God Sends Us a Gift—His Son’s Church
The writers of the Old Testament often said that someone important was coming. That "someone" was Jesus Christ. He would be called "Immanuel," which means "God with us" (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23), and would save people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
In the New Testament, we learn that Jesus was the Son of God. He lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22) to set an example for us. But before returned to His Father, He said He was going to leave something special behind to help people get to heaven if they loved and obeyed Him. That "something special" was His church (Matthew 16:17-18).
Shortly after Jesus returned to heaven, many people were visiting Jerusalem because it was an important Jewish occasion (the "Day of Pentecost"—Acts 2:1). The apostle Peter preached a powerful sermon to these people (read Acts 2:14-36), and convinced them that Jesus was the Son of God. Approximately 3,000 people believed Peter, and asked what they should do to be forgiven of their sins.
One purpose of the New Testament is to answer that question for all people of all ages. On that day long ago in Jerusalem, God sent us a gift—His Son’s church. The word "church" refers to people who are "called out"—because they have done what God commanded to be saved from sin; thus, they are "called out" from the world to be Christians. The apostle Paul said that Christ is the Savior of His body (Ephesians 5:22). But Paul also said that Christ's body is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18,24). Therefore, if we want to be saved from our sins, we must be a member of Christ's body, the church. But how do we become a member of Christ's church?
First, we must hear God’s instructions so that can build faith, and know what God expects of us (Romans 10:17). Second, we must believe that Christ is God’s Son (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). Third, we must be sorry that we have sinned and be willing to repent, which means we will try not to sin in the future (Luke 13:3). Fourth, we must be willing to confess to others that Jesus is God’s Son (Romans 10:9-10). Fifth, we must be baptized to wash away our sins (read Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, and 1 Peter 3:21). Baptism is where someone places you completely under water and then raises you up. This pictures the burial and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:3-4). When we have done all these things, God Himself adds us to His Son’s church (Acts 2:41). If we remain faithful, God will take us home to heaven to be with Him and His Son when we die (Revelation 2:10).
It is very important to be a member of the Lord’s church, because it is the body of saved people who were purchased with Christ's blood on the cross (Acts 20:28). We should be extremely thankful for the New Testament, which tells us about the "churches of Christ" (Romans 16:16) in the first century, and how we today can become members of the church.