Meet Your Church

We shall be studying the subject of the Local Church – its responsibilities and relationships.

Some are saying that the church has had its day. There are people who do not attend any church, but meet in homes for prayer and Bible Study and fellowship.

What is a church?

Joseph Stowell states: “A local New Testament church may be defined as a body of born-again, properly baptized believers with Scriptural officers which are pastor and deacons – organized to meet for worship, to preach the gospel, to win souls, to carry out the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Support, to teach the Word of God, to guide, watch over, and discipline its members to their good and the glory of God."  (Teach. Quart. p. 3)

What is the “Invisible Church”?

What does this mean? All who are saved are united to Christ and thus comprise the church. As we know, this is primary, this is essential. One can join a local church and be unsaved. One can be saved without joining any local church.

And, we can say with all honesty to Scripture that the True Church is composed of all who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. Sad as it is, all who are united to some local, visible church are not redeemed. But, let us not get hung up on this invisible aspect that we play down the importance of the visible church, the Local Church.

We are told that over 75 percent of the references to the church in Scripture refer to a local assembly – people meeting at a specific address or geographical location (Teach. Qart. P 3)

Dr Addison Leitch writes: “However ‘invisible’ this company of believers may be, we must constantly remind ourselves that the Church is still made up of men and women of flesh and blood and that it cannot therefore really remain invisible, because men and women live in the flesh; and as members of the Church of Christ it is in the flesh that they will carry out their functions as church members … The ‘invisible’ Church must by its very nature and because of the nature of mankind show itself finally as the ‘visible’ church.  The ‘invisible’ church is the true body of Christ of which He is the Head; the ‘Visible’ church gives the hands and feet.”  (Interpreting Basic Theology, p.149)

The "Invisible Church" is the true body of Christ fo which He is the head; the "Visible Church" gives the hands and feet. We can say therefore, that the INVISIBLE church and the VISIBLE church are both the true church. A local church, accepting the entire Bible as revealed Word of God, preaching the Gospel of Christ, fulfilling its God-given ministry, is a true Church.

A. Christ is the Head of the Church

(Eph 1:22-23, Col 1:18) As we know, our head directs our body.  A two-headed person would be a monstrosity. As members of Christ’s Body, we are to submit to His guidance and direction. Christ rules the church from heaven, through His Word and through the Holy Spirit. We are directly responsible to Him.

B.  The church is organized with Officers – Bishops and Deacons

(Phil 1:1) It is an organized body of believers. In regard to those who do not affiliate with any Church, let us remember that God, in His blessed word takes considerable space concerning the qualifications of those who are to assume places of leadership and authority in the Church.  (Timothy and Titus)

C. The Church is Self-Governing

  • Acts 15:25 - A local church making decision.
  • Acts 14:23 – the word “ordain” means to vote by stretching out the hand. (Teacher)

It seems the people selected their pastor by vote. We are told that there are four forms of church government found in Christendom:

1. PAPAL – This is the Roman Catholic form.  There is the pope, cardinal, bishops and other orders of the clergy.  In this system, the church owns all property and has absolute control.

2. EPISCOPALIAN – This is a modified papal plan without a pope. Authority is in bishops and other officers of the clergy. The hierarchy owns the property and conducts the affairs of the church.

3. PRESBYTERIAN – This is a representative form. A general assembly, composed of representatives of the clergy and people, carry on church affairs.  Though the people do have a limited voice, the authority is basically in sessions, synods, presbyteries and assemblies.

4. CONGREGATIONAL – Each local church has authority in itself, owns its property and conducts its own affairs.  Teachers, officers, committees and others may perform special ministries but all are subject to the whole congregation of members.  Historically, Baptists (and others) have believed this to be the Biblical from of church government.

Human nature is such, that uncontrolled by the Holy Spirit, men will assume power to which they may not be entitled. A hierarchy in a church can seek to dictate to the local assemblies. Whatever form government is used, it can function properly, only when everyone remembers that Christ is the Head. To Him, we must look in all decisions and procedures.

D. The Church has a Threefold Purpose

1. The Church is to preach and teach the Word of God. (Acts 5:42, II Timothy 4:2)

The Word of God is to be proclaimed that men might be saved. Then, the Church is to teach the Word to those who are saved that they might be edified, might be built up in the rain.

2.The Church is to provide for united worship and fellowship among God’s people

  • Phil 3:3 – “Worship God in the Spirit.”
  • I John 1:3 – “...that ye may also have fellowship with us.”

All through the book of Acts, we see God’s children as they constantly met together.

3. The Local Church is to observe the ordinances which have been given to us. (Acts 2:41-42)

This is Water Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We testify of our faith and we remember the sacrificial death of our Savior in these.

E. Biblical Basis for Church Membership

Passages that prescribe actions to be taken as a group of believers. There can be no argument but that the one desirous of Church membership must be one who has received the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. The unsaved person is totally unqualified to conduct the business of the Lord.

In this section, we shall see that the Bible presents the truth that there was some kind of an organization among the early believers. While home Bible Studies, home prayer meetings, etc. are good; yet they should not take the place of the Church.

1. I Cor 5:12-13, II Cor 2:6-8

Note passage in I Cor.: “Put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”; v12 mentions “them that are within” and “them that are without.

If Paul’s command is to have meaning, it seems there must have been some kind of formal membership. Also, the church is to receive the repentant believer.

2. Acts 6:1-3, I Tim 5:9

In Acts, we read, “Look ye out among you..”  These men are referred to as the first deacons. The twelve apostles’ instructed the people to choose seven men from among their group to serve in this capacity. This group was distinct from other people. And, from the passage in I Tim, it seems a list of widows was maintained.

3. Acts 18:27

Church membership is not mentioned in this passage, but it seems action was taken by an organized body of believers. Letters of introduction were sent from one church to another requesting their help for these believers.

4. I Cor 11, 18: “When ye come together in the church...", Acts 20:8, Heb. 10:25

While the organization of this early church may not be exactly the same as we see today, we know that it was an orderly organization. But, as the Teacher quarterly comments, “The Total Force of the Scriptures surely points to the specific membership list.” (p 6)

F. Biblical Authority of the Local Church

  • Christ Established
  • Had apostolic focus
  • Upheld in letters
  • Residence of truth
  • Carried to Asia
  • Heralded in Revelation

1. The Church was Established by Christ Himself. (Matt. 16:18)

Thank God He is building His Church. All the power of Satan will never be able to overthrow this divine structure. See also Matt 18:17 – Here we see Christ giving to the church divine authority to render judgment. Surely, there had to be a local assembly to handle matters such as this.

2. Early Christians formed churches. (Acts 8:1, 9:31, 11:26, 20:17)

Here we see the formation, not of Bible Study groups, but of churches. One writer comments: “We find no suggestion of a desire on the part of the first-century Christians to work independently apart from local churches.”  (Teacher Quart. p. 6)

3. Much of the New Testament consists of letters addressed to local churches.

Three of the New Testament letter (I and II Tim., & Titus) were written to pastors of churches.

4. The church is called The Pillar and Ground of the Truth. (I Tim 3:15)

Dr. Erdman states: “Further still, Paul designates the church as ‘the pillar and ground of the truth’’.For just as a pillar supports a roof, or as a foundation sustains a building, so this society of believers has been divinely appointed to sustain and uphold in the world the truth which God has revealed to man.”  (Pastoral Epistles, p 52)

To local churches, the Lord has given His Gospel and we are to reveal it to the world. We are to hold it up so that the world may see.

5. Churches were Established in Asia. (I Cor 16:19)

As missionaries have gone into other lands, they have sought to establish local churches.

6. The Book of Revelations accents churches. (Rev 2 & 3)

It presents messages to seven churches existing at that time. Now as we know, there are many movements today that are seeking to preach the gospel. Youth works, children’s evangelism, radio preaching, Bible Study programs, etc. All ask us for our money. Where we give is a personal matter, but it is to be questioned if it is right for Christians to neglect their church while they support these ministries. If our church is a Gospel preaching church, it should receive our support.

The teacher for this quarter writes: “It is significant that in the last book of inspired Scripture, local churches are prominent.” (p. 7) Other ministries are good. They deserve our support. But, let’s not put them ahead of our churches. The churches may need to be awakened, to be inspired, to be stirred, but this is not to say we are to abandon them. Let us support our church with our attendance, our prayers, our giving, and our services. God's interest is in the church.  IT IS HIS ORGANIZATION.

Study Questions

  1. What institution did our Lord establish?
    1. The Church – Matt 16:18
  2. In what kind of special problems are churches to be involved?
    1. Disagreements between believers – Matt 18:15-17
  3. On what day were 3000 people saved and baptized?
    1. Day of Pentecost – Acts 2:1, 41
  4. Give four prominent aspects of spiritual life faithfully observed by Church in Jerusalem. (Acts 2:42)
    • Prayer
    • Communion
    • Fellowship
    • Doctrine (Teaching)
  5. What was true of all who added to the church?
    • They were all saved – Acts 2:47
  6. What special group is distinguished from both Jew and Gentile?
    • The Church of God – 1 Cor 10:32
  7. Who are the Biblical officers of a church?
    • Bishops and Deacons – Phil 1:1
  8. What has God entrusted to the church?
    • The Truth – 1 Tim 3:15
  9. In Revelation, what did the candlesticks or lamp stands represent?
    • Churches – Rev 1:20
  10. What should a believer do if the church he attends stops preaching the gospel?
    • Some believe they should leave, while others may feel they will stay and teach the true gospel. 
  11. What should be our attitude toward those who remain in liberal churches?
    • That is, a true believer.
Church Identity
Local Church
Archie Rines