“WHAT IS THE CHURCH?”                             By Pastor YAU

Matthew 16:15-19                                                    June 13, 2004

 

INTRODUCTION:

       Soon after moved in to the new building in April, 1998, the drawing of the church building and a scripture verse were placed on the cover of Sunday bulletins. That verse is John 16:18, part of the quote for today’s message which reads: “On this rock, I will build my church.” Those were the words of Jesus spoken to the disciples after Peter confessed that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, 16:16.  The word “church” was first used by Jesus in the New Testament here and subsequently in Acts and many of the following epistles of the Apostles.

 

THE MEANING OF THE “CHURCH”:  Many Bible scholars have told us that the Greek word which translated “church” means “people who are called out for a purpose.”  This word was frequently used during the city-state time in Greek history. Bible translators chose this word to reflect the purpose of the call of the believers of Jesus Christ. We are not just called, but called with a purpose to bring the gospel message to the world.

       Christian theologians classified the church in two categories: The UNIVERSAL church and the LOCAL congregation. The universal church represents all the believers in church history from the day of Jesus to His return. It covers not just the timeline but also the ethnicities of the faith community. It is also known as the INVISIBLE church because no one can see this church.

       The word “church” that most frequently used in the New Testament refers to a local congregation, the church at a location, a city or a particular place.  Besides the church at the home of Philemon, other churches mentioned in the Bible refer to a city or a region. It has been mistaken that early churches were meeting a homes. No one can imagine the first converts, as many as 3,000, will meet in any home. In fact, Acts 2:46 recorded that they met in the temple for worship and at homes for fellowship and meals.

 

THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH:  Some church historians, mostly the Catholics believe that Peter was given the title as the foundation of the church, 16:18. But we know that the Greek word that translated Peter is “petros” meaning a small stone with masculine gender as a name for man. The word Jesus used as the foundation of His church was “petra”, a feminine word that means a huge bedrock on which mountains were set.  This refers to the confession of Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God—that is the foundation. Besides the Lord Jesus, there is no other foundation.

    The scripture verse we had chosen as the theme of our church symbolizes our beliefs: Jesus is the foundation, the purpose, the authority and the guiding force of our church. We will do things according to His commands: worship, teaching, evangelize and fellowship.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CHURCH:  In recent years, many who called themselves Christians have abandoned the organized church. These people are seeking spiritual

fulfillment on themselves, at home, on the internet, on TV, etc. They believe that it is the same, or better, to seek or worship God outside the church. 

       Since the church is made of people and NO one is perfect, therefore, no church is perfect either. That’s why Jesus will cleanse His church to rid of wrinkles, blemishes, and to present her as His radiant bride.  Jesus died for His church, Ephesians 5:25, and He will come back to bring her to Himself on His return. It is the church, the corporate body of believers that He intends them to have corporate worship, learning, and fellowship. The Lord, thru the pen of the Apostle, encourages His followers to keep worshipping w/o ceasing that will uphold each other in love. Hebrew 10:24-25.  Both Jesus and the apostle Paul went to worship in synagogues regularly as part of their devotion to God and their personal spiritual growth.

 

THE PROTECTION OF THE CHURCH:  Through the 2,000 years of Christian history, the church of Jesus has never been at peace with the world.  Vicious attacks from outside and dangerous erroneous heresies from inside have taken toll of many whose faith was weak. But Jesus promised us that the power of the Hades, the Devil, will not overcome the church.  The church will prosper and be cleansed, and will be received to be His bride in the day of the ultimate glory.

 

CONCLUSION:  Just as pastors need to have the call of God to shepherd a particular congregation, individual Christians also need to have the call of God to become a part of a local congregation. The call of God will give us the purpose, the sustaining power, the sense of belonging and the ultimate satisfaction of our endeavor in serving Him.