5 Ways the Bible Describes the Church

When someone asks you what church is, do you know how to answer them?We have been taught that church is important to God and we often go each week, but how would you describe church?

Don’t know? Well, don’t worry! The Bible has some helpful metaphors of what the church is like to help us understand and describe church.

In the Bible there are five main images of church; they are:

  1. A Family
  2. A Body
  3. A Bride
  4. A Temple
  5. A Lamp stand

Some of these ideas probably aren’t how you thought church might be described, so let’s flesh them out a bit more.

A Family

The church is often referred to as a family in the Bible. This is probably one of the images of the church that you would be most familiar with. This is also one of the images of church that we see most in our interactions with fellow Christians. Church is a family because we are to recognize that God is our father and that all the members of the church are our brothers and sisters. There are older Christian brothers and sisters that we can look to for advice on how to live as Christians (much like we’d look to an older brother, sister or a father figure) and there are younger brothers and sisters that we can teach about Jesus (much like you’d teach your own younger siblings). And just as a regular family loves and cares for each other, we too are to love and care for each other with a brotherly and sisterly love that comes from Christ.

A Body

Another metaphor that is used for the church is “the body,” specifically the body of Christ. This image uses the understanding of a body with head, hands, feet, and other body parts. In this image, Jesus is the head of the body — that’s why it’s called the body of Christ. And the rest of the body is made up of Christians. The people in the body are different and they have different roles. This body metaphor is helpful because it shows that we are all different and we have different gifts that God has given us to serve in different ways.

A Bride

As a church, God’s people are also collectively called his “bride.” This image shows us how important the church is to God, because it shows how much he loves the church, just like a husband loves his wife. This love that God has for His people is shown all the way from the promises He makes to them in the Old Testament through to the New Testament, where we see Jesus, the groom, display the ultimate love for the church in one grand act, as he dies for his bride on the cross. While we might find it slightly weird, especially if we’re a guy, to be called a bride, this image is great because it reminds us of how much God loves us!

A Temple

Another image of the church is a temple. This imagery comes from the Old Testament. The temple in the Old Testament was a huge, magnificent building where God lived. God’s people could go to the temple and know they were near to God. But now, because of Jesus, we don’t have to go to some big temple to worship God. Instead, the Bible tells us that God’s people are a “temple of the Holy Spirit.” This means that God dwells within His people by the Holy Spirit. This image of the church as the new temple is built upon the foundation, the cornerstone of Jesus.

A Lamp-stand

The final image is that of the church as a lamp-stand. This image of the church comes up a lot in the final book of the Bible, Revelation. It is here that the lamp-stand symbolixes shining the light of truth out into the world. This shows us that one of the roles of the church is to shine the truth of the gospel out into a world that is in darkness because they don’t know God.

What this means for us

The different images of the church throughout the Bible help us to understand a bit more about how God views the church, and what he wants His church to be doing. So …

  • Let us love and encourage one another as brothers and sisters, because we are family!
  • Let us use our different gifts God has given, to serve him and others because we all have a role to play as the body of Christ. 
  • Let us remember we are the bride, loved so much by Christ that he sacrificed himself to make us clean and holy, so we are to live as His people.
  • Let us stand firm on the truth of Jesus and have the Bible taught as the central focus, because as we gather as a church we are like a temple.
  • Let us shine the light of the gospel out of our church into this world like a lamp stand, by speaking about Jesus and sharing the gospel.
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When Jesus brought his Church into existence

from Thinkapologetics.com

Introduction

When Jesus brought his Church into existence, he gave all his people certain gifts so they can be a blessing to others. As Rick Schenker, President of Ratio (a nationwide apologetics ministry) says, “the apologist is truly fulfilling the Ephesians 4:11,12 model of an evangelist by equipping others to “do the work of the ministry”– namely winning their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to Christ. Apologists are doing the exact thing that Paul told his protégé Timothy to do, “The things which you have heard from me…, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also,” (2 Timothy 2:2).” See the entire article here:

All of us who have been in the apologetic endeavor know it can be hard to get our fellow Christians to get motivated about the apologetic task before us. I think one of the first things that needs to be dealt with is getting Christians motivated about engaging the culture. For the record, even though I lead an apologetic ministry on a college campus and having done lots of outreach, I am just as susceptible to weaknesses such as apathy, complacency, and self-centeredness. One thing that helps me when I began to fall into these areas of struggle is to remember the following:

The Holy Spirit is the Agent of Evangelism and Apologetics

In my opinion, one of the most important statements made by Jesus are seen in John 14: 15-21: If you love me, you will keep my commandments.And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.

Who is the Holy Spirit and What is His Role?

The Holy Spirit is one who consoles or comforts, one who encourages or uplifts; hence refreshes, and/or one who intercedes on our behalf as an advocate in court. Many scholars say the Holy Spirit is “another Jesus.” He is the one who is called to one’s side; He takes the place of Jesus. His primary role is to exalt Jesus and is He is with Believers forever (John 14:6). I can say for certain that any time I have ever grown complacent or apathetic, the Holy Spirit is always at work trying to stir my heart towards a lost and needy world. Now don’t get me wrong; the only way we can really experience His stirring is if we maintain a close relationship with God. Regular prayer, Bible study and devotion, as well as deep covenantal relationships with our fellow Christians play a large role in sensing His presence and promptings in our lives. Hence, spiritual disciplines play major factor in whether we will be truly yielded to God.

When Jesus said to his disciples “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized withwater, but in a few days you will be baptized withthe Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5), we need to remember every child of god is indwelt by the same Spirit that Jesus promised to his original disciples. We also need to come to the place where we ask God in prayer to give us a heart for the world around us. While we may have read the commands about evangelism, we still can’t get over the hump. He may need to do a supernatural work in us so we can eventually take up a cross and follow the Lord on daily basis (Luke 9:23). Once again, this work is something that can only be done by our cooperation with the Spirit in us. We can ask God to change our hearts. And we need to remember because of the reality of life itself, many of us may be at the place where we have grown hardened or calloused towards others. We may need to ask God to do some major surgery on us.

Are Apologists Afraid of the Holy Spirit?

I can’t speak for everyone here. But I have been exposed to plenty of apologists. I have met and interacted with them in joint efforts, evangelism, prayer, and writing. I am all for logic, critical thinking, and rational argumentation. Apologetics integrates a broad variety of disciplines such as history, science, ethics, theology, philosophy, etc. Hence, it can end up becoming quite exhausting.

Another passage to remember:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:1-4).

I think many of us as apologists need to have a deeper spirituality. I am not advocating weirdness or fanaticism. But when we become overly fixated on evidence and epistemological certainty, it can almost become an idol at times. It consumes us. We all know that in many cases it is evidence and epistemological certainty that atheists/skeptics say they are after. For Christians, unless we spend time in community and are committed to spiritual disciplines, we may run the risk of drying up and eventually leaving the faith.

In my opinion, J.P. Moreland is one of the most brilliant Christian philosophers to date. He is also one that teaches and speaks on how to integrate the mind into our faith. He knows we have to see it as a holistic process. Check out his website here.

So we may want to ask some important questions?

1 How deep are your roots? (Hint, study John 15)
2. Are you drawing from Him on a daily basis?
3. Are you finding satisfaction in Him?
4. Do you long to know Him better?
5. Where are you in your spiritual disciplines?

Mike Licona on The A, B, Cs of the Gospels – video (43mins)

A Prayer about the Heart-liberating Power of Grace

Heavenward by Scotty Smith 

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 2 Cor. 8:1-5

Dear heavenly Father, this one little gospel-vignette underscores why we can never emphasize your grace too much. Indeed, through Jesus you continue to give us grace upon grace; and more grace in the place of that grace. (John 1:16)

What an amazing story—the severely afflicted and extremely poor Christians of Macedonia became a model of radical freedom to the much wealthier believers in Corinth. Father, only the gospel is powerful enough to create this kind of contentment and joy, compassion and generosity.

For the glory of Jesus and the advancing of your kingdom, we ask you to give us the same grace you gave the churches of Macedonia. The needs all around us are exponential; but your resources are endless. Help us to excel in the grace of giving.

We know that you are “able to make all grace abound to [us], so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, [we] can abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8). Enrich us in every way that we might be generous in every way (2 Cor. 9:11)—with our time, talents, and treasures.

On a weekend in which our retail-culture makes it very easy to spend on ourselves, by the power of grace—make it even easier and more fun for us to give to those in great need.

And liberate us for being generous in our relationships, as well, freely giving away the currency of patience and forbearance, forgiveness and more forgiveness.

Lord Jesus, you are the ultimate cheerful giver. That is what the gospel is all about. Though you were rich, you gladly became poor for us, that by your poverty we might become joyfully rich through you (2 Cor. 8:9). Make your gladness ours. Make your generosity ours. So very Amen we pray, in your great and gracious name.

The Comma That’s Kept The Church In A Discipleship Coma For 300 Years

I was honored to preach at the Tennessee Baptist Convention yesterday.

http://replicateministries.org/2013/11/13/the-comma-thats-kept-the-church-in-a-discipleship-coma-for-300-years/

Robby Gallaty

Robby Gallaty (Ph.D.) is the Senior Pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN, and the Founder of Replicate Ministries. He is the author of Creating an Atmosphere to Hear God Speak, Unashamed: Taking a Radical Stand for Christ, and Growing Up: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples. – See more at: http://replicateministries.org/2013/11/13/the-comma-thats-kept-the-church-in-a-discipleship-coma-for-300-years/#sthash.pAoVhGgw.dpuf

The Church as a Corporation

This one will be controversial. Shades of Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity.

from paulfpavao‘s site

Somebody got the bright idea a few years ago that churches should be managed like businesses. So pastors became CEOs, and ministry was put on an assembly line.—J. Lee Grady

I agree with the J. Lee Grady, except on the time frame. Slowly, 17 centuries ago, the idea set in and took over that churches should be managed like businesses.

What happened a few years ago is that we got a lot more blatant about it, and it became acceptable for pastors to forget that shepherding is their primary occupation. “Church growth” was an adequate replacement.

It’s not the first time. Late middle age priests, bishops, cardinals, and the pope himself lost all thought of shepherding God’s people. Those roles were political roles, filled primarily by people who bought their way into them. (Even the RCC admits this.  The Catholic Encyclopedia, under “Simony”: ” … to uproot the evil of simony so prevalent during the Middle Ages”; emphasis added)

The Renaissance raised enough light to bring some reform in the Roman Catholic Church, and then the Reformation brought a strong reminder that the pastor is first and foremost a shepherd.

But since the Reformation did nothing to correct the structure, the “church” remained an organization (not yet called a corporation, but functioning as one), and a return to the struggle for popularity and power was inevitable.

The church is not a corporation; it is a family.

Traits of a Family

Families do employ trusts to manage assets. Some families may even own corporations. God’s family, however, tends to be owned by the corporation, and Biblical commands to submit to leaders are transferred to CEOs, corporations, and boards of directors … though we are careful to rename all of those with biblical names (pastors, chuches, elders or deacons, respectively).

1 Thessalonians 5:12 tells us: We ask you, brothers, to know those who labor among you, who go before you in the Lord, and who admonish you.

We like to quote Hebrews 13 about submitting to and obeying elders, but 1 Thess. 5 doesn’t address official “elders.” It exhorts us to know the ones who labor, lead, and admonish.

That’s what happens in a family. Everyone knows the “go to” people. They all know who leads, who admonishes, who does all the work to keep the family together.

As a side note, a family also knows who just shows up. Just showing up is not always a problem. Why do we need shepherds if we don’t have sheep? In a family, those who just show up are still expected to contribute in cleanup and being part of the family, but most members of a family are sheep, not shakers, movers, and organizers.

It is to those workers that our allegiance is due. Yes, they seem more official in Hebrews 13:7,17, and 24. They are “those who lead.” They are nonetheless the same people.

Shepherds and Hirelings

The tried men of our elders preside over us, obtaining that honor not by purchase, but by established character. (Tertullian, Apology 39, c. AD 210)

Jesus warned of hirelings and how they could not be trusted as shepherds, yet we nonetheless hire our shepherds just like corporations do. They go to school, they present their credentials in a resume, and they are hired.

We see that this was not done in the early church. Elders earned their position by proven character, living among the people and remaining in the same congregation.

This was such an entrenched practice that the Council of Nicea made it an official rule that deacons, elders, or overseers (bishops) cannot “pass from city to city” (Canon 15).

I am told by other historians that overseers and elders of the pre-Nicene era (before Nicea) were not paid. They were simply supported with room and board like the widows. I have been unable to verify this, and I don’t know where it came from. It seems to contradict 1 Tim. 5:17, “Let the elders who lead well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the Word and teaching.” Maybe “honor” there really is just honor, not money, but it seems like money to me because of v. 18. (I’ll let you research that on your own. Compare 1 Timothy 5:18 to 1 Corinthians 9:7-11.)

Either way, the early churches raised up shepherds. They did not hire executives. Our institutions hire executives trained at universities that we call seminaries. We expect our executives to visit the sick and do some other duties of a shepherd, and we certainly expect them to deliver a rousing, Bible-based speech every week.

While these executives have taken over the role and title of pastor, just as their corporations have taken on the role and title of the church, they remain executives and their employing organization remains a corporation.

Changing their titles just hides the fact that our real shepherds are unrecognized and the Lord’s church lies in ruins and has been forgotten.

Can the real “Church” please stand up?

by Gerald White on his blog

Over history layers of centuries have gotten in the way of a direct experience of being God’s people, we have lost our identity and purpose. As the Church we need to regularly cut back to the original. Being reminded regularly of who we are and what our purpose is brings us back to the mission of God and our role in fulfilling it. Religious living and works has gotten in the way of a gospel living, breathing and active church. This isn’t true for everyone, but is something I have witnessed more and more of in the modern day church. We are the bride of Christ, HIS ambassadors.

Somewhere along the line this has been watered down, the great commandment has become secondary and cosy hobbit like living has become normality. Where has the bold, risk taking, God glorifying Church gone? Again I must say that there are Churches around the world that do take risk, do have correct priorities and do glorify God in their example etc.

How should we as the Church act and behave?

  • Acts 2:42 reminds us that “believers devoted themselves to the apostles teaching”. Devotion is such a key word, it describes a serious commitment. The teachings of scripture should be lived out studied and applied.
  • Secondly v42 talks about “fellowship”. If we fellowship with God then we will naturally fellowship with each other, love one another, share, care, encourage and challenge. People will see community living and fellowship amongst us.
  • Thirdly “they devoted themselves  to the breaking of bread” a thanksgiving, a remembrance of what Jesus has done for us and a reminder of our unity together in Christ as a family.
  • Fourthly “they devoted themselves to prayer” the early Church devoted themselves to prayer. They acknowledged the importance of prayer so much so that they planned for it and were disciplined about it. They also expected God to answer their sincere prayers ( see Acts 12:5) . Although God is sovereign and responds as he wishes, he loves his people and will answer them, and the early Church knew that. Do we?
  • Lastly “they met in the temple courts and homes” the early Church met in a building and in their homes, our equivalent would be the Church building and our homes for a home group or cell group meeting. They often met up.

They were DEVOTED to all of these things. As members of the Church what would people say about you? Are we as devoted as we should be, have we lost the seriousness of our role as the Church? I ask myself the same question and fall short, BUT I hope this challenges you and encourages you as it has done for me. Be bold Church, live out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, take risks, love, care and support one another.