Must I believe the church is important?

Q. I believe that I am a Christian but I do not believe in the church. I feel that a person can be close to God but not a member of any church. I’ve also heard it said that the church was an afterthought with God. I feel what is important is a close communion with God. What do you think?

In his revelation to us, God described the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in various ways. He obviously did this that we might be able to understand the nature of the church and to perceive its importance. We refer to these various descriptions as “pictures” or “figures.” God simply used things with which people were familiar in order to convey great spiritual truths.

I. The word church (ekklesia).

A. Can be used to mean assembly (I Cor. 14:23).
B. Can refer to the invisible, universal church (Matt. 16:18).
C. Can refer to a local congregation ( I Cor. 1:2).
D. Can refer to several congregations in a region (Acts 9:31).
31* So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.

(1) As a family. God is our Heavenly Father.

James 1:18
18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. The apostle Paul, recognizing the greatness and goodness of God in providing salvation for us in Christ, wrote,

Ephesians 3:14-15
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, People are begotten of God when they believe the gospel, and they are born into his family when they obey the terms of pardon revealed in the gospel. God had promised these, contingent upon their willingness to sanctify themselves,

2 Cor. 6:18
18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.

As his children, Christians should most assuredly bear the image of the Father. Members of the church have been called into fellowship with Christ

1 Corinthians 1:9
9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

We are in fellowship with the Father, and with one another (See 1 John 1:3-4). Therefore, being brothers and sisters in God’s family is a close and wonderful relationship of kindred spirits.

(2) As the body of Christ.

In a beautiful context of scripture, Paul made a comparison between a physical body, and the spiritual body of Christ. A physical body is composed of many parts, but it is just one body. So also is the church. Composed of many members, yet all of them functioning harmoniously together for the ongoing of the body. Thus, the church must be united for God’s design and purpose for it to be realized. (1 Cor. 12:24-25, 27).

Rom. 12:4,5
3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,

God gave Christ “to be head over all things to the church, which is his body” (Eph. 1:22-23).

And Paul made it clear that there is only “one body” (Eph. 4:4).

A. Ephesians 1:22-23.

Eph. 1:22,23
22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

B. Colossians 1:18

Colossians 1:18
18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.

C. To be in the body of Christ is to be in Christ; to be in the body of Christ is to be in the church.

D. To claim salvation outside of the church is to claim salvation outside of Christ.

E. There are no spiritual blessings outside of the church.

Ephesians 1:3
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

2. To be in Christ is to be in His body, which is His church; therefore, all spiritual blessings are in the church, and there are no spiritual blessings outside of the church (body of Christ).

3. Salvation is a spiritual blessing; salvation can be realized only in the church.

(3) As a bride.

The church is married (spiritually speaking, of course) to Christ. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and said,

2 Cor. 11:2
2 For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.

Eph 5:25-27
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

Rev. 19:7, 21:9.
7 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”

21:9 9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

Note also Romans 7:4.
4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

(4) As a kingdom..

The church is in subjection to Jesus Christ, who is the king of his kingdom. Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. He said, “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), simply meaning that it was never intended by God to be an earthly, temporal domain, as the one over which Saul, David, and Solomon reigned. Christ’s kingdom is a heavenly kingdom, and thus, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). And yet, his spiritual kingdom is very definitely is existence upon the earth, as it has been since its establishment in 33 A.D. on the Jewish feast day called Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2. Paul informed the Christians in Colossae that God “delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (Col. 1:13). The evangelist Philip went down to Samaria and preached unto those people “concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12). In about 96 A.D., the apostle John, writing to the seven churches of Asia, expressed that Christ “loved us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us to be a kingdom” (Revelation 1:5-6). The kingdom is not something yet to come. . . it has already come! The church and the kingdom are one and the same thing. To be a member of the Lord’s church is to be a citizen of his kingdom.

(5) As a flock.

Luke 12:32
32* “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Jesus Christ is the shepherd of the sheep, and Christians are depicted as sheep. Thus, the church is dependent upon the love and care of the Shepherd. The church heeds his voice, “and the sheep follow him” (John 10:4).

John 10:16
16* “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. The apostle Peter admonished those who were serving as elders in the church to “tend the flock of God which is among you” (1 Peter 5:2), “and when the chief Shepherd shall be manifested, ye shall receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away” (verse 4). As sheep having gone astray, Christians are a people “now returned unto the Shepherd” (1 Peter 2:25).

(6) As a house.

The church is not a building made of brick, stone, or wood. It is a spiritual house. The apostle Peter wrote to Christians

1 Pet 2:5
5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

I Tim. 3:15
15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus:

Eph. 2:20-21
20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,

Heb. 3:6
6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house–whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.

I Cor. 3:16
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

(7) As a vineyard.

There were many vineyards in Palestine, where our Lord lived and taught during his personal ministry. He used that with which the people of his day were so familiar to illustrate that there is work to be done in service to God. Thus, the kingdom, or church, is compared to a vineyard.

Matthew 20:1-16
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 “When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; 4 and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. 5 “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. 6 “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he *said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ 7 “They *said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He *said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard *said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ 9 “When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. 10 “When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11 “When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’ 13 “But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 ‘Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ 16 “So the last shall be first, and the first last.”

Paul urged Christians to “be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that labor is not vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). In the context of Matthew 21:28-41 Jesus employed the figure of the vineyard to give even more insight into the nature of the kingdom.

*** All the saved are in the church.

1. Acts 2:47

Acts 2:47
47* praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

2. God adds to the church ‘those who are saved,’ those not added to the church are not saved.

3. If all the saved are in the church, then there are no saved people outside the church.

*** The church was purchased by the blood of Jesus.

1. Acts 20:28

Acts 20:28
28* “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

2. Christ did not suffer and die at Calvary to purchase something that is unimportant.

*** Our attitude toward the church is our attitude toward Jesus.

Acts 9:1

1* Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2. The church is made up of all the people who are saved -Acts 2:47; I Pet. 2:5,9. 3. When Saul persecuted the disciples, he was persecuting the church.

Acts 9:4-5
3* As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4* and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5. The church is the body of Jesus 6. When Saul persecuted the disciples (church), he persecuted Jesus. 7. Our attitude toward the church is our attitude toward Jesus. If the church is unimportant, Jesus is unimportant.

I. Entrance into the Church.

Mark 16:16
16* “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

Gal. 3:26,27
26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Rom. 6:1-4
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

(8) As a pearl.

Matt. 13:45-46
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

In giving this parable, Jesus masterfully taught the incomparable value of the kingdom, and all that is entailed in that word. Involved, in understanding this, is salvation from sin and participation in all the spiritual blessings God has so graciously provided in Christ.

Eph. 1:3
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”

This , then, is the pearl of great price! No amount of earthly wealth. . . in fact, the whole world. . . can be compared to the value of a person’s soul being saved!

Jesus asked,

Matt. 16:26
“For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul”? People who receive these teachings of Christ into their hearts with perceptive understanding will make whatever sacrifices are necessary in order to possess the kingdom and its blessings as a reality in this life. To be a member of the Lord’s church, is the greatest blessing and joy a person can experience!

(9) As an army.

Certainly the church is “at war” with the forces of evil. But the warfare is not a carnal warfare, with planes, tanks, guns, and bombs. Paul wrote to Christians,

2 Cor. 10:3-4
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

He urged Timothy to “suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 2:3). And he wrote to the Ephesian Christians, exhorting them to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Please read the context of Eph. 6:10-17).

(10) As a candlestick. In the second and third chapters of Revelation, the Lord wrote through John, letters to the seven churches which were located in what is now the westernmost part of the country of Turkey. And in the symbolic language that introduces these letters, Jesus used candlesticks to refer to those seven congregations.

***”The seven candlesticks are seven churches”

Rev. 1:12
12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands

How important is light to you? Jesus said to his disciples

Matt. 5:14-16
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 “nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Phil. 2:15-16
15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

(11) Sanctuary –

Heb. 8:2
a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.’

(12) The true tabernacle –

Heb. 13:10
10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.

(13) House of prayer

Luke 19:46
46* saying to them, “It is written, ‘AND MY HOUSE SHALL BE A HOUSE OF PRAYER,’ but you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”

(14) Assembly of the saints – Ps. 89:7;

James 2:2
2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes,

(15) School –

John 6:45
45 “It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.

Acts 2:42
42* They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

I Cor. 4:17
17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.

I Cor.12:28
28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?

Col. 1:28
28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

(16) Church of God –

2 Cor. 1:1
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia:

I Thess. 1:1
1 Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

2 Thess. 1:1
1 Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

I Cor. 11:16
16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.

(17) General assembly of the Firstborn –

Heb. 12:23
23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

(18) God’s husbandry (Farm) – Matt. 13:19-23; 37-43; Mark 4:14-20; Jn. 15:1-8.

(19) God’s heritage –

Eph. 1:11
11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will’

(20) Church of Christ – Romans 16:16 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

Colossians 1:18
18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.

** To be in the body of Christ is to be in Christ; to be in the body of Christ is to be in the church.

** To claim salvation outside of the church is to claim salvation outside of Christ.

** There are no spiritual blessings outside of the church.

1. Ephesians 1:3.

Ephesians 1:3
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

2. To be in Christ is to be in His body, which is His church; therefore, all spiritual blessings are in the church, and there are no spiritual blessings outside of the church (body of Christ).

3. Salvation is a spiritual blessing; salvation can be realized only in the church.

F. All the saved are in the church.

1. Acts 2:47

Acts 2:47
47* praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

2. God adds to the church ‘those who are saved,’ those not added to the church are not saved.

3. If all the saved are in the church, then there are no saved people outside the church.

G. The church was purchased by the blood of Jesus.

1. Acts 20:28

Acts 20:28
28* “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

2. Christ did not suffer and die at Calvary to purchase something that is unimportant.

H. Our attitude toward the church is our attitude toward Jesus.

Acts 9:1
1* Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,

2. The church is made up of all the people who are saved –

Acts 2:47; I Pet. 2:5,9.

3. When Saul persecuted the disciples, he was persecuting the church.

Acts 9:4-5
3* As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4* and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5. The church is the body of Jesus 6. When Saul persecuted the disciples (church), he persecuted Jesus. 7. Our attitude toward the church is our attitude toward Jesus. If the church is unimportant, Jesus is unimportant.

I. Entrance into the Church.

1. Mark 16:16
“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

2. Gal. 3:26,27
26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

3. Rom. 6:1-4
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

God used these “figures” in Holy Writ to give you insight and understanding into the nature of the church, and what it means to be a Christian. The church is God designed. The pattern for it is in the New Testament. Those saved by the gospel are added to it. We all need to gain as much knowledge of God’s eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ and which was made known through the church (see Eph. 3:8-11), as we possibly can.

This material is from the book “Distinctive Features of the New Testament Church” chapter “Described By Many Figures“, by Maxie Boren.

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