Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Church

"The church is like Noah's Ark. If it wasn't for the storm outside, you couldn't stand the stench inside."

In a Baptist context, the church is important, because Baptists are distinguished from other churches primarily by their ecclesiological convictions. There are important reasons to study the church. Being called into the fellowship of God and other gospel believers is a blessing of salvation (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:3). 

Jesus loves and died for the church (Ephesians 5:25), and building it is his great goal (Matt. 16:18). The church demonstrates God’s wisdom in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 3:10). Pentecost: Birth of the Church – Acts 2:42-47

The Meaning of Church

The word church in the New Testament never refers to a building. The NT word, church (ekklesia) means a called-out assembly of people. It is used 114 times in the NT. It has a secular meaning of a public assembly of people (Acts 19:32, 39, 41), and ethnic meaning of Israel (Acts 7:38; Hebrews 2:12), and a religious meaning of groups of Christians. One form (13 times) is of the Lord’s universal church, his body (Ephesians 1:22-23) and bride (2 Corinthians 11:2). The majority form (90 times) is the local congregation of professing believers in covenant with one another (Acts 8:1; 14:27; 1 Corinthians 1:2).

The Bible teaches that local churches are not just parts of the Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:27 says that the local assembly is the body of Christ. It may be small enough to meet in a house (1 Corinthians 16:19) or refer to a group of churches in an area (Acts 9:31). Less often, church refers to a heavenly assembly, united around Jesus Christ, and composed of all who love him.

Images of the Church

1.  The People of God. This is the identity of the church (Romans 8:33; 1 Peter 1:2; 2:9; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 24). The church consists of those chosen, called, and set apart by God. Christ claims them. They respond to him by trusting him, accepting his call, and following his will. The church is a place of relationship. It is a kind of family. Like the relationships in the Trinity, the church is under the authority of the Father, gathered in worship around the Son, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. 

2.  The Body of Christ. This is the work of the church (Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 1:18; 2:9-10). Christ is the source of the church’s unity and the goal of growth (Eph. 4:15). He is the church’s Savior and source of life (Eph. 5:23-29). Being the body of Christ focuses us toward being on mission with God. We are not independent. We serve God’s mission.

3.  The Temple of the Holy Spirit. This is the worship of the church (1 Corinthians 5:4; 6:19; Ephesians 2:21; 1 Peter 2:4). It is central to the church and the lives of her people (Romans 12:1-2). The Spirit creates fellowship (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 12:13).