DEFINITION OF THE CHURCH
In the New Testament, the word church is a translation
of the Greek word elklesia, which means “a called-out
company,”“a gathering” or an “assembly.” Stephen
used the word todescribe Israel as “the church
(assembly)in the wilderness’, (Acts 7:38). It is also
used in thebook of Acts to describe aheathen mob at
Ephesus (Acts19:32,39,41). But the mostcommon use
of the word in
the New Testament is to describea group of believers in
the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus Paul speaksof “the church of
God, which He hath purchased with His ownblood”
(Acts 20:28). In his first letter to the Corinthian
the great apostle divides the whole world into Jews,
Again,he identifies the church of God as including the
group ofChristian believers whom he persecuted before
It has often been said that the Church is not an
organization but an organism. By this is meant that it is
not a lifeless institution but a living unit. It is a fellowship
of all those who share the life of Christ and who are
linked together in living union by the Holy Spirit. It has
been well called “a pure communion of persons without
institutional character.” Many descriptive titles are given
to the Church in the New Testament, and one of the best
ways of arriving at an understanding of the church is to
consider the significance of each title. The following are
the prominent descriptions of the church:
The Jewish nation was a fold. The Church is a flock.
In John 10: 16 the Lord Jesus said, ‘Other sheep
I havewhich are not of this fold (Israel): them also
I must bring,and they shall hear my voice; and there
shall be one flock(R.V.) and one Shepherd.” The idea
of a flock bringsbefore our minds a group of Christians
living togetherunder the loving, tender care of the
Good Shepherdhearing His voice and following Him.
The Church is God’s garden plot in which He purposes
to raise fruit for His glory. The thought of fruit-bearing
is thus brought before us here.
This expression pictures God as carrying on a building
program. He is adding living stones to the Church. How
important it is that our lives should be devoted to the
construction project in which He is so vitally interested!
The word ‘temple” immediately brings before us the
thought of worship, and reminds us that the only true
worship God gets on earth today is from those who are
members of the Church. Worshippers must worship in
spirit and in truth (John 4:23, 24). Such worship can
only come from redeemed hearts.
The body is the vehicle by which a person expresses
himself. Thus the body of Christ is the unit through
the Lord chooses to express Himself to the world today.
Once this great truth is grasped, a believer will never
againthink of the Church as of minor importance, but
will devotehimself unreservedly to the best interests of
the body ofChrist.
Here the idea of a new creation is prominent. The
greatestof all differences among men—that of Jew
and Gentile—has been abolished in the Church, and
God makes ofthese two peoples one new man.
This expression conveys the truth that God now
dwellsin the Church, rather than in a material
tabernacle ortemple, as in the Old Testament.
This view of the Church gives prominence to the
idea of affection. “Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christalso loved the Church, and gave
Himself for it; that Hemight sanctify and cleanse
it with the washing of water by the word; that He
might present it to Himself a glorious
Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such
thing, butthat it should be holy and without blemish.
” If Christ lovedthe Church, and gave Himself for it,
then obviously theChurch should be filled with brida
affection for Him.
A house (or household) speaks to us of order and
discipline.The thought of order is suggested in 1 Timothy
3:15: “Thatthou mayest know how thou oughtest to
behave thyself inthe house of God.” Discipline is
suggestedin 1 Peter 4:17:“Judgment must begin at
the house of God.”
10. The pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15)
In addition to being a support for a building, a pillar
was often used in early days for posting public
notices. It wasameans of proclamation. The word
“ground” means abulwarkor a support. Thus the
Church of God is the unitwhich He hasordained for
proclaiming, supporting, anddefending His truth.
We may safely say, therefore, thatif Christians are
to be inthe current of God’s will andpurposes, they
should devotetheir finest efforts to the
expansion and spiritual welfare ofthe Church.
THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
Many boast today that their mission is to preach
the gospel,and they take a detached view of anything
to do with thechurch. They should notice that the
Apostle Paul’s ministrywas twofold: (1) “To preach
among the Gentiles theunsearchable riches of Christ,”
and also (2) “To make all
men see what is the fellowship of the mystery,” that
is, to ground them in the great truths of the Church
ORIGIN OF THE CHURCH
Great and godly men have differed widely as to the
time of the beginning of the Church. Many believe
that the Churchis a continuation of the nation of
Israel in he Old Testament.Others maintain stoutly that
tthe Church did not exist in theOld Testament, but
that it began in the new dispensation.
In favor of the latter viewpoint are three considerations.
In Ephesians 3:4, 5, Paul speaks of the Church as a
“mysterywhich in other ages was not made known
untothe sons ofmen, as it is now revealed unto His
holy apostlesand prophetsby the Spirit.” Again, in
verse 9 he states thatthe Church is amystery which
from the beginning of the worldhath been hid inGod.”
Church was a secret, kept by God throughout the
Old Testamenttimes, and never revealed until the
New Testament apostles andprophets appeared. In
Matthew 16:18, the Lord Jesus said,“Upon this rock
I will build my Church.” In other words, theChurch was
still future at the time He spoke. Again, in Ephesians
4:8-10, Paul emphasizes that it was the risen, ascended
Christ whogave gifts to the Church. This argues strongly
that if the Churchexisted before His ascension,
it must havelacked gifts for its edification.
We believe it is not only possible to show that the
Church beganin the new dispensation, but, more
specifically, that it wasbrought into being on the
day of Pentecost.The body of Christ is said to have
been formed by the baptismwith the Holy Spirit
when the baptism with the Holy Spirit took place?
In Acts 1:5, immediately prior to the Lord’s ascension
, He promisedthe apostles, Ye shall be baptized with the
Holy Ghost not manydays hence.” On the day of Pentecost,
“they were all filled withthe Holy Ghost, and began to
speakwith other tongues as theSpirit gave them utterance”
(Acts 2.4 11 :15-16). By the timewe reach Acts 5:11, the
Church has definitely come into being,because we read that
“great fear came upon all the Church….”This certainly seems
to pin-point the birthday of the Church as
occuring at Pentecost.