Sermon Notes: Life and Teaching – What is the Church?

1 Timothy 4:16 “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

I have a lengthier introduction before we read Ephesians 4:1-16 together, so bear with me. 

We have to get the church right. We have to put the church in its place of flourishing. 

Confusion abounds in the Christian sub-culture about the church. “Churched” people struggle to define the church apart from describing what they do or what their church does regarding providing services. 

Ask someone to distinguish between the universal church and the local church sometime, and see what they say and if/how they use Scripture. 

The DNA that brings thriving to the church is KDSC, not CKDS. 

The church is who Jesus says he is building In Matthew 16, “I will build my church…”

Jesus builds his church through the good news of his (K) kingdom that powerfully makes (D) disciples who hear and obey and are sent into their God-given and created vocational (S) domains of society to heal the broken components of creation while preaching the good news of the kingdom, and from there and through the hands of every disciple, Jesus is building his (C)church. 

NOTE: The church is the context of the entire New Testament. There is no single book, chapter, or verse that defines and fully describes the glorious multi-faceted display of God’s glory in the church. The church is simply the context of the entire New Testament, so we have to learn the church from every page of Scripture. 

Since this is the case, we need an acceptable working definition of the church that will work for the universal church (all Christians everywhere all the time) AND the manifestation of the universal church in cities and towns and villages, which is called the local church. 

A Definition of the Church:

“A church is a group of Christians who assemble as an earthly embassy of Christ’s heavenly kingdom to proclaim the good news and commands of Christ the King; to affirm one another as his citizens through the ordinances (Lord’s Supper and Baptism); and to display God’s own holiness and love through a unified and diverse people in all the world, following the teaching and example of elders.” – Jonathan Leeman and Collin Hansen, Rediscover Church: Why the Body of Christ is Essential, p. 124.

Let’s take this definition apart. 

  1. The church is a called-out group of Christians who assemble. 
    1. The Old Testament refers to the assembled people as the “gathering” (Hebrew – qāhal). 
    2. The Greek translation of the OT translates qāhal with the word ekklēsia, and ekklēsia is what the New Testament writers call the church (see Hebrews 12:23 for example).
      1. Ekklesia is the “called out ones” and thus an “assembly”. They are called out of one assembly to belong to another assembly.
        1. Hebrews 12:23 Translates “ekklesia” as “assembly”. Thus the rest of Hebrews 12:23 refers to the called-out assembly as the firstborn enrolled in the kingdom of heaven.
        2. Hebrews 12:22-23 (ESV) 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
    3. The New Testament sees the Old Testament folks who believed in the Lord and the New Testament folks who believed in the Lord as having been made one body (Ephesians 2:14), one new man (v. 15), and fellow citizens and members of the household of God (v. 19).
      1. Thus the church is a called-out group of Christians who assemble. 
  2. Therefore, the church is an earthly gathered embassy of Jesus’ kingdom.
    1. Jesus came preaching the good news of the kingdom (Mark 1:14-15), and Jesus said he was building his church through this good news of his kingdom (Matthew 16:18).
      1. So, the church is the result of the preaching of the kingdom of Jesus.
      2. Thus, the church is the called out and gathered embassy of the kingdom.
  3. The church proclaims the good news of Jesus who is the king.
    1. Acts 17:7 “…acting against the decrees of Ceasar, and saying there is another king, Jesus.” 
    2. Acts 17:7 and the whole New Testament affirm that Jesus is Lord, and the implication of their confession is that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords.
      1. Jesus is Lord is our battle cry and that truth is why we have good news, and thus the church preaches Jesus as King of kings.
  4. The church affirms one another through the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. 
    1. Now that we have been called out to belong to a new assembly, we need to be reminded of who we are and whose we are. 
    2. God has given us two ordinances that remind us of this truth.
    3. 1 Corinthians 11:17-33 reminds us that the Supper is for believers and the Lord’s ordained means of remembering and proclaiming the centrality of his death until he returns.
      1. The Lord’s Supper is a way we affirm our faith with one another. 
    4. Matthew 28:16-20 is Jesus’ commission of the church to make disciples and then baptize them as their public profession of faith and entrance into the local church.
      1. Thus baptism is how we publicly confess we belong to the Lord Jesus and are joining in membership with the local church. 
  5. The church displays God’s holiness and love as a unified and diverse people in all the world as the local church. 
    1. Ephesians 2:11-22 reminds us that God, in Jesus’ work, has made the church one people from diverse backgrounds that are to be put on display in local churches. 
  6. The church is led through the teaching and example of elders/overseers. 
    1. Titus 1:5-9 is a snapshot of the fact that elders/overseers are used interchangeably and they are to be appointed by other elders or apostolic founders of the church that the newly appointed elder/overseer is appointed to.
      1. The church is overseen, taught, guarded, and mobilized with this leadership model that has its roots in Old Testament Israel and is more clearly articulated in the entirety of the New Testament. 

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