Ephesians 1:1-2:22, “What Is the Church?”
Passage: Ephesians 1:1– 2:22
Title: "What is the Church?" (Part 1 of the Church series)
Main Text: Ephesians 1 & 2
Three important points from these two chapters in Ephesians:
1. There's something much bigger going on here than just our individual salvation.
2. God has formed a people, called the church, and called it his dwelling place.
3. So, this thing we call "the church" is incredibly important.
Biblical & Historical Essentials
It's rare for virtually every significant theologian in church history to agree on anything. But, when it comes to the essential components of what makes a group of people a New Testament church, there is great agreement.
1. Right preaching of the Gospel / Word of God. The Bible must be the authority in a church. A commitment to doctrinal and teaching from the Scriptures is essential. Many so-called "churches" have reduced their message to self-help or pop-psychology and offer little more than tips on how to live a better or more functional life.
2. Carrying out of the ordinances of water baptism and communion. Jesus told the church to specifically do observe two ordinances, 1) water baptism, which signifies entrance into the Christian life, and 2) communion, which signifies our continuance in the Christian life. Historically, these two ordinances are essential elements for New Testament churches.
Biblical & Historical Purposes
1. Worship God (1 Peter 2:9)
2. Love and nurture one another (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
3. Spread the Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20)
(It's a challenge to keep these in balance)
What is the church?
"The local church is a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to Scripture they organize under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical ordinances of water baptism and Communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, and scatter to fulfill the Great Commandment and Great Commission as missionaries to the world for God's glory and their joy." [quote from Vintage Church, by Mark Driscoll]
1. You simply cannot live a healthy spiritual life unconnected from the church.
1 Corinthians 12 makes it clear that no Christian can live a healthy life disconnected from the greater body of Christ. Charles Spurgeon, the great British pastor of the 1800's said that a Christian who thinks they can live the Christian life apart from the body of Christ is like a single brick getting kicked down the street and as he rolls along he shouts, "I'm a house, I'm a house, I'm a house."
Church culture in American has done a great disservice by catering to a consumer driven mentality. Churches are often driven too much by ego and the desire for crowds and numbers and thus seek to please people so they will come rather than engaging in the hard work of calling people to involvement and participation.
2. There is no perfect representation of the church on earth.
We should avoid being overly critical of the church. It is after all the bride of Christ. Many new churches resort to bad-mouthing traditional church in order to market their ministry. We should avoid this tactic and show great grace towards others who may do it differently than we do.
Many Christians fall into two pitfalls we should avoid. The first is the "Excuse" pitfall that says "I was hurt in church in the past and now I can never trust again." No doubt church can be a painful place and people are often wounded. But we should not let past hurts define us or forever hinder us from healthy involvement in the body of Christ in our present and future. The second excuse is the "Idol" excuse where people often say, "I'll never find a church as good as the one I grew up in or the one in my old city." We've all got fond memories and places, but letting these fond memories deter us from contributing where we are is nothing short of idolatry.
3. The church should be the most messy, most beautiful place on earth.
The bottom line is the church is made up of a bunch of pardoned rebels who are very much in the process of progressive sanctification. This means that we all have blind spots and areas of sin we are still dealing with. The simply must be a place where it is okay to not be okay, but it's not okay to act like you are not okay when you are not. When we embrace the beauty of the Gospel and begin to see it in others and ourselves, then church becomes about God's beautiful work in us collectively, not some religious charade where everybody is acting religious.
More in “The Church”
March 29, 2009Acts 2:42-47, “What Should the Church Look Like?”
March 22, 20091 Timothy 3:1-7, “Who Leads the Church?”
March 15, 2009Ephesians 4:11-24, “A Culture of Growth in the Church”