The home and the church are both social units designed by God for his glory and for man's well-being. When ordered according to God's design, the two function in harmony, not in opposition. As each has swung into step with modern pace, however, the home and the church have sometimes jostled each other as strangers or even antagonists rather than co-laborers. Pace, however, is not entirely to blame. Both the modern home and the modem church have strayed from God's design, and such straying always leads to trouble. In the next several columns, we will consider how the home and the church, when functioning according to God's directions, are mutually supportive of one another
What is the Church?
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God" (1 Peter 2:9,10).
The Greek word for church literally means "the called out." In the New Testament it refers to the assembled believers who have responded to the call of God. Thus, the church is not a building made of stones, mortar, and plaster, but the assembly of Christians, believers do not really "go to church." They ARE the church--the church meets whenever and wherever believers come together.
Several figures of speech are used in the New Testament to describe the church. It is Christ's "body" (Ephesians 1:2,7); He is the head. It is Christ's "wife" (Ephesians 5:23-27); He is the husband. It is God's "building" (Ephesians 2:19-22); Jesus is the foundation and the chief cornerstone. It is Christ's "kingdom" (Colossians 1:13); God's "dear Son" is the King.
In each picture of the church, Jesus is in the forefront. He is the director, the provider, the very life of this assembly of believers. Each member receives forgiveness through His work, receives direction through His Word, receives unction and enablement through His Spirit, and is brought to maturity through interaction and service in His body.
The work of Jesus in the church is a work which will continue until the "fulness of times" when "all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth" will be gathered together (Ephesians 1:10). While each member of this assembly enters on his personal confession and faith, the work of redemption is a collective work. Through Jesus, God is calling out an assembly, "a great multitude, which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues" (Revelation 7:9). The assembling is going on now and will continue "until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Ephesians
Saints of all ages have looked forward to the culmination of this great work of God. Paul described it in vivid terms. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so will we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17). This is the final calling out, the triumphant ingathering, the great homecoming of all believers of all time to the King of kings and Lord of lords.
The church, then, is not the building on the street corner. It is the assembly of believers in whom Jesus lives and for whom He is coming again.
Membership in the Church
A proper understanding of the church is necessary for a proper understanding of church membership. Where the "church" is the building on the corner, church leaders are free to set their own entrance standards, and membership is usually little more than having one's name on a register and attending according to one's liking. If, on the other hand, we understand the church in the Biblical sense as the assembly of the redeemed, we must likewise look to the Bible for a description of: membership. In the New Testament tile concepts of the church and the concepts of membership are inseparable.
It is an unfortunate reality that most "churches" today know little about the true church, proper membership, and real brotherhood. Church is something of a Sunday club, with a president who gives weekly lectures and pep talks. The rest of the week the "members" go on with life, giving little thought to and having virtually no accountability to this Sunday club.
In contrast, the Scriptural view of the church and membership carries with it an all-the-time, all-of-life involvement. The work, the play, the education, the activities of the members are engaged in as citizens of heaven. There is even through the week a gravitation toward interaction with other members for mutual encouragement, instruction, prayer, and fellowship, Overall, there is a recognition that each member is a kingdom builder, and that he will engage in nothing out of character with his membership in the assembly of the redeemed. Rather, he will attempt to make everything a blessing and contribution to it.
A Scriptural view of the church causes members to view themselves as spiritually interdependent. They consider themselves members of a working unit, and therefore the spiritual health of every member is necessary to the overall health of the whole body. They exhort each other. They pray for each other. They encourage each other. and when necessary, they rebuke each other. Being "members one of another " (Romans 12:5), they treasure their interdependence and jealously guard one another's spiritual well-being in love. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called to day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin " (Hebrews 3:12, 13).
The church is a called out assembly. The "citizenship" of its members is in heaven. Followers of Jesus have heavenly loyalties and purposes which forbid the use of force (Matthew 5:39-44), stand above participation in earthly warfare John 18:36; 11 Corinthians 10:4), and refuse such methods as litigation to protect personal interests (1 Corinthians 6.1-7, Hebrews 10:34).
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