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East Vegas Christian Center
The Nature of the Church
Written by Administrator   

 

The church is the body of people called by God’s grace through faith in Christ to glorify him together by serving him in his world. God’s eternal plan has always been to display his glory not just through individuals but through a corporate body. In creation, God creates not one person but two, and two who have the ability to reproduce more. In the Flood, God saves not one person, but a few families. In Genesis 12, God calls Abram and promises that Abram’s descendents will be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand at the seashore. In the Exodus, God deals not only with Moses, but with the nation of Israel--twelve tribes comprised of hundreds of thousands of people, yet bearing one corporate identity (see Exod. 15:13-16). He gives laws and ceremonies that should be worked out not only in the lives of individuals, but also in the life of the whole people. And throughout the Old Testament, we see that God continues to work with the nation of Israel. How does this relate to the church? Through Jesus Christ. Christ is the fulfillment of all that Israel points toward (see also 2 Cor. 1:20), and the church is Christ’s body.

In the New Testament, the people of God are called by the name “church.” The English word “church” can be used to describe both a local congregation or all Christians everywhere. In contemporary use, the word is also used to describe buildings and denominations. In these latter ways, the English word “church” does not exactly parallel the Greek word in the New Testament.   The word from which “church” is translated, ekklasia, occurs 114 times in the New Testament. No other word translates into the English word “church.” But the Greek word, ekklasia was used in the New Testament period to describe more than the gatherings of Christians. The word was often used in Greek cities to refer to assemblies called to perform specific tasks. In Acts 7:38 and Hebrews 2:12, ekklasia is used to describe Old Testament assemblies. Luke uses ekklasia three times in Acts 19 to describe the riot which gathers in an amphitheater in Ephesus to deal with Paul. The remaining 109 uses of the word in the New Testament refer to a Christian assembly.  

Taken together, the images used in the New Testament present a rich theology of the church. The church is the people of God, the new creation, the fellowship and, of course, the body of Christ. In this fellowship are those people who have accepted and entered into the reign of God. This reign is not entered into by nations, or even families, but by individuals (see Mark 3:31-35; cf. Matt. 10:37). According to Jesus’ parable in Matthew 21, the Kingdom of God was taken from the Jews and given to a people, as Jesus said “who will produce its fruit.” The relationship between the kingdom and church can therefore be defined, The kingdom of God creates the church. True Christians “constitute a Kingdom in their relation to God in Christ as their Ruler, and a Church in their separateness from the world in devotion to God, and in their organic union with one another.

 
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