The English word, “church” that is most commonly thought of as referring to an “institution” or a “building” is not a biblical concept. The “church” is, for purposes of this study is “people”. Also, the “church” is not just “any” people; the “church” is “certain” people. In the New Testament where the word “church” is used it always refers to people who are surrendered, born-again followers of Jesus Christ.
Author / pastor / teacher David Jeremiah sites in his book, “I Never Thought I’d See The Day” regarding an interesting translation issue from William Tyndale’s work into the Authorized aka King James Version of the Bible:
“The great English Bible translator William Tyndale wisely sought to avoid the confusion between ‘Church’ (the organism which are made up of individual followers of Christ) and ‘church’ (the buildings and institutions) by translating (the Greek word) ekklesia as ‘congregation’ instead of ‘church’ so that the reference to people (rather than to buildings and / or institutions) was always preserved. Alas, church politics got in the way. England’s King James 1, titular head of the Church of England, would not hear of his translators’ (who were working on the Authorized, or King James Version) copying the Puritan Separatist Tyndale’s work, so the king made his translators render ekklesia as ‘church’ instead of ‘congregation’. By the early 1600s, when his translation was prepared, there were many churches (church buildings) in Europe, which set the stage for four hundred years of confusion as to what ‘church’ means: people or buildings. In the New Testament it always refers to people- the followers of Jesus Christ.” The Biblical word that is most commonly translated in English as “church”
In 21st century America there exists an “organization” of the church; and there has, since the days of Jesus Christ, been the “organism” of the Church. The difference is that the organization can be- and usually is- a “place” where people assemble to practice their religious rituals and traditions. This “organization”, with all of its brick and mortar, and its ritual and tradition, is not the “church” to which Jesus refers.
JESUS INTRODUCES THE CHURCH
Our study of the church begins with a statement of Jesus in Matthew 16:13-20.
- In verse 13, what was Jesus’ question?
- What was His question in verse 15?
- What did he answer in v.16?
Some people claim that Peter is the rock on which Jesus would build His church while others (usually Protestants), have found significance on Jesus’ play on words in the passage. Peter’s name (petros), refers to a small stone used in building, but Jesus used a different word for “rock”, (petra), which refers to a larger stone, more for a foundation stone for a house. When Jesus said He would build His church on a rock, He pointed to Peter’s declaration of Himself (Jesus) as being the Christ (the Anointed One, or Messiah). It is upon the truth of Peter’s declaration that Jesus Christ the Son of God was the promised Savior, and that it was upon this truth that Jesus would build His church. In other words, the declaration is the “rock”; not Peter. Those receiving and believing this truth about Him would make up His church.
Notice the change that occurs immediately following the passage under consideration. In Matthew 16:21, Jesus reveals that He is to be rejected by the Jewish people. This marks a definite change in the kind of ministry Jesus would exhibit to the Jewish nation. Up until now He’s declared Himself as the promised Messiah, whereas now He’s predicting something that we know now would have eternal results, based on His death on the cross. Furthermore, as we study the New Testament, we know the “church” He was referring to are the people who would become His followers; who would accept Him as their Lord and Savior.
After the death of Christ, and more particularly, at the time of Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came upon that group of believers in the upper room, was the beginning of the church age. At this time there was a change in the divine program from the recognition of one particular, favored nation to an appeal to individuals; Jews and Gentiles alike. This appeal was the presentation of a crucified Savior to provide the forgiveness of sins.
Paul writes in the New Testament about the miraculous change that was a “mystery” in the Old Testament (uniting of Jews and Gentiles into one body).
Read Ephesians 2:11-22
- How does Paul describe Gentiles in verses 11, 12?
- What has brought about the change? (v. 13)
Paul goes on to show (verses 14 – 16), that the death of Christ broke down the barriers between Jew and Gentile, bringing us together into one body in Him.
- There is a negative truth (something we were) and a positive truth (now, something we are), expressed in v. 19.
What is the negative?
What is the positive?
- Who is the foundation for this new, wonderful relationship to God (v. 20?)
Continue reading into chapter 3 of Ephesians.
- Paul speaks of a “mystery” in verses 4 & 5. What is it according to v. 6?
- Paul brings out a 3 point progression of his ‘calling’ in verses 8, 9 & 10. What are they…
- in verse 8?
- in verse 9?
- in verse 10?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.
- How does Paul describe the church in v. 12?
- How important is each member of the church?
- What are some truths you discover about members of the church in…:
- vs. 25?
- vs. 26?
- vs. 28 (cf. 12:4-11)?
- Why do you think Paul gives us so much information about the church in this section of Scripture?
- According to chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians, what is the greatest emphasis that we can show towards other members of the Body of Christ?
- Note how Peter (2:4,5) describes the church. How does this idea blend with our idea of the “church”?
JESUS: HEAD OF THE CHURCH
Jesus Loves His Church: The Bride and Bridegroom
- What does it mean that the church is the bride of Christ?
- Christ, the Bridegroom, has sacrificially and lovingly chosen the church to be His bride (Ephesians 5:25-27).
- In the life of the Jew it was customary during the betrothal period for the bride and groom to be separated until the wedding. So is the bride of Christ separate from her Bridegroom during the church age. Her responsibility during the betrothal period is to be faithful to Him (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:24).
- When Jesus returns for His Second Coming, the official “wedding ceremony” will take place when the church will be united with the Bridegroom and the eternal union of Christ and His bride will be actualized (Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-2).
Read Ephesians 5:23-25 again. Jesus characterizes the relationship between Himself and His church analogous to God’s institution of marriage between a man and a woman.
What are the two roles of Jesus to His church (verse 23)?
To whom is the church subject?
To what degree does Jesus love the church?
Read 1 Corinthians 11:3 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-35
To who has Jesus delegated the authority to teach the congregation?
What do you think this says to about women who decide to become the pastor over the congregation of a church?
The matter of women in leadership / pastoral roles seems in many 21st century churches a divisive subject. However, to the 1st century Christian, this was not a difficult teaching since Jesus had, by virtue of His ministry of teaching the Apostles, “leveled” the playing field as it related to the wrong notion of treating women (and wives) as “property” and showing by example that women held a position on the same level with men while delegated to different roles and responsibilities. Under the influence of the humanistic doctrines of the new feminism of “the women’s liberation” that has seeped into the 21st century American church, this teaching is being wrung out so as to justify the placing of women in roles of teaching congregations, and women’s justification of self-delegation as pastors (self-delegation since it is clear that it is not by delegation of the Headmaster of the Church). People who respect Jesus as Head of the church will respect His order of and delegation of authority.
“The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God” (I Cor. 11:3). “The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23).
Within “assemblies of the saints” (I Cor. 14:33b), women are not “permitted to speak” (vv. 34-35; Cf. I Tim. 2:11-12).
What does this mean that women are not permitted to speak? Consider having gone to a business conference, for example, where one enters the auditorium and receives a “program” with a list of “speakers”. An usher leading you to your seat says to you, “These are the rules of conduct for this assembly. You are not allowed to speak; do not talk, be silent. And do not ask questions…if you have questions, they are to be asked of the speakers’ delegates outside of the auditorium at the end of this session.”
In this example, you are not permitted to speak because you have not been given the authority to be a “speaker” to the audience.
You are not allowed to talk because talking during the speakers’ presentation is impolite, inappropriate, and rude.
You are required to be silent as a courtesy to other listeners in the audience and to the speaker.
You are not allowed to question the speaker, challenge the speaker, debate the speaker, or in any way disrupt or interrupt the speaker; those in charge have specifically delegated to someone to whom questions are to be directed.
So thus has Jesus established the His order for women (and wives) in the assembly of the church. Jesus has written the “program”; He has chosen and ordained the credentials necessary for eligibility as “speakers” in the assembly; He has instructed women (and wives) with regard His rules of conduct in the assembly; and He has given instruction as to who He has delegated for the answering of questions.
It is important to note the incredible importance that God has given the accountability of husbands in the knowledge and rightly dividing of Scripture.
Jesus Heads the Church: The Lord and Master
- What does it mean that Jesus is the “head” of the church?
It is easy to think of Jesus as Savior, but one cannot presume upon salvation apart from responding to Jesus as Master. Like undisciplined children, some only want to see parents as dispensaries and not disciplinarians. Some Christians want the Lamb, but not the Lion (Rev. 5:5-6).
We must recognize the headship of Jesus in the order of things.
Read 1 Peter 2:22-25
What is a shepherd to sheep?
How does verse 25 characterize sheep?
What are the two characterizations of Jesus in verse 25?
Jesus is the “Shepherd and Bishop.” As “shepherd” and “master”, Jesus has authority to “delegate”. Read 1Timothy 3:1-7.
How does Jesus “delegate” His authority in His church?
What kind of character does Jesus require of those to whom He delegates His authority?
Through overseers called elders, pastors, deacons, bishops Jesus the “Master Bishop” delegates His authority and control over the affairs of the local church to elders or bishops. Failure to submit to the eldership of the local church is to reject Jesus as the head of the church. As members of His church, we must subordinate ourselves to the authority that He has delegated.
Read 1 Corinthians 11:1-3; and Ephesians 5:21-27.
Who is the “head” of every man?
To whom, if anyone, does Jesus subordinate Himself? Who is the “head” of Jesus?
What does the phrase, “…submit to one another in the fear of God” mean (Ephesians 5:21)
Within the “organization” of the church there may- and generally is- within the larger assembly an organism of the Church, that being a small group of people who have come because of a true and genuine devotion to follow and worship Jesus Christ. When Jesus speaks of His Church, He is neither referring to this group of folks practicing rituals and traditions nor the organization and its buildings. Jesus is speaking of the “organism” that is the Body of Christ.
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