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Thursday, December 1, 2011
The essence of the new covenant is fellowship which is possessed and enjoyed between God and His people and fellowship which is possessed and enjoyed among the people of God. In a world that is littered with broken relationships, we are called to demonstrate the love of Christ in a loveless world.
God has designed that fellowship (the obvious connectedness to Christ and others of His people which they enjoy) be demonstrated to principalities and powers in heavenly places and to a lost world through the "churches", a "called out company" of the redeemed! (Ephesians 3:9&10) God has designed three kinds of churches through which to make known His manifold wisdom:
1. Across the entire planet, God is calling out one church, "the church which is Christ's Body". (Ephesians 1:22,23; Colossians 1:18,24) (This first church is the “big one” and the other two are subsets within the first.)
2. In every city or community where there are believers, God has one church which includes every child of God in that community. He calls it "the
". (Acts 20:28; I Cor.1:2; 10:32; 11:16&22; 15:9; II Cor.1:1; Gal.1:13; I Thess.2:14; II Thess.1:4; I Tim3:5,15; church of God
3. Scattered across every community are homes of believers which are to be beacon lights of hope to next door neighbours and the folks down the block. Maybe it is God's desire that there be a "church in your house"!!! (Acts 8:3; Rom.16:5; I Cor.16:19; Col.4:15; Philemon 1:2)
-Scriptural churches are never defined in scripture by ACTIVITIES (although believers and churches are instructed and commanded to DO many things.)
-Nor are they ever defined in scripture by DISTINCTIVES (i.e. doctrines, creeds, practices, rituals, forms, meeting places, stated purposes or reasons for gathering, or their favourite teachers which distinguish or divide them from others!)
-Rather, scriptural churches are defined by the relationship or the fellowship (the obvious connectedness to Christ and others of His people) which they enjoy. (see Romans 12:4,5 “members in one body”; I Cor.1:2 “them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints”, “all who call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord both theirs and ours”; 12:12-31 “the body is one and hath many members”; Ephesians 1:22,23 “the church which is His body”; Philippians 1:1“all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at
Philippi”; Colossians 1:2 “the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse”; II Thessalonians 1:1 “the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” etc)
THESE CHURCHES MAY BE CLEARLY DISTINGUISHED BY THE FOLLOWING:
1. THEIR SCRIPTURAL SUMMARY STATEMENTS:
I believe that every scriptural doctrine is stated in the very words of scripture and contains the word or expression by which the doctrine is known. It will be one complete sentence and also the most comprehensive statement of that doctrine found in scripture. On this basis, the summary statements in scripture for the doctrines of "the church which is His Body", "the church of God" and "the church in thy house" are as follows: (It is interesting that the largest church , The Body, has the longest summary statement while the smallest church, the church in thy house, has the shortest!)
A. The church which is His (Christ's) Body:
Colossians 1:21-29And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
: church of God
I Corinthians 1:1-3 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
C. The church in thy house:
Philemon 1:1-3 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house: grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. THEIR NUMBER:
A. The church which is Christ's Body is one: Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 1 Corinthians 12:12,13, 20; Ephesians 2:16; Ephesians 4:4; Colossians 3:15
B. Churches of God are plural in number:
There is no example of more than one
per city: church of God
Corinth: 1 Corinthians 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the
church of God which is at , with all the saints which are in all Achaia: Corinth
Jerusalem:1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Galatians 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the
church of God, and wasted it: (The church which Saul persecuted was the church of God at . Acts 8:1-4) Jerusalem
There are multitudes of churches of God and there may be several churches of God in a region: I Corinthians 11:16 But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.
“The churches of
Asia” I Corinthians 16:19; Rev.1:4,11
” I Cor.16:1; Galatia
” II Cor.8:1 Macedonia
“Churches of God in
Judea” Galatians 1:22; I Thessalonians 2:14
C. Churches in houses are also plural in number:
There was a church in
Aquila and Priscilla's house: Romans 16:3-5; 1 Corinthians 16:19
There was a church in Nympas' house: Colossians 4:15
There was a church in Philemon's house: Philemon 1:1,2
(How does what we have considered today compare with what you have been taught or believed about the church previously? Click on “Comments” below to leave your comments, suggestions or questions.
(To be continued in Parts 2 and 3.)