TEXT: Matthew 16:13-18
SUBJ: THE CHURCH
INTRODUCTION: We believe that a church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers associated together by a covenant of faith and fellowship of the Gospel, observing the ordinances of Christ; governed by His laws and exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word; that its officers of ordination are pastors or elders and deacons whose qualifications, claims, and duties are clearly defined in the Scriptures; we believe that the true mission of the church is found in the Great Commission; First, to make individual disciples; Second, to build up the church; Third, to teach and instruct as He has commanded. We do not believe in the reversal of this order; we hold that the local church has the absolute right of self-government, free from the interference of any hierarchy of individuals or organizations; and that the one and only superintendent is Christ through the Holy Spirit; that is Scriptural for true churches to cooperate with each other in contending for the faith and for the furtherance of the Gospel; that every church is the sole and only judge of the measure and methods of its cooperation; on all matters of membership, of policy, of government, of discipline, of benevolence, the will of the local church is final. The moment you begin to deal with the subject of "The Church," you enter a field of controversy. Many are the ideas regarding this subject. Jesus led His small band of disciples to Caesarea, Philippi where an important conversation took place. He asked His disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?" To which they replied, "Some say that Thou art John the Baptist: some Elias; and others, Jeremias, of one of the prophets." Then Jesus asked them a more personal question, "But whom say ye that I am?" When Peter, as their spokesman, replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus told Peter that this important truth did not come from human wisdom, but came to them as a Divine revelation. Peter's famous confession, occasioned an important statement that our Savior made to His disciples: "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."
I. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CHURCH.
A. The Church was on Divine schedule - Matthew 16:18.
1. The word "will" denotes a continuation of what was already started. Christ began gathering material for His Church by selecting the disciples of John the Baptist. Jesus did not say, "I have built My church."
2. The word "church" does not appear in the Old Testament. However, Stephen did mention in Acts 7:38 "the church in the wilderness," referring to the assembly of Israel at Sinai. But, Stephen was not using the word "church" in the same way it is used in the New Testament. He was employing the word "church" in its most basic sense which means "a called assembly."
3. The institution that we now know as the church was a mystery to Old Testament saints - Ephesians 3:4-11.
4. The church was established to fulfill a purpose for a special period. This period is called the "Church Age."
5. Christ began His church by calling out baptized converts from John the Baptist's ministry, not on the Day of Pentecost - Acts 2:41, 47.
NOTE: It was obvious the church was already instituted before Pentecost because of several reasons: (1) It was commissioned to win the lost. (2) It was commissioned to baptize converts. (3) It was commissioned to observe the Lord's Supper. (4) It was instructed on how to discipline members (Matthew 18:17).
B. The church was Divinely established - Matthew 16:18.
1. Jesus said that He Himself would build the church and it would be His very Own possession.
2. It has been pointed out that there are only two institutions in the world that was Divinely instituted: (1) The Home or Family. (2) The Church. NOTE: Human government was ordained and approved as a principle by the Lord, but governments were established in their various forms by men.
3. There are multitudes of organizations, movements, ministries, lodges, clubs, etc. The church and home have the distinction of being Divinely instituted.
4. No other institution can fulfill the purpose that the church was designed and commissioned to fulfill.
C. The church is on a Solid Foundation - Matthew 16:18. Peter had just confessed "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Then Jesus said, "thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church." The words "this rock" refer to Peter's confession of Christ's Deity. Two passages of Scripture confirm this to be true (1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20).
D. The church was instituted with a purpose - Ephesians 3:21; 5:24, 27. The church was instituted to honor Christ.
E. The church was specifically commissioned.
1. The Apostles formed the nucleus of the first church - 1 Corinthians 12:28.
2. Then, He commissioned that first church with the commission for all succeeding generations - Matthew 28:19, 20. NO OTHER ORGANIZATION IS GIVEN THIS CHARGE!
II. THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH.
A. The church is NOT the same thing as the family of God - Ephesians 3:14, 15.
1. The family of God includes both the children of God on earth and the children of God in Heaven. This is not said of the church.
2. Though the term "family of God" and the term "church" cannot be used interchangeably as if there is no distinction at all; yet, we must acknowledge that there is a close relationship between them.
NOTE: You could have a business owned and operated by members of the same family, and yet have some members of that family living in another country who is not even directly associated with that business.
B. The church is NOT the same thing as the kingdom of God - Matthew 6:33. Jesus exhorted those who were already His disciples to "seek" the kingdom. But He said He would "build" His church.
C. The church is NOT an invisible organism - Matthew 18:17. Obeying these instructions concerning the matter of discipline would be impossible if the church was an invisible, mystical organism. Neither can you install officers in an "invisible church."
D. The church is NOT a universal body - 1 Corinthians 1:2.
1. The Scriptures present the church as a local institution, in a definite place. Paul did not refer to that local church as "a part of the church" or a "fragment of the whole." Each local church that meets the qualifications of being considered a church is regarded as a complete entity.
2. If the universal idea was taught in the Scriptures, then the term "church" would always appear in the singular. It would be considered one organization and each local church would only be a part of the whole - Acts 15:41.
E. The church is NOT a religious hierarchy - 2 Corinthians 1:24.
1. Each individual church is independent of any outside human authority. It is considered a complete entity within itself.
2. However, each local church is exhorted to cooperate with other churches that teach the same thing, to enhance the complete work of the Lord - 2 Corinthians 8:19, 23, 24.
F. The church is NOT a manmade organization.
1. Jesus said He would build His church - Matthew 16:18. This
means it belongs to Christ. It was established by Him and founded
2. Some manmade organizations claim equal or superior status with the church. They feel they have the right to solicit the support that should be channeled through the local church.
3. Manmade organizations are not authorized nor structured to carry out the mandate and duties that are assigned to the church.
4. Manmade organizations usually wind up competing with the church and hinder it rather than complimenting its ministry.
G. The church is NOT a perfect institution.
1. There are people identified with the church who has never been saved, yet strictly speaking as God sees it, the church is comprised of regenerated people - Acts 2:47.
2. Genuine Christians who make up the church are still in their fleshly bodies and still make mistakes and do wrong. Local churches in their present form are not perfect.
NOTE: The church at Corinth was rebuked for many things that were wrong; Yet, it was still considered "the church of God."
3. There is a time when the church will be perfected in glory - Ephesians 5:27.
III. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CHURCH.
A. The importance of the church is seen by Jesus' attitude toward it and His association with it.
1. Jesus is the Builder of the church - Matthew 16:18.
2. Jesus is the Foundation of the church - Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:20. Anything that Christ is the foundation of is important.
3. Jesus is the Owner of the church - Matthew 16:18. His ownership emphasizes the importance of it.
4. Jesus is the Head of the church - Colossians 1:18. It seems strange for the Scriptures to make an issue of Christ's authority over an institution if it was unimportant.
5. Jesus loves the church - Ephesians 5:25. If Jesus loves the church, His followers should also.
6. Jesus gave Himself for the church - Ephesians 5:25. Such a sacrifice proves its worth.
B. The importance of the church is suggested by the opposition of Christ's enemies to it.
1. Jesus' remark that "the gates of Hell shall not prevail" against the church reveals the conflict anticipated.
2. Satan inspires persecution against the church - Acts 8:1, 3; 12:1. It makes sense, if Satan hates the church and opposes it so vehemently, he must consider it extremely important.
C. The importance of the church is denoted by the regard that Christians are exhorted to give it.
1. Christians should be identified by membership in a local church - Acts 13:1.
2. Christians should attend the services of the church regularly - Hebrews 10:25.
3. Christians should observe the ordinances of the church - 1 Corinthians 11:2.
4. Christians should show proper respect for the meeting place of the church with its services - 1 Timothy 3:15; Leviticus 26:2.
5. Christians should protect the testimony of the church - 1 Corinthians 6:1.
6. Christians should promote the interest and welfare of the church - Romans 16:1.
7. Christians should extend the influence of the church - 1 Thessalonians 1:8.
CONCLUSION: There is only one church of Jesus Christ. There is no other organization like it anywhere. To be a member of a New Testament church is a great opportunity and privilege. Jesus paid the price to purchase it; Yet, so many take it for granted. If your church was to close its doors, never to open again, would your life be altered? Strong churches are made up of strong families. Strong families attend Scriptural, New Testament churches.