The Fundamentals of Our Faith;
What We Believe Sermon Series
“We Believe in the Church”
Reading of the 1972 church bulletin (see scanned copy) 20221019134353550
What Is the Church?
The New Testament uses the Greek word ekklesia which translated means “an assembly or a group of called out ones who gather for a meeting.” Ekklesia is where we get our English word church. The church then are those whom God has called out, and are gathered together.
So, “according to the NT the church is primarily a body of people who profess and give evidence that they have been saved by God’s grace alone, for his glory alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.” The church is not a building; the early church did not even have buildings until 300 years later. You don’t go to church, you are the church.
There are two ways of understanding the church – there is the universal church; that is everyone who is a Christian in the world. And then there is the local gatherings of Christians, or the local church.
A local church meets regularly. Hebrews 10:24-25 “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.”
The Church is Like a Building
Ephesians 2:19-22 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,4 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, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
Paul gives us the image of each stone in a metaphorical building having a name on it. You are a stone, and I am a stone, and those that we lead to the Lord, are layered on top of us – each generation, layer upon layer building up the kingdom.
The Church is Like a Bride
The church is described as the bride of Christ. Ephesians 5:22-23 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” This passage teaches that the sacrificial love of Jesus for his people is to be reflected in a husband’s love for his wife. The submission of the church to Jesus is to be reflected in a wife’s submission to her husband.
“Jesus identifies himself as the Bridegroom when he asked why his disciples don’t fast (Mark 2:19), and he tells parables about a wedding feast to describe his coming kingdom (Matt. 22:1-14; 25:1-13). Paul says that the mystery of marriage is about Christ and the church (Eph. 2:22-33).
Believers are depicted as pure virgins (Rev. 14:4), and when Jesus returns for his people, the multitude announces that the marriage of the Lamb has come and the bride has made herself ready (Rev. 19:7).” Therefore, as the bride of Christ, the church should not commit adultery with the world, and would be faithful to Christ alone.
The Church is Like a Body
Paul talks about marriage and how it refers to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32) immediately follows his quote of Genesis 2:24, declaring that man and woman become one flesh in marriage (Eph. 5:31). There is a special, unique bond, a relationship, between a husband and wife who are faithful to each other. This is the image Paul gives for the relationship between Christ and the church.
The apostle Paul’s favorite picture for the church was the body. It is the metaphor of the body that communicates unity of the church. Colossians 3:15 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.” 1 Corinthians 12:27 “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” The emphasis of both of these passages is on the relationship the members of the body have with one another.
Paul emphasizes that the body of Christ must have unity. Paul uses the Lord’s Supper in 1 Cor. 10:16-17 as an example of the unity the church body has – It is an expression of the oneness. “There can be little doubt that Paul intends to emphasize the kind of bonding relationship of the worshippers with one another that the meal expresses.” Baptism is also an expression of unity with a local body of believers as a picture of a person’s having already placed their faith in Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).
Within the Body of Christ there is also unity in diversity. Romans 12:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 12:14-20 are very similar messages: many members, but one body; diversity of gifts, but one body. In this passage, Paul also reminds the church that it is only a supernatural power common to life in Christ that allows them to overcome natural divisions they find themselves in (Greek, Jew, slave, free, male, female, etc.)
With regard to our essential beliefs – we have unity. Ephesians 4:4-16 “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (ex. Trinity)
In non-essential beliefs – we have liberty. Rom.14:1, 4, 12, 22 “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters … Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls… So then each of us will give an account of himself to God … So whatever you believe about things keep between yourself and God.” (ex. End Times timelines)
In all our beliefs – we show love. 1 Cor. 13:2 “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
What Does the Church Do?
In Acts 2 we see that “the Christians in the first century “continued . . . in fellowship”; they “were togther.” They took care of each other, whenever anyone had need. They continued “with one accord.” They [broke] bread from house to house.” They lived as part of each other’s lives.”
The ministry of the church is a process of the building up of the body. Ephesians 4:12, 16 says that the church leadership’s job is to “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, . . . v. 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.”
The church makes disciples. We are all different in our gifting, calling, life experiences, and passions – but as we all grow in the Lord, together, as a unified body of Christ we build the kingdom of God. Our spiritual gifts were not given for us to use individually in separate efforts to make disciples, or for our own benefit.
The command given to us, to make disciples, is in the context of the church and together everyone working together, make disciples. We need each other the way the head needs the neck to support it.
Romans 12:4-5 “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Notice that we do not become the body of Christ when we decide to work together, we are the body of Christ whether we work together or not. Therefore, we can choose to be dysfunctional by working against each other, or we can be effective disciple makers by working together.
If we go back to Acts 2:42-47, it gives us a snapshot of what the church should look like; what it should be doing “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
“These churches gather to act in a variety of ways. They gather to worship (Acts 13:2-3; 1 Cor. 14:23ff.), which seems to include prayer (Acts 12:5; 13:3; 14:23), reading of Scripture (Col. 4:16; 1 Tim. 4:13), teaching from the leaders (Acts 20:28-31; Eph. 4:11; 1 Tim. 3:2), the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:18ff.). They enjoy fellowship within the local assembly and with other local churches (Rom. 16:16). The church serves widows and the needy (1 Tim. 5:16; 1 Cor. 16:1). Believers are involved in spreading the gospel, both personally (Acts 8:2-4) and through those sent by the church (Acts 13:2-3).”
Who Leads the Church?
The local church is to be led by qualified leaders, according to the Scriptures. The NT uses several terms that reference the leaders within a church. “Elder (presbyteros) is the term used most often (Acts 14:23; 15:2,22), but bishop or overseer (episkopos) is also found (Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1), along with deacon (1 Tim. 3:8). The most commonly used term among Baptists today, pastor, is used only once Eph. 4:11.”
Jesus’ favorite description of the church was a flock of sheep (John 10:1-30, Matt.26:31, Matt. 25:33). Therefore, it is cared for and led by a shepherd. John 21:16-17 “He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
1 Pet. 5:1-2 has the three roles in one verse showing what a church leader does, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,” so does,
Acts 20:17-18, 28 “Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, . . . Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
The word for elder is emphasizing the qualifications that church leadership is to have, pastor/teacher emphasizes their care for the flock, and the word for overseer refers to their having administrative oversight.
In Acts 6 we see where deacons emerged as a leadership office in the church, “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.” So, Deacons are to look after the physical needs of the congregation (Acts 6:1-16) qualifications for deacons is given in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Both of these leadership offices must meet the qualifications set down in Scripture.
Why Join A Church?
The Bible is very clear that we are not to live out our Christian faith alone. Our walk with the Lord is not just isolated spiritual disciplines that we work on (prayer, Bible study, serving others, etc.)
Followers of Jesus are to be baptized, and regularly celebrate the Lord’s Supper – these are two examples of things we do as a group. Millard Erickson said, “Christianity is a corporate matter, and the Christian life can be fully realized only in relationship with others.”
“Church membership is a crucial topic for understanding what Christ is calling us to as his disciples. Joining a church will not save us anymore than our good works, education, culture, friendships, financial contributions, or baptism will save us. Non-Christians should not seek to join a church, but to learn more about what it means to be a Christian.”
“This is my church. It is composed of people just like me. It will be friendly if I am. It will do a great work if I work. It will make generous gifts to many causes if I am generous. It will bring others into its fellowship if I bring them. Its seats will be filled if I fill them. It will be a church of loyalty and love, of faith and service. If I who make it what it is, am filled with these, Therefore, with God’s help, I dedicate myself to the task of being all these things I want my church to be.”
 Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Publishing, 2021) 123.
 James M. Hamilton, What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns (Wheaton, Illinois, Crossway Publishing, 2014) 100.
 Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. F.F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 466 (from Hammett, 38).
 Max Anders, New Christian’s Handbook, Everything New Believers Need to Know (Nashville, Tennessee; Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1999) 150.
 Anders, 141.
 Hammett, 29.
 John S. Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, A Contemporary Ecclesiology (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kregel Publications, 2005) 28.
 See also Titus 1:5-7, 1 Tim. 5:17
 Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (2nd. Ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Publishing, 1998) 1058.
 Dever, 125.