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Archive for April 21st, 2012

Great Truths About the Church

Submitted by William MacDonaldon Tue, 02/08/2005 – 06:00

THERE IS ONE BODY

According to Ephesians 4:4 there is only one Church. In spite of all the circumstances

that seem to deny it, the fact remains that as far as God is concerned, there is only

one body of believers on the earth today. Although this Church is never visible to

man in its entirety, yet it is formed into a common body by the Holy Spirit.

CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE BODY

By using the analogy of the human body (Ephesians 5:23, Colossians 1:18), Paul

teaches us that Christ as Head in heaven controls His body on earth. The head

speaks of authority, leadership, and the seat of the intellect. The head and the

body share the same life, interests and prospects. As the head is not complete

without the body, so, in a sense, Christ is not “complete” without His Church.

Thus we read in Ephesians 1:23 that the Church, as His body, “is the fulness of

Him that filleth all in all.” This is cause for deepest awe and worship in the believer.

ALL BELIEVERS ARE MEMBERS OF THE BODY

The moment a person is saved, he is added to the Church as a member of the

body (Acts 2:47). This membership transcends the bounds of race, color,

nationality, temperament, culture, social caste, language and denomination.

In his classic passage on the members of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:12-26)

, Paul reminds us that there are many members in the body (vv. 12-14). Every

member has a function to perform (vv 15-17). However, not all members have

the same function (v. 19). The welfare of the body depends on all the members

working together (vv. 21-23). Because all the members of the body need each

other, there is no cause for envy or discontent, on the one hand (vv. 15-17); or

for pride and independence on the other (v. 21). Because all are members of

the one body, there should be mutual care, sympathy, and joy (vv. 23-26).

THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE REPRESENTATIVE OF CHRIST IN THE CHURCH

After He ascended into heaven, the Lord Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be His

Representative on the earth (John 14:16,26). The Spirit’s activities in the

Church may be seen in part from the fact that He leads Christians in their

worship (Ephesians 2:18); He inspires their prayers (Romans 8:26, 27);

He empowers their preaching (1 Thessalonians 1:5); He guides them in their

activities, both positively (Acts 13:2), and negatively (Acts 16:6, 7); He raises up

overseers for the church (Acts 20:28); He bestows gifts for its growth and

effectiveness (Ephesians 4:11) and He guides believers into all truth (John 16:13).

THE CHURCH OF GOD IS HOLY

God is calling out of the nations a people for His name. He sets them apart to

Himself from the sinful world and calls upon them to respond with lives of

practical holiness (1 Corinthians 3:17). Only in this way can the Church faithfully

represent a holy God in this corrupt scene.

GIFTS ARE GIVEN FOR THE EDIFICATION OF THE CHURCH

It is the Lord’s will that the Church should grow both spiritually and numerically

. To that end the risen Christ gives gifts to the Church (Ephesians 4:11).

These gifts are men who are given special ability to build up the Church.

As listed in Ephesians 4:11, the gifts are apostles, prophets, evangelists,

pastors and teachers. (see note 1).

We believe that the apostles and prophets were concerned primarily with

the foundation of the Church (Ephesians 2:20). The need for these apostles

and New Testament prophets passed when the foundation was laid, and we

no longer have them, in the primary sense of the terms.(see note 2)

However, we still do have evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The evangelists

go out to the world with the Gospel, bring sinners to Christ, and then lead

them into the fellowship of the local church. Pastors take a shepherd-care

of the flock, nourishing the sheep, encouraging them, and guarding them

from evil. The teachers unfold the Word of God in an understandable way,

and present the doctrines of the Scriptures in a well-balanced manner. However,

the probability is that the “pastor-teacher” gift is one gift as the care of the flock

would include teaching the Word of God.

As these gifts minister, the Church grows and the saints are built up in their most

holy faith. Gifts are God’s provision for the expansion of the Church.

ALL BELIEVERS ARE PRIESTS OF GOD

A final truth which we will mention in connection with the Church is the priesthood

of all believers (1 Peter 2:5, 9). In the old Testament, only a certain group of men

were eligible for the priesthood – the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron

(Exodus 28:1). Today there is no special caste of priests, separate from their

fellows, with distinctive garb and peculiar privileges. All children of God are priests

of God with all the privileges and responsibilities that go with such a name.

THE COMPLETION AND DESTINY OF THE CHURCH

As has already been noted, the Church is now in the process of construction. Every

time a soul is saved, a living stone is added to the building. The edifice is rising silently

without sound of hammer. The Holy Spirit adds daily to the Church such as

should be saved (Acts 2:47).

One day soon, the work will be finished. The last stone will be added, and the Lord

Jesus will descend into the air. As if drawn by a divine magnet, the Church will rise

to meet the Savior, and together they both will return to the many mansions of the

Father’s house. And so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

It will be the Church’s blessed portion not only to be with Christ forever, but also to

share the glories which He won during His earthly career (John 17:22).

Throughout eternity the Church is destined to be an eternal witness to the glory of

God. “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in

His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).

In the meantime, the Church is God’s masterpiece on the earth – an object lesson

to principalities and powers in heavenly places of the manifold wisdom of God. Every

believer should therefore be vitally interested in the Church, and his Christian service

should have the expansion and edification of the Church as one of its primary aims.

NOTES (1)

 

In 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, another list of spiritual gifts is given: the word of wisdom,

the word of knowledge, faith, the gifts of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy,

discerning of spirits, divers kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues. There is

no necessary contradiction between the two lists. In Ephesians 4, the gifts are

personswhose whole career, apparently, is given over to evangelism, teaching, or

pastoral work,

In 1 Corinthians 12, the gifts are endowments or abilities which are not necessarily

limited

to certain individuals but which the Holy Spirit may give to any member of the Body

of Christ at any time He chooses. For instance, any Christian man may be Spirit-led

to give a “word of wisdom” or a “word of knowledge” and yet not be exactly a

teacher. Another may be able to point a soul to Christ and yet not be an evangelist.

Again in 1 Corinthians 12:28, Paul speaks of apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles,

gifts of healing, helps, governments, and diversities of tongues. The question

inevitably arises here as to whether we still have gifts of a miraculous nature today.

In Hebrews 2:4, it is stated that God used signs and wonders to authenticate the

early preaching of the Gospel. This was in days before the complete Word of

God wasavailable in written form. Many believe that with the coming of the

complete Bible, the

need for these miracles ceased. The Bible does not settle the matter decisively.

Whilewe believe that these miracle gifts are not with us today, generally

speaking, yet wecannot say that the sovereign Spirit is not at liberty to use

them still, especially on those mission fields where the Scriptures are not

extensively available. In any event, thosewho do profess to have these

miraculous gifts must be careful to use them in accordancewith the

instructionsof the Word (for example, the use of tongues is regulated in 1

Corinthians 14).

NOTES (2)

In a secondary sense, we doubtless still have apostles, if we simply mean

men sentforth by the Lord, In this lesser sense, we still have prophets also,

that is, men whocry out for God against sin and abuse But we utterly reject

the idea that there are men

today who have the same authority as was committed to the original

apostles or whocan speak by the same direct and inspired revelation as the

New Testament prophets.

http://www.plymouthbrethren.org/article/525

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The Church Which is His Body

Submitted by William MacDonald on Tue, 02/08/2005 – 06:00

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

Christians,

the great apostle divides the whole world into Jews,

Gentiles, and the church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32).

Again,he identifies the church of God as including the

group ofChristian believers whom he persecuted before

his conversion (1 Corinthians 15:9).

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:

 1. A flock (John 10:16, R.V.).

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.

2. God’s husbandry (1 Corinthians 3:9)

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.

3. God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9)

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!

4. The temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16)

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.

5. The body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22,23)

The body is the vehicle by which a person expresses

himself. Thus the body of Christ is the unit through

which

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.

6. A new man (Ephesians 2:15)

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.

7. An habitation of God (Ephesians 2:22)

This expression conveys the truth that God now

dwellsin the Church, rather than in a material

tabernacle ortemple, as in the Old Testament.

8. The bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27; 2

Corinthians 11:2)

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.

9. The house of God (1 Timothy 3:15)

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

(Ephesians 3:8, 9).

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.”

(See also Colossians 1: 26; Romans

16:25, 26.) Thus the

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

(1 Corinthians 12:13). Can we determine then

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.

http://www.plymouthbrethren.org/article/526

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