On this sermon we are going to use the Spirit of God to discover what is a church according to the bible.
Before we can understand what is the meaning of church according to the bible, we will first and foremost look on other meaning of the church in the following light:
- The meaning of a church according to St Augustine of Hippo.
- Meaning of a church in liberation theology.
- What a church means in sociology of religion and it’s functions.
The meaning of a church according to St Augustine of Hippo.
According to St Augustine of Hippo, a church could be likened to an inn where the wounded and sick people are taken to for healing.
We derive this definition from his allegorical interpretation of the parable of the good Samaritan.
“The inn to which the man is taken is the church; where persons are refreshed on their pilgrimage of return to the heavenly city.“
Meaning of a church in liberation theology.
In the concept of liberation theology, it is stated that the church is meant to use its power and influence to reduce poverty and fight injustices in the society, such as abortion, human change, divorce, homo-sexuality, lesbianism, and other ant-social practices.
Thus, the liberation theologians believe that salvation is here and now and really implies freedom from injustice.
What a church means in sociology of religion.
In sociology of religion a church is defined as a social or religious organization which calls people to the love and peace of Christ.
And a church could also be used to refer to the Christians and their place of worship.
The functions of the church in sociology of religion.
The following functions are therefore observed about the church in sociology of religion:
- The church calls people to ethical order and promotes justice in the society, thus the church is the greatest agent of social control.
- As a place of meeting, the church gives people acceptance and a sense of belonging as it makes room for friendship and social togetherness and acts as a pillar of financial support for its members.
- The church also has the duty to promote not only the welfare of its members but that of all people. That is why many church have built schools, hospitals, etc. provide employment opportunities as well as offer scholarship for the less privileged members of the public through skills acquisition and financial assistance. They also give relief materials such as food stuffs and toiletries to the unfortunate and helpless.
The meaning of church according to the bible.
To understand what is a church according to the bible, let us outline the scriptural text where we find the origin of the church.
Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.Acts 2:41-42.
According to the bible a church is a place where those who receive the word of God gather to continue steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers.
Features of a church according to the bible.
Therefore, from the above theological observations and scriptural evidence, we can summarize the features or purpose of the church in the two points below:
- The duty of the church is to promote unity and equality amongst its members, through helping them to share all things they individually have in common.
- The witness of the gospel by the apostles or leaders helps to teach and exhort the believers.
That is why till today people still think orbelieve that they have to get to the church before they can worship or get any help from God.
And they are never wrong because this idea or believe stems from what we have here observed about the origin and purpose of the church.
According to Ephesians 2;19-22, we can also look at a church as a gathering which brings together individual temples of God – which can be likened to bricks – in order to erect one big temple for God.
And this temple has the apostles and prophets as the foundation, and Jesus as the cornerstone. Same as a bricklayer will lay up blocks to erect a structure called building. The scripture confirms this fact:
But the saddest part of the whole matter is that in looking around our society today we scarcely find the different denominations we have achieving the aim and purpose of the church.
It is therefore safe to say that they have all departed from the true way of gathering even as Paul predicted in Acts 20:29-30.
Why a church is not a building made with human hands.
For God to prove Himself to us that he can’t dwell in buildings made with human hands, he has given way today for the so called churches to be a place where the ministers in one form or the other make merchandize of their members of which the greatest part are less privileged.
No wonder Jesus went and destroyed the temple in Mathew 21:12-13 in order to prove to us how these covetous men and women will be destroyed in the long run.
Division in the church.
Now if you look into Christendom, you will realize that there are so many names given to so many denominations.
From Catholic to Lutheran, Apostolic, and Assemblies of God etc.
And because of this there has been a great division among the Christians since the members of one denomination will never be in union with the member of the other denomination.
And they even go to the extents of criticizing the various doctrines which most are sadly formulated from the misinterpretation of the scriptures, borrowed traditions or personal ideas of the charismatic leader or leaders.
But Christians, as we all know, means followers of Christ, Who single-handedly gave His life as a ransom and became the head of the very church He redeemed by His blood as it is written:
And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.Ephesians 1: 22-23
The church as the body of Christ.
And since the church is the body of Christ, it therefore means that every denominations are but the different organs that make up Christ body.
And the bible helps us to understand that:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and in you all.Ephesians 4: 4-6
And when we see one church criticizing or blaming the other; this one claims the other cannot preach, while the other claims this one cannot pray etc. we come to a point where we ask: do all the organs in the body perform the same function?
For the eyes, for instance, is meant for seeing, while the ears is for hearing, and if both of them does not co-operate and carry on their duties, the body malfunctions in one way of the other.
How the churches should function.
That too is the same the churches ought to perform their different functions in order to keep the body of Christ functioning as we see in Romans 12:4-8.
And when we did not have the different denominations going by different names as we have today, there was unity and equality in the church gatherings as we saw in Acts 4:32-35.
But when the church divided, things changed as we can witness in today’s gathering, which is not walking in accordance with the biblical record.
And so in order to go back to the foundation of the faith-Christianity; every denomination must henceforth learn how to look beyond the border of their different names and doctrine.
And grow to the understanding that as long as we are calling on one and the same God, and heading towards the same goal – the kingdom of God – which as we all know will have no denomination; we must look at all the Christian denominations as one.
To therefore attain that oneness we must live according to what the scripture says in Romans 12; 10-18.
In concluding this part, we must not let the devil use the building called church and its denominations to cause division among us.
And in so doing prevent us from the warmth of peace and love which comes from the oneness and togetherness that Christ, Who is the head of us all, expects from us.
Let us therefore hearken to the words He sent to us through His apostle Paul.
Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshy mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.Colossians 2: 19
Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.Philippians 2: 2-4.