This week, let's take a look at scripture to learn the terms used to describe the church.
1. The Church of God
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28)
In the early church, they had a huge problem with Gnosticism (part of this false teaching is that Jesus was not God/Deity). Since this verse says, "...God, which he hath purchased with his own blood," we can see that this verse is referring to Jesus and that he was God.
If you purchase a car, we understand that the car belongs to you. You own the car that you bought. In the same way, Jesus owns the church that he paid for with his blood. This is also mentioned in Romans 16:16: "The churches of Christ salute you."
There are many other instances in the New Testament where the phrase 'church of God' is used. For example, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:" (1 Corinthians 1:2) God, having sent his Son to the earth to establish the church, is the ultimate creator of it.
2. The Body of Christ
"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." (1 Corinthians 12:27)
This verse really has a lot to say for a little thing. It clears up some misconceptions about the church. The church is not a building. It is not all the different denominations in the world.
This clears up something that is becoming more and more popular. Have you heard the saying, "Visit the church of your choice"? What they mean is out of all the 'churches' out there - Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist, etc., pick your favorite and go there. They believe God is happy no matter how he is worshiped.
Think about this: How many heads does a body have? Now, we know there are a few 'accident's out there where a human or animal is born conjoined with two heads, but that is not the norm. Most bodies have one head. Who is the head of the church? Take a look at this passage:
"Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Ephesians 1:20-23)
Now God created beings with only one head and one body. This scripture says that he appointed Jesus to have dominion over the church. Remember, in lesson two we talked about Jesus being the potentate or king over the kingdom. Here we see that he is the head, the only head over the one body.
What is the body? Or, more appropriately, WHO is the body? Look again at 1 Corinthians 12:27: "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." Paul is talking to the Christians in Corinth. He says, "ye," which is the plural "you". He tells them that Christians make up the body of Christ and each individual is a part within the body of Christ. The people are the body of Christ, the church. The church is not a building.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are other phrases used to describe the church but we will not look at them today.
In the next few lessons we will look at citizenship in the kingdom of God.