What is the Church?
The Church is the covenant community made up of Jews and Gentiles whom Christ has purchased by His own blood (Eph 1:3-18). The Church is a collection of sinners who do not deserve the salvation that God has provided in Jesus (Eph 2:1-7). As a group of sinners the Church is united in belief (Eph 4:4-6) and ultimately seeks the glory of God (Eph 3:20-21).
In the letter to the Ephesian believers Paul used many illustrations for the Church. Paul refers to the church as the body of Christ (Eph 1:22-23). In other words, Jesus is the head, the leader, and the Lord of the Church. The Church is the workmanship of Christ (Eph 2:10). Christ has worked to justify His Church and he continually sanctifies Her. The Church is the household of God (Eph 2:19) and the dwelling place of God (Eph 2:22). Yahweh Himself dwells among not only in each believer but He dwells in His covenant community. The Church is the Bride of Christ (Eph 5:22-33). The Church is therefore meant to submit to Christ. The Church is to look to Christ and Christ alone for Her nourishment. The Church is to respect and glorify Christ.
As Paul wrote to Timothy for the first time he indirectly writes to the Ephesian church again. In 1 Timothy and the Pastoral Epistles as a whole, the controlling metaphor is the Church as the household of God (1 Tim 3:15). Paul clearly instructs Timothy of the importance of godliness and instructs Timothy to put the household of God in order. The elders had to be corrected, women needed to learn the greatness of their proper role in the church, and all must know the importance of godliness. No matter the role that anyone is supposed to play in the covenant community, the Church ought to honor God as Creator and Savior in everyday life. Are we actively taking part in the covenant community? Do you and I seek to humbly submit ourselves to a local church? Are you serving and growing in the context of a local church?
What Role Is the Covenant Community’s?
If you were at a wedding and you went up to the groom and said, “I greatly appreciate your friendship over the years, but I can’t stand your bride!” That groom would throw you out and never talk to you again. You cannot profess to love the groom and hate his bride. You cannot profess to love Christ yet hate His bride, the Church. Every believer must identify with, function in, and submit to the leadership of a local church (Heb 13:17). Believers are to regularly assemble together (Heb 10:24-25) that they might devote themselves to the teaching of God’s Word, fellowship, celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and prayer (Acts 2:42). There’s no such thing as a lone ranger Christian. The one outside the authority of the local church or who lives outside of the covenant community, can you really call Him Master, is He really your Lord if you loathe His Church? First Timothy was written so that one might know how to conduct themselves in God’s household, the covenant community (1 Tim 3:15).
- First, the church is where the believer understands the proper us of the law (1 Tim 1:8).
- Secondly, the church is where the believer sees the grace, mercy and the patience of God demonstrated as Christ both justifies and sanctifies His Church (1 Tim 1:12-2:7).
- Thirdly, the church is where the believer lives in submission to godly men who manage God’s household (1 Tim 2:8-3:13).
- Fourthly, in the church the believer learns the importance of godliness and to self-discipline themselves for godliness (1 Tim 4:1-10).
- Fifthly, the church sets the arena of where the believer demonstrates the practice of godliness in different areas of his or her life (1 Tim 4:11-6:2).
- Finally, the believer understands the great gain of godliness with contentment (1 Tim 6:3-19).
In Matthew 16:18, Christ said, “I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” The Church is a living community made up of true believers who “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5). Christ so loved the Church that He died for her (Eph 5:25) that He might sanctify her and present her to Himself in all her glory, blameless and without spot or blemish (Eph 5:26-27). The Church functions as “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). It is through the church that believers are equipped to mature into the likeness of Christ (Eph 4:11-16) and unbelievers are presented the Gospel (Matt 28:19-20). Any given ministry must seek to foster in God’s people a deepening love for and commitment to the church, as well as a biblical understanding of what it means to function as the church.
The covenant community sets the stage for the counseling process. First, the Church provides the context where a believer who is struggling with sin can take time and seek the will of God through the word of God and in prayer (1 Tim 4:4-5). Secondly, the Church provides the leaders who can come along side and counsel people since these leaders are above reproach, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable and also able to teach (1 Tim 3:1-2,8-10). Thirdly, the covenant community provides accountability. Paul realized that the Church as a group of sinners and that there may be those who are not saved inside the local church. Therefore the local church has the authority to discipline its members. Paul himself had to hand over Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan (1 Tim 1:20) that is to say to put them outside the Church (1 Tim 3:6-7).
The Church Strives Together as a Community for the Glory of God
In Isaiah 48:11, the Lord proclaims, “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.” God’s supreme purpose is to manifest His glory. God is jealous for His own glory and will not share it with anyone. If the ultimate goal of God is to preserve and display His glory, this too must be the ultimate goal of the church. The glory of God thus becomes both the motivation for and the goal of any and every biblical ministry. When contemplating every aspect of ministry, we must ask ourselves, “Will this glorify God?”
In the early church and throughout Church history we have seen that the covenant community glory God by:
- Calling people to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and to be baptism (Acts 2:37-41).
- Assimilating new believers (Acts 2:41-42).
- Submitting itself to the authority of Scripture (Acts 2:42).
- Committing themselves to the fellowship of the saints (Acts 2:42).
- Regularly taking the Lord’s Supper and centering its life on the gospel it represents (Acts 2:42).
- Committing to praying together (Acts 2:42).
- Maintaining reverence and the fear of the Lord (Acts 2:43a).
- Believing God can perform any miracle that pleases Him (Acts 2:43b; 5:12a,15-16).
- Meeting together regularly and share in each other’s lives (Acts 2:44).
- Giving generously to meet each other’s needs (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32b,34-35).
- Regularly gathering for worship (Acts 2:46; 5:12b).
- Sharing meals regularly in each other’s homes (Acts 2:46).
- Caring for its city (Acts 2:47).
- Expecting to see people saved (Acts 2:47; 4:33; 5:14).
- Protecting the unity it has from God (Acts 4:32)
- Living in the grace of God (Acts 4:33b).
- Acknowledging that persecution will keep others from joining the Church (Acts 5:13a).
- Earning the respect of its community (Acts 5:13b).
How are you and I living in Christ’s covenant community? How are we involved in our local church?