What you need to know about the church

by Mervyn Tilley – 21 June 2017


The church The Unity of the church

“We believe in the spiritual unity and priesthood of all believers in Christ and that these comprise the universal church and the body of Christ”.


What the church is not

- The church is not bricks and mortar, the building.
- The church is not the denomination.
- The church is not man made or man maintained. Jesus said “I will build my church (Matthew 16:18). Paul warned the leaders before he left Ephesus, see Acts 20:28. 

N.B. You can be in the church building and not be a member of His church. You can also be a fully signed up church member of a denomination yet still not be a member of the true church.


What the church is

The word ‘church’ is taken from the Greek word ‘ecclesia’, which also means ‘assembly’ or ‘called out’. In Acts 7:38 the church is called "the church in the wilderness".

Before Israel came into the wilderness they were ‘called out’ of Egypt (a type of world slavery and spiritual bondage). Furthermore everyone ‘called out’ of Egypt had at least one thing in common – they had all experienced the power of the blood of the Passover Lamb (Exodus 12). By the same token every member of the true church of Jesus Christ (regardless of denomination) has certain things in common no matter where they come from in the world, eg they have all been ‘called out’ of the world (John 15:16). They have all tasted the power of the blood of Jesus (Revelation 1:5). They have all believed (Acts 16:31). They have all called on the name of the Lord (Acts 2:21). They have all been born again (John 3).

As a result of all that every true member has been sealed or marked by the Holy Spirit as belonging to God. See 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 and Ephesians 1:13.

The Bible says that the Lord knows them that are His. Peter puts it differently in 1 Peter 2:4-5 when he calls true members of Christ’s church ‘living stones’ because they have received life through a personal encounter with the 'living stone' – Jesus.

The church effectively came into being on the Day of Pentecost and has been added to ever since. Jesus is the builder. Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone (foundation stone) and Jesus is also the Head of the Church. Everything begins and ends in Him.


Only one church 

Ephesians 4:4-6
There is only one church worldwide – with many different facets. These many facets are reflected in some ways by the many various denominations which at their origins received a specific revelation of some lost truth. Unfortunately, most denominations stop at their particular revelation or distinctive doctrine and fail to move on in God’s purposes.

The church is explained in the Scriptures by various metaphors and in the three main ones relevant to this teaching – all emphasise unity and togetherness.


The church is like a body of which Jesus is the head 

Ephesians 1:22-23

- the church as a body applies universally and also locally. Paul teaches the vital importance of the various parts of the body working together for effective function – in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 and 12:27. 


The church is like an army 

- an army with many units or battalions with Jesus being the Commander in Chief. Again, unity is vital if an army is to wage war successfully (Song of Solomon 6:4).


The church is like a family 

- a family where God is Father and we are His children. Loving one another is paramount (Ephesians 3:14-15).
The church is also like a building (Ephesians 2:19-22 and Psalm 132:13-16).


The church is also depicted as a bride

Ephesians 5:25-33 and 2 Corinthians 11:2

One of the most important things to understand about the church is that all members are equal in Christ. This is called the priesthood of all believers (Galatians 3:26-28).


Consider Israel

God’s original intention was that all Israelites be priests before Him but in the end only one tribe was chosen, and that was the tribe of Levi. It was chosen to represent the other 11 tribes. Now when the priests were good they were good but when they were bad they were very bad. Many times God took issue with the Old Testament priests because they had failed the people of God.

When we come to the New Covenant (Testament) of which Jesus is the Great High Priest we discover that every believer is a serving priest with Him (1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9-10 and Revelation 1:6).

Because every believer from the rawest recruit to the most seasoned saint has equal access into God’s presence and equal access to God’s word – no-one can pull rank and lord it over another believer. Of course, there are different functions and levels of responsibility in the church – but no-one has more rights because of their higher position. We are all saved by grace (1 Timothy 2:5).

The early church faced big problems when the Gentiles became believers and joined the church. Some of the Jewish believers wanted to effectively make the Gentile believers into second-class citizens but Paul wrote to the Ephesians to correct this reasoning (Ephesians 2:14-19).

The reason why the letter to the Galations was written was in order to stop the Judaisers from imposing their legalism on the new Gentile believers. Paul taught that we are all saved by faith and not faith plus works. Otherwise it would reduce the value of the work of the cross.

Finally, while we acknowledge the universal nature of the church, we have to make church work at the local level where people are committed, submitted and therefore accountable to local church leadership.

Every believer should be part of a fellowship somewhere – and basically every believer should submit to at least three things in order to be a true member of the body.

1.    The church’s doctrine.
2.    The church’s vision.
3.    The church’s discipline.

Using Paul’s analogy of the church being like a body: you never see limbs or body parts floating around on their own – they are always part of a body. In the same way every believer should identify with a body somewhere. 

Answers to Questions
Webpage icon Time to get up and get going
Webpage icon What is the book of Judges about?
Webpage icon Jesus was just a good man, not God
Webpage icon The fall of mankind explained
Webpage icon The book of Joshua
Webpage icon Fasting
Webpage icon The book of Job
Webpage icon The Holy Spirit
Webpage icon Death before the fall
Webpage icon Is God morally relative?
Webpage icon What is the book of Numbers all about?
Webpage icon Is hell a real place?
Webpage icon What the Bible says about suffering
Webpage icon Do all religions worship the same God?

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