Church. We know what it is right. We have been around, to, and in church. “Here is the steeple; Open the doors and see all the people.” We know how it goes.
Yet despite our great familiarity with the church, few of us can sit down and easily rattle off a definition of the church. We go to church; we may even work for a church, but we do not know what a local church is. We cannot confidently say this is church and that is not. And we need to be able to.
As Jonathan Leeman notes,
To claim interest in Christian fellowship or even in the church while paying little heed to church structures is like claiming to love family while paying no heed to the differences between parent and child or husband and wife.
The answer to the question, “What is a local Church?” is of monumental importance.
The Scriptures teach that,
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5.25b-27).
Christ died for the Church. Christ came to call a people to himself who join together to worship God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. And if we hope to be with Christ in heaven we need to be with his church today.
So what is the true local church?
Does our college student have the freedom to exchange her local church for the solid BCM or Campus Crusade ministry on campus? Both preach the Word and have worship? Can we do church in our small group apart from the larger congregation? Is the ordinance observing church that preaches all roads lead to heaven a church? Does our small group have the right to excommunicate Steve from church if he refuses to stop embezzling money from work? Is church defined by size or by doctrine of by both? What is church?
I will answer this question over the next several weeks. I invite all those who live in the greater Amissville, Warrenton, and Culpeper, Virginia area to join the congregation of Amissville Baptist Church’s first seminar Bible study at 7PM. We will be discussing everything from preaching to baptism, to elders, seeing God’s plan for his people, his bride: the church.
If you cannot join us or if you want to keep studying in between lessons, I encourage you to follow along with us here at witkowskiblog.com.
And now to the definition: What is the local Church:
The local church is the spiritual, physical, and spatial assembling of God’s universal Church which consists of those who have and, will be, redeemed through Christ’s blood by the Holy Spirit according to the will of the Father. Initiated at Pentecost, The local church consists of baptized believers who have covenanted together to regularly assemble for the purpose of preaching and obeying the Word, worshiping God, administering the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, maintaining the purity of the church, and evangelizing the lost (Heb. 10:25; Mt. 28:18). The local church is led by elders, served by deacons, and ruled by the members.
We will spend the next 8 weeks unpacking our definition, by spending a week on each of the following topics:
- Physical, regenerate church membership
- The content and worship of true churches
- The Lord’s Supper
- Purity and Discipline
- Congregational Rule
I hope to see you next Wednesday night at 7PM if not before.