— LESSON 3 —
THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
Finding a church to attend is a daunting task. Those desiring to worship God are faced with an almost unlimited number of options. Choices range from old-fashioned, traditional churches to modern, new-age mega-churches. With so many to choose from, people often give little thought as to why they attend a particular place of worship. Reasons for selecting a church might come down to its demographics, its location, its social activities, or whether it simply feels like a good fit. While these reasons may seem valid, are they biblically sound?
According to the Scriptures, selecting a church should require deeper, more serious thought. This study will emphasize the importance that God has placed on the church, especially in view of the fact that Jesus bought the church with His own precious blood. As Paul teaches in Ephesians 3:10-11, the church has an eternal purpose in God’s scheme of redemption.
In this lesson, we will search the Scriptures to learn:
WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus makes a promise after Peter confesses Him as “the Christ, the Son of the living God”: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Many misunderstand the nature of the church and conclude that Jesus failed to establish His kingdom, so He established the church instead. Such teaching fails to appreciate the truth about God’s kingdom and His eternal plans. Jesus, in establishing the church, was fulfilling ancient prophecies concerning the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth. The church fulfills the divine plan and is not an “afterthought” of God.
The word “church” in our English Bibles is the translation of the Greek word ekklesia, and is defined as “a calling out” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary). Therefore, it is improper to view the church as a building, a social club, or a denomination; it is much more.
- The church is a group of people who are called out of a world of sin by the gospel and who determine to live a righteous life in the eyes of God.
- The head of the church is Christ. The Apostle Paul declares “… Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). In Colossians 1:18, he states, “And He is the head of the body, the church.” Scripture is emphatic—Jesus is the head of the church, has authority over it (Matthew 28:18).
- The church is the “house of God” (1 Timothy 3:15). These passages all stress the importance of the church – let no one say the church is unimportant!
To understand the nature of the church, it is necessary to grasp the concept of the kingdom. In Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus taught:
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
The phrase “kingdom of Heaven” is often used interchangeably with the word “church.” When the New Testament writers speak of the kingdom, they are primarily speaking of the church.