When we think of the Church we tend to think of it as a building but this is not how the New Testament writers thought of it. The New Testament authors expect us to see that the Church is the community of the people of God. Jesu himself said that the Church would be built on the confession of his name.
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Mt 16:15–18.
Here Jesu is reacting to the confession of faith that Peter had just made about who he is when he states that the Church will be built upon it.
On the day of Pentecost, the Church is born by the Power of the Holy Spirit, the whole of chapter 2 0f the Book of Acts demonstrates this, but I want to concentrate on just a few verses from the end of the chapter.
41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ac 2:41–42.
Peter in his sermon had called on those who were listening to him to “repent and be baptised” the Apostles saw baptism as part of the whole process of becoming a disciple. It was not an optional extra and it should not be for us. About three thousand people respond to the message that day and were baptised.
These new disciples devoted themselves to the apostles teaching ( they really wanted to understand their newfound faith), and they also devoted themselves to fellowship ( a deep sharing with one another in a variety of ways). They also devoted themselves to the breaking of bread ( In other words receiving communion and really celebrating what Jesus had achieved for them on the Cross) and they also devoted themselves to prayer.
We ss that the early church devoted themselves to these things but we must ask do we devote ourselves to them?
Paul in chapter 2 of his letter to the Ephesians lays out the way of salvation and how Jesus has abolished the deciding wall between Jews and Gentiles he then goes on to make some profound statements about the Church which we will briefly look at.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit
The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Eph 2:19–22.
All those of us who are true believers are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of his household, this means that generations of hostility have been broken down. The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets ( we find the teaching of the prophets and apostles in the pages of scripture) but the cornerstone of the Church is Christ himself. This is not the end of the matter because we are being built together to be a building in which God dwells by his Spirit. The New Testament sees the Church as a body, they would not have understood our modern individualism and our centred faith as being an accurate reflection of their teaching.
Peter in his first letter stresses the importance of the corporate nature of our faith, these words should cause us to rejoice that we are privileged to be part of such a wonderful people.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 1 Pe 2:9–10.
These words are a tremendous encouragement to value our place in the Church of God, we are his people, saved by his grace and transformed into his people. We are called to be priests together who offer our praise and prayers to God. We are called to be a holy nation, a people set aside for God’s own purpose. This is so that we may declare the praises of him called you out of darkness into his glorious light.
In the light of the above we need to embrace the importance of the Church as part of god’s plan for our salvation and edification. We have not been able to look at all the significant marks of the Church in this post, we must not forget the importance of evangelism and discipleship but those subjects will have to be addressed elsewhere.