Jesus Organized a Church
by Woody Brison

Home People suppose that Jesus never intended to have any church; he just preached, traveled around, and was in tune with the forces of the cosmos. The church was something his disciples came up with later. Not so. While he was still on the earth, Jesus talked about building his church, selected officers from among his disciples, discussed church procedures with them, and he continued to guide and further organize his church after he rose from the dead. Supporting comments and documentation:

Matthew 16:18-19) And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

In today's English language, the word church has two meanings. It can mean a church building, or a group of people with certain kinds of doctrine and procedures. Jesus is talking about establishing such a group of people.

People suppose that Jesus was rejected by most during his life. Not so. He attracted large crowds around him wherever he went. It's amazing how many times the New Testament says this. Matthew 13:1-2) The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

Mark 3:7-9) But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and from Judaea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him. And he spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him...

Matthew 13:36) Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house...

Mark 3:19-20) ...and they went into an house. And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.

Matthew 14:13-14) ...they followed him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude...

Matthew 15:30) And great multitudes came unto him...

Mark 3:31-32) There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him...

Matthew 20:29) And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him.

Matthew 23:1) Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples...

Mark 5:24-31) ...much people followed him, and thronged him. And a certain woman ...heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. And Jesus ... turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes? And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?

Mark 7:32-33) And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude...

Mark 8:1) In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him...

Mark 9:14-15) And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them. And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed and, running to him saluted him.

Luke 5:18-19) ...they sought means to bring [the sick man] in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.

Luke 6:17) And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases;

Luke 12:1) ...when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples...

Luke 18:35-36) And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant.

John 6:2) And a great multitude followed him...

Matthew 4:24-5:1) And his fame went throughout all Syria... and there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan. And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain...

Matthew 8:1) When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.

Matthew 8:18) Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.

Matthew 12:15) But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him...

Matthew 19:2) And great multitudes followed him...

Luke 5:14-15) And he charged him to tell no man... But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities.

Luke 14:25) And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them...

Nor were these just curiosity seekers, large numbers accepted him. Matthew 21:8-10) And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?

In the early church, before the Great Apostasy with its various corruptions of baptism, baptism was always the way that people joined Jesus' church. John 3:22) After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

John 4:1-2, Joseph Smith translation) ...Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, ... he himself baptized not so many as his disciples...

Acts 2:37-41) Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you... Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Jesus got started organizing his church. He selected officers from among his disciples. He first chose twelve lieutenants, his Apostles. Luke 6:12-13) And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;

Mark 3:13-14) And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach...
Why twelve? Well, Israel had twelve sons, and their families became the Twelve Tribes; and under Moses each tribe had a captain. Jesus' Apostles are sent to the twelve tribes of Israel. So it seems to be important that there were twelve of them. And indeed, after Judas Iscariot was dead, the eleven brought the quorum back to twelve by choosing a new Apostle.

Matthew 10:5-6) These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Genesis 35:22-26, 49:1-2,28; Numbers 1:2-4,44

Acts 1:15-25
In addition to the Twelve, Jesus called 70 more missionaries, gave them authority also, and sent them out to teach and prepare the people to understand him.

Why seventy? Well, the earth was divided among 70 nations after the Flood (close study of Genesis 10 will give about 70 nations, depending on how you read the names) and Jesus' quorum of 70 is designed to go to those nations eventually and teach them the Gospel.

Luke 10:1) After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.

Luke 10:17) And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.

Moses also had a council of seventy leaders of the people; Numbers 11:16-17.

Jesus also discussed church procedures with his disciples. He gave them rules for his church:
Matthew 5:23-24) Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
We don't have all that Jesus said. We know that he spent time with his disciples instructing them; this must be a small excerpt.

Part of his goal was to get everyone to join his church, but sometimes certain individuals would have to be expelled from it, as in the following rules:
Matthew 18:15-17) Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Matthew 5:29-30) And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut if off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Jesus was not advocating self-mutilization - that's hideous, and against the Law of Moses (Leviticus 19:28, Deuteronomy 14:1-2, 1Kings 18:27-29) It was a figure of speech; Paul used this same figure (Rom. 12:3-8, 1Cor. 6:15, 12:12-27, Eph. 5:30) comparing the body of the church to a human body with different parts.

All members of Jesus' church stand in equal jeopardy; if they commit serious sins they may have to be expelled no matter what position they occupy - ordinary members, bishops, even the Apostles.

We can see from the above quotations that Jesus gave rules or procedures for his church. After he rose from the dead, he continued to guide and further organize his church.
Acts 1:3) To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
He spent these 40 days with his disciples, teaching them. What did he teach them? It must have been amazing material. There are apocryphal texts that claim to give us some of it, but the New Testament covers the whole 40 days in ten words (seven in Greek.)

There is much that we are missing. But after this period, the Apostles went forth with all hesitation gone, and they knew what to do.

After he left the earth, Jesus continued to guide his church via his Apostles. For instance, the Twelve asked the Lord who should replace Judas Iscariot and He guided them.

Acts 1:15-25 Note that altho the passage as we have it today isn't crystal clear on the selection method ("they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias",) with a little study we can see it clearly. First, they downselected to two candidates. Then they prayed - they asked the Lord which one of these two he had chosen. Then there is this word klhrous, shards - there are a number of instances in the OT where the equivalent Hebrew word gorlot, is used to chose among things but every time, it's used to select at random - "drawing lots". Here the Greek verb is edokan, meaning they gave, by deliberate choice. Each Apostle took a shard and wrote the name of the man they felt was right and handed it in. On examination all the shards were unanimous. The Lord had revealed his choice to each Apostle independently.

Many NT translations say "they drew lots". The NASB shows the correct meaning in a footnote.
The Apostles traveled, preaching in cities, organizing the disicipes, and ordaining bishops and elders:
Acts 14:21-23 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
Here, the word church is used meaning "branch of the church" or "congregation of the church". It was all the Lord's church, but there was a branch of the church in each city wherever there were enough disciples.

As the Apostles traveled around, they would organize and settle controversies. Acts 15:40-41 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

Acts 15:2-6 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. ... And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. ... And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

Where there was a large congregation, a bishop was ordained instead of an elder to preside. 1Timothy 3:2-5 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) [Note that a bishop has to be married, with children]

Also, there were deacons, who assisted the bishop. 1Timothy 3:8-10 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.

There were various other officers in the church. Pastors would be bishops or presiding elders. The teachers and deacons would be the lowest level officers. 1Cor. 12:27-28 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers...

Ephesians 4:11-13 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

I think the "prophets" were probably the 70, it's not the Prophets of the Old Testament being mentioned, and they are listed second after the Apostles, just as the 70 were in Luke 10:1.
It is clear that these offices were not designed to be temporary or go away; not until we all reach perfection. The New Testament does not tell us what the evangelists did.

We have now seen that Jesus talked about building his church, discussed church procedures, chose officers, and continued to guide and further organize his church after he left the earth. Further, this organization was not any temporary arrangement.

Finally, Jesus sent his Apostles out to win converts everywhere:
Matthew 28:19-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: ...
Jesus put the Apostles in charge, and they were to teach new members what he had taught them, and it was all to be obeyed. Those who were baptized by the Apostles and their associates became members of Christ's church. For a while it grew rapidly, with congregations springing up in many places. But, it didn't last.
The Great Apostasy

1. Woody Brison is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but this website is not affiliated with the church. It may be thought of as an additional, somewhat independent witness.

2. I want this page to be as accurate as I can make it. If you have a correction, please email me.

3. All biblical quotations are from the King James unless otherwise noted.

Copyright 2013 Woody Brison. All rights reserved.