12 Aug Quarter One Lesson Eleven
What is the church?
You’ve no doubt seen many churches as you drive down the road, maybe you attend one. Well, today, we want to study what the church is, how the church came into being and the function and role of the church.
To start us off, it is important to understand that the church is not a building, in spite of the fact that many buildings are called churches; rather the church is a group of people who have been called out of the world and set apart to worship God. This group of people gather together (sometimes in buildings called churches) for the purpose of hearing more about the gospel and the way of life Christ has established for his followers.
This passage shows us a good definition of the church:
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours: 1 Corinthians 1:2 (NIV)
Question 1. Question 1. How does 1 Corinthians 1:2 describe the church?
The church is made up of those who are set apart (sanctified) to God, those who are called to be holy, and those who call on the Name of the Lord Jesus. Furthermore, the church is international, not limited by geography or racial boundaries.
And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. Revelation 5:9 (NIV)
For now we typically meet with those believers who are local to us, but one day in Heaven all believers from around the world and throughout time will be gathered together as one body—what a wonderful time to anticipate!
Next, let us notice that the church has a couple of different titles in Scripture. The first is “the body of Christ” and the second is “the bride of Christ.”
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.Romans 12:4-5 (ESV)
Question 2. According to Romans 12:4-5 of what are Christians members?
Your physical body has several different parts, but you are still one body—one person. Likewise, we Christians are “one body” in Christ and “members one of another.” We belong to Jesus Christ, and we belong to each other. We have a special bond with fellow believers, because we have the same Savior and are of the same body—this body is the church.
The next description of believers is that we are the bride of Christ.
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.John 3:29 (ESV)
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;Revelation 19:7 (ESV)
Did you notice the titles Bride of Christ or Bride of the Lamb (“the Lamb” is another name for Jesus who died to take away our sins—see John 1:29)? This is a precious title for us. All believers make up the bride of Christ. This tells us about the love Jesus has for us as His bride.
I remember reading about a soldier who had been gone a long time at war. When he returned home they had a scheduled ceremony on the airfield where they were to honor the soldiers then release these soldiers to their families. But as the ceremony commenced this one soldier spotted his wife in the crowd. Unable to contain his love and joy he ran away from the ceremony to his wife, all the while shouting “it’s my bride, it’s my bride.” Overcome with emotion the soldier fell into his bride’s arms and the entire ceremony halted as everyone in attendance wept with joy at the sight of love on display.
My friend, this is Jesus’ heart for you. You are His bride. He loves you dearly. And one day we too will be with Him face to face never to be parted.
And how did the bride of Christ come to be? Well we know from the previous 10 lessons that the answer has to do with the gospel. Sure enough, Jesus Christ died on the cross to purchase you to be His bride. Consider the following passage:
Husbands, love your wives, as 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. Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV)
Question 3. According to Ephesians 5:25-27, what did Jesus do for His bride, and what are the results?
Yes, Christ loved us and gave up His life for us. The results of which are that we are cleansed and made holy. We’re described as being “without spot or wrinkle,” like freshly cleaned and ironed clothing, meaning we’ve been thoroughly cleansed from sin at the cross. What a marvelous truth.
And we became the bride of Christ by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
There is a wonderful illustration of this in the story of Adam and Eve. As we look at this story together, please keep in mind that Jesus Christ is called “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). Where the first Adam disobeyed and brought death to the human race, Jesus obeyed and brought life to all who believe. Where the first Adam failed, the last Adam, Jesus Christ succeeded.
Keep that title “the last Adam” in mind as we examine the story of how Adam got his bride:
The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:20-24 (ESV)
Question 4. According to Genesis 2:20-24, how did God make Eve?
Notice the words “at last” in verse 23. Adam had named all the animals but discovered that none of them would make a good helper for himself. But when God made Eve, Adam said, “at last!! This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” You can practically feel his excitement and joy that he finally had his bride. This is the way it is with Jesus and His thoughts about you, His bride.
But what a strange way for God to make Adam’s wife for him, right? You can imagine Adam being placed into a deep sleep, then having his side opened so that he might have a bride. God took one of Adam’s ribs and made Eve from it.
Well this was the first Adam. The last Adam had a similar experience. Let’s read it together:
Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” John 19:31-37 (ESV)
Question 5. According to John 19:31-37, after Jesus was put to death, what did the soldier do?
In John 19, the Bible records that Jesus gave up His Spirit and died. A common practice was for the Roman soldier to break the legs of those on a cross so as to hasten death, but when the soldier found that Jesus was already dead he pierced Jesus’ side instead, and blood and water came flowing out.
The Bible repeatedly uses sleep as a metaphor of death (see Matthew 9:24, John 11:11-15). On the cross, Jesus was placed in to the deep sleep of death. But don’t misunderstand, He was not merely sleeping; Jesus actually died and was buried. But in keeping with the biblical metaphor of death, Jesus was placed into the deep sleep of death, and shortly thereafter He had His side opened by the spear of a Roman soldier.
And what is amazing is that what came out of Jesus’ side is the exact material that God uses to make the bride of Christ: blood and water. What do we mean by this? Well, blood speaks of forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22), and water of cleansing (Ephesians 5:26). Both are needed for any person to become a Christian and to become the bride of Christ. That is, we need to be forgiven and cleansed of our sins:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)
Question 6. How does the manner in which the first Adam received his bride correlate to the manner in which the last Adam received His bride? Please share your thoughts here:
Question 7. Have you become the bride of Christ through belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection for you? Please share:
Isn’t it absolutely wonderful how much Jesus loves us? That He would give up His life for us to make us His bride is just the most amazing thing to comprehend. You will begin to discover much more about Jesus’ love as you continue on, for His love is “wide, and long and high and deep” (Ephesians 3:18) for you, His bride. In fact, you could think of the Bible as one big love letter from Jesus to you.
I read one time about a husband and wife who were walking along a busy street in downtown Manhattan; the wife was a few steps ahead of her husband, and as she went to cross a street her husband noticed a large truck coming toward her at a high rate of speed. He immediately lunged at his wife, pushing her as hard as he could out of the way of the oncoming truck. He was successful in getting her out of harm’s way, unfortunately he himself was hit and lost his life in the process.
What an inspiring display of love of a man for his wife; but I tell you Christ’s love is so much more! Jesus’ death secured our eternal life not just our physical one. And Jesus didn’t lose His life, He gave it up for us. He purposefully laid it down for us:. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”John 15:13 (ESV)
Jesus loves His bride so very much that He died for her—for you, me and all our brothers and sisters around the world who have professed faith in Jesus Christ. And this is one of the reasons why we treat every single person in the church with love and dignity and respect. We would never want to hurt someone for whom Christ died. We are to love each other as Christ loved us. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” 1 John 3:16 (ESV)
So far we have seen the definition of the church, we have seen how the church came into being, and now let us see the function and role of the church.
The church has two main functions: the first has to do with those who don’t go to church, and the second has to do with those who do. The first is called “evangelism” and it is simply sharing the good news with people who have not heard of Jesus and what He has done for them. “15 And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’” Mark 16:15 (ESV)
Question 8. According to Mark 16:15, to whom are we told to preach the gospel?
Yes, we are to proclaim this good news to everyone. Maybe you can think, even now, of someone you would like to tell about Jesus; maybe members of your family, or someone at work or someone you might meet today that you did not know previously. Evangelism will be the subject of our lesson tomorrow which will give you a better understanding of how to approach these family, friends and acquaintances with the good news of Jesus Christ.
The second role the church has is to help people mature in their faith in Jesus. This is called “discipleship,” and Jesus told us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Please read this passage and provide your thoughts:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)
Question 9. According to Matthew 28:19-20, how do we make disciples of all nations?
Yes, the way in which we make disciples is by baptizing them and teaching them. This is the role of the church. We are to help people grow in their understanding of the gospel and encourage them to believe and obey the Scriptures.
This is the primary aim of Gospel Growth Ministries, and it is our hope that you are using this curriculum in conjunction with your local church. If you are not, we encourage you to consider speaking with your pastors, elders, or other leaders in your church, about using this material in a small group setting. It is our desire to reach as many people as possible with the liberating message of the gospel of Jesus Christ in fulfillment of the great commission that God has given us.
Question 10. What did you learn about the church today? Are you working with your local church as you study through these lessons? Please share any questions or thoughts you might have.