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Sunday, March 25, 2018 am                                                    NT Church Index

NT CHURCH 2017-18
Part of His Church (3)
What Does It Mean to be Part of His Church?

     We are in the midst of addressing being part of the Lord’s church.  In this section we have established God’s plan of salvation and how that is related to the church.   If a church is teaching a false plan of salvation, how can it be the TRUE church?  Today we want do address what it means to be part of His church.   This lesson and the next (and final one) are designed to remind us of what it means to be part of His church.

     The church is being deemphasized by many today.  While it is possible to overemphasize it (e.g. to the neglect of Christ as our Savior, to think that being part of a particular congregation guarantees your salvation, etc.), far too often it is deemphasized to the point that too many see no importance in the local church.  They think they don’t need and can get along fine without being part of a local church.  Others have deemphasized or changed the purpose of the church which is why in so many places it is more social than spiritual.  WE have in our study tried to emphasize what the church is and how important she ought to be in our lives.

In our lesson today we will be REMINDED of what it means to be part of His church.

 I.                     Added and joining

a.       Reminder – church used in 2 senses – universal and local. 

b.       When you become a Christian, you are added to the body of the saved (the universal body of the saved).  As long as you remain faithful (in fellowship with God), you remain in the body.  God determines who is and who is NOT in this body.  In discussing the church in this sense, it has not earthly organizational structure.

c.        However, there are local congregations.  The same Greek word is used in describing the church both universal and local. 
The Local congregation has a correlation to the Universal church – we seek to only accept into our membership those we believe to be part of the church universal.  This is why the proper plan of salvation is important.
Defined, a local church (congregation) is a group of the saved who join together and organize to do the work God has given us to do collectively.   These works include evangelism, edification (building up the body), benevolent relief for saints (limited), and worshipping God together. 
As Christians, we are ALWAYS representative of both the universal body of the saved AND the local congregation we are a part of. 

d.       Does God want me to join a local church?

                                                   i.      Yes! While there is not a verse that says, “you shall join a local church”, we see the need both by example and implication.

                                                 ii.      When we consider what the church is – a part of God’s eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:10-11), built by Jesus and purchased with His blood (Matthew 16:18, Acts 20:28), it becomes clear it is important to God and ought to be important to us. 

                                                iii.      When we consider that the majority of the New Testament was written to churches with instructions of work he wants her to do – we can only conclude it ought to be a part of our lives as Christians.  There are acts of worship and collective works that call for us to come together as the church.  These letters were circulated and studied to build up the saints.  WITHOUT the church, how would one determine what they needed to do?
TO THIS one might say, “Well they didn’t have the completed scripture back then”.  TRUE!  But we do, and there are MANY important things taught in scripture about what the church is and what its work is.  There are many things we can do as part of a local church.  And we CAN’T use the inability to learn as an excuse! 
For those who dismiss its importance of being part of a local church I challenge you to ask, “What if everyone was like me?”  The point is we NEED the church and that requires SOMEONE to do what is called for.   The Bible is clear that in the church every part is called upon to do its share (Ephesians 4:16).  It is hindered when some DON’T do their part, OR when Christians refuse to become a part of a body of the Lord’s people.

                                                iv.      Other than temporary circumstances, (moving from one locale to another, obeying the gospel in a wilderness, being put out or leaving because of error, etc.) I do not find an example in scripture of faithful Christians who declared they didn’t need the local church. 

Consider Paul’s example.  After his conversion in Acts 9:19 we find him with the disciples in Damascus; When he leaves the next we read about him in Acts 9:26 he seeks to join the disciples in Jerusalem (there was possibly a period of time between these events -  cf. Galatians 1:17-18).  The word for “join” means to be attached to, to be a part of.
Then we find in Acts 11:25-26 – Paul is found by Barnabas in Tarsus and they come to Antioch of Syria where we read that for a whole year they assembled with the church in Antioch.  Acts 13:1 notes that Paul and Barnabas were “in the church that was at Antioch”.   Paul obviously saw the need to be part of a church wherever he was.

                                                  v.      Some are hesitant to identify with a local church for various reasons.  Perhaps they are “investigating.”  That is fine, and even a good thing, but HOW LONG is that acceptable?
Some don’t want to put themselves under the authority of elders or their brethren.  IF you are genuinely interested in going to heaven, why would you NOT want those who are proven to be spiritual helping you on your way – holding you accountable? 

                                                vi.      I am convinced that the local church is a part of God’s plan for each of us as Christians.  That is why we have focused on what the church is for so long. 

 II.                   To be a member means:

a.       You’re a part of the body of Christ – 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Ephesians 1:22-23.  This calls for a need to work together and function as a single unit, with every part doing its share.  Ephesians 4:16 tells us that when we do this it causes the body to grow. 

b.       You are a worker in God’s vineyard – John 15:1-8.  Jesus, speaking to His apostles noted that He is the vine and “you” are the branches.  We may not be apostles, but we are branches of the vine of Jesus.  As a branch we need to be 1) abiding in Him and 2) producing fruit – HIS fruit!
We need to be productive.

c.        You are a living stone in the spiritual building (temple) of God – 1 Peter 2:4-5 speaks of how we are coming to Him as a living stone being built up a spiritual house.  In vs. 9-10 he speaks of how we are a royal priesthood. 
Ephesians 2:20-22 – speaks of being built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, we are a building fitted together that “grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you are also being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
This is descriptive of how we worship God, both together as the church and as individuals.  It is enlightening how our worship brings us together to offer praise and reverence to Him.   

d.       You are a citizen in His kingdom – Colossians 1:13 tells us that we have been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of His dear Son.  
Ephesians 2:19, Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,   
As citizens in His kingdom, we are subject to Jesus as our Lord.

e.       You are a child in His family – 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul spoke to Timothy about how to behave himself in “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth.” 
In this we are reminded that we need to love each other like a family – Hebrews 13:1 calls for us to “let brotherly love continue.”  (Heb. 13:1); 1 Peter 3:8 calls for us to love as brothers.
Add to this a plethora of family ties - access to your heavenly Father, loving discipline, care and protection from Him; genuine concern from your brothers and sisters, etc. 
John 13:35 – Just be reminded, the world has the right to judge us by how we love each other.

 III.                 You are called to be holy

a.       You are betrothed to Christ – the church is His bride.  2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul noted that he had betrothed them to Christ as a chaste virgin.
Ephesians 5:25-27 finds Paul comparing Christ to His church, as a husband to his wife. 

b.       Continually we emphasize our need for holiness.
Be holy! 1 Peter 1:13-16 – just as God is holy, so are we to be.

1 Corinthians 6:11 – you were washed, sanctified and justified

Eph. 4:1 – a holy calling

c.        Conversely, 2 Timothy 2:19 calls for us to depart from iniquity

d.       I separated this description because we need to continually remind ourselves that for the church to be pure depends upon OUR purity and holiness.  As individuals we have GREAT responsibility.

 

What the church means to you will depend on how much these things (and others) mean to you.  Most, if not all, problems we face among ourselves in the church has to do with our failure to be everything God would have us to be.   Let us each resolve to be part and to do our part in the Lord’s church here.