WE BELIEVE the Church is the body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Spirit, with divine appointments for the fulfillment of her great commission. Each believer, born of the Spirit is an integral part of the General Assembly and Church of the First-born which are written in heaven – (Eph 1:22,23; 2:22; Heb 12:23).
The average person’s response to the word ‘church’, is steeples, stained glass windows, and a huge pipe organ. What is interesting is that in New Testament times, the average person’s response to the word ‘church’, was a group of fanatical people turning the world upside down with their radical message of one God, and one Saviour Jesus Christ. Somehow over the centuries, the emphasis has changed from people to buildings.
Jesus loves the church so much that He calls her His bride. This study will help us better understand what the church looks like.
a. Church – (Greek) Ekklesia – to call out from.
b. Acts 7:38, “This is He who was in the congregation (church) in the wilderness”. The context refers to the children of Israel, a group of people called out of Egypt and called into fellowship with God.
c. In New Testament terms, the church is a group of people who are called out of the world and who are called into fellowship with Jesus Christ.
d. Another word regularly used in the New Testament is Assembly (i.e.) a gathering of God’s people.
I THE NEW TESTAMENT UNDERSTANDING OF THE TERM CHURCH.
a. The Universal Church
Made up of all genuine believers that are saved and will be saved. The Bible refers to them as “The General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn”. Heb 12:23.
b. The Local Church
Made up of believers that worship together in one locality. They live within easy access of each other.
Acts 11:22 – The church at Jerusalem.
Rom 16:1 – The Church at Cenchrea
1 Cor 1:2 – The Church at Corinth.
c. The Church in a Home.
In the New Testament there were times when the believers did not have a building to meet in. Therefore they met in each other’s homes.
1 Cor 16:19, Paul says, “The churches of Asia (local churches) greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the Church that is in their house.”
d. The Collective Church.
This is where all existing churches are combined into one collective church, and reference is made to it in the singular.
1 Cor 10:32, “The Church of God”.
1 Cor 15:9, Gal 1:13, Phil 3:6, “The Church”.
II THE CHURCH IS THE BODY OF CHRIST.
Eph 1:22,23 says, “And He put all things under His feet and gave Him to be head over all things to the church which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all”.
The work of Christ is now fulfilled through the Church.
a. His work is finished.
John 19:30, “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished.”
b. He is now seated at the right hand of the Father.
Heb 10:12, “But this man after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of the God.”
c. He is the head of the Body, and is still working closely with the Church.
Mark 16:20, “And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs”.
d. The Church is the extension of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The members of the Church are His arms, legs, mouth, etc. 1 Cor 12:14 – 27.
1 Cor 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ and members individually”.
III THE CHURCH IS THE LORD’S SANCTUARY.
Eph 2:21 – 22 says, “in whom the whole building, being joined together grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you are also being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.”
a. The Lord’s sanctuary is not in buildings made of stone but in people.
Acts 17:24 – 28.
b. He dwells where His people are gathered together in His Name, Matt 18:20.
c. The church, His people become the temple of the Holy Spirit, 1 Cor 3:16.
d. Because people make up the temple, people become holy, they are consecrated, not the block of land. 1 Cor 3:17.
IV THE DIVINE APPOINTMENTS OF THE CHURCH
a. Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15).
b. Make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20
2. teach them to observe Jesus commands.
c. Heal the sick and cast out devils (Mark 16:17 – 18)
V DISTINCTIVES OF THE CHURCH
a. The Lordship of Christ
Col 1:18, “He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence”. Unless we are gathered together in His Name, we become just another club.
b. Love and Unity
John 13:35, “By this all men know that you are My disciples, if you love one another”.
and unity keeps the body together and demonstrates to the world God’s power to unite. Care for people demonstrates our love for the body of Christ.
c. Praise, Worship and Prayer
Psalm 150:6, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord”.
Praise is a recognition of who God is. The church having discovered Him cannot help but praise Him, worship Him and continually offer up prayer to Him.
Acts 2:42, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine”.
Teaching gives illumination to God’s Word. Great teaching helps people apply the truth to daily living.
e. Leadership and Submission.
For any group to function there must be leadership and a submission to that leadership.
1. Submission to Christ.
Eph 5:24, “Just as the Church is subject to Christ …”.
2. Submission to Leadership.
Heb13:17, “Obey those who rule over you and be submissive for they watch out for your souls as those who must give account.”
3. Submission to one another.
1 Peter 5:5, “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another.
The great commission is, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15.
Church is only one generation from extinction unless the Church keeps propagating its message.
John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another”.
Fellowship – Greek Koinonia – Communion, shared, that which is had in common. Fellowship is not detachment and aloofness but a building of lives together into an organism which is full of life.
VI IS IT IMPORTANT TO BELONG TO A LOCAL CHURCH?
a. Heb 10:25 says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
b. A body can only operate if its members are joined together with one mind. Rom 12:5 says, “So we, being many are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another”
c. God hasn’t called us to be devoted to a building, a system or a ritual, but He has called us to be devoted to one another – Rom 12:9-19. The only way we can be devoted to people is to be committed to a local church.
a. Find a body/local church and become part of it.
b. Become committed to the people and submitted to the authority of the local church and you will find great release and peace in your spiritual walk.
c. God has never given us perfect leaders but He still expects us to be submitted to leadership.
d. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect church. Where you have people there will always be mistakes.
Teaching Copyright (C) 1999 John Iuliano (M.A. Min). All rights reserved. Published here with permission.