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Doctrinal Discussions:

The Church Is Not The Building

August 7, 2001

These studies examine the traditional doctrines held by the Church of Christ to see if they are actually taught in the scriptures. This is not an "anti-Church of Christ" site. I was reared in the Church of Christ and have been preaching since 1968 in the Church of Christ. My desire is that we walk righteously before God, not according to traditions of men.  Bernie Parsons

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The Church Is Not The Building

By Bernie Parsons - August 07, 2001

Revised June 4, 2002

Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:47

The church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is not the church building, it is the sanctified people of God, the Christians. Why then do we place importance upon the church building? I recently had a discussion with some members after a sermon on this subject. They said that the church building is the "house of God", "a holy place", and comparable to the temple in Jerusalem!

This prevalent belief that the assembly place is holy ground persists in many members of the Church of Christ, and is even preached upon by some preachers. The Bible teaches no such thing. In fact, arguments over what can and cannot be done in the "church building" have led to splintered churches and untold damage to the membership. (Read “Church Assembly” and “Five Items Of Worship”.) This is a holdover from Catholicism. It was the Catholics who built their great cathedrals, and exacted the price from their membership.

The word that is translated as "church" in the King James and other English versions of the Bible is from the Greek, ekklesia, which means "called-out people", or "assembly", as in a gathered body of people. The English word church actually comes from a later Greek word, kyriakon, by way of the English circe, or Scottish kirk, and means the Lord's, as in belonging to the Lord. Unfortunately, many try to equate the modern church building with the old temple under the Law of Moses, calling the church building "the house of the Lord".

Fact (1): There is no record in the New Testament that the Christians ever built a church building.

Why is it that we find ourselves falling out over something that is non-existent in the Bible, leading to church splits, "disfellowshipping" (read “Disfellowshipping”), and venomous attacks on the brotherhood? I find no authorization to build a church building, nor do I find what is to be done in such a building, much less an example of how to fund such a building.

An easy answer to many of the Church of Christ's ills would be to stop building, and meeting in, "church buildings". If we give up this practice derived from Catholicism, we will see such divisive questions as whether we can have a "church kitchen" or "fellowship hall" driven from the debate. This would also eliminate debates over whether the "church treasury" can be used to build and maintain a church building. It would end the various questions regarding marriage ceremonies in the church building.

We could follow the Biblical practice of the first church, which gathered in private homes.

Acts 2:46 "And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,"

Acts 20:20-21 "And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ."

1 Corinthians 16:19 "The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house."

Colossians 4:15 "Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house."

Some ask, what about the upper room? Wasn't it a "church building" of sorts?

Luke 22:11 "And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready."

Acts 1:13 "And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James."

Acts 20:7-9 "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.  And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead."

The scriptures that mention the upper room do not say whether the "guest room" was furnished by a fellow believer free of charge, or whether it was rented. At any rate, it was a room of one's home, not a free-standing building specifically constructed as a meeting house for the church. I am not attempting to prove whether or not we are "authorized" to meet in a large assembly room versus a small room in a house, but rather to show that a church building is totally unnecessary in our worship of God. Since we can worship without them, why do we feel that we have to have them? Some argue that we need a church building to identify to the public where the church meets. This is another subject altogether, worthy of discussion--we are to take the gospel of Christ to the public. They don't have to come looking for us, we are to find them! If they believe, or are curious, then we can direct them to wherever it is that we assemble.

Fact (2): A church building is not a temple. We Christians are the temple of God.

Our individual bodies are temples, or tabernacles, and the church collectively is a temple. Comparing the church to the temple in Jerusalem is an admission of ignorance of God's plans for the human race. God had the Jerusalem temple destroyed for a reason.

Mark 13:1-2 "And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

The temple was David's idea, and God pointed out the fallacy of it at the time.

1 Chronicles 17:1 "Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD remaineth under curtains."

1 Chronicles 17:4-6 "Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in: For I have not dwelt in an house since the day that I brought up Israel unto this day; but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another. Wheresoever I have walked with all Israel, spake I a word to any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people, saying, Why have ye not built me an house of cedars?"

Isaiah 66:1-2 "Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word."

The temple's purpose was finished, and the hearts of the people were not with God.

John 4:21-24 "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."

Mark 7:6-9 "He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition."

Like the Pharisees in the temple, we have our rituals at the "church building" that usually reflect the traditions of men, not the commandments of God. We put more stock in what we have decided is necessary, without regard for what God has declared important.

Matthew 23:15-23 "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?

"And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."

Matthew 9:13 "But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

God is where His people are. In times of old, He dwelled in the tabernacle in the wilderness. What was the purpose of the tabernacle? It was a place for God to live among His people, as well as a place for Him to communicate with them. And, yes, it was a holy place!

Exodus 25:8-9 "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it."

Exodus 25:21-22 "And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel."

Exodus 26:34 "And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place."

Leviticus 16:2 "And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat."

Numbers 7:89-8:1 "And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with him, then he heard the voice of one speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of testimony, from between the two cherubims: and he spake unto him. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,"

We dwell in our tents, our tabernacles of clay (human bodies). God dwells with His people there, communicating with us, and it is to be a holy place!

2 Peter 1:13-14 "Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me."

2 Corinthians 5:1 "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

2 Corinthians 5:4 "For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life."

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."

2 Corinthians 6:16 "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

1 Peter 2:4-5 "To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."

We Christians are priests, and from within the temple of our bodies, and the temple of the collective church, we worship God, and commune with Him.

Revelation 21:2 "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God."

Revelation 21:22 "And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it."

Many say that having a "church building" is incidental, a mere expediency. Logical though this may be, it undermines the fact that we are the temple of God--where God dwells, where He speaks to us, and where we worship Him. Furthermore, many of our brothers and sisters have elevated the church building to the status of a temple, a most holy place--the house of God.

The tabernacle in the wilderness was the house of God.

1 Chronicles 6:48 "Their brethren also the Levites were appointed unto all manner of service of the tabernacle of the house of God."

The temple in Jerusalem was the house of God.

2 Chronicles 5:13-6:2 "It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God. Then said Solomon, The LORD hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. But I have built an house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever."

We Christians are the house of God.

1 Peter 2:5 "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."

1 Corinthians 3:9-11 "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

John 6:56 "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him."

John 14:16-17 "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."

Romans 8:9-11 "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."

1 John 3:23-24 "And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us."

1 John 4:11-13 "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit."

1 Corinthians 12:27 "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."

We Christians are the body of Jesus Christ, the assembly of His sanctified people, His church. His Spirit lives inside of us, as it should. The very definition of life is that the body has a spirit--otherwise it is dead.

James 2:26 "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."

Colossians 1:18-20 "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven."

Galatians 3:27 "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."

We are the temple, the place of worship, the house of the Lord. No church building is described in the Bible, and no church building is designated the house of God.

Hebrews 9:11 "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;"

We are God's holy building, His temple, and His Spirit lives in us. We are holy ground.

1 Corinthians 3:9 "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building."

Ephesians 2:19-22 "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."

1 Peter 1:15-16 "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."

Fact (3) When the Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 11, "have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?", he was referring to their abuse of the Lord's Supper, not to the place where it was being conducted.

Read I Corinthians 11:17-34 to get the whole context.

1 Corinthians 11:20-22 "When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not."

The problem was not where they ate the Lord's supper, but how they ate it! (Read "Body & Blood".)

1 Corinthians 11:27-29 "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body."

An assembly of the church--which some have incorrectly named "worship service"--can take place in one's own house, or a place of business, or a banquet room, or a parking lot, or a hillside. We can't build a church building grand enough to be a fit temple for God.

Acts 7:46-51 "Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. But Solomon built him an house. Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things? Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye."

Acts 17:24: "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
25: Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;"

Why, then, do we pretend that our church buildings are holy ground?

If we truly understood what it is to worship God, we would realize that our assemblies are not "worship services" (read “Church Assembly”). If we were courageous enough to abandon our church buildings, and become the church of the Bible, then we would no longer have disagreements over whether we can have weddings, funerals, etc., in the church buildings. Church kitchens would become irrelevant, as would buildings for social activities, classes, etc. I am not saying that it is a sin to have a church building, but I can say that having one often leads to sin.

Instead of trying to make a church building a "house of God", let us be the house of God!

Love, in Christ

Bernie Parsons

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