May 11, 2011
The Nature and Calling of the Church
A Rose By Any Other Name
Altering meanings by switching words.
“The word ‘church’ is really not a translation of any word that was used by either Christ or his apostles, but is the Anglicized form of a different word which later English and Germanic Church authorities substituted in place of the word used by Christ and his apostles … “It is in our English scriptures by order of King James, who instructed his translators of 1611 not to translate the word ‘ecclesia’ by either ‘congregation’ or ‘assembly,’ but to use the word ‘church’ instead of a translation”.Lee Jackson (Gospel Advocate, 1915, p. 589).
The point of this is not to create controversy over the use of the word but to illustrate that the battle for accurate understanding reaches deep into the bowels of our language. Words when inaccurately applied are like Winston Smith’s observations in George Orwell’s 1984’s that minds were controlled when the meanings of words were perverted. Control language and you control thinking.
The Romance languages which are derivatives of Latin shaped by Greek did a correct job by choosing iglesia in Spanish and eglise in French. All of which are direct from ecclesia. Their journey toward clarity is less circuitous.
Church - The etymology of this word is generally assumed to be from the Greek, Kuriou oikos (house of God); but this is most improbable, as the word existed in all the Celtic dialects long before the introduction of Greek. No doubt the word means “a circle.” The places of worship among the German and Celtic nations were always circular. Think of Stonehenge as an example of a circle. (Welsh, cyrch; French, cirque; Scotch, kirk; Greek, kirk-os, etc.) Compare to Anglo-Saxon circe, a church with circol, a circle. E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Benjamin Franklin said: “It occurs 116 times in the New Testament, and is translated ‘church’ in all but three places. In those three places the word has the same meaning it has it all the other places. Those three places are in (Acts 19:32, 39, 41). In these places it is translated ‘assembly.’ But anyone can see that it means ‘assembly’ in all the other places, as certainly as it does in these places … The word simply means ‘assembly’ or ‘congregation.” (Gospel Preacher, 1899, p. 476).
“Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.” Acts 19:32 (KJV)
The Church and Jesus
Jesus spoke more about disciples than He did about “Church” and the gospels use these terms extensively (disciple 27X, 202X disciples). The emphasis is on making disciples. Church is an outgrowth of disciple-making. No disciples, no church. The word “church” is used but twice in the gospels.
The first mention had to do with with Peter when Jesus promised to build His church in Matthew 16. Secondly when addressing how to deal with un-repented sin and hypocrisy among Christians, in Matthew 18:
Matthew 16:13-19 The church is mentioned as result of confessing Jesus as the Messiah and His resulting victory against Satan’s kingdom:
 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter (petros, a small stone), and on this rock (petra, big rock) I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Matthew 18:15-20 Uses the word church as the group that enforces obedience to Jesus among His followers:
 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.  But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.  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.  Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
The Church Universal
The Church Universal is referenced in Matthew 16 and is the object of some general instruction. The Universal Church is entered solely through the New Birth. The members of the Universal Church are known to God. While it is not an invisible church per se it is composed of every Christian alive and of those in heaven. Unlike a local church which may have specific membership requirements the Universal Church transcends all standards except regeneration by the Holy Spirit. That is why it is called the Church of the first born in Hebrews 12:23. The entire Universal Church contains all Christians. These Christians may be part of various denominational bodies or maintain no official affiliations at all. God makes no identification with titles like Protestant, Pentecostal, Catholic, Evangelical, Greek Orthodox, Anglican or Methodist. God looks only if the blood of His Son has taken away that person’s sin and restored them to right relationship.
The Church Local, the Church of the City
The Bible knows only one way Christians may delineate themselves and that is by locale. The Bible will refer to the Church in Rome, the Church of Jerusalem, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossi, Smyrna, Thyatira and so on. It will never identify the Church with a method of organization such as Episcopal for its bishops (episcopos) or Presbyterian for its presbyters. It won’t be named for its style of discipleship as in Methodist. It won’t be named for it’s human founder as in Wesleyan (John Wesley), Lutheran (Martin Luther) or Mennonite (Menno Simons). It won’t bear the name of its baptismal style as in Baptist and Dunkard Brethren or it’s dramatic experiences as in Quaker or Shaker. It won’t define itself with one aspect of experience as in Pentecostal or Holiness or even Pentecostal Holiness not to mention the very specific, Fire Baptized Holiness Church. It will shy from being Full Gospel, hinting that others aren’t or being Four Square when others have only three. It will not divide over its view of predestination and call itself Freewill Baptist. It will not be Missionary Baptist in contrast with baptists that don’t send missionaries. It will not be labeled ethnically or nationally as Roman, Greek, Ukrainian, Coptic (Egyptian), Russian or Armenian. We even choose the name of a favorite saint or hero. We name from symbolic biblical names like Ebenezer, Emmaus and Bethel. We get it a bit more right when we use the Church of Christ, the Church of God or more accurately the Assembly of God or simply the Christian Church.
Perhaps we will one day be called the Church of __________(name of our city) that meets at_______.
One congregation that got it right: A Meeting place of the Church of Cleveland.
When an apostolic letter or epistle was sent to a church it was addressed to the church at Thessolonika, or the Church in Corinth. The word here was singular, church not plural, churches. There was but one church per city. In each city the church had many meeting places. If you look at the end of Romans in chapter 16 you will see a reference to the church that met at various homes.
Greet also the church in their house….
 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them.  Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.
As God sees this city He sees His redeemed as one church in many meeting places with many leaders. This is contrasted with many churches with one meeting place and senior leader each.
Leadership and the local church
With one church per city there are many leaders who are to be interrelated as a city-wide presbytery. When Paul wrote to a church he referenced plural elders or bishops. The concept of one pastor per church is foreign to the Bible and unknown in the ancient church. When Paul met the elders from the Church in Ephesus in Miletus there were many leaders from one city-wide church. A big city could have many hundreds of pastor/elders overseeing hundreds of meeting places. The rule is one church with an undivided leadership.
Unity in the Church
Jesus prayed that “We might be one as He and the Father are one” John 17:20-23. This emphasis is continued by the apostles: Philippians 2:2 “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose,” Jesus said that the world would know that we were His disciples by the love that we have for one another (John 13:35). In Colossians. 3:14 it says that love is the perfect bond of unity. The New Testament speaks about us being unified in Christ (Eph. 4:5). In response to Christians who follow after individuals rather than Jesus, as in “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas” and even “I am of Christ” Paul says that “Christ is not divided” (1 Cor. 1:12-13). Though Christ is not divided, His body of believers is. Divisions in the Christian church can be a healthy and necessary thing: Sometimes division contrasts who is orthodox and faithful and who is not:
1 Corinthians 11:19 “For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you,”
Biblical Metaphors for the Church
1)The Body of Christ
1 Corinthians 12:12-28
[One Body with Many Members]
 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?  But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,  and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty,  which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,  that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
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 he body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,3 to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Lessons from the Body Metaphor:
a.Christ is the Head
b.There is a variety of members (body parts)
c.Each body part is important
d.Each part has a distinct function
e.The Body is to be built up by the Ministry gifts in the Five-Fold Ministry
f.Weaker (hurting) members receive the most attention.
g.Working joints (relationships) hold the body together
h.Each working part insures health
2. God’s Temple
We like the tabernacle, and the later temple of the Old Covenant, are the place where God’s glory and presence dwells. We as the container of God’s presence in the earth and are where all nations go to worship and give to God.
 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,  in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
1 Peter 2:4-5
 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:19
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
1 Corinthians 3:10-17
 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.  For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—  each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.  Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Lessons from the temple metaphor:
a.The Holy Spirit dwells within His people and not religious buildings.
b.To claim buildings are Holy and are special to God is a perversion of the teaching of the New Covenant. The Christian no longer views special buildings as sacred.
c.He is jealous for holy living among His people who are His special dwelling place.
d.God destroys those who destroy His temple with false teaching. Wow!
e.Skilled master builders (architektōn), often apostles, build His church.
f.This temple is tested in time. Faithfulness and orthodoxy receive endorsement through judgement. Apostasy and heterodoxy are judged with fire.
g.We are living stones being fitted in to His temple, the church.
3)Vine and Branches
Jesus said I am the Vine and you are my branches; a metaphor for where and how our
spiritual life is found and maintained. The Church is not religious, it is relational. The Church
is defined by intimacy and identification with Jesus. If a group is not drawing from Jesus in a
living way, it may not be the Church. If a group or person lacks the life of Jesus it will be
gathered and burned first by the gentiles, then by history and possibly in eternity.
[15:1] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
2 Corinthians 2:14-16
 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,  to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
This speaks of a Roman military procession where captives are marched behind the returning conquering army. Priests swinging censors fill the parade with clouds of wafting incense reminding the army and spectators of the victory and the prisoners of their impending public execution. The church as it proclaims Christ creates a stark contrast among the lost and those who are being saved. When this contrast does not emerge it is because the Church lacks a clear proclamation, the Gospel is not being preached with authority, believers lack power and individual Christians are living a life of compromise and lack evangelistic zeal.
Early Roman writers called Christians “haters of humanity” because Christian preaching declared all men lost and in need of the Savior, condemned sin, rejected immorality, demanded that all men repent and be baptized or face eternity in hell. Perhaps if we were honest in our proclamation we too might incur the same wrath.
In the same sense Israel is a nation the Church is a nation scattered among all the nations. We are no longer identified with one nation, government, system, flag or ethnicity. In the same sense we are a chosen race made up of all races and colors.
1 Peter 2:9-10
 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
….who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
The Family of God
The Church is a family in its relationship to our Heavenly Father, our elder brother Jesus and The Holy Spirit, our comforter and advocate, and with one another as brothers and sisters.
The word “brothers” is used 169 in Acts through Revelation. Several times this refers to siblings but most usage is a term of endearment and relationship for fellow Christians.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
1 Timothy 5:1-2
[5:1] Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers,  older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, .
11] For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,  saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.
The Christian’s responsibility in the local church
First we must step aside from traditional thinking. In an un-biblical view of church we think of volunteering to help with buildings and programs. Helpers, ushers, sellers, cleaners, cookers and so on. All are good and valid. Yet this is generally not a primary activity for a church that sees itself as a relational community engaged in discipling people. Most time of a healthy christian in a healthy church will be directed to several goals.
1.The goal of edification….participating in its gatherings and actively contributing through spiritual gifts, prayer, worship and every member ministry to build up people.
2.Personal discipleship. Discipling younger believers, exhorting all others and being discipled by a more mature believer. Who have you been intentional towards? Who are you pursuing to speak into your life?
(Note: Discipleship may be authoritative but it is not authoritarian!)
3.Outreach….serving, mercy ministry and evangelism. Who are you drawing toward faith and engaging weekly? Who are you sacrificially serving?
We are commanded not to forsake assembling together (Hebrews 10:25) We seek God together and labor to serve one another. Dropping out is not an option. Coals burn the brightest when they burn together.