5a: WHAT IS CHURCH? Jesus and Organisation

See the previous post:

5. THE CHURCH …. What is it?

Jesus didn’t start an organisation but developed relationships with a small core of people. These then multiplied around the then known world into small committed fellowships or house churches. In the New Testament Greek of the New Testament, ‘Church’ is translated from the word ‘ekklesia’ which is simply a gathering or community of relationships. It had no religious connotations at all ….. it could even mean a political gathering. Jesus  himself said in Matthew 18:20 –“ For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

When you look at the nature of this community, it was not hierarchical but like a body with many varying members. Each member was there for the common good of the whole body. This idea is really developed by the Apostle Paul in later years as he set up communities who followed Jesus around the Mediterranean countries in his era. See his writings as in 1 Cor 12: 12 -31 as one example. Paul talks about each of having spiritual gifts which he likens to various members. Also see Eph 4: 16 where he talks further about the Body of Christ.

These communities of the Lord Jesus Christ (or the Church in one city alone), met in peoples homes. Paul helped organise them in a careful way so that they could continue in a capable manner when he went on to other cities. Then he would then write letters back to those communities to be read by the leaders of those communities initially, then read out to other communities when they assembled together. The gospel first reached Europe around AD 49. See his letters to these people:

 

  • Rome A.D. 56
  • Corinth A.D. 56
  • Galatia A.D. 55 – 56 (a region in Asia Minor)
  • Ephesus A.D. 60, 61
  • Philippi A.D. 61
  • Thessalonica A.D. 50
  • Timothy in about A.D. 64 (first letter) and A.D. 55 – 66/67 (second letter)
  • Colossae A.D. 61

The Emperor Nero in A.D. 64, began to implement persecutions against Christians in the Roman Empire. Paul was arrested then and taken to Rome. He was confined to a dungeon and friends could only see him with difficulty. He is probably executed before Nero’s death in A.D. 68.

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THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH:

I was saying above that Jesus didn’t start an organisation but developed relationships with a small core of people. These then multiplied around the then known world into small committed fellowships or house churches. In the New Testament Greek of the New Testament, ‘Church’ is translated from the word ‘ekklesia’ which is simply a gathering or community of relationships.

Our understanding of the nature of the Church is very important as it has very profound practical applications in the rest of our lives. Paul talks about the nature of the Church in Eph 2: 19 – 22 where Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Church. The Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets. We ourselves are no longer strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with anyone else in this community of the Church. We are an extended Christian family around the world …. all united together in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.

We are here for this plan for the common good of others and not for ourselves. God originally created the world with this in mind:

  • God initially created the physical world to serve the interest of living things including human beings. Even plants were designed to serve the interests of other plants.
  • At the Fall of Creation, the Creator implemented a plan to restore the creation at His initiative through a coming Messiah.
  • This plan was implemented through the calling of the Hebrew nation. This nation was given symbolic rituals which were meant to point them forward to the coming Messiah.
  • The coming Messiah was Jesus Christ. In His three and a half years of ministry He spoke all the time about our relationship with other people. He set out a basic ground of verbal teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:17- 42), for His new Kingdom Order. See the Blog Site here  where His disciples were taught in very significant ways. Jesus Christ died a horrible death on a Roman Empire cross for the common good of us who have been added into His Church in later years.

The nature of the Church is built on these same principles He taught 2,000 years ago.

For these communities (the Church) to continue in a capable manner, the Apostle Paul is very concerned for the welfare of these communities. He initially sets them up in a particular way so that the gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ) is central in all things.

In his letter to the Ephesians, he unveils the “mystery” of the church as no other epistle does. God’s “secret” intention is revealed:

 

  • To form a body to express Christ’s fullness on Earth (Eph 1: 15 – 23)
  • To do this by uniting one people – both Jew and Gentile, among whom God Himself dwells (Eph 2: 11 – 3:7)
  • To equip, empower and mature this people to end that they extend Christ’s victory over evil (Eph 3: 10 – 20, 6:12 – 20)

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See the next post:

5b: WHAT IS CHURCH? The Christian Church Sequence

 

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