Church is a word that means many different things to many different people. Before we get started in this message I would ask that you please define the word “church” based on your experience and your understanding of the Bible.
Jesus Christ is the founder of the church. The New Testament teaches us that the church is the Body of Christ and that Jesus Himself is the head of the body. As in everything, our lives must reflect what the Bible teaches. In the same way our churches must reflect what the Bible teaches. We cannot impress our definition of church upon the Word of God. We must define the church (and all that we do) from the Word of God.
And I tell you, you are Peter [Greek, Petros—a large piece of rock], and on this rock [Greek, petra—a huge rock like Gibraltar] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades (the powers of the infernal region) shall not overpower it [or be strong to its detriment or hold out against it]. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind (declare to be improper and unlawful) on earth must be what is already bound in heaven; and whatever you loose (declare lawful) on earth must be what is already loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:18-19 AMP)
I want to talk about the church. Jesus said He was building His church upon the revelation that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He declared that the church He is building cannot be overcome, even by the powers of hell. He declared that He gave His church authority in the earth and in the heavens by giving us authority to speak and to pray in His name. The church that Jesus Christ is building is a powerful assembly of believers who have been called out of this world and assembled together as Christ’s body to bring the Kingdom of heaven to this world.
Now you [collectively] are Christ’s body and [individually] you are members of it, each part severally and distinct [each with his own place and function]. (1 Corinthians 12:27 AMP)
The word “church” in the New Testament is translated from the Greek word ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia) and is defined as:
- A gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly
- An assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating
- The assembly of the Israelites
- Any gathering or throng of men assembled by chance, tumultuously
- In a Christian sense
- An assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting
- A company of Christian, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake
- Those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body
- The whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth
- The assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven
- To read more about this definition you can visit here, here and here.
Church is not something we do, nor is it a place where we go. Church is something that we are. I am the church. You are the church. Being a part of the church is not defined by what takes place within the walls of our sanctuaries or during our worship services. Rather, being a part of the church is defined by what takes place in our lives outside of our sanctuaries or after our worship services. We are the body of Christ. We are living in His name, acting in His name, praying in His name, trusting in His name and carrying His name everywhere we go.
In the same manner that each part of my body is present wherever my head goes so Christ is present wherever we, His body, goes. My leg cannot end up at my office without my head being there (if it is still alive). A believer cannot end up at school, work, the market or a family meal without Christ (the head of the body) being there. Everywhere we go, He is there because He is our head.
So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT)
We are the representatives of Jesus Christ. He has placed His Spirit inside of us. He has delegated His authority to us. He has commissioned us with taking His name, His message, His love and His power to the world.
If we, the body, do not move, then He, the head, cannot move. If we, the body, do not feed the hungry, then He, the head, cannot feed the hungry. If we, the body, do not share the gospel with the lost, then He, the head, cannot reach them. If we, the body, do not stand up for the oppressed and the abandoned, then He, the head, cannot move on their behalf. If we, the body, do not pray, then He, the head cannot answer our prayers. If we, the body, do not bind things here on the earth, then He, the head, cannot bind them in heaven. If we, the body, do not loose things here on the earth, then He, the head, cannot loose them in heaven. Jesus has chosen to work in and through His church and we are that church.
Throughout the world, God is working in and through His people to reach others with the message of His love and grace. Millions of people are coming to faith in Christ every year as a result of the church obeying the heavenly call upon their lives. Some of the most significant growth is in Asia and South America. This explosive growth is a direct result of faithful men and women who have prayed, obeyed and yielded themselves to the Word of God and moving of the Holy Spirit. Believers are growing in strength and numbers as they allow themselves to be used by God to be the church (Christ’s body) to the world.
You represent Jesus. I represent Jesus. This is not a metaphor or spiritualized saying designed to keep you from giving in to the desires of our former life. This is a fact. If have come to Jesus Christ for salvation and received His Holy Spirit to live within us we are His representative; His ambassador.
I know this brings up the “What would Jesus do?” question for our lives. The truth is, Jesus will do what you ask Him to do. Jesus will have the opportunity to move in the lives of the people you share His message and His love with. Jesus goes where you go. If we, the body, do not go, He, the head, cannot.
I am not writing this to criticize or condemn you for what you are or are not doing with respect to the Great Commission. I am writing this to encourage you (possibly even awaken you) because we have received the awesomeness of God’s enabling grace. We have freely received God’s grace through Jesus Christ and have been enabled by the Holy Spirit to share that grace with the world.
Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received! (Matthew 10:7-8 NLT)
Salvation is spread from believer to unbeliever as we freely share and give of the grace we have received. We give because we have received. Salvation brings blessing into our lives in innumerable ways but it is as we give of what we have received that those blessings are multiplied in our lives.
“A congregation that is not deeply and earnestly involved in the worldwide proclamation of the gospel does not understand the nature of salvation.” – Ted Engstrom, World Vision
“We are debtors to every man to give him the gospel in the same measure in which we have received it” – P.F. Bresee, founder of the Church of the Nazarene
We cannot give that which we have not received. This message may leave you asking:
- What about me?
- What about my family?
- What about my community?
Being the church (Christ’s representatives both collectively and individually) does not mean that we do not meet together for edification, encouragement, corporate worship, bible teaching, etc. These things are vital to our spiritual health. They are not a replacement for the Great Commission. There is no choice between believers meetings and reaching the world with the gospel. They are both necessary. We must have strong personal and corporate spiritual lives if we will accurately and powerfully represent Christ to the world.
Jesus promised that if our lives were focused upon Him, righteousness and building His kingdom that He would take care of our needs.
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:31-33 NLT)
- Passionately pursue Jesus Christ in your private prayer life and personal devotions
- Regularly assemble with other believers for edification, exhortation and fellowship
- Represent Jesus Christ in word and deed to a lost and dying world that He died upon the cross to redeem.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NLT)
“The love that drove Him to the cross, now drives us to the lost.” -La Dona Osborne