When Did The Church Begin? (Part I)

Updated: Oct 18, 2019



May seem to be a strange topic, but it matters.


We are two men who are reformed in our soteriology, and those who listen may assume we are reformed in all ways, but we are not.


We have a different position on ecclesiology from our Reformed brothers, and this is important because it affects how we view other aspects as well.


Relationship toward Israel.

Many prophecies in the OT.

The nature of the ordinances, especially baptism.


So, we decided to take some time to talk about it. 


Lots of positions on this issue. It’s become complex, and heated.


It affects many things regarding how you approach the bible, it’s meaning, and its application in our lives.


There’s at least 13 different views on this question.


The Views:

-- The church began at the very beginning of time and involves all who have ever believed in God.


-- The Church began at the call of Abraham and the creation of a people with  whom God made a covenant (Gen. 12). In this view, the Church would involve basically Israel and today what the Bible calls the Church.


-- The Church began at the time of Jesus, Who founded the Church. (Now this view has 4 positions):


-- It began when Jesus began to call His disciples together - They were the “core group.”


-- It began when Peter made that great confession of Jesus as the true Christ (Matt. 16).


Matthew 16:13-19 - "Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, 'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?' And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.'  He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' And Jesus said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.'"


-- It began when Jesus had the Last Supper with His disciples and instituted the New Covenant that would be established with His blood by His own death (e.g., Matt 26; Luke 22, etc.).


-- It began when Christ rose from the dead. In this view, the church was brought to life when Christ was brought to life.


-- The Church began at the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2).


-- The Church began with Paul. (This is a rare view, but it’s still taught today in some churches).  It’s common in what’s often called Hyper-dispensationalism.


-- The Church began with the Kingdom of God (This one is more ethereal/intangible, and can be rather complex). 


Now, in this view, the beginning of the church is tightly connected with when a person understands the kingdom of God to have been established. 



There are several views, here, because it’s tied up with the idea that the kingdom begins with when the king is said to begin reigning. In this sense, then, the answer to when the church began is bound up with the answer to when Jesus is said to be reigning as king within His kingdom.


Several views:


-- The Church began in eternity past, because there’s never a time in which Christ did not reign as King of Kings.


-- The church began when Christ brings the kingdom to earth, but in His incarnation. 

In this view, the kingdom is specifically tied to the Messianic kingdom. In other words, it’s when the Messiah arrives on the scene.


The Kingdom is said to be dawning in the miracles and healings of both Jesus and His disciples. They bring a foretaste of what the fullness of the kingdom will be like, where there’s no sickness, disease, and death.

During this time, the kingdom is so present that Satan is even seen to be falling from heaven (Lk. 10).


-- The Church began when Christ is reigning from the cross. This is seen in the irony of what Pilate wrote and placed above the cross.

John 19:19 - “Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, ‘JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.’”


-- The Kingdom (and, therefore, Church) began when Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father, where he reigns as king until He’s subjected all His enemies under His feet.

1Cor. 15:22-25 - “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.”


Regardless of the various shades, this entire position rests on when one understands the kingdom of God to begin, because they view the church as being inextricably connected to God’s kingdom. The church is the people of the kingdom, and where Christ, Himself, is King.


Conclusion on the views:

The point to understand here, is it’s a much debated topic.


We don’t have the time to discuss all the exegetical support (or lack thereof) for each topic, but suffice it say some view are stronger than others.


Some of the views may sound good as a concept, but when you start picking at them, they quickly begin to crumble.


Most of these are built off some kind of theological system, and have very little textual support.

As a result, next episode we'll talk about the one we think has the most exegetical/textual support, and makes most sense of the biblical data.

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