The Church 3

Eph 1:22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.

Ephesians 3:10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 3:21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Eph 4:12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;

Eph 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

In thinking of the Church, the idea is not dealing with buildings or committees. The essence of the Church is not a denomination and it is not a legal entity. The very heart of what it means to be a church is to be the body of Christ. Fundamentally, in terms of Scripture, a local church is not a place to attend and it is not a series of duties that defines a church, but what distinguishes a true church from the false ones is Christ Himself. It is Christ Himself (not just a theoretical Christ and not just a doctrinal Christ) who is the Head of His body, the Church.

It is true that this point has already been made several times and most likely will be made several times more, but this is an essential point and needs to be hammered home over and over. We have lived in a culture that has pressured us until we conformed to ideas about “church” that are simply far from the biblical concept. Many conservative churches would agree with the idea that Christ Himself is the essence of the Church but in practice they deny that in several ways.

We can take the idea of church membership and examine it in light of Christ Himself being the essence of the Church. Becoming a member of a local church is now thought of in terms of saying a prayer or exercising the will and then saying you want to join. Others want people to know things and be doing certain things before the people are allowed to join. Still others want people to agree to certain confessional statements before they are allowed to join. But what does the essence of the Church teach us about this? A true believer is the church in one sense. A person does not join the church, but we have to at least recognize that when the Spirit regenerates the soul and the person is joined to Christ that person is the church. In terms of pure Scripture, a person does not join a church; the person is joined to the church by God. A person that is in Christ and Christ in that person means that the person is part of the Church.

In one sense this may not make a lot of difference in that people must know things in order to be considered a part of Christ. In other ways, however, the difference is huge. It is a complete change in thinking and how we are to view the Church. We do not grace a church by our joining it, but it is by free-grace that we become a new creation and as an aspect of the new creation we are created in Christ and are His body. Christ is the Head of the Church in all ways. He is “head over all things to the church, which is His body” (Eph 1:22-23). We see some of the meaning of that in Matthew 25 where what we do or don’t do for believers is what we do and don’t do for Christ. When Saul (later Paul) persecuted the Church as recorded in Acts 9, he was asked by Jesus why he (Saul) was persecuting Him (Jesus).

One great difference between a church that thinks of itself as biblical and a church that is biblical is how people are viewed and treated. One church might view people as those they are commanded to love and as such they are nice to the people. The biblical church views people as the church and as such they know that they are to treat the people as Christ in that sense. Even the conservative professing churches can become simply nice people doing things that churches are supposed to do without really being the body of Christ in the world. Churches without the understanding that they are the body of Christ think that they glorify God by being good and following the rules. Churches with a deep understanding that they are the body of Christ know that they glorify Christ when Christ manifests Himself through them. They are to seek Christ who is their hope of glory.

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