The Doctrine Of The Church
By J. Mark Jordan
Jesus Christ came to offer Himself a sacrifice for the sins of the world and to bring salvation to all men. At the same time, He very carefully organized a body of believers who would evangelize the world with the gospel. This body, the church, has become the agent through which God is at work in the society of men today. Christ loves the church, indwells it, governs it, uses it, and has prepared an eternal home for it.
Instituted by Christ
Matthew 16:18 is the foundational text for the church. A close study of this verse reveals a number of vital concepts relative to the church. “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. ”
“Upon this rock” refers to the foundational truth of the church: the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter the man was not the rock. The revelation of the identity of Christ was the rock.
“I” identifies the foundational designer of the church as Jesus Christ. It is not a man-made organization.
The foundational process of the church is growth. Jesus said, “I will build….” The church was not meant to stagnate and dwindle to nothing, but it is destined to live, to be vibrant, and to fill all the earth.
The foundational ownership is shown in the word my. The entire structure has the name of the Owner stamped upon it. This clear ownership gives Christ every prerogative to govern His church as He wills.
The foundational plan for the church is simply shown in the use of the word church. It is a called-out assembly of believers, set apart for a special mission in life.
Finally, the foundational promise is one of eternal life. “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The old nemesis of death does not have any power to stop the church from being established and spreading to the four corners of the earth.
Christ’s teachings on the shepherd and the sheep form the basis for a further study of the church. John 10:1-16 reveals that believers share several common elements in the true church, even as do the sheep of a flock. There is a common sheepfold, a common identity as sheep, a common Shepherd, a common entrance or door, and a common confession of allegiance to the Shepherd.
Symbolism and Imagery of the Church
Although the church was not established until Jesus came, it was in the plan of God from eternity past. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world ” (Ephesians 1:4). The Old Testament is rich in symbolism and word pictures that depict the preciousness of the church. Isaiah 62:3 calls it a “crown” and a “diadem.” Zechariah 2:8 and 9:16 refer to it as the “apple of God’s eye” and God’s “ensign” or national flag. Many references to Israel have an additional spiritual meaning for the church as well.
The New Testament imagery pertaining to the church is equally rich. The church is compared to a physical body in its structure and operation (Romans 12; I Corinthians 12). Ephesians 2:21 compares it to a building. The glorious imagery of a bride illustrates the church in II Corinthians 11:2 and Ephesians 5:25-32. Each of these symbols opens up more treasures of information concerning God’s marvelous church.
An Organization of People
The church is a very real, tangible and practical organization of people. At the top, somewhat like a Chief Executive Officer of a corporation but more like the landlord or monarch of a kingdom, is our head, the Lord Jesus Christ. “He is the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18). He has delegated the authority for conducting the affairs of the kingdom to His officials. Ephesians 4:11-12 describes these positions and spells out the duties they entail.
Who may be a member of this church? A wonderful answer to this question is I Corinthians 12:13: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” Thus, membership has nothing to do with nationality, color, social or economic status, or any other carnal factor. Anyone may become a part of Christ’s church. Admission into the church is by the new birth (John
3:5). We see it happening throughout the book of Acts. Acts 2:38 gives the specific steps for entrance into the church. “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
The bulk of the New Testament sets forth the kind of life, members of the church ought to live. The when, what, where, who and why of their existence is all contained in Scripture. Christ has also instructed the church to discipline its members in order to maintain the purity of the body.
When Jesus stood on the Mount of Olives, He stated the grand purpose for this organization of people called the church. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20). This Great Commission, as it is called, is the primary responsibility of the church. The church is to avail itself of every resource, use every reasonable method, and exert all its strength to accomplish this purpose.
A Local Assembly
In the Scriptures, the word church sometimes refers to the universal body of believers and sometimes to that part of the body at a certain locale, a geographical place with prescribed boundaries. Thus the church reaches and serves a local population. It becomes the place to hear preaching, which is an indispensable ingredient in the life of the believer. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God ” (Romans 10:17). God has chosen the “foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (I Corinthians 1:21).
People need preaching! When Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:30-35, the eunuch was reading a passage from Isaiah. Philip discovered that the man could not interpret what he read unless someone helped him. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. ” Books, tapes, radio ministries, Bible clubs, neighborhood study groups, and other forms of Christian witness may supplement preaching, but they will never successfully substitute for it..
The local assembly is also the place that provides fellowship. Even as the human body is comprised of interacting and interdependent parts, so the church is also designed for members to work in harmony with each other (I Corinthians 12:12-21). Help and restoration is available in the church as members care for each other (Galatians 6:1-6). Fellowship also has the added benefit of activating group dynamics. Saints can admonish one another, challenge one another, be positive examples to each other, and generally affect each other’s behavior in a godly way. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
Visibility in the community is established through the means of the local assembly. Christ never intended for the church to be a “fly-by-night” outfit, or a mysterious and shadowy organization. He said it is a “city that is set on a hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14). It should be prominently seen and advertised. It should become a familiar landmark in the city. As the Apostle Paul evangelized the world in his day, he placed great emphasis on establishing churches and not just on seeing individual souls saved. He knew that if the church could be established and become highly visible in the community, it would facilitate the saving of many more souls than the few he could reach
Builder of Character
The church is a practical means by which God can work on His people. The church assumes a “how-to” role in developing Christian character. Attending one particular local assembly is vital to the discovery of the will of God in our individual lives, providing the following important aids.
A systematic, well-rounded study of the Bible. “Church-hoppers” may hear part of a Bible study on Genesis one week, and in another church the next week they may hear a partial study of Revelation.
A personal pastor. Deeper relationships need time to develop. Many counselors and therapists take several months to establish a bond with their counsels before they can really help them. A long-term pastor is a tremendous asset to an individual if only because of the time they have known each other. Also, real help requires that the pastor feel a responsibility toward a saint. If that person will be gone to another assembly in four or five weeks. the pastor’s efforts are stifled.
Sincere Christian friends who share common experiences. An English poet once said, “No man is an island.” People desire and need friendship. Fellowship is the larger framework of this principle, but more specific relationships between individual persons are also good and necessary. Everyone needs a “buddy” with whom he can eat, shop, or just talk and share mutual feelings. In a single church in which common experiences are shared, two friends can become knit together for a lifetime of mutual edification and enjoyment.
Cultivation of a sense of belonging. It is extremely important for a person to feel a part of something worthwhile. This establishes his self-esteem, acceptance, and happiness. Much of what a person does throughout his entire life is done to feel needed and appreciated. Church work is highly rewarding in this area.
It is also important to be a part of something larger than oneself. A certain “esprit de corps” should emerge from the heart and cause a person to feel good when he says, “There is my church!”
Opportunity to work for the Lord. No other place abounds with as many chances to work for God as the local church. Teaching, singing, and working with church groups such as Ladies Auxiliary, Boy Scouts, youth groups, and even recreational programs all have a place in church work. All the direction, tools and means to carry out spiritual callings and ambitions are available in the church. It is difficult for those who are lax in church attendance to say they are working for God.
A place to prove reliability and trustworthiness. Circumstances of life expose both weaknesses and strengths in a person’s disposition. The church can provide a framework in which the real personality can surface. If a person is not reliable or trustworthy, or has other character problems, involvement in the church will allow the pastor and other mature saints to become aware of them and help that person to overcome them. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit
yourselves: for they watch for your souls” (Hebrews 13:17). The church prepares people for heaven.
The church is both a spiritual and practical entity. If a person has been born again, God has already placed him into His church. As he grows in grace and knowledge of the Word of God, he will see the importance of the visible, practical side of the church as well. God incarnated His Spirit in the humanity of Jesus Christ to accomplish a very real purpose in the world. His Spirit alone could not have died at Calvary. Similarly, God has placed His Holy Spirit in the body of the
church to carry out a very real purpose in the world today. If a Christian is not firmly established in a local assembly, he cannot be all that God truly wants him to be. He should get involved immediately. The most exciting events happening in the world today are happening in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J. Mark Jordan, raised in Jackson, Michigan attended Texas Bible College. Later he received a B.S. in Human Relations from the University of Toledo. He and his wife Sandy evangelized several years before he became Associate Pastor to First Apostolic Church, Toledo, OH. In 1978 he founded Apostolic Christian Academy. He served the Ohio District as Youth President, UPCI, from 1977 to 1983. Since 1983 he has pastored First Apostolic Church, Toledo, OH. He has written numerous articles for Pentecostal publications. He now resides with his wife Sandy and three children in suburban Toledo.
The Above Material Was Taken From Measures Of Our Faith, And Published By Word Aflame Press, 1987, Pages 65-72. This Material Is Copyrighted And May Be Used For Study & Research Purposes Only.