Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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.
Sometimes it’s hard to know where we belong in this world. We can find ourselves tossed aside by society if we’re not pretty enough or cool enough for the world’s standards. We have to meet the criteria of whatever group we’re looking to be accepted by in order to have a shot. But in God’s family, there’s always room for the outcast or the downtrodden.
In fact, sometimes it takes feeling the rejection of the world for us to turn to God, and when we do, we find a Father who has His arms open wide. There are many churches and many denominations and it’s not accurate to say that all of them are as accepting as Christ is, but in general the church is where we find a home where His love is shown. The fellowship of believers is where we can find the love, encouragement, motivation, kindness, and correction the world lacks. Each believer is equipped to minister to others in some way, and everyone has a place where they fit in.
God’s overall plan is fulfilled through His Church (outwardly) and the body is meant to minister to each other (inwardly) for this plan to be accomplished. Our mission isn’t just to go “out there”, but also to tend to those “in here” so that each of us can be better at what we’re called to do. Healing, hope, and love are found in Christ’s Church. This was His plan.
1 Corinthians 12:12-14 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.
The Church – we are many, but we are one – united in Christ. Though the Church is made up of many individuals, each has his or her own part in making up the body of Christ. Each member is like a part of a body, fulfilling a specific purpose to the greater purpose of the body as a whole.
Why do we gather as a church? To carry out the work of Christ in the world. To bring glory to God. He has commissioned us to go out and do His will and bring about His purposes. When we unite as one, we have strength in numbers, we have unity, we have a greater plan. In our unity, God works in us and through us, just as He works in and through us as individuals.
In each of us, He gives skills and abilities. In the corporate body He puts those skills to work, directing us right where He wants us. Often we pair with someone whose skills complement our own and our effectiveness is doubled, as two strands of rope are far stronger than one (even better with a third – God).
United as a body, we are an unstoppable force in the world for the cause of Christ.
Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Of all analogies given in Scripture to describe the relationship between God and man, maybe one of the most peculiar is that of husband and wife. Christ is the groom and we (collectively, as the Church) are His bride. Why is this comparison used to speak of our relationship with Jesus?
First of all, any analogy that tries to capture God within human understanding fails. God is not just like anything we have knowledge of. But He is kind of like a husband who loves his bride and would do anything (DID everything!) for her. The best attempt we have at coming close to understanding God’s love is a healthy marriage relationship where there is mutual love. Christ gave everything, His own perfect life, for His bride. He sacrificed it all that we might be reconciled to God.
We, His bride, are made spotless (here’s the white dress) to be presented at the marriage (Christ’s return). He’s made a covenant with us that will never be broken and He remains faithful. His love never falters, never fails. His love is true. And His love is for us. We await the perfect wedding day to come.
1 Corinthians 3:6-9 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
The Bible, especially the New Testament, has no lack of interesting metaphors for the Church. Perhaps one of the most colorful is a field. Some are called to plant, some to water, and it’s God to is responsible for the growth.
This analogy speaks both to the individual and to the Church as a whole. YOU are God’s field, but WE are also God’s field. It works both ways. We’re all expected to grow spiritually, closer to God and closer into the likeness of His Son. Many people are used along the way to help us, and we’re also used to help others.
Think about your journey. How many people have had an impact on you, guiding you deeper into a relationship with the Lord? How many other people have you impacted since you came to know Him? We’re God’s fellow workers in this field, all of us, as a family.
John 15:4-5 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.
From where does the Church get its power? You have to admit that this institution that’s lasted for so many centuries clearly has something in its favor to withstand the test of time. Even atheists would have to agree that the Church is a powerful thing.
Just as a tree branch cannot live on its own, apart from the trunk and the roots of the tree, the Church (and individual Christians) can’t thrive apart from the power God bestows. A church void of the gospel of Jesus Christ is not an effective one.
At the center of Christianity is Christ. This goes without saying, right? It’s assumed that if a group of people gathering together call themselves a church then they are following Christ and operating in His power, but there is a distinction to be drawn.
The churches that really are doing God’s will are those that have humbled themselves before Him and seek His glory. The ones that are operating apart from His direction and guidance are like tree branches that are trying to stay alive without the nourishment the tree gives. Sure, for a while they may still give the appearance of being alive, but in time the truth will be evident.
You and I can’t bear fruit in our own lives apart from abiding in Jesus. Neither can the Church.
1 Timothy 3:15 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.
Godliness: not often the subject of most talks about the Church and its relationship to the Father. It’s true, though, that just as there are expectations in your own household there are expectations and behavioral norms in the household of God.
It’s already been mentioned that the Church is a family. That means everyone has their own role and they must function in that role for the sake of everyone else. It’s slightly different to think of the Church as a household than it is a family. It may sound like the same thing, but a family is more about the relationship and a household is more about the identity.
In Christ, we’re all one family, under the “same roof,” so to speak. It’s under the banner of Christ that we’re all united, despite our differences. A functioning household runs well if everyone knows the expectations that are required of someone who is identified as belonging to that household. For the Church, that’s godliness, truth, and love.
We know from God’s Word how we’re expected to behave as believers. We can see the character and nature of God, His love for us, and what He requires of us, all within the pages of Scripture. When we look for it, we can see what makes us part of His household.
What are your thoughts? What expectations does the household of God have?
Romans 12:4-5 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.
Probably one of the most common metaphors for the Church is that of a body. Ask anyone if they know of a comparison to something given in the Bible to the Church, and they will likely answer that the Church is like a body. And rightly so, because this is used many times in the New Testament.
The problem, though, when something becomes common, is that we lose sight of what it really means. You’ve heard that the Church is like a body, but what does that mean? Does this apply only to the local church or to the global church as well?
Though we are many, scattered throughout the world, all believers in Christ are one body. Every member of the body is like a physical member of a physical body, each with its own particular function. I can’t do what you’re called to do, and you can’t do what I’m called to do.
As Christ followers, we belong to Him and He belongs to us. Beyond that, we all belong to each other. As Paul says, “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Think of the body and how each member cares for the others. This is how we’re meant to be as the Church.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 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.
The Church is not a building. God’s people, however, are a temple for the living God. Did I lose you?
In Ephesians 2:18-22, we’re told that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone for the Church and that the foundation was laid by the Apostles. That’s construction talk, but it’s not literally talking about a church building. We, together, are the temple of the Lord. You’re not the temple, I’m not the temple. WE are the temple.
How can God’s temple be holy (v.17) if we’re each so sinful? How can we be the dwelling place of our Lord if we’re stained and tainted? We’re unworthy to be called His people, let alone His dwelling. The Spirit dwells in us collectively, though. It’s because of His presence, because of the righteousness instilled by Christ, that we’re given the privilege of being a home for God.
The holiness of Jesus is the starting point of this Church, laid upon the foundation which came with God’s commission to His people. And I’ll let Paul finish by saying, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22) Find comfort in the fact that all together we make up the temple of God, which He swears to protect.
John 10:11-16 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
What’s your favorite metaphor that the Bible uses for the Church? Mine is a flock. The beautiful imagery of Jesus Christ as our Shepherd is hard not to love.
Just as a shepherd cares for the sheep of his flock, our Good Shepherd looks after us with affection and with the dedication of one who cares for His own. Some look at God as a distant deity, someone who just created things and then stepped back and doesn’t care what happens. On the contrary, though, the Father cares very much for His people.
He cares so much, in fact, that He appointed the Son over His flock, that we might be cared for in the very best manner possible. He’s even given Him the task of calling those who don’t belong to His flock to become part of it, that there might be just one flock, one united Church, under the headship of our loving Shepherd.
Do you know the Shepherd? Are you His?
Ephesians 2:18-22 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of 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.
If the local church is a family, then the worldwide church is one great big family. All who put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation have been adopted into the family of God. That means that it doesn’t matter where you live on planet earth, we’re all one in Him.
This whole notion of a global Church is built on the foundation laid by Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. It’s in Him and through Him that the Church exists. If we’re in Him, we’re united as one. Regardless of language, worship style, Bible translation, or type of building, we share one thing in common: our Lord, Jesus.
This beautiful depiction of the church given in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us all we need to know about the Church. Through Jesus we’re given access to the Father. We’re in one Spirit. We’re all citizens in the household of God, Jesus being the Head over us all.
If, instead of the Church being so divided, we’d come together, we’d see miraculous results. We’ll discuss further the idea of God’s people being built together into a dwelling place (living stones), but in the meantime take a few moments to re-read Ephesians 2:18-22 and really savor what it says. The global Church united under Christ is a thing of beauty.