The church is the spiritual body of Christ, a group of persons called out by God and endowed with His Holy Spirit. As a spiritual body, the church is made up of baptized, Spirit-led individuals who are scattered around the world. This is the doctrine of this church as presented in its Statement of Beliefs.
The fourth chapter of Ephesians could be considered the handbook for setting up and instituting a church. The mission of the church is presented step by step. God’s church is not only a common junction for Christians to meet for the purpose of joining in congregational worship and praise of our Creator, but it is also a training ground to prepare them for service to the lost of the world and to each other (Ephesians 4:12). “Perfecting” is defined by Strong’s Concordance as “complete finishing”. The “work of the ministry” is to make disciples and help each other and the “edifying of the body of Christ” is the effort of the members to assist and encourage each other.
The goal of striving for this “complete finishing” is for the congregation to unify into a mutual faith and understanding (verse 13) bringing about a complete (perfect) and mature (stature) comprehension of the overall (fullness) gospel of Christ. As this unity matures into established doctrines of Christ the church will be able to resist false ideas that will be brought in and presented by others (verse 14). The study, research and discussion that leads to this “growing up” must be conducted in love (verse 15), for the purpose of it is to bring brethren together in a united doctrine of mind and faith, not to rend God’s church with dissension. As the church grows and new disciples enter, some will bring their own favorite agendas with them and try to incorporate them into the church (Ephesians 5:6). Be open minded but alert! Subject their ideas to study (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and accept only that which does not compromise the truth you already have (Titus 1:9-11).
Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18). All things are to be believed, taught and lived according to that which He lived and taught. His authority is absolute and is ordained by His resurrection (Romans 1:4). The ministers of God’s church have authority to administer the affairs of the church because such authority is commissioned by the will of God (2 Corinthians 1:1). By this authority the shepherd of the congregation has the power to select individuals to assist him in the work of the church. This should be done prayerfully and carefully (Luke 6:12-13). With delegation of some of the many duties and obligations of and for the congregation, the shepherd has the time to devote to his main task, the ministry of the word. The precedence for this action was firmly established by the early church (Acts 6:1-4). Some of the principle offices of service are apostles (an ambassador of the Gospel, not to be confused with a “commissioner of Christ” as were Peter, Paul, etc., who had miraculous powers), prophets (an inspired speaker or poet), evangelists (a preacher), pastors (shepherd) and teachers (Ephesians 4:11).
The qualifications for service in the church are generally the same for each office, although Paul’s instructions to Timothy are focused on that of bishop (1 Timothy 3:1-7). Peter, an apostle, refers to himself as an elder, but the term can be applied generically to any office of service in the church (1 Peter 5:1-3). Those who serve are exhorted to do so willingly with a positive attitude (ready mind), not for reward or power, but assuming the responsibilities of leadership to present themselves as a good example to the church.
In addition to the bringing in and teaching of new members, preaching God’s word, baptizing, the performance of service to the needy and giving assistance to each other, singing is an important part of the church (Ephesians 5:19). This is the one act of the worship service in which the entire congregation participates. Each member lifts up his voice in praise of the Creator, making a personal communication of love to Him, expressing devotion in the words of the hymn. Whether in flesh on Earth or on a throne in Heaven, a father is well pleased when his children sing his praises.
The full realization of the goal of the church requires one essential ingredient: cooperation among the membership. In a church filled with gossip, back-biting and vindictiveness the work of our Savior will go undone and the lost we are commissioned to lead to salvation will remain lost. The energy expended in such worthless activity would be put to much better use if love rules and all of the Christian membership respect and submit to each other in a holy fear of God (Ephesians 5:21).
FOR FURTHER STUDY:
1 Corinthians 12:12-14 The church is one body with many members.
2 Corinthians 8:23 (apostolos rendered messengers) Paul introduces Titus and others as ambassadors of the churches.
Philippians 2:25 (apostolos rendered messenger) Paul sends Epaphroditus as an ambassador of the Gospel to the Philippians.
Colossians 3:15 The church, as one body, should let the peace of God rule in their hearts.
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