What does the word ‘church’ conjure up in your mind. A building? A denomination? A vocation? A slot in the diary?
The Christian church is the society of believers, united to one another and to Christ by love and faith in him. It is a congregation that belongs to God by divine election. ‘What the apostles meant by a church was not an edifice with pulpit, chancel and pews, but a congregation or society of regenerated people built together like living stones and content to meet in some upper room in private dwellings like that of Mary, mother of John Mark.’ (Lockyer)
We find, then, that the apostles did not spend time erecting new shrines and buildings. They preached wherever they had opportunity: in a synagogue, by the riverside, on Mars’ Hill, on the steps of the citadel, or in a hired house.
What is the Church?
There is, (a) the local church. Used to designates believers meeting in a particular place, such as Jerusalem, Antioch, Caesarea, Thessalonica, Corinth, and so on. Paul localised the word to refer to a single household, or to those assembling in a private home for worship and fellowship. 1 Cor 16:19
There is, (b) the worldwide church. Used to denotes the sum total of existing churches as comprising one body, 1 Cor 10:32
There is, (c) the universal church. Used to describe the body of true believers of all ages of which Christ is the Head. Eph 3:21
To Whom Does the Church Belong?
The church belongs to God. Not to the denomination, the pastor, the deacons, the trustees, or even the members. We belong to him by election and effectual calling, 2 Thessalonians 2:13
We belong to him by redemption. The church was purchased by Christ’s blood. Redemption has a legal force: our debt has been paid in full; our curse has been lifted; the condemning sentence has been pardoned. Acts 20:28; Tit 2:14
We belong to him by effectual calling, 2 Thess 2:14.
We belong to him by regeneration, Colossians 1:12
Because it belongs to God, the church is precious and beloved in his sight; he will watch over it jealously, 1 Cor 3:16-17
The church is the habitation of the Holy Spirit. It is not just a collection of people with similar interests, but spiritual union, Eph 4:1-5
The church is ‘one body’, united to Christ, the Head. Its life is lived ‘in the Spirit’. It submits to ‘one Lord’. Its goal is the glory of God.
Why Should a Christian Join the Church?
Can I be a Christian without joining a church? Perhaps, but it would be like:-
1. A student who does not go to school.
2. A citizen who does not vote.
3. A sailor on a ship with no crew.
4. An author without any readers.
5. A child without any family.
6. A football player without a team.
7. A researcher who does not publish.
8. A patient without a doctor.
9. An instrumentalist without an orchestra, conductor, or audience.
A person joins the universal church when he becomes a Christian. But a local church is joined by a definite act. There are two extremes to be avoided here: that of viewing church membership as unimportant, and that of viewing it as the basis of hope before God. In the NT, Christians publicly united with one another in local churches,
The doorway into church membership is baptism. This is the answer of a good conscience towards God, 1 Pet 3:21; an act of obedience to Christ, Mt 28:19, and a public identification with Christ, his church, and the gospel.
Church membership involves a commitment to
(a) worship. We come together to read his Word, sing his praises, observe his ordinances, seek his grace, call upon his name, and be instructed in his ways, Acts 2:42; 1 Peter 2:9
‘The church is not primarily an evangelistic preaching community, far less a liturgical, sacramental one. First and foremost it is a community of doxology, of Hallelujahs! and Hosannahs! of bowed heads and adoring song.’ (D. Macleod, The Monthly Record, 1/81)
(b) the Gospel. We meet to hear, we give to support, we go forth to proclaim, the Gospel of God’s grace. 1 Cor 15:3-4
The church is the ‘pillar and foundation of truth’, 1 Tim 3:15
We preserve, promote and proclaim the truth of God in our own generation. Specifically, this truth is gospel truth, 1 Cor 2:2, and it is biblical truth, 2 Tim 3:15
(c) each other. For Christ’s sake, we are devoted to one another in love. God’s people love one another, pray for one another, help one another, encourage one another, comfort one another, forgive one another. Philippians 2:1-4
You should unite with the church of God because you need to. You need to be instructed in God’s word. You need the fellowship of God’s family. Hebrews 10:24-25
The church is not meant to be a gondola, where one man does all the work, while the others just sit. It is not meant to be a galley, with one man giving the orders while the others reluctantly obey. It is meant to be a sailing ship, in which each person has an individual function. It is guided by the captain (Jesus) and powered by the wind (the Holy Spirit).
The Destiny of the Church
Christ is the King of the church, and the church is the greatest queen in the world. (William Gurnall)
The gates of hell cannot prevail against the church. Matthew 16:18
To the church Christ has promised perfect, complete, and everlasting glory, Eph 5:25-27; 1 Thess 4:16-18