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Responsibilities of the Church 1: Who Is the Church?

Responsibilities of the Church Day 1 – Who Is the Church?

On a recent walk through our little hometown in coastal New England, I was captivated by so many beautiful old buildings, especially the churches. There were many facets to draw me in: tall steeples reaching to the sky, huge wooden doors, artistic arches, gorgeous windows, and wide steps. These solid structures of brick and stone are the very picture of quiet strength. They hold history. They have endured the test of time.

If I had the chance to step inside, I am sure I would immediately look up, noticing the light streaming through tall windows, accenting more beautiful features and exquisitely hand-crafted intricacies. I might sense a hush over the space that feels somehow sacred. Church buildings stand out in our communities because they are set apart for a special purpose. We feel safe there. We might sense that same hush quieting the loud swirl of life outside those doors, inviting us to step away from it all and notice something bigger than ourselves.

Considering this new series of articles about the church, I found it very interesting to read that when the word “church” is used in the Bible, it never once refers to a physical building! Instead, the “church” is compared to a body—a living, breathing, growing, active body of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is individual people who form a multi-functional collaboration of unique parts, unified, protected, nurtured, and directed by our one and only head, Christ the Lord.

Who are these people? Who exactly is identified as part of the Church described in the Bible? What can we learn from Scripture about the Church?

First, in Biblical references, the word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia, meaning “assembly” or “gathering” of “called-out ones, dedicated to the Lord.”

“Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. … Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.” (Ephesians 5:23,25-26, NLT)

“You… are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.  Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself.” (Ephesians 2:19-20, NLT)

 “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9, NIV)

Universally, the Church includes all people who have been saved by grace, who trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross for their sins. Each redeemed soul is welcomed into fellowship with God’s Son, our Lord Jesus, as citizens with God’s people, members of His family (in some translations, household), and a vital part of His body, of which He alone is the Head.

“Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. … They worshiped together each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:41-42, 46-47, NLT)

“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” (Romans 12:4-5, NLT)

 “We have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13, NLT)

 “We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:15, NLT)

Locally, believers in the Lord Jesus gather together to remember and worship Him, to be taught by the truth in His Word, to enjoy time together as a “family,” and to pray. As that local church functions as a living, active body, serving the Lord and each other, and reaching out with His love and truth to their local community, each member fills a vital role, where Christ alone is recognized as the Head.

The “Church” we are talking about is so much more than a building. But maybe some of the beauties we appreciate in physical church buildings can inspire us to consider some good questions as we look at the Body of Christ, the Church:

How has the Lord given the Church a firm foundation that will stand the test of time, that will hold history, that will endure?

How does He build His Church? What or who are the building blocks He uses?

How has the Lord set the Church apart for a special purpose?

How has He encouraged us to welcome members of our community to step inside a local church, away from the swirl of life, to hear truth and the good news of the gospel, to experience His tender care, to find safety, to discover peace with God?

What beauties of the heart of God are on display within the Church?

What intricacies has He hand-crafted in each of us to encourage others to look up, to see only Him?

What part has He uniquely gifted and purposed you to fill?

“Let us not neglect our meeting together … but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25, NLT)

“For where two or three gather in My Name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20, NIV)

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