the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)
In this third lesson of our study on the Lord’s church, we will begin looking at the church’s promised span and purpose of existence in this sin darkened world.
Our Lord has clearly shown us the “lifespan” of His local assemblies on earth…
1. The Lord’s church began with the call of His disciples to form an assembly of followers: 1 Corinthians 12:27-31, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-20
“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 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. [Are] all apostles? [are] all prophets? [are] all teachers? [are] all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)
Here, we are told that the first members of that the Lord called into His assembly were His apostles. In the beginning times of the Jerusalem assembly, you have the Lord as the Pastor/Teacher of the assembly with the other apostles making up the membership of the church. The only other office that was existing in the beginning days of the church was the office of Treasurer into which Judas was placed (John 13:29).
Keep in mind, all of the Apostles, as well as Christ Himself, had been baptized by John the Baptist. This baptism followed the apostles’ fruits of repentance and made them eligible to obtain church membership (Mark 1:4). This is one aspect of John the Baptist’s ministry of which it was said that he was to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Mark 1:2), by making them eligible for membership in the Lord’s first assembly on earth.
The actual beginning of the Lord’s church is described for us in detail in two passages that describe the same historical event..
“And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth [unto him] whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: And Simon he surnamed Peter;
17) And James the [son] of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the [son] of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.” (Mark 3:13-19)
In these verses, we can see that the Lord chose these original twelve apostles to fulfill specific duties, one of which was to BE WITH HIM. In other words, they were chosen to accompany Him and be pastored by Him. Christ fulfilled His role of pastor to them as He led them, taught them, and protected them. All of this was done to prepare them for their future, permanent, ministries that would begin at Pentecost (the EMPOWERING of the local assembly for ministry in Christ’s absence by the Holy Spirit) (Acts 2:1-36).
“And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called [unto him] his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the [son] of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas [the brother] of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor. And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed [them] all. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed [be ye] poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. (Luke 6:12-20)
The Lord began His church by choosing, and assembling His apostles (here they are called “his disciples”), who are separated from the crowds that had gathered. Then they rejoined the crowds and ministered to them.
Following their ministry to the crowds, the LORD BEGAN TO TEACH HIS CHURCH (ie His disciples) as He shared with them the Sermon on the Mount. This is clearly seen by Him looking directly on His disciples as He taught. In other words, when the Lord taught the Sermon on the Mount, He was teaching His disciples (ie His church, His apostles) as the crowds looked on.
2. The Lord’s church will continue to exist on earth until He comes back at His second coming: Matthew 16:16-20, Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Corinthians 11:25-26
“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.” (Matthew 16:16-20)
In the above text we can see that the Lord is making a clear promise that the His church will not be overcome, die a slow death and go out of existence. Not Satan, not the powers of darkness, NOTHING will gain a lasting complete victory over all of His assemblies on earth. Individual church assemblies may come and go, but there will always be at least one of the Lord’s churches in existence to minister to His people and the lost world around it.
Also note the phrase “will build”. This phrase is translated from a Greek word that means “to strengthen”, “to edify”, “to add to”. This is teaching us that, at the time Jesus spoke this, the church was already in existence and He is promising He would strengthen it, prepare it and “build it up” to be able to exist until His second coming.
He did this in many ways… His personal teaching during His earthly ministry, His completion and accreditation of the inspired Word and ministry of the church of God by 100 AD, the giving of the Holy Spirit to empower His assembly at Pentecost, the establishing of other offices that would be used to further “build up” the assembly, the adding of believers to the first assembly at Jerusalem and the sending of the gospel to (and establishing His churches) throughout the Gentile world. All of these strengthened the Lord’s assemblies which enabled them to exist in His absence and in the face of all types of opposition.
(There will be much more about the “rock” being mentioned in this text in the next section of our study. For now, the only important point to be seen is that the church will not die and go out of existence.)
The Lord also explains the event that will cause His churches to go out of existence… it would not be the opposition of the powers of darkness, but the end of the current age. This will take place at His second coming….
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, 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, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
A part of the Great Commission that the Lord delivered to His local assembly was the promise of His continuing accompaniment with His churches until the “end of the world”. The term “world” was translated from a Greek word that means “age” or “specific time period” or “period of duration”. This is teaching us that the second coming of Christ, which will bring about the end of the current age in which we are living, will also bring an end to the existence of the Lord’s churches on earth.
This same principle is also supported in 1 Corinthians 11:25-26…
“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. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Corinthians 11:25-26)
The ordinance of the Lord’s supper is a church ordinance, therefore, it is under local church authority and is to be observed, and controlled by His local assemblies. Here, we are told that His churches are to be observing His supper consistently until He comes back. For His churches to be able to keep this command, His churches must be in existence until His second coming.
The Lord’s church, which started with Christ’s call to assemble given to His Apostles, will exist until the second coming of Christ.
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.
In the third, and last part of our study on the Nature of the Church, we can see that:
1. The Lord’s church began with Christ’s call for His Apostles to assemble and to accompany Him.
2. The Lord’s church would go out of existence during the age in which we live
3. The Lord’s church will not be overcome by the powers of darkness in this world
4. The Lord’s church will cease to exist at the end of this age, brought about by the second coming of Jesus.
Why should we should attend, join and support the ministries of a local church? It is promised to remain in existence until Christ comes again, therefore it can be a consistent source of instruction, fellowship, worship and opportunities of service as we live our lives on earth.
May the Lord bless us as we seek His truth.
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