Aspects of the Church

Jesus clearly established a church, a unified church, a holy church, the apostolic church.

The Church is a key aspect to Christianity, the source of truth, having leaders and service and community. All true Christians are members of this "body of Christ" and are joined to him mystically in the spiritual realm.

The Church is the manifestation of Jesus in the human realm with the mission of teaching truth and redeeming people.

What often goes unsaid, but should be said is: everything unholy, opposed to truth, opposed to Christ; these are not the Church. Thus, corrupt unholy Bishops having no concern for feeding the flock of Christ are not leaders of the Church and should be rejected. People steeped in mortal sin and therefore unredeemed, even if they call themselves Christians and go to church; these are not members of the "body of Christ", of the Church.

4 aspects to the church — 1 mystical, 2 institutional, 1 a hybrid...

  1. Mystical body of Christ
  2. Teaching authority
  3. Many and various human, political, sociological, religious institutions
  4. Local body of Christians (a subset of the previous)

1. Mystical Body of Christ...

This is where most Christians agree (sort of, but disagreeing who the members are.) All born-again, baptized, Spirit-filled, faith-filled believers are members of the mystical body of Christ. This is the set of all people calling themselves Christians who will ultimately end up in the new heavens and new earth. (There are others who will end up there, who only accept Christ at death.)

And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:47)

Becoming a believer, getting "saved", is the essence of becoming a member of the church.

And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:22,23)

The body of Christ is the church. Therefore, all believers are members of this body and are members of the church.

The external human religious institutions are not the church but are merely ways of organizing and governing communities. In addition, those who will ultimately end up in hell are not members of the church (even though they might be listed on the membership roster of a church).

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31,32)

We become members of the church via baptism in faith, not by joining a church.

2. Teaching Authority...

We should wish to know the truth about Christian teaching; this only comes from an authentic teaching authority, from the Church.

We can trust teachings from the following sources...

Examples of true teachings...

Sola Scriptura (Bible-only) is a flawed doctrine.

But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15)

The church is the foundation of the truth. It does this in several ways...

How can church leaders who don't believe the truths of the faith or who are living a sinful life teach truth? Of course they can't, and don't — these should not be ordained, yet throughout history and into the present they still are. Shame on those ordaining them!

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

Peter had just professed his faith that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. This is the foundation of true teaching.

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God. (Acts 20:28)

This implies that leaders of the church might not fulfill their calling. Certainly unholy, corrupt leaders cannot fulfill this calling. In my opinion these are not truly leaders nor are they called by the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament Saul was called by God to be king of Israel but later his heart became corrupt so God removed him. How much corruption should we endure from our leaders before we reject them? As for myself, I've endured quite enough; studying church history is an emotionally painful experience.

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Note that Paul first refers to leaders in the church. Each person has a different role, not all are called to be leaders. Therefore the idea that any Christian can pick up a Bible and figure out the truths of the faith is incorrect. A consequence of this is that recent novel interpretations never before considered by the church are not likely to be sound. This is part of the reason I reject the charismatic movement since it is so modern. Ditto for the Protestant Reformation with its previously-unheard-of doctrines.

To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God. (Ephesians 3:10)

The church reveals God's light and truth. But how can church leaders who are unbelievers or who have adopted untrue beliefs and opinions guide anyone into light and truth? Therefore, we must judge the spiritual condition of the leaders before accepting their words, just as the Bereans did. Notice that the standard these Bereans used was not the New Testament but the Old Testament. They were validating that Paul accurately interpreted the Old Testament scriptures.

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ (Ephesians 5:24)

Our first loyalty is to Christ, the word of God who is the way, the truth, and the life. If our church leaders teach us things which contradict the word of God we are to reject their false teachings.

That he [Christ] might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27)

Corrupt church leaders are not participating in Christ's mission and their false teachings should be rejected.

3. Human, Political, Sociological Institutions...

I emphasize this because some deny the institutional church, particularly those of the house church movement.

The aspects of the church providing...

The details of these aspects for each Christian group are totally arbitrary (although many have a historical continuity from their roots). Examples of differences...

Christians should be accepting of the many variations of viewpoints. (I naturally have strong preferences for certain of these.)

In the early days of the church there was only one such church institution. After a while it formed into multiple patriarchates. Then the church split into east and west. In each area of Europe the institutional church had a distinct identity. Later with the Protestant Reformation it split into many, many denominations and non-denominations.

The early church councils could not have determined the true and correct doctrines concerning the core truths of the faith and of Christ's nature unless they were grounded in the truths and the word of God passed-on from the apostles.

And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. (Matthew 18:17)

Implies there is only one church, otherwise people can merely switch to another if they are excommunicated. Once the church fragmented this is no longer possible.

The church is to provide counsel and justice.

And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem. (Acts 8:1)

Implies there is a visible, institutional form of the church which could be recognized by the persecutors. If some global government in the future were to persecute Christians how would they determine who is and who isn't a Christian? The small house churches would likely fall through the cracks and many would get by unnoticed.

Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. (Acts 11:22)

This verse concerns the leaders of the church who are called "the church". Certainly the Christians at large had no big role in this. But if these leaders were corrupt and unholy they would not really be the church at all but usurpers and imposters.

Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. (Acts 12:5)

Certainly the leaders initiated this and the Christians at large joined in.

And when they had ordained them elders in every church (Acts 14:23)

Local congregations of Christians are called the "church". Each such group is to have validly-ordained leaders. The assumption is that these elders know and believe the faith which was passed down from the apostles; that they are holy men; and that they have pastoral hearts. Certainly the ordination of a corrupt or unholy person could never be valid.

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together (Acts 14:27)

The word "church" seems to refer to the leaders of the church. It was physically impossible in those days to gather thousands of people together in a meeting; they had no large halls with sound systems. In any meeting it is not possible for every person to have a say except by voting, but they didn't do this — only the leaders voted.

And being brought on their way by the church. (Acts 15:3)

Any small group of Christians containing leaders, followers, or both is called the "church". In this case there likely were many leaders.

And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders (Acts 15:4)

The word "church" refers to all Christians, not merely the leaders.

Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church. (Acts 15:22)

A distinction between the leaders and the others. The leaders made the decision and looked for some sort of confirmation from the other Christians present. The whole church includes those who are not leaders.

And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. (Acts 20:17)

The leaders of the church are merely members of the church, they are not the church.

For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God? (1 Timothy 3:5)

It is not enough that church leaders are ordained, they must also fulfill their mission.

If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. (1 Timothy 5:16)

This refers to an institutional aspect of the church — collecting money and caring for those Christians who are in need.

Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. (3 John 1:10)

Notice there is an institutional Church troublemakers and heretics can be kicked out of, and the apostle John endorses this.

I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars. (Revelation 2:2)

Notice John expects Christians to form groups and communities having true doctrine and practice with leaders enforcing this.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. (Revelation 2:5)

God can remove Churches and Christian communities from the pages of history, or at least add them to the list considered as non-Christian.

And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. (Revelation 2:26,27)

The church must be pure or God will judge it. The Protestant Reformation is one way God has judged the church, by fracturing Christendom since it became so corrupt, not expressing true Christianity.

4. Local Body of Christians...

This aspect of the church is really just a subset of the previous but with a focus on a smaller group, usually one parish rather than a denomination, diocese, patriarchate, metropolitan, etc.

Likewise greet the church that is in their house. (Romans 16:5)

This must have been a rather small congregation. It seems that there were many houses with many local churches which were all part of the universal church.

As I teach every where in every church. (1 Corinthians 4:17)

There are local congregations called the "church".

When ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you. (1 Corinthians 11:18)

This is referring to church meetings.

Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God. (1 Corinthians 11:22)

Those who are corrupt and behave poorly in relating to Christians of a lower social class are said to despise the church. How can such as these be valid leaders unless they repent?

If therefore the whole church be come together into one place. (1 Corinthians 14:23)

There are to be public meetings of the whole church when possible.

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:14)

The local Church prays for each other and ministers to each other.