How many Churches did Jesus start?
“When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:13-18 NKJV
Jesus said he was going to build HIS Church, He only allowed one Church in this sentence. He did not say he was going to build His “Churches” He said he would build His Church.
I’ll take a side step just to handle a quick topic on the side here so I don’t need to do it again for a while.
In the passage above I see that Jesus used two different words for “Rock” determined by gender. I’m not a linguist and many are welcome to disagree with my explanation. The word PETROS translated as Peter in some linguists’ view denotes a small stone, moveable and insecure. This would make sense to me.
The word PETRA translated by some linguists as a large, foundational stone, immovable and could indicate that Jesus is referring to the Testimony of the Apostles, “You are the Christ, the Son of God” which could indicate Jesus was referring to that testimony as the foundation of the Church.
This is the understanding to which I subscribe. I realize many will disagree with me, in particular Roman Catholics who would want Peter to be shown as the primary head of the Church, but I’m more inclined toward the Testimony of the Apostles being the foundation based on History not simply a declaration of belief. The History of the Church shows that the foundation was on the Testimony of the Apostles of Jesus being the Christ not founded on a single man. So for this and further discussions, I will be approaching this subject from that perspective. I am not infallible but I have spent some time in research and made this conclusion personally.
Jesus built ONE Church. Let’s look at the descriptions of the Church and how they apply in this topic of discussion.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 1, Ephesians 4, Colossians 1, and in Romans 12, Saint Paul referred to the Church as the Body of Christ. He identified us as members of His Body and interdependent on each other. That was one clear description of the Church.
In the book of Revelation, the figurative language in chapters 21 & 22 refer to the Church as the BRIDE.
There have been many who try to explain that the Church is some invisible group that includes anyone that believes in Jesus. This is leaving us open to any heresy that might come along. If the Church is invisible then how can the Body of Christ be invisible? Jesus was visible, he was seen by many, at one time over 500 saw him after His resurrection. He was clearly visible so His Body needs to be visible.
If the Church is the Bride of Christ, is he polygamous? Does he have multiple wives? If His Church is His Bride, there can only be one Bride. So what of all these denominations? What do we do with them?
The Church was founded by Jesus, as I have explained, on the foundation of the Testimony that Jesus is the Christ. The promise of Jesus is clear, “the Gates of Hades will not prevail against it” meaning the Church.
Jesus is God. If we have not understood that before, we must conclude that from multiple declarations He made. He forgave sin, only God can forgive sin. He stated that He was one in essence and being with the Father. The great theologian St. John in the first chapter of John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 NKJV so we know Jesus is God.
At the first Ecumenical Council, the debate between the heretic Arius and the Church was about whether Jesus, God the Son, was of the same substance as the Father or just a similar substance. That is why the Creed says that the Lord Jesus Christ was “begotten not made, of one essence with the Father, light of light, true God of true God” so as far as Jesus is concerned we know that He is God.
Since Jesus is God we know that he is incapable of lying. All the way back to Moses, in the book of Numbers we find, ““God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19 NKJV. So since Jesus is God and cannot lie when he said, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18 NKJV that at no time in the history of the Church could that happen.
The denominations that were created during and since the Reformation are not the Church. There are over 50,000 religious organizations that claim to be Christian in the USA. There are religions that are formed based on one concept or one verse in the New Testament. I have known preachers to form entire movements based solely on a verse. In the 1960s a preacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma preached from the verse where Jesus talked about faith the size of a mustard seed. From that he built a movement, mailings, fundraisers, give-aways, rewards for donations. This went for years, “seed-faith giving” was his tag line.
Another preacher also in the Tulsa area built a movement and followers for decades over his belief that God was speaking to him when he found a verse that said, “I would that you shall prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.”
There are older denominations that formed in the 16th century such as the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, and those that grew out of the reformation but came along later such as the various forms of Baptists. There are religious groups that make a point of saying they’re not denominations, or that they’re independent. This crowd of religions is made up of groups that do not agree, many don’t accept the others, but they each claim to be the Body of Christ under some sort of invisible church kind of thing.
If all the denominations were actually part of the Body of Christ, if they were the Bride of Christ then Christ has a multitude of Brides, a form of denominational polygamy. If they’re part of the Body of Christ then Jesus has tens of thousands of bodies. If all these religions are truly receiving revelation from God then God tells Joe one thing and tells Jim something completely different. This leads to the conclusion that Jesus only founded one Church. The Church that Jesus built has never gone away, never needed reforming, never needed restoring, she’s still the Church. The denominations, regardless of the good intentions of the people, are trying to replace the Bride but cannot. There are many that pretend but cannot be the Bride.
So then, as with anything we learn, we must make a choice. Do I ignore the truth because it is not convenient? Do I reject the truth because “in my opinion” it’s not correct? Or do I seriously examine the evidence and openly question my own beliefs because God can always be proven truthful.