Study 8 Objective:
What is the church, and what significance does it have to the believer?
Back to Bible Study 8:
Church as a holy convocation
“…the Church is not formed by a human gathering of people who would have the same opinions, but by a divine convocation…” (Barth 1958:136)
A modern view is that church is engaged when people of similar Christian beliefs choose to meet together for worship and instruction. However, that is not, strictly speaking, a biblical perspective.
Christ stated that He would build His church and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:16-18). It is not the church of the people, but it is the church of Christ, “the church of the living God” (I
Timothy 3:15), and congregations are “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16).
Thus church fulfils a divine purpose. It is His will that we do not forsake “the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some” (Hebrews 12:25). Church is not as optional as some might think: it is the desire of God that Christians assemble.
The Greek term for the church, which is also related to the Hebrew terms for assembly, is ecclesia, and it implies a group of people who have been called out for a purpose.
God has always been involved in creating communities of faith. It is God who gathers people into the church.
In the New Testament the words church or churches are used to describe what today we would call house groups (Romans 16:5; 1Corinthians 16:19; Philemon 2), urban congregations (Romans 16:23; 2 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1), churches spread throughout an entire area (Acts 9:31; 1 Corinthians 16: 19; Galatians 1:2), and also the entire community of believers in the then known world (Ephesians 5:25; 1 Corinthians 12:28, 14:12; Philippians 3:6).
Hence church is a group or groups of believers and the name applied to the company of the faithful. As “the Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19), He alone knows the composition of His church.
Just as Jesus is the “Lord of both the dead and the living” (Romans 14:9) so His church encompasses those who have died in the faith and those who will come to faith through the promise of the Spirit (Acts 2:38-39) as well as present believers.
Through faith Christians enter “the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23).
If church is God’s idea and not man’s, what implications does that have for you personally?
Fellowship and togetherness
Church is participation in the fellowship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christians are called into the fellowship of the Son (1 Corinthians 1:9), of the Spirit (Philippians 2:1), with the Father (1 John 1:3) so that as
we walk in the light of Christ “we have fellowship with one another” (1:7).
Those, who accept Christ, endeavour “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
Although there is diversity among believers, their togetherness is stronger than any differences.