Thursday, July 12, 2012

Understanding Christ's Bride

What is the church? The Greek word for church means assembly. (It has also been translated "called out ones," based on the root meaning. I question that this is the basic meaning of the word, but God does sometimes use plays on words.) More specifically, it is identified as the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22,23; 5:23-32; Colossians 1:18-24). We are pictured as relating to Christ as parts of a body, each different and all working and growing together (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:4-16). Now we are placed in this body by the baptism through the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13: Colossians 2:10-15; Galatians 3:26-28). This baptism applies to all who have put on Christ, which we do through faith in Him (Philippians 3:7-14; Ephesians 2:8-13, 2 Timothy 1:9). (It is not my purpose here to deal of the relation of this with the physical ordinance of baptism, though the two are connected; however, going through any ordinance without faith accomplishes nothing (Romans 4:9-12; 2:25-29; Jeremiah 4:4.)  But the church and baptism through the Spirit are spoken of in the gospels as yet future (Matthew 16:18; Mark 1:8; Acts 1:4,5). While people in the Old Testament were indeed saved by faith in Christ (Romans 4:1-8; Galatians 3:6-14; Hebrews 11:13-16), they were saved in anticipation of a redemption not yet accomplished (Romans 3:23-26; Hebrews 9:25-28; 10:1-4), and that explains the distinction here.

Therefore, the church is not the leadership, although they are a gift from God to the church (Ephesians 4:11-12; Acts 20:28; Colossians 2:19). The church is not an organization, though it is commanded to be organized (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Corinthians 14:40; Acts 14:23). It is Christ's body, His hands and feet to accomplish His work in the world. While there are local gatherings in different places (1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 16:5; Galatians 1:22), there is no basis for identifying it with our modern denominational divisions (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:21-23; Philippians 2:1,2). Now the church is called to stand for God's truth (1 Timothy 3:15,16; 2 Timothy 2:2; Ephesians 4:14), but I do not believe this is the exclusive possession of one denomination, though some may deny that truth. Further, the authority of the church to do God's work does not come from historic continuity, but faith in Christ (John 1:12; Matthew 16:13-20; 18:15-20; 28:18-20). Now Israel is a distinguishable entity, being those through whom the Messiah was to come (Romans 9:4,5; Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:16), but it is not totally distinct (Romans 11:16-24; 4:13-16; Galatians 3:14). While the church unites together people of many types (Galatians 3:28,29; Colossians 3:11; Ephesians 2:11-22), this does not negate temporal distinctions between men and women (Ephesians 5:22-33) or as regards the Jewish people (Romans 11:25-32). Therefore, we should be careful of identifying the church with any organization or transferring things to it from any other entity. For it is the assembly of Christ's people to act as His body to accomplish His work in the world.

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