the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)
In this second lesson of our study on the Lord’s church, we will begin looking at the church’s four part role in the lives of those who have been saved by God’s grace by supplying care, the opportunity to serve, fellowship, and encouragement.
In our previous study we found that the Lord’s churches on earth can be defined as “A LOCAL, VISIBLE ASSEMBLY OF SAINTS THAT HAS BEEN SUMMONED BY GOD, MAKING IT UNIQUE FROM ALL OTHERS ASSEMBLIES IN THIS WORLD.”
As our study continued, we saw that the church, being a local body, helped us to understand that it was established to minister, first and foremost, in the local area in which it is situated. Then we also learned that because the churches of the Lord are visible, they were meant to be a public, visible display of His love, care and grace towards those in that local community.
In today’s study we will be looking at the church’s characteristic of being an “assembly of saints”. Please note that the Lord’s church is a group that is made up of individual members that have trusted in Christ as their Lord and Savior, and have professed this faith publically through the ordinance of baptism.
41) Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added [unto them] about three thousand souls. 42) And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:41-42)
Please notice in the above text, we find a clear order to events that result in church membership…
1. The people “gladly received the word”, this is the acceptance of the truths of the gospel message resulting in belief in Christ as Lord and Savior.
2. They “were baptized”, following their salvation they were in submission to the will of God by publically confessing their faith by being baptized.
3. Following their baptism, we find them uniting with the local assembly “added unto them about three thousand souls”
4. Their newly experienced church membership resulted in them being taught “they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine”; enjoying fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ “fellowship”; communal worship enhanced through the observance of the Lord’s supper “in breaking of bread” and joint prayers “prayers” .
Using this as the basic outline of our study, let’s begin looking at the church’s benefits that are offered to the saints of God:
1. The Teaching Of God’s Word: Ephesians 4:11-16
11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14) That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ: 16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
The Lord gifted the men found in verse 11 to reveal the Word to believers through the ministry of His churches. The apostles were inspired to reveal the NT scriptures. The prophets were inspired to reveal the OT words of God. Once the OT and NT were completed, the ministry of these offices were brought to an end. Now the Lord uses evangelists (missionaries), pastors, and other teachers of the Word to teach the completed Scriptures to those who are members of His assembly.
The purpose of all of these men’s ministries is to teach His Word in an understandable fashion so the members of His church so that they can become mature Christians, equipped for service and able to discern true teaching from error.
2. Fellowship and opportunities of service for Christ: 1 Corinthians 12:20-31
18) But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19) And if they were all one member, where [were] the body? 20) But now [are they] many members, yet but one body. 21) And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22) Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23) And those [members] of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely [parts] have more abundant comeliness. 24) For our comely [parts] have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that [part] which lacked: 25) That there should be no schism in the body; but [that] the members should have the same care one for another. 26) And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27) Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28) And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29) [Are] all apostles? [are] all prophets? [are] all teachers? [are] all workers of miracles? 30) Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 31) But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:18-31)
Please notice the opportunities to serve the Lord in His assemblies are implied throughout this passage. All the opportunities that open to us to support, help and share in the lives of other church members. All of these are opportunities of service to Christ.
The offices of service mentioned in verses 28-31 were given to the local assemblies to reveal God’s Word, teach God’s Word and accredit the church and her message. Most of these offices no longer exist in the local assembly to day (see vs 8-11 for a complete listing of the gifts that no longer exist), as they came to an end at the completion of the revelation of His Word to man in approximately 100 AD. (more on this later in our study)
3. Enriched Communal Worship: Ordinances (Baptism, Lord’s Supper) and Enhanced Prayer
18) And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)
The ordinance of baptism is given to the local church as a part of the great commission.
23) For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the [same] night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24) And when he had given thanks, he brake [it], and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25) After the same manner also [he took] the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink [it], in remembrance of me. 26) For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 27) Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink [this] cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28) But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of [that] bread, and drink of [that] cup. 29) For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30) For this cause many [are] weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31) For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32) But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 33) Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34) And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come. (1 Corinthians 11:23-34)
The responsibility of observing the Lord’s Supper is expounded by the Apostle Paul to the local church at Corinth.
15) Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16) But if he will not hear [thee, then] take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17) And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell [it] unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18) Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19) Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20) For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:15-20)
In the context of church discipline and local church authority, we are told that no matter how small an assembly of believers, when they are gathered and in prayer making requests according to His will great things can take place and Christ is in their midst.
Based on our studies so far we can see that the nature of the Lord’s church includes:
1. An assembly of individuals
2. A local assembly
3. A visible assembly
4. A called our assembly
5. A unique assembly
In the second part of our study we saw that the church, as an assembly offers to Christians the three-fold blessing of:
1. the teaching of God’s Word – to strengthen, mature and ground them.
2. the care and fellowship of other believers
3. opportunities of service to Christ.
4. enriched worship of the Lord through the observance of the ordinances and enhanced prayer effectiveness.
Why should we should attend, join and support the ministries of a local church? I supplies to us the teachings of God’s Word, fellowship with believers and enriched worship.
May the Lord bless us as we seek His truth.
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