Summary: The 9th sermon in our series on the Baptist Faith and Message
Ekklesia – the Church (BFM #9)
Text: Ephesians 4:4
By: Ken McKinley
Well we are continuing our study of the BFM and today we are on article 6, the article on the Church (Read BFM article 6 – the church). I think that the doctrine of the church is one of the most misunderstood, and incorrectly taught doctrines in Christianity today. We have sacrificed doctrinal soundness for earthly success and we are reaping what we’ve sown. You all have heard me mention the statistics from LifeWay and the SBC, that we have 16 million plus members but only about 6 million attend worship services regularly. Last Monday we had Bob Shelton from the BGCO Cooperative Program speak to us at the association meeting. He said that giving to the CP is on a 24 year downslide. In-other-words, giving to the national CP has decreased for 24 straight years. Something is going wrong somewhere and I think it has to do first and foremost with the doctrine of the church. So today I want to focus on three things, the purpose of the Church, what makes up a Biblical church, and the ministry of the church. We will be spending some time on this article – the Church, because it’s so important, but we can only look at a couple of things today.
So… the Greek word that describes the church is the word “ekklesia,” and it means “those who have been called out,” or “the called out ones.” The term “congregation” comes from the Latin word “congregatio,” which is simply a translation of ekklesia into Latin. So when we look through the New Testament we see that the Church was a gathering of people who have been called by the Lord. But they weren’t just called to meet up with each other once a week and visit. Turn with me to Acts 2:42-47 (Read). This is what the Church did when it gathered together. They continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine (or teachings), they had fellowship with one another through the breaking of bread and in prayers. The breaking of bread can either mean the Lord’s Supper or fellowship dinners, but often times those were one in the same, and we’ll talk more about that later. Acts 2 also tells us that the first church member had unity, and that they provided for one another’s needs as the needs arose.
So when we think about the Church we can think about it in two different ways; we can think about all the believers who have been called out by God and set apart by God, or we can think about it as a gathering of a local body of believers, but regardless of which way we look at it, the most important thing for us to understand is that Jesus is the Head of the Church.
The Bible teaches that the Church is the Body of Christ and He is the head. Now before we get into a whole lot of theological implications of that, I just want you to think about a body in physical terms. Your body, or mine. The head controls all the functions of the body, it is where are brains nest, and the human brain is; like I said, what controls all the functions, activities and abilities of the body. Without the head, the body can do nothing, and to be even more specific, without the head, the body is dead. And so if we, or any group of believers, are going to be a church, then we should be doing the work that Christ has called us to do.
And so people say, “What is the purpose of the Church?” Well that’s an easy question to answer: The purpose of the Church is to carry on the work of Christ. Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
In Acts 13:47 we see that the Lord said to His Church, “I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.” So the first thing any church should be is evangelistic and mission minded. The Church should be focused on the Great Commission.
Turn with me to Ephesians 3:8-11 (read). God has designed His Church to be a display of His glory and wisdom, and He structured that display in the shape of a community that illustrates for a watching world the redemption that He has given to us, and that He offers to them.
So let me try to bring these three things together before we go on. The Church is to have an upward focus in worshiping God and praising God. When the first church gathered they continued in sound doctrine, they worshiped, they praised God in unity. So they focused on God. Secondly they focused inward upon their community. Over and over again the epistles stress unity. When the new believers gathered together the consistently celebrated the Lord’s Supper, they fellowshipped with one another through the breaking of bread, they strived to maintain unity and they made sure everyone’s needs were being met. Lastly they had an outward focus, they sought to be faithful to the Great Commission, they sought to spread the Gospel, first in Jerusalem, then to Judea, then to Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth.