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Sunday, July 27, 2014                             Basics Index

 

BACK TO BASICS 24
The New Testament church -8
Is There A Distinction Between the Individual and the Church?
(2 Lessons)

 

We have been engaged in a detailed study of the New Testament church.  We have identified it and discussed its membership.  The past few weeks we have discussed the work of the church – evangelism, edification and benevolence.   These are issues that are misunderstood by the religious world, and in some cases, our brethren.  Some see the work of the church as more social than spiritual.  That is not the Biblical pattern as we have seen.

As we continue our study of the church, today we want to address an issue that has factored into churches engaging in activities that are unauthorized.  It is argued by some that whatever an individual can do (religiously) the church can do.  Some also argue the other extreme – whatever the church cannot do, the individual cannot do.  Both extremes are wrong.

                The Bible makes a clear distinction between the church and the individual.  That will be our discussion in this lesson today.

 I.                     A Christian at all times

a.        Always a follower of Christ – as we begin our study this morning we want to emphasize that being a Christians is not just a compartment in our life.  IT is a lifestyle.  We are described as disciples.  Acts 11:26 says, “… And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

A disciple is a follower who adheres to the teachings of the master.  We are disciples of Jesus. 

b.       It is more than mere belief in Jesus, though that is certainly where we start (Heb. 11:6, John 8:24)
It is more than simply  subscribing to some system of doctrine.  But again, we will do that.  We FOLLOW Him.
It is more than simply being a member of a sound congregation.  Again, that is certainly something that ought to be part of our lives.  It is my hope that in our study of the church that has been firmly established.
It is more than simply obeying the gospel.  Understand clearly, that obeying the gospel is part of a study of the church.  When one is saved he is added to the church (Acts 2:38, 47)

c.        It is about submission, obedience and conformity to Christ – 1 Pet. 1:13-16, James 1:21-25. 
It is a way of life – 24 hours a day, 365 ¼ days a year, year in and year out.   Being a Christian is going to influence every area of your life.

d.       A Christian in all areas of life – the Bible governs how we are to live our lives, not just in the church, but in every aspect of our lives.  It has been said that there are five categories of relationship that we all live in.  

                                                   i.      Family – husband/wife, parent/child, sibling, extended family, etc.  The Bible governs these relationships – 1 Peter 3:1-7, Ephesians 6:1-4, etc.

                                                  ii.      Civil – our responsibilities to the government are outlined in Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17, Luke 20:25, 1Timothy 2:1-4, etc.  Our rights to vote in this country are a privilege we should take advantage of.

                                                iii.      Social – we need to be good citizens and care about our community. The way we interact with other around us is very important.  Our godly example is emphasized in 1 Peter 2:12 – We honorable conduct among the Gentiles, Col 4:5, etc.
ALSO social media – why is it called “social” because we are interacting with our online community.  Social media is AMORAL.  That means it is neither good nor bad.  What it becomes is up to how we manage it.  Anyone involved in social media knows there is a great potential for evil.  It can bring out many ungodly attitudes – gossip, hurtful language, lying, bullying, etc.  It can waste valuable time, etc.  There have even been cases where social media led to adultery through the reigniting of old flames.  BEWARE.   
BUT, it can also do much good – encouragement, reconnect with old friends.  There are many who are using social media to spread the gospel.  Are we being Christians examples in this too?
The area of personal benevolence falls under this (Gal. 6:10, Jas. 1:27, etc.).  More will follow on this in our studies today. 

                                                iv.      Economic – we have a responsibility to work - 2 Thess. 3:10, 1 Thess. 4:11-12,
1 Timothy 5:8 – providing for your family, Col. 3:22-4:1, etc.
You might also add to this, how you manage your money.  Like social media, money is amoral.  It depends upon how you use it. 1 Timothy 6:10.  Having said that, we have great responsibilities as Christians to use our money wisely.  Matt. 6:19-21

                                                  v.      Spiritual – while our point is to demonstrate we have responsibilities outside of the church, we realize that the church IS part of our life.  It is a part of our spiritual life.  Everything we have discussed about the church applies here. 
Our need to promote unity, to support the elders, to do our part, etc.  (Eph. 4:1-16)
Heb. 10:24-25 – we need to assemble with the saints.
Give of our means to support the work – 1 Corinthians 16:1-2

                                                vi.      Personally – with yourself.  I add to these 5 relationships the need to be true to yourself.  How to exercise self-control and self-discipline will have a bearing on how you address every other area of our lives.  Matt. 15:8-9 – heart is far from me; 1 Cor. 13:1-3 – the importance of love; 2 Peter 1:5-11 – it is your character that you need to develop.
Our spiritual relationship also includes growing: 2 Peter 3:18 calls for us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
As you grow, so will your influence with those around you. 

e.       One must follow God’s instructions in each of these areas.  A Christian cannot pass on responsibilities that belong to him to someone else or to some other organization. 
A serious problem we face in our country today is the unwillingness of many to do their part.  They depend on the government or some other entity to fulfill their personal responsibilities.   The government is supposed to raise their children, provide their living, solve their neighbor disputes, and dictate where one can do and what they can do.  It is a tragedy that so many are being raised to not think for themselves. 
THERE are also many who try to pass on their personal responsibilities to the CHURCH as well.  In the Bible the church is not responsible for providing a secular education to your children,  recreation and entertainment in the afternoon and on weekends, tell you how to vote (though as it teaches Biblical principles, some things become obvious), provide you a job (or job training), etc.   AGAIN, I emphasize these are things necessary to accomplish, but it is simply NOT the pattern of the church. 

f.         NOTE: Consider that as a Christian, whatever you do is a reflection on the church you are a part of.  Live so as to bring glory to Christ’s body at all times.  NOT just when you are assembled.  Remember, you are a PART of the church, even when you are not acting AS the church. 

 II.                  There is a difference between the individual and the local church. 

a.        We have clearly shown in previous lessons there is work for the church to do.   And there are works that an individual must do.  According to scripture, we need to make a distinction between these.  The Bible does.  Consider the following:

b.       Dealing with sins of brethren – Matt. 18:15-17 –  the first step to dealing with a brother in sin (against you) is to go to him between you and him alone.
The 2nd step is to take with you one or two “witnesses” (note: Even then you still do not have the church acting.
Step 3, “Tell it to the church”.  NOTICE that only then does the church become involved. 
Step 4 is to withdraw from him. 

c.        Separate treasuries – Acts 4:32-5:11 – concerning brethren caring for and helping each other.  In Acts 5 we read about Ananias and Saphira having land that they sold, they gave some of the proceeds to the church.  They lied about the rest of it.  WE are not given the reason.  BUT, the words of Peter show a distinction between our personal funds and that which is given to the church.  But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”” (Acts 5:3–4)   He died on the spot.  When his wife came in about 3 hours later, she too lied and died on the spot.  This reaction resulted in fear (respect) in the Lord’s church.  

d.       Separate places to eat – 1 Cor. 11:22, 34.  As Paul discusses the Lord’s Supper, he identifies some abuses.  They had turned the Lord’s Supper into a common meal.  Paul says, “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.” (1 Corinthians 11:22).  After this he explains the true supper and warns about eating in a worthy manner.  He concludes saying,  But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.” (1 Corinthians 11:34)   AGAIN, not the distinction between the church and individuals when it comes to eating.

e.       Helping needy Christian widows – 1 Tim. 5:16, “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.  We discussed this context last week when dealing with the benevolence a church is authorized to partake of.  He we note for the sake of our point – what the church can do is distinguished from what an individual can do.

 

 III.                There are some duties assigned to both Christians and the Church

a.        We have clearly shown there is a distinction between the individual and the church.  But we do find things both Christians and the church engage in.   And this is what has prompted so much debate on exactly what the church can do.

b.       Teaching – much of the teaching that results in churches growing is done by individuals.  Churches began with individuals.  Consider Acts 8:4 after persecutions, the disciples went everywhere preaching the word.
In Acts 11:19-26 describes the beginning of the church in Antioch.  It began with brethren who were scattered going there and preaching the Lord.  When the church at Jerusalem heard about the response they sent Barnabas there.  He came and encouraged them.  He also went to Tarsus and found Paul who came down.  The 2 of them worked there for a year.  We find here a combination of individuals and the church proclaiming the gospel.  BOTH individually and collectively they were engaged in the work of teaching and the church benefitted.

c.        Benevolence – last week we discussed that there is benevolence the church can be involved in (always to needy saints, as the need arises [temporary], addressing the need directly, and without collective cooperation of congregations [human organizations or sponsoring churches], not creating businesses, etc.).
We also noted there is a great responsibility (that is not as restrictive) for individuals apart from the church – James 1:27, Mat. 25:31-46, etc.
Much of what the church does in this area depends upon its members properly contributing.  For example Acts 11:29 speaks of the brethren individually giving – yet the church sent the funds.
Even the collection for Jerusalem, Paul instructed in 1 Cor. 16:1-2 – let each one of you lay something aside. 

d.       Discipline – In 1 Cor. 5, we find that the church MUST take action to maintain its purity (6-7) and for the sake of souls.   One who is withdrawn from is publicly marked (vs. 4-5, “When you are gathered together”).   Yet ultimately, this depends upon individuals carrying it out, even in individual responsibilities.  Consider 1 Cor. 5:9-13 which discusses HOW discipline is properly executed. 
NOTE: For discipline to properly work, 1) There has to be a godly bond in the first place, something a soul in danger values, & 2) obeying God’s instructions as individuals so that there is a cost to rejecting God and the church (friends, this is the hard part, but oh so necessary).  Never forget the goal – James 5:19-20 – to turn a sinner from error and save a soul from death.

e.       Worship – The acts of worship are collective (done together).  BUT, each act of worship involves individual effort.  Cf. 1 Cor. 14:26.
YOU have to lay by in store.
YOU have to sing.  YOU pray and study along with the teacher/preacher.
As we partake of Lord’s Supper together, it is described as a communion both with one another and the Lord (1 Cor. 10:16, 11:33, Acts 20:7).  Yet each individual has his own responsibility as we partake – 1 Cor. 11:25-29).

f.         Church growth – that churches ought to grow is clearly understood in the New Testament. 
But how does a church grow?  By “every part doing its share”.  Eph. 4:16, 1 Cor. 12:26-27.  Christians needs to be Christians at all times.  They need to care about the church and do what they can to promote its growth, unity, purity. 

g.       A study of these examples shows:

                                                   i.      While working together there was still a distinction between the church acting as an entity and the individual doing his part.  The distinction in responsibility is clearly made.

                                                  ii.      There is no conflict in both carrying out their tasks.  Their work was done CONCURRENTLY (meaning, both entities act in the same direction but they maintained their distinctiveness).

                                                iii.      There is NOTHING to indicate that the church was taking over the responsibilities of individuals. 

                                                iv.      Therefore, you CANNOT look at these examples and say that whatever the individual can do, the church can do. 

 

 IV.                Respecting the authority of God’s word

a.        As you study a passage of scripture you need to know its context.  There are passages directed to churches and passages directed to individuals.  We must properly apply them.  That is a challenge when studying the Bible but crucial to achieving true unity.

b.       The passages we have discussed in our brief study of the church and its work have all dealt with churches and what they did.  We did not take passages about individuals out of context.  That is part of not thinking “beyond what is written.” (1 Cor. 4:6)   We must always do that.

c.        What is the context of James 1:27?  Sometimes this passage is used to justify general benevolence in churches.  But what is the context?

                                                   i.      James 1:21-27 –

                                                  ii.      If you receive with meekness the implanted word, “which is able to save YOUR souls.”  Every passage that addresses our judgment determines that we will answer for ourselves – cf. 2 Cor. 5:10, cf. Matt. 25:31-46

                                                iii.      1:22-25 -Be doers of the word and not hearers only, “If ANYONE is a hearer of the word, and not a doer…”
“He who looks into the perfect law of liberty.”

                                                iv.      1:26 – if anyone thinks HE is religious and does not bridle HIS tongue, this ONE’S religion is useless. 

                                                  v.      1:27 – to keep ONESELF unspotted from the world.

                                                vi.      In conclusion, this context clearly speaks of the individual believer. 

                                               vii.      CONCERNING benevolence this passage emphasizes the need of the individual.

d.       What is the context of Galatians 6:10? Is this a passage that speaks to churches or individuals?

                                                   i.      Galatians 6:1-10.  Some use this text to say that both the church and individuals have the authority to help anyone, “saint and sinner” alike.  They might say that since this letter was written “to the churches of Galatia” that such means everything in the letter applies to churches collectively.  That argument is not good textual study.  It is possible that while writing to numerous congregations, Paul is addressing INDIVIDUAL Christians within those congregations.  He deals with the issue of circumcision – was that addressed to the church collectively or various Christians in the church (btw – the command, by gender, would eliminate half the church)? 
Gal. 3:27, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  Paul is referring to individual actions.  Granted, they were together within a congregation as he writes to them, BUT the point is you have a text that refers to an INDIVIDUAL Christian.  CONTEXT determines the meaning. 

                                                  ii.      Vs. 1 – A brother overtaken in a trespass – YOU (plural – anyone) who are spiritual restore such a one.  “Considering yourself” (singular).  So the text is to anyone to whom it applies.

                                                iii.      Vs. 2 – Bear one another’s burdens – help each other out. 

                                                iv.      Vs. 3 – if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing…

                                                  v.      Vs. 4 – let each one examine HIS OWN work.

                                                vi.      Vs. 5 – each one shall bear HIS OWN load.

                                               vii.      Vs. 6 – let HIM who is taught share with HIM who teaches

                                             viii.      Vs. 7-8 – Whatever A MAN sows that HE will also reap.

                                                ix.      Vs. 9 – Let us not grow weary in doing good.  This verse, along with verse 10, uses “us” and “we”.  Who this is has been established in the previous verses.  He is talking to each INDIVIDUAL Christian.
Thought.  In this verse and the next, the “we” and “us” are words that would include Paul.  Was Paul a member of any congregation in Galatia? We are not told so. 

                                                  x.      Vs. 10, an interesting observation to be made is that when you put this verse in its context, it is NOT really speaking exclusively about benevolence (though the principles would apply in that area).  The context is dealing with how we live our lives and our concern for others, especially their souls. 
Note that he says, “Let us do good to all, especially those who are of the household of faith.”  Paul in the text identifies the church as “the household of faith”.  He did NOT say, “Let us do good to all, especially to ourselves.”  He is CLEARLY identifying individual saints!

                                                xi.      In these texts, we can see examples of how to properly apply a context that by itself could be broader in its spectrum.

 

And thus we can see that there is clear distinction between individuals and the church.  As with all of God’s word, we ought to respect His boundaries, even in this.  May these thoughts help us as the Lord’s body here be what God wants us to be – nothing more and nothing less.  AND may they provoke each of us as individuals to a greater service in His kingdom, so that both He and His church are magnified in our lives.  Think about it.