Lesson Nine: The Church

The Bible helps us to understand what Christ’s church is like. It does this by “figures” or “pictures” of the church. Let us look at some of these pictures that we may understand what the true church is like.

THE KINGDOM

The Bible often pictures Christ’s church as a kingdom. Sometimes it is called the “kingdom of God” because God is its Ruler. The members of the church are citizens of the kingdom. Sometimes the church is called the “kingdom of heaven” because it is a spiritual kingdom. It is not an earthly kingdom.

We know that the kingdom and the church are the same thing because Christ used them in this way. For example, let us hear Jesus’ words to Peter: And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18,19).

God has set up His kingdom on the earth. It began on the Day of Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. Read Acts 2:1-47. It began in city of Jerusalem. Since the church and the kingdom are the same, we know that Christ’s church began in Jerusalem. It began on the first day of Pentecost after Jesus arose from the dead. Any church which began at any other place than Jerusalem cannot be the true church. Any church which began at any other time cannot be the true church.

Just before He returned to Heaven, Jesus said, “Thus it is written,and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46,47).

THE TEMPLE OF GOD

The Bible sometimes pictures the church as the temple of God.  Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19-21).

In the Old Testament, we can read how King Solomon built a temple for God (1 Kings 8:12,13). Today, the church is God’s temple. God dwells in the church through His Spirit: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16,17).

THE FAMILY OF GOD

Sometimes the Bible pictures the church as God’s household or family. But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

In His family, the church, God is the father. Members of the church are His children. One becomes a member of a family by being born into it. The same is true of God’s family. One must be born again to become a member of it. …Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

A HOLY NATION AND A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD

Another picture of Christ’s church is that of a holy nation and a royal priesthood.  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

In Old Testament times, God chose the nation of Israel to be His people. Today, Christ’s church is the chosen nation of God. In the nation of Israel, there was a special class of people who served as priests. Only the priests were allowed to conduct the public worship of God. But in Christ’s church, every member is a priest. Every member can pray to God for himself.

THE BODY OF CHRIST

Many times the Bible pictures Christ’s church as His body.  And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22,23).

The church is the body of Christ. Christ is the head of the body. He rules from heaven. Heaven is the headquarters of Christ’s church. The human body has only one head. Christ’s body, the church, has only one head. Christ is the Head of the church! Christ’s church has no pope or president on the earth to rule over it.

The church is the body of Christ. Christ has only one body.

Therefore, Christ has only one church.“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling” (Ephesians 4:4). There are many thousands of different denominations in the world today. Christ’s church is His body. Does Christ have thousands of different bodies? Of course not! A man has only one body. Christ has only one body—the church.

THE NAMES OF THE CHURCH

The Bible gives several names for Christ’s church and for its members. These names honor God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

In the New Testament, the church is often called “the church of God.”   “Paul . . . to the church of God which is at Corinth”(1 Corinthians 1:1,2).“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood”(Acts 20:28).

When speaking of the various groups of Christians which make up the body of Christ, the term “churches of Christ” is used. “…The churches of Christ greet you” (Romans 16:16).

Members of the church in the Bible are often called “believers” because they trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.“And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (Acts 5:14). “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity”  (1 Timothy 4:12).

Sometimes members are called “saints,” because they are set apart to do God’s will“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2). “…To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Philippians 1:1).

They are often called “disciples” because they are learners of Christ.…So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7).

Members are also called Christians.  “And the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch”(Acts 11:26). “Then Agrippa said to Paul, You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:28).“If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:14-16).

THE ORGANIZATION OF THE CHURCH

God’s plan for His church is very simple. Christ is the head of the whole church. “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all”(Ephesians 1:22,23).

The New Testament is the only law which God gave to His church.“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16,17).

In each place where there are Christians, they meet together as a group and form the church of Christ in that place. Each of these groups is independent. Each has its own leaders. Each church of Christ is overseen by elders and served by deacons when it is fully organized.

Elders are called by different names in the New Testament. Sometimes they are called “bishops,” meaning “overseers.” “This is a faithful saying:  If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work” (1 Timothy 3:1). Sometimes they are called “pastors,” meaning “shepherds.” “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11,12). “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:23).

Deacons are leaders who serve under the elders. (Read Philippians 1:1.) The word “deacon” means “one who serves.”

Not everyone can be an elder or a deacon. One must be a good man before he can do this work. The qualifications for elders are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-10. The qualifications for deacons are stated in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. No one can serve as an elder or deacon unless he meets God’s qualifications. No church can have elders or deacons until they have men who meet these qualifications.

THE WORSHIP OF THE CHURCH

The Bible tells us that Christ’s church meets on Sunday, the first day of the week, for the worship of God. “On the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight” (Acts 20:7).“On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2).

This day is called “the Lord’s Day.”I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day…” (Revelation 1:10).The church may meet at any time for worship, but the first day of the week is especially “the Lord’s Day.

On the Lord’s Day, the church “breaks bread,” or eats of the Lord’s Supper.  “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7).

The Lord’s Supper was given by Jesus just before His death. Read Matthew 26:26-29. It is unleavened bread (made with no yeast) which represents His body, and the fruit of the vine (grape juice) which represents His blood. The purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to remember Christ’s death for our sins.   “The Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me. In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Christ’s church worships Him by singing praises to Him.  “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

Each member of Christ’s church worship Him from the heart. The purpose of worship is to praise God. It is not to entertain man. God has not commanded the use of musical instruments in His worship. Each Christian is to praise God. The melody is to be made with the Christian’s heart, not with musical instruments.

Christ’s church worships Him by prayers of thanksgiving, praise, and request.  “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence”(1 Timothy 2:1,2).

Christ’s church worships Him by studying and teaching God’s Word.  “Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13).

Christ’s church takes a contribution on the first day of the week.In this way money is raised for the work of the Lord. On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2).

The Bible reveals no other method for raising money for the Lord’s work.