Sunday, June 25, 2017                                 Church 2017 Index


Is There A Distinction Between the Individual and the Church?


This year, we have been engaged in a study of the New Testament church.  We have been addressing the organizational structure of the church - noting that congregations are to be independent and autonomous.  While we understand this, in some congregations there is confusion about what the church can and cannot do.  Some contend that whatever an individual can do, so can the church (this is used to broaden the scope of the work of the NT church).  So as we address the work of the church, it is important that we understand the distinction between an individual Christian and the church.   We will show this today in this lesson.  

 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 that affects every aspect of our lives and at all times (a Christian 24/7/365).  It is a faithful submission to Jesus in everything – cf. 1 Peter 1:13-16, James 1:21-25, etc.

b.       Being a Christian is going to influence every area of your 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.  Includes social media & personal benevolence falls under this (Gal. 6:10, Jas. 1:27, etc.). 

                                                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.

                                                  v.      Spiritual – we realize that the church IS also part of our life. 
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

c.        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.  And that includes trying 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. 

d.       NOTE: Consider that as a Christian, whatever you do is a reflection on the church you are a part of.  Because you are part of the body of Christ, everything you do is seen by the world and often used to judge the church you profess to be following.  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 we are not acting corporately AS the church. 

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

a.       There are several passages of scripture that make a clear distinction between the congregation and the individual. 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 Timothy 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.  Again, there are family responsibilities that extend beyond what the church can do.  It is tragic that many have turned the church into a benevolent society that is expected to take care of whatever they have neglected to do for themselves. 

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

a.       Why is there confusion?  Why do some reason that “what the individual can do, the church (corporate) can do?
1) Because the church is made up of individuals.  Without individual Christians you do not have a local church.
2) Because, as we have already noted, there is a realization that our example at all times is a reflection of the body of Christ that we identify with.  Immoral, unethical and ungodly behavior by “members of the body” is seen the character of that church.
3) Because there are areas where both the individual and the church act.  And without a proper understanding of HOW we establish authority (CENI or Tell, Show and Imply) and the boundaries of scripture it is easy to become confused. 
4) This has prompted debate as to exactly what the church can do.  Some have used these facts to justify expanding the work of the church beyond scriptural boundaries (e.g. Any type benevolence an individual can do can also be done by the church; If an individual Christian can have the teenagers over for a movie night, so can the church; can a church build and or support a college, etc.) 

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 – in a future lesson we will address that there is benevolence the church can be involved in (always to needy saints, as the need arises [temporary], addressing the need directly, etc.).   However, as we just noted there are individual benevolent responsibilities that extend way beyond this.  James 1:27, Mat. 25:31-46, etc.  Both have different parameters to consider.

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., AND 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

e.       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. 

f.        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.      How far do we take this? We understand that there are things we do personally that we are not the church acting – consider the “due affection” a husband and wife render to one another, a family going to the movies with friends, when I vote (is the church voting?), etc.

                                                iii.      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).

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

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


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.