Introducing the New Testament Church
Established AD 33
Serious Christians want to belong to the New Testament Church. But with so many competing denominations how does a serious Christian find the original New Testament Church - the Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself? Common sense tells us that the New Testament Church must have an unbroken history dating back almost 2,000 years to New Testament times. If a denomination does not have a verifiable history going back to New Testament times it simply cannot be the New Testament Church.
Faced with this fact of history, some denominations seek to justify their existence with the claim that the original Church founded by Jesus Christ quickly fell into apostasy after the death of the last apostle or during the "dark ages," and that a new Church had to be started by some Reformer or Prophet; but such claims contradict the very words of Christ Himself. Jesus not only said, "I will build my Church" (Matt. 16:18), but he also promised "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).
So how can we find the original New Testament Church that was founded by Jesus Christ Himself and that received the promise of Christ that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18)? The answer to this question is simple: You will find the New Testament Church in the pages of the New Testament.
Open your Bible and look at the churches in the New Testament. What Church are the churches found in the New Testament part of today? Baptist? Pentecostal? Methodist? Lutheran? Episcopal? Presbyterian? Roman Catholic? Something else?
The indigenous Christians in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, the Mother Church of all Christians, are members of the Orthodox Church. The indigenous Christians in Antioch "where the disciples were first called Christians" (Acts 11:26) are Orthodox. The Christians of Cyprus and Crete where the Apostle Paul took early missionary journeys are Orthodox. The Christians of Asia Minor where the seven churches of the Book of Revelation are found are Orthodox. The Christians of Corinth, Athens and other Greek cities where the Apostle Paul planted churches and to whom he preached or wrote epistles are all Orthodox.
All of these New Testament churches are, and always have been, part of the Orthodox Church. They all have a verifiable and unbroken history dating back to New Testament times, and there never was a moment in history when they were not Orthodox churches. The only church spoken of in the entire New Testament that is not an Orthodox church today is Rome, and Rome was fully Orthodox for a thousand years before falling away into schism in AD 1054. Rome was Orthodox for longer than she has been separated from the Orthodox Church. The Church of Rome was an Orthodox Church for longer than she has been known as the Roman Catholic Church.
For the first thousand years of Christianity there was one Church - the Orthodox Church. This is an indisputable fact of history. Then, having unilaterally changed the Nicene Creed, the Church of Rome fell away into schism in AD 1054, eventually becoming known as the Roman Catholic Church. Having separated from the Orthodox Church, Rome continued to change the Faith, introducing novel doctrines such as purgatory and indulgences, leading to the Protestant Reformation in AD 1517. But the Protestant Reformation was really a revolution rather than a reformation because rather than reforming the Roman Church they created new denominations. The Protestant Reformers eliminated one pope, but through their novel doctrines of sola scripture and private interpretation of the Scriptures they essentially abolished all authority and made every individual protestant his or her own pope, causing ecclesiastical chaos.
Beginning with the Protestant Reformation in 1517, Christianity in the West began to splinter until today there are literally thousands of separate and competing denominations, with five new denominations being organized every week. In addition, there are uncountable numbers of independent churches. The Lord Jesus Christ established one Church, promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against it, and commanded His disciples to "hear the church" (Matt. 18:17). All of the others are man-made denominations that arose many centuries after Christ. A human foundation means a human organization, and a human organization means a human and therefore a changing Faith.
Beside this chaos in Western Christendom, there remains the 300 million-member Orthodox Church. The word Orthodox means both "correct doctrine" and "correct worship," and both the New Testament and history demonstrate that the Orthodox Church, with its unbroken history dating back to New Testament times, is the New Testament Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself. Our Lord Jesus Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church and that promise has been kept.
Many Western Christians sadly know little about the Orthodox Church, but what they do know is that it is an "Eastern" Church and that it refuses to change with the times. Eastern? Of course, it is Eastern. Christianity originated in the Holy Land and the Middle East. Christianity has its roots firmly planted in the East, not in Western Europe or the United States. The Orthodox Church is an Eastern Church because Christianity is Eastern, and it does not change with the times because it has an unchanging message for an ever-changing world. Rather than conforming itself to the world, the Orthodox Church seeks to transform the world by the Light of Christ.
Although the Orthodox Church has its roots firmly planted in the East, it is also the "One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" founded by Jesus Christ. The word Catholic means both "Universal" and "Whole and Complete," and the Orthodox Church is the One Church for all people of all races and nations, proclaiming an unchanging Faith for all time. Within the Orthodox Church there are believers from every race on earth. The Orthodox Church is made up of people of many nations and cultures who worship God in many languages and according to various liturgical rites. Although the Eastern Rite predominates, especially since the Great Schism (the falling away of Rome) in 1054, there are also many Orthodox Christians in the West who worship according to the Western Rite in a completely Western cultural setting - an ancient Eastern Faith lived and shared in a Western cultural context. There are Western Rite churches and monasteries in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, on the continent of Europe, and in Australia and New Zealand, and their numbers are growing. All Orthodox Christians of whatever nation, culture or rite, share the same unchanging and unchangeable "faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).