What is the Church?
I. The Essence of the church
1. God’s People (New Covenant people of God)
Galatians 3:26-29 “…in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
In the Old Testament, the people of God had been national Israel. They were so because of the covenant that God made with them through Abraham. It is through covenants that God deals with his people. In the New Testament Jesus Christ inaugurates a new covenant and therefore a new covenant people. All those who confess their sins and believe in him are brought into this covenant relationship with God.
I Peter 2:10 “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
2. Temple of the Spirit of God
a. The N.T. describes the Church as the new temple of God
I Cor. 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
II Cor. 6:16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Paul uses the language of the prophets and says that God’s promises of dwelling among his people and being their God is fulfilled in the church.
In him (Christ) you are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
b. The individual as a temple
Even more so Paul calls each individual believer as a temple of the Holy Spirit:
I Cor. 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? For you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
3. Body of Christ
This means that…
a. The church is the means by which Christ’s ministry continues
John 17:18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
b. Unity is in Christ: We are one body
I Cor. 12:12-13 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…
c. Christ is the head (He is the true leader/shepherd)
Col 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
II. Mission of the Church
A. Great Commission
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
B. Great Commandment (love and unity as the Trinity has)
I John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
C. Display the Wisdom and Glory of God
“The church is God’s vehicle for displaying His glory to His creation.”
As Jesus said God’s people are to be the light of the world: a city set on a hill.
“…let you light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Eph. 3:10-11 To me…this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.
III. Shape or Form of the church
A. Universal Church
All who belong to Christ from all times and places. It is the community of all true believers in Christ for all time.
B. A local assembly or gathering
The church is universal in nature, yet it finds its expression in local congregations.
A local church is a geographically defined assembly of believers with a biblical structure (elders/deacons), biblical practice (ordinances and gospel proclamation) and biblical mission.