Thinking About the Church....Again
Text: Eph. 3:15-4:3
by Robert J. Young

How can we escape the contemporary cultural confines that have come to define church? Most churches are task oriented--such churches define themselves by leadership, prayer, spiritual growth, youth concerns, doing a variety of activities. Is this the way one should define the church? What is nature of church? What is a biblical answer?
Consider three possible answers to the question.

Let us begin in Rom 12:1ff. Romans explains gospel (1-11), now we come to practical section (12-16). Understand that Bible is practical. Bible answers will be practical. "Therefore I beseech you, by the mercies of God, living sacrifice, be transformed, prove God's will in your world."
Romans 12 admonishes us to be transformed, be renewed. Such is a frequent theme in the Bible. Consider the prophets. Later the early church grew in a phenomenal way, but then quit. Hebrews tells of a church in danger of quitting. There is a constant need for renewal. How can it occur? How can we be church? How can we be the people of God? Consider the gospel of Mark, church needed help, possible confusion about the identity of Jesus, identity of followers of Jesus.
Reinhold Neibuhr--four major steps, man, message, movement, monument. When vital movement becomes a monument, needs renewal. Today much contention about what we will be, more significant is question what we will become. What are the issues if we are to be church? At least six. Bible's practical answer to how to be church. Faith, focus, fellowship/family, fidelity, festivity, future.
We will introduce all of these in this lesson, but will not likely get to detail more than the first.

1. FAITH (church is didactic)
Lk 18:8, the church cannot live on borrowed faith. Heb. 8, quote from Jer 31. Contrast OT-NT. Problem with OT was not in teaching-didactic, but in its dynamic. NT church is composed of people of faith. Under NT, must know the Lord before part of covenant, not just by physical birth. Some in NT kingdom have never understood. We hear questions like, "What's your religious background?" with the answer, "I was raised in the church." Where is Bible for that? Church is people born of water and spirit. We have too much borrowed faith among God's people today.
What is faith about? We assume presence of faith, can't get works out of non-faith people. So we are exasperated. James 2, faith works, faith is not just inner conviction.
Contrast: Men of doctrinal purity looking for faith--1900s; Men of faith looking for doctrinal purity--1800s. We speak because we believe (Acts 5).
In Hebrews, faith and endurance are connected, Heb 10:36. Confidence, assurance, perseverance. Chapter 11 is about perseverance. We see that even more clearly in chap. 12. People fall by wayside because of lack of faith. How get faith?--Rom 10:17, faith from word of God, is reference to OT! Paul had faith before Damascus road, Paul knew OT. OT not revelation of man, is revelation of God. Story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph's God. Story of Exodus is story of God, gracious, identified, thus foundation of first commandment, Ex 19:5-6; 34:1-6. We must see God.
Paul in Acts 18 is in Corinth, scared, v. 9, I am with you... Again in Acts 27.
Jesus Christ is the object of faith, our faith is in Jesus Christ. There is no merit in faith in faith, faith in self, consider gospel of John, 20:30-31.
We must internalize faith--if doctrine does not change our lives, why have doctrine? Doctrine is not for believing, but for living. Doctrine is resources, strength, spiritual health. What I believe must have something to do with how I live. We can see this where in Ephesians we see the transition from chapters 1-3 (primarily doctrinal) to chapters 4-6 (practical).
Grow up in Lord, not just grow old in the church. There is always a place for growing in faith. WE MUST BASE LIFE ON FAITH!

2. FOCUS (church is directed)
Focus determines success--through all of life. Three areas to consider in this matter of focus.

3. FELLOWSHIP/FAMILY (church is dynamic)
Paul writes about church, body, family, pride. We can see it throughout the book of Ephesians--2:11ff, 19-21; 5:23... Church is more than an organization. Church is intimate. Intimacy is freedom from anxiety in presence of vulnerability. Church is not to make us more anxious. We need people in life to help establish priorities, provide support, get along, only way to make it. Church must be that. No solo Christianity.
We better find that again! Church is a place of acceptance rather than judgment. Nurture and encourage. Our fellowship is suspicious, superficial, we are afraid to reveal self. We must find a different dynamic, small groups, talk different. Mingle the private and public arenas. Return Christianity to the marketplace. Find greater continuity.
We need friends, family, better have them at the church. Intimate circle, be part of several groups. Then we can know one another, our fellowship with one another is based on the dynamic of our fellowship with God, 1 John 1:1-10.

4. FIDELITY (church is decided, determined)
Jesus C is Lord, Bible is word of God.
Some things are not up for debate, the church is a place of fidelity to God. We are seeking to restore NT Christianity. This is difficult, hard, not easy. But the attempt is worth it. The American Restoration Movement is built on a history of change. Today change is threatening. Let me encourage you to newness, shave other side first, brush other side of teeth first, try other pant leg, other sock. This was not easy for early church. Reread Acts 2, 5, 10, can you imagine it? Gentiles, big stuff. Acts 10 is not conversion of Cornelius, but conversion of Peter, Jews, early church. Cornelius turned self in. In Acts 15 we read of a major transition, grinds gears, Gal. 2. Change is not easy.
But change can be handled, even chaos, because fidelity is to God not man. We seek that which is scriptural, sound, workable. Conflict where there was peace? Solution is in Eph. 2. We will have differences in taste and opinion, we are still dealing with that. But do not equate our will with God's will. We are going to disagree. The inspiration for song writing did not cease in 1940. Not all old is bad, not all new is bad.

5. FESTIVITY (church is a delightful place)
Church is place of celebration, festivity, when we remember, changes us, makes us, calls us.

6. FUTURE (church is destined)
Church is waiting, incomplete. Eph. 6:10-17.

Therefore, don't quit. God did not quit on us. God is faithful, 1 Th. 5:23. Church is on threshold of great things, sprint to the finish line, cross line running. Saving souls. What will history say about church in this era: could have but didn't?
God is calling his church to be his church. Let the church be the church. Teaching the right message (Evangelism), determined to be God's (Worship), dynamically related (nurturing), destined for glory, firmly decided (spirituality).


*Suggested and developed in part from notes from Jerry Jones.

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Last updated February 10, 2001.