What is The Church?
By Pastor J.D. Link
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
In his book “Disciplines of a Godly Man”, Kent Hughes writes, “Today, at the end of the twentieth century we have a phenomenon unthinkable in any other century: churchless Christians. There is a vast herd of professed Christians who exist as nomadic hitchhikers without accountability, without discipline, without discipleship, living apart from the regular benefits of the ordinances.” The New Testament, as well as scholars of the church throughout its history, held the church in the highest esteem. Should we do any less? Has Jesus changed? Be assured, He hasn’t (Heb 13:8).
As we have seen in Heb 10:25, Christians are not to forsake the assembly of the church. The Greek word for church, pronounced “ek-klay-see-ah”, means “Those called out”. The church are “the called out ones”. Called out from the world. “Come out from among them and be separate”, saith the Lord, “and touch not the unclean thing” (2Cor 6:17).
In Thayer’s Lexicon, he defines it in general as a public assembly; and in Christianity, it is an assembly of Christians gathered for a religious meeting; the church universal (all those whose are born again and whose Lord is Christ the King); and the assembly of Christians already dead and received up into heaven.
This signifies that there is an invisible church (universal), and a visible church (local assembly). (A couple of verses that speak of the universal church are Heb 12:22-25 & Eph 1:22-23). While there has been much focus on the universal church in the past century, there are actually more verses that speak of the local church, than do of the universal church. Biblically speaking, there are more examples and commands concerning the local church. Therefore, to see the local church as unimportant, is to see much of the Apostles writings as unimportant. To claim to be part of the universal church, yet refuse to partake in its local assembly, is unfounded in the New Testament.
The word church is first mentioned in the New Testament in Mt 16:18 where Jesus said, “Thou art Peter (Petros – a stone), and on this rock (Petra – massive rock) I will build my church.” Who was the Petra the church would be built on? Jesus Christ Himself (Dt 32:4, 15, 18 & 1Cor 10:4). He is both the foundation of the church, as well as the Master Builder (Heb 3:3). He is the Chief Cornerstone (Eph 2:19-22), and the Apostles and Prophets are the foundation of the Church. We, as Believers, are living stones being built on this foundation (1Pt 2:5).
Jesus then gave the ministry offices to the church to make the saints complete, to build up the church, to equip for ministry, to make known Who the Son of God is, and to bring into the unity of the faith, lest through deceit and craftiness, false teachers prey on ignorant Christians (Eph 4:11-15).
What was the NT example to become a member of the body of Christ? Conviction, repentance, faith, water baptism, membership in the local assembly. The only reasons not to be in church in the NT are negative – never positive: 1. People who do not profess Jesus as Lord (Jew or Gentile – 1Cor 10:32). 2. If one is in gross sin and misconduct, and unrepentant, they were to be put out – turned over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh in hopes of the salvation of their soul (1 Cor 5). 3. Apostasy, as in Heb 10:25. This is not company we should want to be in.
A few Scriptures on the local church are: Act 14:23, 20:7 & 17, 28, Rom 16:3-5, Col 4:15, Philm 1:2, 1Cor 4:17, 1Cor 11:18, 1Cor 14, 1Cor 16:2, Php 4:15, 1Tim 3:5, 15, Heb 2:12, & Jam 5:14. From these verses, we find that in the church there should be unity (1Cor 11:18), and the same Gospel taught throughout them (1Cor 4:17); spiritual gifts should be exercised for the benefit of the whole body (1Cor 14:4); the church should give into missions (Philp 4:15); It should be the where the truth is proclaimed and explained (1Tim 3:15); where praises are sang to God (Heb 2:12); Where the sick are prayed for (Jam 5:14); where offerings are collected (1Cor 16:2); where communion is partaken of and the Word preached (Act 20:7); and led by pastors ordained as overseers by God to feed the church of God (Act 20:28).
This is a summary and not a complete list; but it gives us some insight into what the church is and what it does. Some believe the church is no longer relevant; but may I say, the church will always be relevant because Jesus instituted it; is the foundation of it and builder of it. One could not get rid of the church any more than they could get rid of Jesus. It’s His church, and we’re to be a part of it. Selah.