Church

Helpful Reading

Local Church Vision

We, along with mainline theologians down through the years, are persuaded that homes and churches are miraculous institutions ordained of God...

Morning Coffee

Let's Talk
Personal Study
> Got Questions?
Confessions
Study Resources
Introduction

It is exciting to find out that you can be saved and restored to fellowship with God and His people, the way they did in the first century, and rest assured that you will not go to hell, but rather to heaven when you die, and in the end live with Christ on a new earth in new heavens.

 

It is also just as rewarding to know that today God wants to add you to the church body of His choosing, to serve out your earthly priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5; 1 Cor. 12:18-31). It is there that you will be empowered to grow up practically into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29; Col. 3:10) and thus successfully pursue the call of God on your life (Rom. 12:1-8) to show off Jesus to the world.


This is what church life is all about. This is God's design for this Dispensation of Grace. In the Old Testament God's people formed a physical nation located in the Middle East, centered in Jerusalem. Today they form a world wide, spiritual nation centered in their churches. It took me a long time to sort these issues out, because our mainline denomination never taught them. Thank God those days of ignorance are over. What a joy it is for me to be able to share them fully with you.


This is the grace message in a nutshell: Christ, His cross, and His church. This is what getting saved is all about, and Heb. 6:1-3 lays out the basic truths they introduced and built their Christian faith on. The bottom line is this: God wants to restore your relationship to Him by making you a part of His new creation family and thus giving your life true meaning. Thank God we can know these things on the inside and live God-inspired lives that please Him.

  • What does Church mean?

The correct, literal translation of the Greek word ekklesia from the original text of the New Testament is "assembly," not church." Interestingly enough, the English word "church" and its relatives in other languages, such as the German word Kirche, come from another Greek word altogether, kuriakos, meaning "the Lord's"3 which should not have been used to create a substitute for the real translation assembly." Used correctly in secular or sacred literature, the word ekklesia is never translated to mean anything other than a local assembly of people who have been called together for a specific purpose, regardless of what that may be.


The word ekklésia has a very narrow meaning. It is the compound of the preposition ek—out of and the verb kaleo—to call. When we put it all together we see plainly that it means an assembly of people, secular or sacred, who come together for a specific purpose, and should be translated as such. It certainly doesn't mean a crowd of people. The very idea of a universal visible or invisible assembly is a physical impossibility and an obvious oxymoron, for how could people assembled together for a specific reason in a certain place be worldwide or invisible? It is not treated this way in secular literature. The sad news is that the majority of christianity holds to this false interpretation of the important word church that God holds so dear to His heart.

  • What is the difference between the universal and local church?

The Greek word ekklésia in the manuscripts gained new meanings in the 2nd century A.D. from the Roman Catholics, and later on from the Protestants during the Reformation in the 16th century, that were not true to the original text. The Catholics pioneered a new meaning for ekklesia by stretching it to refer to a universal (catholic), visible church, as a means to secure control over the churches. This definition included all churches worldwide in order to bring them under Rome's umbrella, thus also giving birth to denominationalism. It was changed again by Augustines in the early 5th century, when he expanded the meaning of the word church further to refer to an invisible collection of Catholics from all over the world, whom he considered to be true believers, apart from the many visible Catholics who regularly attended mass. From this the idea of an invisible, worldwide assembly gained acceptance in Catholic circles. Certainly this was an abuse of this simple word.

The problems began for us English-speaking people when King James authorized a translation of the Bible in 1611 into English, and agreed to a list of rules to guide the translators under pressure (see note 10) to please the many factions and their political power originally these rules were listed at the beginning of every King James Version of the Bible for all to see so that each person could draw the correct conclusions about the faulty translation; however, later editions omitted them, and today most people aren't even aware that they existed as a guide to the translators and the reading ofthe Scriptures. One of the words they were commanded by King lames not to translate correctly was the word ekklésia. They were instructed to keep the old ecclesiastical word "church" as a translation.


At the same time, in their enthusiasm to break away from the Roman Catholics universal, visible church, the Protestants embraced Augustine's idea of a universal, invisible church and took it even further, making this the real church of importance. Without realizing it, their attempt to righteously soothe their rebellious anti-Catholic consciences inadvertently started a whole new debate: Which is more important, (1) embracing local churches, or (2) the invisible one they alleged was the real church that all believers were automatically supposed to belong to?


Real damage was done closer to home when in the early twentieth century C. I. Scofield popularized this Protestant departure, presenting his own bias in the reference Bible that bore his name.7 The sad truth is that it spread like wildfire, and most evangelical theologians since then have gone along with how he dealt with this word, at the expense of the true function of local churches and the glory ascribed to them by God Himself. Thus satan had found a foothold to attack the power of the very thing that Jesus said would have the power and authority to destroy him, and he won't let go without a fight.


Since that time, there are those who claim that we can believe in both church concepts, saying that there is room for this without taking too much away from local churches; nevertheless, such a compromise cannot work and is false according to the text, and invariably leads to embracing the invisible rather than the local The result of making an invisible church the true church, as they do, has rendered the local ones of lesser value, tearing down the role God designed them to play in this dispensation, not to speak of confusing the original intent of the writers of the New Testament. This kind of thinking has led people to justify abandoning local church life for an invisible one and eventually down the path to lawlessness.


It's amazing how understanding the word "assembly" in our New Testaments increases the important role of local churches in this dispensation of grace and makes anything else an oddity, to say the least. In the preface of the A. S. Worrell translation of the New Testament, which correctly translates ekklésia, he wrote: "Then a failure properly to translate ecclesia has, likewise, wrought untold mischief. The word rightly translated, would have afforded no shelter for the vast ecclesiasticisms that have overshadowed and well-nigh crowded out of being the simple, independent, local assemblies, that were established in the first centuries of Christianity. Ecclesia should have been translated assembly or congregation; and this would have been a rebuke to those who would swallow up all local assemblies in a consolidated denomination, or ecclesiasticism."8

  • Churches, Christ's Body/Temple on Earth

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise! Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up So the Jews answered and said to Him, "What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. ~ John 2:13-22
(See Matt. 12:5,6; 26:61; 27:40; Mark 14:58; 15:29)

It was time for the old temple to go and for the new temple to be raised up to take its place. Jesus took advantage of the opportunity brought about by His cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem to speak of the new end-time temple, His own body. What an amazing revelation. What sense He was about to make of local churches. Yes, the Old Testament's tabernacle/temple had served its prophetic purpose, and it was time for what it foreshadowed to be manifested in the New Testament, which Christ came to establish by His death, burial and resurrection in three days, and by His exaltation to His Father's right hand in heaven and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This ushered in the full force of the Dispensation of Grace and Christ's new creation a humanity born and empowered by the Spirit.

Christ's body is the temple of the new heavens and new earth in eternity (Rev. 21:22) Today in time His body, His temple body, His church body is made of believers, living stones built together by the Holy Spirit for a dwelling place for God. Because of their numbers, they are able to do more than He could as one man in the Middle East; therefore, they are known as His image-bearers (1 Cor. 15:49).

When you recognize and settle this fundamental reality that Christ is the new temple and that His churches today on earth are the earthly manifestation of His body/temple, everything you have ever believed will make new creation sense. It's all about Jesus today, tomorrow and forevermore! He is the one about whom the activities of God in heaven and on earth are operating and find their fulfillment. This is the message of the New Testament which is climaxed in the book of Revelation with the new heavens and the new earth and the new temple—Jesus in the midst of His people on a new earth in new heavens.

But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. ~ Rev. 21:22,23

 

Today the Holy Spirit is building Christ's body/temples all over the world, as was the case in Ephesus:

 

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. ~ Eph. 2:19-22
(See 1 Cor. 3:5-17; 12:12-31)

This is the miracle of the New Testament church. In a very real sense this is why the Scriptures say He died for the church (Eph. 5:25).

The intimacy between Christ's body and the church goes way beyond analogous language. Every real church is also mysteriously a part of Christ's own body on earth today, and they should be honored and respected as such.

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.... This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. ~ Eph. 5:29-30, 32

No one should be surprised that Christianity is about Jesus, the new Man; Jesus' cross the new rule; and Jesus' church, the new body/temple. Believers and their churches are a new miracle of grace. They are not a support system for society at large, nor are they about reforming a lost world, even though they make the best citizens. They are a spiritual ounterculture living in the midst of an unbelieving world, busy making disciples for Jesus Christ and gathering them together in their churches to be God's new worshipers in spirit and truth (John 4:23,24). Their mission is to show off the power of living by Christ's Calvary love through the Spirit of grace in their midst—true new temple worship.

Jesus designed His churches to be love feasts that would win unbelievers over to newness in Christ. They were never supposed to become, as they have in some instances, full of critical, self-righteous people who are a turnoff.

Wherever the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God is empowering believers to live by love, you can rest assured that you will also find there a sweet spirit of forgiveness, acceptance, understanding and reconciliation in their churches.

Let us now embark together on the incredible journey of newness in Christ. Right off the bat you need to become used to the term "in Christ," which God uses to describe the new you in the Holy Bible (it is used this way 170 times). Before you were saved you were dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1-10), but now that you are saved you have had a status change, and God says you are no longer a sinner "in your sins," but you have become a saint "in Christ." This term (saint) is used 62 times this way.

For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. ~ Rom. 5:19

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Cor. 1:2,3

What Paul had to say about the believer's newness in 2 Cor. 5:12-21 is the most complete description of our newness anywhere to be found in the New Testament. Certainly all the books of the New Testament are replete with the message of newness, but it is only here that they are brought together so eloquently.

  • Isn't the word church used in several different ways in the New Testament Bible?

Yes. The word church is used in three different ways, but always as a particular assembling group:

1. It is used to describe the city or community-based bodies of believers, who each functioned as individual called-out-of-the-world-around-them assemblies. They were addressed in letters by Paul, for example "to the church in Rome, Galatia, Ephesus, Corinth..." In that regard churches were used in the plural, where the singlular word church might have been used to speak of its theology.

2. The church of the firstborn, or all collective believers, who will gather at the end. The Hebrew writer references it as the collective parts of the New Creation who will assemble in the end.

3. Lastly, the church is also used to speak of the Assembly in heaven today, gathered as the great cloud of witnesses. They are there today as the ones who have passed on before us.

In all three cases, the churches gather for their respective purpose.

 

 
Catechisms Study Resources Most Recent

 

     
About... I'd like to know...
Church
  • What does Church mean?
  • What is the difference between the universal and local church?
  • Isn't the word church used in several different ways in the New Testament Bible?
Salvation
  • What does it mean to be born again?
  • Can I lose my salvation?
  • What happens if I sin after I have been born again? Doesn't the Bible say that all sinners have their place in the lake of fire?
New Creation
  • Where does "New Creation" come from?
  • What is New Creation?

Grace

 
   

Copywright © 2016 by DMIC. All rights reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without written permission from the author.