The Church - What it means

Arthur G. Clarke

Part 1 of 14 of the series The Church and the Churches

(A)   INTRODUCTION—The Word of God as sole and sufficient guidance for the people of God, 2 Tim. 3. 16, 17.

(B)   DEFINITION.   What is the meaning of " Church '?

Popular Misconceptions2. Scriptural Conception—Gk. " ecclesia " signifies lit. an "out-calling," i.e. a  called-out company, an assembly ;    used in

Scripture of (a) Israel, Acts 7. 38 ; (6) Ephesian mob, 19. 32 ; (c) a city assembly at Ephesus, 19. 39 ; (d) the Church of God as called out from the world.    First occurrence, Matt. 16. 18.

(C)  COMPOSITION. What constitutes the " Church " or a " Church "?   Distinguish between : —

   The Col. 1. 21-27; (6) Inauguration, Matt. 16. 18 ; Acts 2 (consequent upon Christ's work on the Cross) ;   {c) Completion at. the Coming, 1 Thess. 4. 13-18.

2.    A " Church " Local, composed of a company of professed believers in any locality, gathering simply in the name of Christ (simplest form Matt. 18. 20) antl owning a threefold authority, (a) The Headship of the Lord Jesus; (b) The Control of the Holy Spirit; (e) The Teaching of the Word of Clod. Only true believers primarily contemplated, 1 Cor. 1. 2, but unbelievers may creep in, Acts 8. 21 ; 20. 29 ; 2 Pet. 2. 1 ; Jude 4. Mixed memberships wholly unscriptural. For local aspect of " church " see Acts 8. 1 ; 13. 1 ; Rev. 2. 1, 8 ; etc. Plural, Acts 15. 41 ; 16. 5 ; 1 Cor. 7. 17 ; Rev. 2. 7 ; 22. 16. Such companies called (a) " Churches of God," 1 Thess. 2. 14—indicates Origin and Ownership ; (6) " Churches of Christ," Rom. 16. 16, indicates Redemption and Responsibility; (c) " Churches of the saints." 1 Cor. 14. 22, indicates Composition and Character ; (d) " Churches of the Gentiles," Rom. 16.4, indicates Scope and Sovereignty, Acts 15. 14 ; 9. 15.

(D) FUNCTION. What is the character of the church and what purpose does it serve ? This is indicated by various descriptive terms (analogies).

1. The Church Universal. Ever to be viewed in relation to Christ as designed of God to subserve His eternal purpose for the glory of His Son, Eph. 1. 13 ; 3. 10, 11 ; Col. 1. 18b. Men often speak of " The Church " as if it were a separate entity and authority.

(a)  Body. Rom. 12. 4, 5 ; 1 Cor. 12. 12, 13 ; Eph. 1. 22, 23 ; 4. 4 ; Col 1. 18. In Ephesians the Body as the complement of the Head ; in Colossians the Body as complete in the Head. Vital unity the basic thought. Clirist as Head is (i) Seat of the Church's life, "in Whom" Eph. 1. 11, 13; (ii) Source of the Church's nourishment, " from Whom, " Eph. 4. 16;; (iii) Supervisor of the Church's activities, " into Him," Eph. 4. 15. Through members of the Body the Head finds expression : they carry out His will. Note unity of the whole but variety of function in its members.

(b) Building. Eph. 2. 19-22. A spiritual edifice, a holy temple (shrine=sanctuary) designed by God as a "habitation." Basic thought, divine indwelling, (contrast Rev. 18. 2, only other occur­rence of Gk.). (i) Architect (responsible for plan), Epli. 1. 4, 22 ; 2 Tim. 1.9; (ii) Builder, Matt. 16. 18 (cf. 1 Cor. 3. II) ; (iii) Rock Foundation, Matt. 16. 18 (cf. 1 Cor. 3. 11) ; (iv) Foundation Stones, Eph. 2. 20 ; (v) Living Stones, 1 Pet. 2. 5 ; (vi) Chief Corner-stone (Keystone, not of arch, but of pyramid or dome), Eph. 2. 20; 1 Pet. 2. 6 ; (vii) Inhabitcr, Eph. 2. 22. O.T. type—the Temple. In some Scriptures the idea of a building merges into that of

(c) House or Household, 1 Pet. 2. 4-10 ; 4. 17 ; 1 Tim. 3. IS ; Heb. 3. 6 ; 10. 21 ; Eph. 2. 19 ; Gal. 6. 10. Basic thoughts-Responsibility and Discipline. O.T. Type—Che Tabernacle with its Priesthood and Levitical service.

(d) Bride. The term " Bride of Christ " not found in Scripture, but many sec it implied in Eph. 5. 28-32, etc. Basic thought would be that of Consortship in mutual devotion, loving companionship and as sharing dominion. O.T. Type, Gen. 1. 26, 28; 2. 21-24. In this view the Church is seen in its heavenly and eternal character, Rev. 19. 7; 21. 2. 9. This would also identify the Church as a («) City. Rev. 21.2-10. In relation to Christ—Bride ; in relation to (a) Earth in millennial age ; (6) New Earth in eternal state. Basic thought-—administrative centre.

[f) Flock. John 10. 16 (contrast "fold" 1, 16) ; John 21. 15-17. Basic thought—Constant Care. " A fold is a circumference without a centre, a Hock has a Centre without a circumference " (H.P.B.)

(g) New Man. Eph. 2. 11-18; is associated with (a) and (/), John 10. 16. Basic thought—Complete Reconciliation. " In Christ" Jew and Gentile no longer separated but created one ; also no other racial or social distinction, 1 Cor. 12. 13 ; Col. 3. 10, 11 ; all men reached through the gospel on equal terms.

2. A Church Local. Use of similar terms both for a local assembly and the Church universal clearly indicates that in the mind of God the former is a local expression of the whole.

{a) Body. 1 Cor. 12. 27—not now " the Body " nor " a Body, but Christ's body in character ; what is true of the whole in this analogy is true of the local assembly. Though subjection of body to Head is implied, note that emphasis is now upon loving unity, mutual affinity and co-ordinated activity, verse 21 and whole context.

(b) Building. 1 Cor. 3. 9 (double significance—process and product) ; a sacred habitation (Sanctuary, 16—not the Sanctuary, not a Sanctuary, but God's Sanctuary in character). Holiness prominent.

(c) Tillage. 1 Cor. 3. 9 (again a double significance—process and product)—a cultivated plot. Fruitfulness prominent.

(d) Virgin. 2 Cor. 11. 2 ("I espoused you " cannot refer to church universal). Purity and constancy prominent thoughts.

(e) Flock (Gk. poimnion). Acts 20. 28 ; 1 Pet. 5. 2, 3 (diminu­tive used because local aspect). Constant loving care prominent thought.

(J) Lampstund. Rev. 1-3. Assembly as vessel of testimony. LIP. By Word.

(g) Epistle 2 Cor. 3. 3. Assembly a means of testimony. LIFE. By Walk.

There are 7 articles in
ISSUE (1954, Volume 6 Issue 2)

1945-54

Bible Prophecy - An Introduction

The Church - What it means

A Family

The Inspiration of Scripture

Overcoming the World (1 Samuel 12-14)

Report of Gospel Work & Other Assembly Activity

There are 13 articles in this series

The Church - What it means

The Local Church’s relationships

The Ordinances - (A) Baptism

The Ordinances - (B) The Lord’s Supper

The Ordinances - (B) The Lord’s Supper (2)

Worship and the Christian Priesthood

Fellowship

Government - Overseership

Ministry - Deaconship

Discipline

Church Finance

The Church’s Development and Destiny

Women’s Sphere and Service

There are 42 articles by this author

New Testament Church Principles

Analytical Studies in the Psalms

New Testament Church Principles

The Church - What it means

The Local Church’s relationships

The Ordinances - (A) Baptism

The Ordinances - (B) The Lord’s Supper

The Ordinances - (B) The Lord’s Supper (2)

Worship and the Christian Priesthood

Fellowship

Government - Overseership

Ministry - Deaconship

Discipline

Church Finance

The Church’s Development and Destiny

Women’s Sphere and Service

Introduction to the Offerings

The Burnt Offering

The Continual Burnt Offering

The Meal Offering

The Peace Offering

The Sin Offering

The Trespass Offering

Brief Comparisons of the Offerings

Methods of Bible Study

Methods of Bible Study

Methods of Bible Study

Examples of Bible Study Methods

Romans

Second Corinthians

First Corinthians

Galatians

Ephesians

Philippians

Colossians

First Thessalonians

Second Thessalonians

Second Timothy

Titus

Philemon

Hebrews

James