What IS the CHURCH?
Ephesians Series #65
May 10, 2020
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we’re so thankful for Your Word, for there is so much that we would not know, understand or comprehend if You had not revealed it to us. As we study this section of Ephesians, we are reminded that we would not know what “church” is, why we are here, what we’re doing if it were not for this important section of Scripture.
“It gives us our identity, helps us to understand what You mean when You say that we are Your masterpiece. We are a work of art, a much more robust concept than simply Your craftsmanship. We are a work of art and that there is a special purpose for each and every one of us, and it informs us of our new identity as new creatures in Christ.
“Father, as we continue our study today, help us to see the things that we need to see, understand more about the nature of this new organism called the church and our role in it, and why it is so significant in history. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles to Ephesians 2 as we continue our study in Ephesians.
We are focusing in these chapters on the church, for this is one of the most significant passages, one of the most vital passages for understanding what God was doing in creating this new organism that is introduced to us as a work of art or a masterpiece in Ephesians 2:10.
I want to remind us just where we are in this particular epistle. There are three sections to Ephesians.
1. The first focuses on what Christ has provided for us. “The riches,” is how it’s normally translated. But this is the wealth that we have in Christ. We are wealthy beyond our greatest imagination because of all that God has given us. Ephesians 1–3 talks about who we are and what we have in Christ, our wealth in Christ.
2. Then on the basis of that wealth we are to live, described by the metaphor of walking in the Scripture. Ephesians 4:5–6:9 focuses on the walk of the believer: how we are to live in light of our possessions; how we are to live in light of our wealth.
3. Then it shifts because as we live our life it is a struggle at times. We live in the devil’s world. There is a warfare that surrounds us—a cosmic warfare that takes place and originated in the heavenlies, and we are a vital part of that as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ in this Church Age.
We are living in a period of great intensity and significance in the global or cosmic history of God’s demonstration of His grace. It all started with the satanic fall, so we have this significant role in this incredible invisible angelic conflict, at least invisible in this Church Age. So we have to learn about our warfare and the role of the church in it.
We saw at the conclusion of the first section of this chapter, that we are His—that is God’s—workmanship. His craftsmanship as it’s translated in some places, but it is more than that. This is a word that indicates something glorious and magnificent. We are a work of art as new creatures in Christ. We are God’s masterpiece, we individually and we collectively, corporately as the church.
No other people of God in history have the appellations, have the names that we are given. We are the bride of Christ, we are the body of Christ, and this elevates us to a position that is far beyond anything experienced by any other believer in human history.
Our opening passage of this section is Ephesians 2:11–13:
“Therefore, remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at the time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus—this is the focal point of these three verses—you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
That introduces the topic, and we have begun to give an introduction and overview in understanding what the Bible teaches about the church, the body of Christ.
In our last lesson, we focused on what Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 when He made the statement, “I will build My church.” That was the focal point of last week’s lesson, but we have to build on that, so I just want to review a little.
I. What the Bible teaches about the church is brought out in this particular passage and the use of the term EKKLESIA or church in Matthew 16:18.
At the center of this statement Jesus said, “I will build My church.” Five words in the English, although there are only four words in the Greek. The Greek pulls out a little bit of a different emphasis, but all are present there where Jesus is saying, “I will build My church.” That is His focal point.
Interestingly, if you take a look at each of these words that we translate it with in English, there is a different significance. You can say it five different ways with five different emphases:
“I will build My church”
“I will build My church”
“I will build My church”
“I will build My church”
“I will build My church”
Each of those brings out another significant and vital point.
- The “I” tells us that it is Jesus who performs the action. The verb is a future active indicative; something that He will do in the future. But He will do it; He is the One who builds it. Jesus builds it. It is not the pastor who builds, it’s not the board of elders or board of deacons; it is not any human group that builds it. The work that is done is God’s work, and it must be done God’s way.
How a church is built must also be God’s way. Methodology is just as important. In other words, how we do what we do is just as important as what we do. We always have to remember something, hopefully, your mother taught you. This is Mother’s Day. We will mention mothers a couple of times. Hopefully, your mother taught you that a right thing had to be done the right way. A right thing done the wrong way is still wrong. A wrong thing done the right way is wrong. Only a right thing done the right way is right.
Often this little truism is ignored in theology and in the practice of theology. We have a lot of people who have orthodoxy. They teach the right thing, but they do not have “orthopraxy,” that is, they do not practice the right thing. They use the world’s methods in order to accomplish God’s ends. This is true for too many churches. Instead of allowing Christ to build the church His way, they use human viewpoint techniques.
When I was ordained I was reminded that God’s work must be done God’s way. There are a lot of large churches, a lot of enormous ministries; there are a lot of what appears to be successful ministries. But that doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit had anything to do with them, and usually that is pretty evident. We have to be sure that we do God’s work, God’s way.
Jesus Christ is the One Who said, “I will build My church.” And He told pastors that they were here to feed the sheep. Too often it is pastors trying to build the church, and they just assume somehow the sheep can find some food somewhere. “I” emphasizes Christ is the One who builds the church
- “I will.” The “will” emphasizes the future. The “will” emphasizes that the church was not yet in existence. The “will,” as future tense, indicates that Christ in the future would build this organism, and it was not yet here.
In the Old Testament, the people of God were the Jews under the Abrahamic Covenant. But in the New Testament there is a shift to a new people of God. God has shifted His focus on His plan, which was not announced in the Old Testament at all. That’s why it’s called a mystery —previously unrevealed truth. Now He is building the second entity, this second organism called the church.
God’s people, the Jews, are still His people. His promises are still in effect, and they will still be fulfilled. God still has a plan and a purpose for His people Israel, and they are not to be minimized. They were not replaced by the church. That is the source of much anti-Semitism and much that is shameful in the history of Christianity.
- “I will build My church.” He is the One who will construct it. It is a process that takes time and the church is still being built today. It is being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets—that is, the teaching that is preserved in the Word of God specifically in the New Testament.
- “It’s My church.” It is His body that is being built. He is the head. He is the authority over the church. We in the church are called Christ’s own special possession and treasure. We have been created in Christ Jesus and given new life in Christ Jesus, and so we are His church. We are not Robby Dean’s church, Andy Woods’ church, David Dunn’s church, Andy Stanley’s church, Charles Stanley’s church, or somebody else’s church. We are the church of Jesus Christ. We are His church.
- “I will build My church.” This refers to a new distinctive people of God, a new assembly comprised of all believers since the day of Pentecost in AD 33—all believers, whether they are alive today or whether they have already been promoted to be with the Lord.
We came to this conclusion point last week and stopped here, so I want to take some time to talk about the word “church.” What is the church? What does this mean?
II. The Greek EKKLESIA is translated “church” and it means or is usually translated as an assembly of people, as a meeting of people as the church. It is used 114 times in the New Testament.
That tells us that it has some significance because of the number of times the word appears in the Septuagint—that’s LXX, the Roman numeral for 70. The tradition is that 70 rabbis in 70 days translated the Pentateuch from Hebrew into Greek around 250 to 300 BC.
It is referred to as the work of the 70 or the Septuagint. In the Septuagint it is translated as the assembly or the congregation of Israel, as the people of Israel assembled together. It is not to be translated as the church, and I’ll tell you why in just a minute.
In the New Testament Gospels, this word is only used twice, both of which are in Matthew. It’s used once in the passages we just talked about in Matthew 16:18, which refers to a future church, something Jesus would build in the future.
It is used again in Matthew 18, but there it probably refers to the meeting of the synagogue. The word that is translated as EKKLESIA in the Old Testament was often used often used as a parallel for “synagogue” or SYNAGOGE.
Matthew 18:17 is a discipline passage where Jesus says if somebody refuses to listen to the one person who tells him in private about a problem, then one or two witnesses come, then tell it to the assembly. Well, there was no church at that time, so it shouldn’t be translated “tell it to the church.” It should be translated “tell it to the assembly.”
The only assembly at that time was the synagogue. So that passage has nothing to do with the church. Only Matthew 16 has to do with the church—that is the body of Christ—as a future entity.
There are times when you will hear some false or erroneous information about this word EKKLESIA. It is a compound word from the Greek preposition EK which means “out of,” and KLESIA which comes from the Greek verb KALEO, to call.
So, you’ll hear people say, “Well, this means the ‘called out ones,’ and so the church should be identified as the ‘called out ones.’” Well, that may be true that that’s what they are, but that’s not what the word means. We all know that a word’s meaning is determined by its context, by its usage, so it’s always important to look at the context in order to determine its meaning.
We have these wonderful little sayings to remind us of the importance of context, such as, “When you take the text out of context, you’re left with a con.” That’s happens in a lot of sermons; they take the text out of the surrounding context, then they can make that verse say whatever they want it to mean.
Some of you may have had an interesting challenge by an unbeliever that you’ve been witnessing to, where they say, “Well, you can take any passage of Scripture and make it say whatever you want it to say.” There’s a certain truth about that.
I remember the first time I heard that was when I was a freshman in college, and the man who used that as a way to deflect any witnessing based on the Scripture was a man I eventually led to the Lord about 30 years after that. That is the kind of thing that will stump a lot of Christians.
You just have to remind people that sure, you can take any statement made by anybody in any book or literature context and if you take that word or phrase out of the context, you can make it mean whatever you want it to mean.
So, you have to study the context. A text without a context is a pretext. That’s another little saying we have. A text without a context is a pretext. We can then use it to mean whatever we want to.
Context is to biblical study or even the interpretation of any literature, context is the same as the real estate concept of location. The value of a property, the significance or the meaning of a piece of real estate, is really determined by its location or its context. They often say that “the three laws of real estate are location, location, location!” The three rules or laws of hermeneutics or interpretation is context, context, context!
We must understand that by the time the New Testament was written, Greek had changed a good bit. Greek had morphed. It became Koine Greek or common Greek. The words had a long history, but as you study that history, you would see a lot of different meanings.
Pre-classical Greek had different dialects: Ionic Greek, Attic Greek, and Boeotian Greek. Various different Greek dialects caught different areas and different regions. By the time Alexander the Great came along in the third century and the unification of Greece came about, the language changed and merged together, so that it became known as Koine or Common Greek.
Following Alexander the Great and his expansion and conquest throughout the Middle East, Koine Greek became the lingua franca, the common language in the eastern part of the Mediterranean. In the first century, Koine Greek is the common language spoken in the eastern half of the Roman Empire.
There’s a rich heritage of literature, and as you study that literature you see what a word means by its usage and not by looking at its history or looking at the etymology of the word. There have been a lot of very entertaining sermons based on these etymological fallacies or root fallacies.
EKKLESIA has to do not with the “called out ones”—that will preach well, but it’s preaching erroneously—it has to do with an assembly. We have to look at this, and I want to say little bit about this etymological error that comes along.
Often when we look at a Greek word, I’ll break it down; and there’s nothing wrong with doing etymology. But that is not final in defining the meaning of a word; not the final conclusion.
Words are often made of compounds, and when we look at a word, even though part of the word means one thing and another part of the word means something else, when you put them together the meaning or the actual usage of the word is something that goes far beyond the basic etymology.
For example: you know what a house is; you know what a boat is. You can put those two words together and you have a new compound word called a houseboat. Now a houseboat is pretty much the sum of its parts. It’s a boat that is been transformed into a house.
But when we look at another similar word: housewife. A housewife is another term that sounds similar to houseboat, but a wife is not something that’s been transformed into a house. Housewife is a completely different concept that goes way beyond the sum of the parts.
A housewife describes a woman, a wife who is the one who focuses on the administration of the house. It describes a woman whose primary mission is the management and the stewardship of a home. She is a mother. She has parental responsibilities for her children. She also is often the financial secretary managing the financial resources in the home. She is the logistics director making sure there are plenty of supplies, plenty of food, everything that’s needed in order for the house to run smoothly.
She is the educator because often the father may not be at home, even though he has ultimate responsibility for the education and the spiritual leadership of the home. Often, he’s not there all the time; she’s the one who is there. She’s right there when the kids misbehave; they need to be corrected immediately, so she is the disciplinarian.
She is the educator. She’s the administrator. She has to plan the meals, so she becomes the nutritionist, and she is often the nurse when there are injuries. She is the one who binds up their little scrapes and cuts and bruises, and often if necessary, is the one who runs them to the emergency room if there’s a more serious problem.
She is the psychologist to help the children understand how to relate to people and what’s going on when they feel sad or sorrowful or depressed or something of that nature. She is to teach them and instruct them in the Word as to how to face and handle those particular problems. She’s the human resource director, and above and beyond all of that she is to be a loving wife to her husband. So a housewife is much more than just the compound of those two words.
Another word that is fun to use as an illustration of this is butterfly. Butterfly has nothing to do with butter. It does have to do with an insect that is flying, and in fact, if you trace the etymology—I’ve looked it up in a couple of etymological dictionaries—the word was simply coined to describe the beauty of the flight of this animal. But the origins of the word, or in the distance past, the etymology goes to different languages of this and that and the other thing, but no one knows where it originated.
An even more obscure connection might be found in the word butterscotch. It’s not a mixture of butter and scotch. I know that probably came as a first connection in some people’s minds. It has nothing to do with Scotch whiskey. Actually the word scotch is a verb going back to the 18th century that talks about rendering something harmless, but butterscotch does not render butter harmless. Again, no one quite knows the origin of that word. Some think that maybe the idea of heating up butter and making a candy out of it originated in Scotland, but no one knows at all.
We have to be careful with words. EKKLESIA is a word that is used to refer to different kinds of congregations or assemblies of people.
Here we have the LEH dictionary. (That’s a lot easier than referring to the last names of the editors: Johan Lust, Erik Eynikel, and Katrin Hauspie.)
LEH is the standard dictionary for understanding the Greek that is used in the Septuagint. The LEH defines EKKLESIA in the Old Testament as an assembly in the political sense. It refers to a couple of intertestamental books in the Apocrypha, the Books of Judith 6:16 and Sirach 26:5, and notes that in intertestamental literature, it often alternates with SUNAGOGE.
They’re pointing out that this word was often used as a synonym for synagogue. It is used to refer to the assembly of the Israelites in Deuteronomy 4:10, where it is in a verb form and translated as “assemble the people” or “gather the people.” It’s just a generic word for assembly, gathering or collecting people together.
Deuteronomy 23:2, “One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the Lord …” I think older translations may have called that the congregation, but it’s the assembly. When the people are coming together to worship, this is a person who would not be allowed into the temple. “… even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord.”
Why would that be? One of illegitimate birth would be one who was the product of an illegitimate sexual union between a man and a woman. This was designed to prevent these kinds of relationships which were attacks on the divine institution of marriage.
Marriage and family, as the second and third divine institutions, are the foundation for the health of a nation. So, this penalty would apply to the offspring of an illegitimate union.
The Old Testament never uses the term EKKLESIA as a reference to the future New Testament church. The New Testament church is completely absent from the Old Testament. The closest the Old Testament ever comes to indicating something in the future is prophecy related to the coming of the Gentiles to God, the future blessing of God upon the Gentiles.
The Greek word in the New Testament is used in 114 times, but it is not always used in a technical sense for the church. For example:
- It’s used as a synonym for the synagogue in Matthew 18:17.
- It’s used as a reference to the Old Testament assembly of Israel in Acts 7:38, which is Stephen’s speech when he refers back to the assembly of Israelites before Moses.
- In Acts 19:32, it’s usually translated assembly, but if you look at the context, it is a mob, a riot of people, that takes place when Paul is discovered at the temple. So, there it refers to an unruly mob that is seeking Paul’s life.
EKKLESIA has to be looked at in terms of context to see if it is referring to a church, and even then it has different meanings.
a. EKKLESIA refers to nonspecific or generic local church assemblies. I have two examples here from 1 Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 11:18, “For first of all, when you come together as a church …”
It’s not talking about a specific church. It’s just saying when people come together as a church. You can come together, but not as a church. You can come together as a church, and this would be emphasizing coming together for a meeting of believers for the purpose of the study of God’s Word and the worship of God.
1 Corinthians 14:4, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.”
Here it is also a generic church, any church, any meeting of believers. And, of course, when I say meeting of believers, I know that in almost any assembly of church for worship, there are going to be unbelievers present. But generally, the meeting of the church would be involving believers, so we have this generic use.
b. Meeting in a house for worship.
These house churches were common in the early church, but as more and more believers came to be present, they would find other places to meet. For example, Paul in Ephesus met in the school of Tyrannus. Christians early on would meet in a house for worship.
We have reference in Philemon 2 to the church in Philemon’s house.
In Colossians 4:15 there’s a reference to a greeting to various brethren; one whose name was “Nymphas and the church that met in his house.”
c. A third use of “church:” Paul uses it to describe Christians that met for worship in a particular city or geographical area.
For example, in 1 Thessalonians 1:1, he talks about the church of the Thessalonians. He could be talking there about a single assembly or he could be talking about using church in a collective sense for all of the different groups in Thessalonica that met.
We have to be careful with this because there is erroneous teaching out there which argues that there was only one church in each location. The word “church” can have this collective sense as well.
Roman 16:1, “I commend you to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea.”
This is talking about a specific church in a geographical area.
d. Paul used the plural word “churches” to refer to a group of churches in a particular region, not necessarily in a particular city.
For example, in Galatians 1:2, “the churches of Galatia.” Galatia was a Roman province in what today would be south central Turkey, where Paul went on his first missionary journey, the area around Lystra, Iconium, Derbe, and Antioch.
In Galatians 1:22, he speaks about the churches of Judea. This would be churches other than the church in Jerusalem, describing the various different churches and assemblies that were meeting around Judea.
1 Thessalonians 2:14 “the churches of God.” All churches are churches of God, even if they are composed of unbelievers as well.
e. The expression “church of God” used in a variety of passages, for example in Galatians 1:13, “For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God.”
That is a term he uses to represent just any believers, because he was hostile to all believers and to all Christians, seeking to destroy them.
There are three observations that we can take from looking at all of these passages.
1. A universal body of Christ, a non-visible entity called the church, which includes all believers, both those who have gone to be with the Lord as well as those who are still alive.
2. “Church” also refers to local assemblies which include some unbelievers. These are visible assemblies.
For example, West Houston Bible Church. At times we have unbelievers who are present. You go to a very large church, you may have a number of unbelievers present. This is why it’s always important to explain the gospel either in the message or in a closing prayer, because you never know if there’s an unbeliever there.
I remember hearing pastors as I grew up, as they were teaching through a book study, sometimes you would note that, “Wow! We spent most of the evening learning more about the gospel.” And that would be because the pastor noted that there were some strangers there, or he knew for a fact that there were some unbelievers there, so he used that opportunity to witness to them from the pulpit.
I know that one of the most difficult funeral messages that I have ever prepared for and given was my dad’s memorial service. It wasn’t because it was a memorial service for my dad, it was because I knew six or seven of my close unsaved Jewish friends were going to be here.
And I would have about 30 or 40 uninterrupted minutes to make the gospel clear, without letting them know that I was witnessing to them. That was the real catch, but I made it very clear, and I think the point was well taken. I don’t think any of them became believers, but they have a clear understanding of the gospel.
Church refers to local visible assemblies that include both believers and unbelievers.
III. Church is never used of a building. Isn’t that interesting? We often say, “You know, the church on the corner.” We’re talking about the building, but that is never a way that the word “church” or EKKLESIA is used in the New Testament.
IV. What is the extent of the church? When did the church begin and how long will it last?
The church began on the Day of Pentecost in AD 33. Some people think Christ died in 30 or 31, but I believe He died in 33. I think that fits the context best.
On the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles there at the temple, is when the church began. It was marked by the coming of the Holy Spirit. It will continue until the Lord returns in the air for His church at the Rapture, 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18.
Recently I’ve been asked a couple questions; I know that when I get asked questions that there are more that may be interested. I haven’t had questions on this in a long time, and some have asked me about a group called “hyper-dispensationalists” or “ultra-dispensationalists.”
I’m most familiar with and have heard most of my life, “hyper-dispensationalist.” Dr. Charles Ryrie in his book on dispensationalism uses “ultra-dispensationalist.”
There are two different kinds of these hyper- or ultra-dispensationalists. The most extreme group believes that the church didn’t begin until after Acts 28. One of the foremost teachers was a man named Ethelbert Bullinger, who’s famous for having written about a 3-inch-thick tome on the figures of speech used in the Bible.
There are several problems with that particular view that the church doesn’t begin until later, one of which is that most of the New Testament epistles are written before Acts 28. And they refer to the “church in Thessalonica,” the “church in Galatia,” which was early. The term “church” is used several times in the Book of Acts prior to even Acts 9, so this is a problem for the hyper-dispensationalists.
The second group is more moderate. They say that the beginning of the church is either in Acts 9, when Paul is saved, or that it occurs in Acts 10 when Peter goes to the Gentiles officially, or in Acts 15 at the Council of Jerusalem.
The problem with this is still the fact that the word “church” is used twice in early Acts, before Acts 9, Acts 10, or Acts 15 to refer to the existing church.
Acts 5:11, “So great fear came upon all the church—this is when persecution arose early on in Acts—great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.”
In Acts 8 following the stoning of Stephen, Luke writes, “Now Saul— Saul of Tarsus; later the Apostle Paul, who was standing at the edge of the crowd—Now Saul was consenting to his death—that’s Stephen’s death—At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem …”
The Scripture is clearly talking about the church, which already exists before Acts 9, Acts 10, or Acts 15.
What is it that really defines the church? That’s so important. In the upper room, as Jesus was meeting with His disciples, having already sent Judas away, He’s talking to them as believers. He told His disciples, John 14:20, “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”
“That day” is talking about when the church began. The idea there is that the “you in Me” relationship is that of being in the body of Christ. When He says, “you will be in Me,” that is a unique relationship that we have in Christ. Then we are identified with Him and placed in the body of Christ, which started on the Day of Pentecost.
We know that because it’s related to the coming of the Holy Spirit. John 14:17 talks about how the Holy Spirit would come and be in them; and that occurred in Acts 2.
If you remember when we studied through the Book of Acts, just before Jesus left to ascend to heaven, He told the disciples, “Wait here in Jerusalem for the coming of the Spirit.” In Acts 2 we have the coming of the Spirit. It is that action of the Spirit coming upon them that is identified as the baptism by the Holy Spirit. And this is what brings altogether Jew and Gentile into the body of Christ.
For example, in 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul talks about the fact that we are one in Christ. In Galatians 3:27–28, Paul says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
That’s one of his earliest epistles; it is written long before the end of Acts. It was also written to deal with the problem of the Judaizers, who were emphasizing that circumcision was necessary in order to have salvation and in order to be sanctified.
Acts 5:11, Acts 8:1, which I have on the screen, plus Acts 8:3, Saul made havoc of the church. Acts 9:31, “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified.” This was after Paul was saved, but before he began his ministry.
V. The universal church is composed of all believers during this period from Pentecost, Acts 2:4, until the Rapture the church, 1Thessalonians 4:16–17.
It begins on Pentecost not later on. Hyper-dispensationalism is always divisive. It is always a problem because they just don’t have any way to defend their position, and they often use some extremely convoluted arguments.
VI. In Ephesians Paul always uses the Word EKKLESIA to refer only to the universal church—not to a local church, but only to the universal church, the body of Christ.
Another term for universal church is the term “catholic church.” Not Roman Catholic Church, but “catholic church.” “Catholic” just means universal. It became the Roman Catholic Church once the Bishop of Rome became the overarching authority for all of the churches.
Administratively, that occurred with Gregory the Great around 600, but you don’t have the distinctive doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church until some centuries later. It all depends on who you’re reading as to where they marked the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church.
But we’re all members of the universal church, the catholic church.
VII. In Acts 15 in the Council of Jerusalem we see the recognition of Jew and Gentile as equal in the body of Christ.
The problem that they were addressing was mentioned in Acts 15:5, “But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them.”
They’re clearly believers, but then they’ve imported afterward this legalism that it was necessary for Gentiles to also be circumcised. That was the reason the council was meeting.
At the conclusion in Acts 15:15–17, James stands up and says,
“And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written … (He quotes from Amos 9:11–12):
“After this—in the context that’s ‘after the Tribulation’—I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David—a term for the House of David and the kingship of David—which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord, who does all these things.”
The reason that’s quoted is because it was used to affirm the fact that the Old Testament clearly taught that God was going to save Gentiles, and that Gentiles would be included in heaven.
That gives us our introduction to the church. Next time we will begin working through the exegesis of Ephesians 2:1.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word and to come to the broad understanding of this distinctive organism created by You, the church. And what we have in the church, who we are as members of the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the church, as this remarkable work of art, this masterpiece.
“Father, we pray for those who are unsaved, those do not know how to be saved, that they would come to understand that from what we have talked about today. That You sent Your Son, Christ, to die on the cross for our sins, and that by only believing in Him—only believing only in Him. He alone is the object of our faith, and it’s only faith that saves. It is Christ who saves; faith is the means by which we appropriate that salvation. And God in His grace then justifies us and makes us alive together in Him.
“Father, we pray that You would make that clear to anyone who is not saved, that Jesus is the only Savior. As He said, He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to You except by Him. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”