What is the Church?

Lesson 10, Part 3

4/8

Why the Church?

For many people a church is mostly a social club or a place to be seen as an upstanding member of the community. But God had a bigger purpose in mind for His called-out people. We can have a role in the greatest work being done on earth today!

What job has Christ called the Church to do now?

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Jesus commissioned His Church to do His work. God calls Church members to support the work of preaching the good news — the gospel — of Christ’s coming Kingdom to the whole world. In this way members of the Church are coworkers with Christ in this crucially important work. The gospel of the Kingdom of God, as explained in Lesson 6 , is being proclaimed using modern means like the Internet, radio, television and the printing press, as well as the spoken word.

What else can God use to draw people to the gospel message?

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

The example of Church members plays a big part in the work God calls the Church to do. Their positive example is a fruit of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of God’s “called, chosen and faithful” servants (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Revelation 17:14).

Also, by making the changes in our lives necessary to set a godly example, we prepare ourselves for the work God has for us in the future. The Christian life is a training ground for future service in the Kingdom of God.

What roles are Church members preparing to fulfill in God’s Kingdom?

“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth” (Revelation 5:10, New Revised Standard Version).

“Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (Daniel 7:27).

“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).

Even though Paul refers to members of the Church as the weak of the world—in contrast to those who are the powerful of the world (1 Corinthians 1:27)—membership in the Church is, in a real sense, God’s training program to prepare His people for great roles of service in this age and the age to come. Those who are presently considered the weak, in the eyes of those who are the wise and powerful in this world, will become kings and priests with Christ through the transforming power of God’s Spirit working in them.

 

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Those who are presently considered the weak, in the eyes of those who are the wise and powerful in this world, will become kings and priests with Christ through the transforming power of God’s Spirit working in them.

How do our actions in this life provide a training ground for future rulership?

“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12).

“Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities’ ” (Luke 19:16-17).

Each little decision we make can be a building block for a solid foundation of faithfulness on which God can build great things. Our faithful attention to details of God’s instruction does not go unnoticed by Jesus, our Savior and High Priest.

Does the growth-and-training process for these high offices involve testing and trials?

“I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).

So they may be able, in the future, to serve those who have experienced the full range of human suffering, God’s chosen people experience trials in today’s evil world. But through God’s help they can rise above the fray by striving to mirror the attitudes and character Christ demonstrated in the midst of His trials.

How will leaders in God’s Kingdom rule?

“But Jesus called [the disciples] to Himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

The leaders of this world naturally seek their own benefit, often to the detriment of those they rule. Christ set the example of leadership that benefits those served, what we might call “servant leadership.” We can learn from His example and instructions the way to honor and provide for those who are in our care when we become priests and rulers in the Kingdom of God (Revelation 20:6).

What is a primary function of a priest?

“For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 2:7).

One of the responsibilities of priests is to teach the right application of God’s law, which affects every aspect of life. As future priests Church members must themselves learn now how to apply God’s laws and prepare to educate others. A teacher who doesn’t practice what he teaches doesn’t have much credibility with his students. But, in God’s plan, teachers will have complete credibility. The students will know that the teachers have thoroughly prepared and mastered the material—God’s truth.

What is the basis for godly rulership?

“… It shall be, when he [Israel’s king] sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left …” (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).

God commanded the kings of Israel to personally write out a copy of His law and regularly study and apply it during their reigns. By doing so, said God, they would be humble and virtuous rulers. God’s righteous law will be the foundation and standard for all who reign as kings and priests in the Kingdom of God.

What Did the Early Church Believe and Practice?

Shouldn't you look into your Bible to see if your beliefs and practices square with what Jesus and His apostles practiced and taught?

The book of Acts is an eyewitness account of the early Church from Christ’s death until about A.D. 60. Chapter 2 records the beginning of the Church, when God sent His Spirit to 120 followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

Many Bible readers are familiar with the miraculous events of that day—of the house in which the disciples met filling with the sound of a mighty wind and what appeared to be tongues of fire alighting on those gathered there. Another miracle occurred as those people, now filled with God’s Spirit, began to speak in the languages of people from many lands so that all could understand their words.

Often overlooked in this account is the specific day on which these events occurred, the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1), one of the festivals God commanded for His people many centuries before (Leviticus 23). In revealing these festivals, God said that “these are My feasts … These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations …” (Leviticus 23:2-4). God proclaimed these festivals to be “a statute forever throughout your generations” (Leviticus 23:14; Leviticus 23:21; Leviticus 23:31; Leviticus 23:41).

The Gospels show Jesus keeping the same festivals (Matthew 26:17-19; John 7:10-14, John 7:37-38). Both the book of Acts and Paul’s letters show the apostles keeping the festivals during the decades after Christ’s crucifixion (Acts 2:1-4; Acts 18:21; Acts 20:6, Acts 20:16; Acts 27:9).

Most churches teach that the festivals were “nailed to the cross,” that they were somehow annulled by Christ’s death. Yet the unmistakable record of the Bible is that the early Church continued to observe them, but with greater grasp of their spiritual significance.

Speaking of one of these God-given feasts, the apostle Paul urged the Church congregation in Corinth—a mixed group of gentile and Jewish believers—to “keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8). Paul was obviously referring to keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6; Deuteronomy 16:16).

Paul explained the significance of the Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7; Leviticus 23:5) and gave instructions on how to properly observe this ceremony (1 Corinthians 11:23-28).

Paul preachingThe many references in the Gospels, Acts and Paul’s epistles prompt an obvious question: Since Jesus, the apostles and the early Church kept these days, why don’t churches teach and observe them today? After all, Paul directly tied the feasts to Jesus, His purpose and His sacrifice for mankind (1 Corinthians 5:7).

The Gospels and Acts are equally clear that Christ, the disciples and the early Church kept the weekly Sabbath—from Friday evening to Saturday evening, the seventh day of the week—as their day of rest and worship (Mark 6:2; Luke 4:16, Luke 4:31-32; Luke 13:10; Acts 13:14-44; Acts 18:4). Jesus even called Himself “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28).

It was Jesus’ custom to go to the synagogue every Sabbath to worship (Luke 4:16). Contrary to the teaching of those who say that Paul abandoned the Sabbath, it was his custom, too, to go to the synagogue every Sabbath (Acts 17:1-3), using the opportunity to teach others about Jesus as Savior and Messiah.

The weekly Sabbath is another of God’s festivals, like those mentioned earlier. It is, in fact, the first of His feasts listed (Leviticus 23:1-4). It is also included in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15).

As with God’s other feasts, the Sabbath is ignored by the overwhelming majority of churches. Rather than keeping the Sabbath as God commanded, most churches meet on the first day of the week—Sunday—a day nowhere commanded in the Bible as a day of worship. Why? If we are to observe any day as a weekly day of rest and worship, shouldn’t it be the same day Jesus and the apostles kept?

We find other differences in teaching and practice. Many churches teach that obedience to God’s law is unnecessary, that Christ kept it for us or it was “nailed to the cross” with Christ. This is directly contrary to Jesus’ own words (Matthew 4:4; Matthew 5:17-19) and the teaching and practice of the apostles (Acts 24:14; Acts 25:8; Romans 7:12-22; 1 Corinthians 7:19; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Following Christ’s example, the apostles powerfully preached about His return to establish the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:43; Luke 8:1; Luke 21:27-31; Acts 1:3; Acts 8:12; Acts 14:22; Acts 19:8; Acts 28:23-31). But Paul warned that, even in his day, some already preached “a different gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6).

We see much confusion in churches about what the gospel is. Most view it as a message about Christ’s birth, life and death without understanding why He came and why He had to die. Few proclaim the message of God’s Kingdom that Jesus Himself taught (Mark 1:14-15).

Similarly, Jesus and the apostles never taught that the righteous ascend to heaven at death (John 3:13; Acts 2:29-34), and they understood that man does not possess an immortal soul (Ezekiel 18:4-20; Matthew 10:28) that would spend eternity in either heaven or hell.

Nowhere do we find popular religious holidays such as Christmas approved in the Bible. The only time Easter is mentioned in the Bible (Acts 12:4, King James Version) it is a blatant mistranslation of the Greek word for Passover. Lent and its practices are nowhere found.

The early Church also followed God’s instructions regarding which meats were suitable to be eaten (Acts 10:9-14). These clean and unclean meats are listed in Leviticus 11:1-47 (you can learn more on this subject by reading our free booklet What Does the Bible Teach About Clean and Unclean Meats? ).

These are some of the major differences between the Christianity of the time of Christ and the apostles and that commonly practiced today. Shouldn’t you look into your Bible to see if your beliefs and practices square with what Jesus and His apostles practiced and taught?

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