What is the church?

What is the church?

Throughout the Bible, the ‘church’ is referring to a body of believers, not a building. In many references it is referring what is commonly called the “Universal Church”  or all the believers throughout the universe.

The church is not mentioned in the old testament. The Jews worshipped in a temple. For many Jews, they were only able to go to the temple once a year. Perhaps that is where we get the idea of only going to church only on Easter?

References to the church began in the New Testament. Jesus began to talk about the church in Matthew 16:

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Matthew 16:17-20 (NIV)

As the Apostle Paul travelled on his missionary trips, he referred to the church, a part of the body that lived in a given geographic area. i.e. the Church of Corinth, the Church of Philippi, etc.

In our society today, we talk about the church and usually it refers to a certain building or congregation that assembles in the building. Unfortunately, when we limit ‘church’ to a particular congregation or denomination, we lose the real meaning of church. As we talk about a given congregation, we have a tendency to become territorial in our ministry.

The book of Acts records the Holy Spirit coming to all believers, the church. It also talks about what the church did after receiving the Holy Spirit.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)

It should also be noted that in the New Testament there is no references to raising money for a ‘building fund’. Within the church, the people were selling their possessions, or giving their possessions to the people who needed them.

In other words, the church spent time in prayer, worship, teaching, fellowship and mutual encouragement. It should also be noted that this was an everyday occurrence, not just a once or twice a week event as many practice today. Is it any wonder that church congregations are getting smaller and Christians become fewer?

Many times people are asked if a person can be a Christian without going to church. The truth of the matter is that if one is a Christian, they are part of  the church. Everywhere they go, they are in church.

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:19-20 (NIV)

God does not intend for Christians to be ‘loners’ nor does God intend for us to be dependent on a large number of Christians. But God does want us to encourage one another in our Christian walk. He wants us to depend on him, not a large denomination or a large congregation. For a church to do what God intended, it only takes two or three. The success of a church is not the number of members or baptisms, it is about doing the Father’s business.

The idea that a church needs a facility to carry on the work of the church, limits how we practice being the church.  According to Matthew 18:19, the practice of church takes place wherever there are two or more Christians.  How difficult would it be to live the Christian life if you had fellow believers encouraging you on a daily basis?

When churches have a facility in which to worship, they tend to begin to become territorial in their ministry, becoming judgmental of other Christians and rather than encouraging them. They begin to brag about how well they can have “church”. They need the latest electronic gadgets, the latest methods, and the best programs.

However the church described in Acts, was busy seeing to it that others had what they needed to worship God. In the book of Galatians, Paul writes about the church.  The church is to ‘carry each other’s burdens’ (Galatians 6:2 NIV). This does not take place if the members of the church are in competition with each other.

If a church doesn’t have a facility, where should they operate? Churches can meet anywhere. They can meet in coffee shops, places of employment, schools, parks, and homes.

When Jesus was born, where were the shepherds? They were in their fields when the angels told them of the Christ child’s birth. In other words, they were at their workplace. You will also note that the message came through cyberspace. The angels came down from the heavens. Could this have been the social media of the day?

Christians are the church. Wherever Christians go, there is church.

Prayer (Part 2) Does God Hear our Prayers?

When one reads about prayer in the Bible, it seems that we can just ask for anything we please and God will give it. If we want a new red convertible and ask God for it, He will give it to us. Even though He has the power to do it, it does not mean that He will give it us.

In Isaiah 59:1-8, Isaiah is telling the people why they did not receive what they had asked for. He is saying that they need to confess their sin.

 Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.  But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things.  No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil. They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web.

Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched. Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands. Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways. 

 The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peaceIsaiah 59:1-8 (NIV) 

If we want God to answer our prayers, we must first take care of the sin issues in our lives so God will hear our prayers.

In John 9, Jesus healed a blind man.  This made the Pharisees very upset. They went to the man who had been blind and asked how he received his sight. But when he answered them, they did not believe him, so they went to his parents to ask how the man who had been blind was healed and the parents said ask their son. After some discussion, the man that had been blind made this comment:

The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.John 9:30-33 (NIV)

 In 1 John 3:19-24, John writes this:

This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:  If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God  and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.  And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. 1 John 5:13-15 (NIV)

When we ask God for something we should not have, the Holy Spirit will let us know if the request is wrong. He will then give us peace and let us know that God has a better idea because He knows everything. If the Holy Spirit does not indicate that the request is wrong, we can be assured that God will give us whatever we asked for because we believe in Jesus Christ and love others.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:13-14 (NIV)

When we are in tune to God the Father, prayer will always bring us peace. In other words, when we pray, we can be assured of peace, regardless of the answer God gives. If he says “Yes” we have peace and when He says “No”, we have peace because we know He has a better plan.

We can trust God because He sees the whole picture, not just a snapshot of our lives.

 

NOTE: All scripture printed it from the NIV version found at http://www.biblegateway.com/?version=NIV