Before we start how would you define the church?
How is the NT church different than God‘s people in the OT?
I believe that there is a great need today in understanding what the church is and what it should be doing. Some people think – (The outside world, non Christian and even some profess Christians) Claim that the church should be focused upon helping those in need, others may think the church is a place where you can meet nice generous people (a cut above the local bar). Some people think and hope, that if they go to church God might help them with their finances, or business, or marriage problems. Others that, He might bless them and their families. Some go to church because that is where their families goes on Sunday. Some guys go to church to make their wives happy as long as their buddies aren’t doing something more interesting. Others consider the church more politically involved with government and leadership in this world. Some see the church as only themselves, a one man show if you will. They feel they do not need church or the people who go to it. They stay home, read their bible, and for preaching, if they want, can watch an evangelist on TV or the internet. Others see the church as strictly a Gospel presenting kind of church preaching the Gospel and sending out missionaries to near and far away lands. Some see the church as a place to get feed.( Spiritual and physical) If you ask someone on the street What is the church you would probably hear (“It’s that building on chestnut ridge rd about a mile off 216. But the church is not a building but the people who meet in that building. But, How do we know? How do we know exactly what a church is and what is it suppose to be doing. Only one place to see if we are in line with the Truth, which to go to God’s Word . After all, the Church is a idea in the mind of God and came to existence through Jesus Christ.
The Greek word ekklesia is used throuthout the NT (114 times) to refer to church. The term in Greek that it was written is used as a assembly that comes together for issues such as civil affairs, (1kings 2:3)of Nations (Gen. 35:11) voting, political problems or even war(Num.22:4) that is affecting the city of the people that live there. Most importantly, Israel’s gatherings for religious purposes (Deut. 9:10; 2Chron.20:5; Joel 2:16).
The term Ekklesia in the NT can refer to the church of God meeting in a home(Rom.16:5) in a particular city 91Cor. 1:2 1Thess. 1:1) in a region (Acts 9:31) or in a larger area such as Asia itself (1cor. 16:19) When you look at all these ways we can say the church is a universal body composed of all true believers in Christ, united in Him by the Spirit, and that there are particular geographical expressions of it here today and throughout history. So we can also say, there are many local churches and in the same say’ There is only one church (Epn. 4:4; Heb. 12:23). All people in the True universal church consist of all believers worldwide whom Christ has saved from the day of Pentecose until He returns to get them. The church is both visible and invisible. Invisible that God knows who is truly saved and united in Him by the Sprit. Visible in the sense that professing people assemble each time to worship and praise and learn and grow to make other Christians who will do the same.
It is not necessary to belong to a local church to be a Christian. (thief on the cross). However it is necessary to belong to a church to be obedient to God and to fulfill many of His commands through the NT. And, just because a person does go to church does not mean they are a Christian or a part of the Spiritual body of Christ.
There are many metaphors or ways in which NT writers and apostles refer to the Church. And it is from these metaphors we can understand what the church is suppose to be.
Body of Christ (Epn. 1:22-23) She is the body, Christ is the head and we are all sons and daughters. Also referred to as God’s family (2cor. 6:18). Vine and branches (John 15:1-11) a pillar and ground of truth (1Tim 3:15). Building (1Cor.3:9), a living temple that grows (Eph. 2:20-21) a holy temple in which God dwells (1cor 3:16). A holy nation and royal priesthood (1Pet. 2:9) where each member is liken to a living stone, built around the cornerstone which is Christ himself. She is also referred to as the salt and light of the world (Matt. 5:13-15; Acts 13:47; Col. 4:5-6).
The church should not be confused with Israel. There are scripture in our Bible which are for Israel only and there are scripture for Christ church. There are also scriptures, that can be applied to both Israel and the Church. There are many scriptures taken out of context that have been used and applied to the church that were not intended to be.
The purpose of the church is to carry on the work of Christ in proclaiming the gospel and being a light to the world (Jhn.14:13-14; Acts 1:8; Acts 13:47). Therefore the Gospel and its life transforming character stands at the heart of the church and is to be reflected in her members.
The church is to have a God ward focus in worship and praise of the Trinity. Praying for one another, including our political leaders (1Tim. 2:1,3). The church is commissioned to establish and equip new believers in the faith. This includes teaching and obedience to the Lords commands, love for each other, and responsible and holy living in a fallen world. The church should have a ministry to the world in terms of kindness and witnessing to the truth and reality of God and the Gospel. Thus a healthy church keeps its focus Upward, inward and outward to know Christ and make Him known. The primary authority in directing these activities is the Scripture as interpreted and applied through the Sprit and wisdom gained from the church throughout her history.
Government – depends upon denomination
Ordinaces-There are only two ordinance (decree given by God)-Baptism and the Lord’s supper (Eucharist).
Baptism-Jesus commanded it (Matthew 28:19-20) –Making disciples (followers of Christ) baptizing them in the name of the Trinity, (Father, Son, and Holy Sprit) and teaching them to obey everything that Christ had commanded. Baptism means to dip or plunge not sprinkle. Jesus was dipped into the Jordan. Baptism is a outward sign of a inward spiritual reality and a new union between Christ and the believer.
The Lord’s Supper is for believer s only. A person is to examine themselves before taking and to see if their fellowship with others has been broken (holding a grudge or anything else that would exclude them from their claim to participate in the body of Christ. The Lord dealt firmly with others on this ( 1Cor. 11:17-34).
We can go on but time will not allow. Understand that the relationship between the Church and God’s Kingdom is complicated. But, the practical application for us is that in the church we live under the rule of Jesus Christ, our King, We serve His purposes. We proclaim His rightful lordship to others, seeking to bring them into submission to His rule. We do not make up our own ideas about what the church should be, but rather submit to the teaching that he has given us in His Word. The main thing I want you to see is that the church is not a place you attend for spiritual input two or three times a month. If you are a true member of the body of Christ you are organically joined to other members, so that you’re one body with them under the Head which is Christ. You are a member of the family of God, related to other family members, with a God given ministry to fulfill. God wants every part of the body to work together, causing the body to grow for the building up of itself in love (Epn. 4:16). It is impossible to follow Christ apart from joining His church. While joining a church does not make one a Christian however becoming a Christian (follower of Christ identifies you with Christ and His Church. To surrender your life to Christ and his commands is to commit your life to His Church. If I said to you, I love you but hate your wife/husband would you take that as a compliment? I think not. You can’t follow Jesus fully without loving His bride selflessly and it is rediculaus to think we can enjoy Christ apart from His Church.
By Richie B.