Thursday, June 4, 2009

Who comprises the Church?

That seems to be the question many people cannot give a solid and direct answer to these days. Is the church comprised of all those who attend a weekly meeting or Bible study? Is the church made up of those who are part of ‘community’ (however that may be defined)? Is the church made up of those who were baptized—earlier in life or as an infant? Is the church defined as comprising of only those who have been regenerated by means of the working of God the Holy Spirit?

The answer to this question will affect the way church is done, that is, the methodology of our ecclesiology. If the church is comprised of those who are a part of community, those who attend weekly church services, and those who are in the covenant fold of God, then the church is quite a large community of people (and, frankly, the church would necessarily be comprised of both true believers and unbelievers).

But in the Scriptures, I find the reality that the church is comprised of only those who have been washed, sanctified, and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ—this refers to true believers.

Take, for example, the book of Romans. Paul’s argument in this book is deliberately laid forth to give the gospel of God’s righteousness and man’s sinfulness in chapters 1-3. Beginning in chapter 4 and continuing to chapter 5, one reads how the sinful human can be right with God—namely, justification by faith alone. Chapters 6-8 then deal with the progressive growth in the life of this new believer—known as sanctification (becoming “more holy” and “more Christlike”). All this is necessary before chapter 12 hits—the practical Christian living section. How can one be commanded to live a godly life and, furthermore, be expected to live a godly life if they are totally incapable of pleasing to God (i.e., according to Romans 8:9, the nonbeliever is not able to please God)?

Ephesians 4:12 notes that the purpose of the church is to equip the saints. Saints are not those who are made up of community or those who are part of the covenant of Abraham. Saints are those to whom God has sovereignly made perfectly righteous through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to their account by means of faith in Jesus Christ.

Therefore, our ecclesiology must be correct if our methodology is going to be correct. If we’re going to take church and reshape and refashion it to reach the culture and nonbelievers, then there seems to be a flaw somewhere in the grid of who comprises the church and what the church is to do. But if we recognize that the church consists of regenerate believers in Jesus Christ, then we recognize that the purpose of the church is to build up the saints so that they can go out and do the work of the ministry—evangelize, fellowship, preach, etc.

Colossians 1:28-29 8 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

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