The Way

The Way
My Journey Into the Community God Intended

Friday, August 27, 2010

What is "The Church"?

This week I was challenged to explore the question, "what is the Church?". So I have, and I thought I would share here, for the record, what I found.

The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” Nowhere in the Bible is the place where Christians meet referred to as a "church." This word appears around 75 times in the English Bibles, depending on the translation (around 110 times if you include the plural). Never does ekklesia refer to a building in which people gathered, for worship or for any other purpose. This tells us that the Church is not a place we go, but rather a group of specific people. In Romans 16:5, Paul says to "greet the church that is in their house". He refers to the people meeting in the house, not the building housing the people. I don't think there would be any intelligent argument to this fact in most religious circles today.

Now, to be more specific: this people are those who have been filled with the Holy Spirit upon repentance from their sin and conversion to the lordship of Jesus in their lives. This people called the "Church" in scripture are the body of Christ, of which He is the head. Looking at Ephesions 1:22-23, Paul says, "And God placed all things under His (Jesus) feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way." The New Testament Church is a body of believers who have been called out from the world by God to live as His people under the authority of Jesus Christ. I find in scripture that there are two aspects of the Church manifest in the world - the universal Church and the local church. Let me look closer at the two.

The universal Church would be all those who have this personal relationship (not a personal knowledge of) with Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:13 makes this clear when Paul tells us, "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." Everyone who calls upon Jesus as Lord and has put their faith in Him and His sacrifice on Calvary to pay the price for their sin is a part, or a member, of the body of Christ and has received the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as evidence of this decision.

The local Church, in mathmatical terms, is a "subset" of the universal Church. In Galations 1:1-2, Paul writes, "Paul, an apostle — not from men or by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead — and all the brothers who are with me: To the churches of Galatia..." Paul was not addressing a group of denominations, ie, the first Baptist Church of Galatia, the Methodist church, the Catholic church, First Assembly of God church, etc... He was writing to the smaller, local bodies of believers (as mentioned earlier in Romans 16:5) who met together in various houses. How do we know this? History tells us throughout the Roman persecution of Christianity that for a local body to own property would have been a death sentence on all attending there. Only after the emporer Constantine declared Chritianity "legal" and ended persecution (from the Romans, anyway) would it have been possible. The first record of a dedicated church building dates back to the mid third-century. Galations was written around 49 A.D. The local Church is the place where the members of the universal Church should fully apply the “body” principles of 1 Corinthians 12: encouraging, teaching and building one another up in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. A person becomes "a member" of the local and universal Church simply by exercising faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Now, what is the purpose of the Church? Again, I find a two-fold purpose: the first and primary would be to bring glory to it's Head, Jesus Christ. How do we do this? By fulfilling the second purpose, which is fulfilling God's plan for the earth. Again, I find a two-fold purpose, the first being to edify fellow members of the Church body and the second to be the evangelism of, or sharing the Gospel with non-believers for the purpose of bringing them to making a salvation decision. Acts chapter 2 gives a great description of how this looks.

"Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. And every day they devoted themselves [to meeting] together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved." (44-47)

By building up each other, rather than just making sure selfish wants and needs were met, the lost community took notice of something amazingly different about this particular group of people. This opened the door to share the Gospel and as a result, people came to give their lives to Christ on a daily basis - which brings honor and glory to God.

This is what I find in scripture as to what the Church is.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Way

Reading through Acts in an in-depth study over the past year, God brought to my attention, yet again, the several references made to the church as "the Way". Until now, I failed to see the beautiful picture of Christ in this reference. In his writings, the author always capitalizes the reference "Way". In John 14:6, Jesus refers to himself as "the Way and the truth and the Life". To me this says the first church was a representation of Christ to the lost world. I believe this should still hold true today. The body of Christ should be a physical representation, or a reflection, if you will, of Jesus in the manner we live, love and linger. Linger??? (I added linger initially because I needed another word that started with "L".) I say, after thoughtful consideration, linger, because Jesus spent His time here on earth always looking to the cross and resurrection - making the most of the short amount of time that He had. He took 12 ordinary, common men (not educated theologians) and discipled them in a manner that they were able to easily duplicate with others after His ascension. He taught them that even though He was far greater than them, because of His love for them He became their servant - and instructed them to do the same for others. Although He had the authority and the right to condemn those in sin, He chose to encourage them to "sin no more" and offered forgiveness in exchange for repentance. Again, He made the most of the short time He was allotted by the Father to accomplish His mission.

Following His example, should we, as His church, not do the same? Shouldn't we make the most of the short amount of time we have here and live our lives in a manner that honors Christ and reflects, accurately, the life which He demonstrated for His followers? Of course, we should! It is to be and it will begin with me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


The deeper I go into God's word, the more clear it becomes that God wants more from His church than a mere pittance of our lives. Going up to the "temple" once or twice a week and offering up our token hour and a half to two hours of sacrifice (of our time) is embarrassing. Even those who worship false gods, such as Buddah or Islam offer up far greater sacrifices of their time, some even their lives. How pathetic is it that those who claim to worship the one TRUE God do not even rival the devotion of those who worship dead men and graven images? God doesn't want our measley two hours a week - He wants our entire life. let me say that again - He wants our ENTIRE life, not just a portion of it. The love that God demonstrated at Calvary should be the same love we demonstrate on a daily basis - dying to self to serve others. Jesus fleshed this out for us to show us what it looks like. Why has this been ignored in the institution? Jesus defines who we are - He is the difference in those who call themselves by His name - at least, He should be. I have known for quite some time that, just as Jesus Himself said, "Not everyone who calls Me "Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven - only those who do the will of My Father in Heaven" (Matt 7:21 - paraphrase). I believe those who truly belong to Christ will rise up from the chaos of the institution and either make the move into a real, legitimate, intimate relationship with the Messiah or rise up within the institution to bring reform. Once a true believer has seen the truth in God's word regarding the church and it's design, purpose and function and compares that with what we have enshrined within the institution, how can they NOT come to the conclusion that something is very amiss?

Just as Jesus struggled with the Pharisees and Saducees over the gross mis-management of God's house in that day, (the one time in scripture that Jesus visably was angered to rage) we today must take a stand against what is masquerading as the church. I covet your prayers as I seek God's will on how to most effectively do this.