Today’s podcast continues the series, Know What You Believe… In this series, we’re looking at the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. I hope you enjoy.
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We believe that the true church comprises all who have been justified by God’s grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They are united by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true church is manifest in local churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.
If Jesus is the hope of the world, then the Church is the dispenser of that hope. Since the church is made up of people, however, we dispense that hope imperfectly.
Many people criticize the church—in many cases, rightly so.
But God loves the Church. To God, the church is beautiful, even with her imperfections. She is the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ (Ephesians 5:26,27 and 1 Corinthians 12:27). God is always working on his church that he might work through the church to summon a lost world to himself.
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
Peter, whose name means “little rock,” has just confessed that Jesus is the “Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (v. 17). This confession is the rock—the giant boulder—on which Jesus will build his church.
What Is the Church?
When we think of the Church, the first thing we have to do is separate the idea of the church from its buildings. The place and buildings do not make up the church.
The people make up the church.
In fact, the New Testament word for church is ecclesia, which gives us words like ecclesiastical, and ecclesiology. Ecclesia means “called out.” Christians are people who have been called out from the world and into the family of God.
That is why we think of the church in two main ways: the Universal Church and the local church.
The Universal Church
The Universal Church is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ, past, present, and future, living and dead, wherever they may be in creation. This is sometimes called the Invisible Church or simply the Church.
All people who confess Jesus Christ as their Savior are part of this one, holy, universal, and apostolic—meaning resting on the biblical teaching of the early apostles—church.
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13)
It’s incredible to think that we are one in spirit with believers on other continents, in other socio-economic groups, who speak other languages, and express their faith within other cultures, than our own. We are even one in spirit with those who have already gone to heaven!
This is the marvelous diversity of the body of Christ. We are brothers and sisters with believers from every tongue and tribe and nation around the world and across the millennia.
The devil is afraid of the Universal Church. He resists it with all his might.
The Local Church
The Local Church is made up of believers in Jesus who gather regularly to worship God, grow in grace, and be equipped to serve him in the world.
Local churches are the churches that will gather in buildings on street corners and in homes and shops. There is a huge variety of expression from church to church.
There are literally thousands of denominations, which are basically families of local churches.
Sometimes, these denominations form because of differences in doctrine. Most of those differences are slight, though some can be fairly major. That’s why it’s important to nail down the basics, and to gather with a church that holds fast to God’s Word.
Other times, these denominations form because of differences, not in doctrine, but in methodology—what kind of music to use in worship, what kind of evangelistic techniques are used, how liturgical to be, what styles of clothing, speech, language shall we express.
Yet other times, these denominations form because of differences in how they define their mission—denominations are formed to reach urban, suburban, or rural people, this language group or that language group, or this region or that region.
All of this variety is beautiful and is essential for the mission of evangelism.
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