ECCLESIOLOGY – COMMUNITY
The Church is a community that works among other communities. The church is organized and structured so that it is able to be as diverse as the entire world because it is made up of people from all every part of the world. It is meant to be able to relate to all people groups of every tribe and tongue and nation (Rev 7.9).
HOW THE CHURCH WORKS
The Church is a living organism; it is the body of Christ which functions and works to conduct its purpose both in heaven and on the earth. Each part of the body of Christ, each member, has a purpose and a function to make the entire body move and work, as we receive direction and guidance from the head (Christ). Everyone who becomes a believer becomes part of Jesus body, which is the Church.
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours: – 1 Corinthians 1.2
Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members thereof. – 1 Corinthians 12.27
Christ’s body cannot be divided spiritually, each member is of Christ and all are a part of each other regardless of circumstances. Each fit together to make the holy temple of God.
For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit. – 1 Corinthians 12.13
Giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. – Eph 4.3
UNIFIED IN SEPARATION
Different Church Denominations
Just as there are many parts of Christ’s body, there are many different separate groups, each of which carries out their function throughout the entire world. This is one of the reasons why there are so many different denominations within the Christian church, as separate groups choose to practice their beliefs in slightly different ways. Each different Christian denomination appeals to different groups of people in different ways. In one sense, you can think of every group of people in Christ as if they were each their own different denomination, meeting in separate places all performing different functions of Christ’s body. The Bible does not emphasize a need for only one specific ‘physical’ church in the world, but rather a continual acknowledgement that the Church is split into separate regions each with its own specific function. Apostle John wrote to 7 local Churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicia (Rev 2-3). The Apostle Paul wrote his letters to specific Churches but the texts throughout the New Testament remains universal and relevant to all believers wherever they are.
Unity of the Church
The Church collectively will fulfill its purpose, and this is accomplished invincibly by God’s hand. Even though one part of the body may not know or understand the function of another part, God is able to make everything work together for one purpose, to build up His kingdom.
To make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things; 10 to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: – Eph 3.9-11
Each Church throughout history had its own selected deacons and members to uphold the duties of the congregation, with Christ as the head. There is no need for a central organization to be the one and only governing control of the entire Church on earth, as its origins and directions come from heaven, from Christ it head, and from God the Father. So there are multiple visible Churches on earth, all belonging to one spiritual Church in heaven. Also there are multiple leaders of the various Churches, not just one physical person who is head or lord, not one pope or bishop, as the highest position is for our spiritual head – Jesus Christ. The divisions among churches also serve as a system of checks and balances to ensure a diversion from corruption that always follows from one central human leadership. This aversion from human corruption can be seen as God has created so many different denominations, a separation but also unity among believers.
Look ye out therefore, brethren, from among you seven men of good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. – Acts 6.3
I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. – 1 Corin 11.3
Local Church Ordinances & Functions
Autonomy of Local Churches
Each Church retained its own autonomy in most instances throughout the New Testament, the details seen in the following outline:
- Each Church retained its own officer (Phil 1.1; Acts 14.2)
- Own Membership Role (1 Tim 5.9)
- Elected its own officers (Acts 6.1-7)
- Sent its own representatives (Acts 15.2)
- Maintained its own judgment and contingency plans ( 1Corin 6.1-5)
- Maintained its own disciplinary system (1 Corin 5.1-5)
- Extended fellowship & cooperation to other local Churches (Gal 2.9; 2 Corin 8.8-19)
- Sent missionaries (Acts 13.2)
- Each had its own relationship to the head (Rev 1-3)
- Maintained the ability to create its own internal ordinances (1 Corin 11.23)
God give the ordinances directly to the church to disciple its own members. The most extreme discipline was the cutting off of their fellowship with that person, if they refuse to repent. We are called not to judge those outside the church, as it is already condemned, but believers are given full authority to judge sin in the church and to keep it corrected, in order to stop sin from spreading. Discipline needs to be defined in wisdom and guidance just as the Bible instructs us.
It is actually reported that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not even among the Gentiles, that one of you hath his father’s wife. 2 And ye are puffed up, and did not rather mourn, that he that had done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I verily, being absent in body but present in spirit, have already as though I were present judged him that hath so wrought this thing, 4 in the name of our Lord Jesus, ye being gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. – 1 Corin 5.1-5
Let it be enough for such a man to have undergone the punishment which the church put on him; 7 So that now, on the other hand, it is right for him to have forgiveness and comfort from you, for fear that his sorrow may be over-great. – 2 Corin 2.6-7
And you, my brothers, do not get tired of well-doing. 14 And if any man does not give attention to what we have said in this letter, take note of that man, and keep away from him, so that he may be shamed. – 2 Thess 3.13-14
Judgment & Contingency
The Bible clearly states what we should do to appeal to a brother who is either in sin or that has personally wronged us. First, we are to make it clear to them and sometimes it may take more than one time of explanation to help someone understand your personal point of view. Second, giving your opinion to more than one person and getting someone else who is wise and experienced, and who is unbiased to intermediate the situation between the two of you to help bring a resolution to the matter.
If your brother does wrong to you, go, make clear to him his error between you and him in private: if he gives ear to you, you have got your brother back again. 16 But if he will not give ear to you, take with you one or two more, that by the lips of two or three witnesses every word may be made certain. 17 And if he will not give ear to them, let it come to the hearing of the church: and if he will not give ear to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-farmer. – Matthew 18.15-17
Missionaries should be well supported and commissioned by every church and group of believers. Each church should have their own group of missionaries that they support and/or train for the work of the gospel.
Now there were at Antioch, in the church there, prophets and teachers, Barnabas, and Symeon who was named Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, a relation of Herod the king, and Saul. 2 And while they were doing the Lord’s work, and going without food, the Holy Spirit said, Let Barnabas and Saul be given to me for the special work for which they have been marked out by me. 3 Then, after prayer and going without food they put their hands on them, and sent them away. – Acts 13.1-3
Sacraments are traditions that have a deep spiritual meaning in relation to the believer(s), and should be properly maintained as God directs us. Just as in the Old Testament, most sacraments are symbols of heavenly or spiritual things and are used in traditions for the remembrance or symbolic meaning of some historic event or spiritual concept.
The Sacrament of Baptism
Baptism by water is an action believers undergo to symbolize they have died to themselves in the flesh, and are being born again, alive in the spirit. Baptism is performed by dipping or submerging a person completely in water, and bringing them out immediately. Baptism of water is a baptism of repentance, but the true baptism is that of spiritual fire from the Holy Spirit. Baptism is a symbol of repentance for those who believe, and this is the qualifying agent for whom should be baptized, those whom choose to repent from their sins and desire to come to God to change their lives.
Jesus came to them and said, All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go then, and make disciples of all the nations, giving them baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 Teaching them to keep all the rules which I have given you: and see, I am ever with you, even to the end of the world. – Matthew 28.18-20
Jesus said in answer, Truly, I say to you, If a man’s birth is not from water and from the Spirit, it is not possible for him to go into the kingdom of God. – John 3.5
And now, why are you waiting? get up, and have baptism, for the washing away of your sins, giving worship to his name. – Acts 22.16
We have been placed with him among the dead through baptism into death: so that as Christ came again from the dead by the glory of the Father, we, in the same way, might be living in new life. – Rom 6.4
Having been put to death with him in baptism, by which you came to life again with him, through faith in the working of God, who made him come back from the dead. – Col 2.12
Now I am going to make clear to you, my brothers, what the good news was which I gave to you, and which you took, and on which your faith is based, 2 By which you have salvation; that is to say, the form in which it was given to you, if it is fixed in your minds, and if your faith in it is not without effect. 3 For I gave to you first of all what was handed down to me, how Christ underwent death for our sins, as it says in the Writings; 4 And he was put in the place of the dead; and on the third day he came back from the dead, as it says in the Writings; 5 And he was seen by Cephas; then by the twelve; 6 Then by more than five hundred brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, but some are sleeping; 7 Then he was seen by James; then by all the Apostles. 8 And last of all, as by one whose birth was out of the right time, he was seen by me. 1 Corin 15.1-8
Do You HAVE To Be Baptized To Be Saved?
Salvation comes by grace alone, and has nothing to do with the symbolic baptism of water, fact is that there were many believers in the New Testament that received the water baptism but still never received the Holy Spirit baptism. Some people believe that unless you receive water baptism you are not saved, but this is not true as the Bible teaches we are saved by faith alone. Take the thief on the cross for instance he died right after asking Jesus for forgiveness (Luke 23.32-43).
By grace you have salvation through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is given by God: – Eph 2.8
And he said to them, Did you get the Holy Spirit when you had faith? And they said to him, No, we have had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit. – Acts 19.2
Paul said, John gave a baptism which goes with a change of heart, saying to the people that they were to have faith in him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus. Act 19:5 And hearing this, they had baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus. Act 19:6 And when Paul had put his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they had the power of talking in tongues, and acting like prophets. – Acts 19.1-6
Þ see Salvation by Faith Alone
The Sacrament of Holy Communion (Euharist)
Holy Communion is the remembrance of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, that He shed His blood and died for our sins. Communion is performed by sitting down with other believers and eating bread (usually without yeast because yeast symbolizes sin) and drinking wine while remembering what Jesus did on the cross for us. The wine symbolizes His innocent blood shed for sins and the bread represents His body broken for us in punishment for our own sins. The Holy Communion is a sacred symbol of eating Jesus body (the bread) and drinking His blood (the wine). In which Jesus said unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no part with me. During communion, these symbolic elements of bread and wine are in remembrance of what Jesus did for us on the cross, and the last supper He had with His disciples.
Then he said to Thomas, Put out your finger, and see my hands; and put your hand here into my side: and be no longer in doubt but have belief. 28 And Thomas said in answer, My Lord and my God! – John 20.28
And when they were taking food, Jesus took bread and, after blessing it, he gave the broken bread to the disciples and said, Take it; this is my body. – Matt 26.26
And when it had been broken with an act of praise, he said, This is my body which is for you: do this in memory of me. – 1 Corin 11.24
Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you, If you do not take the flesh of the Son of man for food, and if you do not take his blood for drink, you have no life in you. 54 He who takes my flesh for food and my blood for drink has eternal life: and I will take him up from the dead at the last day. 55 My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. – John 6.53-55
Systematic Theology – In One Volume; Norman L. Geisler. Bethany House, Minneapolis, MN.