"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone;" Ephesians 2:19-20
In the thirty - three years that Jesus Christ was on the earth, his name became known far and wide for the miracles that he performed, and for the boldness with which he declared that he was the Son of God. He raised the dead, cured all manner of sickness, and gave new commandments of love. These teachings and healings were not merely random acts of divine kindness. In Christ’s ministry there existed a single driving purpose – the salvation of mankind. The establishment of his church was a necessary part of that plan of salvation. The truths which Christ restored, and the priesthood authority which he granted unto certain men, were put in place to guide mankind on the path of righteousness, which leads to eternal life.
In the beginning of his ministry, Christ chose twelve followers, or disciples, to go with him. After the Spirit of God had reveled to them that Jesus was truly the Messiah, they all gladly left their previous occupations behind to follow him. In Matthew chapter 9, Jesus sees how great the multitudes of needy people are, and recognizes that “"the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” Matthew 9:43. So he called his twelve unto him, and gave them “power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” Matthew 10:1.
This is an example of priesthood authority, or the authority to act with the power of God, in the name of Jesus Christ. While on the earth, Christ appointed men to other offices of priesthood, in order to assist the twelve apostles with the work of his church. In various places in the scriptures, we find that these offices are Prophet, Elder, High Priest, Evangelist, Seventy, Bishop, Priest, Teacher, and Deacon. It is important to note that these men did not choose to have this authority, nor did they earn it, but were instead called and ordained by God. “And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” Hebrews 5:4.
In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul uses a church building as an analogy of the relationship between, Christ, his priesthood, and other members of the church:
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.” Ephesians 2:19 - 20.
We see in this analogy, that Christ is the “chief cornerstone”, or in other words, the stone from which the rest of the building is measured and leveled. The men of the priesthood align themselves with the teachings of Christ, and together form the spiritual foundation for the church.
How is it that the church plays a role in the salvation of mankind? It is true that Jesus Christ died to save us from Hell, but while he was alive he also taught of specific principles that were necessary for salvation. The Bible tells us that the doctrine of Christ consisted of six such principle; they are found in Hebrews 6:1-2. They are faith, repentance, baptism, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
Faith – Hebrews 11:6
Through faith, one believes in the words of Jesus Christ, and becomes willing to live in accordance with the commandments of God.
Repentance – Matthew 3:2,8
When one believes in Jesus Christ, they recognize their sinful state, and seek forgiveness from God. True repentance involves not only asking for forgiveness¬, but also having a true resolve to not commit that sin again.
Baptism – Acts 2:38
When one desires to repent of their sins and enter into the church, they are baptized. In Hebrews 6:2, it says “baptisms” indicating that there is more than one. The first is baptism of water. By the Bible we understand that one is to be completely immersed under water, by a priesthood member having authority to do so. It is symbolic of our sin being completely “washed away”, and is also symbolic of us being buried with Christ, to rise again as “new creatures.” The second step is the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 3:11, John 3:5. Through this second baptism, the candidate receives the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is given for spiritual discernment.
Laying on of Hands – Acts 8:15; 13:3
The laying on of hands is accompanied by prayer, and can be performed by priesthood for several different purposes including baptism of the Holy Ghost, blessing of children, and healing the sick.
The Bible tells us that there are certain Spiritual Gifts that are enjoyed by true followers of Christ. Because Christ ascended up into heaven, he gave his disciples the gift of the Holy Ghost, to comfort and guide. Similarly, these spiritual gifts are given to mankind to assure them that the gospel of Christ is true, and to assist them in their spiritual walk. “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” Ephesians 4:8
Paul names some of these gifts in 1 Corinthians 12: wisdom, knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, prophecy, discerning of spirits, miracles, divers kinds of tongues, and interpretations of tongues. Joel 2:8 also mentions dreams and visions.
Priesthood authority, the principles of the gospel, and the gifts of the spirit where all instituted by Jesus Christ himself while he was on the earth. They are given as necessary helps on the path toward eternal life. There are many Christians today that believe these gifts are no longer available to men, or that they are no longer needed. However, the gospel of Mark claims that “these signs shall follow them that believe.” Mark 16:16. These are promises to all men, and signs of the true church of Christ.