By S.C. Shaw
Inspiration and summaries from “Systematic Theology” by Wayne Grudem
Definition: The church is the community of all true believers for all time. Those who are truly saved. In Eph. 5:25 Paul writes, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her“. Christ died to redeem his chosen people, the church. Eph, 1:22-23 “He has put all things under his feet and made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Jesus has called us to him. We are called to be a worshiping assembly before him. God thought of his people as the church from the start. In Deut. 4:10 The Lord said to Moses “Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live upon earth…” Stephen speaks of the people of Israel in the wilderness as “the church“. Acts 7:38, “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give us.” Hebrews 2:12, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” In Ephesians 2:14-16 it says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that might he might create in himself one new man in place of two, so making peace and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” Do you see the importance of unity with each other? Christ doesn’t want us to just be friends or just “nice” to each other. He calls us to be One. So bonded and connected through Christ that there is no division in us. Throughout all of scripture God has always called his people to assemble to together to worship himself. Christ came and died for the church, not just the individual.
As a fellowship of true believers, the church is invisible. This is because you can’t see the spiritual condition of people’s hearts. We can see people who attend “church”. We can see outward evidence of inward spiritual change. But we cannot see into people’s hearts and view their spiritual state, only God can. Paul says in 2 Tim. 2:19 “The Lord knows those who are his.” And there is no fooling him. The invisible church is the church how God sees it. On the other hand, the true church certainly has a visible aspect as well. The visible church is the church as Christians on earth see it. In this sense, the visible church includes all who profess faith in Christ and give evidence of that faith in their lives. If you call yourself a Christian, I’d check your heart and thoughts when it comes to the body of Christ aka the church. Matthew 7:15-20 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or a fig from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree connotes bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” We can fight the importance of being actively involved in a church family till we’re blue in the face. But it’s clear in scripture that its an important and necessary part of the true Christians life.
In the New Testament, the word “church” may be applied to a group of believers at any level. It can range from a very small group meeting in a private home all the way to the group of all true believers in the universal church. Meaning every true believer over all the world in all time. The community of God’s people considered at any level can be rightly called a church. But that’s not an excuse to meet with a friend once a month and talk about God and call it your church. A real church is part of your daily life. As you are being washed every day in Christ’s word and being guided by the Holy Spirit in all you do. Your church family is actively strengthening, guiding, sharpening and loving you. As well as your daily loving, serving, giving of yourself and blessing others with your gifts. Paul said in Col. 1:28 that his own goal was not simply to bring people to initial saving faith but to “present every person mature in Christ“. He told the church in Ephesus that God gave the church gifted persons “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” Eph. 4:12-13. Our goal as a church isn’t just to bring people to initial saving faith but present them to God as “mature in Christ” Col. 1:28.
Are you doing your part? Not as to earn your own salvation. But having such a love of Christ’s mercy and love that it is overflowing from your very being. Or are you a young Christian that thinks this is all for older people? “You’ll worry about it when you’re older.” Or are you married with kids and think you have no time for anything else in your life? Or you’re a bible reader but still immature in your faith because you are left to your own interpretations with no refinement and correction. That’s a dangerous place to be. Or you might just be older and stubborn, been part of some bad church experiences and have convinced yourself that church is not needed and unbiblical. If what has been written in the bible isn’t convincing you than I doubt anything I’ve written or summarized will change your mind. But I will be praying for you. God knows your heart. He knows why you aren’t involved in advancing his kingdom. And one day he will ask you “what have you done with what I gave you?” I hope you can answer confidently, “I have been forgiven by the sacrifice of Christ. I have been made clean and have been adopted into Your house. I lived my life in surrender to you because of your grace and mercy. With the Holy Spirit, I ran the good race and strived to make disciples of all people alongside your people. With the power of the Spirit in me, I helped your chosen people hear your word and lives were saved“.
Or are you living for yourself? How’s that working out for you? Find a true church. A bible teaching faithful church. Don’t search for perfection because you won’t find it. It’s a family. Families are messed up. Churches are filled with fallen but forgiven people. Strive to keep and grow those relationships. God calls us to action. There is no alone Christian. I don’t mean to sound harsh in all this but this is the real stuff. This is life and death. Please contact me with any questions.
Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
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