Church – composition

The New Testament in the Bible defines the church as the body of Christ.

[see John 2,18-22; Ephesians 1,22-23; Colossians 1,24 & 2,19]
It is the God ordained means by which Jesus Christ continues to be present in the world, and its task is to continue  his ministry.
It began with
A. Instructions and B. Empowerment
The instructions
Jesus gave certain instructions to his closest followers, the apostles, before he ascended to heaven.
In the 28th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel account we read:
All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach  all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you alway, unto the end of the world.
The ministers of Christ’s church are therefore charged to
  • teach/preach
  • baptize
God’s appointed servants have the authority to minister the Word of God – ie teaching about Jesus Christ and how to follow him;  and they are to bring in members to the body of Christ by baptism which means the full immersion in water of a person who believes
But the apostles were also told to wait in Jerusalem.
This they did, and we read in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles that they
continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.
So, they heard their instructions, and then waited actively upon God in prayer for God to do as he had promised. They did not act on their own ideas or in their own strength but waited for God.
Ten days later came the promised Pentecost outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the empowerment – recorded in chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles.
2. The empowerment – Pentecost
The Holy Spirit is recorded as coming upon the disciples in manifest power, enabling them to speak in foreign languages and to be heard and understood by foreign visitors to Jerusalem speaking about the wonderful works of God.
The first thing which the Holy Spirit did was to confirm the instruction given by Jesus – the Holy Spirit will never contradict God’s written word, but confirm it.
The Holy Spirit spoke about the wonderful works of God – he glorified God.
This is the work and manifestation of the true Holy Spirit – to give God glory and to confirm his Word, both Christ and his teaching. And it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church which enables the church to carry out its God given role.
Human ideas and effort only inhibit the true work of the church
Under this inspiration, we read that Peter then got up and preached about Jesus Christ – his credentials as Messiah, his death and his resurrection. Exactly in accordance with what Jesus had told the apostles to do.
In the face of such powerfully inspired preaching, the people who heard were convicted of their sinfulness and cried out asking what they should do.
In answer, Peter then said:
Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The Acts account continues, saying:
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added about 3,000 souls
The key phases to note in this process of conversion were:
  1. Hearing and heeding the instruction
  2. waiting and praying
  3. preaching and teaching about Christ
  4. requiring repentance  and baptism of the hearers
Only those who heard the Holy Spirit anointed preaching about Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection could respond and – as it were – apply for membership of Christ’s church.
They had to
  • accept God’s verdict on their sinfulness
  • believe God’s answer that Jesus Christ was the solution to their sinfulness
  • be baptized to identify with Jesus death and resurrection
  • confess and confirm their adherence by being seen among the disciples
  • devote themselves to a wholly new way of life
For we read in verse 42 that those who were added to the church by receiving the Word and by being baptized then devoted themselves to 4 key activities.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Now this is vital to understand because all sorts of ideas and religious practices have developed over the years to obscure the fundamental functions of the church.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
  1. the apostles doctrine – the teaching about Jesus Christ, his ministry, death and resurrection
  2. fellowship – associating together with other believers who live the way which Jesus tells us to live, forsaking the self centred and immoral ways of the world about us
  3. breaking of bread – the act of taking the bread and wine with other believers in obedience to Jesus instruction to do so in remembrance of him, of his death and resurrection, of his ascension and his future return to Judge the world’s sin
  4. Prayer – the coming to God recognising just who he is in worship, and knowing our utter dependence on him for our very lives, for all we need, and for him to work in us and through us
And as the early believers lived in this way, there emerged the witness and the evangelism the church is required to do – recorded for us in the following chapters of the book of Acts.
We today are no less dependent on God and on his instruction manual,  the Bible.
The church today can only be the true church if it heeds and acts on the instructions Christ gave in the beginning.
The church has been authorised by the one who has been given all authority in heaven and in earth, and it is charged to go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing …
May God grant us grace to be obedient to his word and to his design.
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