THE BODY, THE CHURCH (Part 1)
By John C. Carpenter
 
Paul and Timotheus wrote the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colossae thanks unto the Father, which hath made us [believers] meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he [God's dear son, i.e., Jesus Christ] is the head of the body [whole group of believers], the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence (Col 1:12-18). What is the church, how did it get started, and what is its' purpose and function?
 
BUT WHOM SAY YE THAT I AM?
 
The word church is translated from the Greek word ekklesia, which means to call, calling out, a popular meeting especially of a religious congregation, the Christian community of members on earth or saints in heaven, or assembly of believers. At the time of Christ, the term church generally referred not to a building or location, but to those persons, individual and collective, who believed on Jesus Christ. At the time of Christ, as now [or should be], the church is not about physical structures, but about spiritual hearts. Ekklesia is derived from the Greek word aleo, which means to bid or call. One of the best, and simplest, definitions of the church can be found in the book of Matthew. Jesus was with His disciples, and asked them, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? (Mat 16:13). And the disciples answered some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets (Mat 6:14). Then Jesus asked His disciples, But whom say ye that I am? (Mat 16:15). And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock [the fact that Jesus is the Christ and Son of the living God] I will build my church [ekklesia]; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Mat 16:15-18). In these verses, Jesus correlates the understanding and confession that He is the Christ and the Son of the living God with those who are identified as His church, those individuals who are called out, bidden, or called. Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it (Eph 5:25), Christ purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28), Christ is the head [to seize, take hold of] of the church, as well as the savior [deliverer] of the body (Eph 5:23), the church is subject unto Christ (Eph 5:24), and Christ sanctifies and cleanses His church (Eph 5:26). Listen to the apostle Peter's description of the Christian church: As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (1 Pet 2:2-5). The church is chosen of God, precious, considered to be lively stones, built upon a spiritual house, is a holy priesthood, is intended to offer spiritual sacrifices, and acceptable to God because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What is the purpose of the church; what is the church called to be or do? What is it to say, and how is it to behave?
 
THE LORD HATH MADE ALL THINGS FOR HIMSELF
 
As with the rest of God's creation, the church was brought into existence according to God's will, grace, pleasure, and for His glory. Neither individual believers, nor the church as a whole, came into existence on their own. The church was created by and for God the Father and His Son, as was everything else:The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil (Pro 16:4). The apostle Paul explained, For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever (Rom 11:36). John wrote, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things [including the church of believers called to Christ], and for thy pleasure they are and were created (Rev 4:11). By God's grace, the church was created. Paul wrote believers in Rome, But not as the offence, so also is the free gift [of eternal life available to the church]. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many (Rom 5:15).
 
The Christian church did not begin on its' own. Jesus said He would build His own church. Scriptures instruct us that Jesus asked His disciples, But whom say ye that I am? (Mat 16:15), And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Mat 16:15-18). It is not man who gives us the understanding and belief, in other words our faith, that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God. This understanding is given to us by God the Father and Jesus Christ. It is He who initiates and develops our faith in Christ for salvation. Additionally, the church did not choose God. God chose the church, and specifically created itto bear fruit. Scriptures instruct us, Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained [appointed, commited] you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you (John 15:16). The apostle James wrote Of his [God's] own will begat [to breed forth, to generate, to bring forth] he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures [that which is formed, created things] (James 1:18).Christ taught that faith in the individual is initiated by God the Father. He taught, No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44), as well as All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out (John 6:37). Those who have faith in Christ have been given to Christ by our heavenly Father (John 17:6). Jesus told His disciples, But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father (John 6:64-65). Additionally, the Lord adds to the church daily such as should be saved (Act 2:47).
 
Each and every believer in Christ did not generate his or her own faith in Christ; what faith we have was initiated and generated by God the Father. The author of the book of Hebrews instructs us that Jesus Christ is the author [chief leader, captain, prince] and finisher [completer, consummater, to fulfill, to make perfect] of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2). Paul wrote his fellow believers in Corinth For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building [the church of believers]. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:11). Jesus Christ is the laid foundation, the chief corner stone of the building, or church of believers in Christ. Paul added to believers in Ephesus, Now therefore ye [Paul's fellow believers, i.e., the church] are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the [other] saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the [the work and ministy of the] apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together [by Jesus Christ] for an habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph 2:19-22).
 
CALLED TO PREDESTINATION
 
First, the church is called to salvation through the predestined knowledge and will of God the Father. Paul explained to believers in Ephesus that the church was created and predestined by God, according to the good pleasure of His will and pleasure, and for the praise of His glory: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us [the church]with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even [specifically] in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, beingpredestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ (Eph 1:3-12). Paul referred to the predestination of the Roman believers when he wrote,And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom 8:28-29), and Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied (1 Pet 1:2). God knew what He was doing, and planned it all in advance.
 
CALLED TO SALVATION
 
God the Father's calling of His church to salvation has always been clear. The wordsave is translated from the Greek word sozo, which means to deliver, protect, heal, preserve, or make whole. Mary brought forth a son, and called his name Jesus, in order that he could save His people from their sin (Matt 1:21), For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost (Mat 18:11). Clearly, Christ is able also to save [deliver, protect, preserve, make whole] them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them (Heb 7:25). A man asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved. Paul and Silas responded Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house (Act 16:29-31). Paul wrote and taught Roman believers that because believers are justified by his [Christ's] blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him(Rom 5:9), then later added, if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved (Rom 10:9). All believers in Christ have been given the gift of salvation from God the Father:Christ hath raised believers up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph 2:6-9). God saved the church so that it might live with Him forever: For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him (1 Thes 5:9-10).
 
CALLED TO BE IN GOD'S FAMILY
 
The church is also called into a relationship, an inheritance, with God the Father, Christ the Lord and Savior, and the Holy Spirit biblically described as elect, sons, children, heirs, adopted, and joint heirs. Peter refers to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, as the Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied (1 Pet 1:1-2). The word elect is derived from the Greek word eklektos, which means selected, favorite, choose out, chosen, called. Individual believers who comprise the larger church have been selected, chosen, or elected as God's favorite to have faith in Christ resulting in eternal salvation; believers have been chosen to be part of God's family. Peter taught that God has given the church an incorruptible inheritance which is reserved in heaven: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance [heirship, patrimony, possession, a sharer by lot] incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Pet 1:3-5). The church was and is destined to be adopted by God as sons: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption [placing as a child, foal, son, daughter] of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ (Gal 4:4-7). Paul explained believers' relationship with God the Father,That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh [at hand, near to God the Father] by the blood of Christ (Eph 2:12-13), while Peter echoed the same idea, But ye are [now] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10). But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even [specifically]to them that believe on his name (John 1:12). God the Father sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law in order To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father (Gal 4:4-6). Paul explained to Roman believers in Christ that The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together (Rom 8:16-17).
 
CALLED TO LOVE
 
Believers in the church are also called to loving relationships with God, and man. The word love is translated from the Greek word agape, which means affection, benevolence, or charity. The psalmists expressed the deep, intrinsic needs of their hearts, to be with and love God:One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple (Psa 27:4), and As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God (Psa 42:1). God knows the importance and joys of the church loving Him, and He commands us to do just that:thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment (Mar 12:30). God added, And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul (Deu 10:12).The psalmist expressed his need for God: But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works (Psa 73:28), while the author of Hebrews instructs believers to draw near [to God] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water (Heb 10:22). God values the loving relationship He has with the church because He has promised I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Heb 13:5). Scriptures instruct the twelve tribes and the church, Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded (James 4:8). Scriptures teach that all of the law is fulfilled when we love our neighbor as ourselves (Gal 5:14), while Jesus instructed His disciples By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35). Regarding the expression of love, the apostle John wrote My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18). In his letter to the Ephesian believers, Paul wrote Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour (Eph 5:1-2). The depth of God's love is expressed by Christ when He said, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). We are instructed, Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you... (James 4:8), while the apostle John reminds us ...not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another... (2 John 1:5). John instructs us, Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16). Jesus commanded His disciples, and us, to love: This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you (John 15:12). With God, love outweighs everything else. Regarding love, Paul concluded to the Corinthian church, For now we see through a glass, darkly [without full understanding]; but then face to face [with full comprehension]: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest [most important] of these is charity [love] (1 Cor 13:12-13), and to the church in Rome, Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law (Rom 13:10).
 
CALLED TO BECOME LIKE CHRIST
 
Through the workings of the Holy Spirit, believers in the church are additionally called to become more and more like Christ. Paul told those in Ephesus, put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph 4:24), and those in Corinth, But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory, even [specifically] as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor 3:18). Paul further explained that God the Father placed various ministries within the church for the specific purpose of the development of the church, for the perfecting of the saint, so that the saint may become more Christ-like: And he [God the Father] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying [confirmation and improvement of the building or structure] of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Eph 4:11-13). John put it like this: Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2). Believers in Christ are to be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God [for us to become like Christ] (Rom 12:2). John referred to the same perfection when he wrote But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked (1 John 2:5-6), then added Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment:because as he [Christ] is, so are we in this world (1 John 4:17). Paul summarized God the Father's intention in our salvation - For whom he [God the Father] did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom 8:29).
 
CALLED TO SERVE
 
Believers in Christ are called to serve God and man. The word serve is translated from the Greek word douleuo, which means to be a slave, to be in bondage to, or to do service. The apostle Paul teaches that we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10). Paul exhorted the believers in Colossae to serve Christ - Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: forye serve the Lord Christ (Col 3:24). Believers are called to use their freedom in Christ to serve one another (Gal 5:13), as well as to fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you (1 Sam 12:24). Paul taught, that being freed from the law, believers should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter (Rom 7:6), and that How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb 9:14). Christians shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him (Deu 13:4). Joshua commanded the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul (Jos 22:5). These commandments are equally applicable to believers in Christ. Christ knew well the price of greatness, and therefore taught His own disciples whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45). Believers are to serve and wait, as Paul explained to believers in Thesallonica: For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come (1 Thes 1:9-10).
 
Believers in Christ are also called to serve man. Peter instructs us toUse hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Pet 4:9-10), while Paul instructs us For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only us not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even [specifically]in this; Thou shalt love [serve] thy neighbour as thyself (Gal 5:13-14). Jesus specifically taught the multitudes Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Mat 5:16). Paul explained that he made himself a servant unto all, that I might gain the more (1 Cor 9:19). Paul taught that believers in Christ are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter (Rom 7:6). AMEN.
 
This article is Continued in Part 2)

 

 
 
 
THE CHRISTIAN HERALD
                                                           A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
 
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary
the devil,
as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom
he may devour"
(1 Peter 5:8)



Home

Our
Beliefs

TCH
Articles

Study
Aids

Links

Subject-Verse
Index

Books