Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What Is the Church?

What is the Christian church? The church is not primarily an institution or organization, but the assembly of all genuine believers. The church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22,23; Colossians 1:18). All believers are members of that body, including those whose function is characterized as being considered less honorable (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:4-7). This body is identified with those who Christ has redeemed (Ephesians 5:23-30; 2:14-19, Acts 20:28). "Church" is also used to describe the local assemblies of the broader church, but the emphasis here is again on the people who are assembled (1 Corinthians 1:2; 14:23-33; Acts 20:17). It is this church which Christ will build and which is the pillar and support of the truth (Matthew 16:18; 1 Timothy 3:15; Colossians 2:19). Now leaders are God's gift to the church (Ephesians 4:11-16; 2:20-22; Acts 14:23), and they are to be appropriately honored (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Timothy 5:17-22; Titus 1:5). But they should also be tested as to whether they are in accord with the truth of God (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1-6; Galatians 2:11-16). Ultimately, it is those who have the faith of Peter who have the authority of Peter (Matthew 16:13-20; 18:15-20; John 1:12).

Therefore, the organization or institution is the outward expression of the body of Christ, which is His people,  who carry out His will in the world (Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:28,29; 2 Corinthians 3:5,6). It is not to be despised, but it is also not to be made into the ultimate standard. Now it should be our goal to make the outward expression of the church correspond as closely as possible with what God is actually doing. But in a fallen world, the correspondence will always be imperfect. There will always be people in leadership who should not be there. And probably people who should be in leadership who are not. There will be obscure German monks who start reformations by teaching justification by faith and obscure Baptist pastors who start missionary movements by affirming that the command to take the gospel to those who have not heard lasts to the end of the age. Now I do not want in any way to claim we should not learn from those who God has raised up as leaders in the past and the present. But I do want to suggest that we should be careful of tying down the truth of God to one organization or institution. Now I would firmly state that God's truth is God's truth and it should not be changed or adulterated (Galatians 1:8,9; John 14:6; Isaiah 43:10,11). But we should avoid confusing the treasure with the vessels that contain it. And we should not confuse the church of God, a powerful army that extends down the ages, with any particular expression of it.

1 comment:

  1. "And we should not confuse the church of God, a powerful army that extends down the ages, with any particular expression of it."

    Amen to that Mike!