The Church

Study 10. Why Go to Church?

(A LOOK BACK)

1) What should the Christian be prepared to do (I Peter 3:15)?

2) What encouraging promise has the Lord Jesus given them (Matthew 28:20b)?

INSIGHT: The word "church" (or "churches") appears 114 times in the New Testament. It translates the Greek word ekklesia [pronounced ek-lay-SEE-uh] from which we get words like ecclesiastical, meaning having to do with the church.

The verb form of the original Greek word means to call out, or to call people to assemble together. It describes Christians as being God's called out ones--called out of the unsaved world and brought together in a spiritual body, in Christ.

There are two ways the word church is used in the Bible. 1) Of all believers on Christ everywhere--not only on earth, but in heaven (Ephesians 1:22-23). 2) Of local assemblies of believers (Galatians 1:2, 22).

INSIGHT: The work of the Christian missionaries in the book of Acts was to invite people to put their faith in Christ, and help form them into local assemblies of believers. Many of the letters (epistles) in the New Testament are addressed to such local churches (at Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, Thessalonica, and so on). Also, Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus about the work of the local church, and to Philemon about a church that met in his house (Philemon 1:2). Even the book of Revelation has messages for seven local churches in Asia (Revelation 2--3).

3) What is the relationship of Christ to the church (Ephesians 5:25b and 1:22)?

4) What should Christians not stop doing (Hebrews 10:25)?

5) And what is one reason they should keep doing this (Hebrews 10:24-25)?

INSIGHT: "The Day" refers to the day of Christ's return, when each believer will be called to give an account to Him for his life and service (Romans 14:10).

6) What wonderful promise does Christ give to Christians who assemble together (Matthew 18:20)?

7) In the earliest days of the New Testament church, what activities and qualities could already be seen when believers met (Acts 2:41-42, 47)?

INSIGHT: Though churches today differ in some practices, in Scripture there are two particular ordinances (ceremonies) specifically commanded by God:

a) Water baptism, symbolic of the Christian's union with Christ. This is a one-time ceremony by which one who has personally put his faith in Christ can testify to his new commitment (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:41; 8:12).

b) The Lord's Supper (Communion), a repeated ceremony reminding Christians of Christ's work on the cross for them (I Corinthians 11:23-26). (Likely, in the context of Acts 2:42, this is what is referred to as "the breaking of bread.")

8) The Christians at Corinth would meet ("come together"), but what problem did they have (I Corinthians 11:17-18)?

9) What does the word "endeavour" (make an effort) suggest about Christian unity (Ephesians 4:3)?

10) What is one important personal quality needed if unity is to be maintained (Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:3)?

INSIGHT: Unity in the local assembly does not mean that each Christian has to be a cookie cutter duplicate of every other. Within unity there can also be also great diversity.

11) In what way do those in the local church differ from one another (I Corinthians 12:4-6)?

12) What illustration does the Bible use to show why these differences are important (I Corinthians 12:15-18)?

INSIGHT: What an encouragement this should be! Christians are each unique. And each has a place to fill, and a service to do for God. They are to work together as a body in which each part has a role to play. And when "every part does its share, [that] causes growth of the body" (Ephesians 4:16).

INSIGHT: "Fellowship" is an important word in the life of the local church. It means more than simply meeting together for a chat over coffee (though this can be part of it). The word means to share in common, with a mutual commitment to one another. The Bible speaks of "the fellowship of ministering to [serving] the saints" (II Corinthians 8:4), and Paul calls the support given to him by the church at Philippi their "fellowship in the gospel [his missionary work]" (Philippians 1:5).

13) The "one another's" of the epistles suggest many ways Christian fellowship should be expressed in the church. What are some of these, according to the following verses?

I John 4:11 (compare Galatians 5:13)

Galatians 6:2 (compare Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

I Thessalonians 5:11

James 5:16a (compare Ephesians 4:32)

14) What is a practical dimension of fellowship that can be part of believers' involvement with one another (Acts 4:34-35; James 1:27)?

INSIGHT: The early Christians "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship" (Acts 2:42). But some today have abandoned the local church, claiming it has nothing to offer them. This should not be. As David did, in an Old Testament context, we should be able to say, "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord'" (Psalm 122:1).

It is true that some churches are a poor example of what God intended, and no church is perfect. But God has not changed His mind about the importance of the local church. Consider the following Scriptures which suggest some things God wants to see exhibited in the local church.

INSIGHT: According to Scripture, the Lord has given gifted leaders to the church, including pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11).

15) What is to be the result of their work (Ephesians 4:12)?

INSIGHT: Early on, Christians met in homes (Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2). Then as congregations grew, they constructed special buildings in which to gather. The earliest one of these that has been discovered dates from 231 AD. Having facilities to maintain meant that money was required not only to support the leadership in their work (I Corinthians 9:13-14; I Timothy 5:17-18), but to care for other needs. Overall, the work of the local church is to be supported by the financial gifts of those in the congregation. Gifts freely and joyfully given (II Corinthians 9:6-8).

INSIGHT: What Christians are to do when they assemble as a church can be roughly divided into three main functions, each beginning with the letter "E:"

a) Exaltation (the corporate praise and worship of God);

b) Edification (the building up of believers in their faith);

c) Evangelism (sharing the gospel and seeking to bring others to faith in Christ).

16) What are some activities that can be a part of the worship and praise of God in the local church (Acts 14:27; Colossians 3:16; I Thessalonians 1:2; I Corinthians 11:26)?

17) During the three years Paul was in Ephesus helping to establish a church there, what did he do (Acts 20:20, 27)?

INSIGHT: "All Scripture...is profitable" (II Timothy 3:16-17), and the local church should be a place where all of it is faithfully proclaimed--or as someone has put it, "Where the Holy Bible is wholly taught." We are to "contend earnestly for the faith [the body of truth in which we believe] which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3; compare I Timothy 4:1).

18) What danger do people face without proper teaching (Ephesians 4:14)?

19) And for their part, what should Christians do when God's Word is taught (Acts 17:11)?

20) Though all of God's Word needs to be presented, what should have special emphasis (Acts 5:42; or see I Corinthians 15:3-4; II Corinthians 4:5)?

21) The teaching and preaching of God's Word has what purpose (I Peter 2:2; II Timothy 3:17; II Timothy 2:2)?

22) What important commission did the Lord Jesus give to His followers (Matthew 28:18-20; and see Acts 1:8)?

INSIGHT: This work is to extend to "all the nations" and "the end of the earth." That is clearly more than one local church can accomplish. Evangelism actually takes place on three levels.

a) Through each Christian's personal witness (discussed in Study #9);

b) Through the preaching and teaching that takes place in and through the local church;

c) Through the people's support of workers and Christian agencies that share the gospel in other places and other lands.

23) How do each of the following terms describe some aspect or emphasis of the services of the local church?

The church is a classroom.

Meetings at the church is a family reunion.

The church is a refuge.

Meeting at the church is like a promotional rally.

Sometimes meetings at the church can involve a memorial service.

Some services are like a victory celebration.The church can be a spiritual hospital.

24) Ephesians 5:25-27 presents what we might call Christ's past work on behalf of the church, then one aspect His present work in the church, and His future goal for the church. What is each of these?

25) How do each of these three relate to the celebration of the Lord's Supper (I Corinthians 11:26, 28-29)?