Summary: The Church described in Ephesians is the Body of Christ, the habitation of God, the bride-elect of Christ, the channel of God’s grace to all the world, and designed to glorify God.
Why the Church?
INTRO.: In 1792, a Methodist preacher in North Carolina, James O’Kelly, revolted against the Methodist Church. He had fought valiantly in the American revolution for his freedom and could no longer tolerate being ruled from England by the Methodist, Bishop Asbury. He and his congregation severed relations with the Methodist Episcopal Church. Several other congregations followed suit and formed their own conference, to which they gave the name "Republican Methodist."
In 1794, representatives of the conference met in Surry County, VA and decided to drop the name Methodist and be known simply as Christians. They also voted to drop the Methodist Book of Discipline and take the Bible and the Bible only as their rule of faith and practice. Based on these decisions, James O’Kelly established a new congregation in Chapel Hill, NC, which he called "First Christian Church."
Russell Boatman, in his book, "What the Bible Says About the Church" writes, "To the best of my knowledge, that congregation was not only the first Christian Church to be established in that community, I was the first Church in more than a thousand years to exist anywhere on the face of the earth bearing simply the Messianic title of our Lord and Savior." (P. 25.)
What Boatman means is that congregation was the first to simply call itself "Christian" and look to the Bible as its rule of faith and practice. This was the very first congregation in the movement of which our congregation is part.
From the very beginning over 100 years ago, this Church has been made up of those who simply want to be known as Christians and to follow the teachings of the Bible in both our congregational life and our individual lives.
Since our goal as a congregation is to pattern ourselves after the Bible, I want to begin a series of messages on the Church in the Bible. Hopefully, we can explore what the Bible says about the church and become more like the Church Jesus wants us to be.
Today’s message, "Why the Church?" seeks to lay a foundation for our studies by examining the importance of the Church. I believe the importance of the Church and justification for her existence is shown by what She is and does. If the Church only does what other organizations are doing, it needs not exist, nor does it deserve our support.
The Scriptures are taken from the Book of Ephesians, whose theme is "The Glorious Church." It contains several ideas that set forth the unique role of the Church.
I. The Church is the Body of Christ: Eph. 1:22, 23
A. What does this mean?
1. The Church is the means by which Jesus carries out His work on earth now.
2. No matter how good our mind may be, if we do not have a body capable of carrying out the plans, desires, and decrees of the mind, we are helpless or handicapped.
3. We are the visible manifestation of Christ, just as your body is the visible part of you.
B. There are some things that cripple a body:
1. When parts of the body are absent. When members don’t worship, pray, study together, the body is crippled.
2. When parts are non functioning. Inactive members cripple the body.
3. When parts are not subject to the head. Sin within the body of Christ has a crippling affect.
4. "Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today; He has no feet but our feet to lead men in His way; He has no tongue but our tongue to tell men how He died; He has no help but our help to bring them to His side."
5. We don’t want anyone to go around ridiculing or criticizing our bodies. Neither does Jesus.
II. The Church is God’s building: Eph. 2:19-22
A. God "does not dwell in temples made by hands" Acts 17:24
1. The most magnificent building I have been in is St. Paul’s Cathedral in New York. God is too big to live in it.
2. Southeast Christian Church, Louisville seats 8000 people. On any given Sunday 14000 worship there. It is too small for God. He created the universe.
3. Our little building is God’s house only when God’s people are in it. When we leave, He leaves with us.
4. Solomon understood this: I Kings 8:27
B. I Cor. 3:16. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
1. When baptized into Christ, we receive the gift of God’s indwelling Spirit.
2. This can be said of no other building on earth. The house of God is not an edifice of stone. It is a heart of flesh.
3. So, there is a severe warning against dividing the Church in I Cor. 3:17