Study 8 Objective: What is the church, and what significance does it have to the believer?
This message is stressed through one of the major metaphors used for the church: that the church is the “body of Christ” (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 12:27; Ephesians 3:6, 5:30; Colossians 1:18).
The original disciples came from different backgrounds and were not likely to fellowship naturally together. God calls believers from all walks of life into spiritual togetherness.
Believers are “members individually” within the worldwide or universal church community (1 Corinthians 12:27; Romans 12:5), and this individuality need not threaten our unity “for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
However, obedient believers do not cause division by bickering and selfishly arguing their point of view; rather they give honour to every member so that there is “no schism in the body” and so that “the members have the same care for one another” (12:25).
“The church…is a living organism that shares the same life, the life of Christ” (Jinkins 2001:219).
Paul also likens the church to “a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”. He says believers are “fitted together” in a whole building that “grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19-22). He also refers to this idea of the church being the temple of God in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 6:16. Similarly Peter compares the church to “a spiritual house” in which believers form “a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2: 5, 9).
In what ways do you care for other members of the body?
Is it helpful to be a Christian in isolation, away from community?
The family as a metaphor for church
From its inception the church was often referred to as a kind of spiritual family and functioned as such. Believers were referred to as “brothers” and “sisters” (Romans 16:1; 1 Corinthians 7:15; I Timothy 5:1-2; James
Through sin we become separated from God’s purpose for us, and each of us becomes, spiritually speaking, alone and fatherless. God’s desire is to set “the solitary in families” (Psalm 68:6), to bring those who are estranged spiritually out of separation into the community of the church,
which is the “household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
In that “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10) believers can be nurtured safely into the image of Christ because the church, also likened to the Jerusalem (city of peace) from above (see also Revelation 21:10), is like
“the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26).
How does the metaphor of the church as family suggest ways in which we should function as a church?
In what ways do you need your brothers and sisters in the household of God?
The Bride of Christ
A beautiful biblical imagery is that of the church’s being the bride of Christ. Through typology this is hinted at in various scriptures, including the Song of Solomon.
A key passage is 2:10-16 where the Beloved tells the Bride that her time of winter is over and that now is the time of singing and rejoicing (see Hebrews 2:12), and also where the Bride says “My beloved is mine, and I am His”. The church, both collectively and individually, belongs to Christ, and He belongs to the church.