Summary: 3 of 18 messages on moving toward greater health as a church.
Definition and Biblical Basis of the Church
I. The Church Defined
A. What it is not
1. A denomination
2. To be confused with Israel
3. The same as the kingdom of God
B. What it is
1. Universal Church
2. Local body
II. The Biblical Basis of the Church
A. A covenant relationship with God
B. Its foundation
C. Its head
Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). This morning we are continuing our series of messages entitled, The New Testament Church for Today. Our particular focus will be to consider the definition and biblical basis of the Church.
The importance of a proper understanding of the nature and purpose of the Church cannot be overemphasized. It is clear from a study of the scriptures that the Church holds a unique and elevated position in the unfolding of history, in the created order, and in the heart of God. As J.I. Packer so astutely points out, “We cannot properly understand the purpose of God, nor the method of grace, nor the kingdom of Christ, nor the work of the Holy Spirit, nor the meaning of world history without studying the doctrine of the Church” (Henry, Basic Christian Doctrines, p. 241).
The Church as an institution and as a living organism is a pivotal entity. Yet, as we venture into the 21st century, it is readily apparent that there is much confusion revolving around the questions of what the Church is and why it exists. There are many people in our society, both inside and outside the Church, who are desirous of receiving a viable answer to these questions and a reasonable demonstration of the Church’s relevance for today. Much of the confusion can be attributed to the widespread aberrant behavior that is displayed by many professed Christians in local churches—confessing a well-rooted historical, biblical orthodoxy, but manifesting an uncertain ever-changing, situational orthopraxy. In light of such inconsistencies, it is imperative that we give consideration to Millard J. Erikson’s words:
… if it is to continue to be called the church, we must know just what it is that distinguishes the church as the church, or qualifies it to be called the church. This question is not being asked. We must also determine if there is a point at which the church ought rather to be termed a club, a social agency, or something similar (Christian Theology, p. 1030).
The ultimate intention this series of messages is to give a clear explanation of the nature and purpose of the Church from a biblical perspective that will inspire us to become a living demonstration of a healthy, Great Commission completing church. It is my hope that our pursuit will result in helping each of us gain a better understanding of what the Church is, why it exists, and serve as a call to return us to our Divine mandate to be The New Testament Church for Today. (Just as a word of warning, we will be looking at several scripture passages this morning. So I hope you’ve come practiced up for a good old-fashioned “sword drill.” As a word of comfort, I have not marked my Bible ahead of time—we’re all in this together.)