Tonight, we're going to ask, and answer a simple question, What is the church?
- Matthew 16:18
The rock he was referring to was not Peter, he was not building the rock upon Peter. He was going to build the upon the rock of Peter's confession that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. And, we know that He did build His church as we see throughout the book of Acts.
There is probably no other religious word used more commonly than the word, church. Yet, there is much confusion about this one term in our world today.
The church is not:
- A building
- An event
- Somewhere you go to
- A social club
- A political action committee
- A civic organization
We hear people use the term, "my church," "your church," the mis-use of the word has caused people to regard the church with no more sanctity, no more reverence, and no more importance than a club or a lodge.
But why is there so much confusion, misunderstanding and misuse of the name and mission of the Lord's church?
The Bible freely uses the term; it occurs more than 100 times in the New Testament. It is used with such clearness and simplicity that there is really no reason for misunderstanding among those who have proper respect for God's word.
When we look at the word church we can see what the church is and what it is not.
The church of the Bible is not:
- A denomination, 1 Corinthians 1:10
Aparently, there were divisions happening in the church there in Corinth. Some claimed they were of Paul, others of Apollos. This is dividing the church. This is how denominations occur. The church is not to be a denomination.
- A material house or building, Acts 17:24
God dwells in the church, the church is not a building made with hands. The church that read read about in the Bible is a spiritual house.
- 1 Peter 2:5
- Romans 12:1
The church of the Bible is a spiritual house.
What Is the Church?
The church is the called out.
It comes from the Greek word, ekklesia, simply means the called out ones.
1) We are called by the gospel.
- 2 Thessalonian 2:13-14
The church is the people of the world who are called out by the gospel.
2) We are called out of the world, out of darkness into light.
- Acts 26:18
- Colossians 1:13
We're called out of the world, out of darkness into light, into the Kingdom of His dear Son.
The church is the saved.
- Acts 2:47
1) The saved are in Christ. Salvation is only in Christ.
- 2 Timothy 2:10
- Ephesians 1:3
In Christ all spiritual blessings are found. However, one cannot be in Christ without being in His church.
2) We are baptized into Christ.
- Galatians 3:26-27
3) We've got to be baptized into Christ, into His body.
- 1 Corinthians 12:13
4) The body is the church.
- Ephesians 1:22-23
We're to be in His body, the body is the church. To be in Christ is the same as being in His body or His church. No such thing as being saved and later becoming a member of the church. Therefore, those who say that one can be saved out of the church just do not know what the church is.
The church is the sanctified.
To be set apart, made holy, is what the word sanctified means.
- 1 Corinthians 1:2
To be sanctified means to be set apart, to be made holy. Every Christian is sanctified or set apart when he obeys the gospel of Christ.
- John 17:17
- Hebrews 2:11
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
These Corinthians were sanctified or set apart.
Terms Depicting the Church
The church of God
- 1 Corinthians 1:2
This expresses the relationship of the church to the world and to God. They were the church of God in Corinth. We see the relationship of the church in the world, but belonging to God. They were to be in the world but not of the world. God's people are in the world but they are to be no part of the world.
- John 15:18-19
Expresses the relationship of the church to the world and to God.
The house of God
- 1 Timothy 3:15
This expresses the family feature of the church; the church is God's family.
- Ephesians 2:19
You cannot join God's family; all who are in it have been born into it.
- John 3:3-5
From Nicodemus' perspective was that to be in the family of God, you're either born a Jew or not. He cannot fathom how one can become a Jew when he is old.
The temple of God
- 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
This expresses the worship feature of the church. The tabernacle of Moses in the wilderness and the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem were dedicated to the worship of God as the dwelling place of God during the Jewish dispensation.
Today, God "dwelleth not in temples made with hands." (Acts 17:24), He dwells in the church.
- Ephesians 2:22
The body of Christ
This expresses the fellowship feature of the church.
- Ephesians 5:30
Christ is the head of the body.
- Colossians 1:18
All Christians are members of that one body.
- Romans 12:4-5
The body of Christ signifies the fellowship found in the church.
The kingdom of God
- Romans 14:17
This expresses the Sovereignty of God over the church.
“The kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 5:20) & “the kingdom of his dear Son,” (Colossians 1:13) are synonymous terms and are a governmental feature of the church. The kingdom of the church is a monarchy; Jesus Christ is the Sovereign King.
So divine and definite and final are the laws of the church that no district, state, national or international council or convention is needed or allowed to make, amend or revise these laws of Christ.
The only officials in the church are elders and deacons. Elders rule over, feed, tend, guide and develop the flock. Deacons are to look after the material interests of the church. So you have elders, deacons and all the other members. Notice I didn't signify preachers as something different. That's because preachers are simply members who preach. And, we're all commanded to preach the gospel, therefore we all should be preachers.
The Word Church is Used in Two Senses
It is used in the universal sense.
- Ephesians 5:23
This includes all of the saved.
It is used in a local sense.
- 1 Corinthians 1:2
This includes all those who are Christians in a certain location. What constitutes a congregation of the church?
If you have an individual Christian; does he constitute a congregation? No, but he is a member of the universal church. Suppose he converts another person, and they convert others; they are linked to Christ and to each other and as they meet for worship they constitute a congregation.
The word English word "congregation" is from two Latin words, "con" which means; with, or together, and "grex" which means, a flock. It is a flock togehter.
It is the Lord's plan that there are elders to oversee the flock.
- Acts 20:28
It takes time and teaching to develop God-approved elders. Is it necessary to have elders in every congregation?
- Titus 1:5
Ideally, a congregation is a group of the saved who meets together for worship, and fellowship, overseen by a group of elders.
If every congregation is not to have elders, then there should be no elders at all, for it is certain that elders in one congregation have no right to oversee the affairs of another congregation.
What is the Mission of the Church in the World?
The mission of the church is a three-fold mission.
We're told to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.
- Make disciples of all nations - Matthew 28:19-20
- Preach to all people - Mark 16:15-16
- Be the pillar and ground of the truth - 1 Timothy 3:15
Jesus Christ has left the charge upon the church to convert the world by the preaching of the gospel of Christ. In this mission the church is all-sufficient
This is to build up the flock of God, to build up Christians.
- Feeed the flock of God - Mathew 28:20
- Souls confirmed - Acts 14:22, 15:4
- Established in the faith - Acts 16:5
One generation of untaught Christians would result in apostasy of the church.
- Judges 2:10
We're only ever one generation from apostacy. We have to build up the church.
In the early church, we see that they gave to the saints who were in need.
- Work of the early church - Acts 6:1-4
- Do good unto all men - Galatians 2:10, 6:10
- Practicing pure religion - James 1:27
How is the work to be done? How is the work is to be carried out, either by the universal church or the local church?
Let it be distinctly noted that there is no earthly organization of the Lord’s church outside the local congregation. To preach the gospel and to feed the poor will require the cooperation of all Christians, not only in one congregation, but sometimes of more than one. But there should be no cooperation among churches of Christ that would destroy the autonomy of each local church. Churches can scripturally cooperate, but they cannot scripturally organize into an organization larger than the local church.
In the work of evangelism, we have New Testament examples.
One church supporting one evangelist.
- Philippians 1:3, 5; 4:15-16
One church supporting more than one evangelist.
- Acts 13:1
More than one church supporting only one evangelist.
- 2 Corinthians 11:8
In the work of benevolence, we have New Testament examples.
One church contributing to more than one church.
- Acts 11:29-30
More than one church contributing to just one church.
- Romans 15:26
We see these examples and can learn from and understand the work of the church.
What is the church? Surely we have been able to see that the church is made up of the saved; in a universal sense it includes all the saved of earth and in a local sense it includes all Christians in a local community.
The church also, is sufficient as an institution in which and through which Christians can do all that God wants them to do. Man, throughout history has decided that we need a separate organization. In man's wisdom it sounds great. But, that's not what scripture teaches. We can work to spread the gospel, and we can work with other congregations to spread the gospel. But, there is not coorporate organization of the Lord's church.
To be a part of the church one must first be part of the body of Christ. You do this by hearing the Word of God, and upon hearing believe that Jesus is the Son of God sent to earth to save man from their sins. You must be willing to repent of those sins, confessing your belief in Jesus, and being baptized for the cleansing of your sins. Then, live a life faithful to Christ.
If you have done those thing, but have turned back to the world, and haven't lived faithfully, you can repent and turn again to Christ.
If we can assist you in being a member of the church, the body of Christ, please contact us.