What do we mean by Church?
New Testament word = ekklesia meaning congregation or assembly.
LXX (Septuagint) translation of O.T. uses ekklesia when translating both congregation and assembly!
O.T. verb means “to call.” N.T. verb to call out.
Church is those who are called of God. God’s special people.
2 different views of the church found in the N.T.
- The Universal Church.
- The Local Church.
- The Universal Church.
“The world-wide eternal church.”
Eph. 5:25 “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The church not just found in one locality but a larger organisation that Christ died for. The church is all the called people of God; the Elect!
Repentance and salvation: Those who are saved are the church universal! It is the whole body of believers of which Christ is the Head. Col. 1:18 & 1:24
It is not an earthly organisation! But it is the whole company of the “called ones.” Those whom God called from the beginning of time, it is an eternal body. But it is still being built.
The Lord Jesus Christ: Mt. 16:18
The confession of Peter! “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Mt.16:16
The church is built upon the foundation of the “Lord Jesus Christ who loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” It is His church and it is by Him that we are called into membership!
When the N.T. speaks of the church being built upon the foundations of the Apostles and the Prophets, it is speaking of this very same person; the Lord Jesus Christ. It was of Him that the Prophets spoke and also that the Apostles testified to. The church is all about the Lord Jesus Christ, He is the very cornerstone without which the building could not stand. We are the building bricks!!
How do we become members?
Automatically by faith: It is when we are saved that we are included in the number. We become members of the Body of Christ, bought by His blood, members of the church, the community of true believers. Rev. 7:9 a great multitude that no man can count, from every nation, tribe, people and language. This is a truly cosmopolitan people.
- The Local Church.
In the N.T. we find letters addressed to the “community of true believers” that met in various different locations. We find letters addressed to the church in Corinth, the churches in the region of Galatia and Thessalonica from the Apostle Paul. We also find letters from the Lord Jesus Christ addressed to the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea in the book of Revelation. Other letters are addressed to the elect and the saints gathered in different places. These are all the “called out ones” the “community of true believers” in that particular locality. Called to worship and serve the Lord in the cause of the gospel in that locality. The local church is often known as the “visible” church. “Visible” because it obvious to all around.
Whereas the church universal is referred to as the invisible church it is known as invisible because it is only seen in completeness by God Himself. The universal church will therefore only contain true believers. Because the local church is an organisation seen in the locality, organized and led under the supervision of the Holy Spirit, it is not possible to retain absolute purity. We are not God and cannot discern the heart of all men. The Lord Himself warned of wolves coming in amongst us. The local church will almost always contain those who are not true believers but who may well look the part to us! The devil will make sure of that. But this does not detract from the importance of the local church.
Here at OBS we are the local church. We are Christ’s chosen representatives gathered together, serving Him here and in the community. We are a precious people in His sight and have the authority and responsibility to worship the Lord, teach the scriptures, administer the sacraments (baptism & the Lord’s Supper) and bring others to our God by the preaching of the gospel. We are His church here and He entrusts us with the responsibility for the people of this village, and the surrounding area.
We must be true to the Lord, under the authority of the scripture. We belong to Jesus and to each other, “We are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal. 3:28 our commission is to make disciples of all men. We are to be Evangelists. Some would like to take Evangelical from our title, claiming it to be confusing, but I wonder if it is not to remove our consciences!! We are to spread the good news that Jesus saves. The first step towards that is that we have love for one another. John 13:35 says that love comes from “Him who first loved us.” Because He first loved us then we must love each other. It is when the village sees our love for our God and for each other then they will desire to know what it is that makes us the people that we are!!
We are to be a committed and a united people. We can observe something of the pattern in the early New Testament church. On the day of Pentecost after many had been converted we see the pattern of the church emerging.
We find the converts:-
- Committing themselves to the apostles teaching.
- Committing themselves to fellowship.
- Committing themselves to the breaking of bread.
- Committing themselves to prayer.
The new converts on the day of Pentecost were not only committed to their recently discovered Lord but they were committed to each other. They were committed to being in fellowship together; they were committed to forming the first New Testament church: the local church in Jerusalem. Are you committed to the local church? Are you a member, it is important that if you love the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour that just as you belong to Him so we belong to each other.
But Which Church Should I Belong To?
This has been the question on the lips of Christians throughout history. Many have remained undecided and never joined a local church. Are you one of these?? Well these are confusing days, days when it is difficult to determine which is the right church to join. The local church with modern transport could easily be within quite a large radius. Ideally we should never pass a church to attend another; our local church is the nearest one to us:
W e need to apply certain tests before we make our choice of church. First we need to be in the place that God has called us to be. Then we need to know that the place of worship is “a community of true believers.” How do we discern a real church?
The distinguishing Marks of a True Church.
- They are a community of true believers! What do I mean? Believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. (John 14:6) There are many groupings who claim to be Christian but believe many variations concerning the way of salvation:
- Their foundations are found in the teaching of the Apostles and the Prophets. A true church teaches the whole counsel of God from the whole canon of scripture, both Old & New testaments.
- Their whole desire is to worship and honour the Lord Jesus Christ in the whole of life both public and personal.
- They are committed to the sacraments of the Lord Jesus Christ, baptism of believers (in whatever form they understand) and the breaking of bread. Both of which are commanded for believers.
- They are committed to prayer.
- They are committed to the spread of the gospel believing it to be the [power of God for the salvation of sinners.
These are a few of the distinguishing marks of a true church, the new converts on the day of Pentecost committed themselves to such a fellowship. We are such a company of believers trying under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to be true to the biblical pattern of the local church, are you devoted to us as the early Christians were to the church in Jerusalem??
How do we become members of such a church?
Well first of all you must belong to the universal church. You must be born again, then if this is true of you ask!