I. What Is the Church?

The natural result of God's work of salvation in redeeming individuals from a life of sin, is the formation of the church. The word church means, "the called out ones". Therefore, those who have heeded the call of God to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, become the church. The church is not a building but an assembly and grouping of people who have given their hearts to Christ.

A. The Biblical description of the church

1.The believers in Jerusalem were called the church long before church buildings were established. The people of the early church were meeting in homes at this time, yet they were still called the church (Acts 5:11)(Acts 12:1)(Acts 12:12).

2. The figurative language used to describe the church.

a. Jesus is called the head and we are His body

(Eph. 1:22,23)(Col. 1:18)(Col. 2:19). This figure describes a vital and intimate union of the two. He is the Lord and we are his servants as we obey His commands.

b. We are called a temple, habitation and a dwelling place for God's Spirit. (Eph. 2:20,21)(1 Cor. 6:19)

(1 Pe. 2:4-8). This figure is to describe the unity of all the members of the building, and the importance of what we are to do in this building that God dwells in.

c. We are called the Bride of Christ. (2 Cor. 11:2)(Rev. 19:7). This figure describes the love relationship between God and His people.

d. We are called the flock of God. He is the Shepherd and we are His sheep (Acts 20:28)(John 10:11)(Ps. 23).This figure describes His guidance and care for His people.

II. The Founding of the Church

A. Jesus founded the church

1. Jesus said, "upon this rock I will build my church". Jesus referred here to Peter's confession that Jesus was the Christ the Son of the living God. This is the foundation stone of the church. A person must believe and confess this truth to be saved and enter "His" church (I Jn. 5:1)(I Jn. 2:22).

2. When the death and resurrection were completed, Jesus met with the disciples and said, "receive the Holy Spirit" (Jn. 20:22). At this moment the church was born, because the disciples now were born again. They now had faith in His death and resurrection (Rom. 10:9,10).

3. The Lord continued to add to the church such as should be saved. He used the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of Peter to lead three thousand souls to repentance (Acts 1:8)(Acts 2:1-4)(Acts 2:38-41)(Acts 2:47). Jesus today continues to do the same work by the same means! Are you filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaiming His Word that you might work with the lord to build "His" church?

III. The Purpose, Mission and Responsibility of the Church

A. Our first responsibility is to God

1. To worship Him (Jn. 4:23)(Lu. 4:8)(Rev. 4:10,11).

2. We were created to do His will (Rev. 4:11).

3. To love Him with all our heart, mind and soul (Matt. 22:37).

4. To be holy and without blame before Him (Eph. 1:4).

5. To be His servants (Acts 16:17).

B. Our second responsibility is to other members of the body of Christ

1. To love one another (1 Jn. 4:7)(Matt. 22:39).

2. To minister to one another (1 Pe. 4:10).

3. To pray one for another (James 5:16).

4. To provoke one another to love & good works (He. 10:24).

5. To exhort one another (Heb. 3:13).

6. To build up one another (1 Thess. 5:11).

7. To comfort one another (1 Thess. 4:18).

8. To forbear and forgive one another (Col. 3:13).

9. To serve one another (Gal. 5:13).

10. To receive one another (Rom. 15:7).

11. To teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16).

l2. All these are to be encourage by the leadership of the church as they equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11,12).

C. Our third responsibility is to the world

1. To evangelize the world (Matt. 28:18-20).

2. To be a witness to the world by our life-style(Acts 1:8).

3. To be salt and light to the world (Matt. 5:13-16).

4. To be the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).

IV. How the Structure of the Church Was Formed

A. Jesus is the head of "His" church (Eph. 1:22,23)(Col. 1:18).

As head of the church Jesus has total control of His body. All authority has been given to Christ in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18). He was chosen of God to this position as head and chief corner stone of the church (I Peter 2:4-6).

B. The Disciples

Jesus then chose and appointed the disciples to represent Him by teaching & preaching all things He had commanded them. (Matt. 28:19,20). Notice, the word chosen and appointed in each of the following verses: (Lu. 6:13)(Jn. 15:16)(Acts 1:2). The Lord also appointed the seventy to fulfill the same ministry (Luke 10:1). Paul the Apostle was also chosen and appointed by God to this work (Acts 9:15)(II Tim. 1:11). 

C. Elders

These leaders of the church then chose and appointed other men as elders for each of the local assemblies that were formed (Titus 1:5)(Acts 14:23).

D. Deacons

The elders then chose and appointed deacons to help in the administration and service to the church (Acts 6:3)(Acts 6:5). The deacons relieved the apostles from the physical labor of serving the widows, in order that they could give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Yet some deacons also carried on preaching and evangelism as a part of their ministry (Acts 6:8-10)(Acts 8:5).

E. All Believers

Finally, it is important to note that all believers are chosen and appointed by God to a specific work (Eph. 1:4)(Eph. 2:10) (2 Thess. 2:13)(Mark 13:34). Each believer has been given gifts by God to enable them to minister for him (1 Pe. 4:10)(1 Cor. 12:7).

F. Conclusion

It is important to see the process that God has used to form the structure of the church. Scripture clearly reveals an appointment process, not an election process. This method is to safeguard the church from election politics and popularity contests of unspiritual men. God's intention is that Godly men will choose other Godly men according to the qualifications in the Word of God (I Tim. 3:1-13).

V. Membership in the Church

A. Was membership ever required by individual churches in the New Testament?

No. Never do we see this practice used in the early church or anywhere in Scripture. All man made divisions of the church were deemed carnal by Paul (1 Cor. 3:1-9). He felt that the body of Christ was one. He said, "We are fellow workers ... we are God's building" (1 Cor. 3:9)(Gal. 3:28).

B. Who is a member of the church?

1. Those who have repented of their sins (Acts 2:38).

2. Those who believe and are saved (Acts 2:44,47).

3. Those who are part of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27).

4. Those who are in Christ & call on His name (1 Cor. 1:2).

VI. The Benefits of Participation in a Local Church

A. You receive teaching and instruction in the Word of God that will equip you for service to Him (Acts 2:42)(Acts 11:25,26)(Eph. 4:11).

B. Encouragement and fellowship with other believers that will uplift and strengthen you (Acts 2:42)(Heb. 10:24,25)(Heb. 3:13).

C. Communion together (Acts 2:42)(1 Cor. 11:20).

D. Corporate prayer and support (Acts 2:42)(Acts 12:12).

E. Mutual assistance in physical needs (Acts 2:44,45).

F. Corporate singing and worship (Eph. 5:19)(Col. 3:16).

G. Pastoral oversight (I Pe. 5:1-5)(Heb. 13:17)(Matt. 18:15-17).

H. Participation in a local church is not optional, it is the command of God's Word (Heb. 10:25).