Summary: The church is God's instrument to glorify Him and build the kingdom. We can only do this if we understand what the church is and what it has been called to do.
The Church’s Calling
In Ephesians 6:12, we read “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” This can be no more evident than it is today, right here in our own backyards. We are living in an unprecedented time of madness that is wreaking havoc with our nation's morals, politics, government, economy, education, churches, and families. More and more, many Christians have come to believe that unless there is direct intervention by the Lord God Almighty, both our country and many of our churches will face devastating disaster! By and large, Christians seem devoid of power to stand up to the evil forces pressing against us; powerless to make progress against them. Across this nation, Churches are succumbing to and conforming to the influences of this godless society despite the admonition in Romans 12:1 “not to be conformed to this world”. Worse yet, many have forgotten what the church is, and what the church’s calling is. This is neither new nor unique: for even in biblical times, several New Testament churches were guilty of the same error. One of the most notable of these churches was the Corinthian church. Paul spent 18 months establishing the church during his second missionary journey, firmly grounding them in the faith through his teaching. Sadly, like many churches that start off on the right foundation, Corinth became a troubled church. Confronted with several spiritual and moral issues, the church was ceding to the prevailing culture and worldly influences. They were forgetting who they were and what they were to be. Verse by verse, Paul carefully addresses the church’s problems with love and concern, problems that today’s churches face. Dr. Keith Foskey said of Paul’s epistle, “After 2,000 years, it reads as timely and relevant today as it certainly did when it was written.”
Today, I would like for us to focus on the opening verses of this epistle, which I believe answers both the question of what the church is and what the church is called to be. Notice how Paul addresses his readers in verse 2, “to the church of God, which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints...” Paul begins using the term “church”. But what does that mean? What is the significance of this word? The dictionary might define “church” as: a building for public worship; the clergy or officialdom of a religious body; the whole body of Christians belonging to a denomination; or a public divine worship service. None of these definitions communicate the true meaning of the word rendered in our Bibles as “church”. The word translated “church” in our Bibles is the Greek ekklesia, which is a compound word. The first part ek is a preposition that means “out of,” “out from,” or “from.” The second part — klesia — is a verb that means “to call.” So, ekklesia in its most basic form means “the called out” or “those called out from.” In ancient Greece, ekklesia was used to refer to people who were called out and gathered for a specific purpose. But notice that Paul qualifies the word ecclesia when he says, “To the church OF GOD which is at Corinth”. God’s church is a unique institution. It is to be a unified body of called-out individuals with the express purpose of glorifying and enjoying God while carrying out His purposes in this world.
It must be pointed out that the church is not “my church” or “your church”; it is God’s church. Men often begin to serve God with the right purpose and objectives, but, in time, become so familiar with traditions and service that they begin to think it’s “our church”, never stopping to consider what the church is and why it exists. Instead of belonging to God, they believe the Church belongs to them. In Acts 20:28, the Word of God tells us that Christ purchased the “with His own blood.” The church belongs to God, not any man or group of people
While many may have their names on a church’s membership list, the reality is that the true church is not comprised of those who have their names on a Sunday School roster or church membership list. It is comprised only of those individuals who have responded to God’s effectual call to salvation and have been born again by God’s grace.
Note verse 2 again, “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”. In verse nine we read, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)