There seems to be misconceptions abounding regarding the historic faith Jesus Christ founded two thousand years ago. Some denominations denounce others as heretical; while some denominations have opened their doors to ecumenical talks about “mutual faith” between various religions; not only within the Christian pale but also with Muslims, Mormons, etc. Is there a commonality of faith between all religions? Or does one particular faith—and more so, one denomination within said faith—hold all of the answers?
First of all the air must be cleared on how the church and the saints within it perceives itself. There must also be further clarification as to what the nature of the term “church” means as it is applied in the New Testament. The Greek word for church in the New Testament is “ekklessia” and means “the called out ones.” The teachings of the church within the Bible are amazingly simple. The word may be applied in one of several ways.
First, every individual believer is a member of the church. The church universal and invisible with Christ as the head and the Holy Spirit present as His Vicar within every Christian is the universal (or catholic) church. Roman Catholics make a grave error when they attribute the title “vicar” to a man such as the Pope; Christ our Lord did not leave the authority of the church’s government to any one man or line of men; He left the Holy Spirit as a sign and seal, and earnest within every believer who is born again through faith in Jesus Christ, John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7-15; 2nd Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14. Every believer is a priest unto God; there was never meant to be the human creation of a laity/clergy dichotomy, 1st Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6.
Second, there is a locality where the members of Christ gather. The building is not really regarded as the church; rather the saved men and women within it are, Ephesians 1:22-23; Philippians 4:15; Philemon 1:3. The local churches are to aid one another but there is no indication that a particular church was to have predominance over all others. Rather each local shepherd was answerable to Christ, not a hierarchy, about the spiritual condition of the members therein, Revelation chapters 2-3. Each local church is to be governed by Scripture as the Holy Spirit expounds it to the body, Acts 20:27; 2nd Timothy 3:16-17; 2nd Peter 1:3. Adding to the Bible or altering the gospel that saves results in immediate condemnation: and that from God, 2nd Corinthians 11:3-15; Galatians 1:6-9; 2nd John 1:9-11; Revelation 22:18-19.
With the idea of what the church even means cleared up a trifle let us turn again to our questions. The first was this: does the church (the universal body of Christ) have an exclusive attitude? Are we a “we’re in and you’re not” mentality? First of all, it was not the church that pioneered an exlusivist mentality; it was Jesus. Our Lord taught emphatically, dogmatically, and simplistically that He alone was the Savior. Christ alone forgave sins and provided atonement. He alone was the way to God. He alone was the object of a worshiper’s faith. He alone could give eternal life.