The Word Of God - Lesson VI A
God established New Testament churches to be a vital part of the life of the believer. It is therefore important for believers to have a proper understanding about what a New Testament Church is and its function.
In order for a church to call itself a church in the true Biblical sense it must base its faith and practice solely on the Word of God, the Bible for the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God as we can read in:
II Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
No mortal man founded the New Testament church; it was Christ who instituted the church as we can read in:
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.
Please, remember that the ROCK Jesus talks about in the above verse is the Lord Himself as we can read in:
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation.
Although the church is organised and administered by an assembly of believers, the church is not their possession. It is Christ who owns the church since he bought it with His own blood as we can read in:
………Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.
Scripture identifies two leadership positions within the local church: elders and deacons. The elder is an “overseer” of the church. Scripture refers to the local church having multiple elders. An elder is to give counsel and leadership for the church and the believers. The qualifications and duties required to serve in these positions are found in the following passages:
I Timothy 3:1-7, 11
Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money." He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgement as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.…..
In the same way, women are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
And Titus 1:6-9
An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless –not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.
And I Peter 5:1-3
To the elders among you, I (Peter) appeal as a fellow-elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed. Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
Men as well as women were called by God to function as overseers in accordance with their giftings. However, the Apostle Paul specifically addressed men in relation to marriage because at that time men were allowed to have more than one wife but women were not allowed to have more than one husband.
The position of deacon is one of service for those who are willing to serve the church by performing the various duties and tasks as required as we can see in:
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained about the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch. They presented these men to the Apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
And I Timothy 3:8-12
Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, women are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and household well.
Both men and women were called by God to function as deacons in accordance with their giftings. Once again Paul specifically addressed men in relation to marriage because at that time men were allowed to have more than one wife but women were not allowed to have more than one husband.
Believers and the local church
1. Believers are placed in the local church upon their baptism. They then become members of the local church according to:
All believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he 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 favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
2. Believers are to learn doctrine in the local church according to:
It was He (Christ) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ, From Him, the whole body, joined and held together, by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
3. Believers are to function in the church in accordance with their gift or gifts as we can read in:
I Corinthians 12:27-31
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifs of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
Paul teaches the believers here that we are all to function in one or more of the above gifts, but no one will function in all the gifts. As far as speaking in tongues are concerned, the gift of a private prayer language is for everyone who receives the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. However, in this verse Paul is talking about the public gift of speaking in tongues and not everyone will have that particular gift.
Moreover, the gifts that are given to believers are to be used in relation to the local church.
4. Believers are not to forsake the assembling of themselves together according to:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
In this verse the author of Hebrews speaks of the importance of coming together as believers. He touches as well on the subject of the Day of the Lord, which is the Day of the Return of the Lord. Now, that Day has not yet happened. However, we are much nearer to that Day than these believers were. Therefore, we need to be even more prepared for that event than they were.
5. Believers are to submit to the leadership of the church.
Leaders are called of God to take care the local assembly of believers according to:
From Miletus Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church….
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with His own blood.
And Hebrews 13:17
“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
And I Peter 5:2-3
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
These leaders are not to “lord” it over the assembly as Jesus taught in:
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials lord it exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve….”
Instead, they are to teach the Word of God as well as to live by the Word of God. They and the congregation alike, are to obey the Word of God so that there will be unity in the assembly.
6. Believers are to support missionaries.
God’s Word teaches that missionaries are to be supported spiritually and materially by the assembly of believers, both on an individual basis and collectively according to:
I Corinthians 16:5-6
After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you –for I will be going through Macedonia………. Perhaps I will stay with you a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go.
And II Corinthians 1:16
I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea.
And Titus 3:13
Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need.
And III John 5-6
Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.
Missionaries were ordained and sent out by the local church according to:
In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers; Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Christ Himself commissioned His disciples and commanded them to go according to:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you….”
7. Believers have the responsibility and privilege of supporting missions and the local church according to:
During this time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world (this happened during the reign of Claudius). The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
Paul instructed the church in Corinth regarding giving in the following manner:
II Corinthians 9:6-11
Remember this, whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way, so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanks giving to God.
And I Corinthians 16:1-3
Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.
Paul wrote to the Philippian church on giving as follows:
I rejoice greatly in the Lord, that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can everything through Him who gives me strength. Yet, I was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, not that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
8. Believers have a responsibility in helping govern the local church.
Christ in establishing His church instituted order and organisation by which believers would carry out His work. Government of the local church was by simple democracy under the direction of the Holy Spirit according to:
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together, and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip. Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid hands on them.
And Acts 13:1-3
In the church at Antioch, there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaem (who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
And Acts 15:22
Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers.
9. Believers who need to be disciplined are to be disciplined under the authority of the local church.
The discipline of believers because of sin is to be done by the local church according to:
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of one or two witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
And I Corinthians 5:1-13
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not even occur among pagans. A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgement on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast – as you really are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexual immoral people –not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you.
Paul makes it very clear in this passage that the sin of one person affects all the believers of the local church and not just that one person, just as yeast affects the whole lump of dough. It is therefore extremely important to deal with any believer who lives a sinful lifestyle.
And II Thessalonians 3:6
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.
And Titus 3:9-11
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
In these passages Paul warns against believers who are lazy, divisive and thereby cause disharmony among the believers.
10. Believers who need healing are to call for the elders of the local church for prayer. The prayer for the sick was also clearly a function of the local church according to:
Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
All healing after Pentecost was related to the ministry of the local church and included the prayer of healing by elders. Moreover, James encouraged believers to “confess their sins” meaning to “share their faults, their weaknesses” with others so that they would be walking in a greater measure of physical, emotional or spiritual wholeness because of the support and prayers of others. After all, as James pointed out, the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. And all believers are righteous in Christ according to:
II Corinthians 5:21
God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
The New Testament Church has two Ordinances
Water Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the only two ordinances given to the local church.
We have the first account of water baptism in:
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
With many word he warned them and he pleaded with them. “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
At that time three thousand people who received Christ were baptised. In doing so, they identified themselves with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ according to:
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ were baptised into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
And Colossians 2:11
In Him (Christ) you were also circumcised in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with Him in Baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him (Christ) from the dead.
The Lord’s Supper
Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper the night before He died as we can read in:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is My body.”
Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in My Father’s Kingdom.
The Lord’s Supper was a memorial act for believers. It was given to bring to remembrance Christ’s suffering and death for our sins according to:
I Corinthians 11:23-26
For I (Paul) received from the Lord what I passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way after supper, He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
When believers take the Lord’s Supper they show their belief in Christ’s death for the remission of their sins, looking forward to the day when Christ will return.
The Lord’s Supper is only for believers. Moreover, believers are to examine themselves before they take part in the Lord’s Supper according to:
I Corinthians 11:28-32
A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without recognising the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgement on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgement. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so we will not be condemned with the world.
The elements of the Lord’s Supper, the bread and the wine are only symbolic of the body and blood of Christ. The value in taking them is in the honouring and revering of Christ for His suffering for us, and our self-examination to judge sin in our lives.
The church decides how often the Lord’s Supper is taken.
The local church is very important to the Lord and as such is to be very important to believers as well.
Next, we will study the subjects of heaven and hell.