When was the church officially organized? In Matthew 16, Jesus promised that He would someday bring it into existence by giving it the authority of the keys. But that was not its day of organization. Many people say Pentecost is the day it officially began. But that was not the purpose of Pentecost. That event was the coming of the Spirit to empower an already organized church for its missionary activity.
Well, then when did it begin? That the church, as an official organized body was in existence prior to Pentecost is evident from the fact that, as a body, it officially took action to elect an apostle to take Judas’ place (Acts 1:14-26). Obviously, those, so acting, considered themselves the church. Twice on the day of Pentecost, we are told that converts were “added.” To what? To an existing body of people that already could speak of having a definite number (Acts 2:41, 47).
The church was organized in the room when after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the apostles and commissioned them to take over the task that previously has been assigned to Him by the father: “As the Father sent Me, so also do I send you” (John 20:21). Then, He continued by granting them the authority to conduct the affairs of the church: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anybody’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain them, they are retained” (v. 23). Breathing the Spirit upon them was symbolic of conveying to them the power of the Spirit by which He had been conducting His ministry.
So, let us be clear about this matter, which can make a difference in the way we view the relationship of the apostles’ authority to the church.