"What Is The Church?" Part 1

Good Morning, I am so glad that you are here to worship with us this morning. Grab your Bibles and turn with me to Ephesians chapter 2. We are in a series on the foundations of our faith, and the verses that I want us to look at here in Ephesians chapter 2 explain so much of what we are going to look at this morning.
Ephesians 2:19–20 ESV
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
Christ is the cornerstone of our foundation. If you find that your life is shaky or spiraling out of control turn to Christ and turn to his Word. But also, it is important to understand here that as we come to salvation in Christ we are no longer aliens, but members of the household of God. This morning we begin a two part message on the Church.
There is something special about the gathering of God’s saints that meet to worship Him every Lord’s day. We come together in our anticipation of the Great Day, which is the return of Christ.

Martin Luther once said, “At home, in my own house, there is no warmth or vigor in me, but in the church when the multitude of believers are gathered together, a fire is kindled in my heart and it breaks its way through.”

King David the great Psalmist reminds us of these wonderful words in Psalm 122 verse 1.
Psalm 122:1 ESV
1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
The writer of Hebrews exhorts us in chapter 10.
Hebrews 10:24–25 ESV
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Here is a call to all Christians not to isolate, but instead come together. The fellowship of believers is so vital to our life in Christ and our understanding of being part of the church. The church is essential more than ever and we must not get away from meeting together. Yes, there may come times of painful isolation for some members of the church due to health reasons or when someone who is elderly is unable to attend, but the church body needs what each unique member has to offer. So, we gather together not simply just to meet, but to worship the risen Christ. We should come hungry and then by God’s grace we will leave blessed and filled through the faithful teaching of God’s Word and fellowship with other believers.
It is important for us to understand today that the church is so much more than a physical building. Why??? Because it is a group of believers; not a denomination, sect or association, but a spiritual body. The church is a fellowship of believers.
When we think about the church there are two distinct differences that we need to know. First, there is the universal church which is made up of the body of Christ, which is all true believers. And Second, there is the local church. The local church is a smaller group of believers that come together to worship, fellowship, receive teaching from God’s Word, and go out and evangelize in the specific area of the local church.
The church should never be so focused on administration that it loses focus of its ministry. The church ministers to the saints, but it also evangelizes to the lost. This is the main focus of the church. So, the church is people coming together to love, learn, labor, lead and follow for the glory of Jesus who is the head of the church. There are several questions that we must consider when understanding what the church is to look like.

1. What is the Universal Church?

1 Timothy 3:14–15 ESV
14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
The church is an expression of God’s family. Believers are the household of God. We are His children. Here in verse 15 Paul helps us to see that we are God’s household which means we are to operate under God’s loving care and guidance and we are to follow His rules and direction. As we begin to grow in our faith and study God’s Word, when we read it, it should cause us to ask how should i live and behave in view that I am now part of God’s family? The second thing that we also see here in verse 15 is that the church is the very dwelling place of God’s presence. Now that may sound weird or even confusing to you so let me explain this. Paul says here, “that we as believers are the church of the living God.” In Genesis chapter 28 Jacob meets with God at Bethel which literally means “house of God.” After Jacob meets with God in this dream about a stairway to heaven Jacob says, “Surely the Lord is in this place, this in none other than the house of God or the gate of heaven.” We also see something similar to this also in the Old Testament. In Exodus chapter 25 when God instructs Moses to build a tabernacle for Him. Exodus 25:8
Exodus 25:8 ESV
8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.
We also see the same with King Solomon who was David’s son.
1 Kings 6:13 ESV
13 And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel.”
God choose to dwell in a particular location. However, when we turn to the New Testament we see that a change takes place. There is no special temple, or city, or building where God dwells. God now dwells with His people.
2 Corinthians 6:16 ESV
16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
We as Believers are the dwelling place for the living God!!! Boom. So, let us consider for just a moment on how significant this makes our weekly gatherings. The church comes together every Lord’s day and the Lord, the living God, is among us. We are His house. We come together worshiping Him, listening to His Word, partaking of the elements of His table. What a wonderful privilege it is to be the dwelling place of God’s presence.

2. What is the Local Church?

As we have already stated the local church is a smaller group of people that comes together to worship, fellowship, receive teaching and step out to evangelize in that local area. The model of the local church is formed by looking at the main priorities and structure of the early church during the time of the apostles. There were many priorities of the early church, so I want you to see the importance of each one.
1. Teaching. The early church was devoted to the apostle’s teaching. And the teaching of God’s Word was the central thing that the elders of each church were called to do.
1 Peter 2:2 ESV
2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—
We are called as believers to grow up in our faith and we do that by feeding on God’s Word. God gave the church wonderful and gifted pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints.
Ephesians 4:11–12 ESV
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
2. The second priority of the local church is Fellowship. As the early church met together they began to get involved in each other’s lives. They began to minister to each other. As they did this what began to happen was this bond of unity began to form within the local church.
Acts 2:42 ESV
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
This leads us to the last two priorities of the church.
3. Communion. The early church never lost sight of the Sacrifice of Christ. The early church came together to remember the Life, Death, Resurrection, and Return of Christ. (1 Cor. 11)
4. Prayer. When the early church met, its members were devoted to praying together and praying for one another. We talked much about prayer last week, so you can go back and watch the message if you were gone.
James 5:16 ESV
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Prayer is the heart of the church. When we pray wether it be privately or corporately we recognize that God is the head and provider of everything and so we align the direction of our lives and the church with the will of God.

3. What is the Structure of the Church to look like?

The Local Church is organized in several different ways, but primarily through gifted men that God has placed as Leadership within the local church.
2 Timothy 2:2 ESV
2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
A church without godly leaders is an endangered church. A church that does not see the importance of training up leaders is an unfaithful church. God gives leaders to his churches for the maturity, unity, and soundness of each local congregation. Without godly, faithful leadership the church will suffer deeply. So, what does the leadership of the church look like???
1. Gifted Men. According to Ephesians chapter 4, God gave four types of gifted men to the church. Let us take a look.
Ephesians 4:11–12 ESV
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
-Apostles: An apostle is literally “one sent on a mission.” We know from God’s Word that this would mean those 12 disciples that Christ chose to follow Him.
Mark 3:16–19 ESV
16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Plus we would add on to this list Paul who was also called an apostle when he was set apart to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.
Galatians 1:15–17 ESV
15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
So, the qualifications for being an apostle included being chosen directly by Christ and having seen the resurrected Christ. Therefore, there is no possibility for anyone to be an apostle in the church today. However, in a wider sense, apostle can also refer to some who were not members of the Twelve and Paul, but were still sent on a mission. This would include Barnabas, Silas, and Timothy as well as several others.
-Prophets: A prophet foretells the truths of God to God’s people. They would declare “thus says the Lord,” news that the people had not known, so this news would be a new revelation from God’s prophet. The main purpose of the prophets, like the apostles was to lay the foundation of divine truth upon which the church would be built.
Ephesians 2:20 ESV
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
-Evangelists: An evangelist is a person particularly gifted in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus. Evangelism is something that all Christians should be doing, but some are more gifted at it than others. So, we would consider them evangelists.
-Pastors/Teachers: A pastor is one who shepherds, cares for, and protects God’s people. The teaching of God’s Word is the primary function or job of pastors.
2 Timothy 4:2–4 ESV
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
So, gifted men are to equip the saints for the work of service. The saints are all the believers who are the members of the church. In every local church there is much work to be done. When people are looking for a church, you should look to see where you best can serve and use your spiritual gifts. There are also several other groups of leadership that I need to mention.
2. Elders/Overseers. Elders were appointed in every church and they were there to to shepherd the flock by teaching God’s Word and exercising oversight.
Acts 14:23 ESV
23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
An elder would be a paid pastor or even a lay elder, but their main job was to be the overseer of the church. The qualifications were laid out for who these men were to be and look like in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.
3. Deacons. The word deacon means servant. The deacons were put into place in Acts chapter 6 to help in ministries within the church that were being neglected. The deacons are to minister to the needs of the flock under the direction of the elders of the church. The office and qualification of deacons are stated in 1 Timothy 3:8-13.
4. Members of the Body.
Hebrews 10:25 ESV
25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Here in this particular passage we see that Hebrews warns believers not to neglect meeting together.
So, It is not just enough to show up at church on Sundays, but believers are called to be faithfully part of a local church so that we can minister our spiritual giftedness for the growth of the body.
In Hebrews chapter 13 we see that the leaders of the church are to preach and teach the Word of God, and those who are part of the local church should observe their godly lives and follow their examples of faith. So, how should we act towards others who are part of the body of Christ?
1 Corinthians 12:25 ESV
25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
As members of the local body of Christ we are commanded to get along with one another and to care for one another as a family should care for others.
-Are you a member of the body of Christ? Do you know the Lord today? Has He changed your life?
-Second are you a member of a local church? Are you a member of this church or another church? If you are not a member and desire to know more about this process, go online to our church website to see what we believe and then fill out the sections that we ask you to fill out. Also take a look at the expectations that we have for members. Then call the church office and set up an appointment to meet with myself or one of our elders. Without church membership there is no accountability in your walk with Christ, there is no importance to grow and begin to serve in the church. There is no importance to begin to give financially and pray for the church.
(Pray and Lead into Communion)
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