Study 8 Objective: What is the church, and what significance does it have to the believer?
Christ is the groom who “loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25). He sanctifies and cleanses her and prepares her so that she becomes “the glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any
such thing” (5:27). This relationship, says Paul, “is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (5:32).
John takes up this theme in the book of Revelation. The triumphant Christ, the Lamb of God, marries his Bride, the Church (19:6-9, 21:9-10), and together they declare the words of life (22:17).
There are additional metaphors and images used to describe the church. The church is the flock that needs caring shepherds to pattern their care after the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4); it is a field where workers are required to plant and water with love (1 Corinthians 3:6-9); the churches and their individual members are like branches of a vine (John 15:5); the church is like an olive tree (Romans 11:17-24).
As a reflection of the present and future Kingdom of God the church is like a mustard tree in which all the birds of the air find refuge (Luke 13:18-19), and like yeast that works its way through the dough of the
world (13:21), etc.
What is your favourite metaphor or image of the church, and why?
The church as mission
From the beginning God called certain people to do His work on earth. He sent Abraham, Moses and the prophets. He sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. Then He sent Christ Himself to be our salvation.
He also sent the Holy Spirit to establish His church as a vehicle for the gospel.
The church is also sent into the world. This gospel work was foundational and fulfils Christ’s words in which He sent His followers into the world to continue the work He began (John 17:18-21). This is what “mission” means: being sent by God to accomplish His purpose.
A congregation is not an end in itself and should not exist just for itself. This can be seen in the New Testament book of Acts. A main activity throughout the book was the spreading of the gospel through preaching and the planting of churches (Acts 6:7. 9:31, 14:21, 18:1-11, 1 Corinthians 3:6, etc).
Paul alludes to congregations and specific Christians as being part of the “fellowship in the gospel” (Philippians 1:5). They labour with him in the gospel (4:3).
It was the church in Antioch that sent Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys (Acts 13:1-3).
The church in Thessalonica “became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia”. From them “the word of the Lord” sounded forth, “not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place”. Their faith toward God went out beyond their own borders (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8).
Does your congregation see itself as the church in mission? If not, what should you do about it?
What are you doing to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Activities of the church
Paul writes so that Timothy should know how to conduct himself “in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and the ground of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).