What is the Church?
As we examine the Christian church today, we see that there is a lot of confusion about what constitutes a church. Some people feel that where there is a gathering of two or three, there is a church. Is the church just a building or a meeting place? Is it a body of believers? What does the Bible say about the church?
In Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Vine, W.E. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 85-86.), the original Greek the word church comes from ekklesia, which is composed of two words: ek (out of) and klesis (a calling) Thus, we know that the church is made up of people who are called out. Called out of what? Called out of the world system and its life of sin into eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.
In the Bible the word church is used for 1) a local organized group of Christians living in a certain place (1Corinthians 1:2; 1Thessalonians 1:1); and 2) the universal church - all believers who belong to the body of Christ (Matthew 16:18). Thus we can deduce a very general definition of the church.
Defn: A local church is an assembly of believers organized to God's will.
If this definition is true, how is the local church organized? In the Bible God outlines the organization of the local church body. While there are several different types of church government, God's word is crystal clear about the leadership of the church.
The Leadership of the Church
Elders are those individuals who have general oversight of the church.
1 Timothy 3:1-7
Blameless (scandal free life, no blatant sin in their lives)
Husband of one wife (i.e. no women elders, desires only his wife)
Vigilant (calm, does not get worked up easily, applies moderation in their life)
Sober (sound-minded, prudent)
Good behavior (has composure and dignity with respect to actions)
Apt to teach
Not given to wine (does not drink excessively nor is a drunk)
Not a striker (not violent but gentle)
Not a lover of money (coveting dishonest gain)
Not quarrelsome (sweet, peaceful, meek)
Manage his own family well
Not a new believer (not be a baby Christian - needs to be spiritually mature)
Titus also states that elders are:
Not self-willed (not arrogant)
Does not get angry easily (not hot tempered)
Clearly, the standards are high; therefore, it is better to have a few (or none) elders who fit the qualifications than to have many men, which are not qualified.
2. Deacons are subordinate to the elders.
Deacons are charged with the temporal affairs of the congregation. The principal difference between elders and deacons is that elders are in charge of spiritually serving the assembly while the deacons serve the assembly with its earthly needs.
1 Timothy 3:8-13
In addition to the elder requirements they were not to be double-tongued. This is intuitively obvious because they had more face to face and house to house contact with the congregation than the elders. They were not to be hypocritical - but true and genuine.
Principal Ordinances of the Church
1 Corinthians 11:20-34
It is a remembrance of the life and death of our Lord: the bread represents his body and the wine represents his blood.
It reminds us not only of his second coming but also of his sacrifice on the cross, it is a constant reminder of the oneness that we have with one another through Christ and the fellowship that we share with the Body (1 Corinthians 11:17).
Whether communion is served either daily, weekly or monthly, it should be given sufficient time and never to be "tacked on" to a service or a gathering.
Baptism comes from a Greek word, baptisma, which is "consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence" (Vine, W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 98-99.). The biblical idea, however, embraces more than just submersion and emergence. It is best understood in terms of identification or association with a group or a message. Just as John's baptism was an outward sign of a person's repentance (Mark 1:4), in the New Testament people did not walk down the isle of a church or say the "sinner's prayer" when they became saved; but rather, they were baptized as proof of their salvation (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 8:38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:15; 16:33; 18:8; 19:5)
While water baptism is not necessary for salvation, it is important because it is a commandment (Acts 2:38) and it is also a public identification with Jesus Christ since "we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4).
God gives each church leaders who prepare the body of believers for service to God, fellow believers and to unsaved people. While more will be said in a later lesson on the purpose of the church, it is worthy to note that God has chosen to use people to further his kingdom. May God richly bless the Church of Jesus Christ as we seek to serve Him daily.
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