in the world to be in the order of some 39,000! All of these were founded by men, each professing to teach the truth of God while many of them contradict and disagree with one another. They can’t all be right, can they? The Bible says this is not possible, there is only one way to the Father (Jn. 14:6; 1Cor. 1:10-13; 2Pet. 1:20). So how does one identify the very church Jesus Christ said he would build? Does scripture provide a way to discern between the teachings of Jesus Christ and the early church, and those churches which claim to teach the truth but are misled? (Mt. 7:21-23; Rev. 12:9). Yes, the Bible does provide the means to test what God’s truth is, and what is not (Ps. 119:160; Isa. 8:20; Mt. 4:4; 1Thes. 5:21; 2Tim. 3:16-17).
The true gospel of God was known and kept by the apostles and disciples of Christ in the early church during the first century CE. One fundamental teaching was that Christ alone is the head of the church (Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23). No other being, either physical or spiritual, was appointed to this position. All of Christ’s responsibilities were delegated to him by his God and Father (Mt. 17:5; Jn. 14:28; 2Cor. 11:31).
It is written that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Heb. 13:8), and therefore he always does the will of his Father (Jn. 6:38). As the church and its doctrines were built upon Christ, who is the chief cornerstone (Ps. 118:22) and the apostles (Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:14), it must be identifiable today by these same doctrines. In this study, we will briefly examine some of the fundamental teachings of the early church, which should assist those who are seeking God’s truth.