MorningStar Ranch Ministries

Lesson Eight

THE CHURCH

 

Jesus said, "I will build My church" (ecclesia) (Matt. 16:18). The word "ecclesia" in the New Testament is used to designate any assembly whether it be political (Acts 19:39), Christian (Eph. 1:22, 23), or national (Acts 7:38). It means a called-out assembly or congregation.  God called Israel out of Egypt; they congregated in the wilderness; they were, "the church in the wilderness." today, God calls the saved out of the world to congregate in worship. This is the church in the world, in it but not of lt.

Unlike the church in the wilderness, the Church that Jesus is building will never cease. He said, "The gates of Hades shall not overpower it."  His Church is not synonymous with Christendom. It is Christendom in the same way in which it is in the world, in it but not of lt.  Christendom is made up of those who profess to be Christians, but they know not Christ as a personal Savior (Matt. 7-21-23, also, 2 Tim. 3:5 and Titus 1:16).  Only blood-washed, born again, Spirit-baptized believers constitute the church that Jesus is building.  It is called a:

I

The Church: Its Foundation

Read: Matt. 16:13-18

"Upon this rock I will build My Church." Leading up to this declaration He asked His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They answered naming some of the prophets.  Then He said to them, "But who do you say I am? Peter answered, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). In verse thirteen Jesus spoke of Himself as the "Son of Man".  Now Peter speaks of Him as the "Son of the living God". Jesus blessed Peter and said that this great truth (revelation) came from God the Father.  Again He said to Peter, "You are Peter, (Petros, a little rock) and upon this rock (Petra, a big rock which was the revelation knowledge given by GOD to Peter and each of us) I will build My church."  Jesus did not say that He would build His church upon Peter, but upon the revelation knowledge of Himself, the Rock of Ages.

Simon Peter called Jesus the "living stone," the precious "CORNER stone," a "STONE OF STUMBLING," and a "ROCK OF OFFENSE". He spoke of all believers, including himself, as "living stones".  Christ is the foundation and believers are the building stones (1 Pet. 2:1-10).

Paul speaks of Christ as the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets ((Eph. 2:19-22).  He also said, "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Chrlst." (1 Cor. 3:11).  Although the church was a mystery in the Old Testament, yet Isaiah said, "Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed"' (Is. 28:16 OT).  Christ is the sure foundation of His church and all believers are little building stones built into a holy temple in the Lord.

II

The Church: Its Head

Read: Col. 1:18

He is also head of the body, "The church". Christ is the foundation, cornerstone, and head of His Church. He is head of the local church, and He is head of the church in its all-inclusive sense, including all born again, blood-washed, Spirit-baptized believers in heaven and earth.

The church is more than a religious organization, it is an organism, with Christ as the living head. It is alive with the life of Christ made living in each member (1 Cor. 12:1-31).  Let us examine the church and observe its role as the body of Christ.

 

 

This is the church in its broadest sense.  You cannot join this church.  The only way to become a member of His body is to be spiritually born (John 3:1-7) and baptized into it by the Holy Spirit.

The Lord Jesus Christ has never delegated His authority to anyone, whether he be pope, Pastor, deacon, or the majority of the congregation. He is "head over all things to the church" (Eph. 1:22), the only absolute and final authority!

III

The Church: Its Organization

Read: Titus 1:4, 5

There is scriptural evidence of some organization m the local church from its inception. It was a definite and permanent organized congregation, but not as we know it today.

Paul left Titus in Crete to organize the believers into local church bodies and to "set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city" (Titus 1:5).

The local New Testament church is a microcosm of the complete body of Christ in heaven and earth.  The word "church" is used over one hundred times in the New Testament, and the great majority of the references refer to the local congregation.

Organization in the local church is seen in:

He gave to the church "apostles" (this refers to the twelve; there are no apostles in the church today), "prophets" (we have no prophets and have not had since the last book of the New Testament was written), "evangelists" (the evangelist will serve the church until Jesus comes), and "pastors and teachers" Eph. 4:11, 12). Pastors and teachers are local ministers; the apostles, prophets, and evangelists are ministers at large.

Another officer is the deacon. His qualifications are set forth in: (1 Timothy 3:8-13).  Deacons are never called a board in the Scriptures.  They are not to run the church; they are ordained to assist the Pastor by ministering to the saints (Acts 6:1-7).

The church must have kept some records of its members. The book of Acts tells us that there were about 100 in the upper room.  The account (Acts 1:15-26) reads like the average local church business meeting. Simon Peter is the Pastor; he takes the lead and gives direction in choosing one to take the place of Judas. "And they drew lots," and Mathias was chosen to be an apostle. On the day of Pentecost about 3,000 were added to the body of Christ by Holy Spirit baptism (1 Cor. 12:13) and to the local church Jerusalem by water baptism (Acts 2:41). Again, the records show another 5,000 added (Acts 4:4). The Scriptures tell us that "the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47).

Baptism (baptize means to immerse).  The Lord commands the believer to be baptized. This is the believer's first opportunity to obey his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In the early church no one ever questioned water baptism; they obeyed (Matt. 28:18-20 and Rom. 6:1-4). Baptism does not save. It is a picture of your faith in His death, burial and resurrection. It is faith in Christ that saves (John 3:36) and the Ordinance of Baptism that identifies the believer with the risen Savior.

The Lord's Supper.  There is no saving power in the Lord's Supper.  It is a memorial.  The bread is symbolic of His broken body and the wine of His shed blood for the remission of our sins.  Baptism identifies the believer with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection; and the Lord's Supper is a memorial to be observed by the believer to "proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes" (l Cor. 11:23, 24).

IV

The Church: Its Discipline

Read: Matt. 18:15-17

This is the most difficult and necessary function of the local assembly, and its importance cannot be exaggerated.  "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?  Clean out the old leaven" (1 Cor. 5:6, 7). Leaven in the Scripture is always a type of evil.  The church is to clean out any evil in its membership.  The motive for disciplining a brother is love (1 John 4-7-11). The goal is to restore him to fellowship with his Lord and the church.

"If your brother sins..."

A good example of church discipline is reported in Paul's letters to the church at Corinth. He used strong words calling upon the church to discipline a member for fornication. He wrote, "REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES" (1 Cor. 5:1-13). In his second letter to the Corinthian church we learn that the man repented and was restored to the fellowship of God's people.  Now Paul writes, "forgive and comfort him... reaffirm your love for him" (2 Cor. 2:3-11).  The attitude of the church toward a repenting brother should always be that of forgiveness in love.

V

The Church: Its Worship and Work

Read: Matt. 28:16-20

The church: its worship. "When they saw Him, they worshipped Him" (Matt. 28: 17). To worship is to bow down in awe; to pay divine honors to God in humble, reverent homage. There are three essentials in worship, they are:

The church: its work. "For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you" (1 Thess. 1:8).  The church in Thessalonica did the work of the Lord so well that the apostles did not have to evangelize Macedonia and Achala.  The church shared its faith with the lost and, after all, that is the main work of the church.  This is how that, "this took place for two years ...all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks" (Acts 19:8-10).  All of Asia did not journey to Ephesus to hear Paul.  It is evident that the believers went everywhere sharing the gospel.  The work of the church is to go with the gospel because:

VI

The Church: Its Power

Read: Acts 1:8

On the day of Pentecost the church received power to evangelize the world. When the hundred and twenty came down from the upper room, they came in the dynamics of the Holy Spirit.  It was a spiritual phenomenon issuing forth in joyful ecstasy and miracle-working power, resulting in conviction of sin, "repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21).  Some were empowered for special service, but all received power to witness.

The real power of the church is not found in:

They said, "We are rich".  God said they were poor.

They said, "We are wealthy". God said they were wretched.

They said, "We do not need anything".  God said they needed everything.

They said, "We are busy in the church".  God said they were miserable.

They said, "We have a vision". God said they were blind.

They said, "We are clothed in fine garments".  God said they were naked.

They said, "We are satisfied". God said they made Him sick.

You can always recognize a Holy Spirit-powered church. The evidence is obvious; they have power to:

This is the power that filled the upper room congregation on the day of Pentecost. That power is with the believer today in the person of the Holy Spirit.  He is the power of the church!

VII

The Church: Its Future

Read: 1 Thess. 4:16,17

The true church of Jesus Christ has a glorious, victorious future in the world, in the air, in the kingdom, and in eternity; it cannot fail.  "The gate of Hades shall not overpower it" (Matt. 16: 18).

The future of the church m the world: At Pentecost the Holy Spirit set the course for the church as it journeys from the upper room to the Rapture.  It is to:

The Church of Jesus Christ will emerge triumphant for, "we overwhelmingly

conquer through Him who loved us" (Rom. 8:35-39). The church cannot fail because Christ is its Head, The Holy Spirit is its power, The Word of God is its guide.

The future of the church in the air; "We shall all be caught up" (1 Thess. 4:17).  Caughtup:

After the kingdom reign of one thousand years there will be "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21:1). The earth will be restored to its original, created state (Gen. 1:1 OT). God's earthly people Israel will inherit the new earth (Ex. 32:13 OT).

His bride, the church, will remain in His presence forever! If, in His human form, He is in the new heaven or the new earth, we will be with Him, to see Him, to serve Him, and to worship Him.  He will continue to bestow upon His bride the riches of His eternal grace (Eph. 2:6, 7).  Even in our perfect, glorified bodies it will take eternity (time without end) to begin to comprehend the greatness of His grace!

 

Now Proceed to Lesson 9