Although personal faith in Jesus is essential to being a Christian, the New Testament never leaves it there. In fact the New Testament teaching is nearly always directed to the people of God corporately. Christianity is not a “Do it on your own” faith. It is centred in the church. This can seem off putting to some people, but this is often because of a misunderstanding of the what church really is. The following scriptures will help us to see how the Bible describes the church.
The Church that Jesus is building
When Jesus said “I will build my church”, what did he mean?
One thing that is certain is that he was not talking about a cold building with a spire and pews, nor ritualistic services or old fashioned, out of touch traditions. The New Testament doesn’t even give us a hint of such a church.
1 Corinthians 1:2
The church is not a building you go to, but a people you belong to: people who have been born again by the Holy Spirit and are committed to Jesus and to one another.
1 Corinthians 3:16
The church is God’s temple. God lives in and with his people, by his Holy Spirit. If you want to meet God, you don’t go to a special building, you go to gatherings of Spirit filled Christians.
The church is not a club which you opt to join, but it is God’s family to which you are added by God himself.
The church is built by Jesus. The foundation is personal faith in him as Saviour and Lord, which leads to a personal relationship with him. There is no other way to belong to Jesus’ church.
The church as a family
Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Ephesians 3:14-15 For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
Hebrews 2:11 Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.
The church is a world-wide family, but the Bible also makes it clear that there is always a local expression of that family. Being part of a family involves knowing other members well; loving and being loved; caring and being cared for; helping and being helped.
A New Testament Pattern for Church life.
i) The apostles’ teaching: If we want to be a New Testament Church the Bible must be central. We believe that the Bible is God’s word and should govern what we believe, say, and do.
ii) Fellowship: The New Testament Christians loved each other, spent time together and helped each other when in need. See Acts 4:32-34
iii) The breaking of bread: This is not a formal ritual, but a reminder of Jesus’ love for us. It reminds us of his suffering, but also of his resurrection and his return. Look at 1 Corinthians 11:23-29.
iv) Prayer: We believe that prayer is talking to God. It is something we do because we love him, and because we are totally dependant on him.
The Church as a Worshipping Community
God made us and chose us to be worshippers.
Look up Isaiah 43:20b-21 and Ephesians 1:4-6,11-12
Look up John 4:23-24 and Philippians 3:3
Some people speak negatively of “Happy-Clappy” worship. They feel it lacks reverence. But the Bible seems to have a different view:
Look up the following verses:
1 Peter 1:8
The Church as a Body
Look up Ephesians 4:15-16, Colossians 2:19, Romans 12:4-5
Playing your part in the body:
Be filled with the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:13
Use your gifts for the benefit of others 1 Corinthians 12:7
Play your part without envying someone else’s 1 Corinthians 12:15-16
Make room for other people’s gifts 1 Corinthians 12:17
Get to know your place in the body 1 Corinthians 12:18-20
Don’t be independent 1 Corinthians 12:21
Value one another 1 Corinthians 12:22-24
Care for one another 1 Corinthians 12:25-26
Discover and use your spiritual gifts 1 Corinthians 12:27-31
Make love your highest aim 1 Corinthians 13:1-3