We Believe in the Church

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1 We Believe in the Church PRE-READING I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18) We should be confident about the indestructibility of the church. Because of the identity of the one who is building, the foundation upon which He is building and who now dwells within it, we believe the church is not, has never been and never will be under threat. Despite many people at many times in many places disparaging the church, for two millennia, often against seemingly insuperable odds, the gates of hell have monumentally failed to halt its unstoppable growth. As surely as He who began a good work in every believer will indeed perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6), so He who birthed the church is still working towards the day when He will present to Himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Ephesians 5:27). Of course, loving correction and cleansing are necessary parts of the process, but anyone who recklessly broadsides the church not only disparages its Builder but maligns the object of His intense love and personal sacrifice (Ephesians 5:25). The church is inseparable from its Head, Jesus Christ, and as we study what the scriptures have to say about His community on earth, we can only grow in respect, affection and wonder for something that is nothing less than an expression of Christ Himself. There is no place better to look than Matthew, the Gospel of the Church, and Ephesians, the Epistle of the Church, to discover what the church. Matthew has been referred to as the gospel of the church because it is the only gospel account where Christ expressly refers to and teaches on it. Ephesians has been referred to as the epistle of the church, having the church of Jesus Christ as its central and uniting theme. Matthew 16:13-18; 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, Who do people say that the Son of Man is? 14 And they said, Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. 15 He said to them, But who do you say that I am? 16 Simon Peter answered, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church (ekklesia); and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

2 Matthew 18:15-20; 15 If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church (ekklesia); and if he refuses to listen even to the church (ekklesia), let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. Ephesians 1:22-23; 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church (ekklesia), 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 2:19-22; 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. In this study, we will consider the church as: * a community called out from the world * a community built upon the revelation of Christ * a community universal and local * a community organic and organised * a community celebrated by Christ s ordinances. I Called out from the world Church; Greek, ekklesia called out ones Ever since the fall of man, God has repeatedly sought to call out of a tarnished world a people for Himself: Noah see Genesis 6:11-14 Abram see Genesis 12:1 Israel see Exodus 3:7-8 and Deuteronomy 7:6 The Church see I Peter 2:9-10 Most significantly, each of these was subsequently sent back into the world with a clear commission: Noah see Genesis 9:1ff Abram see Genesis 12:1-3 Israel see Joshua 1:10-11

3 The Church see Mark 16:15 The church has been called out from the world by Jesus Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd whose sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (John 10:3) It is a community of followers who have a personal relationship with Him and follow him because they know his voice. (John 19:4) The implication of being a called out people is clear: we cannot represent Christ to the world until we ve been separated from the world! The church can be understood as a people called out of the world by Christ in order to be sent back into the world carrying His commission to reach the world with the same message by which they were reached themselves. This need for separate-ness is something of which Scripture continues to remind us see, for example, II Corinthians 6:14-18 and I John 2: II Built Upon the Revelation of Christ It should be stressed that the foundation of the apostles and prophets, referred to in Ephesians 2:20, does not suggest the foundation was the apostles and prophets, but that it was laid by them. We do not believe the church is built upon fallible human beings, but on Jesus Christ Himself and the revelation of Him, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians: For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (I, 3:11) Jesus Christ is the corner stone (Ephesians 2:20, I Peter 2:7), and the church is built upon the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter (Greek, Petros, a stone), and upon this rock (Greek, petra, a bedrock) I will build My church. (Matthew 16:16-18) We believe that the basis of the church s unity and strength is not human relationship, but the revelation of Christ, contained in scripture (NB. We Believe Part 1: The Bible) and imparted by the Holy Spirit. It is a church soundly built upon the biblical revelation of Jesus Christ against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. The principles of the house built on the rock found in Matthew 7:24-28 is a perfect metaphor for the church that Christ is building. The church s foundation may not have been the apostles and prophets, but it was certainly laid by them. Paul presents their role as crucial When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit. (Ephesians 3:4-5) III Universal We believe in the universal church, the company of God s redeemed, made up of every believer who has ever lived see Hebrews 12:22-23, Ephesians 1:22-23 and Ephesians 4:4-6.

4 The true church is that which is built on God s word and indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). As such, it is a holy place, set apart from and above the world, as a light shining in the darkness, a peculiar people (Titus 2:14), a holy nation (I Peter 2:9), the light of the world and a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14). The purity of the church is of such importance to Jesus that the second and final explicit mention of the church in the gospels (Matthew 18:15-20) is the instruction on how to discipline a brother who brings sin into the church. In what some scholars have referred to as the epistle of the church, Paul instructs the Ephesians in a similar vein to maintain a pure walk see Ephesians 5:3-6:9. IV Local We believe in the local church see, for example, I Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:2 and I Thessalonians 1:1. However, we should also be aware that the distinctions between the New Testament churches were geographical rather than denominational! In fact, Paul rebuked what some have seen as the early seeds of denominationalism in I Corinthians 3:4 (KJV) For while one saith, I am of Paul, I am of Apollos ; are ye not carnal? We believe that Christian disunity obscures and hinders the revelation of Christ to the world ( see John 17:21), and that every Christian should be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). We consider it our responsibility to maintain healthy relationships with Christian believers of all churches, inseparably united by every point of common biblical faith. Our commitment to one another in Glasgow City Church is on the basis of the truths expressed in our statement of faith and presented in this series of messages. V Organism and Organisation The New Testament uses the metaphors of a body (e.g. Ephesians 4:11-16), which speaks of organic life, and a building (e.g. Ephesians 2:20-22), to describe the church. Organic We believe the local church ought to be a dynamic, vibrant organism, throbbing with spiritual life, where the members minister to one another (see Ephesians 5:19) and participate in corporate worship (see I Corinthians 14:26), whether in the public place of worship or in each others homes (see Acts 2:46). It is important that the life takes precedence over structure. Organisation is essential but it can never create life and must always serve it. We believe that structure must always be flexible, never over-rigid or stifling to the emergence of the new life that it is there to protect. Life followed by structure has been the pattern of church growth from the beginning.

5 Organised In the earliest days of the church, it did not take long before the church had to be organised. The choosing of the seven deacons in Acts 6:1-6 was a recognition that offices needed to be set in place in order to prevent confusion and chaos bringing the explosive growth of the church to a grinding halt. And the immediate result? Everyone was released to do what they were called to and verse 7 shows re-continued radical growth. Rather than bringing the kiss of death, the application of an inspired structure was essential in the facilitation of further increase. Similarly, Paul instructs Titus (1:5) to set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city The positions of deaconship and eldership are referred to in the Authorised Version as offices and speak of the organisational aspect of the church. We believe the New Testament church is a place of both life and structure; neither will prosper without the other. VI RECOGNISED BY ORDINANCES We believe that entrance to and ongoing membership of the church of Jesus Christ is acknowledged through the ordinances of baptism see I Corinthians 11:23-29 and communion see Matthew 26: Believers are baptised by immersion in water see Romans 6:3-5 in response to the example see Matthew 3:16-17 and in obedience to the command see Matthew 28:19 of Jesus Christ. Entrance to the church of Christ is an inner experience of the Holy Spirit see I Corinthians 12:13 and I Peter 3:21. As a sacrament, baptism in water is a symbolic act of witness which testifies to that inner reality; water baptism is an outward expression of an inner reality. Similarly, we believe that regularly partaking in Communion is an essential outward expression of an inward personal identification with Christ and His church. I Corinthians 11 teaches that Communion, or the Lord s Supper, should be a time of reaffirming our covenant relationship with Christ ( see verses 24-25) proclamation of His death ( see verse 26) and self-examination and cleansing ( see verses 27-29).

6 GROUP DISCUSSION Drawing from your pre-reading notes, contribute to the following. 1. The Apostle Paul taught that husbands ought to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25)? To help us consider Christ s attitude to the church, discuss with examples how a good husband ought to love his wife. 2. The Greek word for church is ekklesia, which literally means called out ones. Have you experienced Jesus calling you out of something? 3. In I Peter 2:11-12, God s chosen people are described as aliens or strangers in the world. As followers of Christ, are you ever conscious of the church being an outsider in the world? Discuss. 4. What do we discover in Paul s letter to the Ephesians that presents the church as something glorious? 5. What are a) the causes of disunity, and b) the keys to unity in the church? 6. Is it possible to be a member of the universal church without being committed to the church locally? 7. Discuss the respective roles and relative importance of life and structure. 8. Why are the following important to the church? a) Baptism of believers by immersion in water. b) The Lord s Supper.

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