WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
Much of the world seems confused about religious matters, including the church. If you ask ten people what the church is you are likely to get ten different answers.
To some, a church is just a part of their family tradition. They go to the same church that their parents and grandparents go to. To some, a church is a building that has some religious, historical or architectural significance to it. Some look upon a church as nothing more than a welfare program. This is just one of the places that they go to for money and food. Some see a church as a type of social club providing programs and services for their family. Others have a negative reaction. To them, a church represents narrow minded, judgmental people that they wish to avoid.
People have the right to their opinions, but opinions dont always reflect truth. What is the church for? What purpose does it really serve? Why does it exist? We must go to the Bible to find the right answer to these important questions.
There are several phrases in the Bible that describe the nature and purpose of the church. These phrases give emphasis to various and important features that the church has.
1. The Called Out Body. The English word "church" is translated from the Greek word EKKLESIA, which means "to call out." A church is a body of called-out, set aside people. They are called out of sin and darkness - "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). They are set aside to live holy and sanctified lives - "But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct" (1 Peter 1:15). So, a church is a group of people who are trying to live differently than those in the world.
2. The Household of God. "But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Being called the Household of God, we can expect the church to be like a family with God as the Father, and the members as His children. This is the relationship God desires to have - "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:18). All the blessings of family life are found in a church. There is a bond, a kinship, a closeness between the members. And together they have a reliance upon God as a Father.
3. The Kingdom of God. "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven " (Matthew 16:18-19). In this passage, the church and the kingdom are synonymous terms. They mean the same thing. The church is the kingdom. Jesus kingdom is not a physical kingdom with territorial boundaries (John 18:36). His kingdom is the rule of God in the hearts of men - "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, See here! or See there! For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20-21). The church is made up of people who have placed themselves under the rule of the King - Jesus Christ. They seek to obey His word in every part of their life.
4. The Body of Christ. "And He is the head of the body, the church " (Colossians 1:18). Christ is the head of this body. He directs the body, He is in control. The body is made up of believers, individual members, each one subject to the Head. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Paul again likens the church to a body. In this passage we learn 1) the body is made up of individual members (vs. 12-14), 2) as in a physical body, the members have different functions but are all important and work together as a unit (vs. 15-24), and 3) the members should have a care and concern for each other (vs. 25-26).
5. The Bride of Christ. I have heard people suggest that the church isnt important, that we should separate Christ from His church. Paul said that the relationship between Christ and His church is like that between a man and his wife. He says that Christ "loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27). Since this is the case, who are we to say that the church isnt important? Who are we to separate Christ from His bride?
6. The Temple of God. In writing to the church at Corinth, Paul asked, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor. 3:16). In the Old Testament, the Temple was the place where God dwelt. This is where the people would go to worship Him. Under the new covenant in Christ, the church is now Gods dwelling place. Not a building of wood, bricks or steel, but of people. "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22).
7. The Vineyard of the Lord. In several of His parables, Jesus likened His kingdom to a vineyard, field or other place of labor (Matthew 13:3-9; 20:1-16; 21:28-32). The church is not a place of leisure or entertainment. It is a place of activity, a place of sowing spiritual seed and reaping spiritual fruit. If one does not produce fruit he is cut off and cast away (John 15:2, 6).
Conclusion: The church can not be dismissed or treated lightly. It is important and has many blessings to offer those who will come, make themselves children of God and submit to the commands of Christ.
By Heath Rogers
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