OceanSide church of Christ
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THE CHURCH DEFINED
Victor M. Eskew
A. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus promised to build His church.
And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
1. NOTE: The church was not in existence at the time these words were spoken.
2. Jesus said: I will build my church. “Will build” is future tense.
3. We also learn that Jesus is the builder of the church. It is not a humanly devised institution.
B. In Acts 2:47, the church explodes into existence when Jewish men and women on Pentecost Day obeyed the gospel preached by Peter and the other apostles (Acts 2:47).
Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
C. According to Acts 20:28, the church is a blood bought institution. It was purchased by the precious blood of Christ.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
D. These three verses and many others show us the importance of the church.
1. The church, however, is misunderstood by many.
2. Even some who are members of the church do not have an accurate understanding of it.
E. In this lesson, we want to look at a definition of the church.
1. Definition: The church is a body of baptized believers, called out of the world, over which Christ reigns as head, and in which the Holy Spirit dwells.
2. To better understand the church, we want to look at each element of this definition.
I. A BODY
A. When we refer to the church as a body, the picture of the human body comes to mind.
1. This is an accurate picture (Rom. 12:4-5).
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
2. This body is a specific body.
a. It is the body of Christ (I Cor. 12:27).
Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
b. As the body of Christ, there is only one (Eph. 4:4).
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.
c. NOTE: As the body of Christ, whatever is done by the body is done by Christ, and whatever is done to the body is done to Christ (See Acts 9:1, 4).
B. The point that we want to leave with you relative to the church’s being a body is that it is a living organism.
1. The church is not composed of brick, mortar, wood, etc.
2. The church is composed of the true followers of Jesus Christ.
3. Thus, the church is living, animated, and active (I Pet. 2:5).
4. Members of the church are the eyes, ears, mouth, hands, and feet of Jesus (See Acts 11:22).
Then the tiding of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem…
II. BAPTIZED BELIEVERS
A. The membership of the church consists of believers only (Acts 5:14).
And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.
1. The phrase “added to the Lord” signifies the same act as indicated in the word “added to the church” in Acts 2:47.
2. NOTE: The verse says “believers” were added.
a. If one does not believe, he cannot be added.
b. If one cannot believe, he will not be added. QUESTION: Can infants believe? No, they do not have the mental capabilities to do this. There-fore, they cannot be added to the church.
B. It is important to realize that not all believers are added to the Lord, only those believers who have been baptized.
1. In Acts 2:37, believers cried out to Peter and the other apostles, saying: Men and brethren, what shall we do?
2. Peter’s response was plain and simple (Acts 2:38).
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
3. Acts 2:41
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
4. Those who believed and were baptized were saved according to Mark 16:16.
5. These saved people, the ones who believed and were baptized, were added by the Lord to the church.
a. Acts 2:47
…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
b. I Corinthians 12:13
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body…
6. NOTE: Believers who refuse baptism place themselves outside the category of those approved by God.
III. CALLED OUT OF THE WORLD
A. The term “world” has several meanings in the New Testament.
1. The earth itself
2. All the inhabitants of the earth
3. The system of evil and corruption and carnality that dominates the world and rules in the lives of most.
B. The church is composed of those who have been called out of the corruption and sin of the world.
1. John 17:16
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
2. This call is not the literal voice of God calling from heaven. It is not a still small voice in the night. It is not some mystical experience. It is not a warm feeling put into the heart by the Holy Ghost. The call comes by means of the gospel of Christ (II Thess. 2:14).
Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. It is interesting to learn the definition of the word “church.”
a. Greek: ekklesia, from two Greek words, ek meaning “out of” and klesia meaning “to call”
b. The church is defined as “the called out” or “the called out ones.”
c. As members of the church, we are still in the world, but we are not of the world.
1) We still live and reside amidst the evil of the world (John 17:15).
2) We do not partake of its evil in our lives (I John 2:15).
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
IV. OVER WHICH CHRIST REIGNS AS HEAD
A. Every physical body has a head. The same is true of the body of Christ.
1. Ephesians 1:22
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church.
2. Colossians 1:18
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that is all things he might have the preeminence.
B. Just as the physical body has one head, so also the spiritual body of Christ has only one head. There is absolutely no other head over the body other than Christ. Anyone who assumes such a position is in usurpation of divine authority and in rebellion to God’s will.
C. As the head of the body, Jesus directs all the affairs of the body (Col. 3:17).
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
D. The church, as the body, is supposed to submit to the authority of the head (See Col. 2:19). NOTE: A body that refuses to do the will of Jesus Christ cannot be the body of Christ.
V. IN WHICH THE HOLY SPIRIT DWELLS
A. Every body is alive and animated by a spirit within. If a body does not have a spirit, it is dead (James 2:26).
B. The body of Christ has a Spirit dwelling within it. It is the Holy Spirit.
1. I Corinthians 3:16
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
2. Ephesians 2:19-22
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord, in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.
C. There is disagreement among brethren as to “how” the Spirit dwells in the body of Christ.
1. Two options:
a. He dwells personally and literally.
b. He dwells by means of the Word of God.
2. I believe the Spirit dwells through the Word of God.
a. Without the Word of God
1) We would not even know there is a Holy Spirit.
2) We would not know one thing He is doing in us.
b. Companion passages:
1) Ephesians 5:18
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.
2) Colossians 3:16a
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom…
c. The Word of God is the medium the Holy Spirit uses to empower the body of Christ (I Thess. 2:13).
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
A. Are you part of this body?
B. If not, you can be. If you believe and will be baptized, the Lord will add you to the church. He will take you out of the world and put you into the group known as “the church,” that is, “the called out ones.”
C. Dear Christian, does your life exemplify an exit from the world? Does your life manifest your submission to the authority of the Head of the church? Perhaps you need to repent, confess your sins, and pray to God forgiveness.