WHAT THE CHURCH IS TO BE
BY KEVIN J. CONNER
We ask “What kind of a Church is the Lord building?” What type of Church is it to be? There are three major things that the New Testament reveals concerning what His Church is to be.
A. The Church Militant and Victorious–Matthew 16:15-20.
The Church in this passage is to be a Church militant and victorious. This is what the Church is to be in earth, as to its outward expressions, as far as the world is concerned and the kingdom of darkness.
Fuller details of these things will be taken up in due time but for the present we note this in outline form.
1. A Church built on the Rock foundation–Christ.
2. A Church built by Christ Himself, who is the Architect and Head.
3. A Church composed of called out and assembled ones.
4. A Church militant against the Gates of Hades. A Church not “holding the fort” but “storming the forts” of darkness (Ephesians 3:9, 10).
Genesis 22:17. The conflict with the Gates of the enemies. Genesis 24:60. The Church to be victorious in battle, conquering and to conquer. Ephesians 6:10-20. The armour of God needed for battle. II Corinthians 10: 1-5. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God. Not militant spirit as seen in the Dark Ages and the Christian Crusades; religious and “holy wars”. Our Kingdom is not of this world system, hence we do not fight physically. The warfare is spiritual, with principalities and the powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, and wicked spirits (John 18:36, 37; Revelation 12: 10, 11; Acts 12: 10; Psalms 9: 13; Isaiah 38: 10; Matthew 7: 13; Genesis 28: 17, Isaiah 26:2).
The Gates are always symbolical of where the ancients held their meetings for counsel, business, amusement, etc., at their cities. They were to them what Law-Courts, Town Halls are for us today.
The Gates of Hades–Conflict with the Kingdom of Darkness (Genesis 3:15). The Church, like “the woman” is at warfare and enmity with the serpent, the Devil. Satan shall not prevail. The Church shall prevail.
5. A Church having the Keys of the Kingdom.
“I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16: 19). Note the following keys in Scripture.
a. The key of knowledge–Luke 11:52.
b. The key of David–Revelation 3:7; Isaiah 22:21, 22.
c. The keys of Death and Hades–Revelation 1: 18.
d. The key of the Bottomless Pit–Abyss–Revelation 9:1; 20:1.
e. The keys of the Kingdom of Heaven–Matthew 16:19. Used in the Book of Acts.
The key is always significant of power and authority; to open and shut doors, to let people in or lock them out; to lock or unlock that which is closed. As will be seen, Peter opened the door of faith to Jewry at Pentecost, and then to the Gentiles in Acts 10-11. The keys hold authority of the Kingdom. These are not the keys of the Church, but the keys of the kingdom.
6. A Church having a Binding Ministry.
This relates to (a) The Gates of Hades in conflict against the Church. The Church is to have power to bind those who oppose. Principalities, powers and wicked spirits have to be bound. FIRST bind the strong man, then spoil his house (Matthew 12:29; 13:30). The tares are bound into bundles first.
Matthew 18:15-18. In the master of Church discipline the person is bound.
Mark 5:3; Revelation 20:2; Psalms 105:22-26; 149:8. Satan is to be finally bound for 1000 years.
The Word of God cannot be bound (II Timothy 2:9).
7. The Church is to have a Loosing Ministry.
This relates to (b) The Keys of the Kingdom. The Church is to have a loosing ministry. Luke 13: 16. “Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, be loosed?”
John 11:44. Lazarus had to be loosed from the grave clothes of death.
Psalms 102:20; Mark 7:35. Satan binds his captives. The Church is called to loose them, and bind the powers that bound.
Whatsoever ye bind shall be bound . . . whatsoever ye loose shall be loosed.
8. The Church in Earth is connected with heaven.
Whatsoever is already bound in heaven shall be bound in earth, and whatsoever is loosed already in heaven shall be loosed on earth. Hence the Church needs the mind of Christ, her Head. The Church on earth is to be one with the Lord in heaven (Matthew 28:19). All power is His in heaven and earth.
Mark 16:15-20. They went forth, preaching, the Lord in heaven working with them confirming the Word with signs following. Matthew 6:9. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as in heaven. The will of God is to be done through the Church, the Body of Christ.
Genesis 14. Melchisedek, blessed Abraham of the Most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth. Earth is utterly dependent on heaven, to be one with heaven. Deuteronomy 11:1-10, 21. Unless heaven works with earth, then all earth will fail in powerless, meaningless form and ceremony. There must be total dependence on the Lord in heaven.
B. The Church is To Be a United Church–John 17
The prayer of Christ is practical and prophetic. The Lord undoubtedly saw the divisions that would come in Christendom and thus prayed that the world might see a united Church, a Church at unity in and with itself. Unity is one of the most powerful forces in earth, whether for good or evil. The Tower of Babel proved this until God confused the wicked unity of one speech and one language (Genesis 10-11).
The use of the word “Church” in many places speaks of the ONE Universal Church. When the word “Churches” is used it speaks of this ONE CHURCH in various localities. The only reason for distinction in the Church is a geographical setting–nothing else!
We note the use of the word “Church” in some of the important passages:
a. I will build My Church (not Churches)–Matthew 16:18, 19.
b. The Lord added to the Church–Acts 2:47.
c. Great fear fell on the Church–Acts 5:11.
d. There was persecution against the Church–Acts 8:3.
e. Saul made havoc of the Church–Acts 8:1-3.
f. THE CHURCH throughout the whole of Judea, Galilee, Samaria had rest. Not Churches as in (Acts 9:31) KJV. See Weymouth, Numerical, Goodspeed, Moffatt, Amplified, RSV.
g. The Church in the Wilderness, one Church, though 12 Tribes–Acts 7:38.
h. Elders of the Church–Acts 20:17.
i. A glorious Church–Ephesians 5:25-27.
j. Head over the Church–Ephesians 1:22.
Thus the word “Church” is used of the One Universal Church about 80 times. Then the word is used of local and scattered groups in various geographical locations about 40 times. “Church of God” is used about 8 times, and “Churches of Christ” is used once (Romans 16:16).
Names of the Church are taken up further in Chapter 8.
2. One Accord, One Heart, One Mind
The Early Church was of one accord, one heart and one mind (Acts 1: 14; 2: 1; 2:46; 4:32; 5:12; 8:6; 15:25; Philippians 1:27; 2:2). There the Lord commanded the blessing (Psalms 133).
The Lord will give them one heart (Ezekiel 11:19).
The trumpeters and singers made one sound (II Chronicles 5:13-14).
3. Symbols of Unity and Oneness
a. There is one body but many members–I Corinthians 12:12, 18.
b. There is a sevenfold oneness here–Ephesians 4:4-6.
c. One Tabernacle–Exodus 25-40.
d. There was only one Temple–II Chronicles 1-5.
e. Christ and His Bride are to be one in marriage–Ephesians 5:23-32.
f. Must discern the oneness of the Body–I Corinthians 10:16, 17; 11:27-30.
g. The Lord is making Jew and Gentile one new man–Ephesians 2:11-16.
h. Christ died to gather all scattered together in one–John 11:50-52.
i. There is one body but various offices and functions–Romans 12:1-5.
j. There is one head of this one body–Colossians 1:18.
k. The two sticks are to be one in the hand of the Son of Man–Ezekiel 37:17.
l. There shall be one fold and one shepherd–John 10:16.
m. Brethren in unity receive the anointing of the High Priest–Psalms 133.
n. He will gather together in one all things in Christ–Ephesians 1:10.
o. Noah’s ark was three-storied yet one ark–Genesis 6-8.
p. The Lampstand was 7 branches yet one Candlestick–Revelation 1:20. So the 7
local Churches, yet one Church. Revelation 1-2-3.
q. Unity in time of restoration from Babylon–Ezra 3:1; Nehemiah 8:1. Isaiah
52:8; Ephesians 4:13-16. The fivefold ministries to bring unity in the Body.
r. We being many are one body and one bread–I Corinthians 10:16- 17.
s. To have the same mind, speak the same thing, have the same judgment–I
t. The vine and the branches are one by union life–John 15.
u. One husband, Christ—II Corinthians 11:2.
Thus the Body is to be one. There is to be no schism in the Church (Romans 12:4, 5; Ephesians 5:30; Ezekiel 34:23; 37:24).
The unity in the Godhead is to be manifested in the Church (I John 5:5-8).
The Church is to come to a perfect man (Ephesians 4:12- 16).
4. That they all might be one–John 17.
This is the prayer of Christ. Christ foresaw the schisms, divisions and the heresies which would rend the Church. His prayer must be answered before He returns “that the world may know” that the Father sent the Son. He prays for the Church, not for the world. The same unity which exists in the Godhead, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is to be in the Church. The Godhead is equal as three persons, yet unity manifested in the three persons, in distinctive operation, ministry and manifestation.
This is to be in the many-membered Body of Christ. It is not a man-made or man-coerced unity, or unity of the flesh, but of the Spirit of God; “Even as we are one.”
Note the four things that Christ gave to the Church that they might be one. At least five times Jesus prayed that they all might be one–vs 11, 21, 22, 23. He counts those things that are not as though they were–Jeremiah 1:10; Isaiah 55:9-10; Romans 4:17; Ephesians 3:21.
a. Unity in the Name of God–vs 6, 11, 12, 26.
Denominational names and sectarian names divide the Church. There can only be unity in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3: 14, 15). It is the “family name”–the uniting name of God’s people, His Name in the Church.
b. Unity in the Word of God–vs 6, 8, 14, 17, 19, 20.
One in truth. The unity of the faith (Ephesians 4:9- 16) by the Word and the revelation of God. The Spirit of God is to bring unity in the Word of God. Doctrinal divisions do not exist in the Godhead.
c. Unity in the Glory of God–vs 2, 4, 5, 10, 22, 24.
One in His glory. The glory of God and Christ. Not the glory of men, or of the movement, but His glory (Ephesians 3:21). Unto Him be glory in the Church.
d. Unity in the Love of God-vs 23, 24, 26.
God is love. The very nature of the Godhead manifest. I John–The Epistle of Love, Light and Life (John 3:16).
Here we have the very secret and power of unity, the glory of unity, the perfection of unity, (vs 21, 22, 23). The Lord has purposed this kind of Church and nothing in heaven or hell or earth will frustrate this purpose. There will be a Church that will be “one as we are one”. His prayer will be answered.
C. The Church to be a Glorious Church
Ephesians 5:23-32. The revelation given to Paul concerning the Church as the great mystery, the Bride of Christ, shows the ultimate intention of the Lord for His Church. This is Godward in its truth even as the earlier revelations were outward and inward in their truths.
The Church is to be:
1. A sanctified Church that is holy, separated unto the Lord.
2. A cleansed Church, by the washing of water by the Word.
3. A glorious Church, clothed with glory and bringing glory to Christ.
4. A Church without spot or wrinkle, even as the Old Testament sacrifices were to be without spot, wrinkle, blemish or any such thing.
5. A holy Church, separated from sin.
6. A Church like unto Christ so that He can be united to her and not have a unequal yoke in this marriage.
The word has gone forth out of the mouth of the Lord and the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform it (Isaiah 55:9-11). This is the kind of Church He will have.
D. The Sin of Sectarianism in the Church
One of the greatest inditements against the Church is its numerous divisions. These divisions are the evidence of carnality in all its subtle forms (I Corinthians 3). Sects are the works of the flesh, and many times have the influence of an evil spirit behind them.
Paul spoke of these evil divisions (Romans 16:17, 18; I Corinthians 1:10). In Galatians 5:14-24 he lists strife, seditions and heresies as works of the flesh. These all speak of sectarian divisions among Christians.
1. Variance (Greek “eris”)–Romans 1:29; 13:13; I Corinthians 1:11; 3:3. Translated as debate, strife, contentions, strife, in these verses. Also II Corinthians 12:20; Philippians 1:15; I Timothy 6:4; Titus 3:9.
2. Strife (Greek “eretheia”). Translated contention, strifes, contention, strife in Romans 2:8; II Corinthians 12:20; Philippians 1:15; 2:3.
3. Seditions (Greek “dichostasia”). Translated divisions in Romans 16:17; I Corinthians 3:3.
4. Heresies (Greek “hairesis”). Translated sect and heresies in these verses: Acts 5:17; 15:5; 24:5; 24:14; 26:5; 28:22; I Corinthians 11:19; II Peter 2:1; and heretic in Titus 3:10.
Thus to have a party-spirit or one’s own opinion contrary to the Word of God is to be sectarian. The Pharisees were a sect and condemned all other peoples. When any group sets itself up as being right and all others wrong, and refuses to fellowship or co-operate with any others, that is sectarianism.
It is possible to be more sectarian in a “non-sectarian sect” and more denominational in a ”nondenominational” group that those in a denomination. Sectarianism many times has an evil spirit behind it, and an evil attitude. This is evidenced in Church history by the persecutions, the bitterness, hatred, envy, jealousy, anger and slander that has manifested itself in believers in these times. God hates all forms of sectarianism for it divides the One Body of Christ.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM THE CHURCH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT AND PUBLISHED BY BT PUBLISHING, 1982, PAGES 26-30. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.