What is the church?
Brainstorm (write on board/ paper). How is the word used by us?
The word church means an assembly (a gathering of called-out ones. It refers to people, not buildings or organizations. It is used in two ways in the N.T.:
(1) Local churches.
Acts 11:25-26; Acts 14:23; Acts 15:41
(2) The church universal (believers everywhere in every age).
The church is called the body of Christ, a gathering of believers. Ephesians 1:22-23, 5:29
[See also Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 11:18]
(Once only does 'church' refer to churches in an area Acts 9:31 [A.V. Greek text has 'churches'].)
Who are the members?
Those who have been called to faith in Christ and redeemed by him.
1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 5:25-26 [Acts 2:38-47, 5:14]
They show their new-found faith in Christ by being baptized and gathering with the other believers. See Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 11:18[Acts 16] (and other texts above).
What are the functions of the local church?
(a) Worship of God.
Worship is a wide term, currently used too narrowly for 'singing'. It includes singing, prayer, reading the Bible, and preaching.
[It has an even wider use for the whole of the Christian's life.]
Hebrews 10:24-25; Ephesians 5:19-20; Romans 12:1-2
(b) Teaching and preaching the truth.
Acts 20:29-31; 2 Timothy 1:13, 2:2, 4:2
[Other texts: 1 Timothy 3:14-15; 2 Timothy 3:15-16; Titus 2:1]
(c) Ordinances. Baptism and the Lord's Supper (see next study).
Acts 19:4-5; 1 Corinthians 11:28-30
(d) Fellowship ( sharing spiritual things.
Acts 2:42; Ephesians 4:16,29,32
Matthew 18:15-18 [1 Corinthians 14:33,40; Titus 3:10-11]
(f) Evangelism (Mission).
Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 10:13-17
How is the church ruled?
• Christ is its head.
Ephesians 1:22-23 [Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 5:23-24]
Christ's rule is applied as the Holy Spirit applies the word of God to the community. Colossians 3:15-17
• Christ's authority is exercised also through
1 Timothy 5:17-20; 1 Peter 5:13
- The gathered church.
1 Corinthians 5:1-3,13; Matthew 18:15-18
Leaders in the church
Leaders in the church are referred to as elders and deacons and sometimes leaders.
In each local church there was a group of elders also known as pastors, overseers (bishops), and under-shepherds. The names are interchangeable. Their role is preaching, teaching, ruling, pastoral (shepherding) work and being a good example. See:
1 Peter 5:1-4; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Timothy 5:17-20; Hebrews 13:7; Acts 20:17-18; Titus 1:5-9.
Also there was a group of deacons (servants) to help the church. Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-13
Early churches obviously recognised who belonged, e.g. 1 Corinthians 5:13; Acts 5:14.
It is the duty of all of us if possible to belong to a local church.
Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 2:43-47
Qualifications for church membership:
• Baptised by immersion
• Willing to join with that body in unity and love
In our church you need to agree to the central doctrines of the faith and be in sympathy with a summary of biblical truth (the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith).
[If you are interested, ask the elders at Grace for the church Constitution and Confession of Faith and discuss the matter with them.]