Bible study on the church.
If we took a poll in the community, asking, "What is the church?" we would get diverse and conflicting answers.
In this series of two articles, we let the Bible answer this question, so we can be the church God wants us to be.
Origin of the Church
God is the originator of the church, according to His eternal purpose in Christ (Eph. 3:11-12). He foretold of the church in the Old Testament, indicating that He'd establish it during the reign of Rome (Mi. 4:1-3; Dan. 2:31-45).
During the reign of Rome, the church began on Pentecost, a few days after Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:6-8; 2:1-4).
The Church is the Called Out Body
The word "church" is translated from the Greek work ekklesia, denoting a called out body of people.
God calls us out of the world of sin through the gospel (2 Th. 1:14). The church is composed of people who respond to God's call.
The word church is used in two ways. "Church" can be used in reference to all Christians, or a specific congregation. Jesus uses "church" both ways:
- In Matt. 16:18, Jesus promises to build His church, speaking of Christians everywhere who would respond to the gospel call.
- In Matt. 18:17, Jesus uses the word "church" regarding Christians in a local congregation.
Names Identifying the Church
There are several names in the Bible that identify the church.
- My (Christ's) church (Matt. 16:18).
- Church of the Lord, church of God (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 1:2).
- Church of Christ (Rom. 16:16).
- The body, the church (Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23; 1 Th. 1:1).
- Household (house) of God, church of the living God (Eph. 2:19; 1 Tim. 3:15; cf. Heb. 10:21).
- Church of the firstborn (Heb. 12:23).
- God's field, God's building (1 Cor. 3:9).
- The flock (1 Pet. 5:3; Acts 20:28).
Since we are commanded to "do all in the name of the Lord Jesus," congregations of the Lord's church must use an authorized name.
Membership in the Church
On Pentecost, people asked Peter what they should do. He told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). The people who obeyed the gospel received the gift of the Holy Spirit --- they were saved, and added to the church by the Lord (Acts 2:38, 40-41, 47).
- They were baptized into the body of Christ by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).
- They were born again, born of water and Spirit (Jn. 3:3, ).
The Church is God's Kingdom
The word kingdom denotes the domain of the king. God rules over the church; therefore, it is His kingdom.
We must be born again to see the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3). Jesus said, "'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God'" (Jn. 3:5).
We are born of water when we are baptized, and born of the Spirit when we are added to the church, at which time we become a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
Since we believed the good news about the kingdom of God and were baptized (Acts 8:12), we are members of God's kingdom.
The Church is Christ's Kingdom
God put all things under Christ's feet (Eph. 1:22-23). He is Lord of lords and King of kings, having all authority in heaven and on earth (1 Tim. 6:15; Matt. 28:18). Therefore, He rules over the church (kingdom).
As Christians, God has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His Son (Col. 1:13-14). As members of Christ's kingdom, we have "redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:14).
Later in this epistle, Paul tells us exactly when these things transpire: "having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions (Col. 2:12-13).
Note, from Col. 1:13-14; 2:12-13:
- We are forgiven when we are baptized (Col. 2:12-13).
- We are forgiven in Christ's kingdom (Col. 1:13-14).
- Therefore, we enter Christ's kingdom when we are baptized.
This perfectly harmonizes with Acts 2:
- We are forgiven and saved when we are baptized (Acts 2:38, 40-41).
- We are added to the church when we are saved (Acts 2:40-41, 47).
- The church is Christ's kingdom (Col. 1:13).
- Therefore, we are added to the kingdom when we are baptized --- the time at which we are saved.
The Church is Christ's Body
Paul tells us the church is the body of Christ, allegorically expressing our relationship to Christ as members of His body.
Paul says, "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Col. 1:22-23).
Since Christ is the head of the body, the church must be subject to Him in everything (Col. 1:18; Eph. 5:24). If our congregation isn't subject to Christ, we're not His church!
As head of the body, Jesus is also the Savior of the church (Eph. 5:23). We must be members of His church to be saved. He is the author of eternal salvation to those who obey Him (Heb. 5:9) --- He is our Savior if we obey.
The Church is God's Household
Paul tells us the church is God's household, allegorically expressing our relationship to God as His children.
Paul says, "I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:14-15).
Just as Jesus is head of the body, He is over the house of God: "but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house --- whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end" (Heb. 3:6).
Since Jesus is God's Son, and we are also God's children, we are Christ's brethren. "For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Heb. 2:11).
We are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).
The Church is God's Temple
Paul tells us the church is God's temple, allegorically expressing our relationship to God as priests who render spiritual service to Him.
Paul says, "Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people'" (2 Cor. 6:16).
And Paul writes to the Ephesians, saying of the church, ". . . Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2:20-22).
As God's temple, we are responsible for conducting ourselves properly.
- Our bodies are members of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15).
- We are one spirit with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17).
- We must glorify God in our body (1 Cor. 6:19-20). We are not our own; we've been bought with a price.
The Church is the Bride of Christ
Paul tells us the church is Christ's bride, allegorically expressing our united relationship with Him, as a husband is united to His wife.
Paul says, "For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin" (2 Cor. 11:2).
We are united with Christ when we are baptized (Rom. 6:3-5; 7:4), becoming one spirit with Him, baptized into His body by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17; 12:13).
Most importantly, we will live with Jesus in heaven, united with Him for eternity. John records his vision of the marriage of the Lamb, saying, "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them'" (Rev. 21:1-3).
The church is God's kingdom, Christ's kingdom, Christ's body, God's household, God's temple, and Christ's bride.
There's no greater privilege than to be a Christian. But we also have responsibilities, as people upon whom God has bestowed so many blessings. Let's make sure we are doing our part, to be the church God ordained from eternity!