17 December 2017

WHAT ABOUT THE CHURCH?

Is it a building with a spire, a noticeboard, and only open on Sundays?

Is it an organisation that is visibly represented by religious professionals?

Is it a voice that speaks on moral issues to the contemporary culture?

What does the Bible say about the Church?

THE WORD ‘CHURCH’ IN THE BIBLE.

rano11The word translated ‘church’ in the New Testament is the Greek word EKKLESIA which means ‘a company of people called out’ or an assembly of called out ones!

Stephen used this word to describe the nation of Israel in the time of Moses as they travelled through the wilderness. Acts 7:38

Paul often used this word when referring to gatherings for Christian worship. 1 Cor. 11:18

Luke used it to describe a local Christian community, for example, the Church at Jerusalem. Acts 8:1

The word is also used to describe the whole community of Christians in all localities. 1 Cor. 12:28

Christ loved the Church. Eph. 5:25

Jesus said, “I will build my Church.” Matt. 16:18

Christ is “Head over all things for the Church.” Eph. 1

In the Bible, the Church is neither a building nor an organisation. It is rather a living fellowship of people who have an allegiance to Jesus Christ.

OTHER SUMMARIES OF THE CHURCH.

“The Church is the community of all true believers for all time.” Gruden

“The invisible Church of Christ is made up of the whole number of true believers throughout the world.” Bannerman “The Church is founded on the Lord Jesus Christ, is called into being by the Holy Spirit and is to contain people of all ethnic groups thereby becoming one new people in the sight of God.” Boice

“All those people who are truly born again and Spiritual are members of the unseen spiritual Church, the true body of Christ.” Jones

This is the Church that Christ is building.

This is the Church that Christ loves.

Now the great question is, “Am I a member of Christ’s Church?”

BIBLICAL PICTURES OF THE CHURCH.

1. THE BODY OF CHRIST.

Christ is pictured as the Head of the Body and the Church is pictured as the rest of the parts of the human body. 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4

Life from the Head flows through the entire body and is directed by the Head. The Church is therefore a living organism rather than an organisation. No human endeavour can organise a church any more than a hand can give life to a body and direct its functions. Unity is also taught in this picture.

Christ only has ONE CHURCH – HIS BODY. The body is made up of many individual parts but no part experiences life apart from the body. Any person claiming to be a Christian must receive life from the Head and must be submissive to what we call The Lordship of Christ.

No member of the physical body can move without instruction from the brain so no Christian can be an effective disciple without guidance from the Head who is Christ.

There is ONE HEAD and ONE BODY.

As well as life and unity this picture also teaches co-operation.

Every component of the physical body has a function and every member of the Body of Christ has their part to play.

There is a work for every individual member of the Body of Christ and this should synchronise with the activities of all of the other members of the Body. This understanding raises Christian service to a height of supreme significance.

2. THE BRIDE OF CHRIST.

Christ identifies Himself as the Bridegroom. Matt. 9.15

How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?

This theme is further developed by Paul when writing to Christians in Corinth, “For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” 2 Cor. 11:2

Christ is the Bridegroom. The Church is the Bride. The marriage of the Bridegroom and the Bride in this context has not yet taken place. The Church is still the Bride and will remain so until after the second coming of Christ. Purity is the lesson taught by this picture. Any bride worthy of the title is a pure bride.

The Bride of Christ is to be marked by purity. The white dress of the Bride of Christ is the righteous acts of the saints. Rev. 19:8

3. THE SHEPHERD AND THE SHEEP

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for the sheep. John 10

The sheep are those who understand the significance of the death of Christ, who have heard His voice and who are following Him in an eastern shepherd, sheep relationship.

The sheep discern the voice of their Shepherd and follow him.

They don’t follow other shepherds.

4. THE VINE AND THE BRANCHES.

Jesus is the true Vine and his followers are the branches.

John 15. This picture emphasises organic union with Christ and also communion or fellowship with Him.

5. THE FOUNDATION STONE AND THE OTHER STONES.

Jesus Christ is the ‘Church’s one foundation.’ Christians are the living stones that are put in place to build their temple – The Church.

In the Old Testament Israel had a temple, but in the New Testament the Church is the temple. God by his Spirit lives in this ‘Holy temple’ which is the church.

6. THE GREAT HIGH PRIEST AND THE KINGDOM OF PRIESTS.

Hebrews teaches us that Jesus is the Great High Priest.

A priest is one who speaks to God on behalf of men and makes intercession for them by way of sacrifices. Jesus has offered Himself as a sacrifice. He, Himself is the sacrifice. He is the Great High Priest who has offered “one sacrifice for sin forever.” Heb. 10:12

Peter teaches that Christians are “…a holy priesthood.

Offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:5

These words are written to all believers.

The Church is therefore a community of priests who offer sacrifices to God. Three types of sacrifice are mentioned in the New Testament.

(a) Sacrifice of self. We give ourselves to God. Our bodies are living sacrifices. Rom. 12:1

(b) Sacrifice of praise. Christians praise God and also pray. Heb. 13:15

(c) Sacrifice of substance. Paul thanked the Philippian Christians for gifts sent for his need and described them as “an acceptable sacrifice”.

SO, WHAT ABOUT CHURCH?

The question is not really, are you going to church on Sunday?

But are you in the Church to-day?

John Matthews