We Are the Church of Christ
"The church is the family of God"
Jesus said that He would build His church. He did (Matthew 16:18). First we see that this building project is Christ's: "I will build..." It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that "we" are the key to the survival of the church. We are not. You're not, and I am not. He is the key. He is the designer.
Second, the Church belongs to Him: "...My church." Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23). Before anyone casts the church off as unnecessary, remember who it belongs to.
Third, the Church will survive: "...and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it." Church buildings crumble and fall, congregations splinter and divide, Christians may not always be what they ought to be -- but through it all God's people continue to gather, worship and work (and will continue to do so) until He returns.
Jesus is Committed to His Church
I doubt that any passage of Scripture says it plainer than what Paul wrote to Ephesus about the commitment of Jesus to His church:
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,
26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
Question: If the "church" is that valuable to Jesus, should we value it any less? Should we treat lightly that for which Jesus gave His own blood (Acts 20:28)?
Remember: The church is a body not a building; the church is people; it is not a place. The word literally means "the called out." And people are the ones called by God. Jesus died for people (1 Timothy 2:5).
Some almost seem to worship a place. They see the church as a location, a building, a tradition that helps them feel secure in familiar routines. These may suggest that the church is necessary, but perhaps not for the right reasons.
Others see no need for the church at all. Again, this is often because of a misunderstanding of what the church is. When you were born again, God added you to His church, or that called out body of saved people (Acts 2:47; 1 Timothy 3:15).
But you and I need more than the universal church in order to grow, succeed, and thrive spiritually. I know this is so because God says so.
One of the greatest blessings that man can know is that of having a strong, loving family where the members love one another. Well, am I talking about a physical family or a spiritual family here? It is hard to tell since the statement is true of both. There is need for a family!
It is in the context of a good family we grow physically as we share the blessings of the home. We are nourished, trained, provided for when we are young. When we grow older, we start our own family and become the providers, trainers and nourishers. There are great blessings as members of a good family for both young and old.
These things are so whether we are discussing a physical family or a spiritual family. In the context of a local church we grow spiritually in a way that is parallel to growth in a physical family. Trying to grow in Christ apart from the local church is like a child trying to raise himself without a family. It doesn't work very well.
The local church is a place where the truth of the gospel can be consistently proclaimed and we can grow into mature and strong Christians. We will learn from one another and find support and love a mutually beneficial blessing. We learn to rejoice, grieve, and grow together in Christ. But again, the church can help its individual members only to the extent that they are willing to be involved.
The local church is about healthy and holy relationships in Christ. Detachment and aloofness ought to be avoided.
4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,
5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;
8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
There ought to be a strong sense of community and accountability to and with one another. Though there might be different functions all have responsibilities to do their parts as a body. It is about emotional support and spiritual care.
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;
11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,
13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13)
It is important that you belong to a local church which preaches the gospel in its simplicity and truth. It is the gospel that is God's power to save. Being an active part of a faithful local church is an appropriate and necessary goal to have if I am going to receive the encouragement that he Lord says I need. The local church is a family, designed by God for our spiritual growth and progress.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 17.10; October 2010