|About the Church - 01 - The Church Which is His Body|
The Church Which is His Body
By: William MacDonald
DEFINITION OF THE CHURCH
In the New Testament, the word church is a translation of the Greek word elklesia, which means “a called-out company,” “a gathering” or an “assembly.” Stephen used the word to describe Israel as “the church (assembly) in the wilderness’, (Acts 7:38). It is also used in the book of Acts to describe a heathen mob at Ephesus (Acts 19:32,39,41). But the most common use of the word in the New Testament is to describe a group of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus Paul speaks of “the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). In his first letter to the Corinthian Christians, the great apostle divides the whole world into Jews, Gentiles, and the church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32). Again, he identifies the church of God as including the group of Christian believers whom he persecuted before his conversion (1 Corinthians 15:9).
It has often been said that the Church is not an organization but an organism. By this is meant that it is not a lifeless institution but a living unit. It is a fellowship of all those who share the life of Christ and who are linked together in living union by the Holy Spirit. It has been well called “a pure communion of persons without institutional character.” Many descriptive titles are given to the Church in the New Testament, and one of the best ways of arriving at an understanding of the church is to consider the significance of each title. The following are the prominent descriptions of the church:
The Church is God’s garden plot in which He purposes to raise fruit for His glory. The thought of fruit-bearing is thus brought before us here.
3. God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9)
The word ‘temple” immediately brings before us the thought of worship, and reminds us that the only true worship God gets on earth today is from those who are members of the Church. Worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23, 24). Such worship can only come from redeemed hearts.
The body is the vehicle by which a person expresses himself. Thus the body of Christ is the unit through which the Lord chooses to express Himself to the world today. Once this great truth is grasped, a believer will never again think of the Church as of minor importance, but will devote himself unreservedly to the best interests of the body of Christ.
6. A new man (Ephesians 2:15)
This expression conveys the truth that God now dwells in the Church, rather than in a material tabernacle or temple, as in the Old Testament.
8. The bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2)
A house (or household) speaks to us of order and discipline. The thought of order is suggested in 1 Timothy 3:15: “That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God.” Discipline is suggested in 1 Peter 4:17: “Judgment must begin at the house of God.”
10. The pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15)
THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
ORIGIN OF THE CHURCH
In Ephesians 3:4, 5, Paul speaks of the Church as a “mystery which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” Again, in verse 9 he states that the Church is a ‘mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God.” (See also Colossians 1: 26; Romans 16:25, 26.) Thus the Church was a secret, kept by God throughout the Old Testament times, and never revealed until the New Testament apostles and prophets appeared. In Matthew 16:18, the Lord Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my Church.” In other words, the Church was still future at the time He spoke. Again, in Ephesians 4:8-10, Paul emphasizes that it was the risen, ascended Christ who gave gifts to the Church. This argues strongly that if the Church existed before His ascension, it must have lacked gifts for its edification.
The body of Christ is said to have been formed by the baptism with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). Can we determine then when the baptism with the Holy Spirit took place? In Acts 1:5, immediately prior to the Lord’s ascension, He promised the apostles, Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” On the day of Pentecost, “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2.4 11 :15-16). By the time we reach Acts 5:11, the Church has definitely come into being, because we read that “great fear came upon all the Church….” This certainly seems to pin-point the birthday of the Church as occuring at Pentecost.
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